On day one of Tampa’s inaugural Big Guava Music Festival I ate a "special" brownie and don’t remember anything. Nothing. No Outkast. Nothing. It sucks and I’m sorry.
On day two, I arrived just before 2 pm and immediately went to the amphitheatre box office to get a wristband for pit access during Vampire Weekend. Apparently word spread fast the previous day about needing a wristband to get into the pit for the headliner because they had just one wristband left when we walked up! Since I was with my girlfriend, I didn’t take it. A little defeated, we opened our umbrella and headed to catch American Authors on the Grove stage at. “This is gonna be the best day of my life!” They sang and I couldn’t help but agree. Well, not specifically that day, but the entire Big Guava weekend!
We forfeited seeing Civil Twilight (who I’ve seen before and are fucking awesome) so we could catch Bear Hands. Bear Hands put out one of the best songs of the year so far called “Giants.” It starts out with “Two Words: Rocks! Chalk! Shot a jayhawk! Never been to jail ‘cause I never get caught.” Their performance was kinetic and upbeat. I’m stoked to see them again when they come back to Florida with Cage The Elephant in June. [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/xadxu7tZJrg"]
There is no mystery as to what Este Haim’s “O” face looks like. As the bassist for Haim, she is notorious for making strange, laughable faces during her performances. She’s a very good sport about it and is perhaps milking her notoriety a little at this point. There’s actually a Haim tshirt with one her awkward “bass faces” on it, a twitter page dedicated to images of her “bass face,” and a Buzzfeed article on “things Este’s bass face looks like!” Just watch the video of the their David Letterman performance of “Forever” and wait for it. [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/s3IyTNZJlTQ"]
Haim’s soft rock sounds were a nice compliment to the festival. However, they had an almost obnoxiously fun stage presence which kept things refreshingly light-hearted. At one point during their set, the Haim sisters challenged one another as to who’s “side” of the audience was the “best.” Este threw my/her side a Snickers candy bar, a bottle of Coca-Cola, and a Gatorade in effort to get us sugared up. She assumed the way to my heart was through my stomach and dammit, she was right. Check out this "bass face" I caught:
“I ate, like, seven million tacos from Taco Bus.” Este said, perhaps embellishing just a little bit. Which brings me to the enviable fact that I had the delicious privilege of eating Taco Bus multiple times in a weekend! There were actually quite a bit of food trucks/stands at Big Guava Fest. And despite the heavy saturation of edible options, the line was constantly 20 people deep for Taco Bus. Are you really surprised though? All I kept thinking was “where’s the Vegan Hot Dog Cart!?” God, I love them. Here’s an artsy, shitty pic of Taco Bus at Big Guava:
After Haim, I didn’t catch much of Kitten but I did catch the lead singer, Chloe, getting as high as she could. Which was pretty awesome. See for yourself:
“Festivals are kinda like tinder.” Sara said in reference to the options festival attendees have when choosing which acts to see each day. However, she could also say the same for herself when Tegan & Sara are choosing which festivals to play. So, Sara, I’m glad you and Tegan “swiped right” for Big Guava. :)
Before beginning “Walking With A Ghost,” Tegan said “this is actually Sara’s ‘hit’ song. Because of it, she now lives in a mansion in Boca Raton.” After receiving a less than favorable response about Boca, she asked “Wait, what’s cooler? Boca Raton? Tampa? Orlando? Jacksonville?” pausing after each. I obviously cheered for Orlando, and lord knows everyone else did too! Much more than the other cities. Tegan responded “well, Sara actually lives in Orlando then!” So congrats Orlando! We won Sara. The rest of Florida ain’t got shit compared to us!
Tegan walked off stage between songs for a few moments and Sara began to banter “I hate it when Tegan leaves the stage and I feel like I’m in Fight Club and it’s really just me [in the band or even IRL]. Like, what if Tegan doesn’t exist. How weird would that be? What if it is really just me? Deep thoughts.” Mind. Blown.
I could melt to the incredible harmonies and honesty the Quinn sisters spill into their microphones. Each time I see them, they just keep getting better and better. “Maybe I could have been something you’d be good at.” Here’s a video I took of one of my favorite songs “Call It Off.”
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I actually learned something very important on Saturday. Always bring a lighter to a festival. Not only did I have a light when the lead singer of Bear Hands randomly walked up to me and asked “Hey man, [two words:] Gotta light?” but I also had a light when this female couple asked me the same question during Vampire Weekend and thanked me by passing me their nicely rolled, well, you know...
Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koeing must be a fantastic yodeler! I never noticed before but this dude actually hits yodel-like notes in a bunch of VW songs. The last time I saw VW was right after they released their debut album and were on their first tour and played Firestone Live in Orlando. I don’t even think it sold out!
VW had a very elegant stage setup with roman style columns coming out of the floor as well as hanging from the ceiling. There were lights attached to the end of each one of the columns so really it was just a clever way of hiding their lighting cabling. But we knew we were dealing with clever, creative, and handsome boys here. Or is it clever, creative and handsome boys? Ah, who gives a fuck about an oxford comma anyways! Here’s the instagram video I caught of “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend.
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On day three, we arrived just as the gates opened so we could catch MS MR and get a wristband for Foster The People pit access. One of my friends arrived an hour after the gates opened and all the wristbands were out! We quickly noticed there was a lot of sex happening this day. Love bugs fuckin' that is.
MS MR was everything I wanted them to be. The lead singer, Lizzy, couldn’t help but smile every chance she got in her skin-tight pot-leaf body suit and fading pink hair. They covered “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys and perfectly played their singles “Hurricane” and “Think of You” as energetically as possible. Here’s a shitty pic:
Did I mention, it actually felt like a real festival on day three! The sun was shining, bodies were being painted, there were a lot of cool hats, and all the rides were open! We took advantage of the open rides right after MS MR’s set and finally hopped on the roller coaster. Holy. Shit. We legit could have died on that thing! There were six 5-gallon buckets in the middle car filled with concrete and strapped to the floor. Did anyone else see that??<iframe src="//instagram.com/p/nnd2WALttF/embed/" width="560" height="649" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
After our exhilarating, near-death roller coaster ride, we hung out until Magic Man took the stage. I couldn’t help but reminisce about how fun they were when they opened the New Politics show at The Social. Their dance-pop song “Paris” has an infectious sound to it and is a must-listen if you’re into indie-dance songs.
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Magic Man and a couple $8 beers later, we found ourselves on the swing ride going around and around loving the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky. Timeflies (no pun intended) was up next on the main stage. I’ve never listened to Timeflies but I have a lot to say about him. First off, this dude can rhyme! Granted, he’s no Big Boi nor André 3000 but he knows his way around the English language very well.
Timeflies was handed three sheets of paper about halfway through his set with facts about the Tampa area including local Tampa area businesses. He looked at the papers for about 30 seconds then busted into a freestyle rap incorporating those facts in his rhymes. It was pretty badass! Especially the fact that he mentioned Cigar City Brewery.
Towards the end of his set, he said “I’m going to play a song and ladies, I know you know the words. And fellas, I know you do too, you just don’t want to admit it!” I thought “that’s a load of bullshit, I’m sure I won’t know this.” I was wrong. He began Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way” and I realized I knew which words he was going to sing next. And then he played choruses of a bunch of other embarrassing covers that I don’t want to talk about/admit to actually knowing. (Feel free to call me out and comment any of the other songs he covered that night. I dare you. Men.)
Right after TimeFlies, I caught the English rock quintet Morning Parade sing about “early morning headlights” for a bit. “Yesterday was more like England, today is more American” said the lead singer Steve Sparrow in reference to the rain subsiding on day three. And how right he was! Then he went into their new single “Alienation.”
Next, I made it over to catch the indie-rockers out of Ohio on the other side of the festival, Walk The Moon. “Anna Sun” was named one of the “30 Summer Songs Every Man Should Listen To” by Esquire a few years ago. And I listened carefully. Throughout the five minutes of this song, a passionate, heart-felt story is told about childhood, growing up, and love. [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/qDVW81bXo0s"]
There was a helicopter flying around with a Batman emblem on it during Walk The Moon. I realized that there was an aerial photographer in the passenger seat taking photographs. All I could think was “how do you get that gig?!” I left Walk The Moon a few minutes early because I could not miss a single minute of Grouplove. I’m so glad I didn’t. Outkast may have been the best overall performance of Big Guava but Grouplove was definitely the funnest band.
