This past Friday, CL writer Deborah Ramos and myself wandered up and down the 500 and 600 blocks of Central Avenue for the inaugural AntiWarpt Fest in downtown St. Petersburg, a local(ish) music alternative to Warped Tour. Deb handled the early part of the evening and shot some stellar videos (PART I); I tagged her out at around 10 p.m. and with Photographer Phil in tow, did the back-and-forth between venues until the festivities came to a close sometime after 1 a.m. (PART II). Here's the multi-media record of our adventures...
PART I: 7:30 - 10:15 p.m.
Florida Night Heat @ The Local 662
This was the first show I've seen at Local and I was very quickly impressed by the phenomenal sound in the low-capacity venue. Playing their last local show until September (they're taking some time off to write new material and record), Florida Night Heat opened the evening with their instrumental, post rock-inspired set. The trio (Jensen Kistler on guitar, Chris Wood on drums, and Andre Jones on bass) have been building a solid fan base with frequent spots opening for Brokenmold Entertainment shows. "Take On Heat" is a crowd favorite, the band's take on A-Ha's "Take On Me." Check out their Antiwarpt performance of "El Caballo Soucio"/"El Caballo Limpio" below.
Only Monsters @ Starbooty
An entirely different crowd filled the cozy space at Starbooty. By day, Starbooty is a store (which means no alcohol) and even with merchandise pushed aside, the smell coming from the incense rack overwhelms the tiny space. The threesome delivered a set of lively stripped-down folk punk with only two acoustic guitars, a snare drum, and a maraca. Their energetic and somewhat rowdy screaming reminded me of a collection of modern sailor drinking songs, complete with profanities on "By Us Fuck You," "Who the Fuck Gives a Fuck," and "Fuck my Life." Clearly, someone has a favorite word. [PICS + MORE VIDEO AND WRITE-UPS AFTER THE JUMP.]
Alias Punch @ The Local 662
The Orlando trio has an experimental and somewhat unexplainable sound, which I can't quite decide if I'm fond of. They're backed by talented drummer Arkie Jay, who holds the band together while guitarist Jasper Bleu and bassist Dusty Mondy wander in and out of elaborate melodies. Mondy provides some odd vocals, his bizarre delivery and vocal range sounding a little like Devo. I think they're stronger on the instrumental riffs, but the energy of their live performance covers any deficiencies. Here's "Umbilical Cord" from Friday's set.
Living Arches @ Starbooty
Slowing things down a little with a soft acoustic set, Living Arches played their third show ever (one of which was a WMNF showcase) to a packed house at Starbooty. Jensen Kistler and Micheal Hooker deliver lovely harmonies and thoughtful lyrics; Hooker's Sinaed O'Connor-like voice merging well with Kistler's soft spoken delivery. Their set included a poignant cover of REM's "Losing My Religion," a whistle-along chorus on "Lesson Learned in Vain," and undoubtedly the only song you'll hear locally with a melodica (a peculiar plastic blow-organ that sounds alot like an accordion) on "Let Her Ride." Several of their songs are begging for percussion, which the crowd provided tonight by clapping along, earning an invitation from Kistler to their upcoming recording session. In the meantime, here's Friday's performance of their only song featuring electric guitar, the super-catchy "Already Gone."
Lauris Vidal @ The Local 662
Playing a self-made cigar box ukelele (made from 300-year-old cypress found on his family's farm), Lauris Vidal played a solo set to an appreciative crowd. His dark, folky rock is loaded with passionate vocals and feedback, offset by the pitch of his unusual collection of instruments. Vidal has been earning great press of late, and has recently opened for acts like Delta Spirit and The Avett Brothers. I was too blown away by "Skeletons" to remember to shoot any video, but the video below accurately conveys the performance we saw Friday.
PART II: 10 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
After a quick spin through Daddy Kool (hey, it was open and I couldn't resist), we caught the tail end of Lauris Vidal's set, then headed over to Starbooty to see Kaleigh Baker upon the firm recommendations of all three members of Brokenmold's music committee (Sean O'Brien, Matt E. Lee and Phil Benito). I am certainly glad I did. The 23-year-old Orlando-based singer-songwriter is repped by the same manager as Peter Baldwin (Rock Ya Girl) and has a similarly high level of natural talent. That combined with a stunning range — her vocals dip into a low and resounding molasses-slow croon with as much ease as they ascend to ceiling-skimming heights — and enough lung power to fill that room with her full-throated wails makes for one impressive talent. It was just her and her acoustic guitar (a dark wood grain that matched her chic brown knee boots), and she held the crowd rapt with original songs like her heavy blues lament, "Train Gone By," and an impromptu cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" delivered with soulful ferocity that the pop star only wished she could match. Keep an eye on this new mistress of alt blues, jazz and soul; I know I will...
