Break out your air guitar and step into the time machine known as Ribfest.
H.G. Wells would have loved Tampa Bay.
After all, when it comes to our thirst for classic rock, we are a time machine. We stretch the space-time continuum so that Meat Loaf can still sell out in seconds. We manhandle planetary rotation to accommodate our deepest desires - which mostly have to do with Van Halen.
2005? No, thanks. 1984 and 1984 will do just fine.
So Wells would have loved this weekend's Ribfest. First of all, the man probably adored BBQ sauce. Who doesn't? Plus our annual bacchanal of sticky fingers and shaggy-haired rock is a rockin' wormhole into yesteryear, proof that no one does the time warp again (and again) like we do.
This year's lineup might be the best ever. So jump to the left, step to the right, and let's tick off the eight rockin' reasons why Ribfest is not the land that time forgot - but the land that has no use for time.
Colonial Williamsburg is for suckers. If you really want to feel like you're living in ye olden days, ask that dude in the faded Little Feat tank top to sing the entirety of his fave jamband's landmark live album, 1977's Waiting for Columbus - including guitar solos. He'll probably be doing it already, just before unleashing a furious boogie to Dixie Chicken, a party-time classic sure to be a highlight of the Feat's Saturday show.
Gator Country is a heck of a band name. But it's not nearly as cool as ... Molly Hatchet! That's right: The Gator guys, who play on Saturday, are five "original era" recording members of Molly Hatchet from 1978 to 1991, including drummer Bruce Crump and guitarist Duane Roland. "Basically, this is the band," says band manager Keith Johnson, who worked as Hatchet's road manager from 1978 to 1987. "We just don't own the name anymore." Can fans expect all the old hits, including Flirtin' With Disaster? "Oh, you betcha," Johnson says. "Everyone will get a bellyful. I guarantee it."
Funny story about Dickey Betts, Saturday night's closing act: At this year's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, the famed Allman Brothers guitarist was invited to the press room after performing a salute to Southern rock. Upon seeing the shaggy Betts, a foreign journalist leapt to his feet and asked: "But where is the rest of Lynyrd Skynyrd?" A wee bit miffed, Best replied, "Wrong band, man." Don't worry, Dickie: That ain't gonna happen around here.
True confession: I just burned Night Ranger's greatest hits onto my iPod: When You Close Your Eyes, Don't Tell Me You Love Me, Four in the Morning. And, of course, the '80s-born hair-band's motoring ballad Sister Christian, which soundtracked one of the great time-travel sequences in cinematic history. Cue Boogie Nights: Dirk Diggler, his youthful exuberance sapped by porn shoots and cocaine binges, sits on a drug lord's sofa, desperate to reconnect to his youth. What's your price for flight?
Local rock god Charlie Souza knows a thing or two about immortality. The leader of legendary Tampa faves the Tropics (now the New Tropics), Souza has worked as a session player with some of the greatest rock 'n' rollers in history, including Gregg Allman and Tom Petty. Let your hometown love shine at Souza's Friday show.
"Feels like the first time! Feels like the very first time!" I take great offense when someone labels Foreigner as "corporate rock." It's sound so soulless, so cold ... as ice. Let me tell you something, buster: When founder and guitarist Mick Jones unleashes the licks for Head Games on Sunday, I guarantee you'll unpack your air guitar, wiggle your sauce-stained fingers and let 'er rip. That's not corporate, buddy; that's classic.
Santana! Well, kind of. Gregg Rolie, the circa-'70s lead singer of Santana, won't have the band's namesake guitar slinger by his side on Sunday. But around these parts, we'd much rather hear Black Magic Woman and Evil Ways than some smarmy duet with Michelle Branch anyway.
And finally ...
A few years ago, in Bristow, Va., I saw Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth square off in a double-bill battle of former Van Halen frontmen. I hate to say it, but the Red Rocker totally smoked Diamond Dave. Making matters worse, when Roth attempted his trademark flying split off the drum kit at the end of Jump, he looked more like Bea Arthur stepping off a curb. ENTER THE TIME WARP: Once DLR gets a whiff of our rare time-trippin' air on Friday night - and after he climbs onto the drum kit after Jump's keyboard solo - he'll spread his wings and soar, just like when he was buddies with Eddie. Besides, he has just been named as the new talk-radio replacement for Howard Stern, so he's gonna be flying high anyway.
- Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or 727 893-8467. His blog is at www.sptimes.com/blogs/popmusic