Cody Canada sings during Cross Canadian Ragweed’s set at the Stagecoach Music Festival this summer in California. (Associated Press photo)
The members of Cross Canadian Ragweed gave about 10,500 fans a chance to party with their wildly diverse musical family Saturday night at the Zoo Amphitheatre.
Headlining the fifth annual Cross Canadian Ragweed Family Jam, the Oklahoma/Texas band not only dominated the show with its rousing performance, but also provided the musical tie binding a lineup of divergent talents.
“We treat this gig kind of like our personal iPod to kind of show everybody what our taste in music is from one end of the spectrum to another. Case in point: Lee Ann Womack and … Buckcherry,” Ragweed lead singer and guitarist Cody Canada told the teeming crowd.
The show, which benefits Mandi’s Ministries, sold out in advance, leaving many fans hunting for stray tickets or setting up listening parties in adjacent parking lots. The bands thanked the audience many times for supporting the nonprofit, started in honor of Ragweed drummer Randy Ragsdale’s sister, who died in a 2001 car accident.
The music started in the sunny mid-afternoon and played on two stages with a few intermissions until after 11 p.m.
With Ragweed’s alt-country leanings and roots in Yukon and Stillwater, the Red Dirt music scene was particularly well represented. Stoney LaRue and the Arsenals injected Southern flair into Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” while the Red Dirt Rangers set a freespirited tone with their song “Enjoy the Ride.”
The Mike McClure Band threatened to steal the whole show, starting its too-short set by doing justice to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” McClure, former singer and guitarist for the Great Divide, charmed with his winning grin, fleet fingers and supple vocals on the nostalgic “Yesterday Road,” the rocker “Wild Child” and the lover’s lament “Just Not Good Enough.”
A low-key country songbird, Womack simply sauntered onstage with a pretty smile and started crooning about lost love with “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger,” “One’s a Couple” and “A Little Past Little Rock.” Clad in jeans, a flowing top and wraparound shades, she introduced a new brokenhearted ballad “Solitary Thinkin’,” from her upcoming album “Call Me Crazy,” added a bit of old-fashioned country with the Bob Wills classic “San Antonio Rose,” and got playful on her two-stepper “I’ll Think of a Reason Later.”
The contrast between Womack and Buckcherry proved just as extreme as it appeared on paper. The Los Angeles rockers illustrated that the name Family Jam in no way indicated a family-oriented show, blasting onto the stage with its sexual explicit and profanity-laced “Dirty Mind.” The band, with the two-guitar combo of Stevie D. and Keith Nelson, pounded out a string of aggressive party anthems, including “Lit Up,” “Too Drunk …” and the crowd-pleasing closer “Crazy B- – - -.”
Dressed in a black jacket, tight, elaborately decorated pants and a colorful array of tattoos, singer Josh Todd strutted, danced and spun across the stage as he screamed out lyrics, occasionally pausing in mid-song to voice his thoughts on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
The band got the crowd singing along and waving lighters and cell phones with the surprisingly tender ballads “Everything” and “Sorry.”
By the time the lengthy set change was completed, the crowd was impatiently chanting “CCR.” Roars of approval greeted Ragweed, who thundered on with the defiant “Don’t Need You” and scathing “Record Exec.”
The country-rock rabble-rousers lived up to their reputation for loud, high-energy shows and stellar musicianship. Unfortunately, Canada’s twangy vocals were often drowned out amid his screaming guitar solos and Jeremy Plato’s powerful bass interludes.
The problems didn’t diminish the party atmosphere as the hosts rolled through the rowdy rock songs “Hammer Down,” “Anywhere but Here” and “The Deal.” The needy ballad “Alabama” got fans dancing and singing along.
Ragweed got into the jamming spirit, recruiting LaRue to sing along on the state history lesson “In Oklahoma” and getting Randy Rogers’ help on the wistful “This Time Around.”
The humorous marijuana tribute “Boys from Oklahoma” turned into a massive sing-along, with LaRue, Rogers, John Cooper, Tom Skinner and other Red Dirt musicians taking turns at the mike as the crowd whooped, laughed and shouted out the chorus.
Unfortunately, the jamming didn’t extend to the unlikely Buckcherry-Lee Ann Womack duet that would have elevated the event to “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” status.
Since the show was running behind schedule, Ragweed didn’t get in an encore, but the band sent fans home satisfied with the rollicking “Late Last Night,” a post-party hangover song that will likely seem all-too-familiar to many who attended the show.