Transcend the smell of dusty pages, fresh coffee, and amazing green tea snickerdoodles, and Mojo Books & Records becomes church-like. The USF-area indie shop opened in 2009, but has already become a staple because it ministers to a community not always adequately served by other local venues.
“Our space is welcoming to a variety of people, it’s an alternate environment for enjoying bands,” owner Danny Drummond told CL, rattling off not-so-rock-club qualities like clean bathrooms and a smoke-free environment. “Sometimes it brings out a different side of the performers, and sometimes it’s the same energy, just in a different space.”
It’s that 4,200-square-foot space, and the up to 130 people who can fit into it on any given night, that make Mojo exceptional.
The venue is genre-less and all-ages, meaning you could run into grandma or a 12-year-old version of yourself at shows featuring noise, rap, folk or a combination of the three. Mojo is unassuming (pretentious is impossible under the junior lighting rig) and comfy. Sure, it gets loud, but there’s always the back of the room or rows of bookshelves/soundwave jetties within a few steps. Tea and coffee abound.
It’s even BYOB, but you’ll probably never see a drunk asshole.
And while Mojo is a haven for both road-tested locals like avant-punks Permanent Makeup and still-burgeoning acts like Tampa psych-sludge-soul purveyors Stoned Ape, it also plays host to potentially huge acts less focused on the trappings of fame and more fixated on the idea of playing for a room willing to truly listen.
Indie savants Tim Kinsella, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and Angel Olsen have all performed here, as have smaller emerging outfits like Speedy Ortiz, Elvis Depressedly, Xerox, You Blew It! and the Ukiah Drag. Mojo once hosted a still-unknown band called Surfer Blood, which ditched its “TV Club” moniker mere weeks before playing Mojo’s first Record Store Day. Tampa-based breakouts like Benjamin Booker (fka Booker & Norton, currently repped by ATO) cut his teeth on the red-and-white floor, and Tampa’s only 4AD-signees, Merchandise, have famously played Mojo, too, along with its litmus-tested side projects.
“Record stores should be part of the music community,” Drummond says, explaining why decent crowd space was vital to Mojo’s design, “not just a place to buy and sell.”
Mojo Books & Records is located at 2540 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, 813-971-9717, facebook.com/mojotampa,