The Local Original: An overview of the Suncoast music scene reveals progress and change

Published October 13, 2010

In trying to improve the Suncoast music scene it’s important to examine where it came from, how it developed, and where it stands today. Therefore, I felt it was necessary to use this week’s column as a State of the Scene Address of sorts. When looking back at what’s taken place over the past year, I figured the best point of comparison would be to examine where the scene was back in February. That’s when 38 bands from the 941 area code joined together in collaborative musical harmony to produce theNoise Ordinance CD compilation, culminating in the momentous CD release celebration that united Suncoast musicians like never before.

But a lot has changed in eight months. Some of the standout bands in the area — Villanova JunctionYouthThe Silent Film Exhibitionists Club — have disbanded. Other popular artists like Sam Robertson and Reggie Williams bid farewell and headed off to college, or in Devin Robinson’s case, Nashville.

Thankfully, there’s a silver lining in many of those developments. SFEC’s former keyboardist Aimee Guerin found a home in the lineup for Cassolette, who just cut a deal with Miami’s Cloud Berry Records to release a 7” vinyl. Former SFEC guitarist Adam Marret took over bass duties for Fancy Rat, although the band is now scouting replacements for their recently departed drummer and French horn player, only months after the release of their first albumVillanova’s ex-frontman Ryan O’Neill stepped in as bassist for Sons of Hippies, who after releasing their second album A-morph in August, embarked on a six-week tour that ends with a homecoming show at Pastimes this Thursday. As for the Devin Robinson Band, word on the street is Jack White’s Nashville-based label, Third Man Records, has shown interest in signing them. Nice job, boys!

While change can be hard, most of the news coming out of the Suncoast scene shows steady progress. MeteorEyes and The Equines also headed out on tours this summer, the former hooking up with fellow SRQ band This is an Adventure and the latter jumping on a leg with Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, a New York-based party band signed to David Byrne’s label, Luaka Bop. Bradenton’s alt-country darlings Have Gun, Will Travel saw a sharp increase in popularity after the release of their second album, Postcards from the Friendly City, winning the title of “Best Bay Area Breakout” in CL Tampa’s 2010 Best of the Bay issue.

Sarasota’s funk/hip-hop heroes, Big Blu House, have moved up in the world since dawning their debut album in March. Just last week they played their first show at Jannus Live in St. Pete opening for two national acts: Nappy Roots and Rehab. The Muphin Chuckrs unveiled their ninth full-length effort, From Life to Paper, in August. And you can expect the drop of debut offerings from Lion ChoirThe Psychotropic Band and The Living Man keyboardist Matt Frost in the coming weeks.

It’s unfortunate that I have to print a retraction for the story I wrote about the Chuckrs’ weekly gig at Mattison’s Riverside. I had reported that those performances were sets of the band’s in-your-face originals, when they are actually sets of not-so-in-your-face acoustic cover songs. But that doesn’t take away from the promising actions of a handful of brand new venues.

Since the start of summer we’ve seen local original bands booked at Mr. Beery’s in Gulf Gate, The Entersection on Beneva and Webber, Growler’s on the North Trail, and most recently The New Bar in Venice. And the new owners of Rosemary District’s The Venue and downtown’s Blue Owl, formerly Felice’s and The Box Social respectively, have continued the musical business models of the previous owners. Other venues, like Cabana Inn, Stairway to Belgium and Flying Dog Café, have expressed interest in booking original acts. Flying Dog will actually host their first local original show next Friday, Oct. 22, when yours truly (Tim Salem) opens up for Left Hand Corner.

This new found well of support for musical creativity has lead to an idea now being thrown around in scene circles: Local Originals Night. Basically, this would be an opportunity for venues to help the music scene thrive by picking one night out of the week to host an original band. Not only would it provide some much-needed scratch for local artists at a time when gigs have been sparse, it would also offer venues a way to spice up one of their slow nights. If your Tuesday karaoke isn’t bringing in what it used to, replace it with a different local artist every week. Bands play for new crowds, venues bring in new patrons — everybody wins. If you know, or you are, a venue owner who is interested in hosting a weekly Local Originals Night, please contact me attim.sukits@creativeloafing.com.

All in all the Suncoast music scene, albeit constantly evolving, is in pretty good shape. With flocks of snowbirds just starting to arrive back in town, it’s nice to see everyone settling into their proper roles. And if you’re wondering when the next historical, collaborative, scene-changing, Noise Ordinance-type event will arrive, it may be sooner than you think. More on that to come…

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