By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: The Noise Box, Brandon, FL, August 19, 2018
First, let’s introduce you to a rather unique venue. Unless you knew what to look for, even with a GPS you might miss the place. Valrico is on the outskirts of Brandon, which is on the outskirts of Tampa, in Florida, which is on the outskirts of the United States in more ways than one – Go to “Florida Man” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s hidden inside a church, which explains the “no alcohol served or allowed on premises” nature of the venue and the clearly religious tone of the building. Make no mistake, however, that has no effect whatsoever on the bands’ antics, from profanity-laced lyrics to the best comment of the night, “Since this is Sunday, the Lord’s day, smoke a joint for the Lord.” (Matt Desmond, The Cigarette Blondes) The Noise Box is gaining a reputation as a venue for cutting edge young bands, and it’s worth the drive to see the latest in pop, rock, metal, punk, and some unique bands that defy categorization but are entertaining as, well, you know the bad place is where all the cool people go when they die!
Six bands performed that night, with some of the fastest teardown/setup times I’ve ever seen, a tribute to the cooperation between bands. They were, in order of appearance: Stranger Than Fiction, For The Best, The Cigarette Blondes, The Happy Alright, Keep Flying and Hungover! And now you know where that weirdly-worded subtitle came from!
Starting things off, Stranger Than Fiction hit the stage. An alternative rock band based in Seminole, FL (one of the many municipalities crowded into Pinellas County with Clearwater and St. Petersburg), I recognized long before the last song – a duet – that there was more going on between the lead singer and one of the guitar players. Unfortunately, their habit of looking at each other meant it was hard to get a clear face shot – the lighting was inadequate as it was. Still, they were entertaining, and being just out of high school a few years, have plenty of time to work on stage presence. Members listed are: Karly Johnson- Vocals, Bryce Berringer- Lead, Hannah Paradis- Bass, and Austin Berringer- Drums – and I’m betting the boyfriend is the missing fifth name. A worthy addition, as his vocals and presence during the duet were stellar.
Next was For The Best, a Zephyrhills, FL melodic hardcore band. Zephyrhills is a small town about 25 miles northeast of Tampa, best known for bottled water. If Lance Parker – Vocals, Jakub Spivey – Lead Guitar, Austin Acklin – Bass/Back-up Vocals, and Braden Galbreath – Drums have anything to say about it, the town will be better known as the birthplace of For The Best! Parker was the showman of the band, leaping on top of things, running around on the floor in front of the stage, while the rest of the band gave him solid backing. The bad part about his highly entertaining antics was the venue’s total lack of light on the floor area, which limited my ability to capture his gyrations and athleticism. And again – there was a mystery fifth member! I’m beginning to think it’s a conspiracy!
The Cigarette Blondes provided both the next set of tunes and much of the audience, which reached it’s peak during their set, and set the stage for some drama – more on that later. Barely a year old, the St. Petersburg based band consists of Matt Desmond, lead vocals, and Kyle Gray, Daniel Peregolise, Brandon Klase, and Ian Stawin, whose roles are unidentified (Matt has a link to his own site) but who played their parts well. The band is definitely on the lighter side of pop, aided by Matt’s ability to hit clear high notes. And they drew the biggest crowd, obvious by two measures: T-shirts worn by audience members, and how many people left when they were finished – or, told they were finished. Remember the drama I mentioned? Seems they got to where the house sound engineer had been told they were ending, and he let them go five minutes longer, and the crowd was cheering and they said they had one more song, started appealing to the crowd, and the sound engineer was having none of it: he turned up the intermission music and presumably turned their instruments/mics off. So the bands start tearing down/setting up, and Matt gets on the phone, comes back in a few minutes later and announces they were going back on, he just got the producer’s okay. But the band was already half torn down, and they didn’t want to continue, and pretty soon the band was gone – and so was 80% of the audience. Which was sad, because they missed three excellent bands. I don’t know how many might have left anyway, but the drama didn’t help.
The Happy Alright didn’t let the comparatively sparse audience affect them, they powered right into their brand of Dallas,Texas rock as if they were another band from Texas that starts with ZZ! Interestingly, they are now Happy, but on Twitter, they’re @TheSadAlright! And yes folks, again we have mystery members! There are four guys on their Facebook photo, and for guys in the photos I took, but the drummer doesn’t look like anyone in the Facebook photo, and the lead guitarist is definitely not one – he’s a mountain-sized man with a pink Mohawk, I think he’s pretty distinctive! So even though the band was founded in 2011, two members are relatively recent replacements, maybe just for the tour (oftentimes young bands must find subs when they go on the road due to commitments; sometimes these road members become permanent replacements. I wouldn’t have suspected it if I hadn’t gone to their Facebook page, so they fit in well!
Now we come to the hosts of this mini-festival, Keep Flying. I’ve been mulling over how best to describe this punk rock // emo // pop punk band: Imagine if you will that Chicago (the band, not the city) had children that formed a band modeled after The Sex Pistols, with influences of The Ramones and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Clash, and Motley Crue. Now imagine that band combined with Wolf-Face, The Mothers of Invention, and Green Jello. With very little clothing. Yep, you got it! Maybe add a pinch of Insane Clown Posse. Still photos have a hard time capturing the band’s energy.
The band is made up of Henry – guitar/vocals, D.Jay – trombone/vocals, John – saxophone/vocals, Charlie – guitar, and Peter – drums. They hail from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and LI, which is probably Long Island, or could be Live Insanity. The “Nudist Punk Rock” band lists influences like Four Year Strong, Light Years, Motion City Soundtrack, Skippa da Flippa, and has been around since May of 2016. An organized cacophony of sound, the band was the most visually active of the night.
Finally, Hungover closed out the night. Check out the interview to find out where the name came from – it’s not what you think! Band members Austin Barney, Marc Cortes, Gabe Santiago, Evan Colson, and Sean Connors reside in Orlando, FL, a city overshadowed by it’s most famous resident, a certain cartoon mouse. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the area has a thriving music scene (see Florida Music Festival 2018 in Orlando: lots of great music and an ‘The Odyssey of the Feet’) and Hungover is a great example of that. Since 2013 the band has been building buzz, and the recent reconstruction of the band hasn’t slowed the renown of their sound one bit!
Check out their latest release and look for them in your area!