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Rocklahoma 2008 RockEyez was There!!

By Dave Felix
Mark Balogh
Mark Balogh
 Brian Rademacher & Ray Button
Brian Rademacher & Ray Button our media escort
Dave Felix
Dave Felix
Day One Photo Gallery
Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp
Faster Pussycat
Bang Tango
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

Initially when we first started planning this trip, there were only four days on the schedule. Then, after doing all our investigating into hotels, flights, etc., the fifth day on Wednesday July 9th was added. At first we were planning just to blow it off entirely because a lot of plans had already been made and even some wheels set in motion. But then after finding out we could catch an earlier flight, we decided to just treat it as a way to get our feet wet… or get the “lay of the land” (so to speak) and that’s exactly what we did.

We arrived at the airport and had all of our bags and the rental car by roughly 11:30am Oklahoma time and decided to attempt to check into our hotel a little bit early. Upon arrival at the Comfort Suites (airport) hotel in Tulsa, we were told to come back at 2:00pm and would be able to check in then so we could drop off our things before taking our first ride out to Pryor. We then decided to kill some time and go out to lunch. Wouldn’t ya know it, we ended going to a place I have been trying to go to here in Jersey for literally about 3 years… The Cheesecake Factory! That was GREAT! We got right in with no lines and no 2 hour + waiting lists like there are here in Jersey. I just can’t handle that and can’t imagine actually waiting over two hours for a friggin’ meal! Screw that shit… which is why I have never been able to get in one before. But let me tell ya, the food was incredible and the cheesecake itself was worth every penny of the $7.00 per slice they actually charge in the restaurant. I would definitely go back again and again… although I’d probably end up having to go out of state to do it!

Anyway, after we dropped off our things at the hotel, we took our first drive out to Pryor. Since it was our first time, the drive took about 80 minutes or so… of course, that included getting a “little” lost along the way. Obviously the trip got shorter and shorter as the days progressed and by Friday, we were pretty much experts and had our drive time down to anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes.

When we arrived at the camp grounds where the concert was being held, we had no clue as to where to go or what we were doing. We wanted to pick up all of our credentials and check in and actually ended up paying $20.00 for a 5 day parking pass which, we found out later, we didn’t have to do at all. But hey, it was only $20.00 divided by the three of us… Hell, to park in an event here in Jersey, it’ll cost ya $20.00 for just one night! And I don’t even want to talk about New York which will cost ya at minimum $40.00 for just a few hours! So, we swallowed the cost as we were finally directed over to gate 16… the free press area.

After parking and being greeted by some of the courteous event staff, we received all of our credentials and started walking up the slight hill towards the main concert area for the first time. The little hill opened up into an enormous 400 acre field; at the center of which was the huge permanent stage structure featuring two gigantic viewing screens on either side. While mostly a grassy field, the main concert area in front of the stage also included two center seating areas… the closest with about thirty to thirty-five rows of numbered bench seating and the second directly behind it, about 20 rows of permanently attached white chairs all stretching the entire length of the main stage. To the immediate right of the structure was the large VIP tent which offered free catered food and all the beer you could possibly drink for the price of just $8.00 a day for those who purchased VIP tickets.

Then on either side of the stage, you would first come to a large merchandise area where you could purchase CD’s, T-shirts and memorabilia from just about every artist appearing at the festival. These were then followed by the two other portable stages erected for the event… to the left the Retrospect Records stage and to the right the Tri-Label stage. After that and lining the two sides of the main field was a row of independent merchants where you could get plenty of great food, all types of flavored lemonades and iced teas and all sorts of other things like “rock” clothing, personalized painted fake license plates or temporary tattoos. There was even a jewelry stand on one side: not like a “rock n’ roll” jewelry type of stand but an actual jewelry store… which I didn’t quite get. As if some inebriated fan might get the sudden urge to propose to his or her boyfriend or girlfriend during a tender rendition of EXTREME’s “More Than Words!” Hey… whatever, I didn’t pay for it!

Also, in the center directly across from the main stage and all the way in the back were a few other merchants as well as the main gate and another big memorabilia area selling strictly ROCKLAHOMA T-shirts, hats, programs and just about anything else you could think of to help promote and immortalize the event. And finally, in the middle of the fields themselves were 4 bar tents… two towards the front and two more bigger ones in the back which included wooden tables and benches and, of course, the bars themselves which served alcohol as well as ice-cold beer and Coca-Cola products… a nice place to sit down and escape the sun or relax after a grueling day.

