Tag Archives: Melissa Carroll

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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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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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.”

 

Please click on thumbnail to enlarge / view photo: 

…until next year’s  Big Guava!

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Jason’s Visit: May 2013

Jason Moriarty Okie May 2013

Jason’s annual springtime trip back home to Tampa occurred last weekend.  The last time that I saw Jason was during his 30th Birthday gathering up in NYC earlier this year. (READ: Concrete Jungle post)  Since there was zero photographic evidence that I was up there celebrating three decades of his fabulous existence on Earth, our first mission for this Tampa reunion was to take at least one damn photo together.  (Fun Fact: The second mission was to order Hungry Howie’s pizza and revel in their garlic and cajun crust pizzas.)  Missions accomplished.

It is a guaranteed riotous time when Jason is in town.  Even though both of us are now in our 30s, it would seem to outsiders that we are freshly 21 every time that we come together.

Please click on a thumbnail to enlarge / view photo:

 

 

“You Set Me Free” by Angie Miller…  Saturday, May 11, 2013.  3:45am.  Jason is  running to the nearest gas station in search of cigarettes.  Nick is running after Jason.  Literally.  Melissa is peacefully practicing Shavasana on the living room couch.  And the above music video found itself on repeat on my Apple TV.  Such a stunning song from an American Idol contestant who should’ve been in this week’s Finale.  Never fails in giving me goosebumps every single time I hear it!

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Big Foodie Hoes

TOST 2013 Group 2

I relapsed at the beginning of April this year.  I didn’t mean to, but I am powerless against my lifelong addiction.  It completely spiraled out of control from then on out.  Perhaps its time I check into rehab?…  I am of course referring to my endless appetite and the numerous Food Festivals and Food Events that I attended last month silly!

My absolute favorite thing to do in the world is to eat.  I love food.  Everyone who knows me knows that I love, adore, worship food.  Eat, Pray, Love?  Nope… Eat, Drink, Eat!  There is nothing that I have not eaten.  There is nothing that I would not eat.  Seriously, if I were a contestant on Fear Factor, I would win every single one of those crazy food eating challenges.

So imagine my excitement when I nabbed tickets to three of Tampa’s signature Food Events last month.  I took a break from my usual routine of healthy clean eating so that I could binge eat overwhelm my taste buds and indulge.

YTT 2013 Improv 2

My Fat Ass Foodie Adventure began with the Ybor Tapas Trail (part of Ybor City’s Aficionado Days).  18 restaurant stops.  3 hours.  Food samples and a cocktail at each location.  By the time my friends and I passed the finish line, we were all completely spent. All of the eating and trekking in the humid weather took its toll, and I immediately climbed into bed when I got home from the event not wanting to ever think about food again…

TOST 2013 Group 3

…until the annual Taste of South Tampa at Hyde Park Village the very next day.

The Taste of South Tampa featured 27 local restaurants such as Timpano, Jackson’s and Catrinas Cocina y Galeria  each serving a sizable plate of food.  There was live entertainment, complimentary beer and wine, and a text messaging contest for patrons to vote for their favorite restaurant.  Piquant Epicure & Cuisine‘s savory-sweet croissant with sausage gravy was one of my votes, along with JusThai‘s offering of Pad Thai, Springrolls, Fried Rice and Thai Tea.

DCYC 2013 April

The last stop on my obesity marathon Food Adventure was Dishcrawl Tampa‘s Ybor City tour.  The concept of Dishcrawl Tampa is for patrons to dine at four principal restaurants in a specific neighborhood of the Tampa Bay area.  Patrons have zero clue where they will be feasting since each restaurant stop is revealed as you go along.  The chefs at each restaurant are commonly at the dinner table, answering any questions and providing details about their menu items and restaurant.

My friend and fellow foodie Tracy Guida organizes and oversees Dishcrawl Tampa.  She’s also quite a remarkable blogger.  Check out her review of the Ybor City Dishcrawl HERE along with her primary website HERE.

I highly urge any reader to experience a Dishcrawl Tampa event.  Future Dishcrawl stops include International Plaza on May 14th, Downtown Tampa on May 21st, the Westshore district on June 4th and the Dunedin area on June 11th.   Check out all of Dishcrawl Tampa’s events at www.dishcrawl.com/tampa.

Please click on thumbnail to view / enlarge photo:

“Let It Be” by Blackmill featuring Veela…  Robby turned me onto this song a few weeks ago, but I swear I heard this song somewhere else way before his introduction.  It’s a melodic, tranquilizing, groovy tune that confuses me.  I don’t know if I should be dancing, performing sun salutations, or both every time I hear it!

