Three-day Big Guava Festival hits Tampa

The event features three days of music on four stages

mclear@bradenton.comMay 1, 2014 

It has the ring of an urban legend but Gordon Gano says the legend about how his band got its first break is 100 percent true.

He and the other members of the Violent Femmes were playing on a sidewalk outside a Milwaukee venue where the Pretenders had a gig later that night. James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders' original guitarist, happened by and liked what he heard.

That night, the Violent Femmes opened the show for the Pretenders.

"That was pretty cool," Gano said in a phone interview from his Denver home. "I always though we were really good but nobody else did. The first people besides us who thought we were good were the Pretenders."

That was 33 years ago, and the Violent Femmes are now a legendary alternative rock band. They're among the many big-name acts, interspersed with some lesser-known ones, coming to Tampa this weekend for the Big Guava Festival, a three-day event that starts Friday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. The main stage is at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, and three others will be nearby on the fairgrounds property.

Among the other big-time bands: Vampire Weekend, the recently reunited Outkast, Foster the People, Tegan and Sara and Cake.

Cake has been around for nearly a quarter of a century and has reached platinum-record status but has never had the kind of name recognition that allows them to headline a festival.

That's fine with founding lead singer John McCrea.

"We'll play these festivals and we're number three or four behind the headliners," he said. "Then two or three years later we come back and play the same festivals and we're still number three or four, but the bands that are number one and two are different, and the ones from last time are gone. So I'm really comfortable being number three."

The lineup of the Big Guava Festival is intentionally diverse, from hard-rock acts such as Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, quirky alt-rock acts such as Cake and Violent Femmes, R&B from ZZ Ward, the indie pop of Foster the People and hip-hop from Outkast.

That means that most people won't like every single act on the lineup. But all through the festival, the midway rides at the fairgrounds will be open. Food trucks and craft beer vendors will also be on hand. So if you're an alt-rock fan and you don't want to watch a pop band, there's something to occupy your time.

After the festival was announced, today's Bruce Springsteen concert was booked into the same venue. Festival organizer are calling it a "festival kick-off" concert, but it's not an actual part of the festival, and festival passes won't get you into the Springsteen show.

"Big Guava," by the way, is a nickname for Tampa that was proposed decades ago by a newspaper columnist but it has never caught on.

Details: May 2-4 MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301, Tampa. Show times: 3 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Tickets: $75 plus service charge for each day; three-day pass $202 plus service charge. Information: 813-740-2446, www.livenation.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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