Lynyrd Skynyrd; June 29, 2010; Summerfest
Last year’s four days at Summerfest was an anomaly for me, it’s been at least a half dozen years since many of the bands booked at the World’s Largest Music Festival held any sort of real attraction for me. Most days are an endless slew of generic cover bands, followed by one band that you maybe kinda wanna see at 10 PM. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind at all. It’s hot and it’s expensive, and I don’t need to do it. But there is one day at Summerfest I don’t mind at all, the one day we meet up with a handful of Chicago relatives and friends. The music is secondary for us; the seventh version of “Proud Mary” makes us just as happy as the first. Like most Summerfesters, we aren’t there to listen to music; we’re there to hang out.
Before we left that morning I received an e-mail from Summerfest (an hourly occurrence during the eleven day celebration), this one offered me free tickets to Lynyrd Skynyrd in the Marcus Amphitheater. While I do enjoy “Gimme Three Steps” as much as the next person, I’ve never possessed any real desire to see them, until now. Robert Kearns, who had been the Bottle Rockets’ nothing-but-trouble bass player from the time I first saw them up until just a few years ago, was now an official member of the legendary rockers. The weird started with seeing his familiar face painted on the side of one of their trucks in the loading area of the theater. “I need a picture of that I declared.”
We sat through 38 Special’s sadly uninspired set waiting to catch a glimpse of the one guy on stage who had been in my kitchen. The medleys made it seem as though they were just going through the motions, sounding almost like a tribute band than the real thing. Then Skynyrd came out. It took me a minute to find him; it was almost as if he was going incognito. In addition to one of those floppy hats he’d always favored, he sported a thick beard which along with his cop sunglasses obscured most of his face. We got no help from the big screens either; it was almost as if the camera operators were contractually obligated to keep him off the giant TVs. Even from out seats at the back of the reserved section, there was really no mistaking it was him, I’d know that slouched, still sexy stance, anywhere. “Wow,” I thought, “I know that guy, that’s pretty cool.”
I stayed through “Gimme Three Steps” (I genuinely do like that song) and then left to go see Weird Al (yes really). Besides, I didn’t need to see them play “Freebird,” I’d seen the Bottle Rockets do it last summer.