Meridian Live Review + Concert Photos | w/ Worst Party Ever, Snacking, Big Brother, and Eliot Mayo | Mojo’s Books & Records, Tampa | June 16, 2015

by • June 22, 2015

Cozy DIY-vibes were stacked between bookshelves and record displays as Tampa Bay bands, and touring folk-punk outfit Meridian, plucked away before a tightly packed crowd at Mojo’s Books & Records. The center of the store was cleared of cafe tables to accommodate fans out of the rain and into the confines of a Tampa haven.

Tampa Bay loyals can rattle off the names of local favorite acts, including Worst Party Ever, Snacking, and Big Brother. Even local comedian Eliot Mayo took the center of the room for a ten-minute hilarity spin on vape pens and “nice guys.” Not unlike the venue itself, the eclecticism of the evening marked for treat performances.

Mojo’s, by day a bookstore/cafe/record store, blocks from the University of South Florida, is a whispered haven to catch the occasional up-and-comer in a cozy environment, versus the packed walls of a bigger venue. They’ve hosted record release shows, free events, and sheltered local acts looking for a last-minute spot to perform.

As Meridian artist, Max Stern, pointed out, it’s the combination of all things that make life worth living: coffee, snacks, books, and records. The Tampa performance might even be a contender for the best show on their first tour of the South.

In their first official trip through Florida, Meridian delivered the most engaging, catchy, and memorable folk I’ve seen in years. The band was the gateway to ending my personal distaste for banjos and their sound is nothing short of addictive.

Meridian technically visited Florida during the Fest 13 in Gainesville, but this summer was the first time the brothers embarked on the strange South. I’ll admit that the Tampa show was my second of their tour; I snuck up to Orlando to visit at Will’s Pub just days before. I hoped that adding one more fan to each stop’s crowd might encourage them to visit again. 🙂

Check out their tour video below:

Confession: I’m a massive fan of the brother-brother outfit of Max Stern (Signals Midwest) and younger brother Jake Stern. The two have separate bands of indie and punk persuasion but collaborated back home in Cleveland, Ohio to create whimsical and surprisingly punchy twist on folk. It’s only in their third album, The Cathedral, that they stepped up to a full band recording, which just demonstrates the vigor and blossoming vitality stemmed from a humble sibling project.

I’ve been following Meridian since 2012, when Max Stern performed a few songs from his Meridian project during FEST in Gainesville. Every time I hear the haunting memories wrapped within “Laila, I’m Sorry,” I am always struck by the emotions and experiences wrapped in a two-instrument piece. The Stern brothers craft an actual moment and remind you of an experience of your own, an intimacy transcends distance, as if they’re a friend sitting next to you.  You share that “Love and a Sense of Belonging” as much as stepping into “New Ways / Old Days.” (See what I did there?)

Fortunately, we have the bands close by that still echo that sense of connection in the hometown scene. Snacking, a St. Petersburg four-piece, always blasts energy that can fill the walls of a worn-out warehouse (or records/bookstore) and surge into the audience. In fact, their performances are something you’d never want to miss. Rolling emo with precise, post-rock instrumentals in “Penalty Shot,” the band is a local act to keep an eye on as they continue to release more demos and EPs.

Indie-emo punks Worst Party Ever closed the night with elastic energy and hooking lyricism. I mentioned the three-piece in my Burgatory wrap-up, and the Sarasota act still delivers. Honest and adorkable, the band exudes a presence that is genuine personality and grounded upon the experiences of Florida boys (Give “Swimming” a listen below). Bouncy, catchy, and a sick bass delves into new flavors of emo, and the touch of trumpet just boosts their sound.

I’m anxious to see where Tampa outfit Big Brother goes as a band, as far as developing into the regional powerhouse I predict them to be. Gritty, biting, and yet still instrumentally flowing, Big Brother is the menagerie of blended sound that could set them up as a true up-and-coming Florida act. Live performances of the band have me often craving a second listen (or maybe a dozen), so this is a public plea for recorded music. I would settle for a YouTube channel of haphazard smartphone videos, too!

It’s evenings tucked into the comforts of Mojo’s, matched with talented musicians, that make life worth living, right? The packed walls of the shop would agree.

Meridian Live Review by Amanda Starling.

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