PRYOR CREEK, OK — It was a weekend full of Aquanet, spandex, bleeding eardrums, and surprisingly, it was not located on the Sunset Strip in 1984. This was July 2008, in a fairly nondescript corner of Oklahoma. For those of us who were not fortunate enough to live through the 80’s the first time (or who have lost the brain cells that contained memories of the 80’s), it sure felt like we had somehow jumped into a time machine, and I’d wager it wasn’t far off for those who do remember it. Either way, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say it was a damn good time.
A few notes, before we get into it: I had bought a ticket back when the festival was only three days and I couldn’t afford to upgrade and change travel plans when they extended it. Unfortunately, this means I’ve got nothing for you on the first two days. Just to make things even more fun, when I refer to day one, that would be day three for everyone else. Italicised lines are taken verbatim from my notes taken at the festival.
Day One – The Vaguely Noble Quest for the Beer Lady
We were a little late getting to the festival grounds due to a classic case of my navigation skills and some issues with my friend’s Aquanet. The first show of the day we caught was the wildly entertaining Gods of Kansas on the south side stage. They acknowledged that most of us have no idea what songs they’re playing and threw in a great cover of my favourite W.A.S.P. song, “Wild Child”. I noticed in most of their own songs they seemed to be throwing the word “Rocklahoma” into every other line. I believe they hold the festival record for Most Uses of the Word “Rocklahoma” In One Set. It was fun, though, and a great start to the festival for me.
4:10 – Have given up shoes. Mud baths expensive at home anyway.
Kingdom Come was the first main stage band of the day we saw. I didn’t really know any of their music before, having heard only that they’re Led Zeppelin Lite. That’s as good a review of them as I can think of, really. They weren’t bad, but they didn’t blow me away. Most telling, I think, is the only note I took during their set:
Ooh, plastic guitar full of beer! Must get.
Living Colour, whom I definitely did not have to Google to find out whether or not they used a “u” in “colour”, were up after Kingdom Come. I had thought Living Colour was an odd choice for the festival, but any doubts I had were put to rest. Aside from some issues with the mix, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed their show. “Cult of Personality” was, of course, the highlight. The whole place seemed to light up with new energy when they started playing that song.
Living Colour guitarist talking about guy with dungeon in basement. Want one ridiculously badly. Also: want basement.
After Living Colour, we got up to get drinks (mmm, weak margaritas) and caught the end of Lipstick Magazine‘s show on the south side stage. The singer reminded me a lot of Lita Ford, but that may have been that Lita was on the brain all weekend due to her comeback performance the following night. I don’t feel I can make a concrete judgment since I only caught a song or two, but from what I heard they were really good. Definitely worth looking further into.
Night Ranger was up next on the main stage, and I should say right now that I am not a Night Ranger fan at all. Most of my musical taste is what I listened to from my mum’s collection growing up, and whenever Night Ranger comes on the radio she still snorts and rapidly changes the channel. Not my fault, you see. My point is, I may be just a teensy bit biased against them, so keep that in mind. Aside from a cover of Damn Yankees’ “Coming of Age”, I found their set kind of…less than thrilling, shall we say. It seemed there were many Night Ranger fans in the audience and they definitely enjoyed themselves, and it wasn’t that I loathed listening to them. My attention just seemed to wander during their set.
We thought about getting up to walk over to the south side stage for Banshee’s set, but our chairs were comfy, so we stayed put and listened from there. Banshee had a pretty big crowd, and there were obviously some big fans in the audience. They’re not really my style, so again, attention not captured, but from what I saw, they were quite entertaining.
Still no beer lady.
Back over to the main stage for Extreme‘s set. I’m apparently the only person who even vaguely enjoyed Extreme’s set, though it wasn’t my favourite of the weekend. It’s a shame, since I was really looking forward to seeing them. The biggest disappointment was the exclusion of “Get The Funk Out”. As soon as the lights went up, we and everyone around us said, “What happened to ‘Get the Funk Out’?” Nuno’s ridiculously long solo was another misstep. Other than that, I think it was a pretty good show. I don’t remember everything they played (one would think that was what my notebook was for, but one would not be counting the tequila in my system) but included in the set were “Kid Ego”, “Am I Ever Gonna Change”, “It’s a Monster”, and “More Than Words”. They closed with “Communication Breakdown”, which normally would’ve been pretty cool, but we were all just disappointed it wasn’t “Get the Funk Out”.
