BIG GUAVA PREVIEW: Ten Bands We’re Most Excited About Seeing

Like it or not, Big Guava Festival is here, and while the debate about the uniqueness of today’s festival culture is certainly brewing (sorry Outkast, we still really, really love you and don’t blame you for taking that guaranteed money by booking 40 festival dates as part of your 20th anniversary tour), the allure of a huge, three-day festival descending upon Tampa is impossible to ignore.


Big Guava — pieced together by the folks at a little company called Live Nation — is set to take over the amphitheatre we still love to call Gary on May 2-4 (shit, Bruce Springsteen is playing on May 1, making it a veritably orgasm-worthy week of rock in the Bay area), and new SubAp! contributor Matthew Rennels has run down the top ten bands he’s looking forward to seeing at the festival and put it all together in a nice multimedia package that you can enjoy on your laptop of from the comfort of the drivers seat of your car via that little handheld device you call a cell phone (just kidding about the last part, please listen and get excited about it all in a responsible manner).

Here we go!


10. Jacuzzi Boys

This three-piece fuzz punk trio may not have a name that will fill the seats, but they caught Iggy Pop’s attention, and I expect their raw, punching sound will attract festival attendee’s attention, too. They’re kinda local, too (Miami), so we can expect some sort of hometown welcome.


9. Sleigh Bells

They met at a diner. He was an experimental guitarist/producer working a bistro, she was an aspiring singer he was waiting on, She was dining there with her mother and he just happened to mention he had a music project in need of a singer. Her mother nudged the singer and now Allison Kraus and Derek Miller are playing Big Guava. They tickle the imagination with drilling percussion beats and slingshot guitar riffs underneath smoothed out vocals. Signed to M.I.A.’s label, these rhythmic renovators have many tricks up their sleeve and are supporting a new album, ‘Bitter Rivals.’


8. Twenty One Pilots

These guys may resemble Eminem on a trampoline, but they feature some flavorful melodies and put on a good party. Open any live clip of these guys and you’ll see them standing on top of pianos, running into the audience, doing back flips, all while maintaining a full sound between just the two of them (drums and piano/vocals). Best of all, in a music world where grit and sadness is the norm, these guys fight that, carrying a message that shines the light against issues of mental illness and depression.


7. Bear Hands

This Brooklyn indie quartet has gotten some national notoriety with tours in front of bands like Passion Pit, MGMT and Vampire Weekend, and perhaps their on their way to being the band that other bands mention opening for. Judging by their latest release, the 2013 synth-cymbol-crashing single “Giants,” yes.


6. Cake

I really wanted these guys to be higher on this list. In 1994 they broke into the mainstream with ‘Fashion Nugget’ and went ‘The Distance’ as my favorite band as my infatuation with them lasted for more than five years. Their moogs, trumpets and vibra slaps were just some of the original elements packed in to delight. Unfortunately, the last 10 years haven’t been quite as delightful (or memorable) and they won’t allow their music of Spotify, but, eh, that doesn’t mean I won’t look forward to them.


5. Grouplove

The audience likely won’t be ‘tongue tied’ when a few beach balls enter the air, complementing Grouplove’s arching choruses and syncopated verses. There will be some fuzz distortion that emulates Billy Corgan and it’s some rubberband vocals that’ll make any sing-along interesting. These are already platinum-selling artists thanks to an epic party song, the aforementioned ‘Tongue Tied,’ and they are proving to have plenty other songs to bolster a good performance. Can’t wait to see this group live.


4. Foster The People

Perhaps there is some credibility to living in L.A. after all. These KROQ favorites buzzed their way to Spotify playlists everywhere when their dance pop single “Pumped Up Kicks” flooded the mainstream in 2011 and now they’re back again with a new single, ‘Coming of Age,’ and a new album. The album that carried their hit single, “Torches,” was a personal favorite, featuring smart pop song crafting and swift production mixes. I’m expecting their live show to be equally sleek, an atmospheric display balancing imagery and sound.


3. Haim

I want to see talented sisters who don’t want to be told that it isn’t 1983, and I want to see them make spectacularly unusual faces, so I want to see Haim. These L.A. siblings are amazing musicians and they’re doing Joan Jett and Hall &  Oates proud, both with their ’80s synth sounds, their mix of “I Love Rock And Roll” and “Sarah Smile” guitar riffs, and there are some Pretenders vocals, too. Can’t wait to see the Haim sisters.


2. Vampire Weekend

Adored by critics and fans alike, these boys should give a fun show. Their saltwater taffy songs are bright but modest, gritty like sand from the beach, but fun like the waves. They’re enjoying the success of their third album now, so with an extended catalogue and a growing fanbase, they likelihood of a good show is ever-increasing.


