Well it was here and now gone… the 2009 version of the annual Rocklahoma Festival (and the 2nd being covered by RockEyez.com). My partner and senior staff writer/photographer Mark Balogh and I headed out a day early to Oklahoma just to get acquainted with the 100-degree weather that would become almost unbearable at times! We got a good night’s sleep with some “obstructions” beforehand from the friggin’ rental car company (Dollar Rentals) and usual delays at the airport but we managed. After all, this was Rocklahoma and we weren’t going to let anything get in the way of the biggest 80’s hard rock and metal party to hit U.S each year!
The following day (July 9) was Day 1 of the festival as gates opened at 11:30 am and we had no problems at all with credentials (which were taken care of by Lindsay at Event Marketing Group – thanks Lindsay!). They were gracious this year by giving us meal passes, unlike the prior year, and I have say it made a huge difference being able to “recharge” in the VIP tent for a while. If you have ever thought about attending Rocklahoma or have just gotten GA tickets in the past you may want think about going for the VIP experience, as it will prove worthy.
There were four stages this year. In addition to the main stage there was the Retrospect Stage, Fun House Stage and The Strip Stage, all which featured some fine up and coming bands as well as established bands over the course of the 4 days.
Anyway, before we get onto day one, just a couple notes. The media tent this year was set outside the fenced backstage area and there were plenty of fluids for media with two coolers full of water, soda, Power drinks and beer, plus the showcasing of some brand new 80’s metal-themed slot machines that will be coming to a casino near you soon! This year the MC for most of the press conferences was Rick Vyper from local Tulsa radio station Z104.5 The Edge. None other than Kip Winger helped him out on occasion and they both did a great job presenting to the media the many bands that played Rocklahoma this year. Great job guys and thanks again.
Mark and I decided the first band to catch were our friends from New York City WILDSTREET on The Retrospect Stage. I wanted to make sure we caught at least one of the few sets they were scheduled to play over the course of the weekend because these boys are special. RockEyez has already interviewed the band and reviewed their self-titled debut within the last couple months. Their set kicked Rocklahoma off at noon and if you’re looking to the future of hard rock and glam metal this is the band. What a spectacle! The guys had nonstop energy playing killer tracks like “Wanna Get It On”, “Soldier of Love” and my personal favorite “The Fist of Fury”. These boys bring back the days of great bands with a kick ass stage presence like the NEW YORK DOLLS and with bit of a DEF LEPPARD flare thrown in for good measure. Check these guys out!
Day one on the main stage was a change of pace for Rocklahoma this year as they introduced a “metal day” which was fairly successful with LEATHERWOLF kicking things off. Playing some old favorites and new tunes, this got the crowd at the main stage off to a rocking start. The song that blew people away was “Behind The Gun” off their New World Asylum CD. Michael Olivieri’s vocals were outstanding as he pranced around the stage in his multicolored beret as the sweetly heavy guitar licks exploded off the stage. Mark and I didn’t have the chance to hear the complete set because we wanted to head over to see our friends from Germany MAD MAX on the Strip Stage. How can you not take advantage of seeing one of the best German melodic hard rock and metal bands, who haven’t touched U.S. soil in years? Well here was our chance to see the band live up close on a small stage no less. It was just unbelievable as Michael Voss’s vocals were beyond phenomenal and guitarist Jurgen Breforth was all smiles as the band truly looked to enjoy themselves and the reaction they got from the early day crowd that gathered. MAD MAX played some traditional oldies (like “Night Of Passion”!) plus their new hit “Here We Are” from the 2008 CD of the same name. They ended their set with a kick-ass rendition of SWEET’s “Fox On The Run”.
After MAD MAX we went onto the media tent to checkout ANVIL’s press conference which was really cool because Steve “Lips” Kudlow made it fun always smiling and having great answers to the media’s questions. And they also took care of everyone with photo ops and autographs afterwards. These guys have certainly had a resurgence of sorts this year and it’s well deserved!
