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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 Three Photo Gallery
Armored Saint
Azrael's Bane
Lipstick Magazine
Night Ranger
Kingdom Come
Living Colour
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

After traipsing around in the mud-laden field the day before, as you can probably guess, day 3 of ROCKLAHOMA 2008 began with a trip to the local K-Mart where I traded in my flimsy, rain-soaked sneakers for a pair of steal-toed shit-kickers! No, not necessarily the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn but at least I was dry!

Anyway, I was really excited about today. On the bill for the main stage were scheduled XYZ, ARMORED SAINT, KINGDOM COME, LIVING COLOUR, NIGHT RANGER, EXTREME and in their first appearance on U.S. soil in almost 2 decades, TRIUMPH! Quite honestly, I could give or take ARMORED SAINT or KINGDOM COME and as far as XYZ goes, well… lets just say they’ve never been all that appreciative or open to what we tried to do for them here on Rockeyez so, shit to ‘em! But the last four bands I have been anxiously awaiting to see since I first saw the schedule… especially LIVING COLOUR! Having done an interview with guitarist Vernon Reid shortly before our departure for ROCKLAHOMA (which will be posted soon as well) and having been a long time fan of the band, I was really excited at the opportunity to catch one of their rare live appearances here in the States.

After our quick stop at K-Mart, we were off and arrived at the festival grounds just about 12:30pm. The first press conference we really wanted to catch was LIVING COLOUR’s at 3:30pm. After that, the only other press conferences on the agenda were KINGDOM COME at 6:45pm and TRIUMPH at 9:15pm… NIGHT RANGER and EXTREME didn’t even have anything scheduled at all. So we were pretty curious to see if there was any kind of change in the schedule or if anybody was added so we once again made a B-line for the media area.

As we arrived, wouldn’t ya know it! Once again the first band members on hand hanging out in the area were the GYPSY PISTOLEROS! Now this was starting to become the inside “joke” of the week… they just seemed to be everywhere all the time! You went to the press area… they were there. You went down to the stage or seating area… they were there. You went to a drink or memorabilia stand… they were there! You just couldn’t shake ‘em! Everywhere you looked there was a PISTOLERO… and they were not alone! There was no shortage on Chip Z’Nuff sightings either and by day 5, we were actually curious as to if he hadn’t been hired as part of the escort staff since he commandeered his own golf cart and could be seen shuttling various people all over the place all week long. One of the funniest moments had to be when we were following these guys around to the media area and one of them saw Chip driving down the road. So the guy pulled out a piece of paper and yelled, “Hey Chip! Can you sign this?” Then, with a hearty “Hey brotha!” Chip turned the wheel skidding the golf cart across the road and almost to a screeching halt to sign the autograph. Ok, you had to be there!

The rain had stopped for this day but it was hot! It wasn’t “too” overwhelming yet but after our walk from the parking lot to the media tent, we could definitely feel it. The media tent which had been flooded out the day before was now reconstructed with the addition of a large fan and a nice sized cooler where anyone could snag themselves a free bottle of water or soda to help cool off.

Realizing it was just a few minutes before ARMORED SAINT took the stage, Brian and Mark again hooked up with our ultra-cool media escort Ray Button to take them down to the front of the stage for their 3-song photo-op. I started following them at first, but then as I approached the dreaded “gate 11” to leave, it occurred to me that if I went out, I was going to have to take that LONG walk all the way around again and in the ever-increasing heat! Shit to that… not for ARMORED SAINT so I just stayed put to see what was going on backstage. I tried to listen to the set as much as I could, though, from where I was and while I can’t say I am all that familiar with the band or their music, John Bush really sounded pretty good and from the crowd response, I could tell they must have put on a pretty enjoyable show.

So while I was hanging around basking in the cool breeze from the giant fan, they started bringing in some of the bands performing on the side stages for some short press conferences. This was pretty cool for the people who were there, but not a whole lot of people were asking questions… it was pretty laid back. I got to talking with some of the staff, though, and found out that both NIGHT RANGER and EXTREME had been penned in for some press time in the tent. Of course, it was EXTREME at 6:00pm and NIGHT RANGER at 6:15pm… right in the heart of the LIVING COLOUR set I so anxiously wanted to see. Now this was quite a quandary for me and not moments after I first found this all out was when I had my first sighting of LIVING COLOUR members Will Calhoun and Corey Glover just cruising by the media tent and out of “gate 11” and into the crowd.