1. Outkast

These are the guys that got my attention for Big Guava and I can’t imagine I’m an isolated case. One day kids will be digging through the music from my generation – ’90s to early 200s – and I’ll cringe a lot, but Outkast will be the exception. No mainstream rap act did it like Outkast, southern soul/funk with meaningul, smart lyrics, world-changing songs that just so happened to have infectious grooves, like ‘Rosa Parks,’ ‘Hey Ya,’ ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ and more. This is one night for Big Boi and Andre 2000 to celebrate 20 years of making music together, let’s hope there’s some new music floating somewhere in their setlist. Check out Outkast playing Coachella last weekend, and see Big Guava’s full lineup below.

CATCHING UP: On the eve of Feral Babies’ last show, Justin Arnold talks about the end of his favorite band

Photos by Nicole Kibert (frontpage photo by Kelley Jackson)

“This is the best band I’ve ever been involved with,” Feral Babies frontman Justin Arnold told SubAp! in his recent interview with us. “It will be the band I always look back upon with a real sense of pride.”

We feel proud that we had an opportunity to see the band play our first anniversary, but today is marked with some sadness as it is the eve of Feral Babies’ last show. The Tampa-based hardcore quartet announced they were calling it quits in March, and we haven’t been the same since.

At least we have the band’s two full lengths and a handful of singles, EPs, and demos, and at least Arnold, 37, is reneging on his  policy against farewell shows.

“I’ve been teased because I always say I don’t do last shows and I made an exception here,” he said, explaining that bands are a time stamp on our lives and the effect they have on listeners no matter how big or small the band got.

“I can recall the bands that impacted me and the shows that were special to me,” he added, “If we made even a tiny little scratch on the musical life of someone out there, that’s incredible to me.”

Feral Babies plays their final show on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at New World Brewery located at 1313 E. 8th Ave. in Ybor City. Doors are at 9 p.m., and cover is $7. Radarmen, Station Cases, and Awkward Age play support. Check out our full chat with Arnold as well as sonic and visual highlights from the band’s career below.


SubAp!: It’s over, the run was pretty quick, but talk about how Feral Babies was different from all the other bands you’ve been in.

When Feral Babies was just a idea, I remember saying to Andy how awesome it would be to play with Sulynn and Marc. We didn’t know them at all but had a real respect for what they had done before. It’s nearly impossible to put a band together let alone have your dream lineup. Well, somehow it happened. It was like fireworks. We had a demo written and recorded in about a month. In my experience its pretty rare to have that kind of chemistry.

Justin, how will you channel all that anger and feelings now?

“Violent Boredom” was the first song we wrote. It’s about falling into a manic creative state and not having an adequate outlet. When Feral Babies would have a canceled practice I would often lose my mind because Id have to wait another week to share new lyrics or a riff I wrote. It was a totally unhealthy dependency!

To finally answer your question, I picked up painting a while back. I just bought a $5 watercolor set and started painting. It was cathartic in the same exact way as music was. Sure, I was terrible, but it really put my mind at ease and I haven’t put the brush down since. You could probably describe it as folk art or outsider art because of my complete lack of any training. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of support. Ernie from Ella’s Folk Art Cafe took a fancy to some of my watercolors and there are a few hanging up in the restaurant. I love that place so it is a really creative highlight for me.

You guys did a fair amount of touring in your short time together. Talk about why you decided to make Feral Babies a regularly touring band. Do you have a particular out of town (or in town) show that you can say was the craziest Feral Babies show yet?

Feral Babies did a bunch of little trips around the state and two full tours. We had all toured in our previous bands so when we had our first record out it seemed only natural that’d wed go out to support it. It’s pretty much Band 101 that you only sell records if you tour. As we were practicing the other night we laughed about all the fun times we had on tour. Four friends driving around the country for weeks, meeting new people, seeing new places.

It’s pretty incredible and I’m lucky to have done it so many times as a musician. On the flip side, this last tour was pretty rough on me and I was, in turn, pretty rough on tour. When we were about an hour out I got hit with a tsunami of depression thinking about being away from my wife. She means everything to me. I wasn’t a fancy free teenager anymore ready to take on the world. I wanted to be watching TV with her and my yorkie, Zig. I think my the second day everyone was so sick of me they could barf. I’ve apologized to them many times but I’ll do it again, I’m sorry!

I missed the point of this question I think. Memorable shows. My favorite show of all time was in Asheville, North Carolina. It was at a punk record store called Static Age and was set up by our friend Matt Evans who is in Old Flings.

He’s one of those how-is-this-dude-so-awesome kind of people. Sets up your show, lets you crash at his house, takes you to all the cool places and best food stops. On this show there was a band with some really young punks called Suicidal Crack Babies. They brought out a huge, enthusiastic crowd. It wasn’t one of those shows where a room full of folded arm, old farts stare at you look you’re a red light they wish would change. They were all going bonkers, stage diving, joshing, screaming. It was awesome! I felt like I was 15 years old again, meeting Dave Smalley and ALL at The Ritz in 1993. The exuberance of youth!

