Can indie rock and gangsta rap coexist? How 'bout shoegaze and funk? Those were a couple of the questions posed last Saturday at Summer Jam III. Like the majority of shows associated with the idiosyncratic Aestheticized Presents, the event featured an unconventional lineup that careened from mainstream rock and commercial hip-hop to varying modes of experimental. The eclectic nature of the festival, which featured mostly homegrown talent, went a long way toward showcasing the diversity of the local original music scene.
More than a dozen acts performed at two Ybor City venues — Crowbar and New World Brewery — that are located quite a few blocks apart. The music started around 7 p.m. and the headliners didn't make noise until past 1 on Sunday morning. Attendees had to be intrepid: hoof it to and from clubs; sit through unrelated acts of varying degrees of talent; be at the right place at the right time to catch that favorite band despite the fact no schedules were posted for the general public.
The contrasting pairing of styles could have been jolting had it not been for extended DJ sets in between actual performances. Tampa post-rock quintet Red Room Cinema mesmerized a crowd of attentive, arms-folded hipsters at New World Brewery with intense, effects-laden-yet-sinewy instrumentals, then was followed by the jammy, horn-laced funk of D'Visitors. Over at Crowbar, hardcore 813 rappers Aych (pronounced "H") and E.P. — along with help from other members of their Umbrella Corporation — sent shockwaves through the room with their violent gangsta routine, which happened to precede a set of emotive love songs by nationally signed, Lakeland-based indie rock outfit The Dark Romantics — a quintet consisting of two married couples.
Of all the performances I caught during my nearly four-hour stay Saturday, Red Room Cinema's registered as the most artistically rewarding. On record, the five-piece often sounds flaccid. Their songs show sparks of life and then fade back into a safe blanket of fuzzy noise. But when Red Room played at New World — from about 12:15 to 12:45 — their performance was marked by a visceral power that revolved around the exacting interplay between bassist Brian Burleson and drummer Keoni Garrido. Their taut rhythms, which occasionally made abrupt tempo changes but never to the point of obnoxious self-indulgence, were augmented by the manic synth keyboard explosions of Doug Fender and the requisite (for post-rock) pedal-effects guitar layering of Anthony Maltese and David Tetan. The only time the mostly instrumental band fell short was when Maltese attempted to sing. It's not that his voice is particularly grating, it's that it's presented far down in the mix and doesn't seem to fit. It's as if it were placed there as an afterthought.
On balance, Summer Jam III, which drew an estimated 400-500 people throughout the course of the day, showed that traditionally opposed genres could rub shoulders on the local level. Many of the same attendees who were wowed by the proggy aural excursions of Red Room Cinema stuck around for the reggae-informed R&B of D'Visitors. However, in the case of Aych opening for the Dark Romantics, I did spot several people wincing at verses that started with "nigga" — even if the same attendees clapped politely at the end of each number.