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Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Luis Santana

Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

Inside Sunset ’17, though? Totally business as usual.

From the crowd of more than 25,000, Tampa’s sixth annual electronic music bacchanal at Raymond James Stadium seemed to go off about as well as hoped. But there were echoes of 2016's two drug-related deaths that prompted widespread reevaluation of the festival's safety procedures, starting with booming warnings and advisories outside the gate:

Stay hydrated. Be responsible. If you see something, say something. Medics are ready to take care of you. SMF enforces a zero-tolerance rule. Narcotics officers and K-9 teams will enforce all drug-related laws. …

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Gregg Allman, iconic Southern rocker from Florida's Allman Brothers Band, dies at 69

The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

Gregg Allman was such a figure, a hard-living singer, songwriter, organist and leader of one of the iconic Florida music groups, the Allman Brothers Band. He married often, he drank even more, he outlived many of his peers and, along the way, helped give birth to the genre of Southern rock.

After years of fluctuating health, including many canceled gigs, Allman died Saturday at age 69. No cause of death was immediately given; a statement from the band said he died "peacefully at his home" in Savannah, Ga. He is the second member of the Allman Brothers band to die in 2017; drummer Butch Trucks died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in January.

Allman was a onetime Tampa Bay resident, living in Anna Maria Island for about six years.

"I was gone all the time," he told the Times in 2013. "I'd do a lot of fishing, I'd ride my motorcycles a lot. I have the usual fun that everybody else does."

FROM 2013: Gregg Allman talks music, memoir-turned-movie and more …

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Review: Idina Menzel belts out powerful, courageous performance at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Idina Menzel performed at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on May 25, 2017.

Douglas R. Clifford

Idina Menzel performed at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall on May 25, 2017.

The best moment of Idina Menzel’s show at Ruth Eckerd Hall Thursday came during the singer’s best-known song, Let It Go.

Menzel was sitting with children, mostly young girls, at the edge of the stage for a sing-along. She stopped and asked if any boys were near her in front. That’s when Trey Milcowitz, a student at East Lake High, stepped into the spotlight. At the star’s urging, he belted out lines from the song so strong audience members rose to their feet.

After the show, Milcowitz could only smile to passersby who asked how it felt to be that boy who sang to Idina.

“I just can’t believe it. I have no words,’’ he said.

Be like Idina, Trey. Keep letting your songs speak for you.

Menzel started her show by pounding the drums and roaring out Queen of Swords (from her 2016 album, Idina) and although she quickly set down the mallets, the Tony winner kept the power ballads flying out over the full house throughout the 90-minute show. …

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Todd Rundgren talks teaching, Coachella, reaching a new generation of fans and more

Todd Rundgren is a hero to a generation of rock fans who adore his decades of solo work and legendary production skills. But these days, the studio wizard is figuring out how to reach a younger audience.

The artist, who performs at the Mahaffey Theater on Saturday (click here for details), recently delivered a commencement address at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, and before that popped up at Coachella, performing with buzzy New York indie group the Lemon Twigs. And he just released White Knight, a collaborative album that features not only old pals like Daryl Hall, Donald Fagen and Joe Walsh, but unlikely younger stars like Robyn, Dam-Funk and Trent Reznor.

"Sometimes it turns out that when they discover what you've done, they are truly interested in it," he said of the music prodigies he meets. "At this point, where there are actually grandchildren showing up of my original fans, it's almost like a congenital disease, to be passed down from generation to generation to generation."

For more of our interview with Todd Rundgren, click here.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson, John Cleese, Ana Gasteyer, more coming to the Straz Center in Tampa

Get ready to mix some science, comedy and music in with your diet of Broadway musicals in Tampa.

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts has announced the bulk of its 2017-18 season, and it includes such figures as astrophycisist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Monty Python's John Cleese, Saturday Night Live's Ana Gasteyer and Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and A Prairie Home Companion.

