Review / photos: Antiwarpt Festival packs sizzling crowds, bands into downtown St. Petersburg
If the heat and humidity were a political force, I would say “The Man” was trying to shut down Saturday’s Antiwarpt Festival in St. Petersburg. It was sticky, like the stickiness you find in your grandmother’s bathroom after she uses hairspray.
The shows started just after 3 p.m., the worst part of the day. As the Will Call line started to form, everyone knew this was going to be a tough day to master, but the local bands of Florida were ready to roll. If we didn’t melt, fans would be in for an awesome time.
Sixty-three bands and 8 venues ... I ventured into Central Avenue Oyster Bar to plan my attack. So many awesome bands to see. I wanted to try and watch full sets without leaving early to run to the next venue for a new artist. As I hydrated myself with a icy beverage, I felt quite confident that my journey would workout quite well.
My first band of choice was Ink and Sweat playing at Fubar. They must have been so anxious to play, they started 15 minutes early, and apparently only played for 12 minutes. I missed them completely. So, off to the Local 662 to watch Loud Valley.
This five-piece band from Orlando was missing their drum set. Apparently they let another band borrow their drums and weren’t able to get the set back in time for this show. So it was a more laid-back version of Loud Valley, who jokingly said for the evening they were going by the name Banana Fish. Their vocals were very on key, and the primary focus of their sound. It was reminiscent of a church choir, with all five members singing what they labeled “symphonic mood swing.” Adding a trumpet, their sound was relaxing, but honestly, almost too relaxing for someone who was looking to be energized. While good mood music for the right time of night, Loud Valley just wasn’t loud enough for me at the moment.
I then scooted down a sweltering Central Avenue to Cafe Bohemia to catch Blood Bats. I didn’t know much about this band and I was just going off a whim, judging this book by its cover. I was slightly put off when I learned it was two guys playing music from their computer. They basically mixed other well-known tunes and as any club DJ does, spinning their version of a well-known song. What really put me off is the fact that they were truly acting like club DJs. They didn’t once look at or speak to the fans or curious onlookers, all of whom were sitting outside in the melting heat to watch their “show,” or lack thereof. And while I do appreciate this style of “artistic creation,” I just didn’t appreciate this form of entertainment at a live concert event.
Next: A long walk back down to Fubar to catch Signals and Satellites.
This Tampa indie rock trio had a great Foo Fighters feel. They had high energy and as a three-piece band put out a great sound. They played for a good 30 minutes as vocalist Rodney Smith kept the crowd involved.
I decided to stay at Fubar and catch an Ybor favorite, Florida Night Heat.
It was guitarist Jensen Kistler’s birthday. If you like instrumental bands, you would love these guys. They are similar to Explosions in the Sky, but with more attitude. Their sound flows with substance and has a mystical feel. If you are a regular to the Tampa music scene, try and catch this act soon.
I needed a punk fix, and The Emerald seemed to be the place to find it. Feral Babies packed the smoke-filled venue as fans jockeyed to get up front.
With influences like Black Flag and Germs, this band was sure to complete my fix. Guitarist “Sulynn” shredded the power chords and vocalist Justin Arnold had an old-school stage presence that was totally within the ’80s punk arena. Their songs were short, some under a minute. But they were packed with fire and grind, and when the music started it was just balls-out power. Punk fix achieved.
Just after 8 p.m., the sun was dropping, but the temperatures were staying the same. When I left the Emerald there was no walking outside to cool down. It was just as muggy as the saturated, sweaty bar. The crowd along the Central Avenue sidewalk was growing. Sweaty people were still having fun, socializing and sharing their concert experiences.
I walked to Fubar see The Pauses.
Every time I hear of this band playing in Tampa, for some reason, I miss them. But I made it a point to see them at Antiwarpt. I’m not sure if it was a rushed setup or a bad sound mix in general, but their desired sound just wasn’t there. I could feel what they were attempting to project to the packed Fubar crowd, but it just didn’t come out as planned. The keyboards we too loud, Tierney Tough’s female vocals were not loud enough and the sound was just sloppy. I know fans that loved the show, and I know the trio has played better nights, unfortunately this wasn’t one of them.
I wandered over to the Local 662 and caught the end of Radioboxer from Miami. This band was musically all over the place. From ’70s funk to ska to Latin rock, it was an odd musical arrangement. Plus, female vocalist Vanne Dazza soaked herself towards the end of the show, pouring her bottled water on her head and down her body, which raised a few eyebrows from the crowd. While I didn’t see the entire set, I could tell it was one I would want to see in its entirety in the future. The crowd was very entertained and the music sounded perfectly mixed for five musicians jamming out. Dazza is a great frontperson and joined the crowd on the floor a couple times, dancing very closely with one lucky fan.
Another band of interest was Andy Matchett and The Minks.
I hadn’t heard much about them, but a few people recommended this seven-piece band. With the stage still wet from Radioboxer, confetti went everywhere from the first song — I could imagine the manager of the Local 662 shaking his head and fetching the broom. Fans just started grabbing globs and globs of confetti from boxes set around the stage. They were tossing it everywhere. The place was a wreck, but everyone was having a blast. Their music was upbeat, traditional rock. It reminded me of an edgy high school prom with no teachers. The schoolkids were just older and drinking a lot! A confetti party under a large parachute ended the show, adding more mess to the chaos. Many watching said it was the best show they saw for the night. I spent the next 15 minutes picking strings of paper out of my hair and clothes.
I spent a good 20 minutes cooling off at Sake Bomb, which seemed to be the only place to have their air conditioning on full blast. Then I was off to catch Alias Punch, of whom I got a glimpse during Tropical Heatwave.
I wanted to see their full set this time around, and I am glad I did. The three-piece surf-style punk band from Orlando is tight and their fans are loud and can’t stand still. I had a hard time as a photographer and had to settle for some snap shots of the band. I sat back and just enjoyed the show and environmeny. All three members are vibrant showmen who embrace crowd participation. I felt inclined to buy a T-shirt, and learned they sold out. (Many of the shirts displayed Saturday night were the last ones available, with many varying sizes sold out. It was good to see people spending money to support local acts.)
Despite my efforts to hydrate and eat throughout the day, my energy level by 10:30 p.m. was low. But I was striving to make it through the night. I had my list of music, and did everything I could to maintain my agenda.
Next up was Austin, Texas’ Bright Light Social Hour at the State Theatre.
I knew the crowd was going to be large, and as I walked through the front door, I hit a sweaty brick wall. I just could not get past the front bar. Due to a combination of heat-driven frustration and no desire to sardine myself up front, I opted for the balcony. When vocalist/bassist Jack O’Brien welcomed the crowd, people went crazy. The enthusiastic band marched and hopped around the stage like street circus clowns, with a hint of comical Spinal Tap. The music was good ol’ rock 'n’ roll fused with some indie rock. Hands were in the air, people were bumping around. In typical State Theatre fashion, I saw a couple of scuffles on the floor. Overall, though, it seems this concert was the one everyone wanted to see for the night.
Bright Light Social Hour finished my long day. I know there were many more talented acts performing; some up until 2:30 a.m. I just didn’t have it in me. By midnight, I was drained. I enjoyed the day and met some very cool people along the way. Organizers did a great job with the event, and if they could control the weather, I would say the day was perfect.
If you were not able to attend Antiwarpt this year, try again next time around. My little voyage with the few bands I was able to see doesn’t do all 63 artists any justice. I truly wish I had time and energy to see them all. To all of the fans that attended and supported the local Florida music scene, the bands and venues do appreciate your support.
— Review / photos by Andrew Carlton, tbt*
(Bonus photos: Poetry 'n Lotion)