I was notified that a private question and answer secession was taking place in Tampa, at Jim Chambers Music Box involving “The Struts”. I met Jim Chambers when I covered the open house for “The Music Box” in July of this year for MNPR Magazine. Mr. Jim Chambers, a retired record executive and proprietor of “The Music Box”, personally extended the invitation and added me to the guest list. “The Music Box” is a band incubator where advanced and beginner aspiring musicians can take lessons from top artists in their discipline of choice. From vocals, guitar, bass guitar, drums to keyboards, the instruction is top notch. Under Jim’s watchful eye, like minded individuals pare up and form bands. They are instructed in the total package, from stage performance, advertising, marketing, to branding. Complete coverage can be read in my article published in MNPR Magazine in July, “Jim Chambers Music Box in Tampa, Florida”
Since my visit in July, “The Music Box” has expanded their band performance room, “The Chatter Box” to present the new student bands to favorable audiences of family and classmates before performing in public venues which can be intimidating. This venue holds approximately 75 guests in its intimate setting. On Sunday afternoon October 14, 2018, the band members of “The Struts” came in to take questions from the students of “The Music Box”.
The band was seated on couches center stage before the young audience of musicians. They were attentive and inspiring, answering questions from “how did the band start”, “How did you pick your name”, and even questions about finding and choosing a band manager. As the MC, Jim Chambers was wrapping up the hour-long questions, I just couldn’t resist and had to ask, “Are the audiences different in the states as opposed to in Europe?” They all agreed, “They are all the same”. Which brought my second question, “So standing on stage you really can’t look out at the audience and tell what country you’re in?”. At that point, I believe Jeb Elliott, the bass player chimed in, “The audiences here in the states are crazy”. Let’s hear it for the US’s love of crazy Rock n Roll, a proud national moment.
I really enjoyed the format and felt honored to be included on the guest list, but I wanted more! The Struts were headlining a show that evening in Ybor City, a historic section of Tampa, Florida. Jim Chambers made a phone call after everyone had cleared out of “The Music Box” to The Struts tour manager, and I was added to the media list for the show. Prior to Saturday, The Struts were not on my radar. After some quick research and a YouTube Video, I knew this was an event I needed to cover.
Upon further research, I learned that last year the band released an EP, "Live And Unplugged". In 2017 they opened for “The Who” in Quebec City, “The Rolling Stones” in Lucca, Italy , and “The Foo Fighters” in Washington DC. In 2016 they opened for “Guns n Roses” in San Francisco, California. These are serious musicians and are on the way up. I really needed to cover this band!
I arrived early to The Orpheum in Ebor City.The fans were lined around the block waiting for the doors of the club to open. There was still over an hour before the doors opened at 7pm so I went next door and ordered a Cuban Sandwich to kill the time and have dinner. Ybor City’s culture is known for its hand rolled cigars and cuisine.
Upon my return, the line was gone, and I entered The Orpheum without delay. The club holds approximately 1,000 fans and is general admission, so you must arrive early to claim your spot close to the stage. Seating is limited; be prepared to stand. Unless of course you pay for the limited VIP balcony section which has a great vantage point above the stage. This night, there were three bands performing on the bill. The complete show lasted 3 ½ hours. The staff is attentive and courteous and makes you feel welcome. A member of security staff offered me a refrigerated bottle of water, the air conditioning hadn’t caught up to the dramatic rise in temperature that the crowd brought and we were both sweating. The air was hot initially, but the room cooled by the second band.
Spirt Animal from Brooklyn, NY was the first band on stage. Their first release was “The Cost of Living” in 2010. In 2012 they released their first EP “This is a Test” and in 2013 "The Black Jack White" an electronic dance single was added to the Spotify play list and scored over 450,000 plays. They signed a record deal with Atlantic records in May of 2018 and on August 3rd, 2018 Spirit Animal released their first major record debut LP, “Born Yesterday”. They played a short set as the opening band, it was energetic, and I could have been happy hearing a little more.
Steve Cooper vocals - Moog
Ronen Evron - drums
Paul Michel - bass
Cal Stamp – guitar
White Reaper from Louisville, Kentucky was the next to perform on The Orpheum’s stage. A five piece band with an energetic keyboard player that just won’t stand still. Very energetic rock n roll touring on their 2017 release of their second album, “The World’s Best American Band”. A hard title to live up to, but they did their best to convince the attending crowd.
Tony Esposito - Guitar / Voice.
Nick Wilkerson - Drums.
Sam Wilkerson - Bass.
Ryan Hater- Keys.
Hunter Robertson - Guitar.
10. The Stack
11. Judy French
12. Half Bad
The band that I had covered earlier in the day at the intimate question and answer session, The Struts were the headliners and the last to perform. I was anticipating a great show and had the utmost respect for this band seeing them give their time back to the young people at “The Music Box”. Luke Spiller had told the students, to not try and live up to what other’s expect of you. His advice was; Whatever level you get to, if it’s true and makes you happy, you have made it. But he also added that he wants more everyday and that is what drives him. Luke has been compared to the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. He does resemble him in a way, but he ignores the comparison. I found it odd that he idolized Michael Jackson when he was young, but he added that his dancing memorized him, not his music. His stage outfit on this night of black and red leather reminded me of Michael Jackson. His dancing did not.
The Struts were labeled “Band of The Verge” by USA Today in September of 2015 after their release of the debut album “Everybody Wants” in 2014, and the EP “Have You Heard” in August of 2015. Currently on their “Body Talks” 46 date tour, and the band will be releasing their sophomore effort, the LP “Young & Dangerous” October 26, 2016.
What I loved most about The Struts show was the crowd interaction with lead singer Luke Spiller. The crowd sang, they waved, and of course they danced. At one point in the show a fan was welcomed to the stage to sing and dance with Luke. It was a special performance and the crowd couldn’t get enough. At one point during their performance I looked on stage and the band wasn’t just going through the motions, they were invested and were having as good a time as the crowd. They love what they do and it was a continuation of what I witnessed earlier in the day as they were engaged with the 75 students. This night they were engaged with the 1,000 fans at the club. I may not have known who this band was three days ago, but I am now a fan and will be watching them from now on.
Luke Spiller - Lead Vocals
Addo Slack - Guitar and Vocals
Jed Elliott - Bass and Vocals
Gethin Davies – Drums