Friday, June 6, 2008

BamaJam -- 10:17 p.m.

ABOVE: Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys.

** While I type this, it's almost 11 p.m. and I'm sitting in the unlit media tent, just a few feet from ZZ Top onstage. I pause for a moment to look at the huge crowd in front of them. While the media tent is positioned so I can't actually see the band, I have a full view of the thousands of people rocking out to "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." Our camera and my computer have decided they aren't getting along at the moment, but we'll keep trying.

We rolled into the event grounds at about 8 p.m., just in time to catch Old Crow Medicine Show, who put on a fantastic show, as usual. Fiddles, banjos, a standup bass ... young people jumping around ... old time music with love.

This festival is a redneck Woodstock -- or "redneck heaven," as Ted Hacker, event producer for Ronnie Gilley Entertainment said. And that's not an insult by any means. A lot of thought went into creating the lineup for this inaugural festival.

It really is like a bunch of people from the race at Talladega decided to go to a Phish concert. I love it. Everyone needs to embrace their inner redneck every once in a while.

"It's all about the synergy of the music and the feeling we get from all the acts," Hacker said of the blend of southern rock, country and bluegrass. "There's no other concert like this in the country ... it comes from the heart."

That can be seen especially with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys show. As I sat down to listen to them pick, I hear the guy in the row next to me explain to his friends, "That's Ralph Stanley. Him and Doc Watson are like Godfathers of bluegrass."

I listen to a mean breakdown onstage, twang versus twang, until the crowd finally overtakes the music with a thunderous standing ovation. I didn't see the crowd react like this to Trace Adkins, even though there were thousands more people watching.

Ralph Stanley drew a younger crowd than I expected, though most of the hippy/rednecks were across the way dancing to Old Crow.

ZZ Top is pretty badass, I have to admit. I'm not a huge fan, but I can appreciate some good Southern rock. And these Texas boys have perfected that art. Singer Billy Gibbons sounds like he's drunk whiskey and smoked cigarettes every day of his life -- a true Southern boy.

Update: Click here to view an audio slideshow from BamaJam 2008