As venues close, Lady V opens St. Petersburg’s VFW Post 39 to local bands

She's made space as music-friendly dive bars disappear.

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click to enlarge As venues close, Lady V opens St. Petersburg’s VFW Post 39 to local bands
Dave Decker

If you grew up as a local music fan during the ‘80s or early ‘90s, then you probably have fond memories of attending shows at your local VFW hall or Elks Lodge or whatever. Sweaty misfit kids gathered to watch their peers play poorly or well—execution wasn’t really the point; the point was finding your tribe when you were too young for the bars and too jaded for a scene that involved quarter beer night and way, way too many readings of “Brown Eyed Girl” or Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” or Semisonic’s “Closing Time” for your taste. I can remember paying band dues in a burnt-out little Texas town so we could rent out the local VFW just to butcher Flotsam & Jetsam’s “Suffer The Masses” in front of our friends.

Those days are back.

Lady V’s Birthday Celebration w/DJ Sugarbear
Fri. Jan. 24. 8 p.m.
$3. Capricorns get in free.
VFW Post 39, 2599 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. INFO.

Over the past couple of years, as rents have skyrocketed and music-friendly dive bars have disappeared in hip neighborhoods like Seminole Heights and downtown St. Pete, motivated local bands have looked again to alternative venues—and they found a friend in Lady V, the canteen manager at the ‘Burg’s VFW Post 39 on Central Avenue.

“A young man named Brian, he came in and asked if he could do a show for me,” says Lady V—full name LaVetra Flournoy. “He did two shows, and it just took off from there, other bands started calling.”

Now, in addition to the toy drives, Thanksgiving dinners for homeless veterans and meetings for local groups of all stripes, the VFW hosts rock shows at least a couple of weekends a month, with bands lined up to take advantage of a space that doesn’t judge, and just wants to be filled with life.

“A lot of people still don’t know about this place,” says Lady V, who turned 67 last Friday. “It’ll be 101 years old on January 17, it’s the oldest VFW post in the South.”

Putting on shows at the local VFW has multiple benefits over the more traditional club or bar. The money goes to helping local veterans; the beer is cheaper; and, come on, there’s something super cool and subversive about disrupting the usual bar-to-bar life cycle of the local band—it’s like a house party where you don’t have to clean up afterwards.

Best of the Bay 2019
Best New Local Music Fan: Lady V

Lady V, who’s been on the auxiliary for the VFW for six years, saw the potential immediately. Over the past year, Post 39 has hosted shows regularly, including sets by hirsute punk lycanthropes Wolf-Face, frenetic electroclash outfit Reality Asylum and veteran provocateurs Car Bomb Driver. She’s even gotten into the scene herself, taking the time to show up and watch bands at other venues like the 500 block’s infamous Emerald Bar.

“The guy that’s gonna do my birthday, DJ Sugarbear, I went down with him,” she says. “I really enjoy it down there.”

Speaking of birthdays, Lady V will be celebrating hers this Friday, and DJ Sugarbear will indeed be holding court at the VFW on Central Avenue. She’s looking forward to seeing all the friends from different walks of life that she’s made over the past year of booking shows, and giving a little back to the bands that have come forward to keep St. Pete’s DIY scene so vibrant.

“They’re all good to me,” she says of the local bands. “I don’t really have a favorite. It’s always a different atmosphere when the bands are here, totally different than the usual. If I’m partial, it’s to the last show that was here. Some bands come out and sing a song to me, now I’m going up and announcing the bands, thanking everyone for coming out.”

She’s part of a proud DIY tradition—the “indie” in indie-rock comes from musicians bootstrapping themselves and getting it done any way they can, after all. She’s not only provided a new room for those enterprising musicians, but is also working to make it more music-friendly, and plans to add a rug for drum kits and curtains so the room isn’t so boomy. But it’s a room, a place for bands who are more interested in having fun, doing a show for friends and blasting it out than dealing with the hierarchy of the quote-unquote club grind or competing with cover acts. There’s a purity to it, and the blank canvas of VFW Post 39 provides a space for music makers of all styles to fill the space with noise and fun and community.

And they’ve got Lady V to thank for that.

“They’ve helped us,” she says of the artists who’ve forgone a stage to play on the floor at Post 39, “and we want to help them.”

click to enlarge As venues close, Lady V opens St. Petersburg’s VFW Post 39 to local bands
Dave Decker

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