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Back from purgatory, it’s the WMNF Tropical Heatwave

Bill DeYoung



The Detroit soul/R&B band Laura Rain & the Caesars are in Saturday's Tropical Heatwave lineup. Publicity photo.

A lot has changed since WMNF, Tampa’s community radio station, began its Tropical Heatwave concert series back in 1982.

Taking place in Ybor City’s historic Cuban Club (and later, other Hillsborough venues), the live music event was killed off in 2016. Then-general manager Craig Kopp said at the time that booking out-of-town bands had simple gotten too expensive. And with competition from the Gasparilla Music Festival and others, Tropical Heatwave was no longer the only musical game in town, also driving artists’ prices up.

Ybor City is a different place these days, as is WMNF itself (Craig Kopp, among other participants in the Tropical Heatwave death roll, is long gone). The audiences for reggae, jazz, blues, Americana and other eclectic forms of music – the WMNF menu, in other words – has splintered into even more divergent directions. And the arrival of multi-genre streaming radio has taken a significant chunk out of the audience.

But the station has carried on, and now Tropical Heatwave is back. The date is this Saturday, May 6, and the Cuban Club’s doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are available here.

The music is constant, on three stages. Headliners include:

Shemekia Copeland: Blues/soul vocalist and winner of the 2021 B.B. King Blues Music Award for Entertainer of the Year;

Eilen Jewell Band: Idaho-bred Americana singer/songwriter;

Laura Rain & the Caesars: From Detroit, a ‘70s R&B dance band throwback;

Seratones: Louisiana-based funk-soul-rock group;

GA-20: Seriously heavy and electric Chicago-style blues trio;

The Snozzberries: High-energy psychedelic rock band based from Asheville, NC;

Artists from the bay area include Glove, Have Gun Will Travel, Synergy in a Cup, Talk to Mark, Cottondale Swamp, Vodkanauts and Magadog.

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