Whigfest Music and Arts Festival got its name from the Whig political party dating back to the 1830s. “Whigs” were people who recognized themselves as Patriots and Rebels. Coincidentally, the festival is held on President’s Day weekend. Whigfest took place in downtown Ybor City in the heart of Tampa. The festival venues ranged about a four block radius throughout the town. Set to headline with two sets was Umphrey’s McGee following their latest album release and announcement of their tour “It’s Not Us”. Whigfest also showcased many native Florida bands including The Heavy Pets.
I have been a huge Umphrey’s McGee fan for years and when I discovered they would be headlining only a few hours from home, Jacksonville, I jumped at the opportunity to go. Music has always brought my family together and Whigfest proved no different. The weather could not have been more perfect for a Sunday in February.
We woke up early Sunday morning, had a bloody mary, and then made our way into Tampa from St. Petersburg. Will call was at Rock Brothers Brewing which was the backbone of the whole festival, even releasing exclusive beers with the Whigfest logo printed on the cans. After picking up our wristbands we made our way to the first music we heard which was being performed in the “attic” upstairs at the brewery. Millennium Youth was the first band of the day. A duet with their lead Harlow Ian whose voice carried beautifully throughout the room.
Whigfest 2018 Highlights
Umphrey’s McGee: There’s no way around it they won favorite act of the day for me. Brendan Bayliss leads the band so seamlessly through the whole sets – it’s incredible to watch. I’ve been drowning myself recently in “It’s Not Us” and I couldn’t have been more happy when they ended their first set with The Silent Type.
Mountain Holler: A one man band from St. Petersburg played an intimate set in the courtyard of First Chance Last Chance Bar in the early afternoon. Aside from the acoustics being incredible, Mark Etherington performance was nothing to forget. Not only did his lyrics each tell a story, but he spoke to the crowd passionately about how the came to be. The setting was just right.
I had been told to be skeptical of not only the area of town but also they way the whole day and schedule had been planned. Having not been in Ybor in years I had no idea what to expect. Despite this the day flowed perfectly, the walks between venues were short and security moved quickly to get everyone checked in and out as to avoid the infamous line hold-ups. The Ritz, where Umphrey’s McGee and The Heavy Pets performed, was an intimately sized venue which I think really made the show.
Whigfest Music and Arts Festival had such an excellent lineup from jam bands to rock music. There was something for every listener. The staff I encountered were all friendly and helpful. Advice for next year: stick to set times or regularly update the website or Facebook page when times are set to change.