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Selwyn Birchwood plays the Palladium Sept. 13 and Hard Rock Café Sept. 14. 

Selwyn Birchwood to play Palladium, Hard Rock Café

Visionary blues star Selwyn Birchwood will perform two Tampa Bay area shows in September.

Birchwood will play Friday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m., at the Palladium at St. Petersburg College, 253 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg; and Saturday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m., at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa’s Hard Rock Café, 5223 Orient Road, Tampa.

Tickets to the Palladium show start at $18. Call 727-822-3590 or visit www.mypalladium.org.

The Hard Rock Café concert is free. For information, call 866-388-4263 or visit www.seminolehardrocktampa.com.

Birchwood released “Pick Your Poison,” his forward-looking new CD on Alligator Records, in May 2017.

On the new album, Birchwood — along with his band: saxophonist Regi Oliver, bassist Huff Wright and drummer Courtney “Big Love” Girlie — takes a major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.

With his fiery guitar and lap steel playing; his trailblazing, instantly memorable songs; and his gritty, unvarnished vocals, Birchwood is one of the most remarkable young stars in the blues. According to a biographical sketch provided by Alligator Records, Birchwood possesses a deep familiarity with blues tradition, which allows him to bust the genre wide open, bringing innovative new sounds, colors and textures. He delivers these with a distinctive style that blends a revival tent preacher’s fervor and a natural storyteller’s charisma.

Since the 2014 release “Don’t Call No Ambulance,” Birchwood’s Alligator Records debut, the powerhouse guitarist’s journey from playing small Florida clubs to headlining international festival stages can be described as phenomenal. “Don’t Call No Ambulance” received the Blues Music Award and Living Blues Critics’ Award for Best Debut Album Of 2014. Birchwood also walked away with the 2015 Blues Blast Rising Star Award.

Over the last few years, Birchwood and his band have crisscrossed the United States and Europe repeatedly, delivering unforgettable live performances. With “Pick Your Poison,” Birchwood takes another major step forward, crafting visionary blues for a new generation of forward-looking fans.

Birchwood wrote and produced all 13 songs on “Pick Your Poison.” His richly detailed, hard-hitting originals run the emotional gamut from the humorously personal “My Whiskey Loves My Ex” to the gospel-inflected “Even the Saved Need Saving” to the hard truths of the topical “Corporate Drone” and “Police State” to the existential choice of the title track. The cutting-edge songs are made all the more impactful by Birchwood’s gruff vocals, his untamed musicianship and his band’s seemingly telepathic accompaniment.

“I write and sing what I know,” said Birchwood in a press release. “This album has a broad reach. It’s for young, old and everyone in between.”

Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer signed Birchwood to the label shortly after the bluesman won the 2013 International Blues Challenge as well as the Albert King Guitarist Of The Year Award at the same event,

“Selwyn writes smart, infectious, fresh songs and delivers them with a warm, conversational vocal style and a fun-loving attitude,” Iglauer said. “He’s a killer guitarist, switching between a regular six-string and lap steel. Live, he’s a ball of energy, interacting with the audience like they were in his living room.”

Birchwood was born in 1985 in Orlando. He first grabbed a guitar at age 13 and soon became proficient at mimicking what he heard on the radio. He quickly grew tired of the popular grunge rock, hip-hop and metal of the 1990s.

Then he heard some classic Jimi Hendrix.

“He was larger than life,” Birchwood said. “What he did was mind-blowing. When I realized Hendrix was influenced by the blues, I found my path.”

By 17, Birchwood was deep into the blues, listening to Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and especially Buddy Guy.

Birchwood announced his arrival on the international blues stage with 2014’s “Don’t Call No Ambulance.”

The album is a fully realized vision of contemporary blues. Between his uninhibited sense of fun and adventure and his serious-as-a-heart-attack musicianship, “Don’t Call No Ambulance” opened a door into a bright future for the blues.

“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than playing the blues,” Birchwood said. “And I try to convey that with every song and with every performance.”

Wordier Than Thou to host Banned Books Are a Drag

ST. PETERSBURG —- Celebrate banned literature and First Amendment rights at Wordier Than Thou's Banned Books Are a Drag show and fundraiser.

The event will take place Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 to 9 p.m., at St. Pete Shuffle, 559 Mirror Lake Dr. N., St. Petersburg. Drag performers from throughout the Tampa Bay area will interpret some of the most beloved banned books in the world, including literary classics and children's favorites.

Performers include Matthew McGee, Stephanie Stuart, Vanna T. Scarlett, Aura Gasmique, Lola Mayhem, and Lovonda Deck.

Local authors will also read their racier material during our Future Banned Books segment. Participating authors will be announced.

Attendees will also play interactive games with fun prizes, including Banned Books Bingo and trivia. There will also be a raffle drawing with a variety of prizes. Beer, wine, soda and water will be available for a donation.

General admission is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Cost includes entry to the show and one Banned Books Bingo card. To purchase tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com. VIP tickets also are available.

All funds raised will benefit Wordier Than Thou's literary arts programming that supports writers and readers throughout Florida. Upcoming projects include the launch of the Florida Writers Project, a publishing arm that publishes the work of local authors, and our third annual Tampa Bay Publishing Conference. Wordier Than Thou is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

Email wordierthanthou@gmail.com or call 516-906-2140 for more information. Visit the Facebook event page for updates and information about performers.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel seeks bands for competition

TAMPA — Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is once again calling on local bands to take the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe for the chance to play at the 2019 97x Next Big Thing Music Festival.

As part of this year’s Hard Rock Rising Tampa — Battle of the Bands, music acts will compete for a shot at next level fame.

Beginning Sept. 2, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa has opened online registration at TampaHardRock.com/Rising. All entrants will need to be at least 16 years of age and submit a completed Reverb Nation webpage with two original song uploads. The submission period ends on Thursday, Sept. 12.

From Sept. 16-20, committee voting will take place to determine the top three finalists from all eligible entrants to participate in the live competition. In addition, four to six wildcards will be chosen. During this period, the property will solicit fans via a social media vote to select the last wildcard finalist.

On Monday, Sept. 30, the property will announce online the three finalist bands and the one wild card finalist band who will battle at the Live Competition on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Hard Rock Cafe Tampa.

One grand prize winner of the live competition will win a performance slot at the 2019 97x Next Big Thing Music Festival at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa, where the they will perform next to acts such as The 1975, AJR, Judah and the Lion and more.

The live competition judges will include a variety of music industry professionals. There will be five categories included in the judging criteria, including originality, musicianship, vocal ability, stage presence and audience reaction.

For full rules and more information, visit TampaHardRock.com/Rising.

SPC Jazz Band to perform

ST. PETERSBURG — The SPC Jazz Band, directed by David Manson, will present a free concert of big band jazz featuring singers Sonja Spence and Nancy Kerns.

The concert will take place Wednesday, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m., at the SPC Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

Admission is free. For information, visit www.spcollege.edu/events/default.aspx.

Artlofts to open new exhibit

ST. PETERSBURG — An opening reception for “Small Works,” a new exhibit featuring works no larger than 20 inches square, will take place Saturday, Sept. 14, 5 to 9 p.m., at Artlofts Gallery, 10 Fifth St. N., St. Petersburg.

The exhibit will showcase a variety of artists and media that demonstrate the power of art in small sizes. Visitors will have an opportunity to see Artlofts artists working in their studios. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibit will run through Sept. 30. For information, call Rebecca Skelton at 727-449-5146.