@ The Local 662
The Semis are becoming one of my favorite local bands to see live. Singer/guitarist Billy Summer [pictured left] is a dynamic frontman who infuses his driving brand of hard and heavy psychedelic surf rock with his thoughful dry-humored style, whether it comes through in his narrative lyrics or cheeky onstage banter. The band played selections from their latest album, Back to the Beach (inspired by a period that Summer spent kicking around Pass-a-Grille like a bonafide beach bum), including the melancholy retro-flavored melodies of "Popov" (my personal favorite), and tossed in a few harder-rocking "old" numbers ("old" according to Summers). Overall, The Semis rocked out just as I knew (and hoped) they would, even inspiring some over-the-stop excitement and antics by some fans in the front, including a sloppy drunk dude who grabbed a (lighted) votive from one of the tables and held it in the air while he swayed-danced-stumbled around and generally made a nuisance of himself. A mildly entertaining sight but potentially painful to anyone who could've gotten nailed with hot wax...
@ The Local 662
I didn't catch a whole lot of the set featuring singer-songwriter Brent Rademaker [pictured left], but I did enjoy the surfer/songwriter/skater's style of sunny acoustic rock, which he delivered with delicate sensitivity or carefree abandon on acoustic guitar with his brother Darren [pictured below left] sitting in as support. Darren was also on acoustic guitar and looked like he'd come direct from of California circa 1981, amber-shaded glasses, gold chain, Magnum P.I. mustache and all. (Darren was visiting from Malibu, California, where he's the songwriter in breezy beach psyche rock ensemble, The Tyde.)
So I pretty much avoided Fubar for most of the night — the music coming out of that place was too loud for my already-abused eardrums, and yes, I'm getting old, don't hate — but I ventured inside to check out post-hardcore/punk outfit, Regular Size People Fight, described to me as a sort of local hard music supergroup fronted by singer/guitarist Jeff Brawer (Dukes of Hillsborough, pictured at right) and featuring members of local groups The Tim Version and Watson. The music was post-punk/hardcore fare, with Brawer bark-shouting over the bad's aggressive, fast-paced sound.
Holiday @ The Emerald Bar
Next up: one-man electro synth project Holiday, the performing moniker for songwriter/keyboardist/electro-techni soundmaker Ricky Seelbach [pictured below]. I hadn't seen him play since 2007, when he was among the lineup at a S.M.A.sh Radio's Summer Dance party. His show was the same in some ways — Seelbach riding solo, singing both with and without vocoder, his synthified dance music filling the air — and different; the Emerald is far more intimate than State Theatre (cramped might be a better word) and it was full. The tiny space in front of the corner stage area featured a dance party of about 10, really all the people you need to cause chaos in a room the size of a generous matchbox. But it was definitely fun to see Holiday so up close, sweating through his Depeche Mode t-shirt, playing his two-tier vintage keyboards and soundboard of gagetry he uses to create the fizziness of his electro experimental songs.
Have Gun, Will Travel @ The Local 662
There's not much I can say about Have Gun, Will Travel that I haven't said already — the ensemble is one of Bradenton's finest and every time I see them live, this fact is driven home. Have Gun has proven they deserve all the acclaim they've been getting for their sophomore full-length, Postcards from the Friendly City, a fine work of rustic Americana marked by percussive textures, the wailing melodies of lap steel and viola, and the vivid narratives of lead singer/songwriter Matt Burke. The album is so good, in fact, that it landed Have Gun a distribution deal with Suburban Home, which re-released the album earlier this year. The five-piece capably translates the lush sound of their studio albums to the stage, but adds a healthy dose of fiery energy. Each member brings his own personality and sound to the mix, and all five spread that infectious good-prevails feel throughout their sets and prompt sing-alongs or call-alongs, like the "bop-a-dahhh, bop-a-dahhh, bop-a-dahhh" chorus of "Blessing and a Curse," a favorite from 2008's Casting Shadows Tall as Giants, which the band performed as the encore much to the delight and appreciation of fans. Well played as usual, Have Gun. Can't wait to do it again...
Click here to download a free copy of the AntiWarped Festival mixtape, which includes songs by several of the aforementioned artists (Kaleigh Baker, Florida Night Heat, The Semis, Alias Punch, and Have Gun, Will Travel) as well as others that both of us missed.