Among the highlights:

-- Film and Broadway stars Laura Benanti (Feb. 11), Gasteyer (March 18) and Megan Hilty (April 22) will perform cabaret shows. Thile (Oct. 11), classical tenor Fernando Varela (Nov. 3) and Ben (son of Merle) Haggard (Dec. 15) will headline concerts, as will London beatboxing phenomenon Gobsmacked! (Jan. 24) and America's Got Talent finalists Sons of Serendip (April 12). Simply Three (Nov. 13), Straight No Chaser (Nov. 18) and Black Violin (Feb. 1) have already announced return performances at the Straz.

-- This year's Club Jaeb lineup of singer-songwriters and Americana acts: Michael McDermott (Oct. 16), Tony Furtado (Nov. 20), the Grahams (Dec. 18), John Gorka (Jan. 22), Dana Louise (Feb. 26), Anna and Elizabeth (March 26), Dead Horses (April 23) and Shannon McNally (May 21). …

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Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?

Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?

Times files (2015)

Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?

The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

Among the leading questions on our mind: Who will headline the halftime show?

A ridiculous question, we'll admit. The NFL hasn't even announced the halftime performers for its 2018 (Minneapolis), 2019 (Atlanta) and 2020 (Miami) Super Bowls, much less its just-shifted 2021 game in Tampa.

But Tampa's got huge history when it comes to Super Bowl music. This was the site of Whitney Houston's Star-Spangled Banner in 1991, the Aerosmith/Britney Spears/'N Sync halftime extravaganza in 2001 and Bruce Springsteen's crotch-thrust into America in 2009.

Four years out, it's impossible to figure out who will headline Tampa's next Super Bowl halftime show, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

There are two things the NFL loves in a halftime headliner: Legacy rock bands and (especially lately) transcendant pop stars, almost all of whom were stars at least four years before their halftime gig. Which means that short of the next Nirvana arriving in 2019, we probably already have a good idea of who's on the NFL's shortlist. …

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Above and Beyond's Tony McGuinness talks festivals, acoustic shows, obsessive fandom and more

Tony McGuinness, left, with Above and Beyond.

Tony McGuinness, left, with Above and Beyond.

Hanging on a wall of Tony McGuinness’ London home is a portrait of actor Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner, a film with which McGuinness admits he’s “mildly obsessed.”

“That was kind of the first inspiration for me dying my hair blond,” McGuinness said during a recent FaceTime call, Hauer’s imposing mug hovering behind him.

That sort of intense fandom has served McGuinness well in his long and varied career in music, first in rock bands, then as a major-label marketing executive, and, for the last decade and a half, as a member of the blockbuster English trance trio Above and Beyond.

“What the Internet and message boards and Twitter has made obvious is that with some of these things, whatever it might be – Breaking Bad, Blade Runner, U2 — there is an enormous amount of energy that comes from the audience,” he said. “We’ve always tried to be open to what’s coming back from our audience, and incorporate that into what we do.” …

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After Manchester bombing, will security change at Tampa Bay concert venues?

Fans were scanned at security outside the College Football Playoff National Championship's Playoff Playlist Live at Curtis Hixon Park in January.

Charlie Kaijo

Fans were scanned at security outside the College Football Playoff National Championship's Playoff Playlist Live at Curtis Hixon Park in January.

Concert and venue security was a big topic last summer after two high-profile incidents in Orlando: The murder of The Voice singer Christina Grimmie and the shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub.

After Monday's suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, local concert venues, promoters and law enforcement festivals are re-evaluating their own security measures.

It's a busy weekend for mass gatherings around town, including the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium, 97X BBQ at Vinoy Park and Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with Barenaked Ladies at Curtis Hixon Park; along with big shows by Train at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre and Alabama at Amalie Arena.

Will fans feel safe at each one?

"Law enforcement officers are trained to observe individuals for any type of suspicious activity (or) suspicious packages," said former Tampa police chief Jane Castor, "but what law enforcement needs is public assistance."

Click here for more on concert security in the wake of the Manchester bombing.

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SoundBytes: Washed Out, Yellow Claw, Ace Frehley and more

Washed Out

Shae DeTar

Washed Out

-- Chillwave producer Washed Out is returning to Tampa, this time at the Orpheum on July 15. Tickets are $23. Click here.