Now I had remembered Mark and Brian talking about heading over to the Tri-Label stage to catch a bit of the ASREAL’S BANE set but I was REALLY hoping they would make it back to the media area for the LIVING COLOUR press conference. The good thing was that the press conference did not start exactly on time as Glover and Calhoun were nowhere to be found. I guess no one saw them go through the “gate 11” void! But at around 3:45 or so, the other two members Vernon Reid and Doug Wimbish showed up and they started the press conference without them.

Shortly after they had recorded their intro for the big screens and as they opened up the floor for questions from the press, I just happened to look to my right and saw both Glover and Calhoun walking down the road between the media tent and the artists tent… hands packed with bags of food and some drinks. I guess they wouldn’t let them back through “gate 11” either!!! But when they heard the other guys talking through the PA, they both stopped and actually looked a little surprised before taking their places up on stage next to them.

Just then, Brian and Mark came around the bend and into the tent and not a minute too soon because what happened next is something I will never forget…

After a few people got up with some questions for the band, this guy gets up and actually asks, “If you were a piece of meat, what kind of meat would you be and what would you be thrown at?” I don’t know who was more stunned… the band or the rest of us! As the guy stood there seeming all proud of himself at the question he had asked and sporting a goofy-ass grin on his face, a moment of dead silence fell across the area before Vernon grabbed the microphone and said, “Now what the fuck kind of question is that? I have been to hundreds of press conferences in my life and never heard a question as stupid as that!” With that, the entire tent burst into laughter and hysterics. It was quite a moment finally ended by Vernon cutting through the chaos with, “What kind of meat would I be and what would I be thrown at? I tell ya what… how about a tube-steak and YOU!” Again, everyone burst into laughter and the guy sunk back into his seat. The press conference kind of broke up after that but I had the opportunity to meet all the guys who were all very, very cool… definitely one of the highlights of this whole trip so far.

By this time, KINGDOM COME had already taken the stage. We gathered all our stuff together and headed down towards the front to try and snap off a few pictures while we could. I had my camera but really wasn’t all that interested in shooting them so I just hung around on the field a bit. This was another band which re-united for this event and was playing their first show in the U.S. in over 15 years. They were “ok” I guess. Again, was never a huge fan and not totally familiar with a lot of their material but they still had that sudo-LED ZEPPELIN sound they were most famous for.

Just as the KINGDOM COME set came to a close, I started heading back to the media area to get ready for the EXTREME & NIGHT RANGER press conferences. Yeah, I know… I was going to have to miss at least part of the LIVING COLOUR set but I really didn’t have much of a choice. That’s when it happened! The one and ONLY time I actually beat “gate 11!” As I was walking up, I noticed the regular security guards were nowhere to be seen so I quickly scurried in behind a couple of other people with all access passes. Fortunately for me, they must have been on a break or something because I got right in with no questions asked and needless to say, was seated in the media tent about 60 seconds later.

About 20 minutes later, Brian and Mark came walking in as well. We hung out for a little while. Got to meet and take a couple of photos with Ronny Munroe from METAL CHURCH and tried to cool off as much as we could. By late afternoon, the heat was just insane… especially if you were up on the stage trying to take pictures.

What happened over the next 30 minutes or so is all kind of just a blur because it all happened so fast. To be honest, I can’t even recall who showed up first, EXTREME or NIGHT RANGER. All I know is that both bands they were attempting to rush in and out as quickly as possible. And all this just as LIVING COLOUR was taking the stage!

Lets start with EXTREME. I remember there was a decent amount of people in the media area at the time… more than I had seen so far and as the band got off their golf carts, security made it real difficult to get anywhere near them before they got up on the stage. They did their intro with Eddie Trunk, fielded a couple of questions and were off… just like that. But they did make an effort to sign as many autographs and take as many pictures as possible before they were hurried out the door. Gary Cherone was very, very personable and even hooked me up with his manager so I could try and hook up an interview so hopefully, that will be coming up here on Rockeyez within the next couple of weeks as well.

As for NIGHT RANGER? Well, lets just say that these guys are always a real class act and true band of the people if you know what I mean. Brad Gillis actually showed up a couple of minutes early where he took the time to sign autographs and take pictures with anyone who approached him. Then Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades pulled up a couple of minutes later. They were ALL just great to everyone. Even after their press conference when security was trying to rush them out, they hung around, took pictures and even did a few one-on-one interviews with some of the press people on hand. One of the nicest bunch of guys you’ll ever meet and it was an absolute thrill to get to meet them once again.

