A quick glance into the crowd during Reptar’s closing set at the Local 662 revealed nothing but smiling faces and sweaty, dancing bodies. Various members of the Athens, Ga.-based outfit were dressed in fluorescent t-shirts, short swimming trunks, and funny hats. It was an absolute love fest, and that moment best summed up the whole Antiwarpt experience. With over 60 acts set to play eight stages in a span of less than 12 hours, it was near impossible to choose which bands to see, but no matter where plans (or lack of plans) may have led you, it was hard not to be pleased with the cards the Antiwarpt gods dealt you.
On July 30, 2011, Suburban Apologist sent three photographers, plus a guy with a pen and notebook, to see what the mad scientists at Brokenmold Entertainment, Daddy Kool’s, and the whole of downtown St. Pete had been cooking up since last year’s inaugural throwdown. Here’s what we found:
1:20 p.m. – Outside Daddy Kool’s
Excitement got the best of yours truly. It’s very calm outside of the record store, and the tables aren’t even completely set up yet. Time for a beer.
2:25 – Emerald Bar
The Negra Modelo at Burrito Boarder made me feel better about the beads of sweat already dripping down my back. There’s an Antiwarpt wristband on my arm now, but I’ve still got an hour to kill. Emerald is quiet and cold inside. High Life tall boys are only $2 and the bartender is killing a box of Raisin Bran in front of me – I have a feeling this is as relaxed as I’ll be all day.
3:20 – Ink & Sweat – Fubar
It’s a good thing I got to the set from this Tampa-based hardcore outfit on time because it was over in less than 15 minutes. It was always loud, sometimes melodic, and the perfect way to pop Antiwarpt 2’s cherry. Singer Ryan Fouche asked is he was getting free beer for playing, and if he sees me around I’ll make sure to get him one.
4:00 – Loud Valley – The Local 662
With most of the music starting in between 5-6 p.m. at most venues, heading into the air-conditioned confines of The Local 662 was an easy choice, and while I had no clue what Loud Valley had in store for me it was their set that made me feel like the day was going to be amazing.
On the last day of a Southeastern mini-tour, the band clearly wanted to keep it low key and utilized a three-man harmony and trumpet parts to make songs from their debut, self-titled full-length feel one hundred times warmer that they do in the 32-kbps format. They were without a drummer for the day and joked that the 40 minute performance was their “Florida Boys gospel set.” It was funny to hear them mention the 1950’s vocal quartet, but their performance did harken back to a day when dudes would simply sit around, no computers, and write solid, simple tunes. While the ‘ol strum & hum can get boring at times, Loud Valley know how to do it right. “I wanted to play a quiet set,” explained their frontman, “I hope you’re enjoying it.” Sure as hell am.
5:00 p.m. – Y Los Dos Pistoles – Fubar
Not having Antiwarpt’s über-updated mini-schedule left me oblivious to the fact that Kevin K wasn’t playing the Emerald until 5:20, so I enjoyed the most delicious ice cream sandwich in the world (it was vegan too!) and rushed into Fubar where I caught singer/guitarist Shae Krispinsky leading her band through the end of their set. There’s no telling what kind of spell I might’ve been under if I caught more than the last three songs, but those 10 minutes left me enchanted.
5:15 p.m. – State Theatre
Everything is backed up 15 minutes at State Theatre (aka the PBR stage) and Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets won’t be on until 5:30 p.m., but I’m not abandoning this fresh, $4 Miller Lite 12 oz.
5:25 p.m. – Kevin K – Emerald Bar
Instead I gulped down that brewski and took the short hike back to Emerald where Mr. Kevin K was kicking things off in style. Living proof that tattoos do look cool in old age, Mr. K made it clear that the kids these days really did fuck up this whole punk-pop thing. The man spent the late 70’s in NYC-outfit, The New Toys, and opened for the likes of The Ramones, Dirty Looks, and Pat Benetar so he knows what he’s doing. Exhibiting amazing musical dexterity throughout the entire set, K – along with his bassist and drummer – were in complete control of their rockabilly/blues influenced set and left the Emerald crowd with some sage advice: “Have fun,” he said, “but don’t get too fucked up and pulled over by the police.” Point taken.
