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The Trop gets hopping with 3 Doors Down

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(This is the 14th entry in Soundcheck's summer concert series, The 50-50 Club. For previous entries, click here.)

Listening to live music at Tropicana Field is like sticking your head in an aquarium while your next-door neighbor blares his radio at full volume.

I mean no offense to the Tampa Bay Rays when I say this, of course. Their postgame concert series is the bomb, for three reasons:

1. Baseball.

2. It’s free.

3. If you still need a third reason, you’re insane. Go back to arguing about what the Bucs should do with Byron Leftwich, and leave the rest of us alone until October.

But the truth is, acoustically, the Trop is a fishbowl. It makes the USF Sun Dome sound like Carnegie Hall. It's just so ... cavernous. It's like someone hollowed out the moon and put in a soundstage.

This makes me wonder what life was like for music fans in the early ’90s. In the days before the Ice Palace/St. Pete Times Forum, the venue (formerly the Thunderdome and Suncoast Dome) was the blockbuster concert arena of choice in Tampa Bay, hosting shows by Guns N’ Roses, the Cure, Rush, R.E.M. and Radiohead and others. One shudders at the thought.

And so, listening to 3 Doors Down Saturday following the Rays’ 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins was like sticking your head in an aquarium while your next-door neighbor blared his radio at full volume … in 2002.

Now, granted, I was not on the field for this concert, right in front of the stage. For that, I would have needed a Special Wristband of Merit, issued in advance to preferred ticketholders, of which I am not one. I’m the sort of guy who buys the cheapest possible ticket and sneaks down to the lower level after the game, putting me a B.J. Upton flyout from the stage. The sound isn’t really much better down below, but at least I can see figures moving on the stage without the aid of the Hubble Telescope.

I have to say, despite my issues with the acoustics, it should be an absolute no-brainer for any band to sign on for the Rays’ concert series. Attendance for Saturday’s game was 36,052; let’s say, conservatively, a third of them stayed for the concert. That’s more than 12,000 fans. When Fleetwood Mac headlined the St. Pete Times Forum in April, attendance was about 10,000. Maybe this is why the Rays keep drawing bigger and bigger names, like Daughtry, Ludacris, Flo Rida, Pat Benatar, the Beach Boys … and 3 Doors Down.

I'll just admit it up front: I am not a fan of 3 Doors Down. I find their bluesy southern grunge monotonous and boring to the point of catatonia, and I’ve never cared for their biggest hit, Kryptonite*. And this is coming from a man who has publicly defended Nickelback.

But I will say this: I was surprised how many 3 Doors Down songs it turned out I knew. If you have listened to any 15-minute stretch of modern rock radio in the past 10 years, you have heard Kryptonite, Loser, Here Without You, When I’m Gone, Be Like That, Let Me Go, Citizen/Soldier or It’s Not My Time. Possibly all in a row.

Singer Brad Arnold paid tribute to local station 98 Rock from the stage, saying they were the first station to play any of their songs outside of the band’s hometown in Mississippi. In fact, he said, Tampa Bay was the first out-of-state market where the band aggressively toured. Once, the band even burned down a truck on their way down I-75 to a show in Tampa. True story.

I would not call Brad Arnold the most dynamic frontman in rock ‘n’ roll. He looks a bit like Jason Bourne, but the only time he seemed to perform with much fire was when he began air-humping the drum riser. This really happened, and I cannot explain why. It does not seem like normal bluesy southern grunge behavior. If I were to make a list of bands who I thought might someday air-hump a drum riser in centerfield of a Major League Baseball stadium, 3 Doors Down would not be on it. But then again, Brad Arnold and I are very different people. This is probably why we don’t hang out more.

The band’s fans down on the field really seemed to like the show, and the kids who got to run around in the outfield during the set must have been having a ball. I did end up tapping my foot to Loser and It’s Not My Time, two 3 Doors Down songs I do sort of like. And Kryptonite was better than I remembered. Arnold hopped behind the drum kit to start the song, then switched off seamlessly to drummer Greg Upchurch for the final chorus. Fun stuff.

Now, it may seem like I'm just wasting everyone's time by complaining about a band I personally do not like, which is not fair to anyone involved. This is a 100 percent valid complaint.

But I guess my point is this: Despite my ambivalence toward 3 Doors Down, and my issues with the sound at the Trop, I still had boatloads of fun on Saturday. That’s what the Rays' postgame concert series is about. You don’t have to like the artist in order to have a good time. It’s baseball! It’s free! There’s beer! And the Rays always seem to win!

On Saturday, David Price got his first career win. He struck out 11 batters, which means we all get free pizza from Kane’s and Papa John’s. And 3 Doors Down tried valiantly to rock – and air-hump – their way into our hearts.

It doesn't matter if you don't dig the music. This is how all Saturdays in May should be.

Next up in The 50-50 Club: The Hold Steady, Jannus Landing, June 4.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

* Saturday was “Super Hero Night” at Tropicana Field, which meant Raymond and many stadium employees were wearing superhero costumes. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me several hours to realize that the reason 3 Doors Down were chosen to perform on this night was because of the superhero connection in Kryptonite: “If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?” At that point, I spent the next three minutes working on a list of Superman-themed songs I like more than Kryptonite: R.E.M.’s Superman, Our Lady Peace’s Superman’s Dead, Spin Doctors’ Jimmy Olsen’s Blues, Crash Test Dummies’ Superman’s Song, Flaming Lips’ Waitin’ For a Superman, Five For Fighting’s Superman (It’s Not Easy); and Soulja Boy’s Crank That. That’s just off the top of my head. Any one of these artists would have been a better choice for Super Hero Night than 3 Doors Down.

[Last modified: Sunday, May 31, 2009 12:34am]

    

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