Live: ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd, Austin
There was all kinds of stuff goin’ on this weekend in Austin – the amazing Texas Book Festival, the always-popular Austin Film Fest, the Austin Record Convention and the nicer-if-it’s-a-nice day Gypsy Festival showcasing the city’s food trailers. So what was our big event of the weekend? The so-called “First Annual La Grange Fest,” featuring ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Austin has a semi-new outdoor venue called the Backyard – kind of new, because they closed the old one and rebuilt a new one in a different location in the hills west of the city. It holds about 7,500 people and although I don’t think they had that kind of attendance Saturday night it sure seemed that way.
Nobody really followed a theme for the “First Annual La Grange Fest,” but former Slipknot and Stone Sour lead singer Corey Taylor, who opened the whole shebang, seemed to set a good tone with his acoustic covers including the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” He even turned the Ramones’ “Outsiders” into a rousing country-rock anthem.
I wasn’t too impressed with Jamey Johnson, who is a more conventional country singer with an “outlaw” attitude. He has some nice tunes which he wraps with a gorgeous George Jones-style baritone, but his material tended to be a little slow and plodding for my tastes.
When he yielded the stage the sun was goin’ down, and out came the Confederate flags for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sporting only one original member (guitarist Gary Rossington) Skynyrd didn’t disappoint. Lead singer Johnny Van Zant pandered to the crowd with his big rebel and U.S. flags and constant points up to the sky (acknowledgement of the “man up there.” Who? Ronnie? Who knows?).
The Skynyrd encore began with Van Zant asking the crowd, “As my older brother Ronnie would say, ‘What song is it you want to hear?’ ” and the crowd responded with … yes, “Free Bird.” But during the long guitar duel between Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Houston’s own Mark “Sparky” Matejka, a disco ball dropped down from the stage rafters and sprayed everyone with tiny little shards of light. Is that some kind of comment? Dunno.
ZZ Top hit the stage with thunder and flash, with “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Waitin’ On The Bus.” Gibbons donned a “blues hat” over his African cap and snarled through “Cheap Sunglasses” and “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” before performing a rousing “Hey Joe,” as a tribute to his old mentor Jimi Hendrix. Then, of course, the show wound down with the MTV hits “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” The only thing left for the Top was to come out for the encore and romp through an extended “La Grange” (the only reference to the festival theme) and “Tush.”
The ZZ Top set was broadcast live on Sirius XM Outlaw Country, the first time in the band’s 40 years that they have participated in a real-time live radio broadcast. It may have been a good idea to listen on the radio – while this place the Backyard is an OK venue, the parking lot is a nightmare. We hung in a traffic jam for more than an hour and as a result it was a long 20-mile drive back to Austin. Everything else was all right at the Backyard, but that traffic issue was a cluster f**k.
Thanks to Jave Del Rosario for helping us out with some cool photos! The best ones here are his!
YouTube: “Hey Joe” by ZZ Top
YouTube: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
YouTube: Corey Taylor