October 23, 2009

St. Pete Times: We The Kings Interview

Bradenton pop-punk band We the Kings — from left, Danny Duncan, Hunter Thomsen, Drew Thomsen and Travis Clark — charted two singles.

We the Kings singer Travis Clark opens up on his blog

By Jay Cridlin, Times Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, We the Kings singer Travis Clark awoke early in the morning, stumbled into the kitchen half-awake, poured himself a glass of orange juice and stuck his iPhone in the refrigerator. It was the first time he'd done something that strange since childhood, when, for reasons he still doesn't understand, he used to hide the family phone in the mailbox at his Bradenton home.

We know all this because Clark shared it on his blog, whoistravis clark.com, an oddly humanizing diary that has turned the idea of a celebrity's online journal on its head. Embarrassing childhood photos? A tale about how he got food poisoning from a hot dog, requiring a shot in the butt (including the requisite photo)? It's all fair game to Clark.

His Bradenton pop-punk band has become a big deal in the past two years, spending time on two Warped Tours, playing on TV and at shows around the world (including a 2008 gig at Tropicana Field), and charting with singles like Check Yes Juliet and Skyway Avenue. Their second album, Smile, Kid, is due Dec. 8, and they're performing with All Time Low on Monday at The RITZ Ybor in Tampa.

As his band prepares for their (almost) hometown gig, Clark called from a stop in Rhode Island to discuss his bloggy lifestyle.

You have to be one of the most oversharing rock stars on the Internet.

It actually came from the fans. They wanted me to start a blog where I could rant and rave about ridiculous things. I wanted to let people into my life — maybe it would open their eyes to what the songs are about, or why I write the songs that I do.

I loved the post where you answered 194 questions about yourself, from your first pet to your mom's breast cancer to the frequency of your haircuts. What won't you reveal about yourself online?

Well, I don't want to tell people where I live. I do have a personal life, and I do have stuff that I keep to myself. But for the people that want to know more about me, I want to have this site. It's me posting, so it's the truth, from my mouth. I guess that's better than seeing it on TMZ.com or Perez Hilton.

You post a lot about Chipotle, I've noticed.

Oh, I love Chipotle. It's unanimously the band's favorite quick, in-and-out restaurant. When you're constantly touring, you've got to find the place that's consistent. We've found that Chipotle has the most consistent guacamole.

Are you getting recognized more in Bradenton these days?

Yeah, but it's cool, because Bradenton is such a small town that everybody knows everybody. Everyone's super-respectful. I'm always at the beach, I eat at the same places every single day, and people say hi, and that's it. I talk to them just like they were normal friends. Restaurants never let us pay for food, which is pretty awesome. The times that we needed restaurants to comp our food were there years ago; now that we actually can pay for our own meals, they give it to us for free. It's a weird situation, but super-flattering.

You're only in town for a day or two. Are you going to have any time to go back to Bradenton?

I will be home for the day. I'm closing on my first house. I will officially be a first-time homeowner. I'm hoping I can take the rest of the tour to the house to break it in.

Jay Cridlin, cridlin@tampabay.com.

September 25, 2009

TBT: #1 Show To Remember - Lady GaGa

It’s tough to pick a favorite when you’ve seen hundreds of artists in a single sum­mer. But here are 10 unexpectedly great performances that made the whole trip worth it. You can read the full reviews at blogs.tampabay.com/tbt. — Jay Cridlin

#1 - Lady GaGa
When: April 7

What I wrote: “If Lady Gaga turns out to be a two-hit wonder, fans might remember this as a pretty snazzy, highly energetic, entirely enjoyable concert that ultimately didn’t mean much of anything. But I believe it was H.L. Mencken who once wrote, ‘No one ever went broke underestimating the public’s desire for blond chicks in hot pants.’ So who knows? Maybe this time next year, Lady Gaga will be an international megastar, headlining the St. Pete Times Forum instead of the Ritz.”

ORIGINAL REVIEW (taken from April 8th):

This morning I woke up to an allergy attack that could debilitate a rhino. Like the brave and heroic American I am, I made my way into work, only to leave around lunch, a snorting maelstrom of tears and damp Kleenex.

I was about to call off tonight's 50-50 Club concert and spend the evening on the couch watching Ocean's Thirteen*, but then I remembered the sage advice of Stefani Germanotta, a.k.a. 2009's breakout pop queen Lady Gaga:

I love this record, baby, but I can't see straight anymore ... just dance, gonna be okay.

