Skipper's Smokehouse's 28th anniversary weekend celebration wrapped Sunday (Sept. 28) with rousing sets by some of Tampa Bay's top rock acts. Hat Trick Heroes' skilled-beyond-their-years teenage members closed the evening with a performance that offered a proverbial rattling of the venue's famed oaks. The power trio brought the audience to the lip of the stage with Santino Rumore's precision guitar attacks, older brother Micheal's full-throttle vocals/propulsive bass work and Christian Peters' no-quarter drum bashing. The tight threesome offered an unrelenting set marked by finely crafted, cock-strutting originals such as "Chasing My Tail" — which recently won the band a CL Best of the Bay for Best Hard Rock single. The band also delivered crushing covers of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" and The Doors' "The End" before exiting the stage to boisterous cheers around 9:30. Michael's cold kept him quiet in the hours leading up to his performance, but once on stage, the 18-year-old unleashed a rock 'n' roar that made the young women huddled underneath him howl.
The Best of the Bay winner for Best New Band, Tailgunner Joe and the Earls of Slander, also proved grippingly potent with their expert blend of punk and roots rock — prompting one concertgoer to favorably compare the young local act to The Raconteurs. The Tampa-based quartet's set largely consisted of cuts from their excellent, at times topical but never preachy, six-song EP The Red Scare, which in addition to smart originals includes a rollicking cover The Romantics' 1979 smash "What I Like About You." The audience ate it up.
The lone indie rocker on the lineup, Katherine Kelly, alternated between electric guitar and keyboards, offering throaty vocals over an intricate, effects-laden wall of sound. Ace drummer Jonas Caneles accompanied the female singer/songwriter. The duo goes by the name Sons of Hippies.
Earlier in the evening, Best of the Bay Readers' Poll winners Basic Rock Outfit were equally impressive with a taut set of modern rock originals marked by memorable hooks and top-rate musicianship. Singer/guitarist Jeremy Thomas is a frontman who knows how to look the audience in the eye and command attention without appearing desperate for attention — the man exudes rock 'n' roll chutzpah. Incidentally, don't be surprised if Basic Rock Outfit rechristens itself in the near future. Thomas threw several new monikers my way following his set, all of which tower above Basic Rock Outfit, a name that smacks of pedestrian bar-band fodder and undermines the group's prowess. "Yeah, we've been meaning to change it for awhile," he said.
Also on the local front, another Best of the Bay winner (Best Rebound from a Reality Show), Clearwater garage rock quartet Très Bien, will have a CD release show/farewell show Oct. 18 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. The band, which will be sorely missed around these parts, is relocating to Pennsylvania to further its career. The foursome's new disc is titled Meet Your Maker. The goodbye gig will also include performances by Win Win Winter, fresh off a national tour, and Mumpsy.