Day 1: 7/9/08
PRYOR CREEK, OK – I arrived in Tulsa, only to meet rain. A little frustrating, since I was going to be camping for the next 5 nights. I was taking a shuttle to the concert site, but we had to wait for a couple to arrive 2 hours later. A little more frustration, but I wasn’t going to let that ruin everything. After arriving at the campsite, the clouds cleared. Luckily, I set up my tent and took a look around the concert area. I was looking forward to my next venture.
The set-up was nice: Main stage in the middle, VIP section stretching out from the stage, and a general admission lawn in the back and on the sides. There were also 2 side stages on each side of the main stage in the GA area for bands to play between headlining acts.
Soon after I arrived, the music began. The crowd was small, probably due to the fact they had just added that day, and many couldn’t change their travel plans to arrive until the next day. First up was All-Star Fantasy Camp consisting of Mark Slaughter (Slaughter), Kip Winger (Winger), Alan White (Yes), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), and Elliot Easton (The Cars). They played songs such as Tush, Communication Breakdown, Revolution, Sweet Emotion, and Can’t Get Enough.
While changing the setup of the main stage, concert goers moved over to one of the side stages to watch Bang Tango. Although I knew of them, I didn’t know their music. Now I love it! I even got a drum stick! Singer Joe Leste had presence that brought you back to the good old days.
Back on the main stage, it was Firehouse‘s turn to rock. I always love to see them live, as they are great examples of good melodic rock. Unfortunately they played a very short set, including hits All She Wrote, Love of a Lifetime, Reach for The Sky, and Don’t Treat Me Bad. All the songs were performed with passion, though I did have fears that all of the acts during the 5 days would be similarly short.
Over to the side stage again, this time to catch Faster Pussycat. This was singer Taime Down’s group, as there are 2 Faster Pussycat groups out there, since they both have rights to the name. They performed numerous songs and blew the crowd away! This act was definitely main stage worthy! Of course they played their signature hit House Of Pain, to much of the fan’s delight.
Next up was Jackyl. Now listen, even if you don’t care for Jackyl, go see them live; the experience will change your mind. The first half of the set, including songs such as Push Comes to Shove and Locked and Loaded, made it was extremely easy to get into the show, due to the great amount of energy that front man Jesse James Dupree puts into his work. But as soon as he started off with the biggest hits such as Down On Me, I Stand Alone, and When Will It Rain there was no stopping this southern rocker! Dupree had the place wrapped around his finger and couldn’t do anything wrong! He shoved his face into his guitar and hummed the entire National Anthem! Craziest thing, the axe stayed in front of his face for at least 3 minutes, and the crowd went wild. He left the stage for a minute or two, and then the inevitable sound of a chainsaw roared over the loud-speakers. All of a sudden he came flying up from behind the drum riser, the ropes swung him around the stage with a chainsaw in hand, revving it the entire time. Finally he was lowered to the stage, and he chopped up a wooden stool. The band attacked Lumberjack, and then Dupree was attached to his harness again. After flying around for a couple minutes, suddenly his face turned serious and he dropped the chainsaw from up high. When he returned to the stage, he made some sexual innuendos, and then he slowly started undoing his pants. He then turned around, and dropped them to the floor! He stood there completely naked for at least a minute. Then after he pulled his pants back up, he turned around and finished the song. Wow, what a performance! I can’t believe the night wasn’t over!
To close out the night, Ratt took the stage. They opened up with Tell The World, then lead vocalist Stephen Pearcy announced they were going to let the music do the talking tonight. That is exactly what they did, storming thru 20 songs in nearly 2 hours. And they did it well, playing well-known hits such as Back For More, Wanted Man, You’re In Love, and Lovin’ You’s A Dirty Job. They closed out the main set with the mesmerizing guitar work of Warren DeMartini with Way Cool Jr. and Body Talk. Their encore included 2 songs, Giving Yourself Away and favorite staple Round And Round.
What a way to top off a perfect day of rock. I could barely believe it was only the beginning!
