Streetlight Manifesto rocks St. Petersburg

All photos Puneet Sandhu/Catalyst

Standing in the back of the venue was looking like a great adult choice on my part. I could lean against the railing on a platform raised slightly above the pit. Instead of random bodies, I could see the band I paid to see. Instead of being trapped by the riotous youth near the stage, I could easily move to take well-aimed pictures and ordered notes. My camera was under no threat from the misdirected emotions of fans and best of all, I still smelled like the shower I took right when I woke up at 5 p.m. that day.

The last opening band got off stage and out came the headliner, Streetlight Manifesto. After an instrumental introduction, Streetlight moved right into their first song of the night, “The Receiving End of it All,” off their 2007 album Somewhere in the Between. My “on duty” defenses faltered. The band started up another energetic song and I could not stand my tidy situation any longer. I jammed the notepad in my bag, shoved the pen behind my ear, gripped the camera with a fist raised in the air and jumped the railing separating chaotic motions from tamed enthusiasm.

And that was only the start of their set.

Streetlight Manifesto, a ska-punk band out of New Brunswick, N.J., brought their “Ship of Fools Tour: Odds and Ends” to St. Petersburg’s State Theater on March 8. The somewhat well-known band formed in 2002 and has had its members change throughout the years. Lead singer Tomas Kalnoky first formed the band after Catch 22, another ska group he fronted, split up. Currently, Streetlight has seven members and multiple instruments including baritone and tenor saxophone, guitar, bass, trombone, trumpet and drums. The music is catchy and the lyrics are optimistic, sometimes kiddish. More pop than crass punk, their style is often to start slow, then pick it up pick it up pick it up with extra helpings of sound.

Throughout the night, Streetlight kept the energy flowing and the crowd roaring. Up by the stage, it was evident that the venue had let in more people than it could hold. Everyone was crammed up next to each other and when one person moved, the crowd swayed like drunk dominoes. The band played songs from each of their albums — the set list included  “A Better Place, a Better Time,” “A Moment of Silence” “Here’s to Life,” “Keasbey Nights” and “Point/Counterpoint.”  Like for any good ska show, the skank-turned-mosh pits did not dilute for an instant despite the lack of space. Fan after fan crowd-surfed up to the stage, waved to mom and dad and, with a push from security, hurled back into the grimy mass they sprung from. Meanwhile everyone’s arms remained outstretched, to catch a stranger’s fall.

Although Kalnoky announced the end of the show and the band got off stage, the crowd would not have it. Shouts of “one more song!” turned into a chorus of “Olé! Olé olé olé !” Less than five minutes later, Streetlight was back for a short encore. They played a cover of the NOFX song “Linoleum” from their work on 99 Songs of Revolution, a set of cover songs by Streetlight and three other bands. The very last song was their own track “Somewhere in the Between.” Long after they got off stage again, fans hung around, asking stagehands for the band’s set lists and spare guitar picks.

The show had sold out soon after the first band got on stage. Luckily for all of us who were not expecting a ticket shortage, an hour and a half wait outside the venue paid off as several people left early and a couple were thrown out by aggravated bouncers. An older man informed me that the first band, Larry and His Flask, played some great ska, while we both agreed that A Loss for Words was like what we would find at any Warped Tour, with predictable lyrics and blandly familiar sounds — although they did a nice cover of The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

By the end of the night, I was drenched with other people’s sweat and spit, bruised all over, bleeding slightly from the crowd surfers that fell on my head, completely worn out and on my way to early deafness. Evaluation: with no hesitation, a strong sat.

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