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Live Local Bands Landing New Fans at TIA

Naveen Sultan about 3 months ago

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Doll Parts performing at TIA


photo by Amy Beeman

Live Local Bands Landing New Fans at TIA

By Amy Beeman

The all-female band is belting out fun up-tempo pop-punk. People hold plastic cups of Cigar City Beer as they bob their heads and bounce in place. Others walk by carrying backpacks, looking amused. This probably isn’t what they expected to find upon landing at Tampa International Airport, but judging from their faces, most were pleasantly surprised.

In its second year, the entertainment series “Friday Flights” is in full swing. On a varying Friday each month a local band plays the event in the main terminal on the third floor between Airsides A and C. This May’s band was Doll Parts, a six-piece out of St. Petersburg.

Events Manager, Maria Cook, says the idea is to welcome travelers to Tampa in a fun way, to entertain those who may be inside waiting to pick up said travelers, and maybe even to draw in the locals. A few other U.S. airports, including Austin-Bergstrom International, Seattle’s Sea-Tac International airport, and of course Nashville International, have had live music in their airports for years. Tampa may not yet be considered as much of a music town as those cities, but Cook says that the shows are an effort to show travelers a little extra hospitality. The bands are a warm welcome for visitors to to the area as well as for returning residents. Cook says promotional cards are distributed in nearby hotels for business travelers who may be looking for something to do.

Whatever the goals, the music is infectious, and it probably helps that the ladies playing it seem to be having a good time. The singer says, “Welcome to Tampa, Airside C,” between songs, which can be heard throughout the third floor; this is no elevator music. It’s a real band, live and loud, creating an interesting backdrop to the intermittent flow of reuniting loved ones, hurried folks with their faces in their phones, and a few puzzled- looking elderly people.

Besides the great experience of seeing a live band, watching people encounter unexpected loud live music may be just as entertaining. A multi-generational group of several people, including a grandmotherly looking woman in a sari with a bindi on her forehead, stop to watch. They are all smiling. An elderly Asian woman wearing brown silk pants with little blossoming trees on them is pushed up to watch in her wheelchair. None of them stay very long, but it’s possible some of these people may not see this sort of thing very often, when you consider the usual late-night venues where punk bands like Doll Parts play. Another grey-haired woman is seated about 40 feet away in her wheelchair has oxygen tubes in her nose. After a while she too is bopping along to the music. A young man gets off the tram, sees the band, shakes his head and mouths the word, “cool.” Small children dance, and a regular crowd begins to take shape. A man in a leisure suit lip-syncs when the Doll Parts do a Ramones cover. Finally, when the band’s time is up, the little crowd asks for an Encore. The band obliges.

The bands play from 4:30 to 6:30 one Friday evening a month, which changes depending on holiday or event schedules. Although it’s free to watch the bands, locals looking to check out the event should be mindful of parking fees, and expect standard airport food and beverage pricing. Plus, there is the drive to the airport during rush hour on a Friday. Admittedly, there are a couple of strikes against it from the local point of view.

Still, watching Doll Parts last Friday night really made the airport seem like a fun place to be, and the words ‘fun’ and ‘airport’ aren’t usually used in the same sentence...but that’s the great thing about good live music. It improves the mood in just about any setting, even airports.

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