Day 2: 7/10/08
I woke up to the horrible sound of raindrops puttering against the wall of my tent. Fortunately, I could also hear the wonderful sound of Bret Michaels singing Something To Believe In for sound check. That helped me forget about the rain. Even if the weather didn’t cooperate, it didn’t matter. I was doing what I loved, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the entire world at that moment. I trekked down to the stage, as the rain had turned the grounds into mud. All part of the experience…
The first two bands were Jetboy and House Of Lords. I wasn’t familiar with their music, but it was worth sticking around to be a part of, even in the rain. Afterwards I decided to return to my campsite with garbage bags to protect my stuff, before the real fun began. During this time the sun returned.
Upon my return, Enuff Z’Nuff took the stage. The highlight of their set were guest appearances by original Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler and Tracii Guns – also a founding GN’R member (hence –Guns). They covered Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, a song best known by rockers as it was covered by GN’R (though neither Adler nor Guns was in the group at that time). It was fun though. Immediately when they closed their time slot, the sweet sound of bagpipes blared from the south side stage. The majority quickly migrated over there, to discover a band called Joe Town. They opened by covering AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top, and then did original material. Excellent work, complete with some fans dancing in the mud that eventually turned into sexy mud-wrestling. Can’t beat that!
Back to the main stage, it was L.A. Guns’ turn. I had never seen this version (Tracci Guns – there are currently two touring L.A. Guns, as they continue to fight in court for the naming rights). I was excited to hear them though, with Marty Casey being the lead singer, the runner-up to TV’s Rock Star: INXS in 2005. They performed favorites such as One More Reason, Ballad Of Jayne, and Never Enough. Along with those songs, Tracci and Marty did a part-acoustic version of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, (which was excellent), one of Marty’s original songs Trees, and the single from Tracci’s other group Brides Of Destruction, Shut The Fuck Up, with brother Jeremy Guns on vocals. Good times. Overall, even though Tracci was smiling and appeared comfortable the whole way through, I decided I like the other touring group more. I like Marty Casey, but he’s more the INXS type, rather than L.A. Guns. It’s tough to replace original singer Phil Lewis on songs like Jayne!
Dokken followed, though it’s hard to say that since it’s actually Don Dokken with 3 new guys, but that’s ok, they still attacked the numbers with metal force. Most of their classics were included in the set, including The Hunter, Just Got Lucky, It’s Not Love, and closing out the set with In My Dreams. Good set full of sing-alongs, and it’s great to see Don on top of his game.
After the sun went down, Sebastian Bach burst onto the stage with more energy than most men his age dream of having! Even though Mr. Bach is notorious for not being easy to work with, he still knows how to entertain a crowd of 80,000. I was excited to hear performances off his new album, ‘Angel Down’, and I wasn’t disappointed. The band opened with Back In the Saddle, and later on performed American Metalhead, Stuck Inside, You Don’t Understand, and crowd favorite (Love Is) A Bitchslap. Of course he couldn’t escape without doing all the Skid Row classics, and they were all well-received. My favorite was Monkey Business, the opening definitely gets your adrenaline pumping before the heart-pounding chorus kicks it up a notch. The fist-pumping set was closed with Youth Gone Wild. I took this set to try out the ‘picture alley’, which is probably the most fan-friendly feature I have ever seen at a concert venue. Right down the center of the VIP section was a walkway that anyone was allowed to go in, right up to the stage to take pictures. Since there were numerous fans taking advantage, you weren’t able to camp there, but security had everything running smoothly, and everyone was able to be in the dream spot for about a minute to snap photos. I would return…
The closing artist on the main stage was Bret Michaels. To start off, Big John, Bret’s bodyguard/friend from VH1’s hit TV show ‘Rock Of Love’, introduced him, then there was a little snag when the lights went dark. The loud speakers were blasting Welcome To The Jungle, but the cd kept skipping! Oh well, when Bret and his solo band took the stage with Talk Dirty To Me, it was easily forgotten. I like seeing Bret’s solo show, since he mixes it up a little differently than when he’s performing with Poison. Along with their best hits, he also played 2 tracks from his newest album ‘Rock My World’, Driven and Bittersweet. He also entertained the crowd by covering classics Sweet Home Alabama and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. After the set was over, I made my way up front to find guitar picks. I heard a little 5 year-old girl summarize the night perfectly, by telling her mom “My ears are plugged and I can’t even hear what I’m really saying. I am deaf. Oh well, it will come back, it was worth it!” Classic!
