The RITZ Ybor Photos: Phantogram + Shaun White

There’s something to applaud about Tampa when a concert rightfully sells out!  It restores my faith in this city having exceptional taste in music, and gives me hope that other fantastic artists and musicians will take note and head down this way to perform.  Last night’s SOLD OUT Phantogram wih Bad Things concert at The RITZ Ybor was simply put… FUCKIN’ AWESOME!  An even bigger bonus when the music artists are just as cool and genuine as you would hope them to be.

Phantogram 2014 Shaun White 2014

SOLD OUT! Phantogram with Bad Things at The RITZ Ybor
on Sunday, June 29, 2014
Photos by Nicole Abbett

Check out more photos online RIGHT HERE.

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The RITZ Ybor Photos: Cut Copy

Cut Copy Okie

 Cut Copy at The RITZ Ybor
on Tuesday, June 14, 2014
Photos by Nicole Abbett

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Check out more photos from Cut Copy with CLASSIXX + Nile Delta at The RITZ Ybor online: CLICK HERE

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Happy Everyday

My good friend Katina urged me to attempt the 100 Happy Days Challenge that she and numerous other participants have been posting about.  So, I visited and read the website.  I recognized and understood the concept.  Hats off to her and anyone else playing along with the challenge, because it really seems to be one of the more genuine and harmless social media gimmicks flying around out there.  I definitely am not knocking it, but for me, it’s (simply put) just not me.  Just as I loathe those silly website lists telling me what 20 places I need to visit before I die, or those ludicrous and annoying personality quizzes that “determine” which Real Housewife, 80s Pop Star, 90s Rock Star, Hollywood Movie Star, Boy Bay member I am based on my answers to 5 brainless questions… my happiness, my personality, and my future will never be validated, defined nor governed by any website.

HOWEVER… Katina was ON to something, and her enthusiasm with how the 100 Happy Days Challenge has inspired her wound up inspiring me.  I DO need to quit making the excuse that I am too busy to find time to spend with old friends.  I DO need to make more of an effort to stay in touch with others outside of the realm of social media.  I DO need to always remember that I have a pretty awesome life, and to be grateful for its privileges and the individuals living in it with me.

I didn’t quite make 100 days, but I did document the last 7 days that were pretty damn magical.

2014 Edison Okie Steven Dinner

Happiness:  having dinner with one of your best friends

2014 Filthy Richard Okie Jamal Areis Traye

Happiness:  a sudden night out on the town with your boys

2014 Ybor Wine Bar Okie Linley

Happiness: enjoying a long-overdue dinner, movie and wine night with a loved one

2014 GD Okie Neil Jason Areis2014 GD Okie Cody Areis Jason

Happiness: acting as if not one day has passed when reconnecting with your travel crew and best friends from Chicago and New York

2014 GD Okie Dani Steven 2014 GD Okie Nathan Dani Steven Carlos2014 GD Okie Will O

Happiness: randomly running into old friends when in another city

2014 Oxford Exchange Hyacinth Robby Jason Charles Areis

Happiness: when a best friend visits and wants to meet for brunch

2014 Rooster Till Katina 2

Happiness:  nearly ordering the entire menu when dining with a best friend

2014 Little Dragon Group

 Happiness:  experiencing a concert with loved ones
Happiness Bonus:  when the presence of a photo bomber makes you smile

Cheers to #100daysofhappiness A LIFETIME of happiness.

“The world is ours, and no one can take it away except the exhaustion of enjoying it so much.” -my friend Michael Maurer

“Inner Smile” by Texas:  After all these years, this song still makes me feel happy!

 

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The RITZ Ybor Photos: Neon Trees

When a band you admire is playing in your town, you get excited.

When that same band you admire is playing at your job, you get super excited.

When that same admired band playing at your job are friendly, super cool, and genuine individuals, you take a photo with them.

But what happens when that same admired band of friendly, super cool, and genuine individuals just put on a show at your job that knocked your socks off?

…you first buy new socks, and then you relive the experience through their music and the evening’s photos.  WHAT AN AMAZING SHOW Neon Trees put on at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa last Wednesday!  Don’t miss their Pop Psychology Tour on the road this summer.

Neon Trees 14 A Neon Trees 14 B Neon Trees 14 D Neon Trees 14 E Neon Trees 14 F Neon Trees 14 H Neon Trees 14 I Neon Trees 14 J Neon Trees 14 K Neon Trees 14 L Neon Trees 14 M Neon Trees 14 Okie A Neon Trees 14 Okie B Neon Trees 14 Staff A Neon Trees 14 Staff B

Neon Trees at The RITZ Ybor
on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Photos by Nicole Abbett

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Pride & Passion 2014: an avant garde wedding

Yet another Pride & Passion event gone by!

