Where do you begin with a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd? Everyone has been out at a bar or a concert and heard some crazy and/or drunk lunatic shouting to the band on stage, “FREE BIRD!!!” They are the epitome of and gold standard for Southern Rock music. Even now, through the tragedy of the plane crash in 1977 to the re-formed band, Skynyrd still provides electric performances every night. They still happily rock the hits of the early days. like “Simple Man” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” while mixing in the music they are still releasing, most recently Last of a Dying Breed, which came out late last year.
CityBeat had time to catch up with lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of the band’s original front man Ronnie Van Zant. The two discussed how Skynyrd fits into Rock music today, as well as the wonderful feelings the band still gets performing every night on stage.
Skynyrd performs at Riverbend Music Center tonight with Bad Company, providing the same energy as the cast from the ’70s and showing audiences what real Southern Rock sounds like.
CityBeat: Do you have any crazy Cincinnati memories from the past?
JVZ: We have had so many good shows there. Years back, when a flood hit, there was water in the first four or five rows. People were kind of standing in the water. I was like, “Wow these are really diehards.” I don’t even know how many times we have played at that particular amphitheater (Riverbend), but it has always been a good, hot, sweaty, summer Rock & Roll show, which is how it is supposed to be.
CB: The band has had multiple lineup changes over the years since you joined the band. How do you integrate someone new into the band?
JVZ: For us, they have to be a friend, someone we have known, someone we admire as a musician, someone we think would fit into our family. When we are out on the road, running up and down the road playing shows, you have to be not only a member of a band but, especially with Lynyrd Skynyrd, you have to be a part of the Skynyrd nation. You have to be a part of the family. Our newest member is Johnny Colt, who was bass player with The Black Crowes. Colt fits right in with us. He’s loony as heck and so are we. We have a great time and love doing what we do. I hope Johnny is with us for a long, long time. He is quite the guy. It has been awesome.
CB: I know you guys have worked many times with one of my favorite guitarists, John 5. What was that experience like for you and have you done any collaborations recently?
JVZ: Well, yeah, he was on our last record, Last of a Dying Breed.
John is a good friend of us. We knew we were going to be good friends
with John because we were in Nashville writing and our manager mentioned
John and said, “You know, he is a little different than you guys.” And
we said, “ That’s OK, that’s no problem.”
John walked in, he was just coming from a photo shoot. He had on the fingernails with his hair all up. When he walked in and I went, “Damn, you are different. Damn, are you a freak or something?” And he said, “I was thinking the same crap about you guys.” We just hit it off. He is a wonderful guitar player. Not only can he play Heavy Metal and Rock & Roll, but he can play the hell out of some Country music, which we love. I just admire his work and he is one of the most phenomenal guitar players I have had the pleasure to work with.
CB: A lot of people are saying Rock is dead and Country music is the new Rock. Do you believe that Rock is dead?
JVZ: No. I think Country music is Lynyrd Skynyrd. I
think a lot of the Country music is what we do, but I don’t think Rock &
Roll is dead at all. People have been saying that shit for years and
years and years: "Rock & Roll is dead." Then it comes back. It’s like
For us we just played Houston, Texas, in front of 10,000
people. We played Bristol, Va., I think there were 14,000 people on
a Sunday night. The night before last we were in Camden, N.J.,
14,000 people on a Wednesday night. I’m sure Cincinnati is doing quite
well. We are in Pittsburgh tonight. It is going to be phenomenal here.
If Rock & Roll is dead and gone, man, I am missing out on it.
CB: Tell me a little bit about Last of a Dying Breed and which songs we are going to hear from that album when you come to Cincinnati?
JVZ: Well, it is debatable. What we do, each night we try to think about what new song we want to put in. Right now we are really concentrating on 40 years. It’s been 40 years since (Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) came out. It’s been our major focus to play as many songs off that record and celebrate that era.
CB: Where do you see yourself in 15 more years?
JVZ: Hopefully alive. Hopefully playing some shows
and still doing this. Doing a lot of fishing and drinking a good
Budweiser and something like that, I don’t know. If you want to make God
laugh, tell him your plans. I never really plan too much. I just like to
go along with the flow and the good Lord throws me in the direction he
wants me to go.
