Concert Review: Cage the Elephant and Bear Hands @ Jannus Live

Cage the Elephant
St Petersburg’s Jannus Live is unlike any venue in Toronto. It’s outdoors, but with bars and restaurants wrapped around the perimeter, those on the second floor offering a great vantage point of the stage. Industrial fans attempt to cut through the thick Florida air, and a large tarp covers those few hundred who hover closest to the stage. Beyond the tarped portion of the courtyard, an old, twisting tree grows, offering additional coverage and, sometimes, a place to wrap Christmas lights.

This particular show was presented by 97X (Tampa Bay’s “you control the music” version of Toronto’s “you choose the music” Indie 88) together with Shock Top. Tickets for this “Shindig” could be picked up at ticket drops around Tampa Bay, though because the radio station handed out more tickets than the venue’s capacity, it was first come first served, and lining up early was encouraged.

Cage the Elephant
By 5:30PM on the 16th, the line wrapped around the front of the venue, and a long way down First Ave. N. As it neared closer to 7PM, doors time, security began stamping people’s wrists and turning the metal barricades into line dividers—one of their few moments of organization.

Waiting to the side of the line, I heard one security guard ask, “Are you doing tickets?”

The other said, “I didn’t even know there were tickets.”

Steadily and messily, people filtered in, chugging their beers before surrendering their ticket stub. Once inside, guests were offered a garish orange necklace—Mardi Gras style, with a Shock Top pendant. One fight almost broke out, one person was allowed in with pizza, and more than one person walked in with a lit cigarette pinched between their teeth—again, it was so unlike Toronto.

Opening for the openers were On The Avenue. They released their debut album, Champion, back in January, and self-describe as “a well balanced blend of true-to-life lyricism, R&B flavor and memorable Rock guitar licks.” They huddled in what looked like a little group prayer before hitting the stage, and succeeded in warming up the crowd.

Bear Hands
Bear Hands—best known for their song “Giants”—continued that, playing a solid set of songs from their album Distraction, as the area under the tarp and the second floor became packed with people waiting for Cage the Elephant to go on.

Between those sets, fellow photographer Vince and I grabbed a snack at MacDinton’s Irish Pub, where young adults were clad in Americana—flags and flag shirts—celebrating the U.S’s win against Ghana in the FIFA World Cup. The crowd’s U.S.A cheers, though, stopped as soon as Cage went on, quickly replaced by the opening chords of “Spiderhead.” Matt Shultz (lead vocalist) went nuts even before the chorus started, his striped button-up drenched in sweat by the end of their second song, “In One Ear.” It was around that time that he also plunged into the crowd, the mic cord tangled around his foot, hands holding him up as he, belly down, sang into their faces.

With the high-energy antics, crowd surfing, and shirtlessness, Matt Shultz gave off an Iggy Pop vibe—minus the sun damage.

Cage the Elephant
Before slowing down, Matt told the crowd, “You guys are a bunch of savages.” Then, standing nearly still and holding the mic with both hands, drenched in sweat and blue light, Cage the Elephant played “Telescope.” Midway through, the disco ball started spinning, and Matt’s voice conjured the little lights of lighters.

All of that spinning stillness ended with an older track “Back Against the Wall,” before switching back to material from Melophobia (2013), playing “Black Widow,” “Its Just Forever,” “Teeth,” and “Come A Little Closer” in succession. The encore, in contrast, was a minute celebration of 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, consisting of “Shake Me Down” and “Sabertooth Tiger.”

Matt’s ceaseless energy, however, wasn’t quite matched by the crowd. Moshing and crowd surfing were limited, and the cheering was quieter than what you’d expect for a band of that size, and than what went down at Toronto’s Kool Haus. Americans won the soccer game that day, but in terms of shows? They are no match for us Canadians.

Click here for all interviews, photos, and features on Cage the Elephant.

Review by Leah Edwards (@leahhedwards) | Photos by Vincent Rivera & Leah Edwards 

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