In its 8 years, the event has slowly transformed into a fashionable night out downtown to dress up and party.  This year’s theme was an avant garde wedding celebrating the union of art + community + diversity.  I decided to play with the theme, and turned the pimp factor level up a few notches when dressing as my interpretation of an avant garde groom.  And that’s one of the many things that I love about Pride & Passion: how one can be decked out in leather and fur with opera goggles in Florida during the summertime, and not one person bats an eyelash at the ridiculousness of it all.  Pride & Passion is a night to play dress up, and an evening to play with one’s Uncle Karl Lagerfeld André Leon Talley Okie Fierce alter ego.

However, the true importance of this event is the $75,000.00 net that was raised from just one evening for the Tampa Museum of Art, its exhibits and community programs.  As an avid supporter of the arts and of Tampa raising its profile, I applaud this year’s Chairs Kevin Reder and Rick Scherer, the Museum staff, and the Pride & Passion steering and host committee for a spectacular event.

P.S.  Next year, I plan to dress even more ridiculously!

Photos courtesy of Nicole Abbett, Owen Hunt Photography, Todd Montgomery and Nicholas Cardello.

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“I Can’t Keep Up” by Tourist featuring Will Heard:  There’s just something in the way that Will Heard sings SANGS this song that does something to my soul.  When the frenetic pace changes up at the 3:00 mark, the song becomes pure, unadulterated audio ecstasy.

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Big Guava Music Festival 2014

Big Guava 14 Okie Balloon

The first annual Big Guava Music Festival (literally) stormed through Tampa Bay May 2 thru 4, 2014!  My prayers had been answered for this was my city’s first true music festival (besides the Sunset Music Festival), and the closest thing to Coachella to hit Tampa Bay shores.  The stormy weather may have hindered attendance the first two days, but Big Guava ended on a sunny, high-note by the third and final day.  Regardless of weather conditions, the residents of Tampa Bay need to WAKE. THE. HELL. UP!… and take advantage of such a fantastic music festival taking place in our backyard.  Coming from someone who works in the live music and concert industry, the challenge in bringing music acts to even perform in this state is difficult.  When a line-up such as this year’s Big Guava line-up is created, you get up off your couch, you buy tickets, and you attend.

As with anything new in this city, it’s just going to take time for Big Guava to reach the heights of success that it rightfully deserves.  Upon hearing Live Nation’s announcement for plans to present another Big Guava Music Festival next year, I let out a sign of relief that my prayers had once again been answered.  Hopefully, my prayers of Tampa proving not to be such a basic city will be answered when its citizens come out in droves to next year’s fest.

So enough of my tirade.  I now present, and in no particular order, my TOP 5 FAVORITE PERFORMANCES at this year’s Big Guava:

 

Magic Man:  There I was lying in a hammock in the Craft Beer Chill Zone at Big Guava, lounging until the next act I planned to see took the stage.  To find an available hammock in any of the Craft Beer sections at Big Guava was like finding the Holy Grail.  So when you happened to find an available one, you jump on it and rest on it as long as you can because this lethargic opportunity of downtime may not come back around again.  For me to abandon my hammock to check out the catchy music that was coming from the nearby Grove stage just goes to show what an electrifying band Magic Man are live.  Lead singer Alex Caplow stole the show, and (simply put) KILLED his band’s set with his Jagger-esque energy and moves, and vocals that soared thru the Fairground fields.  I wasn’t familiar with the pop rock band from Boston before Big Guava, but they have now become a regular staple on my Spotify.

 

 

Outkast:  The biggest disappointment of this year’s Coachella was hands-down Big Boi and Andre 3000’s much-hyped reunion.  There was no connection at all from the duo to their songs, or to the audience.  The flamboyant Andre 3000, sporting un-Andre 3000 attire comprised of a cap, hoodie and denim overalls, came across as drained, uninterested and depleted of his usual pizzazz.  The energy in the desert was a mixture of confusion and exhaustion, both from Outkast and the masses of festival-goers that began to rapidly thin out.  I cringed when Andre 3000 asked the Coachella audience if they were still there, and if they were tired.  By the time the duo performed the classic “Hey Ya!,” it was too late, for only a 1/4 of the audience that were originally lined up to see their set still remained to shake it like a Polaroid picture.  And barely did they do that.

So to my delight, Outkast invaded the Big Guava stage on their one and only Florida appearance and owned it.  The real Andre 3000 had returned, with a platinum-blonde wig and the funky, outrageous persona we’d come to love and expect.  The packed house sang along to every song, and gave the boys from Atlanta a true dirty South, warm welcome back.  After all, Outkast FINALLY proved that they were indeed back!

