The 2019 Gasparilla Music Festival is right around the corner, with two days of music on four stages, a lineup of local food booths, and activities for the whole family, during the biggest edition of the festival yet.
It runs March 9-10 at downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens.
The musical lineup aims to please tune lovers of all ages and genres. American folk rockers The Avett Brothers and rhythm-and-blues giant Gary Lee Clark Jr. headline. Other acts include San Francisco rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Los Angeles hip-hop favorite Pharcyde, and Tennessee bluegrass darlings, the Infamous Stringdusters.
Since 2011, the Gasparilla Music Foundation, the nonprofit organization that plans and runs the festival, has committed 50 percent of the spotlight to Tampa Bay area’s best local acts. This year is no different. “The talent level within the area just keeps growing and growing,” says festival executive director David Cox. “We have a lot of energy around the lineup, and especially around our local acts.”
Of special note is Tampa-born J’Nelle, the inspirational singer and songwriter who brings a high-energy, dancer-backed show. This is J’Nelle’s first appearance as a performer at the festival. “I’ve always wanted to perform on this stage for years, and to be asked to perform this year is a definite honor,” she says. “Being a Tampa native with Trinidadian descent has definitely been a blessing. I love being from Tampa, and I don’t take this moment for granted, especially knowing I’m on the main stage.”
Clearwater Grateful Dead tribute band Uncle John’s Band, known for its regular gig playing Thursday nights at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa, will perform selections from “Dick’s Picks Volume 1,” a live album recorded by the Dead in 1973 at the now-demolished Curtis Hixon Hall, which sat where Curtis Hixon Park now is.
Both days of the festival, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., brings Kid Fest, which features family entertainment, including headliner Laurie Berkner, the so-called queen of “kindie” rock, whose popularity stems from making kid-friendly music that doesn’t make parents run screaming from the room.
Other activities include an interactive music area, where kids can create their own tunes, and an instrument “petting zoo” where kids can touch, hold and try a variety of instruments. Children 12 and younger are admitted to the festival at no charge.
While the musical acts take center stage, the festival also has something for food lovers, keeping with the mission to be local. The food lineup showcases Tampa’s culinary history, featuring booths from such favorites as The Refinery, Malio’s Steakhouse and Ella’s Folk Art Café.
“Our goal is to have a mix of local Tampa cuisine, like the best grouper sandwich and Cuban sandwich, with more modern, cutting-edge chefs,” Cox says. “The premise is for each restaurant and chef to do one thing, and do it really well.”
Although building out the site and bringing in bigger bands means higher overhead expense, the festival has managed to keep ticket prices steady (starting at $30). Cox thanks local corporate sponsors for helping to keep the price relatively low. Most of last year’s sponsors have returned.
“A lot of local businesses see that a hip and progressive event that attracts maybe a younger crowd is good for the city,” he explains. “They see the value in what we’re doing and how we’re helping to push Tampa forward.”
• $40-up for Saturday only,
• $30-up for Sunday only
• $60-up for the weekend.
• Children 12-younger are free. • Visit gasparillamusic.com for information.