Holy crackers! Grouplove has a lot of great songs! Grouplove seamlessly melted my face as they jumped around through singles like “Shark Attack,” “Lovely Cup,” “Colours,” “Itchin’ on a Photograph,” “Tongue Tied,” and my personal favorite “Ways To Go.” All of those singles actually get decent airplay on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation too. Just see for yourself how fun this was during “Ways To Go.”<iframe src="//instagram.com/p/nrhNvkrtlY/embed/" width="560" height="649" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Since I decided to stay for every single minute of Grouplove, I missed “Blister In The Sun” by Violent Femmes. However, I did catch a few of their songs toward the end of their set. It was such a nostalgic treat seeing Violent Femmes live. I honestly never thought I would. After Violent Femmes, I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and went over to catch the chaos that was Girl Talk.
I walked in the Expo Hall and there must have been 60 people on stage! Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Michael Gillis and his laptop, put on a hell of a mashup show. He had two giant feet coming out of his stage and two giant hands in the air at the back. I think more people sweated in that room during his performance than anywhere else the whole day. It was intense. Here’s a shitty pic:
I caught the end of the lovely ZZ Ward before heading into the pit for Foster The People. She had a pretty cool hat on, but I’ll get to cool hats in a minute.
Mark Foster and his crew closed out Big Guava festival with class. Playing an acoustic version of their dance-hit “Houdini” with glowing crystals coming out of the stage floor. It was simply beautiful. The crowd was thinning as they began the fan-favorite “Pumped Up Kicks.” Sadly, like everything, Big Guava came to an end as Foster The People danced around to their last song “Don’t Stop.” Needless to say, there was a lot of dancing at Big Guava.<iframe src="//instagram.com/p/nriu7nrtnY/embed/" width="560" height="649" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Well, not entirely. Yes, I ate a "special" brownie but I remember EVERYTHING. Did I get you? Well, there’s a lot of things that happened on Friday, so get ready.
On Friday we got there early, right as the gates opened at 3:30 pm. I paid $10 for parking, even though the website said “free parking.” We raced to get our wristbands for Outkast pit access and had no problem at all because no one knew about that shit yet.
After wristbands we trudged through the rain puddles under our giant One-Industries umbrella and got $8 beers from one of the cool craft beer domes. At 4 PM, we were like “fuck the rain, it’s not going to ruin our day!” So we went and caught the Austrian native, Betty Who, while it poured buckets. Betty Who was a great way to start the day! She was officially the first performer at Big Guava and I must admit, it was kinda sexual and I kinda liked it.
The Swedish trio NONONO was up next so we walked over to the Orchard stage to catch them. We found them, however they were not playing. They were apologizing to fans in an accent I cannot replicate because their stage had been raining out. “No sweat,” I thought and went back to the beer dome, dropped $16 and waited for Smallpools.
Smallpools self-released their debut 4-song EP last July. Clearly, they are doing it right because they’ve been on Sirius XM’s Alt 18 Countdown, had a song featured in a Snapchat promo video, and signed to a major label (RCA) before even playing a show. Luckily, their live show was very far from a disappointment. Yes, it was still raining, but I was safely dancing under my umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh. If you heard their single “Dreaming” you’d wanna dance too. Check out “Dreaming” by Smallpools below. [youtube_sc url="http://youtu.be/e8xni3EcIbc"]
The first time I said “Whoa” at Big Guava was in the bathroom of the Expo Hall where the Nectar Stage was located, right before Twenty One Pilots. The sink faucets in there had liquid soap built into the automatic sensor for the water. So, essentially, you get water and soap at the same time! Did anyone else think that was really awesome? Maybe it was the brownie
The drummer of Twenty One Pilots reminded me of the drummer of Bad Veins in the way he passionately pummels his drums. A lot of bands just get up onstage and rock out. I like this band mostly because of their live theatrics. They came out wearing ski masks, changed into skeleton outfits after a few songs, took the masks off, and changed shirts a few times. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the drummer crowd surfed while playing his drumset. It was epic. I’ve never seen something like that before and I’ve been to a shit-ton of shows. (1 shit-ton = A lot.) To end their set, both members of twenty | one | pilots took a drum into the crowd and battled. Check out this shitty pic:
After Twenty One Pilots we had a wine slushie and a wine ice cream sandwich. Yes, red wine in the form of a frozen beverage that you can easily drink through a straw and a raspberry-chardonnay ice cream cookie sandwich! Here’s a lame joke: A few of these and you’ll be drunk with a brain freeze!
The cleverly titled “Wine Not?” food truck is actually from Buffalo, New York and was only in Florida for The World’s Largest Food Truck Rally in March when I assume they realized they needed to capitalize on the drunken wine-loving Florida market. They now have a permanent truck in FL based out of Clearwater. Can’t wait to try it again!
