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SeaWorld’s Bands, Brew, and BBQ Rocks with Kid Rock

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Kid Rock is a man of many hats—quite literally. The singer donned at least four varieties during his opening-weekend performance at Sea World’s Bayside Stadium, as part of the theme park’s annual Bands, Brew & BBQ concert series. Rock was announced Wednesday, along with Alan Jackson, in the wake of the controversy surrounding the recent documentary Blackfish that left Sea World scrambling to replace a myriad of scheduled performances. Nearly a dozen acts, including Willie Nelson and the Barenaked Ladies, heeded the advice of fans and canceled in response to the film’s allegations of the mistreatment of orca whales by the company. But in spite of the recent media troubles and Super Bowl XLVIII’s record-breaking viewership on Sunday, any affect on park attendance was nowhere to be found. Crowds turned out in droves to listen to live music and witness the many wardrobe changes taking place atop Kid Rock’s dome.

Rock led the crowd from famed black fedora to cowboy hat and back again, stopping at two different baseball caps along the way, his sound hearkening each era of his career—rap rock (“Cowboy”), Southern rock revivalist (“All Summer Long”), country and heartland (“Picture”). He flexed his instrumental chops during various covers as well—piano for Sly & the Family Stone, drums for Ted Nugent, guitar for the Marshall Tucker Band—even trying his hand as deejay for a brief interlude.

Many hats, indeed, though none particularly surprising. But for a blue-skied afternoon at Sea World, Rock’s mixed performance made for the perfect potion of Americana, capturing a county-fair vibe remarkably fitting to the festival.

            But of course, as the title makes clear, the bands are but a third of the six-week festival’s offerings! There are still brews and barbecue to be considered—and plenty of it.

            First, the food. Ask yourself, how do you like your barbecue? Are you tried and true, more of a “what’s next” foodie, or something in between? There’s good grub for everyone (note to vegetarians: stick to sides). Here’s a few recommendations to match multiple personalities:

Stay classically carnivorous at Cecil’s Texas Style Bar-B-Q, with a tender beef brisket plate with your choice of two sides.

Get weird at Sonny’s—try the Smokehouse Mac & Cheese, topped with white queso and burnt ends. Or perhaps the Redneck Egg Rolls, filled with barbecue pulled pork, coleslaw and Jack cheese, wrapped and deep fried—the American way.

Go for the go-between—between two slices of bread—at Bubbalou’s Bodacious BBQ. The Porkasaurus, piled high with pulled pork, creamy coleslaw, sweet pickles and jalapeno peppers and drizzled in barbecue sauce is the messy sando of the occasion. Napkins optional, but highly recommended.

However you take it, don’t be afraid to get sticky! Hand sanitizing stations are situated all over the festival grounds—so go ahead and make with the fingers, not the forks.

Now, need to wash it all down? Breweries local and beyond feature over 30 domestic and imported craft beers on draft at multiple tents. $24 affords you 10 7-ounce samples; find your favorite and settle in for a full size (the Jai Alai IPA from Tampa’s own Cigar City was my personal pick). And for the less adventurous: Have no fear, Budweiser is here, too.

            There’s plenty of kid-friendly fun on hand as well, beyond the park’s usual attractions and shows. Caricatures, hair wraps and henna can all be found in the festival area, along with countless vendors slinging everything from heartwarming home décor to playful bearded sunglasses.

            Sea World has yet to announce the rest of the festival’s musical lineup, choosing instead to reveal the performers week by week. But all mystery aside, Sunday’s good vibrations set a likely precedent for calmer waters and smooth sailing ahead.

By Samantha Sandburg

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