Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa: A three-day celebration of music for all

Arrested Development. Photo by Vlad T.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa and Vlad T., Rock At Night Detroit

Review: Gasparilla Music Festival-Curtis Hixon Park, Downtown Tampa, Florida – February 25-26, 2022

GROUPLOVE. Photo by Chyrisse.

The Gasparilla Music Festival has traditionally delivered a musical roster that balances strong national acts and regional performers hungry to widen their audience. Many may not realize it is supported by Gasparilla Music Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation which aids music education in the community.

The festival is back on its normal Spring schedule which coincides with Tampa’s Gasparilla Festival. Traditionally a two-day festival, this year’s celebration expanded to three days of music on four stages, and supported by an array of food from local food establishments and breweries.

Mavis Staples. Photo by Chyrisse.

Rock At Night visited all three days of the festival, which is in its 11th year—and appeared to be the largest on record. Many brought lawn chairs, blankets, and huddled under some canopies as this week saw temperatures rise in the high 80s, making it feel like the month of May.

National acts performing Friday night included GROUPLOVE, performing an upbeat array of indie pop songs like “Tongue Tied” followed by Austin psych soul Black Pumas performing hits from their Grammy nominated album Colors. Other highlights of the evening included Cuban funk band Cimafunk, which had the crowd dancing on the lawn.

The festivities started in the afternoon on Saturday, as many elaborate-decorated sun umbrellas and hand fans were seen waving as the crowd watched local bands like St. Petersburg’s reggae-pop band Seranation, Bradenton’s alt-folk band Have Gun, Will Travel, and Tampa’s “new classic” rock band Sick Hot.

The Allman Betts Band. Photo by Chyrisse.

There was a lot of colorful costumes and hints of political awareness from New Orleans feathered headdress band Cha Wa to 90s hip-hop band Arrested Development (“Black Lives Matters” flags). By the middle of the evening, the air was thick with the aroma of Mary Jane and the crowd was ready to kick back and enjoy Seattle’s Grammy-nominated Band of Horses followed by Revivalists, with lead singer David Shaw sporting a long open leopard coat. It was definitely an alt rock evening!

Sunday afternoon brought blues-gospel legend and civil rights activist Mavis Staples of the Hall of Fame Group the Staples Singers. She performed  Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and a crowd favorite that had everybody swaying “I’ll Take You There.”  Missing was The Staples Singer’s “Respect Yourself, which would have been welcomed. During the set, a man holding a sign saying “We the American Artists love the artists of the Ukraine” sauntered through the crowd.

By 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, the area of the main stage looked like the Suwannee festival based on all number of tie-dyed shirts, mushroom logos, “The Big House” t-shirts, and the elevated intensity of herbal aroma.  The Allman Betts Band brought down the house by performing Allman Brothers favorites like “Midnight Rider” and “Dreams” but also their own music like “Down to the River.”

The festival closed out with New Orleans-flavored music by Trombone Shorty to get the audience in the party mood for March 1st.


February 25-27, 2022







Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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