So, 2017 marked my second straight visitation to Rocklahoma Festival in Pryor, Oklahoma. And for the second straight year, it was an exceptionally good time. Again, as last year, I came away with a few “new” bands that I’m looking forward to checking out.
As with last year, I drank a lot of beer. Not really my fault there. See, in Oklahoma you have to drink double what you would normally as it’s considered a “Dry State”. That means the beer is only 3%…that’s like drinking water for a Canadian such as myself! If you’re contemplating going, go VIP. It’s the only way in my eyes. The food and beer (unlimited) make it well worthwhile….and trust me if you drink enough 3% Bud Light, it will have the desired effects! You just have to pee a lot!
But the biggest similarity was maybe the Retrospect Records stage. Or stage 3. I should rather rename the event from Rocklahoma to Retro-Homa as that’s what the fest means to me.
Those that know me already know that I don’t really go for the modern rocky type bands. There are the odd exceptions of course, but as a whole Skillet, Seether, Three Days Grace, Pierce The Veil, In Flames, Stone Sour, and the like just don’t get my boat a floatin’. But these are the bands that draw at these events. These are the bands that get the mainstage timeslots. Granted there were a few Meister faves on the big stage like Def Leppard, Buckcherry, Ratt, Jackyl, Slaughter and Diamond Head. Most of those I didn’t see anyway. But I’ve seen them many times already. In fact, Diamond Head just the week before at Legions of Metal Festival. The 3rd stage or Retrospect Records stage is the place for me. So much so that I spent 98% of my time there!
The Retrospect Records Stage has the bands that drew me to the event. Bands like Norway’s NiteRain (whose 2016 released CD made my top 10). California’s Diamond Lane, Texas’ Black Tora, Florida’s 5 Star Hooker, Argentina’s Electro-Nomicon (who sadly had to drop out due to a visa issue before the event). Alabama’s Lynam (whose van broke down, leaving them stranded on the road and unable to make it). Yet another one is Nova Rex out of Florida… and more. In some cases, I’d seen these bands before thanks to this very same stage and some at other events.
Last year it was this stage that introduced me to Electro-Nomicon and 5 Star Hooker. Two CD’s that I still spin from time to time. You can see my coverage of those sets and others through the link below to last year’s Rocklahoma articles.
There were new highlights again in 2017 as well. New addictions took hold throughout the weekend. Bands that I’d never heard of before like Aska, London’s Dungeon and Ratchet Dolls. Bands that I saw there last year but was too far filled on 3% Bud Light and holding court with friends that I wasn’t really paying attention. That’s Moxy and The Influence. I’ll give a quick few lines here below on each band that drew me in this weekend.
These boys from Brownsville, Texas delivered an engaging set of 80’s influenced hard rock. They had feet tapping and heads bobbing quickly into the set. Buying the Damaged CD from the band after their show proved to be one of the best decisions of my life! Not sure what a Ratchet Doll is, but if its half as cool as this band, I want one!
Again with an 80’s flair, perhaps a little on the progressive side. This is what Retrospect is known for and here they present another great choice in bands. Although I lost some track of the band from Dallas, Fort Worth during the set, I was impressed. I bought the CD later on and cursed my watery Bud Light for making me party/chat with friends during this band. One standout was their “Seek and Destroy” Metallica cover. Ripping!
MOXY AND THE INFLUENCE
After loading up at the lunch buffet and beer station we were back at Retrospect Records stage for Moxy and the Influence, albeit a bit late. We came in as they were ripping through Heart‘s “Barracuda” and fantastically I might add. I caught only a little of Moxy last year and wanted to do better this one. Her voice is amazingly captivating and infectious. Such an engaging young performer. Unfortunately, she announced that they were taking a break after this. Not sure exactly what that means, but I think just a break from live gigs. I hope it’s not more as Moxy has the stuff to be a real star. I really should have picked up her damn CD…for the second year in a row.
5 STAR HOOKER
With the best name of the whole festival, as Retrospect owner Sam Mcaslin introduced them, 5 Star Hooker blasted the Rocklahoma crowd. While everyone about me was concerned about the weather and possibility of a tornado, I continued drinking and rocking. Sounding a lot like early Crue, I think these guys have really honed their craft in the year since I found them and saw them last. A more cohesive unit on stage they assaulted with two originals to start. The songs “5 Star Hooker” and “Crash The Party” came ahead of their cover of Accept‘s “Balls To The Wall”. I feel with a cover like that it’s either nail or fail, no mid-range. Pleasantly, 5 Star nail! The rest of the set partied on with excellent groove including some new songs and even t-shirts tossed out into the crowd during the closer.
