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Brantley Gilbert talks bro country, brass knuckles, business independence and more

Brantley Gilbert

Lyn Sengupta

Brantley Gilbert

Think of music’s greatest microphones. You’ve got the scarf-bedecked stand of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, certainly. And there’s the H.R. Giger-designed monstrosity used by Korn’s Jonathan Davis.

It might be time to add Brantley Gilbert’s brass knuckles to the list.

The spinnable knucks, tough and imposing as a Colt .45, are a perfect fit for Gilbert, a tattooed, tight-jawed rock-styled sonofagun if ever there was one.

“Ain’t nobody else toting brass knuckles around on stage,” the country singer said by phone recently from his deer farm in Alabama. “It drove me nuts holding my hands in the same spot and not being able to do anything with it. So with the knucks on there, I can twirl it, twist it around like a little pistol, and it keeps me occupied and looks kind of cool, too.”

When Gilbert kicks off his summer tour at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Friday, the knucks will be spinning as pyro and CO2 fill the air, giving fans an eyeful of his tough-guy, complete-control attitude. …

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SoundBytes: Bleachers, Blackberry Smoke, Bryson Tiller, Irma Thomas and more

Bleachers' Jack Antonoff

Daniel Silbert

Bleachers' Jack Antonoff

-- Super-woke singer-songwriter Jack Antonoff is bringing Bleachers to St. Petersburg. The Fun. and Steel Train guitarist will perform at Jannus Live on Sept. 16, with opening at Tove Styrke. Click here for details.

-- Days after the death of Gregg Allman, this tour announcement might help soothe your broken Southern rock heart: Blackberry Smoke with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Sept. 9 at Jannus Live. Click here.

-- Alt-R&B singer Bryson Tiller is coming to Orlando's CFE Arena on Aug. 30. H.E.R. and Metro Boomin will open the show. Click here.

-- The one and only sad clown with the all-world voice, Puddles Pity Party, is coming to the Palladium on July 13. Tickets go on sale Wednesday. Click here.

-- An autopsy report has confirmed that Paul O'Neill, founder of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, died in Tampa last month from a drug overdose. Click here for the story.

-- The results are in, and this year's Sunset Music Festival resulted in more arrests, but fewer hospital transports, than 2016. Click here for the story. …

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As rent rises and the Local 662 closes, what's next for St. Petersburg's 600 block?

The Palmettes from Orlando performed at Fubar as part of Babefest on May 20.

Octavio Jones

The Palmettes from Orlando performed at Fubar as part of Babefest on May 20.

A decade ago, the State Theatre was among the few draws on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, a dead stretch of storefronts in a lifeless downtown. But over the past 10 years, the 600 block has come alive, with several music rock clubs and businesses catering to those night-owl patrons.

Today, the State is one of the last left businesses left standing from those lean years — a reflection of how the block's growth has squeezed out shops that once defined its artsy, after-hours vibe.

Since 2015, rising rent has forced several businesses to close or relocate. Across from the State Theatre, a Miami investment group is taking over most of the building that includes Daddy Kool Records and rock clubs Fubar and the Local 662. The Local 662 will close in June.

"All the businesses that were conjoined as forces and friends have basically been booted out," said Nick Marcisin, general manager of the Local 662. "Everything's growing, which is awesome and everything, but it's killing the local music scene."

For more on the changing face of the 600 block, click here.

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Austin Mahone talks Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, his pop evolution and more

Austin Mahone has vivid memories from his childhood visits to see his grandparents in Tampa Bay.

“Busch Gardens, the beach, I would go paddleboarding, ride my bike in the streets of Tampa Bay,” the pop singer said in a recent phone call from his adopted hometown of Miami. “It was great.”

His memories from the last few years are a little different. They include twice playing the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball at Amalie Arena, packing his own headlining concerts and even performing at — you guessed it —Busch Gardens.

“It was cool,” he said. “I got to ride rides.”

Mahone just turned 21 — his first legal drink was a “vodka and pineapple concoction of some sort” — but his career has been a wild ride in itself. Since signing with Cash Money Records as as a teen, Mahone has toured with Taylor Swift, hobnobbed with mentors Lil Wayne and Pitbull and won an MTV Video Music Award for Artist to Watch in 2013. He never became the Bieber 2.0 that so many predicted, but his rabid fans, dubbed the Mahomies, will still pack the State Theatre in St. Petersburg when he performs there Thursday night. …

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Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.

Luis Santana

Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.

The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

Saturday's opening day of the Sunset Music Festival brought 25 arrests, mostly drug-related, and 15 ejections. Thirty-two fans were transported to local hospitals, mostly for drug- and alcohol-related treatment, with another seeking medical attention on site. All totals outpaced Day 1 in 2016. And that's not including all the faded folks plopped along the fringes of the grounds, sitting out a set or two as they came down, sobered up or waited out their fatigue.

MORE: Thirty-two taken to hospital on Sunset Music Festival's first day, more than last year

Did the higher numbers reflect increased criminal activity, or more attentive and stringent security? It's enough of a question to keep the Sunset debate going one more year, at least.

But after two days, it's still hard to picture the festival going away. Organizers and fans have too much invested in the Sunset experience, from the handcrafted costumes and totems down front to the champagne and cryo cannons spewing from the VIP tent, to let it all dry up and die. …

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Photos: 97X BBQ brings Grouplove, Coin, Milky Chance, more to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg

Grouplove performed at the 97X BBQ at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg on May 27, 2017.

Kasamba Kokayi

Grouplove performed at the 97X BBQ at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg on May 27, 2017.

Alternative rock fans got a jump start on Memorial Day partying on Saturday at the annual 97X BBQ, which brought Grouplove, Milky Chance, K. Flay, Coin and more to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. Kasamba Kokayi was there snapping photos; click the headline of this post for a slideshow.

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

More than 25,000 fans came out to Day 1 of the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Luis Santana

More than 25,000 fans came out to Day 1 of 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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