Monday, June 28, 2010

Local Music Profile - The Equines

The first time I saw The Equines, they blew me away. They have a rich and full sound, and are captivating from the first note to the last. They play a brand of indie pop that is not easily duplicated, and is uniquely enhanced by unusual instruments and a smattering of electronic gadgets. There’s an overall feeling of fun and magic at their shows, and it’s clear that they want everyone to have a good time.

Hailing from Sarasota, they started out as Maid Mosephine and the Equines in 2008, later shortening the name to The Equines based on advice from a friend. Most of the members have played in previous bands, such as The Illustrated, I Die You Die, Tiny Ensemble, and MeteorEYES. They plucked their mandolin player (pun fully intended) from an open mike night, and the rest was history.

When in Tampa, The Equines enjoy playing New World Brewery, The Orpheum, and Crowbar. Their favorite thing about the city? Our varied styles of jean shorts. That, and the way our local music scene is open to working collaboratively. You can catch The Equines next in Tampa on August 7th at New World Brewery with the Great Deceivers and Friends of Giants.

photo credit: Jaime Vega

You can learn more about The Equines by visiting their Facebook page here:!/theequines?v=wall

Here's a music video for The Narwhal Song:

Their other summer shows are as follows:

7/17 @ Cock N’ Bull (Sarasota)

7/23 @ Backbooth (Orlando)

7/30 @ FUBAR (St. Petersburg)

8/07 @ New World Brewery (Tampa)

8/08 @ Pastimes (Sarasota)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Save the Boobies!

This Sunday in North Tampa, Skipper’s Smokehouse will host the 3rd Annual Susan G. Komen for the Cure fundraiser. A well-known charity, the Komen Foundation raises funds for breast cancer research. The primary way they do this is through a yearly 3-day walk that covers 60 miles. Participants must raise $2300 to walk, and many work in teams to achieve this. This particular event will help raise money for a Tampa team called Saving Second Base. Its members, along with so many other people, have been personally affected by breast cancer, so this is a cause they feel strongly about.

The festivities will kick off at 4 in the afternoon, and will feature a wide variety of music from Tampa Bay area bands: John Hancock, IPD, The Show, Sons of Hippies, Someday Souvenir, and Pitbull Toddler. There will also be an appearance by Cowhead from 102.5 FM. To help with the fundraising, local businesses such as Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café (remember our very first blog article?), Pepin, and Massage Envy of South Tampa have donated items for a silent auction. There will also be a 50/50 raffle, and food and drink specials.

It’s good to see so many people and businesses coming together to support such a great cause. It’s even more proof that Tampa is a great place to live! We hope that you can all make it out to have fun, hear great local music, and support and encourage Saving Second Base.

Skipper's Smokehouse is located at 910 Skipper Road in Tampa, 813-977-6474.

You can get more information by visiting the event page on Facebook:

If you can't make it out, but would still like to donate, you can do so here:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tampa: General

Saturday started out with my daughter's 8th birthday pool party extravaganza; kids and adults alike spent the day taking advantage of the beautiful weather. Sarah left the party early in the afternoon to enjoy a bike ride, then gave me a call at about 9pm saying, "Hey...weird question: could someone take me to the ER? I think I broke my arm.”

Apparently, Sarah's bike tire had gotten caught in a trolley track, and down she went. Helen and I, still wet from the pool, couldn't believe we were about to roll into Saturday night Ybor City to get her. We picked her up from Fuma Bella, where she stood outside the door with her arm in a makeshift sling made of bar rags. Charlie had taken good care of her.

The E.R. visit was about as pleasant as a hospital trip could be. Sarah was already registered and in a room by the time Helen and I parked the car. As we walked though the buildings to get to the new E.R., we saw the original hospital peeking out from behind the modern architecture and palm trees. It was eerie in the moonlight. Helen wondered aloud about ghosts.

And who decided to put a hospital on an island anyway? Of course there is a story, possibly legend, that tells how while at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, James Swann and David Davis asked Dr. J Brown Farrior where he wanted the new hospital. Davis drew a rough outline of the islands and Farrior pointed to the northern tip as the preferred location. And thus, Tampa Municipal Hospital was born.

Tampa General Hospital is now a modern, 877-bed world class facility that admits over 25,000 patients and delivers more than 4,000 babies each year. The emergency room handles 60,000 adult patients yearly.

Though the location is beautiful, it puts the hospital at risk to flooding, which has been a recurring issue in its 77 years. With the threat of hurricanes, frequent island evacuations, and poor island access by only two bridges, we just have to enjoy this hospital when we can.

