It was a big ten days for Lynyrd Skynyrd and their new venue Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer, Las Vegas located in the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. It was the Grand Opening Celebration from December 1st thru the 10th and I was lucky enough to cover the events on December 7th & 8th. On the 7th it was a VIP party with Lynette Skynyrd (who’s claim to fame is an all-female Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band) playing for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Then on the 8th it was an “Eat n Greet” luncheon and benefit concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd. During the day the fans could have a sit down luncheon with Lynyrd Skynyrd and enjoy a fan participation presentation with Jeff Arnett (the 7th master distiller in Jack Daniel’s 142 year history). I was lucky enough to get on the short list of media people to cover the evening event. This event was a fund raising performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Foundation, Epicurean Charitable Foundation of Las Vegas and Nevada Children’s Medical Center.
First a little about the venue, this is a group venture between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Drive this Entertainment which is headed up by Michael Frey and Craig Gilbert. Drive this entertainment already operates two other venues in Vegas (Taco’s & Tequila at the Luxor and RHUMBAR at the Mirage). The Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer is a restaurant/bar/nightclub that will have live music entertainment and every so often the bar tenders get on stage for a little performance!
The web site best describes how they came up with design for the interior.” The philosophy at Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer will quite simply be to rock the house. As guests walk in they will immediately be transported to a setting reminiscent of “Hell House,” the ram-shackled structure in the backwoods of Jacksonville where the Skynyrd sound originated.” It has weathered wood, tin and brick to give that aged looked and southern feel. Throughout the rest of this review at times I will be shorting Lynyrd Skynyrd to Skynyrd. To their fans that’s who they are known as simply,”Skynyrd”!
At the Vip party on the 7th they offered samples of the food and drink. Coors was represented well and the usual promotion products were handed out. The various samples I tried of both food and drink were very good. I am definitely coming back to eat and recommend if you are in Vegas and like Texas style BBQ to stop by and give it a try. The only drawback is it is cafeteria style but very good food.
Now onto the music, to be quite honest having been a Skynyrd fan for many years I wasn’t sure what to expect of an all-female Skynyrd cover band. Well Lynette Skynyrd sang and played away any doubts I had. They can cover Skynyrd with the best of them. I’m telling yawl they have the Skynyrd energy, style, sound and swagger! From the first song until the last they rocked the Hell House! To get up and play like they did in front of the band that they love was a cool thing to be part of. You could see it in the faces and in their mood that Johnny Van Zant (Lead vocals) and Gary Rossington (Guitar and founding member) of Skynyrd were having a good time! I pretty sure Lynette Skynyrd will be invited back. I saw Alicia (owner of the Vegas Rock n Roll Cantina) trying to line something up with Laurie Es (Lead Singer/Manager) of Lynette Skynyrd.
In between sets I had a chance to speak with the couple of the ladies. Laurie is the driving force behind the band. With help she went out and found these talented musicians. They are out of California (yeah I know a Skynyrd cover band from Cali who would have thunk). The band formed in May of this year (That’s just eight months ago). I would have thought by the way they played together that they would have been together for at least a couple of years. In just eight short months of existence they get the gig all cover bands dream of. They played in front of the band they cover at one of the Grand Open celebration events for a new venue they are opening and they played their hearts out! Just imagine what this show meant to them.
Here’s the members of the band followed by the play list; Laurie Es (Lead Vocals), Sylvia Juncosa (Guitar), Emily Burton (Guitar), Maiyke Tjlios (Bass Guitar), Antonia Scarpa (Drums) and finishing out the lineup Cherry Garcia (Kayboards) Overall they a very good and if they come back to Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer or are at the Rock n Roll Cantina I will definitely try and make it to their show. The VIP set playlist consisted of “Give Me Back My Bullets,” “MCA,” “Whiskey R&R,” “That Smell,” “Simple Man,” “On the Hunt,” “Poison Whiskey” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Even Dale Krantz-Rossington and Carol Chase (Gary Rossington and Peter Keys wives) came up on stage and helped out with “Sweet Home Alabama!”