CB: Do you ever get tired of playing “Free Bird”?
JVZ: Not at all. I am quick to say, "Not at all." How
many bands would love to have songs like that? Most bands say we would
give anything to have one of those. “Free Bird” and ("Sweet Home Alabama"), that’s
the cool thing about Skynyrd. We have three generations of fans who love
those songs. It is amazing to me.
We are out with Bad Company right now and we are real big Bad Company fans. We are at the top of the game with these guys. From my era and a lot of other people’s era, Bad Company was the rule of the roost when it came to Rock & Roll. Paul Rogers is one of the best singers. Simon Kirke and Mick Ralphs have been around for years. It is just great to be out on the road and playing shows with good friends too. We are having a blast. We hope to do it again sometime after this tour and look forward to coming your way.
CB: Are you flattered when someone like Kid Rock uses "Sweet Home Alabama" in his songs? Excited? Upset? How do you feel when someone integrates that song?
JVZ: We were actually doing a tour with Bobby when
he had “All Summer Long” (the song that incorporates "Sweet Home") out. For us, hell, it keeps us in the spotlight.
He did a good job on it. It was a hit song for him and everybody got
paid. So surely, we are like, “Can someone else use it again and again?”
It is kind of funny when you think of stuff like that. Who would have thought when that song was written a long, long time ago, people would still be loving it and a band from Jacksonville, Fla., and what success my brother and Alan and Gary, my hat is off to them. I love keeping the music alive. It is a great thing. It’s a great thing because the song has been used in Forrest Gump and various movies. Any time anything like that pops up as long, as it is not in bad taste, is great. It has been a good ride.
Walk the Moon was one of my personal highlights from the recent MidPoint Music Festival, where the band played a high-energy set wonderfully showcasing its dance-friendly beats, New Wave jubilance and Art Pop creativity. As solid as the foursome is live, I was still a bit stunned by how advanced, imaginative and proficient Walk the Moon comes across on its enchanting debut album, i want! i want!, which is to be released Saturday in conjunction with a multimedia event at The Mockbee.
I usually shy away from album reviews, but when I opened the FedEx package on my doorstep and found the new Dirty Heads album, complete with promotional rolling papers (presumably to accompany the album), I decided to take a second look because obviously this was intended to take my worries away and make everyone feel great.
In 2008 The Dirty Heads splashed onto the music scene with their debut album Any Port in a Storm; this year, they follow it up with their long-awaited album Cabin by the Sea. Cabin is a true master class that sticks to the So-Cal altrocker vibe for which The Dirty Heads are known. When popping the disc in the dash of the car, the first chord of "Arrival" instantly enthralls you and throws you into the cabin by the sea with a group of friends enjoying life the way it was intended to be. The song that really struck a chord with me was “Spread Too Thin” because I think everyone can relate to being pulled in many directions every day and wanting to just slow down for a minute; Cabin by the Sea allows you to take a break and do just that. Cabin is the perfect summer album, ranging from the summery feel-good Reggae of "Your Love" to the Hip Hop vibe in "Smoke Rings" to the poppy acoustic flow of the title song.
Every time I listen to Cabin by the Sea it takes me away from the daily grind and monotony. There are many collaborations on the album, including with Matisyahu, Del the Funky Homosapien, Rome and Ky-Mani Marley. One of the coolest parts of this album is the accompanying DVD, which takes you behind the scenes of the recording process at Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas.
Cabin by the Sea is a must have for the summer. The album hits the shelves and online outlets tomorrow.
(** UPDATE FOLLOWS AT BOTTOM.)
Mark Miller isn't a subtle guy.
Miller, treasurer of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), recently apologized publicly after using the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to tweet a comment comparing the attacks to a political battle about the planned Cincinnati streetcar system.
Now Miller has posted an altered photograph on his Facebook page that some people believe is racist. The photo depicts a streetcar filled with young African-American males brandishing weapons. The streetcar has a sign that reads, “Banks & Freedom Center Only.”
So I have to admit, I’m pretty obsessed with all the Real Houswives shows on Bravo TV. Laugh all you want, but turn that shit on and it becomes addicting.