All this time while the two press conferences were going on, I could hear LIVING COLOUR echoing off in the background and believe me when I tell ya, as soon as the last of bands cleared out of the area, I was the first one out of the media tent and out onto the field to catch what I could of their set and they did not disappoint! Vernon Reid is just an amazing, amazing guitar player… it’s no wonder he was mentioned on ROLLING STONE’s “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” list. He was just shredding away on song after song. As I expected, LIVING COLOUR definitely provided the best musicianship of the day but that’s the good and bad thing about these guys. All of them are true musicians and “artistes” at their craft but a lot of people just don’t get it and without a ton of recognizable songs in their repertoire, I don’t think they were able to win over the crowd as well as they should have. Also adding to that, a comment made by the always politically outspoken Reid in which he said something on the lines of, “… and Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States!” did not fly well with the majority or the crowd. You could almost hear a fly fart! As a matter of fact, even after he said it, Glover was even sort of trying to “shush” him himself! Hey… in the political world there are “red” states and there are “blue” states and other than maybe a select few, Oklahoma is just about as “red” as you can get! But all in all, it was a tremendous display of musicianship capped off by an absolutely invigoration version of “Cult Of Personality” where Glover actually jumped into the crowd to the sing the song along with the fans… a true highlight of the festival… for me anyway.

After that, I turned my attention over to the Tri-Label stage where Brian, Mark AND Lance (who had been MIA ever since we arrived) were already gathered for a performance by New Jersey’s own LIPSTICK MAGAZINE. Becoming almost a “staple” back in Jersey at Dexter’s, I had seen this female-fronted band several times in the past already. The first time I saw them I wasn’t all that impressed. The second time I started to think they weren’t half bad so now as I stood there amidst the gathering crowd, I found myself really getting into it and actually knowing the lyrics to some of their songs! They kinda grew on me and actually put on a pretty good show for all those that got to witness it. Shortly before their set ended, we decided we better get in position for NIGHT RANGER so we started to walk down to the stage from the far side and without our media escort Ray Button! Of course, we got stopped by security who insisted that we stand there and wait till after the first song began. Another stupid, stupid thing because the photographers had already started lining up on the other side. What were we being punished for going over to the Tri-Label Stage?!? Finally we got a “reasonable,” non-robotic security guard who we were able to plead our case to and let us go down to take our positions. Just moments later, NIGHT RANGER hit the stage.

It didn’t take long for anyone to realize that these guys were definitely ON this particular evening. Though the set list itself wasn’t as strong as I thought it could have been, these guys definitely rocked the house and if LIVING COLOUR were the best musically, NIGHT RANGER was certainly the best performance wise. Some highlights included their opener “This Boy Needs To Rock” (a little more obscure track from their “Seven Wishes” LP), “Rock In America,” “Sentimental Street,” and the last three songs starting with my personal favorite “When You Close Your Eyes,” the mandatory “Sister Christian” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” which really blew the roof off the joint! Surprisingly, they even did a DAMN YANKEES tune in “Coming of Age.” The whole time, I was actually waiting for Ted Nugent to come walking out but… it never happened. Very, very cool show though by a great band and a great bunch of performers all around… even though you could clearly see that due to the heat, even they themselves seemed to be getting a bit winded towards the end.

At this point, I was a bit winded myself. It had been another long day with a lot of walking and a lot of heat and I still had one more long walk all the way around to the media area once again for the TRIUMPH press conference. When I arrived, there were only a couple of people there and with it being almost 9:00pm, I was a little bit surprised of the apparent lack of interest. Boy was I wrong! Let me tell ya, by 9:15pm the media tent was packed to capacity with people actually having to stand outside. The tent had never been this full before and would never be again. Of course, the band was late but finally around 9:25pm, Rik Emmett, Gil Moore and Mike Levine had finally arrived to the cheers and roar of the attending journalists. Also, there had never been so much security surrounding any of the artists on the bill. You couldn’t get near them and since they were running so late and EXTREME was just about to take the stage, they had asked that no one bother them for autographs or photos. Respecting the artist’s request, I then shuffled the couple of TRIUMPH CD covers I was holding in my hand back into my backpack.

After Eddie Trunk did his thing and the press conference continued on, never before had there been that many people online to ask questions. The guys themselves didn’t seem all that into it to be honest, except for Levine who had been smiling and laughing--- seeming to be having a good time through the whole thing. Then on the flip side was Moore who barely said a word and left Emmett and Levine to do most of the talking. The most disturbing thing happened when this complete idiot girl got up and for her question she said, “It’s my birthday today and it would really mean a lot if you guys would sign my book!” What a complete LOSER and a slap in the face to the band but what else were they going to do being backed into a corner like that? So, of course, they all signed it and the press conference was called at that moment. I’d like to think that if she hadn’t done that, the press conference might have continued for a few minutes more with some more serious questions from more professional journalists. But it was what it was… it ended on a sour note for everyone but at least the bitch got her autograph, right?

