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Shows I Go To: Big Guava Music Festival review

May 8, 2014

On Friday I got to Big Guava Music Festival early, right as the gates opened at 3:30 p.m. I paid $10 for parking, even though the website said “free parking.” We raced to get our wristbands for Outkast pit access and had no problem at all because no one knew about that shit yet.

After wristbands, my girlfriend and I trudged through the rain puddles under our giant One-Industries umbrella and got $8 beers from one of the cool craft beer domes. At 4 p.m., we were like, “Fuck the rain, it’s not going to ruin our day!” So we went and caught the Austrian native, Betty Who, while it poured buckets. Betty Who was a great way to start the day! She was officially the first performer at Big Guava, and I must admit, it was kinda sexual and I kinda liked it.

The Swedish trio NONONO was up next so we walked over to the Orchard stage to catch them. We found them, however, they were not playing. They were apologizing to fans in an accent I cannot replicate because their stage had been rained out. “No sweat,” I thought and went back to the beer dome, dropped $16 and waited for Smallpools.

Smallpools self-released their debut four-song EP last July. Clearly, they are doing it right because they’ve been on Sirius XM’s Alt 18 Countdown, had a song featured in a Snapchat promo video and signed to a major label (RCA) before even playing a show. Luckily, their live show was very far from a disappointment. Yes, it was still raining, but I was safely dancing under my umbrella-ella-ella-eh-eh. If you heard their single “Dreaming,” you’d wanna dance too. Check out “Dreaming” by Smallpools below.

The drummer of Twenty One Pilots reminded me of the drummer of Bad Veins in the way he passionately pummels his drums. A lot of bands just get up on stage and rock out. I like this band mostly because of their live theatrics. They came out wearing ski masks, changed into skeleton outfits after a few songs, took the masks off and changed shirts a few times. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the drummer crowdsurfed while playing his drumset. It was epic. I’ve never seen something like that before, and I’ve been to a shit-ton of shows. (1 shit-ton = a lot.) To end their set, both members of Twenty One Pilots took a drum into the crowd and battled. Check out this shitty pic:

twenty | one | pilots | Big Guava 2014

After Twenty One Pilots we had a wine slushie and a wine ice cream sandwich. Yes, red wine in the form of a frozen beverage that you can easily drink through a straw and a raspberry-chardonnay ice cream cookie sandwich!

The cleverly titled “Wine Not?” food truck is actually from Buffalo, N.Y., and was only in Florida for The World’s Largest Food Truck Rally in March, when I assume they realized they needed to capitalize on the drunken wine-loving Florida market. They now have a permanent truck in Florida, based out of Clearwater. Can’t wait to try it again!

We took our wine slushies to Sleigh Bells and watched ex-Poison the Well guitarist and Florida native Derek Miller and his female friend Alexis be the first to shred the main stage. They’re truly a band in a genre of their own. What do we even call it? Electronic Dance Metal? Decide for yourself by listening to “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells below.

Yell at me if you must, but I left Cake early so I could get a good spot for Outkast. Here’s how I saw it: Chances of Cake coming back to Florida on tour: Possible. Chances of Outkast coming back to Florida on tour: Unlikely. I did get to hear Cake perform “Sheep go to Heaven” though! And cover Willie Nelson’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes.” That was pretty rad.

Outkast was the absolute best performance of the entire festival. What? Did you expect less? Ah! Outkast played an incredible hour-and-a-half set, and I couldn’t stop cheesing while I shook it hard, like a never-drying Polaroid picture. I cheated and looked up the set list before the show so I knew what they were playing. I knew they were going to start things off with the explosions of “Bombs Over Baghdad,” and I knew when they were going to play “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh and So Clean,” “Roses,” and “Hey Ya,” so I knew when to record Instagram videos. Are you drooling? I’m stoked I got the beginning of “Hey Ya.”