After the press conference we wondered back to the Retrospect Stage to checkout a little bit of sound check from the GLITTER BOYS and then moved onto the main stage where we really enjoyed ANVIL’s live set. Lips is an absolute terror onstage. So much so at one point that he missed the cement step going back on the main stage falling face first! But he still didn’t miss a beat! The guy is true metal as they blasted through all the fans favorites including of course, “666”, “Winged Assassins” and “Metal on Metal”.
Taking another short break we headed back to the media tent to catch SAXON’s press conference where singer Biff Byford fielded most of the questions. He mentioned they will hopefully be back in America for a new tour in the not too distant future and he and the band pleased the media with photos and autographs afterwards.
Next we just walked around a bit stopping at The Strip Stage to catch the band MILES BEYOND that were recommended by a fellow photographer saying they were in the style of IRON MIADEN. I wouldn’t really compare these guys to MIADEN (beyond the slight Bruce vocal style at times) but they were pretty good with their dual guitar attack. They had a fairly big crowd so I am sure people knew more about them then I did and they also attracted people walking by so that is a plus in gaining new fans.
After that we went back over to the main stage where SAXON were going on at 8:45pm but before that Rocklahoma was going to name the first ever Miss Rocklahoma (which was voted on at Rocklahoma ‘s website). Everyone had their personal favorite as it came down to Beth M., Lisa M., Brandee W., Jewels B. and Erin B. And the winner was ……………………… ERIN B.!!! You have to check out how “healthy” this beautiful blonde is!!! BOING!!! Congrats to Erin as it was well deserved!
Ok enough of that, let’s get onto SAXON, who were simply amazing with Byford giving his best metal poses as well as being vocally stunning. These seasoned veterans are one of the legends of classic metal and deservingly so. These guys are true NWOBHM royalty that should be mentioned with the likes of PRIEST and MAIDEN. They know what the fans want and they made sure all were happy playing classics like “Strong Arm Of The Law”, “Dallas 1PM”, “Wheels of Steel”, “Denim And Leather”, “Crusader”, “Princess Of The Night” along with new tunes like “Battalions Of Steel” and “Demon Sweeney Todd” from the excellent new release “Into The Labyrinth”.
After SAXON’s set it was back to the media tent to see ANTHRAX’s press conference. All I can say is if they were tired and didn’t want to do it they should have just cancelled the press conference. After the first question from Rick Vyper Scott Ian turns to him and says are you doing an interview or are the media asking questions because we don’t want to be interviewed. A headline act (introducing their 4th vocalist no less) should have been more responsive to the media (and fans). After that comment they did take a few questions from the crowd and then quickly left. Oh well.
As we strolled across the festival grounds of burnt up grass and dirt we stopped by the Strip Stage once again to see BEAUTIFUL CREATURES. And what a crowd they had to witness them!!! Joe Leste does the best impression of Axl Rose and Steven Tyler you will ever see. Leste is a proven superstar and can work the crowd like the best of them. He even saw a young woman in the front in a wheel chair and let her sing some lyrics.
The last band of the night on the main stage was ANTHRAX. For a band that was tired I guess they got some rest after that press conference because they put on a fine closing set for the first night. New vocalist, Dan Nelson (formerly of DEVILSIZE), is proving to be a real icon on stage with his massive vocal range and his working of the crowd from side to side. I felt like I was watching a pro wrestler doing a backbreaker as his crunching vocals had the crowd possessed at times. Ian was in his thrash mode with neck snapping moves. I didn’t catch any moshing but I saw many singing along with some of their classics like “Madhouse” and “Indians”.
With the first day closing and the first ever “metal day” at Rocklahoma, I feel it was a success bringing in a new element to an 80’s rock festival with this type of lineup!
With all that was going on with four stages and press conferences please forgive us for not mentioning some of the other great main stage acts that played this first day like METAL CHURCH and OVERKILL. We simply couldn’t be in all places at once. From what we heard those bands put on great and energetic sets.
Check by our site soon for Day two review and photos, which will include DANGER DANGER, WARRANT, NIGHT RANGER, RATT and many more…