Don’t Stop St. Pete Revs On With Continuously Satisfying Sounds
Competing springtime events didn’t stop a throng of millennials and a few older music enthusiasts from rocking out at Don’t Stop St. Pete 2017 on a sunny afternoon in St. Petersburg. The community festival at the Morean Center for Clay served up a pastiche of sights and sounds from early afternoon to midnight. Popular local/regional acts such as Luxury Mane, Set & Setting, Jensen Serf Company, Permanent Makeup and Sonic Graffiti and 25 other acts took to indoor and outdoor stages cheekily named “Don’t,” “Stop,” “St.” and “Pete.”
As with any music festival, there are the bands you set out to see and the new acts that become revelations. While some concert fests can wreak havoc with a jumbled mess of delayed start times, DSSP kept it compactly scheduled with a succession of acts that took turns starting from one stage to the next. Performing from 3 p.m. until midnight, they drew crowds with a staggering variety of moods and styles.
The Jackettes delighted in the afternoon with melodic pop, upbeat humor, infectious bass lines and soulful falsettos. On the darker side of the spectrum, Davie-based duo Ian Iachimoe (the name of a Paul McCartney pseudonym) appealed to heavy music lovers with just a drum set and bass guitar aided by copious effects. Whatever the duo lacked in manpower they made up for it in triplicate with metallic mania, progressive arrangements and propulsive rhythms.
“Maybe one of the most under-recognized bands we hosted from out of town was Ian Iachimoe,” Serena added. “I think their sound is really complementary to Set and Setting. They are a two-piece that play as loud as a 20-piece band.”
Speaking of mad rhythms, Permanent Makeup ushered in the nighttime performances with their energetic, avant-garde mishmash of angular guitar riffs and booty-shakeability.
“We got there early to see The Spuds, and I loved them,” shared Permanent Makeup drummer Susan Dickson-Nadeau, who sported the ironed-on command, “Respect Women Now!!!” on the front of her white T-shirt. The acclaimed percussionist said she enjoyed the trio’s catchy style and feminist tunes, highlighted by an anti-cat-calling audience clap-along.
During Permanent Makeup’s set, husband/frontman Chris Nadeau, ventured offstage in the thick of their appreciative crowd — as did Autarx‘s vocally acrobatic, face-painted frontwoman, who, according to Orlando Weekly, goes by the name “Raised by Wolves.” The O-Town-based Goth-punk band recall popular genres of the 1970s and ’80s but their delivery and blend of tempos are exciting and fresh.
Off-stage antics recurred throughout the night. Serena commented on the late-night action:
From a stage adorned with holiday lights a la Winona Ryder’s living room in the aforementioned Netflix series to the crochet candles hanging from the Stop stage, Serena set out to set her event apart from the chain-link fences and barren expanses of most festivals.
“We owe a great deal to St Pete’s own Lost In Time Creation for accentuating the property’s charm with custom fabricated staging and chill zones,” she said. “It’s those details that differentiate our festival from larger more turn-key events.”
Serena stipulated that she made it a point to import friendly bands from all over Florida. “Wastelands has been shredding in Miami for a few years,” she said, “and it was a treat to bring their energy to the roster. People definitely lost it during their set.”
Local information booths and vendors supplemented the entertainment with quality foods and goods. Included were Urban Brew and BBQ, Black Crow Coffee Co, artist Josh Comics, Washed Ashore, Badass Baubles & Things, Keep St. Pete Lit, Wild Nocturne, Black Moth Candle Co. and Rejuled.
Ray’s Vegan Soul fed hungry concertgoers fed hungry concertgoers in for the long haul, and Sarasota-based PopCraft Pops indulged with naturally tasty sweet frozen treats. Mitchell Goodrich’s Film World Desert zines set up indoors with reading material between stages, and Woveprint Co. brought their silkscreen presses to create custom tees with snazzy Florida artwork bearing the slogan, “A sunny place for shady people.”
The origins of Don’t Stop trace back to Antiwarpt, which launched in 2010 as an alternative to the Vans Warped Tour. With two wildly successful runs, the fest earned a respectable imprimatur on its own, all but shedding associations with its national-mainstream counterpart. In 2013, its promoters spun off with their own events at different times of the year: Plan B and Don’t Stop St. Pete.
Serena has said that she strove to make Don’t Stop St. Pete more of a community-focused event than just another music festival.
She’s also involved environmental awareness in her other role as vice president of People for Protecting Peace River, an organization “built upon safeguarding our watershed and protecting Florida’s native ecosystems.” Volunteers handed out information from the organization and the Center for Biological Diversity. $1 from each ticket sold went to the People for Protecting Peace River.
“Community is at the core of everything we do with Don’t Stop St Pete. From the local bands and vendors, to the production and volunteers, everything ties back to the city. We tried to reflect that with this year’s branding, by referencing the World Liquors sign on Central, and juxtaposing it with the municipal St. Pete sun mascot (artwork by event partner Brian Butler; the was also recently popularized by Chad Mize’s downtown mural).
“Our core team is made of people who are passionate about our scene. Many of our performers have returned each year to perform or volunteer. … They see us doing the same (as individuals) for their events. We love how there is a shared sense of admiration, and a common notion that a high tide raises all ships.”