Radio concert festivals abound this time of year throughout the country. The HFStival up north and its west-coast sister, the K-Rock Weenie Roast, typically leading the pack of rotation honoring, lawn-chair friendly revues. And while Orlando does welcome its share of rock & roll package deals in large-capacity environs, few have matched the momentous hype of WSHE's 3rd birthday bash, "She-Bop-A-Lula 2." An estimated 12,000 people turned out to witness a mix of local faves and national up-and-comers exhibit there wares in the hot Florida sun and cast general celebration to the station's growing influence in Orlando.
Ah, but alas it wasn't so hot at all, really. Overcast skies and a reasonable breeze greeted show openers VonRa as lept through a rousing set of originals. Riding a breezy shuffle of acoustic strummery and lyrical optimism, the band did its part to welcome the still arriving masses to a place apart from the two mile sojourn of the Universal parking complex. The band's loyal fan base were in attendance, fueling an energetic, if not painfully accessible, pop populism of the Dave-meets-Hootie sort.
VonRa were followed by the Austin-based blues punch of Sister Seven, whose adept recreation of the Sheryl Crow to Bonnie Raitt hip-howl proved inspiring to the growing crowd. From skatting about on a jazz tether to soaring above head-heavy rock and roll thrust (and still making time for occasional to-the-audience banter, typically ending in a jarring yop of "swEEEEET"), Sister Seven showed the confidence of world-weary veterans in peak form.
Recent hitmakers, Naked, followed with an alternately rocked-out and cooled- down set of inspired American songwriting. Their current hit, the melancholy "Raining on the Sky" took special meaning in the face of the growing clouds overhead, while their debut, "Mann's Chinese" picked things back up to a suitably alt-rock pace, all making for a likeable, if not entirely spectacular set.
But it was the two headliners, one a surprise phenomenon from the great white north and the other a surprise phenomenon from our own back yard, that had the masses swaying in anticipation. My Friend Steve, fresh with a new lineup, charmed the crowd off of its blankets with its revved-up, feel good, soar-throat melodicism. Steve Burry's ascension to local-heroedom is no accident, but certainly his humility remains intact from the looks of awe he sent out accross the appreciative audience. The band sounded confident following its recent hiatus and even more recent signing to Mammoth Records, belting such now unmistakable hits as "The Schooling" to the sound of a sing-a-long crowd.
As lights fell, there could be no mistaking the power that Barenaked Ladies seem to have developed over this town through the past few months. Or over the whole country, for that matter. A band that just two years ago might have had trouble selling 120 seats was here commanding the undiverted attention of 12,000. The band kicked in with their signature ode, "The Old Apartment," and effusively plowed through a well- rounded set of road-tested favorites and new tracks from their just released LP, Stunt. The combination of catchiness and headiness was, as expected, a winner with the sold-out crowd, and helped to end a perfect day on an even better note.