This was the third annual Rocklahoma Festival, for which people travel from all over the world to attend, and this has really set the bar for all other similar festivals. It took place over four days and featured over 90 bands on 4 different stages. This was my third year of attending and by far my least favorite.
Day one was dubbed Heavy Metal Day and I guess not many people got the memo as the turnout was minimal. The following bands performed on the main stage: Anthrax, Saxon, Overkill, Anvil, Metal Church and Leatherwolf. I didnt feel that metal day was a good move and would have been better with Judas Priest headlining as previously rumored. I really enjoyed the Anvil set but Lips was a little nervous as he tripped on the stage. At the end of the night The Story Of Anvil was shown on the big screens. If you havent seen that movie, do it, its one of the best rockumentaries out there!! Saxon was a surprise for me; I was disappointed as I only caught the encore, but man, they rocked. I have never seen them live before, but they hooked me in on the little I saw. Anthrax closed the evening featuring their latest singer, Dan Nelson, who I thought was a great addition and I much prefer him to Joey Belladonna. They played all the hits and even some new material from the forthcoming CD and finished with a cover of AC/DCs Whole Lotta Rosie. Backstage, during the press conference, the band really didnt want to be there and were overtired from traveling directly from Europe. They really pulled a lot of attitude and rubbed the press the wrong way and kept us waiting for over 2 hours, not cool. I managed to catch Beautiful Creatures on the side stage and really enjoyed their performance.
Day two had Ratt, Night Ranger, Warrant, Danger Danger, Helix and Hurricane Alice on the main stage and I caught Bang Tango and Big Cock on the side stages. Brian Vollmer from Helix put on the most energetic performance doing somersaults on the concrete stage and just really working it, the crowd loved them. The heat really caught up with him, as he had to go offstage to catch his breath and was constantly dousing himself with water. Warrant returned for a third year in a row and each year they show up with a different singer, this time featured Robert Mason. That guy can really sing but he cant replace Jani Lane for me. Night Ranger put on a great set and Ratt headlined the night with the usual high-energy performance and played the entire “Out Of The Cellar” album for the 25th Anniversary. John Corabi is no longer part of Ratt and now Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot) is in, which I am not completely sold on just yet.
Day three featured Stryper, Jackyl, Kix, Keel, Lizzy Borden and Gypsy Pistoleros on the main stage and I watched Lillian Axe and Icon on the side stages. I was never a fan of Lizzy Borden back in the day but man they put on a full theatrical show complete with costumes, numerous mask changes, 2 scantily clad women and lots of stage blood. I was impressed with the show. The singer even ventured out into the crowd smearing fans with blood. Keel is one of those bands that remained dormant for so long but finally reunited after 25 years featuring 4 original members. Kix put on a kick ass performance followed by Jackyl who put on their best performance out of all three years. After Thin Lizzy cancelled the boys were called in as a fan favorite to fill the void. Jesse James Dupree was having a hoot even pulling Eddie Trunk on stage for a drink, borrowing a Sheriffs badge and taking beers from 2 vendors and throwing them into the crowd. Stryper had the tough task of closing the night and many people had left after the Jackyl performance. They werent solid enough to headline Saturday night in my opinion. They had their signature yellow and black stage look, threw out the bibles and it appeared the guys hadnt aged one bit from back in the day. Robert Sweet also did his traditional drumming sideways on his kit. The one band that blew me away was Icon who I saw on the Retro Stage. They had tons of energy and their latest singer was great. I haven’t listened to those guys since the 80’s, I now have to rediscover them.
The final day, day four, hosted Twisted Sister, Skid Row, Great White, Nelson, Bonfire, and Vixen on the main stage and I caught L.A. Guns set on the Strip Stage. Vixen started the day off with a line-up that featured the guitarist as the only original member, why bother?? German rockers Bonfire played for the first time on US soil in over 20 years. Unlike Lizzy Borden, Hans the guitar player also produced blood on stage after throwing his guitar up in the air, only to have it come crashing down on his head, causing a steady flow of real blood for the audience to admire. Backstage at the press conference Hans mentioned he always uses a wireless guitar but for this gig he did not and forgot. After he threw it up in the air the cable brought it right back down smashing onto his head. He was completely bandaged up and he laughed that he had a headache. I only saw a couple songs of Nelson and found them boring, many people felt they shouldn’t have been on the bill. I missed the Great White set but Jack Russell, who was moving gingerly backstage, went on with the show. L.A. Guns who have played at Rocklahoma for 3 years running now (with 3 different singers), rolled in this time with Jizzy Pearl on vocals. I don’t care for Jizzy on vocals but Tracii Guns ripped it up on guitar. I had to run from their set as they kept going while Twisted Sister hit the stage. Dee Snider was on fire that night with lots of great stage banter. In celebrating their 25th anniversary of “Stay Hungry” the entire album was performed from start to finish. A.J. Pero did a great drum solo featuring some cool glow in the dark sticks and Miss Rocklahoma brought out a cake for Mark “The Animal” Mendoza’s birthday. The festival concluded with a bang as Twisted ended their top notch rockin’ performance with some very cool pyro.
The organizers promised this was to be the biggest and best year yet and it fell short. People were led to believe that, so they renewed their seats from last year without knowing the line-up. There were no big bands brought to the table as rumored, lots of repeats and several bands playing multiple times. The attendance suffered this year and they will really be in trouble for next year as many people have commented they will not return. Yes, this festival set the standard, but is now continually going downhill.
The real magic of this festival all happened behind the scenes for the media only at the press conferences. They usually only lasted for 5-10min but some great stories was shared and insight into the bands. Stay tuned to backstageaxxess.com, as video footage will be posted of the conferences in the next week or so.
Photos: Backstageaxxess correspondent Mike Braun
We would like to thank Rob Miller and Lindsay Woody of the Event Marketing Group for allowing us to cover the event!