As I was about to head back to my campsite for the night, I discovered they wanted to keep the party going on the side stages. The one I stopped at turned out to be a surprise. The band was called Erocktica, and well, let’s just say I felt guilty for not having a pocket full of dollar bills!
Day 3: 7/11/08
This day was full of good music that I wasn’t too familiar with, with the exception of Night Ranger. However, common thoughts that popped into my head throughout the day were “Hey I remember this song” and “I didn’t know they sang this song”.
First up was XYZ. Their set was good, but they didn’t hold my interest for too long.
After them I went to the side stage to find Gods Of Kansas. The lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist had Jack Black-like looks and antics, which obviously captured our attention and helped us feel like we were part of the show. Good band.
Back to the main stage to see Armored Saint. This band seemed a little out-of-place for a festival of this nature, as they are a little harder metal than the usual glam-rock we had been watching. But that didn’t matter; John Bush and company did an excellent job together, with this being the first time performing together for many years. I’m sure they created many new fans with their set, me being one of them.
On with the show with Kingdom Come. While also reunited after many years apart, I wasn’t too impressed with their performance. However, I, and everyone else in attendance, loved their well-known song Do You Like It.
On came Living Colour. This band held the crowd as they pounced through their well-energized set. Of course everyone’s favorite was Cult Of Personality, but I enjoyed the entire set. They have a bluesy feel, as they used the bass more than most bands.
Now it was time for sing-alongs, as Night Ranger took the front. They played numerous familiar songs, such as (You Can Still) Rock In America, Send Me Away, and Sentimental Street. Although they sounded great, I have a feeling there may be a little tension within the band, mainly due to the sign that was posted near Kelly Keagy’s drum kit, that I saw on the jumbo screen, which read “Stage – Drama Free Zone”. But even if that is true, they definitely didn’t show it during their performance. They closed out their portion with their 3 most popular songs, When You Close Your Eyes, Sister Christian, and Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.
Following that wonderful set came Extreme, who also reunited. They sounded pretty good, but front man Gary Sharone didn’t seem too happy for some reason, which made somewhat of a negative difference. The pauses between songs were way too long and kept us wondering what was wrong. However, they meshed well with the crowd, singing songs such as radio-staple More Than Words, and fan favorite Hole In My Heart. They also covered Led Zeppelin’s Communication Breakdown.
Finally, to close out the night entered Triumph performing their first show together in 20 years. They seemed to appeal more to the older audience members, though they impressed the younger ones with their laser and light shows. My favorite song was Magic Power, which pretty much expressed what I was feeling: “I’m young, I’m wild, I’m free. I’ve got the magic power of music in me.” Beautiful.
Day 4: 7/12/08
This turned out to be the most memorable day of Rocklahoma, and not necessarily because of the music.
The day started out to be a scorcher. It felt like I was back home in Florida, with that blazing sun and high humidity. At one point emcee Eddie Trunk announced that it would be smart to hold off on the alcohol, at least until the sun went down, and to keep hydrated with water. This announcement came shortly after an ambulance had taken away someone who had experienced heat exhaustion. But still, the show must go on!
I missed the first two bands but that’s okay – the sleep was worth it. The first band I saw was Tora Tora. They did an excellent job, especially with two of their best known songs from their catalog, Hard Times and Phantom Rider. Black N’ Blue was up next. Lead vocalist Jaime St. James felt more at home with this band, as opposed to his 4-year stint with Warrant. However, they seemed to focus more on the past rather than moving forward with their music. They showed signs of their age, especially when they had to take a break so the bass player could get some oxygen. Their music was fun though, as they played hits including Without Love, Miss Mystery, and Eighteen.