Sarah did end up having a broken arm. We were in the E.R. for a short 3.5 hours. She was treated really well by the staff and the whole process seemed easier than I have ever experienced. Turns out, Tampa General isn't the worst place to spend your Saturday night. Especially when you're in such great company.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Granada Records Featured at the Homemade Music Symposium

The Tampa Bay area is home to a burgeoning music industry, and is lucky to have several local music labels. Started in 1994, New Granada Records is one of the larger labels, and is home to bands both in Florida and in other states. Saturday evening, they will be presenting a musical showcase for four of their bands at New World Brewery (1313 E. 8th Ave., Ybor City) as part of the Homemade Music Symposium. Here’s an idea of what to expect for the evening:

Heath Dupras – vocals, guitar
Michael Waksman – guitar, vocals
Brian Bates – bass
Keith Ulrey - drums
Zillionaire is a four-piece indie rock band based in Tampa. Its members are all veterans of the local music scene, having played in previous acts such as Pohgoh, Versailles, and The Washdown. Michael and Keith currently also play in Rec Center, and Michael plays in Red Room Cinema. Basically, these guys live music, and it comes through in their performances. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them three times, and they are completely captivating. They don’t play often (Keith, along with wife Susie, runs New Granada, which keeps them busy), so this is not to be missed.

King of Spain
Matt Slate – guitar, vocals, programming
Daniel Wainright – bass
Matt started King of Spain in 2007 as a solo project, adding bassist Daniel in late 2009. Both of them are also long-time veterans of the Tampa music scene. Matt was in Pohgoh (along with Keith), and has also played in Chester and in The Maccabees. Daniel has a current solo project going called The Sea, and previously played in Idle Rude and Spacious International. When asked about their sound, Matt stated, “Our sound can be difficult to describe, at least for me. I encourage people to find out for themselves.” Some of their influences include Animal Collective, Peter Gabriel, Syd Barrett, Fela Kuti, and Gilberto Gil.

Rec Center
Susie Ulrey – vocals, guitar, Fender Rhodes
Keith Ulrey – drums, vocals
Michael Waksman – vocals, guitar
Brian Roberts - bass
The members of Rec Center have known each other for about fifteen years, and have officially been a band for the past couple of years. They all live in the Tampa or Brandon areas, and play indie rock reminiscent of Ida or Ron Sexsmith. Along with the other three bands, Rec Center enjoys playing at New World Brewery because of the comfortable atmosphere.

Candy Bars
Daniel Martinez – vocals, guitar
Melissa Grady – cello
Ryan Hastings - drums
Candy Bars started in 2004, and play what they call depressing indie pop. Daniel has played in previous bands in South Florida, and has been in Tampa for about six years. Melissa plays for anyone who needs a cello, and has worked on numerous local projects. When asked about local influences and what they like best about Tampa, Daniel stated, “Will Quinlan (at the time he was with the Pagan Saints) was probably the first local musician I saw play in the area…I felt good about this scene right away.” Candy Bars come highly recommended, and I hope to be able to see them for the first time here.

There are three other showcases, along with numerous workshops and panels, which are part of the Homemade Music Symposium. More information can be found at It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, we hope to see you all out there!

Photo Credits:
Zillionaire - Nicole Kibert
Rec Center - Nicole Kibert
Candy Bars - Marcus Laurenzi

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bro Bowl Forever

It’s an age-old Tampa conflict: skateboarders versus…well, everyone.

Skateboarding is prohibited all over this city; in parking garages, lots, and parks. Skaters can get fined, arrested, and even jailed. Besides the Skatepark of Tampa, there are very few places to skate without risk of harassment. One such place is downtown Tampa's Bro Bowl.

The Bro Bowl has been around since the late 1970's. Rumor has it that it was originally a duck pond that was later drained to make the skate park. For many years, it was surrounded by housing projects, and was a dangerous place to be. The projects are now gone, and a newer park with a playground, basketball court, and pavilion surrounds the Bowl. The site is well-known nationally and was the subject of a recent documentary, "The Bro Bowl: 30 Years of Tampa Concrete."

On any given Sunday afternoon, you’ll find a party there. People bring grills, coolers, and chairs. They skate, eat, drink, and commune. They talk about the history of the Bowl, speculate about its future, trade skating tips and tricks, and just generally hang out.

Tampa has a respected skateboarding community and responsibility for the Bowl is shared. One group of friends call themselves the Bowl Bros and act as volunteer caretakers. They skate here regularly, almost every day; but they also bring brooms to sweep out pine needles, additional wooden ramps to add height to the steep sides, and a true love for both skateboarding and the Bro Bowl.

That same love for the sport and the community is what started the "Boards for Bros" program. In the beginning, organizers collected used skateboards and equipment, refurbished it for use, and then distributed the gear to local children -the really local children who'd gathered to watch skaters, but who never had boards of their own- at Christmastime. From that organic beginning, the program has grown annually and now channels new and used skateboards to children in Tampa and abroad. It's a moving testament to the strength of character and community that this "outlaw" sport can create.

