"We make sure it's an explosive kind of performance," singer
Famed for '80s hits "Hold on Loosely," "Caught Up in You," and "Rockin' Into the Night," 38 Special will entertain fans outdoors at the racetrack.
"We have a lot of special effects we can do for a couple songs, 'Chain Lightnin' in particular," Barnes said. "My wife, Christine, is from
A touring band since 1977 that logs 100 dates a year, 38 Special has the pacing for its shows down to a science.
"We look at it like a graph," Barnes said. "You start off with a big opening, then climb and keep climbing until somewhere around the middle, you give everyone a little bit of a break with a second-chance song from the '80s. Then we just keep climbing higher and higher until, by the end, everyone's exhausted."
Decades of wear-and-tear have knocked out of the lineup two co-founders -- guitarist-vocalist
Van Zant, middle brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd's original and current singers Ronnie and Johnny, stepped down last year, heeding strict orders from doctors concerned his inner-ear nerve damage would lead to deafness.
"It's due to all those years of exposure to loud noises," Barnes said, adding that Van Zant didn't wear protective earplugs or the in-ear monitors musicians wear now. "He always wanted us to aim these big six-foot amplifiers at him. He wanted to hear the guitars in his head as he was singing, and I guess it took its toll. But he's our brother and we send our love to him. His brother, Ronnie, was killed in a plane crash in '77, and I said, 'You know Ronnie would be proud you made it this far.' "
The band hasn't altered its hit-filled set list much due to Van Zant's absence.
"I was fortunate to have sung the radio songs over the years," Barnes said.
Barnes discovered the band's brand-new bassist,
"Barry's been great," Barnes said. "
The excitement for Barnes began in 1966, as a 14-year-old guitarist playing saloons near naval bases in
"I'd ride my bicycle to
Once the Allman Brothers and Skynyrd were established, A&M Records came courting in
"We felt it was waning," Barnes said. "Southern rock had already been done by the best, Skynyrd and the Allmans. So we tried to take our influences, and create a style of our own. That was wisdom from
By simplifying its sound, 38 Special soon was churning out hits such as "Hold on Loosely" and "Caught Up in You." Inspired by a suffocating relationship with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Barnes co-wrote "Hold on Loosely" with bandmate
"It's simple words, simple wisdom, but a lot of people have come up to us and said it meant so much," Barnes said. "Not to take credit for keeping marriages together, but people have said, 'That really made us think' about giving each other space to breathe and be themselves."
Barnes still writes songs, with 38 Special patiently working on its first studio album in a decade. The band soon will release an album rearranging old hits, though it won't be some cliched "unplugged" album, Barnes promised. "'Caught Up in You' has, like, this world beat."
The group also keeps an eye on movie soundtrack opportunities, having previously cashed in with "Teacher, Teacher" (
In arena rock's heyday, bands like 38 Special would tour to publicize albums. Now it's the opposite, with tours the bread-and-butter.
"You're probably better off just giving your music away," Barnes said without bitterness. "The more ears that hear it, the more chances they'll buy a ticket, then come to the show and buy a T-shirt. Live shows are what everyone's coming to see because you can't download the live shows."
Barnes' band makes sure the experience is memorable.
"We want to make sure it's a big bombastic production," Barnes said. "We want people to feel it's an escape. We realize how much effort it is for a fan. For a man and wife, you've got to get dinner, hire a baby sitter, park the car, get a beer, find your seat. After all that, we don't want people to say, 'They were just a little lackluster.' We want to completely bowl you over so you'll tell people, 'You missed it. They were great.'"
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