Let me apologize beforehand, dear readers, for outing myself as a Southern boy in Vegas hipster clothing. Growing up in Florida, I was raised on a diet of music by Dixie-bred artists such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Allman Brothers and, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The latter explains why you’ll find me putting aside my personal political opinions on Aug. 27 and clicking my Bic for Sean Hannity’s Tea Party-tinged Freedom Concert at the Orleans this weekend. (Michael W. Smith, The Charlie Daniels Band and co-host Col. Oliver North round out the evening of combined commentary and rock.) While I can’t stand the term “freedom” when it’s used as a euphemism for the oppression of gays, minorities and the environment, I do love Southern rock. Especially when it’s done with as much conviction as on the 2009 Skynyrd album God & Guns. There are no original members of the band remaining (death has claimed most of them), but vocalist Johnny Van Zant is brother of original Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant (who perished in the ’77 plane crash that nearly undid the band) and .38 Special vocalist/guitarist Donnie. The younger Johnny does a convincing job of honoring the Skynyrd tradition and the blues of the Southern workingman, even if you don’t care about either.
For me, the best part about God & Guns is that several songs were penned by the late Hughie Thomasson, who founded a band called the Outlaws in my hometown of Tampa, Fla. Grossly underrated, the Outlaws never reached pantheon status in the Southern rock genre, but they were a terrific live act, and Thomasson’s songwriting is truly accomplished. He wrote these Skynyrd tunes just before his death in ’07, and “Still Unbroken,” will certainly moisten your eyes. By the way, another less sentimental but equally compelling moment on Gods & Guns is the gothic swamp-rockin’ character sketch, “Floyd,” about a ghostly moonshiner whom the law can’t nab. The track is also a team-up with Rob Zombie and ex-Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5. Anyhow, check it out. For more info on this show, go to freedomconcerts.com.
Back to the underground, where I’m (mostly) comfortable: The harsh, mysterious, avant-black metal acts—Axeman, Ashdautas, Volahn, Arizmenda, Blue Hummingbird on the Left—that comprise the collective known as Black Twilight Circle have their sights on performing in Las Vegas on two separate nights. There’s been a lot of chatter about this tour on the metal forums, and while someone’s house will likely serve as the venue (we’re talking real underground here), you can bet this will be the best extreme-metal moment of the year. Check the Ecophagy Records site (ecophagyrecords.blogspot.com) for an update as these dates (Sept. 9 and 10) get closer.