All photos by Philip Pietri
By now, Carson Cox’s point-blank statements about Tampa’s cultural makeup should be water under the bridge. The 28-year-old Merchandise frontman has even admitted to being aware of the backlash (and people who work to make Tampa a better place have a right to feel irked).
“There’s been plenty of times when I’ve thought of getting out, especially this week,” he recently told CoS. “We’ve been doing a lot of press, and we’ve gotten a lot of hate mail from people in Tampa, because in interviews we talk about how backwards this place is culturally.”
Cox’s comments are things that we all may have muttered under our breath at some point, and CL’s Scott Harrell (who used to man the ship at our sister publication REAX) did a good job writing this in a recent column:
But we’ve all heard this before. We’ve heard it from college roommates, from other musicians, even maybe from our own mouths after a particularly poorly attended event — ours, or someone else’s. The outrage and frustration are passing, just like they always do, and Merchandise’s show at The Hub this Friday night will be crowded with the same people who just a week earlier were calling for Carson Cox’s head.
That’s where we pick up. At The Hub last Friday night, sweating along with a roomful of music fans — friends, family and siblings of the band, general Tampa music nuts, and people who were clearly experiencing the downtown Tampa watering hole for the first time. It was a mix of cultures and people not often seen together, all there celebrating a record — and a good one at that.
Anyone in attendance could attest that not one soul in that place harbored hate towards Cox & co., and after watching a room collectively sway, hoist bodies on top of itself, and sing along to a give-no-shits performance of a great testament to Tampa music, you’d be hard pressed to believe that the band hates Tampa at all.
There’s in a passage in a recent Stereogum article that finds Cox and the writer chatting in the frontyard of Merchandise’s Seminole Heights home. They’re smoking cigarettes, watching smoke swirl in the humidity.
“It’s different down here,” Cox says. “Heavy air.” All things we’ve experienced ourselves (except we didn’t drag Gareth Jones, who’s produced for Depeche Mode and Nick Cave, to the Heights to help us home record an album). “I’m the luckiest man in this city,” Cox says later in the story.
The guys have to answer to the rest of the world when they’re out on the road. Let them completely be themselves when they’re home.
Have a look at all of Philip’s photos below.