I have visited the Bro Bowl twice now, and there are two major things that strike me about it. The first is the community. How many places can you go in Tampa and just strike up a conversation with a random stranger who doesn’t give you a weird look? People share their food and drinks, they congratulate each other on good runs, and they help out the new kids.

The other thing that strikes me is that people will skate the bowl on anything with wheels. Besides skateboards, I saw scooters, longboards, bikes, and downhill racing boards. I even heard rumors of someone that shows up on roller skates. By the end of my first visit, I knew I had to go back and try it myself.

When I went back, I brought my bike (a hybrid road/trail bike) and decided to jump right in. And boy, did I. Let’s just say my bike survived unscathed, but I did not. However, the feeling of tearing around the Bowl, up the walls, and over the moguls was exhilarating, and with a better-suited bike, I fully intend to try it again…and again…and again.

Despite everything, the Bro Bowl's future is uncertain. There is a new housing project under construction and authorities are threatening to remove the bowl, possibly relocating it to another area nearby. Even if it reopened elsewhere, a tremendous part of Tampa's history and youth culture would be lost forever.

So, if you’re ever downtown near Laurel and Orange, stop by the Bro Bowl. Bring something – anything – with wheels on it. Maybe bring something to share. I promise you’ll have a blast, learn a trick or two, and might even make some new friends.

Learn more:

Top photo by Paul Schmitt

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Tampa Bay History Center Rocks Our Socks!

Okay, I’ll admit it. If I didn’t have a close friend who works there, I wouldn’t even know Tampa had a history center, much less that it is a state-of-the-art facility that contains 17,000 square feet of exhibit space and houses approximately 40,000 artifacts.

Situated on the Hillsborough River in the Channelside district of downtown Tampa, the Tampa Bay History Center is one of the largest history museums on the west coast of Florida. The current facility opened in January 2009, and is an environmentally conscious building. It is constructed of recycled materials, features tinted glass and metal eyelids on the windows that cut down on energy costs, and contains recycled flooring in some areas of the building.

The Center has interactive exhibit space on two floors, the rest of the building being dedicated to offices and archival storage space. The first floor displays the origins of Florida and of Tampa, educating visitors on the European explorers, as well as on the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians. These histories are told in two state-of-the-art theaters that feature multiple screens and animatronics. There is also a replica cigar shop/factory that contains historical artifacts, including a cash register from El Pasaje, the first hotel in Ybor City.

The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the more recent history of Tampa, and highlights our early and modern lifestyles, military history, our industries, and our sports teams. For example, did you know that Tampa started out as a military outpost? Fort Brooke wasn’t always a parking garage, and the museum houses artifacts that were found during its construction. This floor is highly interactive, and tends to be a big hit with the kids. The most prominent interactive feature is the interactive map. This touch-screen map highlights historical buildings throughout the city. A visitor can click on each historical site he or she wants to visit, and the map will create a route and e-mail it, so that the tour can be taken in person.

The other major feature of the second floor is the Touchton map gallery. There are 22 maps, the oldest dating back to 1513. Some highlights of the collection include a Hernando Cortes map from 1524 (replica), a map of Sanibel Island from 1833, and a map of the Plant railway and steamship routes from 1899. It is interesting to think about what a person had to go through to actually make a map in the old days, before aerial photography. Not only are they labor intensive, many of them are hand-inked and painted, making them works of art as well. This room will definitely give visitors a sense of awe, and is a must-see part of the museum.

Aside from the museum and archival/office space, the building houses classrooms, event space, the Witt Research Center (a non-lending part of the Hillsborough County Public Library system), the Columbia Café (yes, it’s an offshoot of the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City), and the ever-important museum gift shop. The Tampa Bay History Center is open 7 days a week from 10 am – 5 pm, closing only for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are several summer camp programs offered at reasonable rates, and there is a free lecture series, among other events. You can get a daily dose of Tampa history, as well as lots of other info, by becoming a fan of the History Center on FaceBook:

Those interested can visit or call (813)228-0097 for more information. The History Center is located at 801 Old Water Street in Tampa, near the St. Pete Times Forum.

Dear Cuban Sandwich, I Love You!

I was born a lover of Cuban sandwiches. As a child I remember going to the beach with a bag full of Cuban sandwiches made by my father. We went around town collecting all of the perfect ingredients to make the “proper” Cuban. The beach sand always peppered the salty ham and seagulls fought for the crusty heel of the bread. Tim & I had a brief jaunt in New Port Richey a few years ago. The lack of sandwich required a return to Tampa.

