Last Week of July 1998
We were about to leave for a vacation that would involve refereeing a pro indoor soccer game, several days in New Orleans, and Phish in Atlanta before returning home. In addition to preparations, we hit three concerts in three nights before taking to the road for the fourth one of the week.
MONDAY, JULY 27
The Lilith Fair 1998 tour went to the Central Florida Fairgrounds near Orlando on Monday. The weather was great, the lineup was awesome, and the venue was fine. There were several opening acts we missed, but we did arrive in time to hear Meredith Brooks, whose main claim to fame was the anthem “Bitch” (“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover…”). Rebekah was up next, and then the main event really began.
Queen Latifah was next, and she was… magnificent. Spectacular. that was one fine set. And a side note: the next night the fairgrounds were hosting Oz Fest with Ozzy himself. I was in the beer line during Queen’s set when a guy ahead of me, who clearly did NOT need another beverage, suddenly shrieked “OZZY,” hand in the air in the familiar sign. Was he just 24 hours early?
Bonnie Raitt was up next and kicked even more ass with a superb and diverse set of tunes appropriate to the occasion. Sarah McLachlan, the organizer of Lilith Fair, is no fool. Nobody but nobody was going to be able to follow Queen Latifah and then Bonnie Raitt, so she scheduled Natalie Merchant’s set before hers. Brilliant move. Merchant was pleasant but simply not up to the awesome before or after her. McLachlan was fabulous.
TUESDAY, JULY 28
Widespread Panic were on the second leg of their summer tour, this time playing one long set, with G. Love and Special Sauce and Guster in tow. The University of South Florida Sundome (it has some beer name now) is fair as far as acoustics are concerned. I don’t recall much about the early sets. Panic lit it up, however, including a great “Send Your Mind” (the Van Morrison tune), “Galleon,” Carrot Top walking on stage in the middle of (what else) “Walkin’ (For Your Love)” to tell a tasteless joke, one superb medley including personal favorite “Tie Your Shoes,” and a blistering “Travelin’ Light” to end the evening. The tour was, in fact, the Travelin’ Light Tour.
07/28/98 Sun Dome, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
[0: Porch Song > Send Your Mind > Dyin’ Man, Worry, Galleon > Walkin’ (For Your Love), Rebirtha > Tie Your Shoes > Papa’s Home > Drums > Dream Song > Papa’s Home > Tie Your Shoes > Impossible; E: Greta > Travelin’ Light]
[Travelin’ Light Tour; Slow ‘Porch Song’; ‘Walkin’ (For Your Love)’ with pause (during which Carrot Top told a joke); G. Love & Special Sauce and Guster opened]
WEDNESDAY, JULY 29
It’s possible you’ve never heard about the North Carolina band Dag. Their debut album righteous is one of the best soul/R&B albums from the ’90s. They tore it up the year before at a show in Ybor City, Tampa. This night, with a slightly different lineup, they played The Rubb (it’s called something else now) in Ybor, and they were once again amazing, touring on their new album Apartment #635 (not to be confused in any way with Apt. Q-258). It was great to see the club full of fans dancing like crazy.
FRIDAY, JULY 31
We embarked on the aforementioned journey, with a stop in Live Oak for another taste of Widespread Panic, G. Love, and Guster. We were not the only fans who, never having heard of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park before (and before the internet was a phone search away), ended up first at Suwannee River State Park. At least a dozen cars then beat a hasty retreat, and we all found the right park in time for the 6 p.m. kickoff.
Edwin McCain, who had a radio smash with “I’ll Be,” was up first with a pleasant show. Guster had really spirited, percussion-heavy set that got people off their feet. We really didn’t know anything about G. Love, even though we’d seen him three nights earlier, but we learned a lot from two young fans sitting near us who punctuated the G. Love and Special Sauce with numerous amusing and loud requests for “Cold Beverages” and, of course, “Special Sauce”!
It appeared that one hell of a storm was brewing beyond the stage, and we watched it get larger and larger, then magically just stop in place some miles off, a really fine part of the light show of the evening. And we stayed dry!
The Panic set began with a relative rarity, “Smoke And Burn,” which was formerly known as “Burned Faceless.” Kicking off the show with a Mikey song (Michael Houser, who passed away in 2002) was perfect. After the instrumental “Happy,” a long percussion segment told us we were about to meet “Pusherman.” Everything seemed to work, especially a killer “Radio Child” and a ridiculous 68-minute medley that included a long “Mercy” and long “Hank,” with “And It Stoned Me” stuffed into “Big Wooly Mammoth.” The encore featured a relatively new song, “All Time Low,” into the perfect closer: “Mr. Soul.”
07/31/98 Suwanee Music Park, Live Oak, FL
[0: Smoke And Burn, Happy > Pusherman > Blackout Blues, Airplane > Hatfield > Radio Child, Mercy > Henry Parsons Died > Drums* > Big Wooly Mammoth > And It Stoned Me > Big Wooly Mammoth > Fishwater; E: All Time Low > Mr. Soul]
* with Brian Rosenworcel on percussion, Jeffery Clemens on drums
[Travelin’ Light Tour; ‘Send In The Clowns’ tease by JoJo before ‘Big Wooly Mammoth’; Edwin McCain, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Guster opened]
I’ve done lots of festivals and cruises since but never a week quite like that for diversity and pure joy.