Lynyrd Skynyrd calls out RAGBRAI 50 crowd for not being loud enough. That changes by the end. (2024)

Paris BarrazaDes Moines Register

It was the last two songs of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s set at Water Works Park that got the crowd the loudest.

Unsurprisingly, it was “Sweet Home Alabama” and the encore song, “Free Bird.”

The Southern rock band closed out the fourth day of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Wednesday night at what is imagined to be the largest campground in RAGBRAI history as up to 60,000 people traveled into the capital city.

For more than an hour, Lynyrd Skynyrd played some of their most memorable songs, from “Workin’ for MCA” to “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller” to an, at times, rather quiet and stiff crowd.

Lead singer and guitarist, Johnny Van Zant — brother of founding member Ronnie Van Zant, who died in a plane crash along with bandmades Steve and Cassie Gaines in 1977 — noticed it too.

“That’s bulls***, Des Moines,” Van Zant called out after the band gestured for the crowd to get loud with little success. “Skynyrd can’t hear y’all.”

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The quip happened during the performance of “That Smell,” the song called out founding member Gary Rossington and people affiliated with the band for substance abuse issues in the late 1970s, according to American Songwriter.

Despite the early difficulty in hyping the crowd, Van Zant frequently thanked them, saying it was an “honor” to perform Wednesday night.

“It’s your 50th too, right,” Van Zant called out. “Fifty years of this, right? We are celebrating 50 years of Lynyrd Skynyrd with you tonight, 50 years of Lynyrd Skynyrd since ‘Pronounced (Lĕh-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd)’ came out and we want to take it another 50.”

Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd founding member and guitarist, died in March at 71. The band played tribute to the man Van Zant called his “best friend” when he spoke to the Des Moines Register earlier this week with a performance of “Tuesday’s Gone,” which had some of the crowd swaying back and forth during.

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For Mark Erdman, the clue to whether he had a good time at the concert or not will be his voice.

After all, the last time he saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, he lost his voice. Actually, he blew out a blood vessel in his vocal cord, Erdman was told.

“I was dating a woman, she went with that time and she's like, ‘Stop it, people are looking,’” he said. “I'm like, ‘I don't care. I don't know any of these other people. Me and my friends are here and they don't care. I’m going to have a good time. I’m in the moment. I don't care.’ (I) just love their music.”

Erdman, who lives just outside of West Des Moines, was at Water Works Park for Lynyrd Skynyrd. He’d taken the day off from his job as a truck driver — he’s listened to “Free Bird” three hours straight while driving his truck before — and arrived at the show solo, not wanting to deal with anyone complaining of the heat or wanting to go home early.

The Southern rock fan said Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music takes him back to the 1970s.

But for one fan, the band isn’t so much a portal to the 1970s — she’s 26 years old — but more about the good music taste her dad imparted onto her.

Jasmin Rodriguez and her dad, Victor, spent some of the show holding up a Lynyrd Skynyrd flag. The father-daughter duo, originally of El Paso, Texas, who’ve lived in Des Moines for about six or seven years, were surprised to catch the band in Iowa.

“He’s a total classic rock advocate, got to get all the greats in there,” she said of her dad. “That’s how my introduction went.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd played during barbecues and or on rides around El Paso or in Des Moines, Rodriguez recalled.

Like Hairball on Tuesday night in Ames, Lynyrd Skynyrd got patriotic during the night, echoing similar sentiments of supporting armed forces and first responders. Van Zant dedicated “Simple Man” to American armed forces and their families.

More: Rock hits, plus an electric national anthem, kept crowd buzzing for Hairball at Ames show

Van Zant later brought out an American flag to hold on stage during “Free Bird.”

“I want ‘Free Bird’ at my funeral,” Dino Costanzo, 62, said. “It’s just a good, rock ‘n roll goodbye song.”

He and wife Jill, of Des Moines, spent most of the show grooving out together.

“This is probably my best concert in 10 years,” he said.

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Dillion Carmichael, The Nadas and more play earlier Wednesday at Water Works Park

“Make some noise if you have a drinking problem," country music singer Dillion Carmichael called out to the crowd before jumping into his new single “Drinkin Problems,” prompting some cheers from the crowd.

He took the main stage at Water Works Park just an hour before Lynyrd Skynyrd. Carmichael, who grew up in Kentucky, released his second album "Son of A" in 2021.

“Congratulations on making it halfway,” Carmichael told the crowd, and shared his gratitude for people showing up to his performance despite being on a bike for so long.

The musician performed “Sawin’ Logs” and “Red, White, Camo and Blue.”

“I love Iowa,” he said, acknowledging that there were plenty of people from elsewhere in the crowd.

The Nadas, the popular Iowa Americana-folk act, performed earlier in the evening on the main stage. The space in front of the main concert stage was largely empty save for a few dozen people — many of which were longtime fans of band.

The Iowa Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famers made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed drummer Brandon Stone was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A GoFundMe fundraiser to support the Oskaloosa native has raised over $42,000.

During The Nadas set, more people could be found sprawled out in the limited shade on the outskirts of the park. The temperature was 97 degrees at 5 p.m., according to the Weather Channel.

Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and arts at the Des Moines Register. Reach her Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.

Lynyrd Skynyrd calls out RAGBRAI 50 crowd for not being loud enough. That changes by the end. (2024)
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