Review: Pelican Pop Fest highlights a busy First Friday in St. Petersburg
On Friday, St. Petersburg got it right.
Not only was it First Friday, which meant a live band was playing on cordoned-off Central Avenue. Also, Jannus Live was open for a free concert with The Hip Abduction and others; the State Theatre was hosting a "Local Lockdown" featuring In Reference to a Sinking Ship; the always-fun Mighty Mongo was hanging at Vintage Ultra Lounge; and a dozen quality bands were taking the stage at Fubar and The Local 662 for Pelican Pop Fest 2, which continues Saturday night.
It was a smorgasbord of local music on almost every stage downtown has to offer, and much of it was free. What's not to love?
The night was a little like Tropical Heatwave in Ybor City -- too many bands to see, too much ground to cover.
Scuttling back and forth between venues, I spent part of the evening at The Local 662, where Gentlemen Please kicked off the evening with a loud set of what people in the '90s used to call "college rock" (think Radiohead and the Pixies), followed by the always lush, always lovely Friends of Giants warming things up with a sound that blended emo-leaning indie with a shot of southern flavor (think Death Cab For Cutie and Kings of Leon).
Down on Second Street, Jannus Live was in a party mood with an all-genres-welcome bill. Reggae-hopper Badda Skat and Sublime-ish rock quartet Orange Hour drew plenty of streetwalkers over from the absolutely slam-packed First Friday scene, and more than a few popped in to check out the high-energy party-rockers of Mighty Mongo (who played Jannus Live themselves recently, as a matter of fact). Heads were bobbing all over the place.
Things took a turn for the wild later in the evening, when the elaborately costumed Equines of Sarasota got the Local 662 dance floor moving with a relentlessly upbeat, high-energy set. And next door at Fubar, indie-electronic rapper Futureman (in the photo above) turned in a blistering set of inventive rhymes and beats. His stage setup consisted mostly of just him and an iPod, aside from a guitar-aided cover of Nu Shooz' I Can't Wait, and at one point, two backup drummers, the "Future Dudes." His Facebook wall says this might be his last show in a little while -- let's hope not.
Finally, it was back to the Local 662 to catch Tampa prog-rockers extraordinaire Mogul Street Reserve, a trio whose polyrhythmic post-punk stylings can blow the mind when they really get cooking. Unfortunately, a few songs in, singer-guitarist Ryan Wood delivered some bad news: The band is moving to Atlanta. This was their final Tampa Bay show.
Well, that's a bummer. But if Friday in St. Petersburg proved anything, it's that this area still has a wealth of talent in all corners.
Saturday night won't be quite as busy as Friday, but Yonder Mountain String Band is playing at Jannus, and Pelican Pop Fest continues with shows by Automatic Loveletter, Davy and the Gods and others. If it's been a while since you've heard the tunes St. Pete is offering these days, it's a good day to check it out.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*