Friends were tucked wall-to-wall in a cozy loft with the slightest tease of sunlight spilling onto the worn wood floors of The Loft. They’re scattered across couches pushed up against the wall, fluttering to and from the kitchen to grab an extra can of Rolling Rock. Just a few chords and the crowd stirred, clambering toward the riser stage in a space the size of a bedroom. It couldn’t get more intimate at the Don’t Stop St. Pete music festival.
Bands from all over Tampa Bay (and even South Florida) performed across four stages knit together along the Grand Central District in St. Petersburg. The acts shared hugs, shout-outs, and even a couple of band members. It’s the ultimate showcase of Tampa Bay talent, highlighting the potential scene-breakers on every stage.
The night was blasting from the moment Selectric stepped onto the iClinic stage. The three-piece band passed a guitar, bass, and pair of drumsticks between each other like dinner table sides at Thanksgiving. It was seamless how each player could just pick up an instrument and go. Blasting, hyping perfection set the tone of cataclysmic performances for the whole night.
Stealing the spotlight was Jasmine Deja, a brilliant multi-instrumentalist with the vocal chops to match. Most of her bands dance along the lines of psychedelic indie rock, including Selectric, Soapbox Soliloquy, and Veiny Hands. Her style is raw, noisy, and energetic — perfectly suited to showcase multiple times throughout the festival.
Crossing over to The Wove @ The Loft, it was imminent that the printing company turned Chicago loft-style house show would dominate as the best venue and collection of performers. Gorgeous, wailing Hussar stole hearts from the moment the indie rockers took the stage. Each layered alt-flavor floated into the air like stirred attic dust, wafting and consuming the senses.
The ultimate crafters of shoegaze ooze was St. Pete’s Ask for Tiger, a well-crafted blend of alt-punk with a dash of noisy hardcore. Their performance is jolting, bone-shaking, and chilling with every shouting roar.
If there were an act that would lure me into an indie pop-induced high, it’s Poster. The Tampa act oozes happy-go-lucky vibes with ethereal instrumentals that capture your movement. Just try listening to their Bandcamp tracks — I dare you to sit still when listening to “Condors.”
Contrasting the bouncing Poster and explosive Ask for Tiger were the spirits of the forest, known as Chant the Trees. Playing on top of the Tropicool open-air bus was well-suited for Kade and Ryan Ballogg, who entranced with harmonious folk wizardry. They’re well saddled with the guitar and the mandolin, but it’s this folk nature imagery, a soft and beckoning sense of meditation, that made a crowded dusk alley transform into a hazy dawn bog.
Sliding into Sly Bar was stepping into the hardcore, alt-rock home of Don’t Stop. From the outside, it sounded like Rage Against the Machine had seized the dive bar. But it was none other than Samurai Shotgun, the most enticing performers of hip-hop hardcore. Thrashing from one end of the crowd to the stained floors, every chord and rhythmic note pierced an unforgettable barrage of intensity.
None thrashed harder than Permanent Makeup. Rumbling and spilling from behind speakers into the packed crowd, every speedy, ripping guitar thrust whipped each soul into a moshing powerhouse. The band embodies stamina and grit, rarely halting their set for more than a minute.
Expressive emo never blasted more beautifully on the Wove stage than the momentSnacking launched their set. They’ll tell you their songs are about Yu-Gi-Oh cards, but there’s a deep, punching layer of emotion in each chord that strikes harder than any other band in Florida. Each rolling wave of sound is a tear at the heartstrings, a deeper rip at the soul. Snacking is mesmerizing, consuming, incredible and destined for a bigger stage.
Winding down the night was the ever-entrancing Redfeather. Psychedelic swoons swept through the hippie crowd, and it’s all due to the gorgeous balance of alt-rock and groove. It’s an exploration of sound, bursting with organic maracas and tambourines juxtaposed to drawling synthesizers. Even days after the event, tapping along to “Myakka” was enough to take me back to a dazzling, sublime hour of the night.
After jolting from hardcore to nature calls to indie rock, it was the subtle climax necessary after a day of bursting raw talent. But please don’t ask me who’s my favorite local band. Instead, let me talk to you about my hometown scene.