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Striking Matches, Johnnyswim electrify the heartstrings at Jannus Live

By Brittany Volk
Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez of Johnnyswim swoon for the crowd at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Nov. 2.

Johnnyswim preached love and harmony all night long, and we were their choir.

Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez are Johnnyswim, a duo from Los Angeles. Together they share a life of music, love and family. All of which they brought to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

The 200-plus crowd was filled with adoring fans and couples. You know … those couples. Arms around each other, as if the other is going to escape when set free. Constant kisses for no reason; drink fetching when cups go empty. As a single person, no thank you.

But I knew what I signed up for. I was ready to be captured in romance.

"We're gonna play some more love songs. Good news for all you boyfriends out there," said Amanda. " … You do your part, we'll do ours. Just name it after us!"

Everyone laughed; I gritted my teeth. And with that, the duo swooned into arguably their most gooey love song of all, "In My Arms."

And even this bitter, skeptical heart melted.

No one's arm was around me, but I was cloaked in the passion of it all. The sneaky kiss between some French lyrics. The giggles when words were lost. Ooh la la.

Obviously, Amanda and Abner constantly get asked to play weddings, but it's not something they do for just anyone. However, they found out about a local couple who got engaged at a Johnnyswim concert a year ago in Tampa, and now are about to get married in a few days. Amanda and Abner adorably congratulated the couple and dedicated the fairytale love song "Take The World" to them.

But the show wasn't all lovey-dovey. The two know how to throw a party.

After all, Amanda is disco queen Donna Summer's daughter. Johnnyswim's sound marries groovy beats with Americana harmonies. "Don't Let It Get You Down," a single off 2013's Heart Beats had us chanting to every woohoo. During the middle of the song, Abner got his phone out to make a Instagram story video of the cheerful crowd.

When any band throws out a new song for fans, it's typically treated as bathroom break time. But "Bridges," which will be on their new EP out next spring, had us shimmying and trying to learn the words. We grooved to "Lonely Night in Georgia," my favorite song off last year's Georgica Pond. It features Nashville legend Vince Gill (now with The Eagles), but tonight, openers Striking Matches added their two guitars to the mix.

Striking Matches, a Nashville guitar duo, played a short set, impressing a Johnnyswim-devoted crowd. They've written songs for the TV show Nashville, such as the swoon-worthy hit "When The Right One Comes Along," performed by Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) and Scarlett O'Conner (Clare Bowen) on the show.

But instead of listening to their albums, head over to YouTube to watch Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis absolutely shred their guitars.

Striking Matches are both an amazing acoustic songwriting duo and a pair of bluesy electrifying performers. They're extremely talented guitar players whose newest EP equally showcases both their musical abilities. Their voices vibrantly bounce off each other to fun harmonies, most notably in "Medicine," a song that got the crowd singing along almost immediately.

After the show, Justin and Sarah met with fans to sell merchandise and take pictures. This is where I learned that Justin's family vacationed here in St. Pete when he grew up. The two didn't get a chance to see much of the city while they were here, but they promised Striking Matches would be back for a longer set.

And if they do come back to St. Pete, I demand they play this one.

Striking Matches' electric chemistry got the crowd buzzing, and Amanda and Abner kept it going for two more hours. By the end, we were one giant family, watching Mom and Dad have fun.

"It feels good to be back in the home state of Florida," said Abner. "I grew up just up the street in Jacksonville.

"… There are some rules at a Johnnyswim show. There are no friends here. Just family," Abner continued. "… So raise your drink and toast. May we always remember that the force that binds us together is stronger than the force that tears us apart."

Cheers, Dad.

But if my heartstrings weren't already pulled thin by the end, during the encore, Amanda and Abner started singing probably one of country music's most familiar opening lines. "We got married in a fever/ hotter than a pepper sprout."

Johnny and June's romance may have been tumultuous, but it lasted. The two had undeniable chemistry; and as Amanda and Abner have found, it's wonderful to be able to share that on stage.