Tampa Concerts

Tampa Music Scene

Lauren Wells | March 7, 2014

The History

The Tampa music scene got off to a jazzy start with soul jazz musicians like Cannonball Adderley. Fondly remembered for his 1966 single “Mercy Mercy Mercy,” Adderley gained notoriety for his work with Miles Davis and his brother Nat Adderley. Rhythm and Blues legend Ray Charles hails from the Greenville, Florida area where he was raised. One of Rolling Stone’s “Greatest Artists of All Time,” Charles was a true musical genius who made groundbreaking strides in a notoriously stubborn industry. Tampa native David Sanborn, an alto saxophonist known for his work with David Bowie gained notoriety during the 70s and 80s. For a sunny and bright city, Tampa has produced a lot of death metal music pioneers such as Deicide, Six Feet Under, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, and Morbid Angel. Other sounds emerged from Tampa as well, such as pop-rock band Baskervilles, and Christian hardcore band Underoath. For those of you who shy away from the hardcore sound, don’t worry, Tampa has also produced the baby-faced pop prodigies Aaron and Nick Carter.

The Venues

Located in the Ybor City district, the Ritz Ybor is a concert and special event venue with a fantastic black and white checkered dance floor. This funky, historic venue features acts like The Used, Ani DiFranco, the XX, Band of Horses, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bad Religion. The Ritz Ybor was built in 1917 as the Rivoli Theatre and transitioned into the Ritz Theatre in 1945. After a renovation in 2008, the venue reopened to the public as the Ritz Ybor, where concerts, weddings, and other special events are held.

For a large-scale arena experience, head to the 670,000 square foot Tampa Bay Times Forum. Featuring the biggest names in music, such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry, among others, the venue also is home to the 2004 Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Arena Football Champions the Tampa Bay Storm. With lightning-throwing Tesla coils, an 11,000 square foot party deck with city views, and a massive pipe organ, the Tampa Bay Times Forum leaves event-goers impressed. Founded in 1996, the arena has sold out four consecutive Garth Brooks shows, hosted U2, the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and Bob Seger, and sold out performances for Bon Jovi, Tim McGraw, Elton John, and Billy Joel.

The Orpheum has been hosting well-known and emerging artists such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Jonas Brothers, Alexisonfire, Colbie Caillat, Mickey Avalon, and Cute is What We Aim For. Every last Monday of each month, the Orpheum hosts Soul!, a classic funk/soul/neo-doul dance party feature rare tracks spun by talented DJs like Funk Jesus and Gregg Schmidt – well worth checking out (plus the drinks are two for one!). Located in Ybor, the Orpheum has a divey feel to it and is a haven for true music lovers.

Built in 1925, the Tampa Theatrewas the first commercial building in Tampa that offered air conditioning! With all the hot talent coming through, it’s a good thing! Originally a movie palace where you could see a movie for 10 cents, the Tampa Theatre now hosts over 600 events a year, whether it be film screenings, concerts, special events, corporate meetings, tours, and educational programs. Managed by the non-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation, the venue has had over 5 million visitors and is a popular site for summer camps and field trips due to its impressive architecture, giant Wurlitzer organ, and fantastic décor. The theatre is a historic landmark, having hosted Ani DiFranco, Arlo Guthrie, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sleeze Beeze, and many others. Be prepared: at any moment, you may find yourself gawking at the theatre’s impressive design and ignoring the talented musicians you came to see!

The USF Sundome, founded in 1994, is an entertainment and sporting event venue. Home to USF’s women’s and men’s basketball as well as women’s volleyball, the Sundome hosts shows from big names like the Avett Brothers, Madonna, Katt Williams, Charlie Wilson, Casting Crowns, and the Harlem Globetrotters. For world-class entertainment with tons of options for food and beverages, the Sundome has everything you need!

