How did Jannus Live in St. Petersburg become a hub for reggae-rock bands like SOJA, Rebelution and Sublime With Rome?
Eric Rachmany is trying to count how many times he's played St. Petersburg.
"Oh, man," says the singer of Santa Barbara, Calif. group Rebelution. "I'd say, like, 15 times, maybe?"
There was a sweaty summer show at the old Garage Bar, now the Local 662, when the A.C. broke and "people were just swaying, looking like they were going to pass out." There was a more recent show at Jannus Live, when it began to downpour, but "everybody just went nuts and made the most of it. It added to the amazing night."
And then there's been a gig or two that coincided with St. Pete's First Friday street parties. "Those are pretty crazy," he chuckles. "I might try to avoid those."
Next week, Rebelution will return to Jannus Live for a rare two-night stand, something no band has attempted since Sublime With Rome, above, in 2010. That both bands are superstars of the loose and languid genre known as reggae rock is no coincidence.
Jannus Live — and St. Petersburg as a whole — has become a national hub for reggae rock, a genre frequently ignored, if not outright maligned, by critics and musical tastemakers. Here, bands like Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, SOJA, the Dirty Heads, Pepper, Iration, Passafire and the Expendables pack in up to 2,000 fans per show — usually below the radar of local radio and media — thanks to diligent promoters and the city's fervent, self-sustaining scene.
"When you go to Iowa and play this stuff, it might be a good escape for the locals, but it's not a way of life," said Pat Downes, singer for Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime, who play Jannus Live on June 27. "We can do 10 shows in a row in Florida. We can't do that in one state in too many other places."
For our full story on Jannus Live and St. Petersburg's role in the modern American reggae-rock movement, click here.