After that debacle, both Brian and Mark hurried down to the stage area to take what pictures they could of EXTREME’s set. As for me? Well, I decided I needed a nice place to sit down and relax for the rest of the evening and headed over to the benches in the bar area at the far right corner of the field from the stage… closest to the Retrospect Records side and only a stone’s throw from the media parking lot. It’s from there I got to enjoy the rest of the show from the rest of EXTREME’s set straight on through to the final note of the TRIUMPHshow.

As far as EXTREME goes, they were very, very good. Cherone is one Hell of a front man who has always had the knack of being able to make people get into whatever the Hell he is singing or saying and as for Nuno? What can you say? He’s still one of the best guitarists in the business and is just a pleasure to watch perform. The only things I didn’t like were first, the six or seven minute guitar feature in the middle of the set. I don’t think it went over real well as with a festival like this, most artists are pretty pressed for time and the audience would much rather hear an actual song than a guitar feature… despite the fact it’s being performed by one of the best in the world. Which brings me to my second point, the set list itself. They seemed to play a lot of new material and with that omitted a lot of their crowd favorites! Yeah, they did play “It’s A Monster,” “Hole Hearted” and “More Than Words,” but they didn’t play songs like “Pornograffiiti,” or even their trademark “Get The Funk Out” which I was really shocked at. They even ended their set with a GREAT version of LED ZEPPELIN’s “Communication Breakdown” but still… I would much rather have heard either one of those songs in place of that OR the extended guitar solo. As I said, in a festival like this you have to go with your “bread and butter” to keep the crowd happy and create a memorable moment and despite their more than worthy performance, in that aspect I think EXTREME fell a little short.

In between EXTREME and TRIUMPH, I found that from my new vantage point, I could hear both the Retrospect and Tri-Label stages quite clearly and I am very glad I did. Over at the Tri-Label stage, a band called KRUCIBLE was playing which featured NIGHTMARE RECORDS President and veteran vocalist Lance King. From what I was able to hear, these guys were really, really good… almost having a sort of QUEENSRYCHE-ish sound to them. But they were not to be out done by the band VALOR playing at the same time over at the Retrospect Records stage. This band was so good that I was actually motivated enough to want to pick up their CD’s but alas, it was not meant to be as I decided to wait and try to pick them up on Saturday which is a whole other story!

Now it was time for the band that everyone had been waiting all day to see… the return of TRIUMPH! But after witnessing it first hand, I think even the most die-hard of TRIUMPH fans would agree that they left much to be desired. Of course there were a lot of lights and lasers as well as pre-recorded intros to just about every song up on the big screens, but even that could not deny the fact that in their 80+ minute set, they only played 11 songs… and one of which a cover! Most of that time was killed as the band played extended versions of “Allied Forces,” “Lay It On The Line,” “Blinding Light Show” and “Rocky Mountain Way!” Yes, I said… “Rocky Mountain Way!” What the fuck were these guys thinking?!? Now who the Hell wants to hear TRIUMPH doing a cover song after an almost 20 year hiatus? Can I get a “Follow Your Heart,” “Somebody’s Out There,” or “Spellbound” please?

On top of the rather shitty set list and over-extended song versions, Emmett’s voice was, sorry to say, shot. He was cracking and straining all through the set… it was very, very sad to witness and nowhere was it more apparent than when they performed “Hold On” when he hit a note that just about rattled my teeth out. Moore, on the other hand, sounded really good although most of his songs are the more up-tempo rockers which are a bit easier to sing.

The crowd itself was a bit mixed with this whole thing as well. I think the final straw came with “Rocky Mountain Way” as a lot of people began to file out in droves by that point. This was unfortunate because for those who stuck it out, like me, were treated to some real highlights in the set, which included a stellar rendition of “Magic Power” and a great closer in “Fight The Good Fight.” All in all, though, with those being some of the ONLY true highlights, I can’t blame half the crowd for leaving. The set list, the performance and even TRIUMPH themselves could not live up to all the hype behind this reunion and I found it, overall, very disappointing.

Ten minutes or so after the TRIUMPH show ended, we finally saw Lance coming up from his position within the crowd. Brian and Mark had both joined me back at the benches shortly after they photographed the TRIUMPH set and with it fast approaching 1:00am, we were all beat and hungry. We ended up stopping again for food at like 2:00am and didn’t get to bed till well after 3:30am. Another long, grueling day with more to come tomorrow… or would it?


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