-- The Sunset Music Festival has announced after-party info for this weekend. Tritonal and 4B will headline on Saturday; tickets are $20 and up. Yellow Claw will headline on Sunday; tickets are $25 and up. Both events take place at the Ritz Ybor. Click here for info.

-- Dave Matthews Band isn't touring this summer, but at least you can see Crystal Garden, featuring violinist Boyd Tinsley, at the Attic in Ybor City on July 28. Tickets are $25 and up. Click here.

-- Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley is returning to the Capitol Theatre on July 20. Tickets are $35 and up. Click here.

-- Jay Cridlin

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Idina Menzel talks Taylor Swift, Joni Mitchell, balancing pop and Broadway and more

Idina Menzel will perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

Warner Bros.

Idina Menzel will perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.

No matter how great a show Idina Menzel puts on Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, it’ll forever pale to the one she gave Tampa on Halloween in 2015.

That’s the night Menzel dressed as Frozen’s Queen Elsa and joined Taylor Swift at Raymond James Stadium to sing Let It Go.

“It was perfect,” the Broadway legend said in a recent phone interview. “She sent a plane for me and my family and that was an unbelievable experience. When we showed up, I realized she was there for soundcheck and rehearsal. She thought up the whole thing about how I’d come up the (stage) elevator, and I was really taken by her directness and her confidence, her certainty in herself. It was inspiring.”

Coming from Menzel, whose roles in Rent, Wicked and, yes, Frozen made her a stage and screen icon, that means a lot. She’ll soar through her career’s greatest hits, albeit without the Elsa dress, Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets are $73.75 and up. Click here for details.

For more of Piper Castillo's interview with Idina Menzel, click here.

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Review: Muse, Thirty Seconds to Mars bring monster rock might to Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

Muse performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on May 21, 2017.

Jay Cridlin

Muse performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on May 21, 2017.

In one corner was Matt Bellamy of Muse, stepping from the shadows in glowing blue shades and glowing blue sneakers, a glowing blue guitar strapped across his red satin jacket, moaning and wailing like Bono reborn.

In the other was Jared Leto of Thirty Seconds to Mars in a sparkling gold jacket and nighttime shades, flannel cinching his beltline, striking messianic poses and twirling his arms like rotor blades to stir the crowd into hysterics.

Over here you had Bellamy wiggling his whammy and twisting his knobs, his fingers screaming up and down the fretboard in a barrage of riffs and solos that would melt the walls of your local Guitar Center.

Over there you had Leto venturing up to the crowd, sweat steaming up that ageless teen-idol face, strumming an acoustic guitar as fans scrambled atop one another to grab the perfect pic for Instagram.

Do rock stars like these exist anymore? Inveterate showoffs who treat to-the-brink rocksmanship as though it's not only their right, but their obligation? Singers who embody every over-the-top cliche in the frontman playbook, while at the same time justifying the playbook's existence in the first place?

Alternative stadium rock may not be the titanic cultural force it once was – if you don’t play synth-driven dance-rock, good luck cracking heavy radio rotation – but in front of 16,000 full-throated fans at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre Sunday night, Muse and Thirty Seconds to Mars performed like it’s the only music that matters.Full Story

Could 2018 NHL All-Star Game bring major concert festival to Tampa?

If the NHL All-Star Game returns to Tampa in 2018, it might give Drake a chance to dust off the Steven Stamkos jersey he wore in concert in 2016.

Luis Santana

If the NHL All-Star Game returns to Tampa in 2018, it might give Drake a chance to dust off the Steven Stamkos jersey he wore in concert in 2016.

In case you missed the news this week, Tampa is reportedly the top choice to host the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, which would bring one of hockey's premiere events to town for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Anytime a big-time sporting event comes to town -- the Super Bowl, the College Football Playoff's National Championship, even a PGA tournament -- that means big-time music is probably coming, too. And the NHL All-Star Game would be no different.

For this year's NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles, performers included John Legend, Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony, Robin Thicke, Carly Rae Jepsen, Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik teamed up for performances at various galas and during the game itself. Jon Hamm also made an appearance.