5:55 p.m. – Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets – State Theatre
I arrived back at State as Damion Suomi was leading his Minor Prohpets through the 25th minute of a full-on folked-out revival. It was fitting that the band was on stage under white stage lights as their set was the first obviously well rehearsed theatrical performance of the day. Case in point: as they powered through “A Dog From Hell (And His Good Advice)”, Suomi and his boys swilled PBR tall boys and spit hellfire with the scorn of a Southern preacher.
“We’re here to unlearn the teachings of the church and state,” he proclaimed, quoting the late Charles Bukowski. “We’re here to drink beer, we’re here to kill war – to live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.”
Lauris Vidal even joined the band on stage to sing on “Let My Love”. If this set didn’t get your heart pumping and make you want to pour a cold one down your throat, then you might want to quit that boring 9 to 5, pull your head out of your ass, and drink up from the loving cup because if Damon Suomi proved anything it was that there aren’t many problems that should stop you from letting it all go (even if just for a moment) and having a little fun.
6:20 p.m. – Florida Night Heat – Fubar
This being their second Antiwarpt appearance, Tampa’s own Florida Night Heat play the role of elder statesmen of the festival, and their set at Fubar proves that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Black Viking God, Pocketchomper (who was celebrating a birthday on Saturday), and DJ Mes took the stage to a moderately filled room, but left the place a packed, hot, sweaty mess.
Refusing to be pigeonholed into any label any more concise than “instrumental” the band plays a style of rock that is bombastic, tough, melodic, and hypnotic all at once. Their set is sonically rich (especially with the addition of Matt E. Lee on keys and Kenny Pullin on two cuts) and while certain moments felt like the bowels were being shaken out of my belly, songs like “The Last Bandito” showcased the band’s ability to paint the type of sonic images Dangermouse, Danielle Luppi, and Jack White tried to dream up on Rome.
Forgive the cheap pun, but the daytime set from Florida Night Heat was as hot as any the event would see.
7:00 p.m. – S.E.X. – Star Booty
The allure of the Star Booty stage was undeniable as its lineup shaped up to be the host of Antiwarpt’s most experimental, electronic & sample based acts. I popped in to catch the end of S.E.X.’s (Did j. thelonious cancel?) performance and I will definitely try to catch a full show soon. The duo was dressed to the nines (the camera doesn’t show it but the singer was wearing the shiniest pair of shoes ever) and played a sample-heavy, seemingly dark set.
7:10 p.m. – Auto! Automatic!! – The Local 662
Their set couldn’t have kicked off much earlier, but by the time I walked into the Local 662 Auto! Automatic!! seemed to already be completely locked in. I distinctly remember watching guitarist Brian Larsen play some experimental stuff at Kelly’s Pub years ago, but it’s nice to see how he’s evolved as a guitarist as the years have gone on. His mathy approach is inevitably the centerpiece of the three piece outfit’s stage show, but the whole thing wouldn’t be as captivating without drummer Alex Fedele and new bassist Adam Kahn, who provide the vessel that Larsen’s epic guitar lines ride in on. If Florida Night Heat provide raw, visceral power, than A!A!! are the equally intriguing foil.
Playing songs from their upcoming self-titled sophomore LP (“In or De Aus,” “FYF,” “Who Am I? King of the Dicks?”) Larsen and Fedele showed that they’ve shaken the rust from a year-long hiatus off quite nicely. The looped and reversed guitar lines on “In or De Aus” recall the warmest moments on any early Minus the Bear or American Football recordings and when it gets really interesting when that sample gets played in double time. It feels good to have them back.
7:45 p.m. – Feral Babies – Emerald Bar
Most everyone coming to Antiwarpt is somewhere in the vicinity by this time of the day, and Emerald Bar has a lot of them within its walls. There are some folks seated at the back, but the majority of those in attendance are standing, bunched to the back of the bar where relatively new punk outfit Feral Babies are powering through songs like Hugh Heffner used to barrel through Playmates.
