Let me tell you, I for one would rather attend the smaller festivals (although the bigger events can be awesome as well). Most times they are in a club or medium sized venue and are general admission. This affords much better views of the stage and overall experiences to the concert goer rather than a huge stadium and assigned seating. It’s also not unusual to find members of bands mingling with rock fans and watching their peers on stage. One such smaller fest is presented by Justin Murr and LNJ Entertainment called Rock n’ Skull in Chicago.
After a Canadian friend had attended Rock n’ Skull in 2014, I was spurned on to make the trek for 2015’s presentation. Joined by fellow Decibel Geeks Brian Ronald and Shawn Irwin along with what seemed like most of the Toronto concert-going scene. I’m not gonna lie, leading up to the event there were many disappointments and the 3 of us, at one point, even considered not going at all. Mostly it was due to band changes with Brighton Rock being an early casualty but also Bonfire, Coldspell and Faster Pussycat. Visa issues in many cases, not necessarily the fault of the promoter, but still a disappointment. We also got annoyed at all the ticket deals closer to event date when we paid a higher price early on (which btw was not expensive for a festival at all, just a principle). We went anyways, swearing we would not return in 2016.
Wow, best time ever (ok pretty damn good). We agreed, however, that we wouldn’t purchase our 2016 tix until closer to time to take advantage of any deals. That’s right, our big “we’re not going back” pact was out the car window on the way home. It didn’t take more than a couple of days before we were sheepishly messaging each other that we’d all separately broken the “wait to buy tix” pact as well. The event was fantastic overall. We can easily say that from meeting/watching Justin interact with the crowd, his hard work and reaction to concerns of the concert goers, he really cares about keeping the music alive just as we at Decibel Geek do! Fantastic job from Justin, Sarge and the whole team involved in Rock n’ Skull 2015.
Again leading up to 2016’s event there have been many annoyances. Bands on, bands off. Ticket deals. Potential change of venue concerns. Through all of the trials and tribulations, promoter Justin Murr has kept festival goers well informed. He has consistently made the effort and gone above and beyond. I missed the whole thing, but I gather that the venue recently developed an issue with a VIP package perk. That perk being unlimited adult beverages included. I saw a post on Facebook in which Murr was personally going out and purchasing the alcohol requested by those VIP ticket holders. I mean right down to the brand they are requesting! What promoter does that?
The worst issue comes for poor Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson. He was so excited to see one of his fave bands of all time on the list even though they only released one album. Canadians Gypsy Rose sparked him to purchase a festival ticket…..followed by a plane ticket. Mikael is Decibel Geek‘s Swedish writer and was coming to North America for the first time ever to see Gypsy Rose. Well, it wasn’t long before they were gone from the event posters. Tragic, but there’s still a ton of awesome bands and I know he will still have a great time!
Some bands on my hitlist for Rock n’ Skull 2016 include:
Babylon A.D. who just laid down the best show of the boat for me during the recent Monsters of Rock Cruise West Monsterwood. Curiously they only had one performance aboard ship while most had two. I have seen this band deliver in every time including previous MORCs and also Firefest U.K. This is a band that I have followed since a school buddy played me a “great new” cassette he recently got in the school cafeteria one lunch period. It was that lunch listening experience that introduced me to Babylon A.D. and the next week my allowance was spent on the debut. Babylon A.D. sees 100% original membership as well.
ANTHONY CORDER (of Tora Tora).
Tora Tora are one of my top of all time fave groups and attending their 25th reunion in Memphis (25 Years of Tora Tora) was a lifelong highlight. The guys were all so very personable, approachable and nice it was amazing. After the event, I interviewed Anthony for Decibel Geek (Anthony Corder on 25 Years of Tora Tora) and I look forward to re-connecting with my friend. I do, however, severely hope he’s playing electric as I’m not a huge fan of acoustic performances generally.
JACK RUSSELL’S GREAT WHITE.
While the other Great White version may have more original members, Russell‘s voice just makes the classic songs what they are. I just witnessed him at the world famous Whisky A Gogo in L.A. delivering a fantastic show. In recent years, plagued with health issues, Jack has appeared a little worse for wear at times, always soldiering on nonetheless. At the Whisky he almost seemed ten years younger as he covered the stage space easily sans cane. His voice is as strong as ever with a band of top-notch musicians, he will amaze folks at Rock n’ Skull.
