Months ago we forked over the Ticketmaster fees and saved the date. We then endured the parking cartel of the Cincinnati Riverbend Music Center. We didn’t mind that the lawn seats turned out to be Astroturf. We ignored the perpetual bigscreen Skyline Chili ads, creating the need for a collective antacid. Not even eight-dollar Bud Lites could dampen our mood as we boogied to “What’s Your Name” and pretended that the lyrics to “That Smell” don’t creep us out. We even cheered for the new song. Whatever. By way of reward, the band ripped through “Sweet Home Alabama” and for a glorious six minutes and fifteen seconds we forget about our late mortgage payments.
Then the lights dimmed and the band retreated backstage.
The roadies hustled around the stage while we cradled our lighters. That Southern Rock died in 1977 with Ronnie Van Zant in a remote Mississippi soybean field doesn’t matter. That we lost our waists during one of the Bush administrations is of no importance. We have not succumbed to skinny jeans. Over shared flasks and tokes, we were reborn as rock brethren and it was time to sing our anthem.
Maybe bands in their heyday can skip “the hit” under the guise of artistic integrity. But not musicians 30 years past their Bilboard 100 peak. This was a sure thing. We raised our voices in a unified chant, joy filling the places where our cartilage used to be. We were riding the nostalgia crest of every road trip, every party, every rock show, every stolen kiss that ever mattered in our lives.
Except for you, Dude-bros, who began to yell,
Hey dillweeds, the Olympics are over. We weren’t there to celebrate that time the American hockey team defeated the Soviet Union, which is now Russia. We didn’t want to hear your jingoistic platform born of Rocky IV, of a nuclear winter you never feared.
We know your collective deal, Dudes Pumping Fists. You were there ironically. One night between Jell-O shots Abercrombie suggested to Fitch that this show would be “epic, bro,” and pretty soon the whole pooka shell-neck-laced posse was in. The night would be ace, fodder for fist bumps over funneled beer in baby pools this spring.
True, the band is past its prime. These days Skynrd claims only one original member, a guitar player whose blond hair plugs cling for relevance like Wil E. Coyote on a cliff. To call this incarnation of the band by its original name takes a stretch. If we were cynical, we’d think these guys are just punching their time cards, milking that hit teat to the point of latching pain. And yet. Despite the years, despite the rotating lineup, despite the drummer’s Flashdance inspired sweatband, authenticity pierces the fog of secondhand smoke. Our inner “Whoo!” radiated outward. We were happy.
Then there’s you, dudebros, and your irony.
The only irony happening that night is that for years we’ve endured a plague of wankwads yelling the wrong song request at every other show we’ve attended in our rock show lives. We’ve suffered this injustice at every concert, from The Flaming Lips to Loretta Lynn. Anytime the music stops for a few seconds, a pit of dread births from deep within our bowels. Don’t say it, we pray to an unfeeling god. Just don’t say it.
But you do. You always do.
All we can do now is repeat what Johnny Van Zant had been yelling in the mike all night—"This is Lynyrd Skynrd, y’all! Put your hands together!" You should have showed some respect. Because even if your schmutz-encrusted brains can’t function, we knew what song we wanted to hear. So during the next encore, take your sorry American Appareled asses back to the SUV somebody’s daddy paid for, and go jam to “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit—a song by the band you deserve.
Kelly Kathleen Ferguson