Attempting to cover two giant music fests happening on either side of the Bay on the same date — Plan B in Ybor City and Don’t Stop St. Petersburg in downtown St. Pete — proved to be a challenge. As the Music Editor and a person invested in the local music scene, I felt compelled to attend both fests spawned from the now-deceased and once-beloved Antiwarpt, but I also wanted to see if the scene is, indeed, capable of supporting two music events of this magnitude at once. So I asked for some help from a few generous CL Staffers to be reporters on the ground at each of the two fests (Arielle Stevenson for Don’t Stop and Julie Garisto for Plan B), and fill in anywhere that I was unable. I also reached out to some photographers to capture a visual record at both fests, too; Drunkcameraguy, Brian Mahar, Phil Bardi and Danny Veintimilla. We managed a balancing act of music appreciation, saw more than 20 bands all told, and while the attendance numbers aren’t in yet, both fests seemed to have enjoyed their own respective successes. Which left many of us pondering if either, both or neither would be back again next year.
Here’s a record of our experiences, thoughts, and overall impressions, in short(ish)...
@Don’t Stop St. Pete, 4:15 p.m., The Real Clash, Local 662 (Leilani) Walking up to a 600 Block that’s been closed-off always builds a sense of heady anticipation, especially on this day, when the first few things we see include a mobile hanging over Central Avenue, its colorful fabric streamers twisting and turning in the breeze, and the giant double-decker Tropicool bus that’s parked across from State Theatre, both flanking and closing off that particular end of the block. The Tropi team serves gourmet sorbet popsicles from the bottom deck (tastebud-bursting flavors like mango-passion fruit, ultimate brownie and blueberry lemonade), and patrons dot the seats of the bus’ open air top deck, licking ‘cicles and taking in a bird’s eye view of the party from their elevated perch. Vendors and booths featuring local businesses and nonprofits are set up in the middle of the closed-off street and along its edges, and the milling groups include families that have descended on the 600 Block to enjoy the free daytime party.
We start at Local 662 with The Real Clash. The backstory appealed to me: A group of undergrads in St. Pete College’s MIRA (Music Industry/Recording Arts) program — which is dedicated to developing “real world” skills for its student musicians — take an elective music course that eventually transforms them into a bonafide hip hop group.
I worry it’s one of those sounds-good-on-paper-doesn’t-work-in-reality type things, but we’re immediately captivated upon entering the Local’s cool dark confines. The Real Clash’s exuberance is undeniable and infectious, and the full band’s instrumentals tight and funky-grooving as built on guitar, bass, drums, percs, keys and a turntables/laptop combo. These dance-inducing sounds back the verse-slinging and flowing of leading rappers/lyricists Jay “Jay Acolyte” Wilson, Rashad “Shadcore” Harrell and sultry-voiced vocalist/Real Clash hype gal Eliana “Voxx” Blanchard.
The nine-member ensemble lay it down like pros, exhibit the sort of fiery chemistry and dynamic stage presence that some vet bands have trouble achieving, and pair the upbeat good time vibes of their music with intelligent verses and hooky refrains. The ensemble’s anthemic “Effigy” is a perfect close to the set; a track that comments on hip hop clichés and posturing, and being true yourself no matter what your background. The chorus — “This what hip hop looks like, thought it was all thugged out like Suge Night? All I need is a beat and a good mic, putting stereotypes to bed like, ‘Good Night!’” — stays with me long after I leave.
@Don’t Stop St. Pete, 4:45 p.m., Euglossine, Fubar (Leilani) The schedule is already running behind and we arrive to find Euglossine finishing up a sound-check rather than MSNRA starting their set. The only info I have about the trio is A) It’s the project of one dude, Gainesville producer/multi-instrumentalist/composer Tristan Whitehill, who plays with other dudes, and B) They are associated with MSNRA and Levek (another Gainesville act that I like but have to miss later due to my attempt at straddling the Bay).
Tristan Whitehill has good taste in kicks, Euro-retro squared-toed leather monk strap-style loafers with oversized buckles. Whitehill plays guitar and works a stack of synthesizers, Jason Gottfried has a similar synth rig paired with bass, and drummer Ryan O' Malley keeps a steady driving or fluidly drifting pace, their instrumentals sliding in and out of luxuriously melodic and sometimes darkly hallucinogenic sonic aesthetics all driven and embellished by synths — psychedelic tropicalia, ’70s soft rock, post-disco funk, ambient jazz, indie prog pop, and sci fi futuristic electro with light New Age-y, Kraut-y and hip hop flavor.