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Big names, big menu at private Zac Brown Band concert at Port of Tampa

The Zac Brown Band performs Thursday night at the post-convention party for the American Petroleum Institute.

JAY CRIDLIN | Times

The Zac Brown Band performs Thursday night at the post-convention party for the American Petroleum Institute.

So what if the Romneys didn't show? Thursday night's post-convention party for the American Petroleum Institute, featuring country superstars the Zac Brown Band, was still the most finger-lickin' hootenanny of RNC week in Tampa.

Actually, maybe it was a good thing the Romneys stayed away. The smorgasbord of sweetmeats and drink laid before the few hundred lucky guests inside a stunning Cruise Terminal 3 at the Port of Tamp would be enough to lead any holy man astray. Merely by entering, patrons were smacked with a choice: mango sangria, a PBR tallboy or bourbon lemonade served in a mason jar?

Billed as an awareness-raiser for the nonpartisan Vote4Energy.org campaign — there's another one at next week's DNC in Charlotte — the event was produced by the oil-industry trade group API, which counts among its 500 members ExxonMobil, BP America and Halliburton.

And while there was no sign of the Romney family, who were teased as guests early in the evening, a host of political boldfacers did work the room, including Newt and Callista Gingrich, Liz Cheney and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who seemed to have a grand ol' time chatting with well-wishers while sipping a longneck Corona.

Playing for a room of 1-percenters may seem a curious corporate gig for the furry, fun-loving Zac Brown Band, who are known for their down-home tailgates with fans. Brown said not a word on the topics of energy or politics all night, instead letting his band's furious fiddlin' (The Devil Went Down to Georgia), and laid-back lakeside vibes (Toes and Jump Right In) do the talking.

Besides, who could focus on music with ALL. THIS. FOOD? The menu was swollen with Southern hospitality: country-fried chicken biscuits, deviled eggs, hush puppies, sweet potato fries, mini corndogs and mac 'n' cheese mini-quiche. And the dessert table? Every dentist's nightmare. Twin pyramids of every kind of snack cake imaginable, from Twinkies to Swiss rolls to S'mores; plus jars of Pixy Stix, Sour Peach Rings, M&Ms, rock candy, taffy, jelly beans and three-inch gummi Army men.

API president and CEO Jack Gerard, a rumored candidate to become Mitt Romney's chief of staff or energy secretary, said it was too bad the Romneys couldn't make it. "Earlier this evening, they wanted to come join," he said. "They're fans of the Zac Brown Band."

Big names, big menu at private Zac Brown Band concert at Port of Tampa 08/31/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 4:16am]
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