 

 

St. Lucia:  Jean-Philip Grobler makes the kind of music that reminds me of the breezy ballads from the 1980s that were sung by Sting, Phil Collins and Christopher Cross.  There’s a precise beauty to the way his distinctive voice sings melodies against a synthpop beat.  It’s polished.  It’s calming.  It’s cool.  Imagine how surprised I was to see his ability to also command a dancefloor as aggressively as he did when he performed the disco-fied “September” which may as well have been an ode to Dead or Alive.  St. Lucia‘s performance was commanding enough to even persuade Alex Caplow from Magic Man to let loose and dance in the middle of the festival crowd.

 

 

Chance The Rapper:  One of my absolute favorite thrills at any music festival is accidentally coming across a really amazing artist’s set, enjoying it, and thus becoming a new fan.  I was only inside of the Nectar Stage venue to cool off and sit down.  Chance The Rapper just so happened to be performing on the Nectar Stage.  Unlike Magic Man, I was actually familiar with Chance the Rapper, but his music never initially grasped me.  Truthfully, I never really gave his music a chance after his audacity to bring Justin Bieber as his surprise guest performer at this year’s Coachella.  No bueno Chance, no bueno.  So I sat down in the only air conditioned part of Big Guava, sipped on my beer, and could not help but be seduced by Chance The Rapper’s music, stage presence, and the way the near full-house was hooked and mesmerized.  Okay, Chance, you got me.  I’m a fan.  Just please, no more Justin Bieber guest performances until he gets his life together.

 

 

MS MR:  This New York duo’s Secondhand Rapture album was an honorable mention on my annual Top Albums of Year List for 2013.  Their dark indie rock sound may have been a noticeable contrast to being the earliest and very first performance on a very sunny Florida day, but MS MR brought along enthusiasm, spirit and soul to their set.  Vocalist Lizzy Plapinger’s scratchy yet soulful voice is what instantly reeled me in to liking MS MR, and it is an instrument that did not disappoint in a live setting.  A small bonus for seeing them live was me FINALLY learning how to pronounce their name.  All this time, I referred to them as “M. S. M. R.” when they their actual band name is pronounced “Miss Mister.”

 

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…until next year’s  Big Guava!

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The RITZ Ybor Photo: Mogwai

Mogwai 2014

Mogwai at The RITZ Ybor
on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Photo by Nicole Abbett

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My Coachella

Cochella14 Grass

Coachella14 Okie Neil Mike Fest

The Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival… holy @#$! shit, what an absolute amazing experience!

This was my second time attending the nation’s reigning mother supreme of music festivals (and the most-successful festival according to Billboard Box-Office).  For anyone with a hard on for live music of all genres, Coachella is the ultimate wet dream.  There truly is no other way to describe the magic that is everything Coachella.  My obsession with Coachella stems from the diverse line-up all in one setting, surprise superstar performances, and 100,000 music and art lovers dancing, singing, and getting their life in the California desert.

LA14 Dinner Group

LA15 Club Group

This year’s Coachella adventure kicked-off with a friends’ reunion in Los Angeles with my best friends Cheri and Harry a.k.a. Hit & Run (childhood friends from Tampa) and Kristin (who just so happened to be visiting California the same weekend).  I linked up with other former Tampons Jamal and Robert that evening, and received the ultimate surprise when I found out that my New York friends and family (sans Jason ::insert tears::) were in L.A. celebrating Gary’s birthday.

It was one big, fat, gigantic Tampa reunion in Los Angeles that just so happened to come together randomly.  The entire randomness of it all is best described by Nadia’s greeting to me when we first ran into one another that evening: “What the fuck are you doing here?  Are you real?  Is this night even real?”

Cochella14 Girls Group 1 Coachella14 Prom Girls

The weekend continued as we met up with Daddy Neil and Rusty, drove to Palm Springs and prepared for the onslaught of the next three days.  One of the weekend’s highlights was meeting Chloe and Erin, two fabulous (and quite hilarious) beauties from the UK.  We instantly clicked on night one during Outkast’s ho-hum reunion performance, and spent the rest of the Coachella weekend singing and dancing the nights away.

The music highlights of this year’s Coachella include:

