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Young, Black and fabulous: Jacksonville's Black Kids storm Ybor

Black Kids Reggie Youngblood, Ali Youngblood and Dawn Watley perform in June at the Apple Store in Chicago.

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Black Kids Reggie Youngblood, Ali Youngblood and Dawn Watley perform in June at the Apple Store in Chicago.

The last time Black Kids played Tampa Bay, at New World Brewery in Ybor City, a modest but hyper crowd of young adults filled the patio. Like most kids in regional touring bands, the Black Kids arrived in a van and crashed at friends' houses.

Will things be drastically different when they return to Ybor City this weekend?

"The accommodations have slightly improved, but it's not to where we can have our own tour bus," keyboardist Dawn Watley said in a recent phone interview. "We're actually sharing it with our supporting band, the Virgins. There'll be 16 of us altogether."

Since that show last Nov. 21, the little band from North Florida has rocked and reconfigured the indie music landscape, both in the United States and abroad. Their chic cachet and frisky pop style is continents away from Limp Bizkit, the last band out of Jacksonville to make it big.

In July, Black Kids' debut LP, Partie Traumatic, debuted at No. 5 on the U.K. album chart and the single, I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You, debuted at No. 11 on the U.K. singles chart.

Their relatively sudden rise to fame has been a bit surreal, especially to Watley, who says she went into conniptions when Rolling Stone snapped their picture for the magazine's "10 bands to watch" feature.

"I was freaking out!" exclaimed Watley. "It was our first professional photo shoot."

Black Kids initially earned recognition when MP3s of their 2007 demo, the Wizard of Ahhs, sprinkled the blogosphere. Their moody synths and vocals of singer-guitarist Reggie Youngblood recall '80s bands like New Order, the Smiths and the Cure. But the lo-fi guitars, choppy beats and childlike eruptions are thoroughly 21st century.

Co-founder Reggie — who, yes, is black, as is sister-bandmate Ali Youngblood — says the band's name is a tribute to African-American youth who have pioneered new styles throughout rock 'n' roll history. He has called Partie Traumatic a "teenager's record," saying it's inspired by "chronic, unnecessary heartache and lust."

The album's frenetic energy and stylishness validate youthful wonders and blunders. It's as sweet as candy, but not bubble gum — more like a red-hot jawbreaker.

Reggie founded the band in 2006 with bassist Owen Holmes and drummer Kevin Snow, whom he met at the Sunday School of his Baptist Church. Reggie and Snow had formed a Christian ska band, among other acts, and Holmes played in punk bands. The three decided to go in a new, more focused direction, with Ali on vocals and keys. Watley, the last member to join, met Ali in a park one sunny afternoon, and they quickly bonded over their mutual love of music, puppetry and crafts.

"We were both creative minds, so we clicked," Watley said. "Ali usually had a guitar with her back then, and I was doing some kind of crafts because a piano is too big to bring to the park. We also had a puppet show. It was for a little festival in Riverside, about a day in the life of a cow."

The gals' playfulness, along with Reggie's intense and restlessness nature, won over the band's recent U.K. audiences — whose reaction left the band speechless.

"We were (in Europe) for a month and a half doing some touring and festivals," Watley said. "We went to Spain and parts of the Netherlands, and we did some UK festivals like Redding and Leeds. It was amazing. Everyone was really pumped up and all-day concert energetic. We had packed tents. At Leeds, we didn't have to sing because the crowd was so loud, singing the songs because they knew all of the words. … It gave me chills."

Black Kids

The band plays with the Virgins and Magic Wands at 9 p.m Sunday at Crowbar, 1812 N 17th St., Ybor City. $15; all ages; (813) 241-8600.

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Young, Black and fabulous: Jacksonville's Black Kids storm Ybor 09/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 5:24pm]
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