Time for Trixter and this is where the unforgettable fun began! Although Trixter was putting on a magnificent show, it was hard to ignore the dark clouds that were quickly approaching the festival grounds, not to mention the lightning that came with them. As the rain began to fall, a few of us decided to take cover under the beer tent at the top of the hill behind the VIP section. Perfect timing, as soon as we were safe under the tent, the fury arrived. The blankets of rain were now falling sideways, due to the 60 mph wind gusts. The two side stage collapsed, crushing thousands of dollars worth of equipment. We couldn’t hear the destruction as it took place, thanks to the howling wind. The majority of the crowd left the grounds, not knowing if the bands would be able to continue. Nearly 2 hours passed, the wind subsided and the raindrops became smaller. Time to carry on with the show! That’s rock n’ roll, baby.
With the rain still coming down steadily, Lynch Mob still took the stage. What a treat to see guitar guru George Lynch nail the numbers, and vocalist Oni Logan bring his ‘A’ game to the mix. To make it even better, Cinderella’s Fred Coury stepped in on drums, very nice since Cinderella was forced to cancel their upcoming tour due to the hemorrhaging of Tom Keifer’s vocal chords. Things didn’t seem like they could get any better, but they did. A man in the VIP section started yelling at me, asking if I was alone. When I answered ‘yes’, he handed me a VIP ticket! I could hardly believe it! I hurried and retrieved my precious green wristband, and then it was glory for me the rest of the way. I found a spot up front for Lynch Mob’s final two songs, Dokken’s Into The Fire, which George Lynch wrote, and Wicked Sensation.
After they were finished, I took shelter inside the VIP tent. Unfortunately they had stopped serving food, but I still had tomorrow. After staying dry for a few moments, it was time to return to the action, as KIX was set to conquer the stage. Wow, what energy! They demonstrated excellent showmanship, which helped the rain-soaked crowd get in on the action. It reminded me of what I always imagined a Darkness concert to be like, even though I never saw them perform live. On top of their energetic show, along came the favorites Don’t Close Your Eyes and Cold Blood. Excellent demonstration of their love of the era.
Now it was time for what some gentlemen came to Rocklahoma to witness, the return of Lita Ford. THE Lita Ford. Her return to the stage after a 15-year absence (this isn’t exactly true – I saw her do a charity show at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood, Florida in October 2007, though very stripped-down) was awesome, complete with leather, makeup, and sexy blonde hair. I’m sure many hearts were melting, as she sang former number Close Your Eyes Forever, even without Ozzy. And of course every fan in attendance enjoyed singing along to Kiss Me Deadly.
To top off the very eventful day, we had the pleasure of having the reunited Warrant up next. There was speculation that singer Jani Lane wouldn’t be there, due to his falling off the wagon and horrific performance just one week earlier in Las Vegas. Thankfully, they all showed up, and it was Lane behind the mic for the opening song Down Boys. He was sober, and he made sure we were aware. His voice was great, he was on time with the band, and one can only hope this type of Warrant performance continues. The only bad part of the set was they took a lot of time between songs, as Lane had to keep double-checking the setlist, and also took time to make comical remarks about his sobriety. We could definitely tell he was on thin ice with the band during these moments, but during song, those negative thoughts dissipated. They did an excellent job with lighter-worthy ballads Heaven and I Saw Red, as he completely sang all the words, instead of handing the mic over to the crowd, like every other time I’ve seen them live. They made the songs sound the way they should. The heart pounding performance of Cherry Pie was the best possible way to wrap up a very memorable day in the world of rock n’ roll.
Day 5: 7/13/08
With four unforgettable days behind me, I couldn’t believe were at the 5th and final day. No worries, the weather was perfect the entire time, and the music was fantastic! Of course I had to start out the day in the VIP tent with the breakfast buffet, I felt special. Way to fuel up for another day of rock.
