By Chyrisse Tabone
I arrived at the Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, Florida, on a chilly and breezy Saturday night, just in time to find a little patch of grass upfront for my lawn chair. Ribfest was packed with wall-to-wall people, the smoky smell of barbecue, and waffs of cooking grease in the air. I was impressed with this year’s event because the stage had two very large LED screens for viewing as well as two additional screens 100 feet behind me. The prime area for viewing was fenced off for those with $149/ticket VIP seating, which included molded-plastic chairs and near-stage viewing. Large fellows with dark blue t-shirts labeled “security” guarded the area and kept the flow of curious “general admission” folks from parking their bodies too long in one spot near the front of the venue.
The first band I was able to view was “Survivorman-Les Stroud.” O.K. , I do not really watch popular television shows, I’ll admit, so I wasn’t intimately familiar with him. I’ve seen previews for “Survivorman” but it did not click that I was watching the same guy in concert. I have to say, he has a great Eddie Vedder-baritone voice and really kicked ass on “Hard Sun.” “Into the Wild” is one of my favorite films so this was a pleasant introduction. Stroud plays a mean harp and performed a “Train-Train” solo for some time, and later writhed on the stage like a snake, while still blowing on the harp. Maybe the jungle/wilderness is rubbing off a little too much? Being a harp player myself, I really dug it. He played a lot of blues and his songs contained “Mother Earth” and environmental themes, which is O.K. by me. Just for that reason alone, Stroud had me in the palm of his hand.
After Stroud left the stage and the band was dismantling the equipment, I was actually amused by watching the overzealous, black-gloved, paunchy, security guard yell at people for putting a toe on the concrete walkway (“Keep it moving! Don’t walk over the line, sir, we need this for EMR.”). Actually, during the entire evening this George Zimmerman-wanna-be marched back and forth, shining flashlights in people’s faces, and chest bumping anybody that accidentally paused to tie his shoes. I did not observe any drunkenness or bad behavior at the venue except from this particular security guard (if anybody was there at Ribfest, he was hanging around near the t-shirt vending area…you know who I am talking about).
Everybody anxiously awaited for Lynyrd Skynyrd to appear and once they stepped on the stage, the crowd rose in adulation. The only founding member is guitarist, Gary Rossington. Fellow Jacksonville-native Rickey Medlocke, played drums with Lynyrd Skynyrd (1970-1971), later left to form Blackfoot, and rejoined the band in 1996. Also in the band were Johnny Van Zant (brother of the late Ronnie Van Zant), Mark “Sparky” Matejka (guitar), Johnny Colt (bass), Peter Keys (keyboards), and Michael Cartellone (drums). I have to say that watching the show was really a re-creation of the original band. It was almost like the new members were “in character,” resurrecting the feel of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Let’s not forget the show featured the incredible Honkettes, the back-up singers (Carol Chase and Dale Krantz-Rossington) which are a huge part of “Sweet Home Alabama.” The concert faithfully recreated, note-by-note the albums we all grew up with and were either unfortunate or too young to see.
So it was a nice evening of flashback and time travel back to the 1970s. Good music doesn’t go out of style.