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Lynyrd Skynyrd rocks Exit 111 Festival
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Lynyrd Skynyrd brought its iconic Southern rock sound to Manchester on Friday night for the inaugural Exit 111 Festival held on the Bonnaroo grounds. Mark Matejka points to the crowd while founding member Gary Rossington plays a guitar solo as the band performs “Skynyrd Nation.” - photo by James Clark

Lynyrd Skynyrd had just walked off stage after finishing its set Friday night in Manchester at the inaugural Exit 111 Festival.

Almost in unison, the audience knew what it wanted to hear for an encore.

“Freebird!”

The band returned and didn’t disappoint with a guitar-fueled, piano-laced version of Southern rock’s most identifiable anthem. It capped a memorable show drenched in guitar solos and saturated with showmanship.

The band opened with “Workin’ for MCA” and entertained with favorites like “Simple Man,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and a riveting jam session during “Call Me the Breeze.”

Band founder Gary Rossington is the only remaining member from the group that got its start in 1964 in Jacksonville, Fla., as a bunch of teens playing local gigs. Rossington’s clean sound on his Gibson guitar was a highlight of nearly every song.

When Rossington wasn’t cranking out a solo, fellow guitarist Rickey Medlocke was taking center stage with his polished play. He was first with Lynyrd Skynyrd in the early 1970s and has been a continual member the past 23 years.

Lead singer Johnny Van Zant had no trouble belting out the lyrics to songs he’s been performing for more than three decades. He’s the younger brother of band co-founder Ronnie Van Zant, killed in a 1977 charter plane crash.

The Exit 111 Festival comes to an amplified conclusion Sunday night when Guns N’ Roses takes the main stage beginning at 8:10 p.m. A single-day pass can be purchased for $99 at exit111festival.com.