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Gary Clark Jr., recently the music guest on SNL, will headline Sunday at GMF.

It’s GMF time!  It’s GMF time!

This weekend marks the eighth year of the Gasparilla Music Festival, and as usual the lineup is as tantalizing as it is eclectic. We caught up with regulars in the local music scene to learn about their picks.

BY STEPHANIE POWERS | March 7, 2019

The Gasparilla Music Festival gets bigger and better every year so there’s a lot of bands to see, a lot of food to eat and many game time decisions to make. Creative Pinellas asked a couple GMF goers their opinion on what acts to check out, plus, if you don’t mind, I’ll give you mine as well.

Garden Club will help festgoers get over their hangover Sunday at noon in Kiley Gardens.

Catherine Mathews Preston, sometimes DJ, occasional event coordinator and overall Tampa enthusiast, says she’s really looking forward to the local bands including Garden Club which she describes as “an eclectic mix of jazzy, groovy, ethereal goodness with vocals that flow seamlessly with the music, including a harp!”

Last year Preston and I braved the chilly rain to check out electronics act FR33DBACK, and she’s going back for more. “Looking forward to seeing him on a bigger stage with added visuals and hopefully less rain!”

Local reggae legends Tribal Style are a must see according to Preston. “They are a perfect upbeat afternoon festival band.”

Speaking of, Tribal Style’s Kenny Pullin is recently recovered from a lung injury and is hoping a tooth issue doesn’t prevent him from playing. Whether he is on stage on not, he will be festing regardless. He says he’s excited to see his buddies J’nelle and Joshua Riley but will also check out the acts he isn’t as familiar with.  

“One of the things I love the most about our music festival,” Pullin says, “you just walk around and come up on a band you’ve never seen or heard of before and they blow you away. Too often times people complain about the star power or lack of star power on the lineup and miss out on what I believe is the essence of a music festival, which is to get turned on to new music.”

Toro y Moi, aka Chaz Bundick, takes over the Curtis Hixon stage at 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

Photographer Alec Shurtz, who also happens to be my husband, is stoked for indie darling Toro y Moi. “Especially with this new album Outer Peace, which I really loved.”  

GMF Emcee Captain Roxanne Gallo is also stoked to see Garden Club, as well as other locals Fever Beam and Glove. “Listening to them makes you feel like you’ve escaped to a dark NYC bar, just for half an hour. A little psychedelia. They’ve been going on tour with lots of up and coming bands including The Nude Party … a group of creatives creating together. Generally badass.”

“I am LOVING The Beths,” Gallo adds. “It’s like the ’90s all over again and it’s friggin’ great. Catchy hooks, aggressive guitars, build ups, breakdowns, sweet vocals. Solid as hell. Try not to dance during their set,” Gallo added regarding the New Zealand band.

Unlike a lot of other fests, say the Coachellas of the world, GMF is nonprofit, benefiting children with programs like Recycled Tunes through the Gasparilla Music Foundation. There is a designated Kids Fest until 2 p.m. both days with an instrument petting zoo, face painting and many children’s musical acts.

Students from Crestwood Elementary’s guitar and recorder ensembles perform on the Ferman stage Saturday at 1:15 p.m.

“Usually I would not be about going out of my way to see kids perform,” Gallo explains. “GMF has changed that for me. Crestwood Elementary is one of the prime beneficiaries of our Recycled Tunes program. They embody what GMF is all about. They’re great, their teachers are great, and you can feel the passion from both radiating while they perform.”

I will be taking advantage of the kid-friendly aspect and bringing my 3-year-old son whose pick for the weekend is the legendary Laurie Berkner. The “We are the Dinosaurs” singer will bring her timeless hits to the Glazer Children’s Museum at 1 and 3: 30 p.m. Sunday. A separate, but free, ticket is needed and last I checked both shows were sold out. If you missed the ticket window, check Facebook for people who have an extra-there’s usually a person who’s changed plans you can benefit from.

The Pharcyde bring us back to the ’90s via Kiley Gardens’ SYKES Stage Saturday at 6:15 p.m.

The moment I heard that The Pharcyde was billed, I didn’t need to see the rest of the lineup to confirm my attendance. As a child of ’90s hip-hop, their debut album Bizarre Ride II, the Pharcyde is ingrained into my subconscious. I can’t wait to sing along with the other fans while reliving the golden age of rap.

St. Pete-based Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent perform on the Ferman stage at 5:45 p.m.

Tampa’s Jordan Esker & the Hundred Percent are blowing up and I’m excited to see them for the first time live. They might be be going the way of Benjamin Booker who played GMF in 2014 at noon on the mainstage. Look at him now.

As far as the headliners go, I am hoping the Avett Brothers play songs from the album I and Love and You. That was our soundtrack around the time Alec and I were getting married, and it gives me the feels. I’m ready to relive my California days during San Francisco rockers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and see what the new hip hop heads are into at Oddisee and Good Compny.

Overall, I’m mostly looking forward to Gary Clark Jr. After his recent Saturday Night Live performance of Pearl Cadillac, he’s being compared to Prince which is not a compliment given lightly — and it’s a compliment he deserves. So, wowza.

Download the app to make the scheduling easy. Wear comfortable shoes. Drink water. Wear sunscreen. Wherever the weekend takes you, hopefully you will stumble across your new favorite band or just relish your old one.

Gasparilla Music Festival, Saturday, March 9, and Sunday, March 10, Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa. For tickets or information, gasparillamusic.com.

Click here for a comprehensive event schedule to help plan your festing.