That was all the encouragement I needed. I popped a Claritin and donned my trusty concert Chucks, and headed down to Ybor City to see Lady Gaga in person.

The way I saw it, I didn't have a choice. After all, it's not every day the No. 1 song in America comes to your city.

That song is Lady Gaga's Poker Face, and that club would be the Ritz Ybor, formerly the Masquerade and possibly Tampa's Next Big Venue.

Since landing the Maxim Super Bowl Party in January, the Ritz has been on a white-hot tear, landing shows by Jesse McCartney, Ben Folds, Ghostface and Raekwon and, soon, Ratatat.

But it's Lady Gaga -- booked by the Ritz when she was still a relative newcomer -- who has turned out to be the venue's biggest post-Maxim coup. Over the past year, she's turned her conceptual New York dance-floor mojo into real-world single and album sales. Hers is a tale of pop imitating art imitating pop, and if that confuses you: Just dance, gonna be okay.

So what does the crowd look like at a concert by the current holder of America's No. 1 single? In a word: Fierce. It looked as if a Forever 21 had exploded in the Ritz, and EMS personnel responded by administering hats from Zara.

Silver tights. Blue, pink and platinum wigs. Bangs that could slice a mango. I counted at least seven homemade disco-ball masks. I saw one guy wearing a fingerless chartreuse glove on one hand; on the other, he wore the fingers.

But the vibe in the room was kinetic. High-energy openers Chester French and the White Tie Affair whipped the crowd into a frenzy; five seconds after the White Tie Affair left the stage, fans stated chanting, "Ga-ga! Ga-ga! Ga-ga!"

Roadies blocked off the stage with a giant white curtain, behind which I assume laborers were busy assembling Lady Gaga from parts discarded by Madonna, Posh Spice and and Lil Kim. (Kidding!)

And then, shortly after 10 p.m., just as the crowd was hitting Fierceness Level Five**, the curtain dropped, revealing Lady Gaga inside a spaceship-like booth, wearing a futuristic cocktail dress dominated by a big silver triangle.

This was the first of five costumes Lady G. donned during her 11-song set. The others, as transcribed directly from my notebook:

-- "Jigsaw Zebra"

-- "Bubble Suit"

-- "Business Suit With Pointy Shoulders"

-- "Military, No Pants."***

Actually, that last part was redundant, as Lady Gaga wore no pants whatsoever at any point during the night. Anyway, Lady G. opened with Paparazzi, LoveGame and Money Honey, and if you weren't dancing at that point, you were definitely a robot made of stone.

Somewhere in the middle, in what must have been an attempt to make absolutely sure the crowd knew this whole pop-star thing was a bit of a put-on, Lady Gaga (wearing Bubble Suit) took to a piano for a couple of songs -- the new Future Love, and a slow, solo version of Poker Face. It sounded like Regina Spektor.

"Some say 'Lady Gaga' is a lie," she chirped from the stage. "You're right -- it is a lie. And every day, I kill to make it true."

Hmm. Yes. Interesting. Hey, you know what? No one there cared. This was an audience of front-runners -- why else would they come to a show by an artist with two recent No. 1 pop singles? -- and they desperately wanted to hear Lady Gaga's big hits.

"I guess what you're thinking," she said during the encore, "is, 'Shut the f--- up, you dumb blond, and play Poker Face.'" And she did, and the crowd went ballistic, screaming every word all the way to the fist-pumping climax.

If Lady Gaga turns out to be a two-hit wonder, fans might remember this as a pretty snazzy, highly energetic, entirely enjoyable concert that ultimately didn't mean much of anything.

But I believe it was H.L. Mencken who once wrote, "No one ever went broke underestimating the public's desire for blond chicks in hot pants." So who knows? Maybe this time next year, Lady Gaga will be an international megastar, headlining the St. Pete Times Forum instead of the Ritz.

If so, we'll all still be talking about the night the No. 1 song in America came to Ybor City.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo by Luis Santana, tbt*.

September 23, 2009

Tampa Tribune: JJ Grey rolls Southern soul into his country-rock


JJ Grey rolls Southern soul into his country-rock
by Curtis Ross

JJ Grey & Mofro will perform Thursday night at The Ritz Ybor. Shooter Jennings and Earl Greyhound open.

JJ Grey knows it's the heat and the humidity. And the South in general.

The conversation has traveled from music, Southern music in particular, into the murkier tributaries of race and culture.

