The state of Minnesota is about as land locked from any oceans as any place in North America you can get. And the small town of Hinckley is about as central a location in the state as you’re going to get. With all of these rock n roll cruises, it’s almost fitting that this is the location for many of those same bands to perform over a weekend on solid ground. The population of Hickley is roughly 1,800. Much more than that this weekend, as people from all over the Northern Midwest hire a baby-sitter, drop their kids off at college and find someone to feed their pets for a few days. For this it the weekend we stretch on our Jackyl T-shirts, go through a couple of cans of Aqua Net (yes they still make it) and gather in an outdoor amphitheater ouside of the Grand Casino in Hicnkley MN and attempt to recapture a bit of our youth with the bands of our youth, in a two day family reunion of 80’s era headbangers that is Grand Rocktember V
The Day 1 Friday night lineup started with the all-female Guns N’Roses tribute band Paradise Kitty. I have got to say that they may have been the perfect band to kickoff this annual event. With hotel check-in at 4:00, much of the crowd was still milling in as Paradise Kitty executed all the hits of GN’R, with a eerrily convincing singer doing a remarkable Axl Rose impression.
Next up was The Last In Line, which is the surviving members of Dio‘s original band from the first three records playing the hits of that era. Unfortunately, they played a couple of songs from their unnecessary and Dio-less studio album Heavy Crown. That aside, it was so cool seeing Vivian Campbell having fun as he effortlessly made his way through the songs that made him famous. Apparently not rich. But famous.
I was happy to see Firehouse on this year’s bill as they only play about 13 shows in Minnesota every year. Seriously, they are here all the time, which adds a level of integrity typically missing when a band proclaims from the stage they truly love this (town,city or state). I think these guys actually love Minnesota. Lead singer CJ Snare spent the next day at the Mall of America. One of the reasons they may like it here is the ladies old and older absolutely love these guys. The ratio of women to men seemed to shift dramatically as they played “Love of a Lifetime” and “When I Look Into Your Eyes” and all the other hits. They have been performing with this lineup since 2004 and they always sound great. Most impressively, C.J. Snare hasn’t lost a bit of his voice. This band in many ways, is the reason for so many pairs of sequenced jeans in attendance and quite possibly the reason there was a spike in demand for baby-sitters this weekend.
Slaughter was back, playing a little later slot than last year and performing largely the same set. Like Firehouse, Slaughter was one of the the last bands of their era to break ahead of the change in the music scene. Mark Slaughter is also a rangy singer whose voice doesn’t show any signs of noticeable age. I don’t think their debut album Stick It To Ya left the Kenwood tape deck in my 77′ Cordoba for at least a year, so it didn’t bother me that they stuck to songs mostly from that record. Drummer Zoltan Cheney is a sort of show stealer but the entire band offers an animated effort. Next up. Jackyl.
I’ve never intentionally listened to Jackyl’s music, but I have seen them live more times than I can remember and have loved every minute of it. Lead singer Jesse James Dupree is one of the last of a dying breed. In my review from last year, I predicted they would be back this year, but in a later slot. It turned out I was right. Oddly, I think a later slot actually hurt Jackyl. They came out with all of the energy I’m used to from Jackyl. Jesse was at the perfect level of buzzed (not slurring or stumbling, but in a great mood). However, by the end of what has to be my favorite Jackyl song “Just Because I’m Drunk Don’t Mean You’re Right”, the crowd seemed to exhale. It was the first time of the evening that it seemed as if the people were feeling their age.
If Jackyl suffered any from a later slot, Extreme suffered from going on after Jackyl. It was a little disappointing that a sizeable portion of the audience chose to drink beers in the parking lot as the band I most looked forward to seeing on Day 1 took the stage. This would be my first time seeing Extreme. A band whose first three records mean a lot to me. But there is a not so subtle art to playing a festival. Being a headliner on a multi-band bill ensures that a sizeable chunk of the crowd isn’t there for you. So when they opened up with two songs only Extreme fans would know, “It (‘s a Monster)” and “Little Jack Horny”, any chance of keeping another chunk of the crowd from leaving was lost. By the time they played “Get The Funk Out”, much of the crowd was gone, which sucks as this band is amazing. Nuno Bettencourt is one of those guys. The guys who just make you pause at how much better he is than almost everyone. As much I was enjoying Extreme, they found a way to put me off a bit with a slowed down rendition of “Kid Ego”. Not their best track but it certainly not worthy of a lazy attempt to freshen it up. That aside, those who stuck around were treated to an amazing performance from a band that still has it. A little self of awareness of the crowd they were playing for would help. In many ways, Jackyl was the headliner.
Day 1 in the books. Back to the Hotel to get these old bones some ibuprofen and rest, in preparation for Day 2.