  • Empire of the Sun…  I had been dying to see them live since I was first hypnotized by their “Walking on a Dream” single six years ago, and the boys certainly did not disappoint.  They were the perfect blend of pomp, flash and drama needed for the Sahara tent, and my pick for the best performance of the weekend.
  • Skrillex… Sonny Moore remains one of the few prominent on the EDM scene whose artistry and craft emanates from his every DJ set.  For those cynics who wrongly insinuate that there is no true talent or work in being a DJ, Skrillex’s thrilling set at Coachella is the receipt to silence them.
  • Rudimental…  It was a treat to finally see this British band perform, especially to witness how their music which encompasses drum and bass, R&B and soul, and pure funk came together in a live setting.
  • Calvin Harris…  Mr. Harris now boasts the second largest performance attendance in the history of Coachella, second only to 2012’s Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg Lion and the 2Pac holgram’s historic California Lovefest.  He played an effortless set of his greatest hits, from “Feel So Close” to Rihanna’s “We Found Love” to new single “Summer.”  No guest performances, no surprises.  And for those cynics who complained that his set played it safe, well why reinvent the wheel when it is still spinning?
  • Arcade Fire…  I will admit that I only knew a few handful of Arcade Fire songs.  I am not infatuated with Arcade Fire like their hardcore following of fans, nor am I one of their many detractors who simply do not understand their hype.  I have always stood on neutral ground with them, so  I was anticipating their headlining, closing performance to find out in which direction I would be swayed.  In the end, I enjoyed their performance, despite lead singer Win Butler’s misguided comments regarding us in the VIP section.
  • MGMT…  I forgot how much I loved MGMT until I woke up from my afternoon nap on the lawn and was greeted by the sounds of their music.
  • Lorde…  if only she could follow the rule of “less talking, less storytelling, more singing,” then she would have had an A+ set.
  • CHVRCHES…  when a band sounds as glorious as their studio recordings, it’s a win-win situation.  CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice sounded like heaven.

A random festival-goer summed up the entire weekend best, when he and I accidentally walked into one another.  I immediately apologized during our run-in, and he just laughed it off, smiled and remarked, “it’s all good man.  No need to apologize.  It’s the best weekend of the year.”

…and yes it was.

To my dear friend Mike Hammonds, thank you for being the best music festival partner in crime.  Daddy Neil, thank you for being you, for teaching me the music festival bunny ways, and for reminding me that this was “my Coachella.”  And lastly, dear Coachella, I’ll be missing you next year, but will return in 2016 to cash in on the best weekend of that year!  [READ: 2012's Coachella Adventure post]


“Comfortable” by The Knocks featuring X Ambassadors:  I am pissed that I missed The Knocks at last year’s Governor’s Ball in New York City, because I become more and more enamored with their music each and every passing day.  “Comfortable” was this year’s unofficial Coachella anthem.  Perhaps because I demanded that this song be played on repeat at high decibels.  Or simply because this anthem ROCKS, and will serve as a reminder of this beautiful weekend in Coachella Valley.  :: sigh ::

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Festa Italiana Weekend 2014

Four days of food, wine, cocktails, bocce ball, and live entertainment.  Months upon months of planning, securing, scheduling, ordering and promoting.  Years upon years, 17 to be exact, of culture, heritage and tradition.

This year’s 17th Annual Festa Italiana (i.e. the Italian Food & Wine Festival) opened with the Wines of Italy tasting event and concluded with the main Festa Italiana event in Centennial Park.  Over 20,000 attendees flooded the historic Ybor City district in celebration of Italian culture, the Italian community and of course, wine and pasta!

18th Annual Festa Italiana Weekend
Save The Date:  April 9 to 12, 2015
www.festaitalianatampa.com

WOI 14 GroupWOI 14 DessertsFesta Italiana 14 BocceFesta Italian 14 VinoFesta Italiana 13 FoodFesta Italiana 14 Paul SalosClub Italia 14 GroupClub Italia 14 BarFesta Italiana 14 DitaFesta Italiana 14 IC

 

“Jerk Ribs” by Kelis: God Bless Kelis Rogers! Unhappy with ever becoming yet another one-hit wonder, or the girl who sang that “Milkshake” song, or even the ex-wife of Nas, she has consistently reinvented her sound and image to stay relevant with the current musical landscape.  She fully embraced dance music on 2010’s Flesh Tone album, and now reveals a new electro-soul sound with her recently released, concept FOOD album.

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GIFF it to me

Another year, another Gasparilla International Film Festival (GIFF).  This year’s Closing Party FINALLY took place at The RITZ Ybor historic theatre, where I’ve always said that it should take place since I attended my very first one four years ago and not because I work there.  It only makes sense that Tampa’s independent film festival kick off and conclude at this city’s oldest theatres that are still in operation: the historic Tampa Theatre built in 1926 and the historic Ritz Theatre built in 1917.  Hats off to GIFF for making that magic happen this year!


GIFF14 Pre Party GIFF14 Group 01 GIFF14 Photo Booth 01 GIFF14 Photo Booth 02 GIFF14 Venue 01 GIFF14 Venue 02


“Artifice” by SOHN:
  My latest song obsession is “Artifice” by British singer-songwriter-producer Christopher Taylor who performs under the moniker SOHN.  One listen to SOHN’s gentle, delicate vocals singing the chorus lyrics “Somebody better let me know my name, Before I give myself away… Somebody better show me how I feel, Cause I know I’m not at the wheel…” gliding across a lush, layered electronic backdrop, and you’re instantly hooked.

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