The 24th Annual Thunder By The Bay Is Another One for the Books
The motorcycles and RV’s have left the Sarasota Fairgrounds but not until they made Thunder By The Bay another successful event for the Suncoast Charities for Children! According to Executive Director, Lucy Nicandri, last year they raised over $225,000.00 and she expects to top that after they have their accounting at the end of March. Sarasota knows how to give and put on a party!
This year’s music was top notch and drew thousands to the Thunder stage all weekend. Starting with “Scarlet Drive”, kicking off the festival on Friday night. A mix of country and pop, they got things warmed up while the crowd danced, drank and had dinner. The Budweiser Clydesdales were brought down next to the stage from 6-8 pm, the crowd showed the beautiful horses much love. The VIP tent was packed and offered Sonny’s BBQ for dinner as well as a continuous line for cocktails. It was the Kick-Off Party night and there were many great items to look at and bid on for the silent auction. The music continued with the popular tribute band “Diary of an Ozzman”. Ozzman and company have a cool, freaky show with lots of lights and smoke, backround for iconic Black Sabbath and Ozzy solo tunes. Sarasota and Thunder loves some Ozz!
Saturday was a full day of music starting with “The Verge”. Tom & band got the beat started and kept it going. Chairs and blankets crowded the stage area for the diehard all-day crowd. Next up, “Tobacco Rd Band” brought something for the country fans. Band member Eric Durrance, has written with country star Jake Owen and they have opened for Josh Turner, Jason Aldean and more. Late afternoon brought some Bon Jovi with tribute band, “Slippery When Wet”. Lead singer Jason Morey bears a striking resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi right down to his Superman tattoo. Churning out hits like “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Living on a Prayer”, they had the crowd singing along including this writer who has photographed the real Bon Jovi and thought they honored them well. It was a fun show and the crowd was growing larger and larger in anticipation for the final act of the night, “Firehouse”!
“Firehouse’ opened with “Rock On The Radio” with plenty of rock & roll smoke effects and guitar riffs. Frontman C.J. Snare brought high energy moves and a rock voice in shape. They played a 16-song set including their hits, “Love of a Lifetime” and “Don’t Treat Me Bad”. Guitarist Bill Leverty who has also written many of the band’s songs is a proficient player and does a great solo as well as drummer Michael Foster who has a solo mid-set. Allen McKenzie on bass keeps the boom going. An interesting tidbit is that Allen worked with the late Warrant singer, Jani Lane, on a solo tour. Saturday night at Thunder rocked out!
Sunday’s vibe at Thunder was mellow but the music diehards were up and out for the last two acts of the weekend. SRQ’s Kettle of Fish lead singer Dana Lawrence brought the Kettle for a “Tom Petty Tribute” with guitar pro Greg Poulos on lead, Pat McDonald on drums, Chris Guertin playing bass and Todd Adams on keys. Upon arrival, I was magically in the musical world of the late, great Tom Petty! From “Refugee” to “Free Fallin”, Dana and gang did a marvelous tribute to Mr. Petty’s tunes. Special guest, local songstress Kara Nally joined the band for a duet with Dana on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”. The 1981 hit duet Tom sang with Stevie Nicks. The audience loved it and was singing along!
The last act was getting ready to hit the stage. Bobby Friss has been playing at Thunder off and on for years and is always one of the biggest draws for the musicheads. Opening with the AC/DC hit, “It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll”), set the tone for a high energy show that included chugging Jack and pointing out ladies’ bathing suits in the crowd. Bobby keeps the audience involved as part of the show. Hilarious antics from this band make it a great time. Bobby has played Summerfest, Daytona Bike Week, and many other festivals around the country. A great lineup this year and look forward to 2023, not only find out who will play Thunder but to celebrate its big 25th Anniversary!
Vicky Sullivan Photos