F*ck you,too, beer lady. Mmm, strawberry margarita.
The band I was most excited to see for the day, and possibly for the whole festival, was Gypsy Pistoleros, so we decided to skip Triumph and camp out in front of the south side stage to stake our claim for good spots. We weren’t the only ones with that idea. By halfway through Triumph’s set, there was a group of about ten to fifteen people. By the end of the show, I turned around to see an entire mob. Not surprising at all, since the Pistoleros put on an amazing show. There was not a ballad to be found in the exhilarating set, which included “Un Hombre Sin Rostro, Pistolero”, “Forever is Para Siempre”, “Chicas Peligrosas”, and a killer cover of “Livin’ La Vida Loca”. I’d been excited to see them since I heard their fantastic reviews from Rocklahoma 2007 – so no pressure, guys! – and they did not disappoint. They were easily my favourite show of the festival.
Day Two – Surf’s Up
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard what a crazy day this was. We didn’t get to the festival grounds until right before Black ‘n’ Blue‘s set. It was already oppressively hot. Black ‘n’ Blue was fun; the highlights of the show were “Nasty Nasty”, punctuated by a blow-up doll thrown into the crowd and tossed around overhead along with beach balls, and “Wicked Bitch”. Near the end of the set, the bassist had to get oxygen from paramedics. After the show, Eddie Trunk came onstage and warned everyone to stay hydrated, lay off the alcohol, and try to find some shade.
We grabbed some water and headed back to the south side stage, where British band The Jakals (not to be confused with Jackyl) were playing. I really enjoyed them, but unfortunately my notes are completely lacking in useful details to relate: “Jakals – accents! Pretty! Pretty accents! Pretty with accents!” My being an absolute girl aside, they were really good. I had one of their songs stuck in my head all day and for the life of me I can’t figure out which one it was. (Note: after writing this I found their website and the song may have been “Going Home”.)
Another round of margaritas and back to the main stage for Trixter. The weather was starting to cool off, I was enjoying the set and a margarita from my comfy lawn chair, and I remarked to my friend that if heaven isn’t like this, I don’t want to go. Apparently whoever’s upstairs has a good sense of humour, because seconds after this statement, I felt the first raindrop on my nose. The rain started coming down, but we figured we could stick it out, since we’ve lived through rainy outdoor concerts before. Trixter kept playing, but honestly at this point I was starting to get a little too worried to pay much attention. I believe those of us still out in the rain were referred to as “hardcore motherf*ckers”. Much as I enjoy the title, the wind picked up, the rain got colder and came down harder, and we wimped out, running to the merchandise tent, as it was the nearest.
The storm was pretty horrendous. I later learned that this is a fairly common occurrence in Oklahoma, but I’m from the Gulf coast of Texas, and our storms come with hurricane warnings a week or so in advance, so I was not prepared for this. It was absolutely freezing and I was standing in the tent shaking. The tent was shaking as well, and the lights were flickering madly. I heard the south stage collapse right next door to us, but I didn’t realise what it was until later when we were kicked out of the tent. Everyone was in surpisingly good spirits, joking and laughing about the monsoon. It definitely helped. The storm finally let up, and we were all kicked out of the tent while it was still drizzling. We saw that both side stages had collapsed and the main stage was closed up.
Merch tent bad call. Should have run to beer tent.
For something that apparently happens often in this part of Oklahoma, no one seemed particularly prepared for this. The VIP passholders were fine running for cover in the VIP tent, but we lowly general admission ticketholders were left to fend for ourselves. No one knew what was going on, there was no one on a loudspeaker or anything, we didn’t know if the show would go on, and every official-type person we asked had no clue either. It was spectacularly disorganised. We wandered around aimlessly and contemplated just leaving for a while, but as we headed out to the parking lot, there was an announcement that the show would indeed go on, for the main stage, at least, so we hung around for Lynch Mob.