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Invincible Summer

“In the depth of winter…
Winter Radko 3

I finally learned that within me there lay…

Winter Radko 1

…an invincible summer!”  -Albert Camus

Winter Radko 2

I have been fascinated with the Albert Camus quote that this year’s 5th Annual Square One Creative Event revolved around since I first read it in High School.  An invincible summer in the winter… that statement transcends to so many more meanings and interpretations.

With speculation that the world will come to an end when the Mayan Calendar concludes on December 21st of this year, I felt that an event exploring the theme of summer (light, life and hope) always prevailing amid a dark, lifeless and bleak landscape was needed.  I liked the idea and contrast of having an event called Invincible Summer taking place in the fall.  I loved the optimistic message of energy and light never dying.

Invincible Summer had much more personal meaning than any other event that I’ve ever been associated with.  Whether living in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago… whether married, single or divorced… whether  black, white, Asian or a Russian Jew… whether I see them once a year, twice a week or every other year…  this event represented the invincible  lifelong friendships and bonds that I am blessed to have with the numerous individuals in my life.  They all flew in and/or drove in from various parts of the city, state and country for this event.  We’ve all endured the up and down nature that paints the canvas of any great friendship.  And in the end, unconditional love is our friendship’s invincible summer.

Invincible Summer
IS Jocelyn

“If there’s one thing I love about the Square One events, it’s that they bring all of us back together.  So many memories, history… You can’t match that feeling.”  -my friend Billy Jolie (in Tampa)

“They say that you can tell a true friend if you can go months without seeing them and pick right up from where you left off.  That is exactly what happens every time I reunite with the plethora of people I saw this weekend in Tampa.”  -my friend Jason (in NYC)

“Your theme this year for Square One has really touched my heart.  I feel like deep within us there is an “invincible summer”… despite all the hardships and negativity in our daily lives, there will always be this ray of hope and inspiration that is deep inside.”  -my friend Lorena (& future Californian resident)

Okesene Diamond
Salvador Live
JPop
Straz
Mr Sawbladehead
Bella Danza
Kinetic Radko
7th Avenue Annie7th Avenue Dancer7th Avenue Girls7th Avenue Hoop7th Avenue PoleArt 1Art 2Art 37th Avenue 1
7th Avenue 2

Photos by Kevin & Lisa Tighe and Radko Keleman

For more information about Invincible Summer, the event that took place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa, please click here.


“Diamonds” performed by songwriter Sia

 

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Oops! I Became a Palindrome… Again

pal-in-drome:  a word, verse, or sentence or a number (as 33) that reads the same backward or forward

I never understood why people in their 30’s and 40’s feel the need to proclaim that they’re re-celebrating their 21st birthday on their special day.  Anytime I told someone that I was turning 33-years-old this year, they jokingly tried to correct me by saying, “oh, you mean 21, right?” which only prompted me  to correct them by letting them know that I am proud to be the age that I am.  When compared to when I was a clueless 21-year-old, I am in a much better place in life: basically wiser, richer and more connected with who I am and what my purpose in life truly is.  Getting older is inevitable, so I fully embrace each new year like a brand new pair of shoes.  I am 33-years-old dammit!

Kristin and I decided to host a birthday party for 40 of my closest friends at her house this year.  With friends already flying in from NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ohio and Miami for that weekend’s Square One event at The RITZ Ybor the next day, I didn’t want to invite everyone out to a huge group dinner for 40 at (insert restaurant name here).  Those type of birthday group dinner gatherings always turn into more of a headache, lack any type of intimacy and just are never any fun: you are forced to socialize more with whoever you happen to be sitting next to, the bill is always wrong, food comes out late, the wrong dishes come out with some dishes not even making it to the table, etc.

Even with the already hectic and crazy work schedule, this year’s birthday party was worth every dime and minute that went into planning it… mainly because I love my friends more than the world.  I wish everyday could be my birthday if only I could have as much fun as I did last weekend!


33rd Birthday… BEST Birthday Ever!


Diamonds by Rihanna

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Whiskey Me To The Runway

I wear many hats at my job.  On paper, I am listed as the Public Relations & Marketing Director of The RITZ Ybor, a special events & concert venue in Tampa, Florida.  In reality, I pretty much do a lot of… well… everything: contracts, accounting, scheduling, ordering, hiring, overseeing staff and assisting my corporate bosses, owners and management with making sure that the venue is on its A-game.  Another aspect of my job is creating and producing x-amount of in-house events per year to show off the venue in a positive light.

