Saturday, 9 a.m.

With this early an arrival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it was halfway expected that Beach Boys lyrics and echoes would still be bouncing around this end of Poydras Street.

Instead, the red-clad horde that packed Champions Square last night for the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Friday night concert was already making its way to the pre-game gatherings around the 'Dome area.

A lot of those same folks were on hand Friday night when the Beach Boys and Bad Company drew a huge crowd that filled the concert venue next to the 'Dome. Estimates as high as 8,000 were bouncing around — mostly from giddy New Orleans Bowl officials — for what is likely to become an established annual event.

Good vibrations were everywhere as America's iconic band got around and headed to Kokomo to help Rhonda and catch a wave. The Beach Boys went a solid 95 minutes without a break, with many of their familiar numbers coming in medley form, after the crowd couldn't get enough of Bad Company's love for the opening hour.

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Photo by John Mosier

There's no way to accurately measure the crowd count since it was a free concert, but suffice it to say that some of the early New Orleans Bowl games didn't draw very many more than Friday's turnout.

Of course, UL fans were already warmed up, from the activities of FanFest at the Marriott. Sponsored by HomeBank, the hotel's Grand Ballroom still wasn't big enough to contain the crowd which attacked the free beer booths at mid-afternoon Friday.

The tailgating activities at three different locations — the nearby Rouse's Grocery parking lot already had a bunch of red-jacketed fans before 8 a.m. — are well underway. And game staffers just pulled the protective paper off the team logos and the bowl logo painted on the field. Two hours to kickoff...

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Photo by Elizabeth Rose

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