You have to hand it to anyone who’s ever organized a local music festival. Just thinking about what it takes to find the bands, the funding, and the faith not to scream “fuck it” when something invariably falls apart and puts the whole thing in jeopardy is enough to make the majority of us wholeheartedly pass on the endeavor. Then, there’s the actual festival, which, if you’re doing it like Don’t Stop St. Petersburg, means ring-leading six downtown venues, almost 50 bands, hundreds of paying customers, and everyone else through a frantic circus act of live music, booze, and bad choices you can only hope stay controllable for one night in October. [Words by Andrew, photos by Brian.]
That being said, the second annual celebration of all things music, food, art and commerce in downtown St. Pete really felt like the best version of itself it could be this past Saturday night. Don’t Stop slimmed down for its 2014 edition: gone was the massive, middle-of-the-street stage on Central Avenue’s 600 Block. The street remained open as the music moved into venues like Fubar, the Local 662, The Bends, The Morean Arts Center, Green Bench Brewing and State Theatre.
Some of these places buzzed with activity — Green Bench was packed from wall to wall, except in the back, where the first few artists of the night were relegated to an afterthought of a corner in front of the beer silos. Avery Moore still drew a respectable crowd as she traded in her acoustic guitar for an electric, added a drummer and a carefree sound tinged with hints of surf, grunge and carefree pop. The same could be said for Ten Acres, the moniker of singer-songwriter John Allen, who fought the ambient buzz of industrial fans and idle chatter to deliver a set of finger-bending acoustic noodling and subdued vocals in the vein of Mike Kinsella and American Football.
Down the block, Cosm took over State Theatre for a criminally under-attended set of syrupy slow stoner metal brought to life by Jacqyln Titus’ smoothly haunting vocals. By the time Archaic Interest took the Fubar stage, you couldn’t move without bumping a sweaty onlooker vibing out to their eerily Doors-esque sound.
Back at State, Set and Setting made the most of the venue’s enormity with an onslaught of guitar-driven instrumentals from their latest Prosthetic Records release, A Vivid Memory. The addition of a second guitar breathes new life into each of these songs, which feel like their most compelling yet in an atmosphere like this.
I clocked out around 11:30, relatively early considering the last performances were set to last until 2, but left grateful. Not every city has the means or motivation for an event like Don’t Stop, but we apparently do. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.
More photos from Don't Stop St. Pete below...