Where we parked was closest to the Retrospect Records side and as we continued to walk across the area, we could hear the end of the HEAVEN’S WISH set who were performing on the stage at the time. They are a good hard-rock band… kind of have almost a RATT-ish sound you can notice in the vocals of lead singer Ronnie V. and if you check out their MySpace page , you’ll see what I mean. Very cool guys though who, after their set, went down to the merchant tent to sign autographs, take pictures and just hang out and meet the fans.

As I mentioned, we didn’t really know how everything worked yet exactly so we decided to continue on down to the main stage area and arrived just in time to catch the 2008 Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp. Basically this was just a group of normal, every day people who signed up and paid upwards of $2500.00 to be coached and perform with this years group of professional music artists which included Dave Ellefson (former MEGADETH bassist), Alan White (YES), Mark Slaughter (SLAUGHTER), Elliot Easton (THE CARS), Earl Slick (who worked with John Lennon and David Bowie, among others), and Kip Winger (WINGER). Broken up into three separate groups along with the campers, the bands performed their versions of such classic rock hits as “Paranoid,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and even some originals of the included artists like “Up All Night” by SLAUGHTER. As you can imagine, the songs themselves were, at times, a bit of a train-wreck but who cares! I mean, what’d these people have like three… maybe four rehearsals to try and put everything together?!? Let’s give credit where credit is due… all these people had balls of steel for doing this and got to live out something that most of us can only dream of. Kudos to ALL of the campers and the mentoring artists who really kicked off the week in a fun, spirited fashion.

Then, after all the “camper’s” bands performed, there was an all-star jam at the end featuring all the artists strutting their stuff. I must say, Kip Winger was just awesome! He sounded great and really seemed to just be having a great time doing it. The biggest disappointment was definitely Mark Slaughter, though. When he did “Up All Night” especially, his voice was just shot but I can imagine this was due to all the talking and singing he must have been doing before hand… or at least I hope so because he’s always been an extraordinary vocalist and a great performer. But as I said, it was a fun way to kick things off and even during the all-star jam at the end, they were dragging people out of the crowd to come up and perform with them.

We were allowed up at the front of the stage the entire time where we could click off pictures and such. We found out later and in the days to come that we were “suppose” to be escorted down there by a media escort to only shoot the first three songs of every set. This was done “mostly” through out the week and the entire event by a guy named Ray Button who was just AWESOME to all of the photographers and a really nice guy all around. He really did a great job with everyone and everything so thanks again Ray! We won’t forget ya!

This brings me to what I consider one of the only complaints I have about the entire festival… let me try and explain this and just how ridiculously stupid this all went down.

If you walked up the concrete ramp from the front of the stage on the left side, you would come to a small, wooden booth where they sold margaritas and such. Immediately next to the booth was gate 11. Now if you went through this gate, immediately to your left was a small tent where they would occasionally have a “Meet and Greet” with some of the artists for the corporate sponsors and/or contest winners. Actually attached to this tent was the media tent where all the artists would come to do their press conferences and meet with members of the press… like us! So as you can imagine, from gate 11 itself to reach the actual media tent was only a matter of maybe 25 feet. Now here’s the catch… even if you had your credentials and were walking up out of the photo area in front of the main stage to get back to the media tent, they wouldn’t let you go in gate 11! Instead, you had to walk all the way around, past the merchandise booth, past the Retrospect Records stage, all the way through the artist’s parking lot and finally swing back around to the media tent… basically about a half mile trek in a big circle to get to an area the press had every right to be in and was only 25 feet away from gate 11. This was absurd! I mean I could understand if there was actually a “Meet and Greet” going on but that was not the case 95% of the time. It was really, really stupid… just plain dumb and really left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths including myself. I really hope this is something that gets addressed before next years event because whether we go or not, it would be nice if it was a little more media friendly. Dumb, Dumb, DUMB!

At any rate, after the “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp” set, we decided to check out the media area and yes, actually made our first of many treks ALL the way around to the media tent. It was a decent sized area with a small, slightly elevated stage stretching along the front where the “voice” of hard rock-heavy metal radio, Jersey’s own Eddie Trunk would do his pre-performance interviews and then turn the mike over to press so that the artists could field their questions. There really wasn’t anything much going on… a few of the smaller, side-stage artists were walking around but other than that, it was pretty quiet. We had missed the 4:15 press conference with FIREHOUSE and there wasn’t anything else scheduled till JACKYL at 7:15 so it was pretty dead but it at least gave us the opportunity to relax a little bit, speak with some of the staff and just hang out a bit.

