Hot Dog Party 9 brings bros, dogs, and rock ‘n’ roll to Ybor City

Brother Cephus is among the performers at Crowbar’s ninth annual pre-Fourth of July party.

Crowbar owner Tom DeGeorge does not mince words when it comes to his infamous Hot Dog Party, now in its ninth year of worshipping the time and tummy-tested meatstick treats: “It’s not just a party, it’s a lifestyle. Hashtag 365,” DeGeorge explained. “The worst part is the depression that comes the next day when it’s all over. It’s a sickness.”

Brother Cephus doesn't take hot dogs lightly, either, and it’s a good thing, too, since the project driven by siblings Seth and Gabe Davis will be in the thick of the meaty revelry at the party this Friday, along with Nashville alt-country rock ‘n’ rollers Great Peacock and locals soul and funktronica trio Hotbox, proggy alt-rock outfit Rising Down, and pube-faced lupine punk howlers Wolf-Face.

“I’ve seen Seth eat more gas station hot dogs than what I would consider humanly possible,” Gabe, 23, told CL last week. Seth, 22, guesstimates he could eat about two dozen in one sitting.

The notion doesn’t seem far-fetched. Despite their ages, the Tampa born-and-raised boys are seasoned, van-weathered touring vets who’ve seen lots of asphalt thanks to Gabe’s time in SoCal hardcore quartet Holding Onto Hope and Seth’s stint with Tampa worship group Ascend The Hill, which literally took him around the world. Brother Cephus finds the Davis bros moving at a different clip, doling out their warm yet brooding indie-rock in small doses.

St. Petersburg-based label Flesh & Bone Records handled the boys’ last release, a collection of songs from their first and second Wounded Hearts EPs issued on cassettes and packaged with unique silkscreened Brad-Pak casing. Not committing to full-lengths usually means more work, but it lets listeners hear the constant evolution of sounds and ideas that live in a songwriter’s mind via a more current and progressive platform. “We don’t leave room for our music to grow stagnant,” Gabe said.

Interested more by the motivation for making music than the actual sound of it, Brother Cephus is inspired by early Jackson Browne, ’80s New Wave, ’90s emo, and the distinctively native sounds churning up from Tampa’s punk and hardcore scenes. “We probably don’t actually sound like most of the bands we would list as our influences. Raw passion is the common thread in what we listen to,” Seth explained. “Tones, catchy hooks are important, [but] we’re much more excited about bands that seem to have something to say in every guitar riff, melody and every lyric — music that seems like it’s bursting at the seams with inspiration and honesty.”

New material is afire with a similar intensity, and proves a departure from the laid-back, softer tone of previous releases. The rich harmonies are intact (“Disconnect”), as are sumptuous, expansive arrangements (“New York”), but there’s also an abrasive and emotionally biting element to tracks like “Toss & Turn” and “Noise,” where the boys wax on cop killings, arguments, war, the industrialization of love, and the gap between life’s potentials and its tangible everyday realities.

A lot of credit for their evolution is due to the close friends who’ve helped Brother Cephus flesh out songs in the studio, including unspoken third member JJ Revell, who’s played on and engineered the bulk of all Brother Cephus’ material; he handles bass duties on Friday, while longtime compatriot Curt Hensley backs them up on drums. “Having the support of fresh creative minds in that studio environment is huge," said Gabe. "Each person that has tracked for us has been a close friend and a true collaborator … it’s awesome to have fresh perspectives and different styles and see how that complements the final song.”

That emphasis on collaboration extends to their work with artists and craftsmen who help make physical releases studied, willful and focused. The commitment to a not-so-traditional songwriting experience probably stems from a family that’s raised the boys to think completely outside of the box while also improving the quality of life for those around them.

“They taught all of us growing up to think for ourselves and to not compare ourselves to the social norms of the times we live in,” Gabe said. This idea guides their lyrical process and an effort to focus on relating to their audiences. “We aren’t necessarily trying to create a life raft for people; we just want to find common ground.”

“There’s obviously a system to this world we live in," added Seth. "Who’s to say we can’t create a system that we feel fits us better, and hopefully creates a space that other people can feel comfortable in. Sometimes it takes being vulnerable to open up that opportunity.” 

Hot Dog Party 9: In Hot Water, Don’t Grill Me Dog!, with Wolf-Face, Great Peacock, Brother Cephus, Hotbox, Rising Down, Fri., July 3, 6 p.m. doors, Crowbar, Ybor City, $8.

About The Authors

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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