In April, when COVID-19’s chokehold on the national and local live music circuit was less scary, my friend Jay Cridlin (then entertainment critic for the Tampa Bay Times, now moved to the economic development desk) published a gallery of 40 local band T-shirts fans could buy to support their musical neighbors. The story was a great reminder of the service locals give to their communities, and it’s been sad to see the plight of local venues unfold over the last eight months.
With no end in sight—and a certain fight over federal aid set to play out in D.C.—venues’ futures look grim, which means bands will have even less places to play. Two weeks ago, I revisited the impetus for Jay’s story (“How can I help a local band?”) and asked locals to post about the merch and music they have available online. I’ve compiled as many as I could on this printed page and linked to the rest on cltampa.com/music. You’d be amazed at how good it feels to have someone support your art.
If you have the means—or have a music lover in your life—consider getting a gift from this list. At the very least, find a way to patronize some of your local record stores. Scroll to the bottom of this post to browse more local band merch.
Auto!Automatic!!—S/T In 2007, Tampa instrumental-rock act regrouped to record this album and press 500 copies on vinyl. The band’s drummer, Alex Fedele, said that he believes there are 498 left. “Even our own bass player, Adam Khan, didn’t want one,” Fedele joked. In all seriousness, it was one of that year’s best, and you should help Fedele move the inventory. (For the record, Khan said he made an ashtray out of his copy, adding that, “I don’t smoke anymore, so I threw it out.”). autoautomatic.limitedrun.com
Blind Not Deaf If you love rock and roll and want to know what’s good, you should definitely know Danton Ruegger. Together with Jasmine Deja and Drew Giordano, Ruegger runs Blind Not Deaf to help bands record and promote music then play it live. The last part of that equation is kinda-sorta on hold if you give a damn about the health and safety of your neighbors, but Blind Not Deaf is still doing the lort’s work of helping bands every day. Grab some sick splatter vinyl or a trippy T-shirt and tote bag from the crew. blindnotdeaf.com
Horsewhip—Laid to Waste Tampa Bay’s long history of hardcore comes together in this outfit made up of members of Reversal of Man, Combatwoundedveteran, Sutek Conspiracy and more. Horsewhip’s 2020 album has been one of the year’s heaviest hitters and garnered attention from all over the world. It’s a shame there isn’t a tour supporting the LP yet, but in the meantime there is a vinyl release on Roman Numeral Records. horsewhipfl.bandcamp.com
Joyeater—Naysayer A year ago, St. Petersburg rock band Joyeater celebrated a genre-defying new album which local luminary Michael J. Wolf called a “raw, noisy and garage-y punk record that makes me want to plug into a Fender twin reverb and hit my guitar really hard.” You can pay what you want for it right now on Bandcamp. joyeater.bandcamp.com
Kristopher James—Kindness Never Quits Last year, Oxford Noland’s Shua Harrell called this LP, “Undoubtedly the best record of the year for the Bay area. It’s wonderfully produced, soulful, and just downright tasteful.” It’s aged well, and James, one of the fastest, most tasteful designers in the area, also has a stylish “Surf Tiger” T-shirt for sale, too. kristopherjamesmusic.com
Meatwound Meatwound saw a drummer change in 2019, but as the year went on, the Tampa hardcore band’s latest full-length Elders just got better and better. If you’re a fan of local hardcore history, violent grooves, guttural yelling and noise on top of noise, then you need this—and any Metwound record—in your life. financialruin.storenvy.com
Nervous Girls—Hunger In 2019, indie-punk trio The Nervous Girls fulfilled promises on a debut EP packed with what CL contributor Eliot Mayo described as “angst-filled ‘90s-era alternative and grunge influences (The Breeders, Hole and Nirvana),” shoegaze riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Slowdive LP and cathartic, thought-provoking commentary on the current social climate, focusing intensely on the nation’s struggle with mass shootings and gun control laws. A cassette is available on Bandcamp alongside threads like the amazing “Intimacy Issues Mad Cat Shirt.” thenervousgirls.bandcamp.com
They Hate Change—666 Central Ave. In two years, not one Tampa Bay group, let alone hip-hop duo, got more universal praise from songwriters, producers and the blogosphere at large, than They Hate Change. André and Vonne did it again in 2020 with 666 Central Ave. which we’ve used to shake quarantine cobwebs out of our heads since the record was released this summer. Keep an eye on the experimental band’s Instagram for a merch link (@theyhatechange), but my co-worker already stole a THC shirt off my desk this year.
Stay Humble You won’t find Reid Shecterle’s face behind a mic in any local hip-hop videos, but the clothing he makes will make plenty of cameos. Mike Mass, Tyrone ‘Dibiase’ Beyobe, Achilles and Jinx are just a few of the emcees who’ve rocked Stay Humble threads, and once you take notice of the brand, you’ll never be able to overlook it again. @stayhumbleclothing on Instagram
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