The first 3 bands on the bill were AXE, Zebra, and UFO. Unfortunately I knew next to nothing about these bands, except that Michael Schenker used to be in UFO. Despite my lack of knowledge, all 3 bands played excellent sets, especially UFO.
It was now time to finish off the festivities with the 4 bands many were looking forward to the most. First up was Steelheart. They started off with the familiar bass-drum pounding boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom. At least it was familiar to those who had seen the movie ‘Rock Star’. Sorry to disappoint Mark Wahlberg fans, but that was Steelheart who provided the music, not Marky Mark. Hence the name, Steel Dragon. After about 2 minutes of bass-pounding thunder, lead vocalist Miljenko Matijevic appeared onstage on a motorcycle, then belted out the strong lyrics Stand Up And Shout! And the crowd went wild! The band continued throughout the set with songs such as Catapult, Everybody Loves Eileen, and the song that put them on the map, I’ll Never Let You Go. The enthusiasm and passion that Matijevic showed during every number is what makes a concert worth attending. With the crowd in their hands, the band finished up with another ‘Rock Star’ track, Blood Pollution.
Now it was time for all the KISS-lovers treat, Ace Frehley, who stepped onstage without makeup and accompanied by a band half his age. Space Ace proved he can still shred as he performed his own numbers like Rock Soldiers, New York Groove, and Into The Void, along with KISS favorites Shout It Out Loud, Deuce, and Love Gun. It was a relief he didn’t deny his KISS roots, he knew what the crowd came to see. His guitar solo was smoking, literally, and the set was filled with pyrotechnics. Some songs also included a backing tape of Paul Stanley, and Ace made sure to give Paul credit when it was due. Could the night get any better?
During the break I wandered up to a beer tent, where one of three makeshift stages had been set up to accommodate all the bands that were scheduled to perform on the now-destroyed north and south stages. I caught the band Karnival, featuring 18 year-old guitar genius Dario Larina. He is best known as the young artist on Jani Lane’s solo band, I had to see for myself what the hype was all about. The critics were right, that boy can play! Not only did he impress all the rockers around, he also seemed to melt the hearts of the few teeny-boppers that couldn’t help but sport the metal horns in his honor. This was the first time that they performed before a live audience, ever.
Back to the main stage for the great Tesla. Now, this band knows how to perform, completely satisfying the entire crowd! They blasted into the set with Comin’ Atcha Live, and blazed throughout the next 90 minutes with hits such as Gettin’ Better, No Way Out, and Edison’s Medicine. Those who know Tesla know that they stick to the time-proven success of guitar solos, as Frank Hannon and newcomer Dave Rude never ceased to amaze the crowd. For any recently heart-broken soul in attendance, they were blessed to hear the lifter-upper Love Song, and they closed with crowd favorite Modern Day Cowboy. My throat felt like it was bleeding from that set alone!
Finally – and I can’t believe I actually arrived to this point – came Queensryche. We were in for a treat as they were set to perform their theatrical-production of their hit concept album ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. Geoff Tate showed off his talents of both singing and acting, as we were blown away by their performance. Words can hardly describe the drama and intensity put into this work, all I can say is each and every one of those songs will now carry a deeper meaning after seeing them live. Following the stage show, they continued the concert with hits Walk In The Shadows, Jet City Woman, Empire, and closed out with Silent Lucidity.
The party continued with performances under the beer tents, unfortunately I had to catch a ride to Pryor so I could catch the shuttle to Tulsa in the morning.
All in all, Rocklahoma was a dream come true for many. Definitely an 80’s metal fan’s ultimate fantasy camp. With 126,000 tickets sold, there were many who returned to their homes satisfied. It was easy to spot those who attended after leaving the site, as I encountered many in the 3 airports I visited to get home – Tulsa, St. Louis, and Fort Lauderdale. Each one of us appeared worn out, yet content. We greeted each other with smiles, shared our favorite memories, and every single one of us closed each conversation with “See ya next year!”
I don’t think it could be said any better: “See ya next year!”
Photo copyright © Jake Roberts