With Goodyear and DirecTV blimps circling overhead, a monolithic stage in Curtis Hixon Park came to life with Playoff Playlist Live, a three-day concert festival featuring opening-night headliner Eric Paslay.
For opening act the Shadowboxers, who also play Monday's Championship Tailgate with Dierks Bentley at Raymond James Stadium, getting a firsthand look at such a ginormous event was eye-opening.
"We've watched it on TV," said the Shadowboxers' Scott Schwartz, "but when you're here and soundchecking as the ESPN crew is getting ready to do a broadcast, and all the crew and people are here, you really see it's like an iceberg--there's so much below the surface that you wouldn't know unless you saw it."
By 7 p.m., only a few hundred fans had made their way inside, though much larger crowds are expected for Flo Rida on Saturday and Usher on Sunday.
"This is going to be a lot of fun," Schwartz said." We're just as excited to hang out and see it as we are to play."
At a little after 6, ESPN's SportsCenter went live from Curtis Hixon, cementing Tampa's status as the temporary center of the sports universe. Jay Crawford, Joey Galloway and David Pollack anchored stage left, with Tom Rinaldi and Marty Smith posting up around the park.
"We got any fans out there?" Pollack said before going live, testing the small early crowd with a low "Rolllll Tiiide."
Later, former Gator great Tim Tebow popped up on set, prompting shouts and snapshots from fans scattered below -- and a smile and wave from Tebow in response.