PHOTOS: Our weekend at 97X’s Next Big Thing music festival

YUNGBLUD | Photos by Ysanne Taylor

Next Big Thing, put on by local radio station, 97X, is an annual holiday tradition for this writer since my very first NBT in 2014. This year it was two days of high-energy alternative bands at the Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheater. The lineup crossed several bands off my bucket list (Jack White and PHOENIX for starters) and had me falling in love with several more. Pictures are worth a thousand words so here a few from my time in the photo pit this weekend!

NOTE: There was a no photo policy for Jack White’s legendary appearance unfortunately. Can confirm that the set melted my face + eardrums in the best way though. Icky Thump? Steady as She Goes? The songs kept coming from his massive catalogue and it was an awe-inspiring performance finally getting to see the prolific musician.

PHOENIX is my new favorite live show.

All the way from Paris, France, PHOENIX gave my absolute favorite set of the festival. As a long-time fan, I knew they were going to be good. Great, even. I just didn’t realize I was going to have to pick my jaw off the floor once they started playing before I could start photographing them. The absolute finesse and power this band plays with is impeccable. They’ve been together since 1995 and you can tell. The crowd soared during beloved hits like 1901 and Lisztomania. Songs off their new “Alpha Zulu” record also had me swooning with the title track and “After Midnight” becoming new faves.

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REQUIRED LISTENING: “Alpha Zulu” their new album and my fave album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”.

NOTE: A friend said that one of the best parts about seeing PHOENIX live is the smashing performance touring drummer Thomas Hedlund gives. I’d like you all to know they were absolutely right.

YUNGBLUD delivers high-octane English excellence

This year makes two NBT shows in a row for YUNGBLUD! If there was an award for best use of main stage square footage he literally RAN it. Hands down one of the best acts this weekend. If anyone in the crowd needed a second wind to make it through the rest of the show he made sure it happened. Flying beers, a cover of The Cure, choruses of “sex not violence”, Jameson shots, and a huge fan jump sesh onstage rounded out the highest energy set I’ve seen in a long time. 

YUNGBLUD throws his guitar through the air to a tech off stage.Strongly recommend you get tickets for YUNGBLUD’s next Tampa Bay appearance when his must-see tour stops at Jannus Live in St. Pete on May 17, 2023.

REQUIRED LISTENING: “Tissues” and “The Funeral” from his self-titled “YUNGBLUD” album.

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Machine Gun Kelly = the perfect headliner

Throughout the entirety of Saturday evening, a fan hugged the front barricade with bleach-blonde hair and a pink leather jacket covered in studs. The excitement for Machine Gun Kelly to take the stage was palpable through the other bands. The roar when he entered from stage left? Deafening.

Machine Gun Kelly and his band put on an electric performance in front of big bold letters “SELLOUT”.  There are certain people in this world that have a presence, an energy, when they step into a room and he’s absolutely one of them. The rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor absolutely knows how to put on a show. We got pyrotechnics, music from his new album “Mainstream Sellout”, guitar riffs, and fuzzy bucket hats. All of which combined for the perfect Saturday night headliner. And yes, his fiancé, Megan Fox, watched the set from the side stage.

REQUIRED LISTENING: “I Think I’m OKAY” (ft. YUNGBLUD, Travis Barker) and “emo girl” ft. WILLOW

The Warped Tour nostalgia was real

I only ever made it to one (maybe two) Warped Tours but the nostalgia was strong when bands All Time Low and The Maine took the stage this weekend. Both were on my concert bucket list and didn’t disappoint. Saturday night’s set from All Time Low saw the crowd with all smiles. Lead singer for The Maine, John O’Callaghan’s motto for the day was “Sing along and if you don’t know the words sing LOUDER” and I adored it.

97X faves Dirty Heads + lovelytheband return to Next Big Thing

Familiar faces and favorites to the Tampa Bay area and specifically the 97X stage, Dirty heads and lovelytheband returned on Sunday and we were glad to see them! Always great to groove to “Lay Me Down” and “My Sweet Summer”.

The bands you need to know if you don't already know them:

Photo by Ysanne Taylor

Pet Lizard

One of my favorite parts of 97X’s Next Big Thing is that a local band always opens the show. This year, I was introduced to Pet Lizard. A rock band from Tampa, Florida, they are an absolute delight. They started the second stage off on Sunday and got to play an acoustic pop-up set later in the day.

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GAYLE | Photo by Ysanne Taylor

GAYLE

If you’ve gone video scrolling on Instagram or Tiktok at any point this year, you’ve heard GAYLE’s smash hit “abcdefu”. It’s been stuck in my head for days on end. GAYLE opened the show on Saturday night and I can’t wait to see where this chart-topping singer goes from here.

Cafuné | Photo by Ysanne Taylor

Cafuné

The indie pop duo of singer-songwriter Sedona Schat and producer Noah Yoo is a whole dreamy vibe. If I was going to give a night drive with the windows down a soundtrack it’d have to include their songs “Tek it” and “High” off their album “Running”.

Giovannie and the Hired Guns | Photo by Ysanne Taylor

Giovannie and the Hired Guns

Described as a “rock and roll country group from Texas”, Giovannie and the Hired Guns manages to hit the most number of genres in one set and it works? It’s gritty. It’s high-energy. It has a rock tuba. You can’t help but fall in love with them and you absolutely need to see them live.

Half Alive | Photo by Ysanne Taylor

Half Alive

Their intro by 97X on-air host, Sam, mentioned their meticulously choreographed music videos and the live set managed to work in that element in a really rad way. Half Alive reminds me of Twenty One Pilots mixed with an older groovy indie band and I’m into it. Excited to see where the next year takes them!

Beach Weather

When fans are this excited to see a band I haven’t yet, I know it’s going to be good. Beach Weather is 97X/Alternative gold. Their song “Sex, Drugs, Etc” has been a major hit this year topping Alternative airplay charts. If you’re a fan of COIN, flor, and Bad Suns – this is your new fave band.

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Stay tuned to 97X’s website and be sure to follow them on Instagram to find out about their next show and other events here in the Tampa Bay area.

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