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Starfest

featuring Collective Soul, Tonic, Gas Giants, Dido, Guster, and Leona Naess

Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, FL May 28, 2000

A crowd of 20,000+ piled into St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park on Memorial Day weekend for a full slate of mellow rock 'n' roll and gallons upon gallons of Rick's Spiked Lemonade and Grolsch beer. The heat and blazing sun - with precious few shady spots - had everyone tackling one another for the Star 95.7 promotional tent, where they handed out Bullfrog sunblock and radio station temporary tattoos. My companions and I hit the park just as Leona Naess was leaving the stage and Guster walked on. Despite being billed as one of the "lesser-known" acts for the day's performance, Guster actually put on the second best set of the whole concert - lively and upbeat tunes with a lot of enthusiasm and fun tossed in.

Once in the shade - and with cool drinks nearby - everything immediately turned into a rather pleasant afternoon. Gas Giants performed new tunes and belted out some of the better-known songs from their days as the Gin Blossoms, giving a hearty and welcomed fine performance.

Next up was Tonic, and they were spectacular! The best performance of the whole day, and the crowd loved them. Lots of screaming and cheering, and they churned them out with precision. I was literally swooning over the wondrous songwriting skills of Emerson Hart and the band's performance of "Mean To Me," but the crowd, of course, was insanely screaming approval as the band kicked into the now-over-the-top hit of "You Wanted More." Hart's introduction to "Mean To Me" was the highlight of the day: "If someone treats you like crap, there's only one thing to say to those kind of people, and that's this...'Get the fuck out of my life!'" I couldn't agree more!

We decided to move out of the VIP area and closer to the stage as headliners Collective Soul made their way to the stage. Honestly, if there is a bunch of "rock stars" who have ever been corrupted and given the bigheaded ego inflation from success, it has to be the members of Collective Soul. Their performance was simply lackluster and down to such a mundane, rote script that it was almost comical. Back tracking and drum loops gave them a polished sound, but it was also extremely canned. Lead vocalist Ed Roland flitted about the stage like Tinkerbell on heavy doses of speed, while lead guitarist Ross Childress made monkey faces and handed on looks of "big rock star" jerks with eyes of a possessed demon. Although Childress gave a bang-up performance of the Pink Floyd cover "Mother," Roland had no business attempting the vocals on this tune. He managed to butcher it all over Tampa Bay and never did manage the lower notes, only leaving it flat and empty. No life, no connection to the crowd, and what they did have in the past in genuine rapport with the audience was lost in a performance so rehearsed and old that it fell on the quickly dwindling crowd like a lead-filled balloon. Pitiful.

By the time the band reached the last three songs, most of the crowd had left the park and were well on their way to the comforts of home and hearth. What was once of band of character, integrity, and class that most appreciated for that very reason, Collective Soul managed to alienate all those that were there to see them when they pulled out a new tune called "Prick," slated to be on their upcoming September release Blender. While the music had the same crunchy Collective Soul riffs and sound, the lyrics were nothing short of vulgar and crass. Die-hard Collective Soul fans got a taste of the new tune, with its juvenile and childish rantings, and quickly packed up their blankets and chairs and headed out. Florida was once a central fanbase for Collective Soul, but from what I observed and heard from people that I KNOW were dedicated fans, they've lost it here with one pubescent, wet-behind-the-ears temper tantrum of a song.

All in all, Star 95.7 gave its greatest and biggest Starfest of all time. The radio station did a beautiful job of planning and making this event a wonderful day in the park. Too bad Collective Soul had to come along and throw a hot, wet blanket on what had been a very fun and enjoyable day.