Tampa Bay is full of high-profile venues for big-name musical acts. Raymond James Stadium, 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, Tampa Bay Times Forum and the newly renovated University of South Florida Sun Dome are all places where the biggest concert tours can pull big crowds with big ticket prices. For the rest of us who may not be interested in the latest trendy acts and/or can’t afford to shell out, where do we go? Tampa Bay has plenty of places where you can see talented acts at reasonable prices, ranging from up-and-comers to veteran acts who have fallen off the “A list” when it comes to touring but can still put on a great show.
910 Skipper Road
Tampa, FL 33613
For more than 30 years, Skipper’s Smokehouse has been combining the joys of good food, good drink and good music at the corner of US Highway 41 and Skipper Road in north Tampa. Go east at the Bearss Avenue exit off I-275, turn right on US Highway 41 and the next intersection on your left is Skipper Road. Rain or shine, you can count on Skipper’s to bring in rising new talent before making it “big time,” offbeat acts such as the Red Elvises or homegrown Tampa Bay favorites such as guitar slinging blues man Damon Fowler. Skipper’s monthly Showcase Nite is a chance for new acts to show they’ve got what it takes to get themselves on the future guest list.
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3322 US Highway 301 N.
Tampa, FL 33619
If your taste in music runs toward country, the Dallas Bull in east Tampa’s Orient Park area is the place to go. While its concert series tends to feature newer acts such as Edens Edge or Chris Cagle, you never know who might show up. In the past, superstars such as Kenny Chesney, Kix Brooks and Jake Owen decided to get back to more intimate surroundings by playing unannounced gigs at the Bull after playing shows at bigger venues. If you’ve been wanting to learn line dance, free lessons are available Wednesday through Saturday.
The Ritz Ybor
1503 E. 7th Ave.
Tampa, FL 33605
Since its opening in 1917 as the Rivoli Theater, the Ritz has gone through several incarnations as a playhouse, movie theater and night club. After a two-year, two-million-dollar renovation, the Ritz Ybor became a centerpiece of Tampa’s night life, offering a full-scale, high-end nightclub experience for hot young talent and veteran bands looking to go back to their roots of playing small venues on their way up. Located at the corner of 7th Avenue and 15th Street, Ritz Ybor is 15 minutes from Tampa International and next to the Centro Ybor Parking Garage.
1812 17th St. N.
Tampa, FL 33605
Another hot spot in Ybor City for music, Crowbar is a bit more casual than the Ritz with more emphasis on local acts and big volume for a high-intensity evening of music and interaction. Crowbar wins kudos from reviewers on local websites who point out the first-class sound system and diversity of acts, not to mention reasonably priced drinks and friendly staff. One caution is that nearby parking spaces can fill up quickly so patrons may want to give themselves some extra time to find parking in the surrounding area.
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200 1st Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
In its first incarnation as a concert venue during the 80s, the open-air square became famous as a casual spot for music fans who didn’t mind bringing lawn chairs and blankets for the show and weren’t put off by “amenities” that were not very inviting, such as porta potties and restrooms shared with adjacent bars. Despite the handicaps, Jannus Landing hosted Pearl Jam, Radiohead and the Neville Brothers. After the changing times forced Jannus Landing to close in 2009, businessman Jeff Knight presided over a makeover that preserved the intimacy of the old venue while creating a new, more comfortable experience for patrons and artists, such as air-conditioned restrooms, a covered stage and a full patio bar with multiple mobile bars.
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Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at Examiner.com.