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Music & Concerts
Under the Sun tour stops at Ruth Eckerd Hall
Festival tour returns with Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Smash Mouth
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Image courtesy of RUTH ECKERD HALL
This year’s Under the Sun Tour features performances by Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Smash Mouth. The tour makes a stop in Tampa Bay Aug. 3 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
CLEARWATER – Under The Sun, the annual festival tour celebrating the golden age of alternative pop rock ’n’ roll, will return for another summer run, this time featuring a spectacular lineup that includes Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Uncle Kracker and Smash Mouth.

The tour makes a stop in the Tampa Bay area Sunday, Aug. 3, 7 p.m., at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.

Tickets start at $49.50. Call 791-7400 or visit www.rutheckerdhall.com. Doors will open two hours before show time for the Under the Sun Marketplace.

The inaugural Under The Sun tour was among last year’s most popular and acclaimed events, earning ecstatic media attention with each stop along the way.

"Looking forward to once again spending the summer with my friends, performing the hits we all love,” said Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath in a press release promoting the tour. “This is one of the strongest lineups we have put together so far. All four bands are capable of headlining Under The Sun, so get there early.”

“This is going to be the party of the summer,” said Uncle Kracker. “Can’t wait to hit the road with some of my old friends, looking forward to making some new ones.”

Under the Sun lineup

For nearly three decades, Blues Traveler has embraced a wide array of musical styles – from pop, folk and R&B to psychedelic soul and Southern rock – and transformed them into their own inimitable brand of free-spirited rock ’n’ roll.

In addition to worldwide album sales in excess of 13 million, the New Jersey-based band has performed close to 6,000 live shows, bringing crossover hits like the Grammy Award-winning, Billboard top 10 smash “Run-Around” to nearly 30 million ecstatic fans worldwide.

Like any outfit active for more than 25 years, Blues Traveler has weathered its share of obstacles, including frontman John Popper’s near fatal motorcycle accident and the tragic loss of founding bassist Bobby Sheehan. But true to its moniker, the band traveled on, maintaining an average touring pace of 250 shows each year and regularly releasing a series of compelling and creative new releases.

Blues Traveler’s most recent studio outing, 2012’s acclaimed “Suzie Cracks The Whip,” saw bright new colors added to the band’s already jam-packed palette, fusing a gloriously modern pop energy to their masterful musicianship and ever-expanding creativity.

The band’s current lineup features John Popper on vocals and harmonica, Chan Kinchla on guitars, Tad Kinchla on bass, Ben Wilson on keyboards and Brendan Hill on drums and percussion.

According to the band’s biography at UD Factory artist management, the members of Blues Traveler had a blast working for the first time ever with a handful of dynamic outside songwriting collaborators and the powerhouse production team of Sam Hollander and Dave “Sluggo” Katz, aka S*A*M and Sluggo–who have worked their studio magic for everyone from rap rock band Gym Class Heroes to pop princess Katy Perry.

“Working with S*A*M and Sluggo was like being in a Tarantino movie, where the vibe is the primary thing and the focus is on the importance of telling a story,” said Popper. “Sam Hollander told us he saw Blues Traveler as three unique disciplines working together – my approach, alongside Chan doing his own thing, and then the rhythm section led by Brendan.”

Best known as lead singer/songwriter for Sugar Ray, Mark McGrath – a Southern California-native – can lay claim to a stunning string of top 10 hits, including “Someday,” “When It’s Over,” and the twin No. 1 classics, “Fly” and “Every Morning.” McGrath and Sugar Ray proved worldwide fan favorites, with multiple multi-platinum albums, countless sold-out tours, innumerable television appearances, and starring roles on the covers of such national publications as “Spin” and “Rolling Stone.”

More than two decades since their foundation, the members of Sugar Ray remain devoted to the cause that united them, the pursuit of good times, sunshine, and great rock ’n’ roll.

The Southern California-based band's most recent album was 2009’s “Music for Cougars,” an exuberant reiteration of the band’s signature sound, with particular focus on song-craft and sonic invention.

As ever, musical styles – from dancehall to disco, punk to pure pop – are mixed and matched, resulting in a celebratory, swaggering collection that is distinctively and delightfully Sugar Ray. Songs like the buoyant single “Boardwalk” and “Love Is the Answer” are fit to burst with the wit and energy that once saw the band rule over the Top 10.

“Music for Cougars” sees this band of brothers operating at the very peak of its powers, with the skills, strengths, and smarts that only two decades together can provide.

“I’m not going to say we made the best record of our career,” said McGrath in the band’s bio provided by Kingdom Entertainment. “That’s just so clichéd. But we did!”

Initially known for his role as DJ in Kid Rock’s legendary Twisted Brown Trucker band, Uncle Kracker soon staked his own claim for greatness via a unique stylistic synthesis of pop, rock, country, soul, blues, and even doo-wop.

Known to his parents as Matt Shafer, the Detroit-based singer/songwriter made his stunning solo debut with 2001’s No. 1 smash “Follow Me,” kicking off a run of top 10 multi-format hits like “In A Little While,” “Smile” and 2003’s record-setting cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” As if that weren’t enough, the following year saw Uncle Kracker topping Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for five consecutive weeks with “When The Sun Goes Down,” his RIAA gold certified collaboration with country superstar Kenny Chesney.

In 2012, Uncle Kracker released his fifth studio album, “Midnight Special.”

According to his biography at Sugar Hill Records, Uncle Kracker believes the most powerful thing you can do is celebrate the now – and the tracks on “Midnight Special” echo that sentiment. Whether it’s the dumped-but-loving-the-future “Nobody’s Sad on a Saturday Night,” the gone for the weekend “In Between Disasters” or the Tom Petty-feeling small town truth behind what people reveal “It Is What It Is,” Uncle Kracker’s conversational baritone cuts through the mix to put life in perspective.

“I laugh all day seems like,” said Shafer in the biography. “I think I laugh all the time. From the time I wake up ’til I go to bed, it seems like there’s always something to laugh about! People are funny: the way they do the things they do. Things are funny. I think living is funny to be honest.”

With their indelible, organ-powered style, Smash Mouth has long provided the sun-dappled soundtrack to summertime fun.

The Southern California-based combo has earned sales exceeding six million albums in the United States alone, fueled by a streak of unforgettable chart-topping hits including “Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby,” “Then The Morning Comes” and the No. 1 classics, “Walkin’ On The Sun” and “All Star.”

Furthermore, the band’s songs – including distinctive covers like “I’m A Believer” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” performed in the inimitable Smash Mouth style – have been featured in a breathtaking array of film and television programs, including “The Simpsons,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Half Baked,” “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” and “Shrek.”

In 2012, the band released its sixth studio album, “Magic,” which features founding members Steve Harwell and Paul De Lisle at the helm.

"We've got so many hits on this new record it's ridiculous," said Smash Mouth lead singer Steve Harwell in a press release from Monterey International promoting the album.

Produced by neophyte guitarist Mike Krompass, “Magic” opens the curtain on a more mature Smash Mouth. On tracks like "Better With Time" and "Out of love," it’s evident how much Harwell's voice has developed from the rantin'-chantin' approach he favored on early Smash Mouth offerings. He's equally strong on "Future Ex-Wife.” Meanwhile, founding bassist Paul Delisle and long-time keyboardist Michael Klooster lay down their time-tested, solid foundation on tracks such as "She's Into Me" and "Perfect Planet." Newcomers Mike Krompass and Randy Cooke both shine on tracks such as "The Game" where we find Cooke simultaneously bone-breaking and greasy-groovy.
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