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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Around the state and back again: UF concert lovers must travel for live music

With no major venues in town, UF students weigh in on chasing live shows around Florida and beyond

<p>The Driptones perform during Back to School Fest Heartwood Soundstage on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. The venue hosted five indie bands to celebrate the start of a new school year. </p>

The Driptones perform during Back to School Fest Heartwood Soundstage on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. The venue hosted five indie bands to celebrate the start of a new school year.

Carley James, a frequent concertgoer, is well-acquainted with trading sleep for the ecstasy of live music.

With heavy eyelids, the 19-year-old UF communication sciences and disorders senior made the two-hour drive through the inky interstate back to Gainesville the same night she saw Dayglow, an indie musician, in Tallahassee. 

“That’s the point where you have to chug a Celsius,” James said. “Then you’re just praying that you don’t fall asleep at the wheel.” 

Gainesville’s meager population, compared to other large cities, can discourage big-name artists from performing in town. The predicament forces UF concert lovers to flee the city if they want to catch hotshot musicians. If they also want to get attendance points for their classes the next morning, the late-night trek back to Gainesville is unavoidable. 

Pat Lavery, the facility and events manager at High Dive, said routing a tour through Florida is difficult. 

If an artist is coming from a different state, it takes roughly six hours to get to Gainesville, which is still north of other Sunshine State destinations. 

Gainesville’s small-scale population already decreases an artist’s chance of making a profit, and some can’t consider it because venues aren’t big enough to host them, Lavery said. High Dive, one of Gainesville’s largest venues, can only accommodate small-scale shows. 

Some venues institute radius clauses that prohibit artists from playing in neighboring cities within a certain number of miles of a previous venue. Artists performing in Jacksonville or St. Augustine can’t stop in Gainesville, anyway. 

Lavery said an amphitheater in Gainesville would be impractical. The St. Augustine Amphitheater, which Lavery considers to be one of the best venues in the country, hosts large-scale concerts only 77 miles from UF’s campus. A venue that takes even 10 percent of the St. Augustine site’s business would never be able to support itself, he said. 

“From a financial side, it just doesn’t equate, and that’s why we just don’t have that here,” Lavery said. “It’s all numbers.”

Caroline Hickey, a UF biomedical engineering sophomore, said balancing her school work and passion for live music can be demanding. After traveling to Tampa and St. Augustine to see Phoebe Bridgers on both May 24 and 25, Hickey said she fell behind on Summer coursework. 

Even though Hickey did homework in line for the show in Tampa, due dates still snuck up on her. After arriving home at 1 a.m., Hickey still had two physics quizzes to turn in. 

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“Was this a bad idea? Yeah,” Hickey said. “But I would do it again. You got to live a little.”

When James’ exam schedule and concert plans overlapped, she spent the weekend at two shows instead of studying for her test on Monday. The consequential grade spoke for itself. 

“I definitely should prioritize, but concerts are like my one happiness,” she said. 

When James is lucky, she can crash with her family in Tampa instead of making the late-night odyssey back to her dorm. 

But the convenience of shelter doesn’t cancel classes the next morning. 

Besides the 6 a.m. wake-up call, James said every parking spot is usually taken when she gets back to her dorm. By finding an alternative spot, James risks getting a parking ticket.

To live in Gainesville is to sacrifice time to travel for a concert, or to not go at all. But some students see a certain charm in chasing tours around the state. 

Hickey said driving is never a burden — she loves playing music and being alone.

Whether it’s carpooling to save money or studying for their exam a week in advance, concertgoers are steadfast in finding ways to fit live music into their lives.

“If you really want to go to the concerts and you know you can’t afford to have bad grades,” James said, “you’ll get it done.”

Contact Averi at akremposky@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @averijkremposky.

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Averi Kremposky

Averi Kremposky is a senior journalism major at the University of Florida. When she’s not covering music, art and culture beats for The Avenue, you can find her going to a concert, finishing another book in one sitting or submitting to the latest Taylor Swift album theory.


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