The End Of Summer 2016 Part 1 – GRAND ROCKTEMBER IV

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dsc_0742-2-1009x1024Summer should get a speeding ticket.

I’m not sure who to attribute that quote to and apparently neither does the internet. Summer is my favorite time of year and it’s too short.  It wasn’t that long ago I was freezing my ass off in Somerset WI, watching Ghost at Northern Invasion.  And here we are.  In Hinckley, MN with the weather quickly approaching that of Northern Invasion.

As the summer of 2016 comes to a close I know that in a few months, sometime shortly after presents are exchanged around a tree, I will start mapping out my summer concert calendar for 2017.  Which means I am one revolution of the earth around the sun before I will be writing about Grand Rocktember V.  I hope you’ll hang around for that and hope even more to see you there.

But I digress.

Now in its fourth year, Grand Rocktember returned to Grand Casino Hinckley for two days of Sunset Strip nostalgia delivered by the bands whose logos we doodled on our notebook covers. For those of us in the creaky knee army, Grand Rocktember can mean many things.  For some, it means lining up a babysitter.  For others, it means making sure your children don’t plan on getting married the second weekend in September.  But for all who came it’s a chance to let loose for a couple of days and share a memory by remembering a time with fewer bills, more booze, less reliable transportation and maybe some other stuff I shouldn’t mention.

Jesse ‘James’ Dupree

This was my second year covering the event and its starting to get a family reunion feel. Almost literally. I see friends, colleagues, people who worked at the same restaurant I did in high school, people I went to high school with, people I’ve become friends with on Facebook because of my Grand Rocktember coverage last year and even actual family. Drinks are raised, photos are shared on social media and of course there’s the rock music soundtracking this annual weekend of sentimental recollection and reckless abandonment.

Day one started with Autograph who burst on the scene with great promise with one of the most memorable songs of the 80’s “Turn Up The Radio”.   They slowly drifted away after that until being resurrected recently by guitarist Steve Lynch and a collection of others I’m not familiar with.  Nonetheless, I was impressed at how well they sounded.  And as someone who never owned an Autograph record I was pleased to recall more songs than I thought I would.

Up next was they always entertaining Jackyl. Lead singer Jesse ‘James’ Dupree is a poor man’s cross between Sammy Hagar and Gene Simmons.  The energy he still musters for each show is impressive. Uncharacteristically sporting a goatee, Jesse led Jackyl through all of the classic Jackyl cuts, shared pulls of Jesse ‘James’ Dupree whiskey with his band, yelled at Stryper’s drum tech for daring to snap on a drum during their set and of course shredded a wooden stool to woodchips with a chainsaw during the “Lumberjack Song”.  I never find myself yearning to put in a Jackyl CD at home.  But I have seen this band many times and when I do, I never find myself yearning to leave.  Great band if you’ve never seen them.  And if you haven’t you should.  Something tells me they’ll be back next year.

dsc_0492-2-1024x890Stryper was one of the bands I didn’t want to miss this year. Having never seen them in the 80’s and being one of the few bands showcasing the original lineup, I was anticipating their set. Dear God, they were boring. Watching them live had the effect of staying awake for 48 hours straight and THEN chugging down a handful of No-Doz. You want to sleep but you can’t. Jesse ‘James’ Dupree commented he wasn’t sure why Jackyl was on so early and after suffering through the moving statue performance Stryper was putting on I have to say I agree with him. Maybe coming on right after Jackyl was the problem but they sucked the energy out of the air.  I was envious of those who took this time to lose some money in the casino.  Next.

I survived the sleep deprivation study that was Stryper and was treated to Queensryche. This would be my first time seeing them with singer Todd La Torre who replaced Geoff Tate after the band kicked him out for spitting on their drummer Scott Rockenfield. I had seen some youtube videos of this lineup and heard some of the music recorded with Todd and frankly didn’t expect much.  Which may have made it even more enjoyable when they played all the right songs and Todd sounded spot on. He’s really developed a great mimic of Geoff Tate.  Plus he managed to not spit on anyone during the show.

dsc_0126-2Former Cinderella frontman Tom Kiefer may have been the MVP of Grand Rocktember III and he was back with a later slot to do it again this year. And just like last year, he was killer.  His band has only gotten better. The catalog of songs to choose from is deep enough to keep everyone from wandering off to the lure of slot machines or parking lot beers. And being in Minnesota it was a nice touch when Tom and his band merged seamlessly from Joe Cocker‘s rendition of “A Little Help With My Friends” into a crescendo of Prince’s “Purple Rain”.  It’s probably time we stop asking Tom about a Cinderella reunion.

And closing out day one was the cherubic singer from Motley Crue, Vince Neil. Time hasn’t been great to Vince but then again, Vince hasn’t been great to Vince. He’s out of shape. Constantly getting drunk and doing something stupid. He sings every other word to the songs. He knows we know it and still does it. And he disappears for 20 minutes in the middle of the show and no one knows why.  (It’s been rumored he runs to Chipotle for a double meat beef burrito.)  Going in knowing all of that, he was good. He was and did all of those things I just mentioned. Yet somehow he manages to carry around a little of that rock star swagger he developed in the 80’s. And by then end of day 1, this crowd is feeling so good that not even a sloppy effort from Vince Neil is gonna bring them down. Drinks up as the songs of Motley Crue brought the evening to its end.dsc_0592-2

Day one of Grand Rocktember IV was fun. Day two was…

…to be continued

Grand Casino Hinckley Amphitheater





Tom Kiefer

Vince Neil

All photos by Bakko Photo 2016.

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