After a run through “Cool Jam” on Tuesday night, Houndmouth drummer Shane Cody looked into the chatty crowd and said, “It’s good to be back in Florida, it’s been a few years.”
In most cities, that’d be par for the course as far as stage banter goes, but for Houndmouth, the sentiment rang true. The Indiana-born band hadn’t been in town since 2016 when it played Gasparilla Music Festival, amicably split with founding member Katie Toupin and returned (with horns in tow) to thrill Clearwater Jazz Holiday eight months later. Since then, Houndmouth put out 2018’s Golden Agegot dropped from its label and held up in a 19th-century shotgun house in New Albania to record Good For Youits strongest record to date.
And in spite of new variants of coronavirus, the national touring circuit is roaring back, with calendars fortifying themselves every month, meaning a seemingly relentless number of concerts coming to Tampa Bay.
Cody’s sentiment also probably rang true for a large swath of the capacity crowd packed into 687 Central Ave. In the same year Houndmouth released Golden Age, downtown St. Petersburg’s State Theater closed after a series of violations reduced capacity and eventually forced owners to put the historic landmark and music venue up for sale.
After more than two decades of concerts, the space—constructed in the 1920s as a bank before eventually becoming a theater in the ’50s—very well could’ve become a food hall. But live music on Central Avenue’s 600 Block avoided a death knell when real estate broker Kevin Chadwick picked the property up for $2.1 million in the summer of 2018—nine months before COVID-19 put live music in a chokehold. Nearly a year later, State Theater got its new name; 10 months after that, doors at Floridian Social Club finally opened.
Chadwick spared no expense renovating the facility—it’ll be a travesty if his team doesn’t pick up a restoration and renovation award from Preserve The ‘Burg this week—and locals picked up the concert calendar there until this week when Houndmouth became the first national touring act to play the room in nearly half-a-decade.
Inside the Floridian Social Club, there are very few reminders of the old State Theatre.
There is a Tecate and tequila shot special (touché, although most folks might’ve washed the booze down with a PBR), but there’s a lot more gold leaf, all placed tastefully, in the building now. You can actually take a shit in the restroom without having to bleach your ass cheeks afterwards, and the green rooms (famously grimey at State) feel like they were beamed in from another planet.
There’s a full bar upstairs and the sound system (although not bad at State) is nearly perfectly-tuned for the kind of Strat and Rhodes-driven dustbowl rock and roll bands like Houndmouth make their bread and butter on (the slow blues on “Palmyra ,” roadhouse rock of “My Cousin Greg” and downtuned comedown of “For No One” all sounded pristine).
And by all accounts, everyone in the room was primed and ready for the band, too. Frontman and guitarist Matt Myers was all smiles throughout the 15-song set which included appearances from in-house aerialists on Good For You bop “McKenzie” and encore-closer “Sedona.” (Shawn Kyle, Floridian’s brand new Director Of Entertainment & Talent Buyer, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay the band learned about the local aerialists and hired them on their off night.)
The audience indulged in the solos on “Make It To Midnight,” clapped for intraband booty bumps on “Black Gold,” bathed in the organ swell on “Goodbye” and sang along at the top of its lungs for both “Honey Slider” and Good For You‘s title track when Myers turned the microphone away from him and into the crowd.
By the time “Darlin’” arrived to close out the set, there was even a little musk and sweat in the air, a reminder of the Floridian room used to be.
Heat was a hallmark of almost any State Theater show; it wasn’t uncommon to leave that room after a punk show from Piebald or Against Me! just covered in someone else’s sweat. In the early days of Floridian Social Club’s get-to-know-you period with St. Petersburg, folks not ready for the change lamented the fact that the city might not ever get to see a metal act there anymore. They weren’t wrong; those shows are at Jannus Live and Ybor City’s soon-to-relocate Orpheum now. Anyone hoping to catch Death Grips or Insane Clown Posse at 687 Central Ave. might as well take a hike, too.
But look around at the 600 Block, people. The folks who opened Star Booty, ran Daddy Kool, and broke their backs to keep venues like Fubar and Local 662 open have all moved to other—affordable, for now—parts of town. Others have gotten out of town completely.
Floridian ain’t your older brother’s State Theatre, but it still might host a set from the resurgent Dinosaur Jr.s, up-and-coming Bon Ivers of the world, or play host to a festival that brings acts like Son Volt, William Tyler, Ought, Budos Band and Waxahatchee to the stage in one weekend. Shit, I could see a vice presidential candidate playing harmonica with Bon Jovi, too.
Right before the first chorus on “Darlin’” Myers sings, “You ain’t gonna make it if you don’t let someone in,” and that’s important to remember when it comes to live music in St. Petersburg. There’s no reliable 800-900 capacity room like Floridian in Pinellas County (Clearwater’s Capitol Theater does great for seated shows like Iron & Wine, Boz Scaggs, Punch Brothers, et. al), and Central is lucky to a now have a room that seems ready to bring national talent back to the block.
And if you miss the old St. Pete a bunch (we do, too), Emerald Bar is still a three-minute walk away from Floridian Social Club. Hell, even Houndmouth found its way to the storied St. Pete dive bar after the show to drink cheap beer (and maybe do a shot of tequila, too).
Anyone still on the fence about Floridian needed to listen a little harder to Myers in between his rowdy guitar solos on Golden Age rager “Comin’ Around Again.”
“You don’t where I’m going, and you don’t where I’ve been,” the lyric goes.
That’s interesting to think about considering the band is from Indiana—one of the more affordable places in America right now—and playing in St. Pete where, well, we’re begging for rent control.
“But when you hear the angels singing,” Myers sings. “I’ll be coming ’round again.”
It feels pretty damn good to hear 687 Central Ave. Getting loud on a Tuesday night, and you can bet that even with all the alarming change happening locally, Floridian Social Club will have even more national acts coming around to St. Pete’s miracle mile again very soon.
Listen to a playlist featuring songs from the show on Tidal. See all of Jon William’s photos below.
Make It To Midnight
Sun In the Valley
Good For You
My Cousin Greg
For No One (solo)
Comin’ Around Again