At 1:57 p.m. on Fri. May 13th, the rain began at The Supertwang Festival in Speedwell, TN. The bruised and sullen skies made the future of this, the event’s opening day, nervously questionable.
At 2:06 p.m., as a safety measure the promoters had to shut down SwampDaWamp, the second band of the day’s impressive line-up.
Then at 2:51 p.m., The Artimus Pyle Band, (A.P.B.) arrived and the clouds literally parted.
A.P.B. brought the sunshine and a singular fire in a potent set of Lynyrd Skynyrd classics. From the first four-count the band was warm, tight and most definitely playing to the right room.
‘Workin’ For The M.C.A.’, off of Skynyrd’s ‘Second Helping’ album opened the set and the grateful crowd responded with ardent enthusiasm. The band followed with ‘I Ain’t The One’ and then moved seamlessly into ‘Saturday Night Special’, which brought the return of thunder to the day by way of Artimus Pyle’s driving double-bass in the final bars of the seminal song.
Standing side by side, guitarists Scott Raines, a Fender man who learned to play guitar to Skynyrd records, and Jerry Lyda, representin’ Gibson, offered a melodic and faithful 12-string assault that the audience rewarded with noticeable reverence. Bassist Tony Black thumped and grooved admirably, laying the definitive framework for he and drummer Artimus Pyle’s rhythmic center. Keyboardist Brad Dourdan also captured the graceful prowess of the late Billy Powell’s solid musical foundation. Dourdan managed to make the piano parts subtle and unrestrained at the same time through ‘Simple Kind Of Man’, ‘They Call Me The Breeze’, ‘Ooh That Smell’ and a particularly rousing version of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.
This remarkable canon of music is rooted so indelibly in the collective consciousness and watching folks with their kids and grandkids as they cheered, sang, whooped, danced and stomped joyfully atop the drying earth was fun, exciting and at times very moving.
To close the set, as the familiar opening piano lines of the eponymous ‘Freebird’ floated above, Artimus scurried quickly up to the microphone and addressed the adoring crowd. He dedicated the show to,
“All of our flood and tornado victims and our Nation’s military.”
He then shouted proudly,
“Long live Ronnie Van Zant!” and saluted the audience before scurrying back behind the drum kit to offer the deeper thrill of that enduring anthem’s opening drum-fills. Artimus’s drumming hasn’t lost an ounce of its’ power and precision and his playing demonstrated the heart and conviction that led these precious classics to their deserved place at the definitive Southern Rock pinnacle.
At the song’s end, Artimus made his way to the mike again to tell the rapt fans,
“I’m 63 years old and I LOVE playin’ my little drums, God Bless you all!”
A.P.B. had quelled the rain and delivered absolutely faithful renderings of Lynyrd Skynyrd music as it’s meant to be performed, pure, simple and wholly rockin’. It was a rare treat and being a part of the day was truly its’ own reward.