The Friday night Florida Night Heat show at New World opened up with performances by Sun Signs, Alias Punch and AJ Vincent, though we managed to miss the first two and arrived at the start of AJ’s set, joining the healthy 100-plus crowd that had come out to enjoy some brews and local(ish) tunes.
You likely remember sandy-haired keysman AJ best from his tenure playing with Austin-bred The Bright Light Social Hour; he hit the falsetto notes, brought dynamic stage presence, and busted out a keytar for the occasional high-powered jam. Solo, he shows strong promise and already has a full repertoire of songs ranging from more straightforward electro-rock dance numbers to synth-trippy instrumental soundscapes, all of it blasted at frequencies so loud I had to bust out the ‘plugs. AJ still has the ability to enthrall with his good looks, great keyboard stylings and impressive vocal range, but he’d benefit from the support of a band, or at least a drummer; there’s a certain sonic vibrancy a live kit adds to the mix that a drum track just can’t replicate.
Florida Night Heat strolled to their spots at around 12:20 a.m., and after a brief scuffle that actually tumbled into the stage area from the patio and interrupted their set relatively early on (stop drinking if you can’t handle your alcohol, people!), the musicians got into the building and crushing part of the night, bassist Andre Jones, guitarist Jensen Kistler and drummer Chris Wood joined by unofficial member Matt E. Lee (Poetry n’ Lotion, Brahm Bones); Lee actually appeared on 2011’s #Immortality and has been contributing to recent live performances on keyboards and guitar, adding a fresh dimension of hazy texture and sci-fi psychedelia to their grimy post-rock n’ hard groove sound.
On the whole, the foursome's playing was tight, focused and plenty vigorous in a setlist that included older tracks (“Bobby,” “BK Outro”), a cover (Nirvana’s “About a Girl”), and all four cuts off their newly-pressed Omegas EP, unveiled for the first time on this night and available on 180g vinyl; copies were hawked along with limited edition Simpsons-inspired tee-shirts made specially for the occasion. The band even changed things up a for a song that found Dre and Jensen trading instruments, Dre’s brow furrowed in concentration over the axe while Jensen looked extra angular wielding Dre’s bass. FNH returned for an encore with guest trumpeter Kenny Pullin and closed the night with the dramatic spaghetti western march and crash of “The Last Bandito.”
Saturday night was drenched in rain and a few events seemed to suffer, though the shows went on as scheduled, if slightly altered. The St. Pete Bike Co-Op Grand Opening was moved into the small confines of the shop, a building adjacent to the Shufflboard Courts, and I arrived to find it surrounded by giant puddles; Early Forms was setting up, the rain was still coming down and I managed to immerse my feet (flip flops a bad idea in hindsight) and soak through the bottom of jeans feet before even getting to the door. Since I’d seen Early Forms the weekend before at Fubar, I decided to return home to change into drier clothes before venturing back out to catch George Clinton and P-Funk at A Slice of the Burg. (More info about the Co-Op opening in Meghan's report.)
A few stops later, I was at The Bends drinking with friends in the nighclub-like laser-lighted backroom and bobbing to some hip hop when word finally arrived that The Mothership had landed. We started the process of closing multiple tabs, and made a hasty retreat as the music took a dance-unz turn. Next stop: Ferg's.
The fundraiser to help preserve the historic YMCA had endured a wetting all day, and as the day grew late, was finally moved from its downtown St. Pete street stage to the sports bar near Tropicana Field. Pay-what-you-can tickets turned into a free-for-all walk-up by the time we strutted and sauntered into Ferg’s (because that’s what you do when you hear P-Funk playing) to what sounded like the tail end of “Cosmic Slop” based on the guitar soloing. The closer I got, the better I could make out Clinton’s head bobbing in the distance. The only thing visible above the surging crowd of bodies was his white fedora and that was my view of him for the rest of his set, as pushing through the too-thick crowd surrounding the stage was more trouble than it was worth for a view that didn’t change much despite me being closer. But I didn’t mind; the atmosphere was a festive and high-spirited one, the crowd getting down and totally enthused as Clinton and the band cycled through various Afro-futuristic P-Funk hits — “One Nation (Under a Groove),” “Make My Funk P-Funk” and the like. Even the clusters of cops standing with crossed arms on the sidewalk to the left of the stage (which opened out onto the street) seemed to be in a mellow mood, ignoring or ignorant to the occasional scent of greenery wafting on the late night air.
A short video of the night below...