By SEAN DALY
Times Pop Music Critic
It looms on the concert calendar like a call to arms.
Saturday at Ford Amphitheatre: Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Oh yeah, this show is special.
This sucker is deep.
This one is us.
Look in the mirror, Tampa Bay: This gig will have beer and bongs and bikinis and more beer. Confederate flags will flutter in the same breeze as rap music; hip-hop fans will high-five Joe Six-Pack. Florida natives will mingle with transplants from the Midwest — much as Jacksonville's Lynyrd Skynyrd will take a stage with Michigan's Kid Rock.
The show will be hot. It'll be hairy. It'll be really, really LOUD.
Just like you. Yes, you.
In a classic-rocking town where Eddie Money could run for mayor, this show is like the arrival of ape-draped royalty.
Not so much a melting pot as a melting keg, the local crowd will mix the employed and the jobless, pickups and Porsches. And everyone will cut loose together on a Saturday that's been circled on our autographed Hooters calendar.
Speaking of which: Kid Rock is famous for bringing strippers onstage. Dude is all about gentlemen's clubs and . . . well, you know where I'm going with that.
On Saturday, hollers for "Freebird!" will be earnest and, alas, they will be answered. And when our unofficial Florida anthem is played — If I leave here tomorrow . . . — the shed will light up with Bics and BlackBerrys, tradition and today.
There might be a fistfight or two, and the cops will be lurking. But for the most part, the vibe, of the show and the crowd, will be loose, fun, sexy — as if we're all on vacation, as if we live in a tourist wonderland.
What's your name, little girl?
What's your name?
There are bigger concerts coming to town this year: Kenny Chesney, U2, Green Day. But Saturday's is different. This show is about reinvention, rebel yells, remixes. It is about the art of the chug, of the inhale.
In other words, Tampa Bay, they'll be playing your song.
• • •
"This show is great for our community" says David Harb, the general manager at Ford Amp. The 40-year-old is also a muckety with Live Nation, the events company. But more than that, Harb is a native, raised in St. Pete and running one of the major venues in Tampa.
Harb sees the Kid-Skynyrd bill as a natural fit for our town and our times. "This is the biggest little city you'll ever live in," says Harb. "It's cosmopolitan, but at the same time, that Old Florida feel still exists. There's just a great balance here. There's nowhere else like it."
Rickey Medlocke, guitarist for Skynyrd and an 18-year resident of Fort Myers, agrees. "There's a cool vibe about a show here, it's about that hometown vibe. You'll have fans from all walks of life: cowboys, motorcyclists, gold-chain hip-hop guys. But the common denominator is music, rock and roll."
Saturday's show runs "across our radio dial," says Harb: rock, country, hip-hop, pop. "The people coming for Skynyrd and Kid? Some of 'em came for No Doubt, too."
"We now have three generations of fans watching the show," says Medlocke, referring to Skynyrd Nation, a song on the band's upcoming album, God & Guns. "You can be hip-hop to the max, but you still know Sweet Home Alabama."
When Skynyrd broke big in the '70s, Ronnie Van Zant & Co. waved the Battle Flag and let Neil Young know a "Southern Man don't need him around anyhow." But over time, Skynyrd, while still capable of throaty jingoism, has become a party band, hollering for shaggy independence, turn-it-up freedoms.
Spring break and Skynyrd — a match made at Shephard's.
Kid Rock was once a Motor City street punk named Bob Ritchie. He was a rapper, a Run DMC disciple. But he's gone from Midwestern MC — Give a toast to the sun, drink with the stars / Get thrown in the mix and tossed out of bars — to Southern transplant, Devil Without a Cause to Rock N Roll Jesus.
One of us, one of us.
"My dad used to pay me to collect apples," Rock told London's Daily Mail. "But from the moment I heard rap I didn't want to be in the orchard any more. I wanted to be a hip-hop DJ in Detroit." But now, he adds: "My songs still seem to relate to working-class people. If you ever wanted to rob a trailer park, do it during a Kid Rock concert."
In 2007, Rock scored a hit that blended Michigan memories with the hook of Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama, a merging of new school and old, North and South. The song was a No. 1 smash and it especially sounded good here:
We'd blister in the sun, we couldn't wait for night to come / To hit that sand and play some rock and roll.
The song is All Summer Long. When they play that Saturday, look for Tampa Bay to sing louder than anywhere else. After all, it's all ours.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/ popmusic.