This is a band that I never really got into back in the day despite ownership of the Damned Nation cassette. Thanks to Decibel Geek‘s Rockin Ron Runyon and his live videos presentations I’ve re-discovered Jetboy. Why had I never listened to the cassette or it didn’t appeal to me I’ll never know, but it’s fantastic! Jetboy is one of the few bands on the Rock n’ Skull roster that I’ve not seen before, I just know you’ll “Feel the Shake” as they “Stomp It (Down to the Bricks)“!
THE RADIO SUN.
This is a melodic rock band hailing from Australia and another never before seen live group. My first introduction to The Radio Sun came through fellow Decibel Geek and Rock n’ Skull attendee Shawn “Animalize” Irwin‘s review of the sophomore album. While I often prefer the heavier fare, this beautifully constructed melodic rock masterpiece still sees rotation a year later. The band will be launching the third Radio Sun effort, Outside Looking In, at Rock n’ Skull. Their timeslot is an early one on the Saturday, so be sure to arrive early for The Radio Sun.
These guys were a highlight of the 2015 event. I’ve been following them since the Identity Crisis album of 2012 which featured then vocalist David Reece. Tango Down now features Chas West (Bonham, Lynch Mob) in the frontman position (who I swear I saw at MORC preparty). The brand new Tango Down album Bulletproof is a really rocking affair and I recognized 4 of the tracks as inclusions in last year’s set. Check out Decibel Geek‘s full review of Bulletproof including input from three writers: Bulletprooof Album Review
Decibel Geek podcast co-host Aaron Camaro has long touted the merits of Tuff. Based on that, I took my opportunity to witness the band live during 2014’s Monsters of Rock Cruise. What a sheer pleasure to watch and listen to! Frontman Stevie Rachelle has an engaging persona on stage, his witty banter and monolog delivery evoking outright laughter. Coupled with that excellent crowd interaction, the band’s songs are foot stompers and sing alongers of the highest order. Do not miss Tuff, they consistently deliver a fun set every time.
This Swedish melodic rock band began in 1999 as the brainchild of Erik Martensson and Magnus Henriksson. Eclipse have a 6 album discography to date. The most recent, Armageddonize, placed in the Decibel Geek staff’s collective top ten of the year for 2015! Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson being Swedish himself has witnessed Eclipse live on a few occasions. I, myself, caught their set at Sweden Rock Festival this year and all I can say is get ready Rock n’ Skull! There are few like Martensson on stage!
Here we come RnS 2016!
Brian and I are prepared this year for the drive down (14hrs). Don’t get us wrong we appreciate the chariot skills of Mr. Irwin but for the love of Christ does he make bad smells if he eats fast food! The letters of his license plate are BFWD. Big Farts Windows Down has never been more accurate! Now we know and knowing half the battle! Newcomer to the car, Sleazeroxx editor/writer Olivier has been warned. The Decibel Geek contingent this year may well be the largest at an event as Brian, Shawn, Mikael and I will also be joined by Metal Kate, Rockin’ Ron, and a new Decibel Geek writer. Can Rock n’ Skull handle 7 Decibel Geeks?
Rock n’ Skull has been in operation for a few years, with some name and location adjustments throughout its existence. Putting on these kinds of events has to be a hard job and I appreciate those who do it. Yes, the band/lineup changes are annoying and disappointing, but I don’t believe it’s always Murr‘s fault. Maybe sometimes it is. I’m not saying I could do any better mind you. I often see folks complaining via social media about things like that, but doesn’t it happen to MORC and other festivals as well? When things are planned so far in advance, you have to expect some changes, disappointing as it may be.
Maybe Murr just gets excited and announces waaaayyyy too early. Case and point; well before 2016’s festival has even taken place he has already announced bands and is selling tickets for 2017!! But look at that roster for 2017: Niterain, Wildside, TNT, Tyketto and a huge bucket lister for me Southgang! How can I NOT buy a ticket for that…guys? Anyone else breaking the pact again?