At the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, located on the Hillsborough River, you’ll find the cultural melting pot that is this arts institution. With four theaters and one teaching theater, the Straz Center also has three restaurants and a coffee shop. The Carol Morsani Hall is a 2,610 seat proscenium theater that accommodates Broadway musicals, operas, ballets and orchestral performances. Hosting plays, concerts, and dance events, the Ferguson Hall is a 1,042 seat theater that also has the capacity to host corporate events, lectures, and seminars. The Straz Center’s two other theaters (the Shimberg Playhouse and the Jaeb Theater) are small, intimate spaces suited for poets, acoustic performances, comedians, and small productions. Whether you want to check out an up and coming poet or an educational seminar, the Straz Center always has some unique program coming through.

For a hipster-skater vibe, check out Crowbar, a dimly lit venue featuring DJ sets, concerts, fun theme nights, and karaoke. Located in Ybor, Crowbar features Old Dirty Sundays, a weekly hip-hop jam fest that encourages you to dress in old-school hip-hop gear and practice your break dancing. Crowbar has a great sound system, can entertain a packed crowd without making you feel claustrophobic, has a fun, spacious outdoor patio area to cater to the smokers, and books a wide variety of indie artists. Head to Crowbar for a casual live music experience!

The Mid Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds is an outdoor performance venue that opened in 2004. With a capacity of 20,000, the amphitheatre is the largest outdoor concert-only facility in Tampa. Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Alan Jackson, Alice in Chains, the Allman Brothers, Brooks and Dunn, Brad Paisley, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Brown, Bob Dylan, the Dave Matthews Band, Eric Clapton, Zac Brown Band, Tom Petty, Travis Tritt, and many other big names and music flock to the amphitheatre to play a sold-out show. For a fun night under the stars, the Mid Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre has you covered.

Fondly known as the “Ray Jay,” Raymond James Stadiumis home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NCAA South Florida Bulls football team. Seating 65,908 people, the stadium can adjust its layout to accommodate 75,000 people. Unlike most cut and dry stadiums, the Ray Jay has a personality: it has a built in pirate ship replica that shoots out confetti anytime the Buccaneers score! Ahoy, mateys!

The Festivals

At the Mid Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre, you can check out the Big Guava Festevery May. With four stages, food trucks, rides, and beer galore, you’ll never be bored! Featuring major headliners like Outkast, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People, Slightly Stoopid, Cake, Tegan and Sara, Girl Talk, Violent Gemmes, Sleighbells, and Grouplove, among many others, the festival is truly an event to remember! Bring your tent, your lawn chairs, and your picnics to kick back and enjoy over forty bands.

Held at Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens, Gasparilla Music Festival features headlining acts like the Flaming Lips, RJD2, Trombone Shorty, Jason Isbell, and Delta Spirit. A non-profit organization, the festival is located in downtown Tampa and is produced during the second weekend of March. Founded to promote music and education, the festival even provides scholarships to music students. A fun, family-friendly, event, Gasparilla supports great initiatives to promote local musicians and businesses in order to help improve the economic development of the Tampa area. Come to Gasparilla and support Tampa’s local initiatives to keep their music scene thriving!

98Rockfest, produced by the radio station 98Rock based in Tampa, brings in rock bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat, Chevelle, Black Stone Cherry, Saigon Kick, the Pretty Reckless, and Trivium for a one-day festival. Be prepared to sweat and thrash your head back and forth with thousands of other festival attendees!

If you’re open to traveling a little bit, Little Oak, FL hosts the Wanee Festival and the Purple Hatter’s Ball. Held in April, the Wanee Festival hosts headliners like the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s McGee, Blues Traveler, and Ziggy Marley. A hippie’s paradise, the Wanee Festival is located in the Suwannee Music Park, a 700 acre resort with a swimming pool, restaurant, hair salon, horseback riding stable, and conference space. Bring your RV or rent a lodge for a weekend of good music and memories.

The Purple Hatter’s Ball, also held in Little Oak, features bands like Beats Antique, Emancipator Ensemble, the New Master Sounds, the Motet, the Floozies, the Fritz, and Space Capone. With yoga, healing and arts workshops, massages, and activities like hoola hooping and painting, this festival is a hippie’s dream land! Prepare for a relaxing and entertaining festival.

Panama City hosts the Gulf Coast Jam, a country music festival. Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, the Charlie Daniels Band, and the Eli Young Band are among the A-list performers that take the stage. With meet and greets and plenty of vendors, you’ll never want for more at this glorious country production.