Grey's the modern incarnation of the region's musical miscegenation, a white player who soaked up the sounds of John Fogarty, Donny Hathaway, Jerry Reed and Stevie Wonder to create his own funky rock-soul mix.

It's a step his predecessors took at some peril.

"White players were shunned for playing black music," says the keyboardist and guitarist who leads Mofro. "Europeans didn't have to suffer that stigma. People would generalize, like, 'I don't like black music, but the Rolling Stones are different.'"

Tony Joe White's name has come up as a Mofro antecedent, someone whose music was as much soul as country and couldn't be pigeonholed as either.

"People don't realize how that stigma kept that sort of music in check," Grey says, noting that in an era that produced Southern classics such as White's "Polk Salad Annie," hits by the similarly-inclined Joe South and those from Elvis Presley's "From Elvis in Memphis" were short-lived.

Still, the music of White and others made an impression on Grey.

"It inspired me that it (music) can be country and funky and it can be the blues," Grey says. "There are all walks of life in the South."

Grey hails from outside Jacksonville, a Floridian by several generations. His grandfather's tales of the state in the early 20th century have provided inspiration for several of Grey's songs, including "Ybor City" on the latest JJ Grey & Mofro disc, and last year's "Orange Blossoms."

Besides music, his other passion is fishing.

"I love fishing, and I've got a bunch of friends who love it more than me," he says. "I'm pretty set with fresh fish."

He's fished his way "from Fort Myers over to the Atlantic side, all the way up to South Carolina," he says, calling the creeks around Nassau Sound near Jacksonville his favorite spots.

Grey's music reflects his upbringing. It's a funky, swampy, dirt-real sound that's got a particularly Southern mixture of menace and mirth.

The Mofro lineup shifted enough over the years that Grey finally put his name up front. "Orange Blossoms" is Grey and Mofro's fourth album, preceded by 2007's "Country Ghetto," 2004's "Lochloosa" and 2001's "Blackwater."

ON TOUR JJ Grey & Mofro
WITH: Shooter Jennings and Earl Greyhound
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: The Ritz Ybor, 1503 E. Seventh Ave., Tampa; (813) 247-2555
COST: $20 advance, $22 day of show

Music critic Curtis Ross can be reached at (813) 259-7568

September 21, 2009

BEST OF THE BAY: 2009 Awards

MOST IMPROVED VENUE: THE RITZ YBOR When the former Masquerade got a $2 million makeover and re-opened as The RITZ last June, it didn’t seem like many shows were making it to the marquee and some of us wondered whether the booking folks set the bar too high in their selections or if the 1,500-capacity place had become a bit too fancy for just any show with its new open and airy feel, higher stage, in-house lighting rig, and walls draped in red velour for superior sound quality. But gradually with help from No Clubs Productions, The RITZ began beefing up its events schedule and in a matter of months, went from hosting tribute acts to a range of top notch talents – Lady Gaga, Of Montreal, Jesse McCartney, Ben Folds, Gogol Bordello, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon, Three Dog Night, Rabbit in the Moon and many others. The RITZ has also picked up several shows lost by Jannus Landing due to that venue’s pending legal issues.

Barnes pictured, photo by Phil Bardi.

BEST INDIE ROCK SHOW: OF MONTREAL @ THE RITZ YBOR From the review of the 12/08/08 show: “Of Montreal put on a stage show that was an aural and visual hallucination brought to dazzling life. The six-member band played against a huge backdrop of vivid, psychedelic animations and under washes of saturated lights. Two sets of drums were mounted on risers on either side of the stage and a revolving screen set up between them hid-or-revealed a motley cast of performers, who acted out all manner of scenes and scenarios with and without frontman Kevin Barnes, and in costumes and masks that ranged from cute to freakish. Barnes himself disappeared behind the screen to change outfits a dozen or more times, from fur to sequins to spandex to centaur, a performer serving as his second set of legs for that last ensemble. He covered himself in red paint, in shaving cream, in glitter. He sang and played guitar, pranced from one side of the stage to the other in nothing but a pair of sassy gold trunks, climbed up a riser to sing from its heights or play drums a few minutes, climbed back down to be executed in a faux-gallows, and appeared to have a grand old time all throughout.”

