stop the ROCK!
When rock bands Crossfade, Dark New Day, and Ra were told they couldn't play, they played anyway, in a true display of rock 'n' roll rebellion.
The 99X 10th birthday bash drew hundreds of rock fans to Playtime Sports Grill in Atlantic Beach on Monday but at 8 p.m., the same time New Jersey-based Ra was set to take the stage, Fire Chief Adam Snyder made a devastating decision. The show was canceled and the venue shut down.
"They had major electrical code violations," Snyder said.
Brett Hestla, the lead singer for Dark New Day, was understandably bummed. "It sucks for the fans, the bands and the club," he said.
However, rather than dwell on the canceled show, members of all three bands mingled with the disappointed crowd, signing autographs and posing for photos.
"We have to find somewhere around here to play eventually," said Ed Sloan, lead singer of Crossfade. He said the last time the band tried to play in the area at a different venue, it was shut down before the show by the fire chief.
As the band members continued to mingle, locals began brainstorming other nearby places where the band could play. Then a representative of 99X had a suggestion so Corey Lowery, bassist of Dark New Day, headed down Fort Macon Drive to check out J-Doggs, a place with good atmosphere and, more importantly, a small stage with big speakers.
Lowery sent for his bandmates and the other bands, who were still with their tour buses at Playtime, and fans flocked to the makeshift venue descending on a very unsuspecting and dumbfounded bartender who exclaimed: "Where did all these people come from? We are never busy on a Monday night."
With just a couple of guitars and a small bongo drum, each of the bands, minus a few members, took turns playing to a very excited crowd of about 100 fans who refused to give up on hearing their favorite bands play.
Brothers Clint and Corey Lowery, Brett Hestla, and Troy McLawhorn, all of Dark New Day, took the stage first, playing soulful acoustic versions of songs from their debut CD, "Twelve Year Silence," in the intimate setting. The fans responded with incredible energy as Hestla introduced the last song of their set, their single "Brother," a lyrically poetic track with a stirring beat that Hestla described as "including all those family members."
After they successfully revved up the hungry crowd, Dark New Day was followed with a small set played by Ra, which played with two of the four band members, creating a dynamic rock duo. loan described the group as an inspiration and went on to say he'd been listening to them for three years now. Ra will be playing today at Planet Rock in Jacksonville before heading to Fayetteville as they continue touring.
Finally, Crossfade went front and center, featuring bassist Mitch James, lead singer Sloan, and drummer James Branham. As Sloan strummed the guitar he borrowed from Ra, he would periodically break to slap hands with the fans who kept hopping onto the stage, and all the while he didn't stop smiling. Then, although the crowd had grown quite loud with excitement, as Sloan's sweetly rich voice spread over them when the band started to play their single "Colors," and there was reverent silence.
The silence was over, however, when 99X radio personality Crash stepped onto the stage.
"This is one of those rare nights," he said. "I mean I thought I'd be watching these guys from rows back but here we are, right here with them."
The crowd was not only up close and personal with the band, but they also sang with them when Sloan solicited the crowd to help him out, turning the acoustic play of the single "Cold" into a harmonious chorus.
Toward the end, members of the other two bands jumped on stage with the guys from Crossfade. To close out the show, the expanded group performed an energetic cover of "Sweet Home Alabama," which rang throughout the small club in many different voices. And that was it for the show that wasn't supposed to be, and almost wasn't.
Earlier in the evening, when the first show was canceled, Mitch James had said, "We hope to make the show up to our fans."
With an unrelenting passion to play, all three bands refused to give up, and in the end, they did make it up to their fans.