The Music Issue 2014: Southern Pinellas (St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Gulf Beaches)

click to enlarge Jannus Live - Brian Mahar
Brian Mahar
Jannus Live

The Bends While the St. Pete watering hole isn’t necessarily known for being a live music venue, The Bends has been welcoming players to its chandelier-and-laser-lit dance space the past several months, mostly locals, not to mention DJs and occasional EDM and indietronic acts, too. 919 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg,727-202-8931,
Past shows: Sounds of the Summer featuring Geri X, Badda Skat, ?nowledge and Logic for Beats; Fast Company presents STOIC, owldrum and Kiger. 

The Blueberry Patch This month marked the 37th anniversary of The Blueberry Patch as well as the passing of its founder, Dallas Bohrer, who was 81 years old. His legacy continues on in the spacious backyard-turned-arts and live music haven (now run by a board of directors), which brings in a crunchy roster of local performers and the odd Florida act to its stage a few times a month to play beneath the canopy of trees, amid a lush landscape of Florida-friendly foilage, with artists painting in the background and happy frolicking music lovers dancing, swaying and hula hooping along to the vibrations. 4923 20th Ave. S., Gulfport, 727-327-4224,
Past shows: Beloved Frank Zappa tribute band Bogus Pomp slayed through a performance a few Sundays ago.

Emerald Bar Since its first started hosting local parties and punk shows at the tail end of the ’90s, downtown dive the Emerald has earned its status as a venerable, semi-legendary (and legendarily smoky) noise-hole. The frequency and types of shows have varied since its mid-aughts indie-rock heyday, but the cheap drinks, cool folks and possibility of hearing something awesome remain. 550 Central Ave., 727-898-6054,
Past shows: Pretty much every beloved Tampa Bay indie act, from punk to alt-country to experimental electronic and beyond, has enjoyed a set or nine at the Emerald. The place has also played host to a number of regional and national touring acts, such as The Enablers, Cory Branan, Drag the River and more.
Upcoming shows: Doug Burns (7/26); visit their Facebook page for more. 

Fubar This hole-in-the-wall right smack in the middle of downtown St. Pete’s most culture-packed block has really upped its game in recent years, cleaning up a bit, widening the array of available potables (now serving liquor) and basically taking up the Emerald’s slack, then taking over as the ‘Burg’s most visible small venue. Local vets, obscure touring acts and kids new to the DIY scene all share bills and space on the stage at the front of the room, blasting everything from ska-core to indie hip-hop. Might be the best place in town to be blown away by a loud performance from a group you’ve never heard of. 658 Central Ave., 727-424-1809,
Upcoming Shows: Awkward Age, State Lines, Born Without Bones, Snacking (7/24); Ay Dios Mios, The Proper Crooks, One Rugged Soul, Vilot Pulse (8/15); Counted Out, Slade & The Wasters, Pig Pen, Boney Fiend (8/16). 

Green Bench Brewing Though the EDGE District’s popular brewery and hangout really only started hosting shows with any regularity over the last few months, Green Bench has quickly become a favorite live-music spot. The spacious patio and yard is perfect for a relaxed party atmosphere, and will only get better once the summer passes, the outdoor temperatures start to drop and the crew dials in its protocol for having bands. Plus, there’s, you know — all that one-of-a-kind craft beer. 1133 Baum Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-800-9836,
Past shows: Green Bench played host to the multi-staged Rock ‘N’ Roll Swap Meet this past spring, and has recently featured a heavily attended Grecian Urns reunion, touring troubador David Dondero and newly minted Pinellas favorite Fowler’s Bluff.
Upcoming shows: Trigger City Trio (7/25); Scott Low & Pierce Edens (7/26).

Jannus Live Downtown St. Pete’s renown outdoor courtyard-style concert venue, originally founded in ‘84, got a full-scale makeover after Jeff Knight acquired Jannus more than four years ago, re-orienting and expanding the bar space and scattered alcohol stations, adding real restrooms in place of the glorified Port-O-Johns, and making the VIP tickets well worth the price of admission with luxury boxes directly across from the stage. Overall, the 2,000-cap venue has retained its charm and continues to welcome high caliber national talent of all genres to its stage (though lately there’s been a lot of hip hop and reggae rock), in addition to Bay area acts that draw a healthy crowd. Jannus also presents free First Friday shows every month to coincide with the downtown block party. 200 First Ave. N., 727-565-0550,
Upcoming Shows: Dirty Heads and Pepper (8/1); Cisco Adler (8/23); Umphrey’s McGee (8/31)

