(recently published at jambands.com/Relix; direct link)
Eclecticism for its own sake seems to be the guiding principle of the Gasparilla Music Festival, a daylong affair March 9 at scenic waterside Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa. The festival’s second annual edition, featuring about 30 acts spread across four stages, offered a mix of bubbling-up national rock and indie-oriented artists with other bands drawn from diverse genres.
New Orleans music emerged as one theme of the event with headliners the Meter Men, whose bassist, George Porter, Jr, and drummer , Zigaboo Modeliste, still constitute one of the world’s most dangerous Southern-fried funk rhythm sections.
Porter, Modeliste and original Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli were joined by current tour mate Page McConnell (left), and the four successfully augmented the trio’s NOLA R&B grooves with the Phish keyboardist’s jammier leanings. The fan favorites were abundant, as the sprawling set included “Look-Ka Py Py,” “Cissy Strut,” “Fire on the Bayou,” and “Hey, Pocky Way.” McConnell fit right in, delivering the goods alternately on piano and B3 organ.
New Orleans was also represented by durable roots rock and Tex-Mex band the Iguanas (Rod Hodges, far right). They got the crowd moving, with the help of familiar gems “Boom Boom Boom,” “Oye, Isabel,” “Lupita,” “Para Donde Vas” and a rollicking take on Professor Longhair’s “In the Night.” So, too, did the Distinguished Men of Brass, a Tampa-based brass band making an encore appearance at the event – they made semi-regular jaunts across the fest grounds.
Corey Harris (left), while not a Louisiana native, specializes in the kind of music associated with the region. For GMF, he led a quartet – Harris on guitar plus bass, sax and drums — on a set of convincing blues, R&B and funk occasionally tinged with reggae grooves. He toasted a fest hometown hero with Tampa Red’s “Singing and Crying Blues,” and at one point played lap steel, unaccompanied.
The latter thrived on the leader’s raw vocals and a Hendrix-style guitar attack, not to mention a hard-driving horn section and primitive-feeling, grinding one-chord blues stomps.
Several acts were on the less rootsy side of the spectrum. SoCal folk-pop-rock outfit Lord Huron’s big, textured sound was driven by multiple acoustic and electric guitars. Dr. Dog, from Philadelphia, playing their first show since November, brought ambitious pop-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, loaded with vocal harmonies and occasional jam-out finishes via “That Old Black Hole,” “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” “Do the Trick,” and “Shadow People,” among other crowd pleasers.
Several Tampa Bay area acts, too, generated enthusiastic responses, including the punky wild-man blues of Nervous Turkey, led by irrepressible singer, harmonica player and guitarist Ernie Locke (right); the ferocious blues belting of singer Betty Fox (left); and the energetic, bluegrass-influenced acoustic stomp of The Wholetones.