Now on to the Dec. 8th and Skynyrd, it was a difference experience for me because this is my first high profile band with a red carpet and limited access. Also, Skynyrd is one of my top three favorite bands. So to say I was a little nervous and excited would be a bit of an understatement. The red carpet was cool. Some notables were Laura Croft, Asturo Sandoval and Carlos Fuente.
Than it was time for Skynyrd to take the stage! The crowd was in festive mood and the air was filled with Rock n Roll excitement! The angles we could shoot from and tight quarters made it difficult to get the best pics. I think the next time I’ll have to leave my Minnesota nice at the door EH!
Skynyrd came out firing on all cylinders. Johnny Van Zant was pumped up and the rest of the band fed off of his energy. What can I say about a band that is in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame that hasn’t been said already! They rocked the Hell House just like Lynette Skynyrd did last night but these boys did it with the real Skynyrd energy, style, sound and swagger! You could tell this was a crowd of true fans because they stood up when Skynyrd took the stage and were still standing after the second songs was done. This is a nice venue for bands and fans alike. You can get right up close and the sound is good through out! Tonight Skynyrd showed me why they have been around for many years. They put on an energetic show and play for the fans. It was because of the fans, that some of the bands surviving members from a deadly plane crash in 1977 decided to reunite after a 10 year hiatus and the fans are why the band as it is continues to perform today!
This band has had battle through some tough times and deaths to key members that would have wiped out other bands. Here’s some info on Skynyrd, the band formally took the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1970. Their peak years were 1973-1977. The plane crash took the lives of three members (Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines) and left the rest of the surviving members with both serious physical injuries, and psychological trauma so they decided to go their own ways. In 1987 some of the original members reunited to pay tribute to the fallen members and found that their fans still wanted Skynyrd’s brand of music so they continued to play after the reunion tour ended! In 2009 two more long time members Billy Powell and Ean Evans passed away before the release of Skynyrd’s latest CD God & Guns. The band struggled through but knew they had to continue and released God & Guns later that year. Somehow they go out and find talented musicians to come in and not only help the band carry on but perform at a high level. The members that have been lost can never be replaced but I think they would be happy with who’s filling in for them! They have European tour schedule to start June 2012, to bring Skynyrd fans around the world the music they love!
Here is the lineup and how long they have been with band since it became Lynyrd Skynyrd . Johnny Van Zant (Lead Vocals * 1987-present), Gary Rossington (Guitar * 1970-1977 * 1987-present “the only founding member left in the band”), Rickey Maedlocke (Guitar, Vocals and Drums * 1996-present), Peter Keys (Keyboards * 2009-present), Michael Cartellone (Drums * 1999-present), Mark Matejka (Guitar * 2006-Present), Robert Kearns (Bass Guitars * 2009-present).
The playlist consisted of some Skynyrd favorites such as; “MCA,” “I Ain’t the One,” Skynyrd Nation,” What’s Your Name,” Down South Junk,” “I Know a Little,” “Simple Man,” “Three Steps,” “Call Me the Breeze,” “Sweet Home Alabma” and of course what be a Skynyrd concert without “Freebird!” Just a tidbit; in tribute to the fallen members when "Free Bird" would be played, a solitary microphone with a single spotlight would be at center stage while the band played the instrumental version. This tradition lasted many years until it is said that fans coerced Rossington to urge Johnny Van Zant to sing the lyrics!
Overall this was two nights of good rock n roll in a venue that is set up for live music. If I see a band that appeals to me playing at Lynyrd Skynyrd BBQ & Beer I will be there for the show and the food. I did talk with Alicia from the Vegas Rock n Roll Cantina and Lynette Skynyrd is scheduled to play in February and March. I will be there if my schedule allows and you can be sure when Skynyrd is in Vegas for a concert I’ll be there too!
I’d like to thank Mark Lewis (Chief Editor for Rock Over America Magazine) for the opportunity to shoot and write this review. Special thanks to Jennie Hendricks (Account Executive) from wickedcreative for letting me cover the Skynyrd concert on the 8th! <-->