We took our wine slushies to Sleigh Bells and watched ex-Poison The Well guitarist and Florida native Derek Miller and his female friend Alexis be the first to shred the main stage. They’re truly a band in a genre of their own. What do we even call it? Electronic Dance Metal? Decide for yourself by listening to “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells below.<iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/3703878&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe>
Yell at me if you must, but I left Cake early so I could get a good spot for Outkast. Here’s how I saw it: Chances of Cake coming back to FL on tour: Possible. Chances of Outkast coming back to FL on tour: Unlikely. I did get to hear Cake perform “Sheep go to Heaven” though! And cover Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” That was pretty rad.
At the beginning of Cake’s set, there is a recorded message that plays over the PA system which makes it very clear that anyone who takes still photography or recorded video will be immediately removed from their performance. When I saw the American flag bandanna on the dude’s head in front of me, all I could think about was my “Best Hats” post and carefully considered the consequences. I imagined myself taking the picture with flash so it would turn out. I then imagined Cake stopping their set, pointing me out to security, and being physically removed from the performance whilst screaming the words “Worth It!” at the top of my lungs. I laughed at the thought, pulled out my phone, and looked back towards the bandanna ready to accept my fate he was gone. I was completely devastated. As a form of consolation, I caught double American flag bandannas the next day:
Outkast was the absolute best performance of the entire festival. What? Did you expect less?Ah! Outkast played an incredible hour and a half set and I couldn’t stop cheesing while I shook it hard, like a never-drying polaroid picture. I cheated and looked up the setlist before the show so I knew what they were playing. I knew they were going to start things off with the explosions of “Bombs Over Baghdad” and I knew when they were going to play “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh and So Clean,” “Roses,” and “Hey Ya” so I knew when to record instagram videos. Are you drooling? I’m stoked I got the beginning of “Hey Ya.”<iframe src="//instagram.com/p/nhZA3jLtkV/embed/" width="560" height="649" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>
André 3000 and Big Boi were on top of their game (as if they ever are not) on Friday. The stage setup featured a giant mesh box allowing for various projections on it to give it a 3D effect. The aesthetics were by far the most creative and entertaining throughout the entire festival. When I say aesthetics, I mean to incorporate every individual aspect of their stage setup, including their backup band and touring performers.
The two horn players had choreographed movements! They were not only sending signature Outkast horn sounds live through the speakers, they were dancing and moving in-synch. I have a lot to say about their drummer but I’ll keep it short. To be able to flawlessly play all of the Outkast songs, fills, and odd-timed beats, you have to be a master. This dude was a Jedi. I overheard someone say he was a “studio/sessions drummer.” I thought “no shit” you’d have to be the best to drum for the best.
“Always stay connected.” André said in reference to Big Boi’s wireless mic going out halfway through a song. André’s mic was safely connected to a microphone cable. I think André’s words can easily be applied to multiple meanings.
During “She Lives In My Lap” there was a huge booty projected on the back screen. While everyone was looking at that “ass” I was looking at a different type of ass. The kind with a “B” in front of it. Their female Bass player may have been the best bassist I’ve ever seen in my life. I was in awe with her skill and finesse. I guess that goes back to you have to be the best to play with the best!
André 3000 was eclectically dressed in a silver wig, a full body suit with the words “F#CK 3000” boldly written across it, and a giant price tag hanging off him - one side said “For Sale” - the other side said “Sold Out!” Here’s a really shitty pic, but the best I could get because they wouldn’t stay still! (That’s Sleepy Brown in the middle guest appearing during their set).
I feel like I’ve already seen the best act of 2014 and still have 7 more months to attend shows this year. I’ll just appreciate that and surely let you know if anything changes.
Big Guava Music Festival was the the best music festival I’ve ever been to. Ever. Better than Coastline, better than Funshine. Hopefully, this is something here to stay on an annual basis. What did you think?? Comment below and don’t forget to check out the Top 10 Hats of Big Guava!
P.S. What’s up with Coral Skies festival? Coastline Festival’s facebook hints to be a little irritated about it: "Imitation is the best form of flattery." It’s like Big Guava used Coastline to make announcements on an already established facebook page, then went behind CL's back, stole their venue & promoter (Live Nation), and created Coral Skies Festival to replace it? Maybe we shouldn’t get involved in politics and just have a good time at both festivals :)
Mitch Foster runs an Orlando music blog Shows I Go To, and chose to position his article to match the real headliner, Outkast.