For well over a decade, Ybor City has been celebrated in songs by The Hold Steady.
The Brooklyn-based group's original numbers such as “Slapped Actress,” “Stay Positive” and the band's anthem “Killer Parties” salute Ybor's late-night club scene.
The band's “Most People Are DJs” begins with “Well, hold steady, Ybor City. You're up to your neck in the sweat and wet confetti. If you want to get a little bit light in the heady. It's gonna have to get a little bit heavy.”
That might describe the scene this weekend at WMNF (88.5 FM) radio's 33rd annual Tropical Heatwave where The Hold Steady is one of the featured acts out the more than 60 that will be taking to the stages in Ybor City.
The event is spread over several venues, including the New World Brewery, three floors of the Cuban Club, the Crowbar, The Orpheum, Carmine's Courtyard and The Market on 7th.
The Hold Steady will perform at 10:30 p.m. Saturday on the Cuban Club Main Stage. The event kicks off Friday.
“We've played Ybor City a few times, but this is our first Heatwave and we're excited,” says Hold Steady front man Craig Finn. The band will be flying in direct from a European tour and riding on some new-found fame thanks to a bawdy drinking song (about a bear and maiden) written and recorded for HBO's “Game of Thrones” last year.
As usual, Heatwave will have an eclectic mix of music, including blues, folk, bluegrass, rock, acoustic, reggae, Latin, jazz, country, rockabilly, Americana and more.
Among those performing are alt-rock band Black Taxi, gypsy funk band Come Back Alice, boogie-woogie piano blues man Victor Wainwright, local newgrass Americana group Applebutter Express, jam band Cope; rockabilly bands Kay Lenz and Rocket 88, the alt-psychedelic group Bright Light Social Hour, Rocker Joseph Arthur, and reggae band I-Resolution. For a complete list visit: www.wmnf.org/heatwave/bands.
Performing since 2000, The Hold Steady is often hailed as the ultimate alcohol-fueled, hard-rocking bar band. Hold Steady's Finn says he wrote about Ybor City long before the band played Tampa. “I had friends from down in Tampa who talked about going to punk rock shows in Ybor back in the '80s,” Finn recalled in a telephone interview.
“I've always written a lot of real geographic references into my songs; and I just like saying 'Ybor City' and spelling it,” he says. “It was somewhere I had never been so it was mysterious and romantic.”
“And then we finally went there in 2006 and came back a few times,” he adds. The group has played the Orpheum, The Ritz and Czar.
“People seemed really excited that we were singing about Ybor. And even people in other places responded, and it became a kind of 'if you built it' situation and took on a life of its own.”
“One of the songs on our first album, 'Killer Parties,' has the line 'we woke up in Ybor City' and it became how we close our shows, not mattering where we are,” he says.