My wife and I chose our home in Norwood because more than two dozen of our friends live within a couple of blocks of our house. Camaraderie, to me, makes for a good quality of life in a neighborhood. It’s a friendly place and people frequently greet each other on the street.
Norwood also has its share of problems. Parts of the city are very nice, but in others, the effects of domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism and family breakdown are readily visible on its streets. It’s a far different place than Mariemont, which was recently voted one of the nation’s ten best neighborhoods by the American Planning Association.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The association, which promotes good planning, announced its top 10 neighborhood list Wednesday. The 10 Great Neighborhoods list is part of the association's Great Places in America program, which singles out communities with exceptional character that were shaped by intelligent planning.
The association didn't rank the 10 neighborhoods.
Since Cincinnati philanthropist Mary Emery founded Mariemont, the village has been regarded as a paragon of planning and design. "Given the critical need for all of our cities and neighborhoods to reduce carbon emissions because of climate change, Mariemont provides us with a timely model of how to plan, build and adapt places for compactness, walkability and sustainability," said Paul Farmer, the American Planning Association's executive director.
I have no idea how friendly Mariemont residents are, so I won’t try to compare it with Norwood in that way, but there are some objective facts to consider.
- Norwood has a Kroger store, a viable retail strip and restaurants at its center, within walking distance of most residents. Mariemont’s nearest grocery store is of a mile east of the town square, more than a mile from residents on the west side of Mariemont. Mariemont’s central square is limited to entertainment and dining.
- Norwood is mixed income, including poor, Appalachian and Mexican residents, middle and working class folks and high-income residents.
What really makes a great neighborhood? Is it a resort styled community or one in which we can really live, work and engage with people from a variety of backgrounds?
A Cincinnati outdoor advertising company announced Tuesday that it will take down controversial billboards that opponents claim are aimed at intimidating voters.
Norton Outdoor Advertising had been contracted to put up about 30 billboards that read “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” The billboards also listed the maximum penalty for voter fraud — up to 3 and a half years and a $10,000 fine.
Opponents of the billboards claim they were strategically placed in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods in Cincinnati as a means to discourage those largely Democratic voters from going to the polls.
The billboards were funded by an anonymous “private family foundation.”
In a statement posted online, Norton Executive Vice President Mike Norton said the displays would be taken down as soon as possible. He wrote that the foundation and Norton agreed after hearing criticism that the sentiment surrounding the displays was contrary to their intended purpose.
The family foundation didn’t intend to make a political statement, but rather make the public aware of voting regulations, he wrote.
“We look forward to helping to heal the divisiveness that has been an unfortunate result of this election year,” Norton wrote.
Norton had previously told CityBeat that the billboards were not targeted but distributed randomly throughout the city.
Several Cincinnati officials wrote to the company requesting the billboards be taken down.
ClearChannel Outdoor Advertising announced on Monday that it was removing similar billboards in Cleveland and Columbus.
The billboards throughout Ohio had garnered national criticism and media attention.
A rival outdoor advertising company is putting up 10 new billboards to rebut the voter fraud ones.
The new red, white and blue billboards will read “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!”
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in an emailed news release that he reached out to Lamar Advertising Company to ask if they would donate the billboards throughout Cincinnati.
“We should be encouraging folks to participate in our democratic process, not trying to scare them,” Sittenfeld wrote. “I salute Lamar’s generosity and their support in encouraging citizens to raise their voice and not be scared away.”
Although it doesn't compare to the wholesale hacking and slashing of staff that occurred in 2009, the latest round of layoffs at The Enquirer includes several positions in the newsroom, which already had seen significant reductions.
At least 16 people on the newspaper's editorial staff were laid off, and another chose to retire, according to reliable sources at the paper.
Following a long battle with cancer, former Cincinnati City Councilman and Vice Mayor David Crowley passed away early this morning.
Crowley, 73, had struggled with the illness since leaving City Council in 2009 due to term limits. After a grueling round of chemotherapy that took a toll on his body, Crowley appeared to have beaten the disease but it recently returned. He is survived by his wife, Sherri, four children and six grandchildren.