Friday's Ribfest kickoff at Vinoy Park sure smelled the same as years past: smoky, meaty, awesome-y. And the 21st annual porktacular pretty much looked the same, too: myriad grub tents touting their trophies, saucy fingers digging into paper boats, a milling crowd that grew fatter (so to speak) as the night wore on.
But let me say this, boys and carnivores: Ribfest 2009 sounded a whole lot different.
No offense to Night Ranger, Pat Benatar and any act that thrived during the Reagan administration, but Ribfest, needed a hip musical overhaul — and boy did it get one on its first night.
New York punk-poppers Morningwood, featuring the theatrics of femme fatale Chantal Claret, and cocksure Aussie rockers Jet, unafraid to open its set with the ditty Cold Hard B----, made for the coolest one-two wallop this event has seen in awhile.
These are bands that normally would rage and rattle Jannus Landing. And, yes, there was boobird buzz that changing the musical recipe was a bad move — never mind that Blue Oyster Cult and George Thorogood are scheduled to restore the oldies quotient today.
But you know what? I loved it. Led by the fire-haired Claret, who played along by chomping ribs during her set ("I love meat," she winked), Morningwood opened with the hyper riffs of Nu Rock (that's for sure). The MTV faves mixed squealing guitars, New Wave bounce and suggestive lyrics, making sure each song had a big beefy hook, especially Best of Me, from new album Diamonds & Studs, and the sing-along goof of Nth Degree, which prompted Claret to enter the audience for a sweet li'l meet-and-greet.
And when a fan screamed out for one of her naughtier songs, Claret tsk-tsked: "We're not playing Take Off Your Clothes. This is for kids." Of course, she then rolled around on the stage and basically mooned the crowd.
Led by scruffy brothers Nic (lead singer) and Chris Cester (drummer), Melbourne's Jet indulges in neo-Stonesian swagger and AC/DC grind, a mix that kept the audience chooglin' in the brisk air. Although Nic let slip an f-bomb (he apologized, then had another drink) and Chris played as if punching his way out of a pub fight, the band was a killer fit. Ramshackle highlights included She's a Genius (from great new album Shaka Rock) and big hit Are You Gonna Be My Girl, which sent the throngs into a spazzy group pogo.
If people still complain about Friday's gutsy lineup, too bad. Keep up the inventive booking, Ribfest. I got your back.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.