There were many other memorable shows and a story for every one but that was my favorite. Playing with OFF! at State Theatre was pretty awesome too. My favorite band that has come around in a long time.

Feral Babies ROCK SubAp!’s 1-year anniversary at New World Brewery in Ybor City, Fla. on Feb. 11, 2012. / Photo by Nicole Kibert

Sulynn is coming back to play. Talk about how the band changed after she left and what it means to have her back one more time for this final show.

When Sulynn left it was pretty rough. It’s like any relationship you invest years of your life into. There’s some anger, sadness and everything in between. I think we all knew it was time to walk away but sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to pack up and leave.

Our friend Josh joined on guitar. He’s a great guitar player and we played a lot of great shows with and wrote some songs I’m really proud of. As for the band ending, it was about the rest of us. We were all just exhausted with everything about it. I’ve been teased because I always say I don’t do last shows and I made an exception here.

This is the best band I’ve ever been involved with. It will be the band I always look back upon with a real sense of pride. Something in me felt like it needed a proper farewell.

The next thought was absolutely “we can’t do this without Sulynn.” She was cool enough to hop back on board and we started practicing. We replayed everything and it was a blast. It just felt really great to be back in a room playing music with her.

What would you say to all the feral babies out there who feel like they’re losing a friend?

Our song Spinning Lies has a line that talks about songs being captured moments in time. That’s kind of what bands are like. They come and go and sometimes they leave an impact on us. They are a time stamp on our lives. I can think about any time in my life and I can recall the bands that impacted me and the shows that were special to me. Big bands, little bands, terrible bands. Whatever. If we made even a tiny little scratch on the musical life of someone out there, that’s incredible to me.

Feral Babies plays their final show on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at New World Brewery located at 1313 E. 8th Ave. in Ybor City. Doors are at 9 p.m., and cover is $7. Radarmen, Station Cases, and Awkward Age play support. Check out Michael Waksman’s show poster below.


LIVE REVIEW: Gardens & Villa + Good Graeff at Crowbar 04.26.14

Gardens & Villa play Crowbar in Ybor City, Fla. on April 26, 2014. / Photo by Ray Roa

Gardens & Villa play Crowbar in Ybor City, Fla. on April 26, 2014. / Photo by Ray Roa

Hazily retro Santa Barbara natives, Gardens & Villa stopped by Tampa before their tour with Tycho continued on to Texas. Joined by Good Graeff and Dromes, the strong lineup immediately made my expectations unreasonably high, but they were exceeded and in the end, and everyone who was there would most likely agree that there was not a trace of negative energy in Crowbar on Saturday night.

Good Graeff play Crowbar in Ybor City, Fla. on April 26, 2014. / Photo by Ray Roa

Good Graeff play Crowbar in Ybor City, Fla. on April 26, 2014. / Photo by Ray Roa

Good Graeff delivered a high energy, danceable set. The chemistry between the two sisters is undeniable, and their ability to connect with the audience was easily evident. Brit’s cello and Brooke’s acoustic guitar and whimsical vocals combined to create airy folk pop that makes me extremely proud of South Florida’s local music scene.

Gardens & Villa took the stage, and I don’t know how to eloquently phase it other than they simply killed it. Any reservations anyone had disappeared and the groovy quasi-80’s vibes took reign.

Frontman Chris Lynch revealed his flute four songs into the set for Chrysanthemums and it was almost as if he was hypnotizing the crowd into their beautiful washed out avant-pop world, as if the crowd wasn’t already hanging on their every note.

His vocals were almost poetic, squirming in between Shane McKillop’s old-school bass lines and Adam Rasmussen synths. The crowd was unaminously jamming and countless impromptu hugs were had… something about the romantic, positive outlook the band emanated resonated definitely with the crowd.

Before Good Graeff’s last song Brooke was giving G&V some love saying the crowd was in for a treat and “If you’re on a date… nice,” which turned out to be the perfect way of describing it.

LOOK: Cloud Nothings at Crowbar – 4.22.14

If you saw these guys on the street, you might not expect music this hard and fast to come out of them. A solid crowd at Crowbar left happy after hearing Cloud Nothings’ driving set. Check out some photos below.

LOOK: Ryley Walker at Crowbar – 4.22.14

Next up on the evening was Ryley Walker, an unexpected palette cleanser somewhat reminiscent of Woodstock era folk. In a good way. :) Check out some photos below.

LOOK: Zulu Wave at Crowbar – 4.22.14

I mean really, if you haven’t seen the local awesomeness which is Zulu Wave yet, then something’s wrong. There’s not much more that needs to be said. Check out some photos below.

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