The lore of the Cuban sandwich rivals that of the Loch Ness Monster. Tampa and Miami both claim the creation of this toothsome treasure. From 1886 until the 1930's, Ybor City was considered to be the Cigar Capital of the World. As a result of a severe depression and warfare, immigrants came to Ybor City from Spain, Italy, and Cuba. These immigrants brought a sandwich called the “mixto”. This sandwich was a common lunch food for factory workers in Ybor and throughout Cuba. Influenced by the cultural mix, this sandwich became what Tampanians know and love ...The Cuban Sandwich (also known as “Cubano”). With sugar cured ham and Swiss cheese brought by the Spaniards, roast pork and bread from the Cubans, and Genoa salami from the Italians's a cultural shock-wave to the taste buds. Tampa also claims they have the only real Cuban bread in the US. It is said that the City of Tampa water is what makes it so different. This bread was not originally sold in the 3ft loaves we are now accustomed to. It was slimmed and stretched for rationing during the depression.

Maurico Faedo's, La Segunda's Central Bakery, and Casino bakery are among the local bakeries still serving hot, fresh Cuban daily. Faedo's is open 24 hrs a day. When you drive down Florida Ave at night, you can't miss the lights and shenanigans going on inside.

Everyone in Tampa has their favorite Cuban Sandwich hot spot. Personally, I love Brocato's, a Tampa staple since 1948. They make great sammies, along with fantastic Deviled Crabs and Stuffed Potatoes. I always order my Cuban without lettuce and tomato, though they do come standard here. The roast pork on this sandwich is marvelous and the buffet style ham gives just enough salt to pull it all together. Don't forget to get it pressed! The deviled crab has a grandiose amount of crab meat makes the $3.99 price tag seem like such a fantastic deal. Mr. Brocato and I spoke briefly on my last visit. He asked me about my tattoos and we chatted about where they get their Cuban bread (Casino Bakery). He made me feel great about supporting a local landmark. If you haven't been here...GO!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Local Music Profile - Sleepy Vikings

The local music scene is one of the things that makes the Tampa Bay area a great place to live (and to listen). The pool of local musical talent seems to have grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years, and the genres of music being played have diversified immensely. Formed in July 2009, Sleepy Vikings are an excellent example of the great talent available right here at home.

I had a moment to chat with Conner, guitarist and vocalist. The band has six members, who live in all parts of the Bay area, including Seminole Heights, South Tampa, North Tampa, and St. Petersburg. Although they officially formed in July 2009, four of the members (Conner, Sandi, Nicole, and later on, Ry) were previously in a band called Giddy Up, Helicopter!, which formed sometime around 2004. For the two remaining members, Stephanie and Tessa, this is their first venture into playing with a band.

When asked what kind of music Sleepy Vikings play, Conner had this to say: “I guess the easiest way to describe us would be to call us an indie band. We probably sound like a strange combination of shoegaze and country.” Having seen them several times, I’d like to add that there’s an ethereal grittiness to their music, which will probably only make sense after you’ve seen them. They also presented an impressive version of Where is My Mind? at WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave a few weeks ago.

I also asked Conner what Sleepy Vikings’ favorite local venues to play are, and what they like about living in Tampa. New World Brewery (1313 E. 8th Ave, Ybor City) topped the list of favorite venues. Conner said, “The beer is incredible, the sound guy is awesome (thanks Mark [Bustin]), the bartenders are great, and they have foosball.” The band also enjoys playing at Crowbar (1812 N. 17th St, Ybor City). Coincidentally, these are two of my favorite places to see bands play in Tampa!

Sleepy Vikings don’t necessarily enjoy the heat during the summers here, mostly because their practice space is a storage unit, and the temperature can reach 115 degrees inside. However, Conner had many positive things to say about life in Tampa: “One of my favorite parts about Tampa is actually Ybor; there are a bunch of good venues and bars. Plus, since Tampa is a lot less saturated with artists and bands than NYC or Los Angeles, at a good show or party the turnout is almost always impressive. The sense of community at places like the Skatepark of Tampa, WMNF and Liter Night at Crowbar is pretty awesome. Oh, and personally, I love Tampa Bay Brewing Company. If our band ever got extremely famous I'd take multiple kegs of Old Elephant Foot IPA with me on tour.”

You can catch Sleepy Vikings playing throughout the summer (see dates below), and you can keep up with them on FaceBook by clicking here
You can also hear a sample of their music on their MySpace page:

Summer Schedule

June 4th w/ Sons of Hippies at FUBAR (St. Petersburg)
June 17th at The Boat (Toronto)
July 15th w/ Deleted Scenes & the Pauses at New World Brewery (Ybor City)
July 25th w/ Sons of Hippies at The Hub (Downtown Tampa)