Young music festivals face many challenges: competition from bigger festivals, location of a worthy venue, and the attraction of local, statewide, and national attendees. Considering the growing festival bubble, Big Guava Music Festival in Tampa, Florida succeeded on many fronts. Occuring on May 7-8, 2015, Big Guava returned for its second year at the Florida State Fairgrounds with many of the elements that helped it stand out its first year. Such elements included a hefty lineup, plentiful food truck selections, and stages that took advantage of the Fairgrounds venue. As is the case with any event, some problems sprouted up, but nothing to damage the festival overall.
Read our “Pros and Cons” list for Big Guava 2015 below:
Pro #1: A Lineup With Rare Acts
A lineup arguably stands as a music festival's most important feature, and this year Big Guava delivered with a lineup full of rare and exciting acts. While many of these artists play across the world, very few of these artists travel to Florida often. Some of the acts even made their Florida debut at the festival as well. Rock in all forms shaped the crux of the lineup, including the Tampa debut of headliner band The Strokes. Other notable rock performances came from Ryan Adams, Passion Pit, TV On The Radio, and Pixies.
On the other side of the lineup, other genres made strong showings. Electronic music made its Big Guava debut after being shafted the previous year, accentuated by a headlining performance from Pretty Lights. The renown producer showcased a new festival production, which included many new lights and lasers. Classixx and James Blake conflicting a bit did not make much sense, but both performances stood out as highlights of the weekend. Hip-hop came in the form of memorable performances from Action Bronson and Run The Jewels, the latter of which played excellently despite member Killer Mike wearing a sling on his right arm. No performances fell flat, and the energy of the shows gave credence to Florida's status as a live concert state.
Pro #2: Efficient Stage Design
A performance cannot stand out if the performer's stage contains issues, but luckily the Big Guava stage designs worked well throughout the weekend. Sound bleed, a common issue even among large festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo, never drowned out a stage situated next to a nearby stage. One stage's location, the Grove Stage, initially caused concern due to its close proximity to the massive Big Guava Stage at the Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, but no Grove Stage performers encountered pesky sound bleed.
Stage production also stood out, with many performers bringing their own production to give each stage some visual variety. Smaller festivals can face limits to accompanying artist production, but acts such as Pretty Lights, James Blake, Passion Pit, and Ryan Adams brought their own production with no issues. The house lights and speakers also worked up to par, with lights and crisp sound lighting up and reverberating music through the crowd.
Pro #3: Plenty Of Experiences
Big Guava really packs in a number of attractions and experiences into the festival, making a case for it being one of the best bang-for-your-buck events out there. This year continued the trend of bringing a number of thrill rides, including bumber cars, a ferris wheel, and a gravitron. Attendees also got the chance to receive engraved lighters, coupons for businesses around Tampa, and merchandise from many vendors, all for free. The festival also brought a plethora of food trucks and some craft beer selections, both welcome refreshments for a festival environment.
Con #1: Lower Attendance On Day One
Big Guava fell victim to rainy weather during its first year, affecting attendance numbers over the weekend. This year, Big Guava once again faced lower attendance numbers during its first day. This likely came from the weaker lineup of day one when compared to day two, which featured a wider range of appealing and diverse acts. Pretty Lights has his fanbase, but he's one of the least radio-friendly acts among the pool of electronic music headliners. Passion Pit drew an impressive crowd, but their short hiatus made their Tampa return feel rushed. Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis gave strong performances, but overall day one got the short-end of the lineup stick, and its crowd size reflected that disparity.
Con #2: Nectar Stage Sound Issues
The only stage out of Big Guava's four stages to run into sound issues was the Nectar Stage, located in the Expo Hall of the Fairgrounds. The venue's air conditioning and shade gave attendees a welcome respite from the heat, but the Expo Hall's structure poses some problems for sound waves. Due to the pillars situated around the big room, sound often became echoed in spots of the crowd. Guests also complained that the stage sounded muted in the back of the Expo Hall. The Expo Hall gives organizers more flexibility in stage design and production, but perhaps it's time to analyze weak spots and improve the stage for next year.