When my friend Dallas first approached me about Tribeca ColorSalon being a part of my fall Square One event in November, the more and more our discussions carried on, the more and more I was convinced that another fabulous event was in-the-works.  Brandon, the owner of Tribeca, secured Saks Fifth Avenue to outfit his models for the show and hair product line KEVIN.MURPHY agreed to sponsor the show, and voilà… Cocktails & Couture was officially born.

The past Sunday’s event was a fruitful collaboration between many creative players: Dallas with KEVIN.MURPHY, the Tribeca ColorSalon staff, Tyler and Teresa with Saks Fifth Avenue, Mathieu Stanoch and the Bella Danza team, Doug and Niely with The RITZ Ybor, Ch Hoy with Liquid Tampa.  Most importantly, this past Sunday reminded me of how much of a cool city Tampa can be to live and work in.   Sashay Shante!

Introducing the show with my good friend (& yoga instructor) Melissa Carroll

Anye Cole belting out “Next to Me” and “Read All About It (Part 3)” by Emeli Sande

Performance Art Installations by Mathieu Stanoch
featuring Bella Danza

COCKTAILS & COUTURE
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The RITZ Ybor – Tampa, FL

…and a featured cocktails menu worth dying for!
Thanks Doug & Niely

Next To Me” by Emeli Sande

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“Angels” by The xx

So The xx finally released their much anticipated new single “Angels” yesterday, and to no surprise, it’s been a constant staple on my iPod, iTunes, Spotify, you name it.  My friend and yoga instructor and Prosecco bottle-chugging partner Melissa Carroll turned me on to The xx.  I remember her exact words when telling me about them: “oh Okie, it’s great music to play when writing… even though it’s stoner music for most people.”  And that it has been since that very introduction.  (I’m not referring to it as ganja background music.)

Vocals have not sounded more pure or as effortless as singer Romy Madley Croft’s do on “Angels.”  (Extra kudos to her name being Romy.)  Even stripped of any layered production, the song soothingly glides along yet reigns as the English band’s most powerful song to date.  Earlier interviews stated that the English indie-pop band’s next album would move into a more dance-oriented sound.  However, they chose their most mimimalist song to release as their lead single from an alleged “club” album.

Coexist, The xx’s second album, will be released on September 10, 2012 which cannot come any sooner since the band’s first album, xx, is still on my playlists’ heavy rotation.


“Light reflects from your shadow
It is more than I thought could exist
You move through the room
Like breathing was easy
If someone believed me
They would be
As in love with you as I am…”
from “Angels” by The xx

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2012

New Year’s Eve is supposed to be the night of nights.  They say what you do on that night will set the precedent and theme for the rest of your year.  So I guess in 2012, I will be constantly hungry and ridiculously tired?

I never had a kick-ass New Year’s Eve ever.  I’ve done the whole “go hard or go home” partying, I’ve dabbled in the intimate & lowkey evening with close friends, I’ve even slept through the countdown to midnight.  I just never had THAT New Year’s Eve night that should go down in my personal history books.

Each and every single year, it seems that my friends and I are scrambling last minute to figure out something to do.  We toy with the idea of doing something together, only to be separated from one another on the big night.  The two times that I were with my close friends were the only two nights that were actually memorable.

This particular year, it was the same ol’ New Year’s song & dance routine.  “What are you doing?  Where are you going?  Do you wanna do this?  Should we just go here?” …and on and on.  I finally decided to go with Harry to the New Year’s Eve party that was taking place at my work.  I had a couple other friends that were going, and it was definitely the most inexpensive of all my options.

While at the party, I had fun, but why was I was so hungry and exhausted?  I became that person who counted down to midnight, hugged and wished everyone a Happy 2012 only to secretly think, “where can I still get food and how fast can I get home to jump into bed and under the covers?”  Was this how the rest of my 2012 would be?  I decided to hang around a few more minutes, visit some more friends at other venues, but for the life of me, I absolutely could not get drunk.  I decided to give up any notion of being intoxicated, and surrendered to the fantasy of food and sleep.  No regrets.

So, I’ve decided to to host my own New Year’s Eve party this year, that is if the world is still spinning after December 23, 2012.  It is something that I always casually mentioned doing, but kept putting off and never put into action.  So you all read it here first: there is proof in writing that I am throwing a New Year’s party in 2012!

Happy 2012 everyone!

The Cowhead Show New Year’s Eve Party @ The RITZ Ybor
Saturday, January 31, 2011

 

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