Large scale theaters usually have their fair share of musical history; The Chicago Theatre, The Filmore, The Beacon you could go on all night with historic venues that contain just as many legends as the bands who played in them. But when it comes to smaller, indie-oriented locales, youd be hard pressed to find one that contains such a rich background, although they do exist. One such venue is Jannus Landing in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Nestled in the heart of downtown in Tampas finer sister city, Janus Landing was fashioned out of the courtyard of an early 1900s hotel. You can still look up on all sides during a show and see the ornate, yet withered balconies of old. Even better is that the former suites serve as green rooms for the bands. Its common to see the headliners leaning over the balcony rails, sipping a beer and bobbing their heads to the opening act. And for those who love the indoors, a bar (nightclub on primetime nights) is conveniently stationed in the very back of the cobblestone square.
But the Landings most famed — or notorious depending on how you look at it — architectural feature is the twin set of poles on the stage and in the audience. Although meant to hold up the tent hanging over the front section of the crowd, during any show they rapidly become a support beam or axis point for some of the nastiest mosh pits in the Southeast. You can typically find the crowd whirl-pooling in two different hazardous directions around the audience pole, no matter how soft the band sounds.
Surrounded by a breadth of local flavor, any travel-worthy landmark in St. Pete is just a stones throw away from the Landing. The Dali Museum, The Pier, its all right next to the Bay Areas oldest and most beloved open-air music hall.
A much looked over fact is that Jannus Landing was named after famed aviator Tony Jannus, who helmed The St. Petersburg Tampa Airboat Line, the worlds first heavier-than-air commercial aircraft that bounced back and forth across the bay to both cities. Its pretty inspiring to think of a rickety Benoist XIV landing in the very spot where you can see sweaty, in your face frontmen like Les Savy Favs Tim Harrington and GWARs Oderus Urungus launching their spit and fake blood into your headbanging face.
Its no surprise that Jannus Landing attracts such bands either. Because of its outdoor, yet self contained rough and tumble atmosphere, musical acts with lavish, drenching stage shows feel free to exercise little restraint. Its the only place where you get to see raucous live bands like The Flaming Lips and, believe it or not, Less Than Jake go all out with their props, sets, and liquids. Indie purists can say what they want about the latter, but their gargantuan ska skull is still one of the coolest stage props Ive ever seen. And their earlier work is pretty fantastic, especially when blasted from the the Landings stage.
The venue naturally attracts a wide variety of Florida acts (virtually every significant band out of Gainesvilles music scene plays there several times of year) but Jannus Landing has housed everyone from The Pretenders to Wu-Tang Clan to Morrissey over the years.
So if youre looking for a diverse offering mixed in with a little bit of Florida history, some nice architectural bells and whistles, and a salty dose of the open bay air, Jannus Landing is the place for you. Check it out next time youre in town. Just watch out for that moshpit.
Ween – “Sketches of Winkle (Live at Jannus Landing 2/01/2008)
16 2nd Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
03/20 – The Original Wailers
04/04 – The Kottonmouth Kings
04/11 – New Found Glory
04/14 – The Bamboozle Road Show
04/18 – Twiztid
04/22 – Blue October
04/23 – George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic
04/24 – Candlebox
04/26 – Cross Canadian Ragweed
04/28 – Katy Perry