September 10, 2009

Creative Loafing: WMNF 30th Bday

FROM THE DAILY LOAF (by Leilani Polk):

Community radio has enjoyed a short but storied history in America, beginning on the West Coast in 1946 with the launch of
KPFA at Berkeley by journalist/pacifist Lewis Hill and a group of like-minded individuals dedicated to fostering “a lasting understanding between nations and between individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors.” Community radio really blossomed in the 1960s during our country’s cultural revolution, when the appeal of breaking down prevailing traditions and boundaries became more widespread. Listener-supported stations were free from the corporate sponsors that exercised control over commercial stations, their minuscule budgets both a burden and benefit — virtually no money to work with, but a staff of community volunteers who actively participated as disc jockeys and producers, and brought color and variety back to radio with a diverse range of programming. By the 1970s, community stations had carved out a place amidst the corporate radio structure and were broadcasting in almost every state.


WMNF, the Bay area’s own beloved community radio station, first went on air in 1979 and celebrates 30 years of broadcasting on Saturday with its annual birthday party. This year’s event features 12 bands on three stages — national headliners Paul Thorn, Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers, and Amanda Shires, all pictured, as well as local and regional players like Nervous Turkey and the Legendary JC’s — at the Ritz Ybor. Here’s the complete breakdown, with video.


Have Gun, Will Travel (6:30-7:30) A local fave and 2008 Best of the Bay Readers’ Poll winner, this five-piece Americana outfit incorporates acoustic guitar and bass, viola, lap steel, banjo and harmonica into easy-going rhythms that dissolve into spirited overdrive with an Old West appeal in both the sound and subject matter. HGWT is currently working on their follow-up to last year’s NPR-plugged Casting Shadows Tall as Trees.

The Legendary JC’s (7:55-8:55) Few bands can get the bodies to the floor as quickly as the JC’s, who bring the scorching, horn-charged R&B and rump-shaking funk ’n’ soul. Lead singer Eugene Snowden channels all the classic greats with his unrestrained, belt-it-out brand of showmanship. Here’s video of them performing at Freebird Live in Jacksonville.

Paul Thorn Band (9:20-10:50) Son of a traveling preacher; one-time professional boxer; discovered playing in a pizza joint after hanging up his gloves to pursue music — these background details add texture to the songwriting of Paul Thorn, who sings in a soulfully husky Southern-soaked drawl and plays a gentle or blistering guitar to dynamic roots rock dosed with upbeat gospel, blues and alt-country swing. He uses good-natured humor to tell stories about life, love and the people he’s met, as in the title track of his sixth studio album, A Long Way From Tupelo, about a man stranded on a desolate country road and the young Lolita who saves him, “And just like Adam and that Garden of Eden / She showed me that apple and I got weak.;” the bouncy blues-soaked query of “What Have You Done to Lift Someone Up?”; the heavy riffing balladry of “Accept My Love,” a coarse workingman’s droll plea to an uppity woman (“I dialed your number but I couldn’t get through / So I bought a blow up doll, looked just like you / But these rubber lips I’m kissing, ain’t warm enough / So accept my love, accept my love”); and musings about regret and the mournful wail of slide guitar in “Things Left Undone.” Thorn offers up a quirky, personal, heartfelt, and rough-edged brew. Here’s a clip of Thorn performing “If I Can Get Over Her” from his DVD So Far, So Good LIVE. Gives you a nice taste of his style.

Nervous Turkey (11:15 -12:15) The local trio brings the good times with their heavy-treading brand of whiskey-soaked barroom blues and funkadelic rock marked by the bellowing or growling or crooning or soulful serenading of gritty deep-voiced frontman Ernie Locke. When he fires up his harmonica, you know things are about to get sweaty.


Sarasota Slim (7-8) The Florida homegrown guitar-slinging veteran sets fine-honed finger-licking and rusty vocals against his rolling rhythm and blues.

Knock Down Drag Out (8:25-9:25) A new Orlando five-piece that plays turbocharged rockabilly with much lively key-pounding and vocal aerobics.

Barely Pink (9:45-10:45) The playful power pop of Barely Pink’s “Mood Meter Maid,” with its falsetto harmonies and brief divergence into melodic, Beatles-esque psychedelia, proves why everyone’s excited about the foursome’s official reunion show — a special occasion within ‘MNF’s own special occasion. Here’s a clip from a 2004 Barely Pink gig at Gator’s on Treasure island.

Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers (11:05-12:05) Crain is a Choctaw Indian in her early 20s who’s just released her debut full-length this past April, Songs in the Night. The album showcases Crain’s distinctive throaty tone, which manages to be sultry, rich and enchanting all at once. Her driving folk rock is mournful, rootsy, ghostly or buoyant, depending on whether she’s gently persuading a lover to look into her eyes and come and see the rising sun, “it’s about to break,” or giving a firm pep talk to a friend and convincing her to “Get the Fever Out.” She adds color with occasional horns, whistling, harmonica, and even multi-tracked backing vocals. Here’s Crain and Andrew Tanz of the Midnight Shivers performing “Devils in Boston” acoustic, on a rooftop.


Suite Caroline
(6:55-7:40) She’s only 12 and has already recorded two albums of original countrified pop, performed live with Sheryl Crow, and sang the National Anthem before a recent Rays-Rangers game.

Amanda Shires and her Roaring Fiddle (8-9) Shires has a honey sweet soprano that’s strong and piercing in murder ballads or songs of heartache, and she plays lively fiddle or ukulele with her dusty roots music. She played with Thrift Store Cowboys for several years before releasing her first solo effort in 2005. Currently, Shires is touring in support of a duo release with co-writer Rod Picott, Sew Your Heart with Wires, a completely acoustic recording. He’s not on this bill, but Shires and Picott perform this Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Studio@620. Here she is performing “Angels and Acrobats” and “Rings and Chains” with Picott earlier this year in Texas.

Tribal Style (9:20-10:20) Three Jamaican brothers lead Tampa’s hottest funk-ska-roots reggae group.

Ray Olan and The Jazz Ole Band (10:40-11:40) Latin jazz, pop, salsa and AC rock are combined in Jazz Ole’s multi-cultural music, lyrics sung in English and Spanish (including spiced up bilingual covers of early Beatles tunes), and Olan’s key-playing is usually accompanied by electric guitar and various percussion.

WMNF 30th Birthday Party: The Big 3-0, Sat., Sept. 12, 6 p.m.-12:30 a.m., The RITZ Ybor, Ybor City, $20 in advance/$ dos, wmnf.org.

August 31, 2009

TBT: Air Supply rocks (yes, rocks) The RITZ Ybor

CHECK OUT the TBT Soundcheck Blog on Air Supply ROCKING The RITZ Ybor: CLICK HERE

Creative Loafing: Grayson Capps

From Creative Loafing's Tampa Calling blog:

The last time I was at The Ritz was for the fateful Corrosion of Conformity show where (4) people were stabbed with (1) ultimately dying. I’d heard a lot about the near million dollar renovation the venue had gone through prior to reopening a year (really? it’s been a whole year?) ago but I had not seen it yet. What better chance than for their one year anniversary free show featuring one of my favorite songwriters, Grayson Capps?

The venue itself is beautiful and the acoustics are dramatically improved. Granted, I am judging the latter on one show but Grayson and the Stumpknockers were loud and they sounded great and the reconfigured ball room is infinitely more conducive to live music than it used to be. While this isn’t supposed to be a review of the venue I wanted to mention it cause they did a fantastic job and I look forward to seeing more shows there.

Now, on to Grayson.

Grayson Capps and the Stumpknocker’s took the stage promptly at 8:00 to a sparce (and I am being generous) crowd but what the crowd lacked in numbers it made up for in enthusiasm. One particular concertgoer opted to take advantage of the short bar lines and vacant dance floor to practice his handstands. Grayson & Co. seemed unfazed by the amount of empty floor space between each patron and delivered a tight performance hitting on every song the crowd wanted to hear even going so far as to take requests during their second set. I was pleasantly surprised at how much more of rock band they became in the live environment.

Hopefully the lack of people will not leave a bad taste in the bands mouth and they’ll return some day in the future.

Creative Loafing Interview: Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello

CHECK OUT the Creative Loafing interview with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello (audio & video): CLICK HERE

July 21, 2009

June 16, 2009

ARTISTS WANTED: Next Square One Event

Artist Registration for the NEXT SQUARE ONE Creative Event on Saturday, November 14th @ The RITZ Ybor will begin this Friday, July 24th, 2009.

Please e-mail Events@SquareOneFlorida.com with "INTERESTED IN 11.14.09" in the subject line for more information on becoming a participating artist in the biggest creative event in the Bay Area!

Last December's Virgin 2.0 brought in 1,700 attendees and 80 participating artists. This past May's La Di Da saw a record 2,400 attendees and 82 participating artists. Don't miss the BIGGEST art event in the entire Bay Area!