Ka’Tiki Formerly a folk haven, currently one of the go-to spots in St. Pete Beach (technically Sunset Beach) to see live music by local acts and the obligatory cover bands, with entertainment of some sort almost every night of the week. 8801 W. Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-360-2272,
Upcoming Shows: Have Gun, Will Travel (7/26); Uncle John’s Band (8/1); Applebutter Express (8/2)

Local 662 Local 662 is one of those venues you take for granted because it’s located almost directly across the street from the bigger and more well-established State Theatre, and tends to draw smaller-scale nationals that don’t quite fit into the State but still need a decent-sized (300-cap) room to play. The lively 600 Block concert spot shouldn’t be discredited due to its size or age, however; the sound is great, the bar is well-stocked and bartenders attentive, and there’s a scattering of tables in addition to plenty of standing room in front of the stage. Bay area bands perform here, too, and pretty much every downtown-centric music fest includes the Local as a participant. 662 Central Ave., 727-258-4829,
Upcoming shows: Sidereal, Offshore Riot, Currentz (7/26); OFF! (8/15); Deniro Farrar & Denzel Aquarius'Killa Curry (9/14).

The Mahaffey Theater The city-owned, Bill Edwards-managed Mahaffey is arguably the most beautiful performance venue in the region — floor-to-ceiling glass walls with a view of St. Pete’s Yacht Basin, spacious lobby, posh VIP area, and most impressive of all, the gorgeous 2,031-seat auditorium, all reds and creams and gracious curves. It’s the perfect milieu for The Florida Orchestra, especially its Thursday morning Coffee Concerts, but it also hosts music of less exalted pedigree — from rock to pop to tribute bands, as well as theater, comedy and variety acts — and the 2014-15 season is one of its most appealing in years. 400 First St. S., 727-892-5767,
Upcoming shows: An Evening with Yes (8/2); Lyle Lovett (10/19); Patti Labelle (11/16); Smokey Robinson (4/12/15).

Mandarin Hide Downtown St. Pete’s high class watering hole hasn’t really established itself as a live music venue but Wednesday evenings, Mandarin Hide presents free local jazz (fingerstyle whiz Nate Najar is a frequent guest) while post-modern roots rockers Boxcar Hollow are currently playing an every-Thursday-night residency. 231 Central Ave., 727-231-4007,
Past Shows: Mandarin Hide welcomes the occasional touring act — like NYC’s Black Taxi this past June in collaboration with Green Bench — and was an active participant of the downtown 2014 President’s Day music event, Whigfest. 

Octave Yes, Octave is one of THE best spots in the ‘Burg to do karaoke (we’ve howled some Zeppelin on its stage once or twice). But the two-room dive (which features a bar that stretches into both rooms, darts, pinball, and pool and foosball tables) also hosts loud and heavy rock, punk and metal shows by local and regional bands a few times a month. 661 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-826-0820,
Frequent Players: Nerds Raging, Mosquito Teeth, Pig Pen, Boney Fiend, Pretty Voices, set and setting. 

click to enlarge Mushmind at Planet Retro - Brian Mahar
Brian Mahar
Mushmind at Planet Retro

Planet Retro This fine Grand Central purveyor of vinyl, cassettes and assorted cultural curiosities moves aside the stacks and invites local and touring punk, pop, noise and others to recreate the youthful energy and DIY vibe of house/storefront shows. Simply put, shows here are a blast for anyone who remembers that feel, and an adventure for anyone for whom the scenario sounds a little more underground and communal than the usual live-music night out. 2414 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-218-7434,
Past shows: Several of Pinellas’ coolest punk/indie bands, including Permanent Makeup, Wolf-Face, Switchblade Villain, Blast & The Detergents and more, have cranked it up and shaken the glass at Planet Retro.
Upcoming shows: God Harvest, Landbridge, Mushmind, Fevers (8/2); Y Los Dos Pistoles, Vegas Death Rays, Botomatics, Old Tuners ‘N Punk Duders (8/16).