Led by singer Justin Arnold, the babies – Andy Stern, Sulyn Hago (who also played with fest openers Ink & Sweat), and Marc Cody – probably played the whole of their catalog and then some during the less than half-an-hour set. Stern’s kick drum wouldn’t stay put during the performance so a fan from the crowd sat in a chair – smack dab in the middle of the band’s setup – and kept the thing from moving. The willingness to help was the thing I took away from that show.
With most of the crowd nodding their heads in approval and almost all of them paying attention, it’s hard not to feel like Feral Babies, much like the scene they exist in, is a like family that knows what it loves and who they can call their friends.
8:10 p.m. – Have Gun, Will Travel – State Theatre
It’s hard to explain the feeling that I got when I walked into State and saw Have Gun Will Travel frontman Matt Burke leading a rowdy crowd through the shouted chorus of “Blessing and a Curse.” I was told that the Bradenton-based Americana kings have played to “two or three times as many people before” – and I believe it – but it was certainly gratifying to see them in command of the place.
THOMAS WYNN & THE BELIEVERS AT STATE THEATRE 07.30.11 (GTDMOUSE)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: NERVOUS TURKEY AT STATE THEATRE 07.30.11 (GTDMOUSE)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: SERYN AT STATE THEATRE 07.30.11 (GTDMOUSE)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL AT STATE THEATRE 07.30.11 (GTDMOUSE)
8:25 p.m. – Young Egypt – Star Booty
Star Booty was certainly one of Antiwarpt’s best-kept secrets (apologies to The Globe, Sake Bomb, and Café Bohemia, who never got to see my ugly mug on Saturday) and Young Egypt are a big reason why. Merely identifying themselves as “Jeff and Phil” in a recent interview, the duo sat and knelt in front of three open suitcases and delivered the first “hot damn!” set of my day.
A mysterious act that doesn’t do much publicity (this isn’t your “Hey I’m gonna do my hair and clothes so you can take a promo shot” kind of band), Young Egypt do well by letting the music and performance speak for itself. Utilizing a slew of loops, samples, and effects to full effect, the pair possesses a raw energy that is nearly palpable from the audience. The boys joked about “being a brand” at the end of their set, but they better be careful because their impassioned performance and ability to create a truly distinctive live experience is starting to felt very unique to me.
9:10 p.m. – Alien House – Star Booty
A confession: I’m tired. Hungry too. And while the carbs in this Dirty Marco beer are keeping my body’s glucose levels somewhat normal, I decided to just sit and relax in this pink salon chair. It’s a good thing I did too.
Orlando noisemakers Fever were forced to cancel, so Tampa’s own Alien House – whose 6 p.m. Café Bohemia set I missed – were setting up to play their second set of the day. It’s always strange to finally see the bands you write about it person, but there is something genuine in vocalist/sample-maestro Justin Meyers’ approach. He along with guitarist/vocalist Anthony Tarallo also play electronics-based music, but where Young Egypt have a freewheeling, raw and impassioned approach, Alien House present a more calculated, rhythm-based set.
The repetition of the drum beat on “Sifter” is hypnotizing and at this point of the set Meyers and Tarallo have gotten over early jitters and are completely locked in. It was tough to leave early, but I had to see more bands, and as I left, the boys were launching into a new song called “Cause & Effect”…everything sounds promising.
