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Tampa Bay’s music scene offers a little something for everyone 

With its deluxe theme parks, champion sports teams and plethora of recreation, Greater Tampa Bay is a bustling hub of entertainment. An even more impactful attribute of this slice of the Gulf Coast, however, is its melody — a diverse tune comprised of the body-quivering bass of EDM, soulful blues (The St. Pete Florida Blues, anyone?), the rhythmic beat of the conga and even some intense death metal. This melody, interwoven in the area’s history and culture, is as much a part of GTB as the white sand beaches.  

From the area’s large arenas, such Amalie Arena and Credit Union Amphitheatre, which regularly host world-famous musicians, to the talented street performers at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach, GTB establishes itself as more than just an oasis for music lovers. It is an essential element of the nation’s rhythm and a place where shows by the biggest stars in popular music are commonplace. 

Harmonious History 

With a rich history and inclusive community, the area’s music scene has been growing into a crescendo of diversity since the early 1900s.  

“I would describe the Tampa Bay music scene as very diverse,” said David Williams, Ph.D., director of the University of South Florida’s School of Music. “Tampa Bay is filled with diverse people, and with them, they bring diverse music.”  

The blues movement in the 1930s saw legends including Tampa Red and Charlie Brantley take their first steps into music in GTB. It is also considered the birthplace of death metal in the late ’80s. The area has always been a breeding ground for an eclectic sound. 

A Straz is Born 

The Straz Center for the Performing Arts mirrors this diversity by hosting artists from all over the world, from new to seasoned talent. Summer Bohenkamp, the venue’s vice president of marketing and programming, understands the importance of a musically varied sound.  

“Straz Center’s role in the music scene of Tampa Bay is to be diverse, to showcase all talent — from local to internationally renowned artists,” Bohenkamp said. “There is really something for everyone.”  

The performing arts center offers patrons a luxurious experience, with its delectable eateries and opulent, state-of-the-art theaters fitted with phenomenal acoustics to help guests fully immerse themselves in some of the best music GTB has to offer. 

Outdoor Acoustics 

Clearwater’s Coachman Park has long brought the community together for concerts, festivals and events in the scenic outdoor venue that overlooks the Clearwater Harbor Marina. The park is now being transformed into Imagine Clearwater, an expansive public attraction that will include a new, 4,000-seat covered amphitheater near the waterfront. This stunning venue will be nestled into a beautifully designed and landscaped public area with numerous amenities. It is sure to become a major entertainment hub for the community and a destination for performers and top-tier events. 

See a show and dance under the stars — or sunshine — at Jannus Live, St. Pete’s outdoor concert venue. For a sophisticated production, visit Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall. The 73,000-square-foot concert venue hosts world-famous musicians of a variety of genres. 

January through April, Sims Park is home to the new Concerts in the Park series in New Port Richey. The band shell and amphitheater roll out the speakers on Saturday evenings for free shows, with tributes to some of music’s favorites like George Harrison, Stevie Nicks and Shania Twain.  

While each city has its fair share of large venues, the area also offers a more relaxed break from packed concerts. An abundance of charming beach bars and intimate venues regularly host live performers with astonishing talent. 

Dance all the way up the coast in St. Pete Beach, with favorite laid-back hangouts such as Harry’s Beach Bar and Jimmy B’s Beach Bar, all the way up to The Social and Whiskey River on the Water in New Port Richey are just a few of the many venues to enjoy some tunes, Margaritaville style. 

More to the Music  

For a musical experience that includes a little more funk and does not require wearing Sunday best attire, look no further than Crowbar, one of Tampa’s most iconic music venues located in the historic Ybor City. At Crowbar, the drinks are cold, but the tunes are hot and range anywhere from classic rock to techno. With its small but intimate space, there is not a bad seat in the house, and a festive disco ball makes for a hard-to-resist dance floor.  

See Also

Following in the footsteps of GTB’s diverse nature, co-owner Tom DeGeorge said Crowbar aims to provide a wide range of stellar entertainment.  

“We host artists of all genres, but we don’t stop at music. We do comedy, theater … we do it all,” DeGeorge said.   

A hop, skip and a jump from Crowbar is The Ritz Ybor. Also located in Ybor City, the popular music venue gives guests a chance to simultaneously experience a piece of history while enjoying a wide variety of entertainment.  

The Ritz Ybor opened in 1917 as Rivoli Theatre, a silent movie theater. After undergoing renovations in 1931, it reopened as The Ritz Ybor. Ever since, The Ritz has lent itself as a vessel for an assortment of entertainment for Tampa, including an X-rated film theater, a nightclub and then, finally, the celebrated music venue it is today.  

Snag a spot in the plush chairs of the VIP section or dance the night away on the checkered floor of general admission with other concertgoers. No matter the hangout spot, The Ritz Ybor is sure to quench the thirst for a good show. 

GTB’s thriving music scene contends with some of the best in the country. From its numerous concert venues to the various genres that have made their way through them, GTB exhibits a music scene that mimics the diverse nature of the area — eclectic, bold and with a little something for everyone. 

Popular music events you don’t want to miss:

  • Tampa Bay Blues Fest — Vinoy Waterfront Park 
  • Gasparilla Music Fest — Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park 
  • Tampa Bay Black Heritage Music Fest — Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park 
  • Innings Festival — Raymond James Stadium 
  • Sunset Music Festival — Raymond James Stadium  
  • 98ROCKFEST — Amalie Arena 
  • Shipwrecked Music Festival — The Cuban Club 
  • Clearwater Jazz Holiday — BayCare Park 
  • Blues and Bourbon Festival — Heritage Park 

Check out these artists and bands with roots in the Greater Tampa Bay area: 

  • Aaron Carter — Tampa-native teen pop icon known for his three-time Platinum album, “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” 
  • Stephen Stills — acclaimed singer/songwriter of Crosby, Stills and Nash spent time in Tampa as a child 
  • Chick Corea — the 23-time Grammy award winning composer currently calls Clearwater home 
  • Brian Johnson — AC/DC front man has a home in Bird Key outside of Sarasota 
  • Robin Zander — Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member of Cheap Trick has lived in Safety Harbor for more than 20 years 
  • Bellamy Brothers — pop/country duo David and Howard Bellamy, known for their No. 1 single, “Let Your Love Flow” and “Redneck Girl,” hail from Pasco County  
  • Bertie Higgins — Tarpon Springs native, Higgins’ No. 1 hit Key Largo in 1981 spent 17 weeks in the Billboard Top 40 
  • Patrick Wilson — Tony, Golden Globe and Emmy award nominated Patrick Wilson grew up in St Petersburg and went to Shorecrest Prep.  
  • David Sanborn — One of the most commercially successful saxophone players was born in Tampa 

By Shelley Akins.

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