Thinking I had lost this opportunity to witness Diamond Lane on stage again, they were part of the lost Saturday due to tornado, I was happy to see them moved into a slot on Sunday. I’ve seen them here last year after being introduced to their music by Decibel Geek Podcast. I was blown away. I even chanced into a meeting with vocalist (and super tall) Brandon Baumann while in L.A. for Monsters of Rock Cruise. They again ripped apart the stage and assaulted the crowd! It was great to meet Brandon again after and he even remembered my review last year and meeting in L.A.! Stoked for new music from Diamond Lane!
After a power outage that took down everything during Buckcherry‘s set and things were back in order, it was time again for a new band. The name struck me as familiar, but couldn’t quite place why at first. Now it comes to me, London’s Dungeon will also be appearing at Rock n Skull in October. They had great, infectious, heavy, charging riffs throughout their 80’s style sound. With another CD to join my collection, I had the guys sign it, a poster and snap a quick pic after their set. See you in October boys!
Nova Rex again brought the house down on the Retrospect Records Stage at Rocklahoma. The boys, once considered one of the greatest hair metal bands, delivered a rousing set. The hits “Bring The House Down” and “Turn It Up Loud” were of course included. Along with those were selections from their forthcoming new album, which I’m excited to buy myself! A great party band that didn’t get their due in the 80’s. You should make an effort to check them out if you can!
As I fully expected, NiteRain again were an incredibly high energy and engaging performance. Having seen them live a few times now, and looking forward to adding Hair Metal Heaven and Rock n’ Skull to the list, they closed the festival. I joked after with the guys that I will be the NiteRain stalker this year as we posed for a group photo. From Norway, these youngsters (well younger than me) certainly carry the torch for hard rock today. Their song “Come On” was the absolute song of the festival for me, with fist raised high shouting out the lyrics in my 3% beered up glory. The Vendetta album, issued late last year, was so good it still had time to land at #6 in my top ten!
THE DOWNSIDE AND WEATHER AT ROCKLAHOMA
There are some downsides to Rocklahoma. The cost including flights and camper rentals and VIP tickets. It’s not as much compared to some worldwide festival events that I attend, but it’s a lot to see side stage bands since the headliners don’t attract me. Still worth it as I get the unlimited beer, pretty decent food, friends and great rock on the 3rd stage.
Where it’s a real issue is the weather. First of all, it’s unbearably fucking hot. Near death hot. Probably would have been better had I not been in such a hurry this year and accidentally packed only jeans! Two years straight we have been evacuated on warning of tornadoes. Well, that’s a bit scary, to be honest. Last year we were back in the park before too long, not missing too much of the bands.
This year was a different story. The whole rest of the day was canceled. We lost all of Saturday night. Which is really shitty for me as Black Tora and Diamond Lane were two big highlights for me. I could care less that we missed the mainstage bands. The other thing is it’s kind of a cell phone dead zone out there. I bought a data package last year but still couldn’t get a signal. Wifi works if you are in the VIP tent, however. So, when evacuated to your campers, the info on things is weak.
BACK IN BUSINESS BUT TOO LATE FOR BLACK TORA
We finally saw a Facebook post on the Rocklahoma page indicating that no bands would be rescheduled and all was lost for Saturday’s acts. However, both Black Tora and Diamond Lane still got their hour in the sun. I guess there was a later post that we missed, no longer searching for a signal after reading the initial. Turns out Black Tora was put on stage BEFORE the regularly scheduled bands that day and we friggin’ missed it! Colour me pissed off! Had I have known…
It’s not the fault of the festival in any way, the weather is its own beast. We all know that. It’s just crap to lose an entire half a day after the expenses put out and one of my fave band’s sets as a casualty. It is what it is. I have seen people bitching and complaining. C’mon people, it’s not the fault of Rocklahoma that the weather turned. I commend them for keeping everyone’s safety at the forefront. It’s a festival in Tornado Alley, in Tornado season! What do you expect?
Thanks to Retrospect Records for bringing these awesome bands, that for the most part, I wouldn’t get the chance to see otherwise! Who’s with me, Retro-Homa? Let’s start a petition to rename the fest….and move it somewhere maybe not in Tornado Alley?