By Rich Weidman
"Let's just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That's all it was: curiosity." —Jim Morrison
"A real theatrical experience shakes the calm of the senses, liberates the compressed unconscious and drives towards a kind of potential revolt." —Antonin Artaud
"When we perform, we're participating in the creation of a world, and we celebrate that with the crowd." —Jim Morrison
We loaded the car with Doors CDs (When You’re Strange soundtrack, Absolutely Live, An American Prayer and two CDs from The Doors: Box Set: Without a Safety Net and The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be, as well as a selection of Jim Morrison interviews) and headed West. Our ultimate destination? The Largo Cultural Center in Largo, Florida, to catch Peace Frog, “Tony Fernandez’s Tribute to Jim Morrison & The Doors”! Billed as the “premiere Doors tribute show,” Peace Frog re-creates “the primal, poetic atmosphere” of a vintage Doors concert. Hell, this highly acclaimed band, which has been performing since 1998, is even based in Venice, California, “the birthplace of The Doors,” where Morrison hung out on a rooftop, dropped a shitload of acid and wrote some legendary lyrics. In fact, Peace Frog can often be heard jamming at the Venice Bistro on the world-famous Venice Boardwalk.
Largo isn't exactly that much of a farfetched locale to hold a Doors tribute concert as you might think: Morrison himself had lived with his grandparents in nearby Clearwater during the early 1960s and even briefly attend St. Petersburg Junior College. And I was psyched to check out Peace Frog because I for one discovered The Doors nearly 10 years after Morrison died in Paris on July 3, 1971. First I heard “The End” during the opening credits of Apocalypse Now, then I read No One Here Gets Out Alive and finally I bought The Doors Greatest Hits album. That was all it took, I was now a fan for life! The only other time I’ve heard their music live is during a performance of another Doors tribute band, The Back Doors, on the Fort Lauderdale Strip about in the early 1980s. And I was totally wasted that night so I don’t remember anything except the fact that I was there.
During the two-hour drive to Largo, we listened to some obscure Doors’ tunes such as “Go Insane” (the demo recorded at World Pacific Studios in 1965) and discussed some of Morrison’s antics like the time he downed something like 36 beers in the studio one afternoon during the recording of L.A. Woman. The part of Largo we drove through was rather nondescript with plenty of fast food joints, rundown bars and strip malls but the Largo Cultural Center, which is located at 105 Central Park Drive, proved to be the ideal venue for Peace Frog. Hell, they even offered full bar service, which was unexpected and very much appreciated, to say the least!
After we milled around and downed a few drinks, Peace Frog took the stage, immediately launching into the “Dead Cats, Dead Rats” version of “Break on Through” with reckless abandon. The energy never abated and Peace Frog totally managed to capture The Doors’ sound with an amazing intensity. And let me tell you, Tony Fernandez is definitely the real deal! Fernandez looked like Morrison, moved around the stage like Morrison, talked like Morrison and sang like Morrison. A truly impressive performance indeed! Fernandez even related a humorous story about how he had fell off the same very stage during a performance a couple of years back. The audience totally dug the music and there were more and more people crowded around the stage dancing and singing (in some cases drunkenly screaming) as the two-and-a-half-hour concert progressed. There was even a drunk, bloated, aging Jim Morrison impersonator in the audience who at one point attempted to bum rush the stage. Fortunately, his lame, comically inept leap into immortality was thwarted by several audience members.
Peace Frog managed to maintain an incredible level of energy throughout the performance, didn’t take one break and slam dunked just all of the classic songs in The Doors’ repertoire. The crowd was totally entranced! At one point, the lead guitarist even seemed to be channeling the late, great Randy Rhoads, shredding away like a madman, much to the delight of the audience. The keyboardist and drummer also managed to show off their talents throughout the performance before this highly appreciative audience.
Although I downed too much wine and forgot to write down the set list, I believe Peace Frog sang all of the following songs (not in this order and I’m sure I left a couple out): “Break on Through (Dead Cats, Dead Rats),” “Love Me Two Times,” “When the Music’s Over,” “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar),” “Back Door Man,” “L.A. Woman,” “Light My Fire,” “Peace Frog,” “People Are Strange,” “Riders on the Storm,” “Maggie M’Gill,” “Love Her Madly,” “Five to One,” “Hello, I Love You,” “Touch Me,” “Tell All the People,” “Twentieth Century Fox,” “Love Street,” “Not to Touch the Earth,” “Roadhouse Blues,” “Waiting for the Sun,” “Soul Kitchen,” “Take It As It Comes” and “Moonlight Drive.”
Bottom line: A Peace Frog concert is ideal for anyone seeking to experience an amazing re-creation of a Doors show! Don’t miss the opportunity to catch Peace Frog if the band comes to your area (see Peace Frog schedule below). For more information about Peace Frog, visit www.peacefrogband.com.
Did you know . . . legendary Doors lead singer Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida, on December 8, 1943; attended both St. Petersburg Junior College and Florida State University in the early 1960s; was arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior, indecent exposure, open profanity and drunkenness after an infamous Doors concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami on March 1, 1969; and was posthumously pardoned by the State of Florida in December 2010?