Concert review: Fresh Grounds Tour with Iration and Ballyhoo! kicks off Florida's springtime vibe at Jannus Live, St. Petersburg (with photos & video)

One of the cool things about the reggae-rock scene’s group of musicians and fans is the genuine support everyone gives each other because of their appreciation for the music. This mutual respect was evident at Jannus on Friday with crowd members sporting band t-shirts like those of the Expendables and the performing acts spinning B-Foundation, The Dirty Heads and SOJA tracks between sets to keep the sandy and salty vibes flowing through the breezy evening atmosphere.


Ballyhoo! ripped into their set around 10 p.m. with towering lead vocalist and guitarist Howi Spangler buzzing with a raw stage presence as he belted out harmonic anthems about beachside days and carefree nights backed by the tropical beats and raging rhythms of band members Donald Spangler (drums), JR Gregory (bass) and Scott Vandrey (turntables, keys and other sonic effects).


Despite a bare minimum of rest -- the band had jetted over to Orlando for a 4 a.m. spot on Full Sail’s The Daily Buzz immediately after their Thursday night Melbourne gig -- the band displayed an impressive amount of enthusiasm, revving up the packed venue with a set that included, “Alcohol Looks Beautiful Tonight,” “The Front Porch,” “Somewhere Tropical,” “Scarlett Blue,” “Last Night,” “Cali Girl” and “Cerveza.” With all the zeal of a kid mastering Guitar Hero, Howi flailed around the stage, striking animated poses as he rocked out licks on his sticker infested guitar.


[image-1]When Iration landed on stage, a paradise pulse danced through the venue as they broke into the opening riff, tambourine shakes and sudsy keyboard effects of the title track from 2010’s full length, Time Bomb. The good-n-lubricated audience howled, raising plastic cups and chiefing joints in appreciation while the Hawaii-native rockers fed off all the love and played a stellar set.


The sometimes-distorted, sometimes-smooth melodic guitar work of Micah Pueschel mixed with the bumping basslines of Adam Taylor [pictured left], kinky keys of Cayson Peterson, bursting drums of Joe Dickens and percussion play of Kai Rediske creates a heady combination of sonics that is only intensified in a live setting. By constantly orbiting around the stage to keep their sound moving throughout the venue and constantly pumping up their fans, the night definitely mirrored Taylor’s sentiments from our interview, “Playing live, especially for fans like that, makes it so easy as a musician — they give us energy and we just give it right back.”


With a projector style backdrop constantly changing out trippy images -- flashing lightening, twirling ganja leaves, spacey vortex designs and the like -- Iration played a plethora of tunes from their chillin’ catalogue, including “Electricity,” “Let Me Inside,” “Can’t Wait,” “Falling” and “Summer Nights.” My favorite track off their new Fresh Grounds EP, “All This Time,” was definitely a set highlight as well as “No Letter,” which was performed solo and acoustic by Pueschel, giving his amorous vocal skills a chance to shine.


As people filed out formed a herd and stumbled out in an ear-ringing haze of positive vibrations, the musicians mingled, taking pictures with fans, signing CDs, T-shirts and some badass shortboards with Iration’s Fresh Grounds cover as the design. All around, the Fresh Grounds tour delivered a Friday night of genuine musical fun with Iration delivering a clean, quality performance worth way more than the ticket price. Next time they cruise through the ‘Burg, I predict a sold out show.


If you can handle my shaky video skills, below are two brief snippets of "No Letter" and "Falling."


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More photos by Fernando

“Cuz it’s a full moon — whoa, oh oh / Tell sobriety that she’s / She’s about to meet her doom / Under this full moon — whoa oh oh / Kegs are glistening and I / Fear my heart just skipped a beat — whoa oh oh / Cuz this alcohol looks beautiful tonight.” ~Ballyhoo!

The verses above from Ballyhoo!'s "Alcohol Looks Beautiful Tonight" wholeheartedly sum up the vibe that swayed through Jannus Live when the Fresh Grounds Tour brought its troop of Law Records musicians to play the courtyard stage beneath the glowing full moon this past Friday night. [All photos by Fernando Garcia.]

Maryland-based Ballyhoo! [pictured left] rolled through the Sunshine State with co-headliners Iration, spreading reggae infused rock waves throughout the land of orange orchards and gators. The tour stopped in Ft. Lauderdale, West Melbourne and then on to Jacksonville Beach before stopping in the Bay area to deliver energetic performances in front of a frisky St. Pete crowd on a spring night leading into a three-day weekend.

As I strolled through the gates of the outdoor venue, the four-member outfit, Fiction 20 Down, was setting the chill mood that would ride throughout the show, jamming out cruisey-tunes off their EP, Let It Ride. Word on the F20D Facebook wall was lead singer Jordan Lally had a sore throat; however, it was undetectable as the guys played their bouncy melodies and Lally sang the inspired lyrics of songs like “What About Love?”

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