Editor's Note: We must be sadists. IM intern Myrydd Wells had never been to a Carb Day concert. So today, without mercy, we sent her—alone—to the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at IMS. When we cautioned that it might get rowdy, and asked if she was sure she wanted to go, she reassured us. "I went to IU," she said. "I've seen it all." This is what she brought back.
Spectators beware: Carb Day is not for the faint of heart. Between dodging one’s way through swarms of the highly intoxicated, sitting in endless lines of traffic in an attempt to find parking, and, of course, sweating out all the water in one's body in temperatures approaching 90 degrees, going out to the track can be a daunting task. But for race fans and party enthusiasts, all this trouble seems to be worth it.
I made my way onto the grassy field surrounding the Miller Lite Stage to watch the Lynyrd Skynyrd performance, squeezing between rows of people until I scored a spot close to the barrier surrounding the stage. The crowd was a mixed bag, from twenty-somethings to near-retirement-age, but the scene resembled a college party, complete with at least one beer bong and more women than I would have expected flashing their breasts to press cameras.
See our photo gallery
brimming with shots of Skynyrd and Carb Day revelers.
When Lynyrd Skynyrd finally took the stage, their advanced age was clear in their faces, but less so in their music. I was somewhat surprised by their old appearance and took note of it on my pad, a move that proved to be a near-fatal mistake. All-too-curious fans squished around me to read my notes over my shoulder and were none too happy with my written comment. They voiced their displeasure at me for a good 15 minutes.
Indeed, the band's age appeared to make little difference to the crowd, who cheered with hands, phones, and drinks raised high into the air. And the band didn’t appear to have lost their ability to rock. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke, in particular, had enthusiasm in abundance, often jamming on the instrument while spinning in circles on the stage. At one point, Medlocke flipped the audience the bird with both hands.
Lead singer Johnny Van Zant was more laid back in his movements, but showed off the band’s Sourthern rock image by singing into a microphone with a confederate flag tied around it for the last few songs of the show, which included the party jam “Sweet Home Alabama.”
For the encore—“Freebird,” of course—Van Zant sang into a microphone decorated with an American flag, which he held open at the end of the song, prompting a chant of “USA! USA!” from the audience. Van Zant also dedicated the band’s performance of “Simple Man” to American troops.
The crowd dispersed after “Freebird,” leaving in their wake a sea of beer-can carcasses, destroyed Styrofoam coolers, and Ziploc-bagged lunches so smashed it was difficult to decipher the contents. One young woman near me happily collected a forgotten hat. The crunch of water bottles and cans underfoot was unsettingly loud, and vendor food trampled into the ground resembled flattened roadkill.
The concert was likely a real treat for Skynyrd fans and for those who just wanted to party. For a first-time Carb Day attendee, it was, ahem, entertaining. People let go of their stress and inhibitions, some with careless abandon; I watched a man get handcuffed mid-concert. But the mantra of Carb Day seemed to be a simple one: Party on, race fans.
Lynyrd Skynyrd tweeted a post-show photo
of Van Zant with celebrity chef Guy Fieri.
Photos by Tony Valainis