Laid Back Festival Featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd Plus More

Tom Stokes I Sports+Music I Oct. 7th 2017 Toyota Music Factory

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July 21, 2018

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Everyone knows Lynyrd Skynyrd has changed members over the years. It's not the same band from the early 1970s but it's still the same music and the current lineup plays it well. 

 

The band has been fraught with multiple tragic events like the plane crash that killed lead singer and songwriter, Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines. Allen Collins was paralyzed in a car accident and later died from complications.

Original drummer Artimus Pyle survived a serious motorcycle accident. Health maladies have also struck other remaining original bandmates.

The present band has one original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is Gary Rossington on guitar.

 

Johnny Van Zant (Ronnie's brother) provides lead vocals. The rest of the band consists of Rickey Medlocke on guitar (frontman/guitarist for the southern rock band Blackfoot), Johnny Colt on bass, Michael Cartellone on drums, Boxcar (Steve Traum) on harmonica, and Peter Keys on piano. Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase are the background vocalists.

The band took the stage and they seemed to be almost as excited as the fans. Dressed out in their outlaw-biker look, Johnny had a tattered American flag scarf wrapped around his mic stand, He was wearing a cool worn out Merle Haggard t-shirt. 

They rocked all the anthems to a crowd that was a little tipsy by now and for sure high. At one point the smell of weed was so strong I thought I was getting high.   

Johnny Van Zant was an engaging, personable as always and at one point held up a red solo cup and said “We Love You Texas” and the crowd went nuts. The set had one hit song after another from start to finish. I caught myself more than once singing along as I snapped pictures.

I thought to myself as I was a few feet away from Johnny it must be hard at times to carry on such a legacy. I’m sure he’s heard all the bullshit comments like “It’s a cover band” or “Not really Skynyrd without Ronnie” but the crowd at The Toyota Music Factory, Irving, TX, USA didn’t really give it a second thought.

Personally, I think they are great and Johnny has carried on a legacy that I’m sure his brother and others would be proud of.  "That Smell" is the band's anti-drug anthem. Van Zant mentioned, "We've been there and done that and we're never going back." The band closed the set with "Sweet Home Alabama." It reached number 8 on the US chart in 1974 with a rebel flag as its badge. This was when the rebel flag only stood for Southern Rebellion.  "Sweet Home Alabama” was the band's second hit single.

If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me? That line was written by a roadie.

The encore was an extended version of the Grammy award-winning “Free Bird," This song is in a class all its own. "Free Bird" has become the standard song for requests at just about any rock concert one can attend, there’s always that real drunk guy that yells “Play Free Bird”. But when you’re standing there listening to Gary Rossington play the lead chills run up and down your spine. You realize there’s no denying it’s one of the greatest rock songs ever written.  

How did Free Bird come about? I’m glad you asked… According to guitarist Gary Rossington, for two years after Allen Collins wrote the initial chords, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant insisted that there were too many for him to create a melody in the belief that the melody needed to change alongside the chords. After Collins played the unused sequence at rehearsal one day, Van Zant asked him to repeat it, then wrote out the melody and lyrics in three or four minutes.

 

 

The guitar solos that finish the song were added originally to give Van Zant a chance to rest, as the band was playing several sets per night at clubs at the time. Soon afterward, the band learned piano-playing roadie Billy Powell had written an introduction to the song; upon hearing it, they included it as the finishing touch and had him formally join as their keyboardist.

Allen Collins's girlfriend, Kathy, whom he later married, asked him, "If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?" Collins noted the question and it eventually became the opening line of "Free Bird"

The song is dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman by the band in their live shows. During their 1975 performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Ronnie dedicated the song to both Allman and Berry Oakley, commenting, "They’re both free birds"

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The Set List Included; 

Workin' for MCA
What's Your Name
You Got That Right
Saturday Night Special
That Smell
Midnight Rider
T for Texas

Simple Man
Gimme Back My Bullets
The Needle and the Spoon
Gimme Three Steps
Call Me the Breeze
(J.J. Cale cover)
Sweet Home Alabama
Encore:
Free Bird

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