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Fowler's Bluff: Southern Sunshine State spirit, with a side of beer

(Welcome to tbt*'s Ultimate Local Music Guide! All week we're spotlighting 10 of our favorite local artists of the past year. Today: Swampy, psychedelic Southern rockers Fowler's Bluff.)

Fowler's Bluff is as Florida as Jimmy Buffett, without all the seaside connotations of scantily clad women and overflowing bottles of Corona.

Not that the boys don't know how to have fun; their performances never fail to get the audience on their feet and movin'. Whether it's one of their up-beat numbers (Wom3n), or something slower and hypnotic (Ambivalent); they always have a psychical effect on the crowd.

Lyrically, they present an esoteric side of Florida's beauteous offerings. Their music is as expansive and atmospheric as our open waters, and as thick and mysterious as our mangrove swamps.

Bassist and singer Todd McBride says it best: "The images I love about Florida aren't necessarily the bright sunny days. When the thunderstorm head rolls in off the gulf and you're watching the dark clouds contrast with the sun, you get this incredible imagery: these colors, moments, and temperatures; It's there just for that moment. You're like, I feel so incredible right now. You want to paint the sound of the moment and create that same impressive feeling with the music."

No one member of Fowler's Bluff — McBride, George Eckerle (guitar and vocals), Mike Todd (keys, guitar, bass and vocals) and Chad Mairn (drums and vocals) — steals the spotlight, with each member effortlessly and ego-lessly trading instruments. Fowler's Bluff is by the music, for the music.

Their beginnings stem from bands they have collectively played in on and off over the years; their actual origin sits 130 miles north of Tampa in the community of Fowler's Bluff, where Todd's family owns land.

"In July of 2011, we basically formed our band on a road trip up to our river place, Fowler's Bluff," McBride says. "We came up with our namesake and realized we were good friends who could play music and collaborate well together."

"I think it helps with our writing, "Mairn adds. "We're not sitting there listening to what's going on. We're not connected to the Internet; we're not connected to anything."

Over the past year, their musical output has grown exponentially. They have released a self-titled album and are in the process of recording their second. You can catch them on any given evening at any given venue anywhere in the bay area.

In January, they performed at the grand opening of Pair O' Dice Brewing Company in Clearwater. They hit it off famously with owners Ken and Julia Rosenthal and have since joined forces to brew their own beer: Fowler's Bluff Session IPA.

"We were looking for a band for our grand opening in January," Ken Rosenthal said. "We had come across Fowler's Bluff and we listened to some of their songs, and liked their sound. We ended up hiring them for our grand opening. We had a great reception to what they were playing and we had a pretty good time with them."

Julia: "As we talked with them, we found out how much they really enjoy craft beer," Julia said. "When we wrote the business plan for Pair O' Dice one of the things we always wanted to bring to the Tampa Bay area was local, original music. With the success of the grand opening, Fowler's Bluff got a lot of people asking about them, where can they find them, where can they hear their music more. Their love for craft beer spawned this discussion of, 'What else can we do together?' Being two relatively new businesses, we thought that we should collaborate."

So on Saturday, Pair O'Dice Brewing will host a tasting event called "The Band with a Beer, the Beer with a Band," where they'll tap the Fowler's Bluff Session IPA.

Fowler's Bluff plus delicious beer? That equals a splendid time for all.


Fowler's Bluff will perform at a tapping party for their collaboration with Pair O'Dice Brewing, Fowler's Bluff Session IPA, at 6 p.m. Saturday. After that, they'll play tbt*'s Ultimate Local Music Showcase, a free concert at the Local 662 in St. Petersburg.

-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*