The South Has Risen Again ... in Bangor?

Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2011 in Culture

The South Has Risen Again ... in Bangor?

ZZ Top plays Waterfront Park in Bangor.

by Jeff Harmon

BANGOR -- Not even the cool, wet spring weather could dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of fans of Southern Rock as they gathered at the Bangor waterfront Pavilion for the Rebels and Bandoleros Tour.

From the beginning of the short acoustic set by country music newcomer Drake White, through Lynyrd Skynyrd’s set and until headliners ZZ Top took the stage, the temperature of the outdoor venue gradually increased to fevered levels as the evening progressed.

And how could the crowd not be excited? Everyone at the show was essentially at a backyard barbeque and keg party with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top performing.

The ages at the show ranged from young children to grandparents. When the gates opened at 5 o’clock, a variety of concessions from pizza and barbeque, to ice cream and snow cones and several beer tents for those with valid I.D. awaited them. Along with the usual vendors selling t-shirts and souvenirs, there were promotional displays from local businesses adding to the overall carnival atmosphere of the show.

In spite of his youth and being a virtual unknown, opening performer Drake White had the easy manner and confidence of a seasoned showman playing for a group of friends in an intimate setting. In the brief time that he was onstage, he soon had the audience involved in the show and getting worked up for Skynyrd’s upcoming set.

Southern rock veterans Lynyrd Skynyrd began their set with MCA. Even for someone who knew the band’s history and was intimately familiar with their music, it was hard to believe that guitarist Gary Rossington was the only original member of the band playing with them that night. All of the songs were as played as flawlessly as they were on the original recordings. As they ended with “Sweet Home Alabama,” the stage went dark and they walked off to the roar of the crowd.

Rock and Roll may be the original music of youthful rebellion, but even so, there are unwritten rules that are followed. One of these is that no matter who is performing, once a certain level of intoxication is achieved, someone must holler for the band to play “Freebird.” If that band is Lynyrd Skynyrd, that request must be honored, and this night those rules were followed flawlessly when Skynyrd returned and played the song as an encore.

After a short break to change over the stage, Southern blues-rock legends ZZ Top began with their classic hit from 1983, “Got Me Under Pressure.” Their years of experience were obvious as they charged through song after song from their repertoire of over 40 years at their craft.

Partway through their set, the evening turned into a celebration as front-man Billy Gibbons announced to the crowd that this night was bass player Dusty Hill’s birthday.

During one of Gibbons’ frequent conversations with the crowd between songs, he spoke of the band’s support the Future Farmers of America in Hollywood and for the current trend toward “going green.” According to him, ZZ Top knows a lot of Hollywood farmers and has been “going green for over 40 years.” I strongly suspect that he wasn’t talking about quite the same going green thing as President Obama.

It is a safe bet that never, before this show, had such a large collection of rebel flags been displayed by so many in this Northern New England town. For a few hours on May 19, the South had indeed risen again on a chilly spring evening in Maine.

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