Last year in Nashville, the festivities had, as you might expect, a strong country feel. Performers included Vince Gill, Jennifer Nettles, Lee Brice, Lennon & Maisy and more. There was a free four-day outdoor concert series with Big and Rich, Dierks Bentley, Chris Young, Kelsea Ballerini, Aaron Lewis, Eli Young, John Hiatt and more, with an indoor series featuring Tracy Lawrence, Lonestar, MercyMe, Charles Esten, Clare Bown and many more. …

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R.I.P. Chris Cornell: Looking back at his and Soundgarden's concerts in Tampa Bay

Chris Cornell and Soundgarden performed at 98 Rockfest at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 28, 2017, just three weeks before his death.

Jay Cridlin

Chris Cornell and Soundgarden performed at 98 Rockfest at Amalie Arena in Tampa on April 28, 2017, just three weeks before his death.

I've written about Chris Cornell dozens of times over the years. Among the phrases I've used to describe his voice: "golden," "preserved in amber," "a work of art," a "jet-engine wail," "always the Seattle scene's best."

I could keep going, but you get the picture: I truly loved Soundgarden and Cornell, probably the best singer-songwriter of the grunge generation, and one of the best in all of rock over the past 30 years. Here's my tribute to a personal musical hero, found dead early Thursday in what a medical examiner ruled suicide by hanging.

Perhaps surprisingly for a singer with such strong Seattle ties, Cornell gave Tampa Bay fans plenty of memories over the past three decades, performing here many times in different incarnations.

In 1989, Soundgarden played the old Masquerade in Ybor City, and returned a year later to headline the Cuban Club, months before releasing Badmotorfinger. …

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Review: Bishop Briggs lives up to next big thing hype at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg

Bishop Briggs performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on May 17, 2017.

Jay Cridlin

Bishop Briggs performed at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg on May 17, 2017.

Bishop Briggs paced the State Theatre stage like a penned-up puma, pouncing and snarling and singing with a fire belying her 24 years.

And then between almost every song during her sold-out concert on Wednesday, she would grin ear to ear and hunch shyly into her mic.

“The thought of headlining our own tour was such a far-off dream,” she said with a laugh. “We’re happy to say, with you guys, we did it.”

The State Theatre is where the up-and-comers come to play in Tampa Bay, and at this stage in 2017, the much-hyped Briggs fits that bill. Fresh off winning raves for her performances at Coachella and Shaky Knees, the Los Angeles-based singer drew a packed, all-ages mix of the curious and the diehard, some of whom styled their hair in her signature mouse-ears buns, and some of whom lined up outside by mid-afternoon for a shot at a space by the stage.

And what a thrilling view they must’ve gotten. Dressed like a Goth en route to tennis practice, practically swallowed by her bright white Lacoste track jacket, Briggs delivered an appropriately athletic set, rarely resting as she locked eyes with the crowd and gave them a taste of her Next Big Thing buzz. …

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SoundBytes: Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Rick Ross and more

-- Jannus Live is continuing their excellent hot streak of indie rock shows by booking Band of Horses on Oct. 6. Tickets are $29.50 and up and go on sale Friday. Click here.

-- One indie rock show Jannus Live didn't get: Grizzly Bear. They're embarking on a huge tour, but the closest it'll come is Orlando's House of Blues on Nov. 15. Click here.

-- Tread carefully here, because you know how these late-night club shows sometimes don't go off quite as advertised. But Rick Ross is slated to perform at Green Gators Bar and Grill in Tampa on June 30. Tickets are $25-$45. Click here.

-- Prog-metal group Between the Buried and Me is bringing their 10th anniversary tour of their album Colors to the State Theatre on Oct. 18. The Contortionist, Polyphia and Toothgrinder will open. Click here.

-- Oliver Heldens will headline the official Sunset Music Festival pre-party on May 26 at the Ritz Ybor, performing alongside Brohug. Tickets are $20 and up. Click here.

-- Speaking of EDM shows at the Ritz: Zomboy, Spag Heddy and Ricky Remedy will perform there on Aug. 5; tickets go on sale May 24. Click here.

-- And DJs ETC!ETC! and Meaux Green will perform at the Ritz on June 24. Click here. …

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