André 3000 and Big Boi were on top of their game (as if they ever are not) on Friday. The stage setup featured a giant mesh box allowing for various projections on it to give it a 3-D effect. The aesthetics were by far the most creative and entertaining throughout the entire festival. When I say aesthetics, I mean to incorporate every individual aspect of their stage setup, including their backup band and touring performers.

The two horn players had choreographed movements! They were not only sending signature Outkast horn sounds live through the speakers, they were dancing and moving in-synch. I have a lot to say about their drummer, but I’ll keep it short. To be able to flawlessly play all of the Outkast songs, fills and odd-timed beats, you have to be a master. This dude was a Jedi. I overheard someone say he was a “studio/sessions drummer.” I thought “no shit,” you’d have to be the best to drum for the best.

“Always stay connected.” André said in reference to Big Boi’s wireless mic going out halfway through a song. André’s mic was safely connected to a microphone cable. I think André’s words can easily be applied to multiple meanings.

During “She Lives in My Lap,” there was a huge booty projected on the back screen. While everyone was looking at that “ass,” I was looking at their female bass player, who may have been the best bassist I’ve ever seen in my life. I was in awe with her skill and finesse.

André 3000 was eclectically dressed in a silver wig, a full body suit with the words “F#CK 3000” boldly written across it, and a giant price tag hanging off him – one side said “For Sale” – the other side said “Sold Out!” Here’s a really shitty pic, but the best I could get because they wouldn’t stay still! (That’s Sleepy Brown in the middle, guest-appearing during their set).

Outkast Live Photo | Big Guava 2014

I feel like I’ve already seen the best act of 2014 and still have 7 more months to attend shows this year. I’ll just appreciate that and surely let you know if anything changes.

I arrived just before 2 p.m. on the second day of Big Guava and immediately went to the amphitheater box office to get a wristband for pit access during Vampire Weekend. Apparently, word spread fast the previous day about needing a wristband to get into the pit for the headliner because they had just one wristband left when we walked up! Since I was with my girlfriend, I didn’t take it. A little defeated, we opened our umbrella and headed to catch American Authors on the Grove stage. This is gonna be the best day of my life! they sang, and I couldn’t help but agree. Well, not specifically that day, but the entire Big Guava weekend!

We forfeited seeing Civil Twilight (who I’ve seen before and are fucking awesome) so we could catch Bear Hands. Bear Hands put out one of my favorite songs of the year so far called “Giants.” It starts out with “Two Words: Rocks! Chalk! Shot a jayhawk! Never been to jail ‘cause I never get caught.” Their performance was kinetic and upbeat. I’m stoked to see them again when they come back to Florida with Cage the Elephant in June.

There is no mystery as to what Este Haim’s “O” face looks like. As the bassist for Haim, she is notorious for making strange, laughable faces during her performances. She’s a very good sport about it and is perhaps milking her notoriety a little at this point. There’s actually a Haim T-shirt with one her awkward “bass faces” on it, a Twitter page dedicated to images of her “bass face” and a Buzzfeed article on “things Este’s bass face looks like!” Just watch the video of the their David Letterman performance of “Forever” and wait for it.

Haim’s soft rock sounds were a nice complement to the festival. However, they had an almost obnoxiously fun stage presence, which kept things refreshingly light hearted. At one point during their set, the Haim sisters challenged one another as to whose “side” of the audience was the “best.” Este threw my/her side a Snickers candy bar, a bottle of Coca-Cola and a Gatorade in effort to get us sugared up. She assumed the way to my heart was through my stomach, and dammit, she was right. Check out this “bass face” I caught:


“I ate, like, seven million tacos from Taco Bus.” Este said, perhaps embellishing just a little bit. Which brings me to the enviable fact that I had the delicious privilege of eating Taco Bus multiple times in a weekend! There were quite a bit of food trucks/stands at Big Guava Fest. And despite the heavy saturation of edible options, the line was constantly 20 people deep for Taco Bus. Are you really surprised though? All I kept thinking was “where’s the Vegan Hot Dog Cart!?” Here’s an artsy, shitty pic of Taco Bus at Big Guava:

Big Guava Taco Bus Photo 2014

After Haim, I didn’t catch much of Kitten but I did catch the lead singer, Chloe, getting as high as she could. Which was pretty awesome. See for yourself:

Kitten Big Guava 2014 Live Photo

Festivals are kinda like Tinder.” Sara said in reference to the options festival attendees have when choosing which acts to see each day. However, she could also say the same for herself when Tegan & Sara are choosing which festivals to play. So, Sara, I’m glad you and Tegan “swiped right” for Big Guava. :)

Before beginning “Walking With A Ghost,” Tegan said, “This is actually Sara’s ‘hit’ song. Because of it, she now lives in a mansion in Boca Raton.” After receiving a less than favorable response about Boca, she asked, “Wait, what’s cooler? Boca Raton? Tampa? Orlando? Jacksonville?” pausing after each. I obviously cheered for Orlando, and lord knows everyone else did, too! Much more than the other cities. Tegan responded, “Well, Sara actually lives in Orlando then!” So congrats, Orlando! We won Sara. The rest of Florida ain’t got shit compared to us!

Tegan walked off stage between songs for a few moments and Sara began to banter, “I hate it when Tegan leaves the stage and I feel like I’m in Fight Club and it’s really just me [in the band or even IRL]. Like, what if Tegan doesn’t exist. How weird would that be? What if it is really just me? Deep thoughts.” Mind. Blown.

I could melt to the incredible harmonies and honesty the Quinn sisters spill into their microphones. Each time I see them, they just keep getting better and better. “Maybe I could have been something you’d be good at.” Here’s a video I took of one of my favorite songs “Call It Off.”

I actually learned something very important on Saturday. Always bring a lighter to a festival. Not only did I have it handy when the lead singer of Bear Hands randomly walked up to me and asked “Hey man, gotta light?” but I also had a light when this female couple asked me the same question during Vampire Weekend and thanked me by passing me their nicely rolled, well, you know …

Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koeing must be a fantastic yodeler! I never noticed before, but this dude actually hits yodel-like notes in a bunch of VW songs. The last time I saw VW was right after they released their debut album and were on their first tour and played Firestone Live in Orlando. I don’t even think it sold out!

VW had a very elegant stage setup with Roman-style columns coming out of the floor as well as hanging from the ceiling. There were lights attached to the end of each one of the columns, so, really, it was just a clever way of hiding their lighting cabling. But we knew we were dealing with clever, creative, and handsome boys here. Or is it clever, creative and handsome boys? Ah, who gives a fuck about an oxford comma anyways! Here’s the Instagram video I caught of “Oxford Comma” by Vampire Weekend.

On day three, we arrived just as the gates opened so we could catch MS MR and get a wristband for Foster the People pit access. One of my friends arrived an hour after the gates opened and all the wristbands were out! We quickly noticed there was a lot of sex happening this day. (Love bugs)

MS MR was everything I wanted them to be. The lead singer, Lizzy, couldn’t help but smile every chance she got in her skin-tight pot-leaf body suit and fading pink hair. They covered “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys and perfectly played their singles “Hurricane” and “Think of You” energetically. Here’s a shitty pic:

MS MR Big Guava 2014

Did I mention, it actually felt like a real festival on day three! The sun was shining, bodies were being painted, there were a lot of cool hats and all the rides were open! We took advantage of the open rides right after MS MR’s set and finally hopped on the roller coaster. Holy. Shit. We legit could have died on that thing! There were six 5-gallon buckets in the middle car filled with concrete and strapped to the floor. Did anyone else see that??

After our exhilarating, near-death roller coaster ride, we hung out until Magic Man took the stage. I couldn’t help but reminisce about how fun they were when they opened the New Politics show at the Social. Their dance-pop song “Paris” has an infectious sound to it and is a must-listen if you’re into indie-dance songs.

Magic Man and a couple $8 beers later, we found ourselves on the swing ride going around and around, loving the fact that there was not a cloud in the sky. Timeflies (no pun intended) was up next on the main stage. I’ve never listened to Timeflies, but I have a lot to say about him. First off, this dude can rhyme! Granted, he’s no Big Boi nor André 3000 but he knows his way around the English language very well.

