It’s perennially one of the most popular festivals in Manatee County, but after three decades organizers are still finding ways to improve it.
The DeSoto Seafood Festival is set to begin Friday at Sutton and Lamb parks in Palmetto. The three-day festival will, as always, be packed with live music and great food.
The headlining act is 38 Special, the classic rock band that scored hits with “Hold On Loosely” and “Caught Up in You,” ideal for the festival.
The band has been together for 43 years, but founding member Don Barnes said the whole band still gets along and still loves what they do.
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“It’s a great job,” he said in a phone interview. “You crank that guitar up to 10 and suddenly you’re 19 years old again. You just go around the country bringing joy to people.”
38 Special is scheduled to play a 60-minute show starting at 9 p.m. Saturday. Barnes, the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist, said they have pre-determined setlists for two-hour shows, 90-minute shows and one-hour shows. The one-hour-show, he said, is compact and powerful, focusing on the band’s hits.
It’s a great job. You crank that guitar up to 10 and suddenly you’re 19 years old again.
Don Barnes of 38 Special
“It will be a high-energy hour,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of hits, a lot of top-10, top-20, top-40, and we want to give people what they came to hear. In our 60-minute show we do a medley with a lot of the secondary songs, songs from movies and things like that. The medley runs 20 minutes.”
Casual fans of the band sing along with the biggest hits, he said, but may have forgotten that 38 Special was the band that had a hit with “Rockin’ Into the Night.” And a lot of fans may have completely forgotten that 38 Special performed the song “Back to Paradise” in the movie “Revenge of the Nerds.” The medley reminds them of those songs.
The band began life as one of the many Southern rock bands of the era, but in the late ’70s made a conscious switch to an arena rock sound.
“As the ’70s came to a close, we could see that Southern rock was waning,” he said. “We had all been fans of the British Invasion bands, so we moved in that direction. We called the sound muscle and melody.”
Barnes is the only original member still in the band, and there have been about 20 members over the years. The current lineup, he said, is the best ever.
“And what’s more amazing is that we all still get along,” he said. “We all like each other.”
The focus of the seafood festival’s music lineup has always been classic rock and country, and that hasn’t changed. Friday’s headliner is country up-and-comer Carrie Welling.
But there’s one new feature to the music: a full day of zydeco music on Sunday, featuring one of the genre’s best and best-known acts, Chubby Carrier and the Swamp Boogie Band. The band won a Grammy Award for best Zydeco or Cajun Album for its 2010 release, “Zydeco Junkie.”
The zydeco music is a departure from the festival’s formula of country and classic rock, but organizers are optimistic that crowds will love it.
“We’ve never had a zydeco band at the festival, at least as long as I’ve been here,” said festival chairman Pat Bustle. “It’s the kind of fun, foot-stomping music that festival crowds enjoy. It’s good-time music.”
But Friday and Saturday are still devoted to classic rock and country. The headlining band, 38 Special, has its roots in Southern rock, so it touches on both genres, Bustle said.
Also new this year is improved accessibility for people who use wheelchairs. There had been comments in past years about difficulties getting from the main parking area to the front gate, and getting around other areas of the festival, so dirt ramps have been constructed to help people get over curbs.
Here’s the entertainment lineup for this weekend’s 30th annual DeSoto Seafood festival:
6-8 p.m.: Carrie Welling
8:30-10 p.m.: The Billy Rice Band
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Trigger Fish
1-2 p.m.: Gabriel Newell
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Rebel Heart
4:45-5:45 p.m.: Whiskey Blind
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Boss Hawg Band
7-8 p.m.: Saints of Havana
9-10 p.m.: 38 Special
Noon-1:15 p.m.: Gumbo Boogie
2-3:30 p.m.: Porch Dogs
4-5:30 p.m.: Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band