Review: Ferg's Sports Bar launches concert series with Ratt, Warrant in St. Petersburg
Inside Ferg’s Sports Bar on Friday night, it was business as usual: Games on TV, happy-hour tipplers pulling longnecks by the bar, a retirement party in the back.
Out back, however, it was a whole different story. By 9 p.m., around the time Warrant’s power ballad Heaven was soaring down Central Avenue, some 2,500 hair metal fans were banging heads and waving lighters at Ferg’s first major concert.
Could this work? Could Tampa Bay’s best baseball bar actually become a viable live music venue?
The courtyard, located between Ferg’s and First Avenue S in St. Petersburg, is a slightly ramshackle area, with drink tents and food tables and potted trees creating various nooks and crannies here and there. And yet no matter where you stood, you almost always had a decent view of the stage.
That stage, wheeled in this week from South Florida, is pretty massive, visible even through gaps in the walls outside Ferg’s perimeter. For much of the show, it felt oddly bare-bones, backdropped by the Fusion 1560 condos next door. (That in and of itself made for some fun viewing, as drinking, smoking residents checked out the show from their balconies, even waving signs at the fans down below.)
For its first few shows, Ferg’s isn’t looking to establish itself as a proving ground for hot indie talent. Warrant and Friday’s headliners Ratt are nobody’s next big things – especially in the case of Ratt, which recently reshuffled its entire lineup around drummer Bobby Blotzer.
And yet the sound in Ferg’s courtyard wasn’t half bad, giving the enthusiastic hair-metal devotees an earful of proof that hat these hair-metal holdovers still have some gas left in the tank. Who among us, honestly, can resist the chugging, grinding charms of Warrant’s Cherry Pie or Ratt’s Dance, You’re In Love or Round and Round? Especially when accompanied by an order of $5 Pizza Logs with Spicy Ranch?
The show wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. Doors were originally scheduled for 5 p.m., but they didn’t actually open until about 5:40, as organizers and fire inspectors tweaked the courtyard’s layout. By that time, local openers Gunburner had already started playing.
“Open the gates! Let them in! Let them have rock!” shouted Gunburner’s singer.
For the next show, Blue Oyster Cult on Nov. 13, organizers will shift things around just a tad, moving a couple of tents to expand fans’ field of vision, perhaps even expanding the courtyard’s footprint into the lot directly east of the restaurant.
And about the restaurant: The noise from the concert isn’t pervasive, unless you’re sitting in the room closest to the courtyard. It seemed like folks had little trouble getting from outside to inside and vice versa – good news, potentially, for Ferg’s business (although you can also get pub grub outside), but bad news if they’re hoping to keep out crashers. And crashers could very well come, especially with nightspots like Green Bench Brewing, the Amsterdam and the Flying Pig nearby.
Could live music work long-term at Ferg's? Well, there's a long offseason ahead. By the time the Rays come back in 2016, it should be a raucous audition to an already busy 'Burg.
-- Jay Cridlin