This DID, however, mark our first experience with the GYPSY PISTOLEROS! Brian had done an interview with the band and reviewed their CD a couple of months back so he recognized them right away. Both Iggy and Lee Pistolero were hanging out and were really, really a good couple of guys. They seemed legitimately happy to meet Brian, Mark and myself and were just very friendly and very appreciative of the work we had done with them in the past. This will NOT be the last you hear of the PISTOLEROS as I will get into more of that in the days ahead.

After that, Brian and Mark wanted to shoot FIREHOUSE so we exited over at gate 11 to get down in front of the stage again… YES THE INFAMOUS GATE 11! You were allowed to exit there but couldn’t come back in that way! Again I say, dumb, dumb, DUMB!

I decided to stay up top where I was able to catch the last few songs of BANG TANGO’s set on the Retrospect Records stage. I can’t say I was ever a HUGE fan of the band, but I liked them. I have their “Dancin’ On Coals” release which I always thought was a good album and I still pop it into my CD player from time to time. But they put on a pretty good show from what I saw. They drew a nice group of people over to the stage and the sound was excellent to say the least… but it was excellent EVERYWHERE! The vocals were crisp and clear and I really have to say that for an outdoor venue, the sound was just incredible! The people on the sound boards really did their best to create the best sound possible for all the artists on all of the stages at any given time.

As I mentioned, next up on the main stage was the one and only FIREHOUSE! What can you say about these guys? FIREHOUSE is just one of those bands that seem to get better and better every time you see them. From CJ’s amazing vocals to the air-tight rhythm section of Allen McKenzie and Michael Foster to the flawless guitar licks of Bill Leverty, these guys are just a class act and still one of the best live bands in the business. The only critique I really have is the same thing I’ve been saying for years… these guys have REALLY got to get some new material together. It’s not that I don’t LOVE to hear the old classics like “All She Wrote,” “Reach For The Sky,” “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” or “Love of a Lifetime,” it’s just that these guys are WAY too talented to be just rehashing all their old hits over and over again night after night. I really hope they start writing again and get something fresh out there soon.

The sun began to set over the main stage and still being totally exhausted from our flight and everything, we decided we had seen enough for the evening and wanted to get back to the hotel to rest up for the next few days. None of us were ever really all that into JACKYL and although it would be unfortunate to miss RATT, we were just ready to drop so after hooking up with Brian and Mark again, we all started walking back to the car.

Then, just as we were passing the Retrospect Records stage, Brian had almost forgotten that FASTER PUSSYCAT was just about to go on. So again we stopped and Brian and Mark both got out their cameras once again and found themselves a spot in front of the stage. I just kinda hung out in the back near the refreshment stands. Look, I know the band has a good following and a lot of fans out there but after seeing them numerous times over the years, I just never got them. I didn’t like them back in the day when I saw them open for MOTLEY CRUE and after seeing them here at ROCKLAHOMA and several times in between, I still don’t like them. The only thing I can say is I like the work guitarist Michael Thomas has done on his own and he’s pretty easy to pick out… he’s the most “normal” looking one out of all of them and quite frankly, WAY too much of a talent to even be in this band! As for the rest of the guys… come on, it’s 2008! It’s time to put away the ridiculous make-up and ditch the whole idiotic “glam” image… especially Xristian Simon whose “pig-tail” hairdo makes him the biggest and most disgusting freak in the band! Give it up! Then maybe next time I can actually stomach to watch! Now before I start getting all sorts of shit and hate mail from all you FASTER PUSSYCAT fans, take a chill and back off on your keyboards… that’s just the way I see it and I know there’re a lot of you out there who do like them so let me just say sorry all!, but they’re just not for me. I am sure you can find a more accurate review of their set elsewhere from someone who DOES “get it”! You’re just not gonna find that here…

After suffering through the FASTER PUSSYCAT set and whipping the blood out of our ears, we finally called it a day. As I said, yes… it was unfortunate to miss RATT and from what I heard they put on one Hell of a show, but we knew that we had bigger fish to fry in the days to come. So day one ended with us getting one of the best night’s sleep we would get for the next few days… but even that wasn’t all that much.


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