A similar preface to the one I gave for Night Ranger is in order once again. I’ve never liked Lynch Mob, so I was predisposed to disappointment. I figured they deserved a fair shot at impressing me, however, so I stuck it out for their show. I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen worse. To be fair, I wasn’t in the best of moods by their set, so that could’ve had an effect. I absolutely loved the next band despite never liking them before either, though, so maybe I just don’t like Lynch Mob.
Next up was Kix, who were absolutely my favourite main stage show of the festival. The monsoon started up again during their set, but despite the miserable weather, the show was incredible. Steve Whiteman is the best flavour of insane. The set was just so much fun, I didn’t care that I was soaked to the bone. They played, among others, “Cold Shower”, “Blow My Fuse”, “Sex”, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”. They were just phenomenal, exactly what we needed in such depressing conditions.
The rain got worse just before Lita Ford‘s set. We decided this was Eddie Trunk’s fault, as they played an interview he conducted with her an hour previously in which he said, “The rain’s letting up!” However, I proudly stood in at least an inch of mud in pouring rain with a holey poncho in order to see the return of Lita Ford. Her set seemed pretty short, but included “Hungry”, “Can’t Catch Me”, “In and Out of Love”, “Close My Eyes Forever”, and “Kiss Me Deadly”. Lita looked gorgeous and sounded fantastic, despite some technical difficulties in the beginning of the set.
Day Three – I Like the Part Where Stuff Burns
Eddie Trunk v. possibly wearing yesterday’s shirt.
The weather was back to sweltering for the final day of Rocklahoma. The first band we saw was UFO, who were an entertaining start to the day. Phil Mogg had a running commentary on his energy drink, which, despite how that sounds, was actually quite funny. The only thing their set suffered from was a ridiculously long jam on “Rock Bottom”. People next to us got up to get drinks midway through the jam and when they came back, it was still going. That aside, it was a great show. They played “Too Hot to Handle”, “Baby Blue”, “Only You Can Rock Me”, “Mother Mary”, and more I’m forgetting.
I didn’t know anything about Steelheart and wasn’t sure what to expect, but once the singer, Milli, rode in on a motorcycle, I knew we were in for something good. They were fantastic. Just when I thought “I’ll Never Let You Go” was getting ridiculously long, Milli went out and sang in the crowd. They closed with “Blood Pollution”, and the crowd chanted, “One more song!” Unfortunately, the band wasn’t allowed to come back out.
Ace Frehley was awesome as expected. He played mostly Kiss songs, including “Cold Gin” and “Deuce”, as well as a handful of solo songs, highlighted by “Rock Soldiers”. Ace’s guitar was both literally and figuratively smoking. Enjoyable show.
No festival officials know where merch tent has been moved to. Stellar.
Here’s the excuse again: I never liked Tesla. I always skipped their songs on the radio. I would try to listen but get annoyed thirty seconds in and change it. Apparently I only have a problem with Tesla recorded, because they are incredible live. They’re right up there with Kix for my favourite main stage band. Jeff Keith looked genuinely happy to be there, and they put on a fantastic show. The audience just went nuts. Weeks later, I’ve still got “Little Suzi” stuck in my head.
The side stages had never been reconstructed, so the side stage bands were playing on makeshift stages in the tents. We’d been too lazy to leave our comfy seats all day but we were dying to see Dirty Penny, so we threw the chairs in the back of Saint Jude the Wonder Car and stood to wait for Dirty Penny. It wasn’t quite as smooth as it was for Gypsy Pistoleros, and I got quite beaten up by some photographer who shoved his way in front of me during the third song (I’ll spare you the litany of names I called him, but if you heard someone in the parking lot around 3 AM yelling “THAT MOTHERF*CKING MOTHERF*CKERRRR” that may have been…someone I know.), but other than that the show was astounding and worth every single sustained injury. A guy next to us said, “These guys could be the next Motley Crue,” and I don’t disagree. It felt dangerous and exhilarating and just plain badass. It was the perfect closer.
Rocklahoma By The Numbers
Mullets spotted: 4
Beers spilled on me: 5
Sunburned people: Everyone. Self included. (Shameful.)
Hot guys: 78
Hot guys in bands: 16
Adult beverages consumed: …um…
Failed pickup lines heard: 3
Hours shoes worn: 1
Injuries sustained: 4
Hours of sleep over entire weekend: 12
copyright © Ria Thompson