9:30 p.m. – Andy Matchett & The Minks – The Local 662
If it weren’t for his plaid shirts and skinny jeans, I would never believe that Andy Matchett is a rock musician. He’s tall and built like a professional athlete – he’s gigantic. His stage show is too. I stumbled back into Local 662 as the trademark parachute was being deployed and a paper heart stuck to my face. It’s hard not to grin when that happens. Matchett and his Orlando-based outfit are smile makers and their set is a reminder that music – above all – is supposed to be fun. Speaking of fun…
9:40 p.m. – Lauris Vidal – Fubar
…that Vegan Beagle, or whatever it was I ate, was amazing and gave me fuel for what I experienced next. The collective evaporating sweat of the Fubar faithful was the first thing to greet me when I walked into the room where a party was in full effect. Ormond Beach-native Lauris Vidal was killing an electrified version of a cut from his latest EP, Better Part, and the crowd – including Damon Suomi and his band – was eating it up. Vidal is a folk-star is there ever was one and he doesn’t have to try to get that point across.
He plays his guitar (and that cigar box ukulele) like a man on fire and his fervent, throaty growl is menacing and warm at the very same time. Vidal shares his love for playing music with everyone in attendance. In what qualifies as my funniest Antiwarpt moment, Vidal even rubbed his sweaty bald head on a random, exiting man.
Suomi and the Minor Prohpets crammed on to Fubar’s tiny stage for set closer “Freed.” “I need my spirit free,” exclaimed Vidal and Suomi, “that’s why we are drawn out to this night.” Ya damn right.
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: THE PAUSES AT FUBAR 07.31.11 (NICOLE KIBERT)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: LAURIS VIDAL AT FUBAR 07.30.11 (NICOLE KIBERT)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: POETRY & LOTION AT FUBAR 07.31.11 (NICOLE KIBERT)
10:10 p.m. – Michael Christmas – Star Booty
It’s hard to stay away from Booty, and it seems like booty doesn’t want to stay away from Michael Christmas either. Alcohol may have played a small part in the event, but a pair of young ladies did not want this St. Petersburg-based garage rock outfit’s set to end. “Don’t stop,” the band’s new fans exclaimed. “We have to,” said the band, “we don’t have any more songs.”
It was true. With only five original songs on a brand new demo tape, the fellas don’t have much material to pull from. Still, their set was a lesson in quality over quantity. Cuts like “MEETHead,” “Nada One,” and “Serff Jones” are soaked in fuzz, but where most garage rock sounds just plain dirty, Michael Christmas sound like they’re taking that dirt, walking it across the sand, and soaking it in some refreshing ocean water. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took a piss in it when they got there too.
One of my favorite performances, hands down.
11:10 p.m. – The Bright Light Social Hour – State Theatre
The last time SubAp! saw Bright Light Social Hour was when they nearly took the roof off of Crowbar during Tropical Heatwave. It was going to be interesting to see if the Austin-based outfit could do the same at State. I posted up at the front (where our good friends from The Ruckus officially ‘stached me), and waited patiently for the band to come on.
It only took two songs, but bassist Jack O’Brien, his epically hairy chest, and the rest of the band had the crowd at State singing every word by the second song – “Build A City” from their self-titled debut LP. The devotion of the audience made it hard to believe that the boys played to a practically empty New World Brewery just about a year ago. If it only took a year to build this following, then who knows if the boys won’t be playing even larger venues by this time next year.
11:20 p.m. – Set and Setting – The Local 662
With Bright Light Social Hour making sure everyone was happy at State, I decided it was okay for me to leave and catch one of my most anticipated sets of the day. It was dark onstage when I walked into The Local 662 and Set and Setting were setting quite the doomsday vibe.
Front lit with incandescent green lights, the band – a guitarist, bassist, and two drummers – showed why they’ve dubbed themselves “St. Pete Sonic Soundscape Builders.” Mark Etherington – shirtless with a mess of curly red hair – is a menacing presence behind the drum kit and he, along with Stephen Handal, seem to be the engine that drives this barreling engine of swollen, ominous instrumental down the path to infamy.
The band says they play “songs you can turn your mind off to,” and by the looks of the crowd – all mostly looking down and head bobbing to the drone – that description isn’t too far off.
11:40 p.m. – Gentlemen Please – Star Booty
It’s quiet at Star Booty. Café Bohemia and The Globe have already called it a day and Gentlemen Please are set to shut down Star Booty. After some tuning and volume suggestions from guitarist John Thacker, singer/guitarist Alastair St. Hill and the boys are on their way. If the setup was a bit shaky, then the performance is a testament to the fact that – despite having trouble finding time to practice – the band knows what they’re doing.
