There are two sure bets at Ribfest: award-winning ribs and classic rock. It's comforting to listen to Styx or the Guess Who while gnawing on sauced-up animal cartilage. It just feels right. So what gives this year? Along with Blue Oyster Cult and George Thorogood — ah, so expected — there's Jet, the Zac Brown Band and Morningwood, bands that are actually cool. Heck, they're probably all vegans or something. A day-by-day breakdown of headliners:
Listening to the sexy cheerleader chirps of singer Chantal Claret on pop-rock ditties like Nth Degree and Best of Me, you'd never guess Morningwood (6:30 p.m.) was co-founded by Pedro Yanowitz, originally the drummer for . . . the Wallflowers? What would Jakob Dylan think? Headlining Aussie rockers Jet (8:30 p.m.) are best known for the rollicking jam Are You Gonna Be My Girl, arguably the finest stripper anthem/commercial jingle of the past decade.
The world is restored to its natural order as classic rock and blues take over the Ribfest stage. Gator Country (2 p.m.) brings together several former members of Molly Hatchet (they were denied the rights to the name "Molly Hatchet," an ego blow if ever there was one). Meanwhile, It has been nine years since the classic "More Cowbell" sketch on Saturday Night Live, so screaming that line until Blue Oyster Cult (4 p.m.) plays (Don't Fear) The Reaper is totally passe, right? (Wrong! Scream like your gold-plated diapers depend on it.) Riverview bluesman Damon Fowler (6:30 p.m.) is having a career year with his first nationally released album, Sugar Shack. And though there may be better bluesmen than George Thorogood and the Destroyers (8:30 p.m.) few blues singles in the past 35 years are as memorable as Thorogood's Bad to the Bone, and his covers of Hank Williams' Move It On Over, John Lee Hooker's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer and Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love.
Time for some country! Big Kenny Alphin (2 p.m.), the more free-spirited half of country rebels Big & Rich, performs with his band, luvjOi ReUnited, just days after the release of his solo album, The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farm Boy. Then it's the Zac Brown Band (5 p.m.), whose bouncy single Chicken Fried led to Nashville success, even as they maintained their cred with the Southern-jam crowd (they headlined the first night of Bonnaroo 2009).
Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
The ribs: Ribbers come from as far away as Australia (Aussom Aussie), but include local folks like Fat Fred's Famous BBQ in St. Petersburg and J&J Bar-B-Que in Bradenton. For a full list of ribbers, with links to sites, go to ribfest.org.
Family Fun Zone: Turn the kids loose from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but they must be accompanied by an adult. A $12 ticket is good for all day. Giant inflatables, a 20-foot slide and glow golf.
Activities: BMX stunt shows, car shows.
Details: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Vinoy Park along St. Petersburg's waterfront. $10 advance, $15 at gate, 12 and under free with paid adult. ribfest.org.