Timeflies was handed three sheets of paper about halfway through his set with facts about the Tampa area including local Tampa area businesses. He looked at the papers for about 30 seconds then busted into a freestyle rap incorporating those facts in his rhymes. It was pretty badass! Especially the fact that he mentioned Cigar City Brewery.

Toward the end of his set, he said, “I’m going to play a song and, ladies, I know you know the words. And fellas, I know you do too, you just don’t want to admit it!” I thought, “That’s a load of bullshit, I’m sure I won’t know this.” I was wrong. He began Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” and I realized I knew which words he was going to sing next. And then he played choruses of a bunch of other embarrassing covers that I don’t want to talk about/admit to actually knowing. (Feel free to call me out and comment any of the other songs he covered that night. I dare you.)

Right after TimeFlies, I caught the English rock quintet Morning Parade singing about “early morning headlights” for a bit. Yesterday was more like England, today is more American, said the lead singer Steve Sparrow in reference to the rain subsiding on day three. And how right he was! Then he went into their new single “Alienation.”

Next, I made it over to catch the indie-rockers out of Ohio on the other side of the festival, Walk the Moon. “Anna Sun” was named one of the “30 Summer Songs Every Man Should Listen To” by Esquire a few years ago. And I listened carefully. Throughout the five minutes of this song, a passionate, heartfelt story is told about childhood, growing up and love.

There was a helicopter flying around with a Batman emblem on it during Walk the Moon. I realized that there was an aerial photographer in the passenger seat taking photographs. All I could think was, “How do you get that gig?!” I left Walk the Moon a few minutes early because I could not miss a single minute of Grouplove. I’m so glad I didn’t. Outkast may have been the best overall performance of Big Guava, but Grouplove was definitely the most fun band.

Grouplove Big Guava 2014

Holy crackers! Grouplove seamlessly melted my face as they jumped around through singles like “Shark Attack,” “Lovely Cup,” “Colours,” “Itchin’ on a Photograph,” “Tongue Tied” and my personal favorite “Ways To Go.” All of those singles actually get decent airplay on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation, too.

Since I decided to stay for every single minute of Grouplove, I missed “Blister In the Sun” by Violent Femmes. However, I did catch a few of their songs toward the end of their set. It was such a nostalgic treat seeing Violent Femmes live. I honestly never thought I would. After Violent Femmes, I grabbed my girlfriend’s hand and went over to catch the chaos that was Girl Talk.

I walked in the Expo Hall and there must have been 60 people on stage! Girl Talk, a.k.a. Gregg Michael Gillis and his laptop, put on a hell of a mash-up show. He had two giant feet coming out of his stage and two giant hands in the air at the back. I think more people sweated in that room during his performance than anywhere else the whole day. It was intense. Here’s a shitty pic:

Girl Talk Big Guava 2014

I caught the end of the lovely ZZ Ward before heading into the pit for Foster the People. She had a pretty cool hat on, but I’ll get to cool hats in a minute.

Mark Foster and his crew closed out Big Guava Festival with class, playing an acoustic version of their dance-hit “Houdini” with glowing crystals coming out of the stage floor. It was beautiful. The crowd was thinning as they began the fan-favorite “Pumped Up Kicks.” Sadly, like everything, Big Guava came to an end as Foster the People danced around to their last song, “Don’t Stop.” Needless to say, there was a lot of dancing at Big Guava.

Big Guava Music Festival was the the best music festival I’ve ever been to in Florida. Better than Coastline, better than Funshine. Hopefully, this is something here to stay on an annual basis. What did you think?? Comment below and don’t forget to check out the Top 10 Hats of Big Guava!

Mitch Foster runs a local Orlando music blog, Shows I Go To, where he documents the shit out of his favorite aspects of the Orlando music scene and sometimes maybe also major Tampa music festivals.

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  • Brooke

    This article took me back! What a great festival!