Syncopated guitar lines, perfect riffs from Thacker, and the mellowest crowd of the day, this felt as comfortable as a living room show. “Wrong Time Capsule” is also a jam.
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: THE BEAUVILLES AT LOCAL 662 (KELLEY JACKSON)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: INFINITE GROOVE ORCHESTRA AT LOCAL 662 (KELLEY JACKSON)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: AN INTRODUCTION TO SUNSHINE AT LOCAL 662 (KELLEY JACKSON)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: RADIOBOXER AT LOCAL 662 (KELLEY JACKSON)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: THE SEMIS AT LOCAL 662 (KELLEY JACKSON)
12:30 a.m. – The London Souls – State Theatre
At this point the State Theatre has been open for almost eight hours and it reeks of beer. More than half of the crowd that was present for Bright Light Social Hour has dispersed onto the street, but this setting seems just fine for this Brooklyn-based trio. Tash Neal gets award for coolest motherf**ker at Antiwarpt. It’s hard to tell if he’s even got his eyes open behind those white wayfarers but it doesn’t matter. In fact, his band’s set is best experienced with eyes closed anyway.
The Souls have found the right blend of the blues, rock & roll, and soul, and at this point of the evening – with my buzz wearing off and the 12 hours on my feet taking its toll – the music feels like it’s penetrating my actual body. Major props to Neal – along with bassist Kiyoshi Matsuyama and drummer Chris St. Hillaire – for not letting the relatively empty room keep them from delivering in the wee hours of the morning.
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: THE LONDON SOULS AT STATE THEATRE (GTDMOUSE)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: GUILTMAKER AT FUBAR 07.31.11 (NICOLE KIBERT)
ANTIWARPT IN PHOTOS: THE TIM VERSION AT FUBAR 07.31.11 (NICOLE KIBERT)
1:15 a.m. – Reptar – Local 662
This ain’t Bonnaroo, and no one here is expecting some kind of Superjam, but saving Athens, Ga.’s Reptar for last was the best decision (of the many great decisions) that the boys and girls at Antiwarpt have ever made. My notebook merely says, “Reptar, Local 662,” and the rest of the page is blank, but something else was recorded in place of the words that should’ve been scribbled onto the 3 X 5” piece of ruled paper.
Etched into the slimy grooves of my brain are images of bassist Ryan Engelberger in the Waste Management-yellow shirt, synth man William Kennedy’s weird hat, and Andrew McFarland’s eternal smile behind the drum kit. However, forever imprinted on this little music-loving heart is the way frontman Graham Ulincy owned around the stage on Saturday night. His bio has him listed as a student at UNC Ashville, but the boy – and yes he’s got that eternal youth look going on – and his band proved why they’ve been billed as one of the best live acts around.
Ulincy was flailing, craning, and gliding around all night, and while the movements in themselves were enough to attract attention, it was the way that the dude’s half-squinted eyes gazed upon the crowd that captured me most. It was as if he was indifferent, yet totally engulfed at the same time. A kid lost in the music his band was creating, the whole reason we listen to and play it.
At one point in the set, Ulincy was pulled into the crowd. Instead of fighting it he crawled right in, went face-to-face with the young lady, and sang straight at her mug. There was leftover heart confetti everywhere (thanks Mr. Matchett) and that image – of a singer interacting with an audience in such an innocent and heartfelt way – is what is right with Antiwarpt.
In a festival scene loaded with big stages, even bigger names, egos, and stupid wristbands with tracking chips in them, Antiwarpt delivers just the opposite: multiple small-ish venues, a mixture of high quality local, breaking, and nationally recognized bands, and the opportunity to see it all at an extremely affordable price.
“Man, today has been awesome,” Ulincy said mid-set, “you guys have a good thing going here.” We sure ‘nuff do – more than we even know.