5 favorites from the Downtown River Jam

After my introduction to several fantastic Florida bands at Bear Creek Music Festival, I realized I didn’t know as much about the Florida scene as I thought. So when the time came to attend the Downtown River Jam in St. Petersburg, I was more than ready to get better acquainted.

On Friday and Saturday, December 5-6, four venues in the St. Pete area came together to showcase some amazing regional musicians. I live in Orlando, so I was only in town for Saturday, and a bit of unfortunate scheduling meant having to choose between some bands I wanted to see, but here are a few of my favorites from the day. 

Originally from Clermont, Fla., now in Orlando, Holey Miss Moley is a seven-piece funk band that also dabbles in jazz, reggae, and ska. Members include Kenneth Harvey (bass), Jacob Cox (guitar, vocals), Antonio Morales (drums), Vernon Suber (percussion), Danny Clemmons (vocals, tambourine), Rev. Funky D (keys, vocals), and Christian Ryan or “that sax player”, a fixture in the Orlando music scene that can be seen playing with several bands in the area. 

One of my favorites from the band’s set at the Blueberry Patch was “Naugatuck”, which you can hear, along with “Devil Funk” from the debut album Florida Grown, on SoundCloud.

Blues Image, an American rock band formed in Tampa in 1966 and best known for the track “Ride Captain Ride” released in 1970, played at the State Theatre Saturday night. It was led by Mike Pinera, a founding member who had previously parted with the band and went on to play with Iron Butterfly, Ramatam, and Alice Cooper. 

The headliner of the event, Blues Image’s timeslot put it right up against The Applebutter Express, a favorite from Tampa, with which it just could not compete — though not for lack of skill. It was hard to see the room so empty during such a great set of blues and funk.

Lingo, a five piece jam experience hailing from Atlanta, brought a fervent energy to The Local 662, an intimate but spacious venue just across the street from the larger State Theatre. Funk, jazz, bluegrass, and world sounds flowed from the stage, while expertly executed transitions kept us all guessing what could come next. A cover of Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” was a real crowd pleaser.  

Violin, guitar, organ, bass, and drums came together to create the southern gypsy funk sound of Come Back Alice, a captivating quartet from Sarasota. Again at The Local 662, Dani Jaye played the violin so furiously that I could see frayed bow strands from my seat. Tony Tyler (vocals, guitar, organ) was celebrating a birthday. It was a fun show. 

Shoutout to Parker Urban Band out of Jacksonville for keeping it live at the wee hour of 4 am. The set opened with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on steel guitar that nearly brought me to tears as I listened from the parking lot of the warehouse that hosted the late night festivities. 

And thanks to organizer Mark Glenn and everyone else who was involved in the event for bringing so much awesome regional talent to St. Pete for one impressive weekend. I hope to see this fest grow and help spread the love for Florida music. 

words by Thandiwe Ogbonna
photos by Brian Hensley