Ringside Café Formerly housed in a rehabbed boxing arena/boardinghouse but uprooted when Trader Joe’s bought up the 4th Street North block it called home for 26 years, Ringside Cafe re-opened in its new downtown St. Pete digs this past December, and now fills the old Club Detroit space between Jannus Live and Detroit Liquors. In addition to its more sophisticated environs (replete with exposed-brick walls and cushy seating options), the new Ringside features a bigger and more well-positioned stage, roomier dancefloor (minus the lingering toilet bowl odor of the old space), and updated sound and lighting systems. There’s some sort of live entertainment going on almost every night, but local and national-scale talent play Thursdays through Saturdays, mostly of the bluesy and jammy variety. 16 Second Street North, 727-894-8465,
Regular Players: Josh Magwood performs blues rock every Wednesday night and guitarist Branson Welsh hosts an open jam (‘Branson’s Jam’) every Sunday evening.
Upcoming Shows: Warped Tour After Party (7/25), COPE and Bobby Lee Rodgers (7/26), Holey Miss Moley (7/31).  

Ruby's Elixir A casually vintage lounge with its own red dress-clad pin-up girl and an intimate low-lit ambiance. Ruby’s Elixir presents entertainment seven nights a week by local acoustic guitar-toting singer-songwriters and plugged-in players practicing jazz, blues and jammy rock sounds, with the odd soul, pop and reggae rock performer thrown in for some flavor. 15 Third St. N., St. Petersburg 727-898-7829,
Resident Players: Currently, the calendar features Shawn Brown on Mondays, Jeremy Thomas on Tuesdays, Josh Lamkin on Wednesdays, Le Jazz Trio on Thursdays and Katie Talbert on Sundays. Artists change every week on Fridays and Saturdays.

State Theatre What can we say about the State Theatre? The Bay area’s Ground Zero for the late ‘80s/early ‘90s all-ages punk boom has survived the comings and goings of countless scenes and trends, weathering them all and soldiering on. The styles have gotten more eclectic — the State has put everything from country legends to jam bands to nu-metal survivors on stage — and the upgraded interior might not be recognizable to somebody who saw NOFX there in ‘86, but it’s still one of the best theater-sized venues around for both local and touring bills. 687 Central Ave., 727-895-3045,
Upcoming shows: Hank III (7/26); Morbid Angel (7/29); Filter, Helmet, Local H (8/2); Thee Sammy Davis Jr. Band (8/15); Donavon Frankenreiter (8/22); Old 97’s (10/04).

The Studio@620 The arts center/community gathering spot at the heart of St. Pete is a place where the answer, famously, is always yes. That was the philosophy established by artistic director Bob Devin Jones when he co-founded the Studio 10 years ago, and it remains at the forefront of everything they do. The new Project GenYes! — Concept to Performance Accelerator for Jazz, Dance & Theatre Artists of the Millennial Generation — is a good example. The project provides time, space, mentoring and funding to six young artists, among them Teijay Williams and La Lucha's Michael Feinman, whose experiments in musical collaboration should work well in the Studio's intimate playing space. Another draw for jazz fans: A fundraiser for Beatnik: The Movie, Mwamba Yeshitela's new movie about jazz as "a transcending medium." 620 First Ave. S., St Petersburg, 727-895-6620,
Upcoming: Beatnik Under the Stars, a music, art and poetry fundraiser (8/29); Teijay Williams' "Breaking Chains and Breaking Free" (10/17-19); Mark Feinman's "Collaboration" (Nov. 21-23).

The Venture Compound Part art gallery, part DIY performance space, part glorified garage, the Venture Compound is an underground hangout spot for young and emerging artists in the heart of St. PeteÕs Warehouse Arts District. After the success of the Pangaea Project in 2012, the venue is now a nonprofit organization booking shows from avant-garde electronic music to solo acoustic sets, hosting a wide array of experimental acts. ÒAny music you like. Unless you like [bad] music,Ó says Jesse Vance, co-creator of the venue. 2621 Fairfield Ave. S., (901) 619-1519,
Upcoming: Black Coast Royals, Swank Sinatra, Doesin, Surrogates (7/24); Silver Screen Orchestra with Samurai Shotgun, Snacking (7/26).

The Venture Compound Part art gallery, part DIY performance space, part glorified garage, the Venture Compound is an underground hangout spot for young and emerging artists in the heart of St. Pete’s Warehouse Arts District. After the success of the Pangaea Project in 2012, the venue is now a non-profit organization booking shows from avant-garde electronic music to solo acoustic sets, hosting a wide array of experimental acts. “Any music you like. Unless you like [bad] music,” said Jesse Vance, co-creator of the venue. 2621 Fairfield Ave. S., 901-619-1519,
Upcoming shows: Black Coast Royals, Swank Sinatra, Doesin, Surrogates (7/24); Silver Screen Orchestra with Samurai Shotgun, Snacking (7/26)  


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