Rocklahoma 2016 and Decibel Geek

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Rocklahoma 2016Several years ago I made the bold decision that I wanted to experience a festival of the highest order. Believing that we here in North America just don’t know how to put on a tip-top rock festival the way they do in Europe, I immediately discounted any North American Festivals and set my sights on the Sweden Rock Festival in early June in Solvesborg, Sweden. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good festivals over here that usually run two, maybe three days and of course the whole music cruise phenomenon, but I wanted the larger than life festival experience. Four years later on the urgings of some friends, I decided to investigate a festival in Oklahoma USA appropriately called Rocklahoma. Holy fuck (pardon my language, but it’s the best adjective for what I felt) was I ever wrong! North America does have a festival that rivals those in Europe and it’s name is Rocklahoma!

The event celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary this past weekend as I celebrated my first of what I’m sure will be many more Rocklahoma festivals at the Catch the Fever Campgrounds (I think it was called) in Pryor Oklahoma. From the minute that fellow Decibel Geek Rockin’ Ron Runyon (we’d never met in person, so thank God for Decibel Geek t-shirts for easy identification – get yours here!) and his lovely wife collected me at the Tulsa airport, it was a non-stop, ridiculously sweaty, debilitatingly humid (I’m from Canada and can’t handle this humidity!), loud rock and roll party fueled by mass quantities of alcohol (well I had to stay hydrated)! The whole feeling of the event was something like a cross between the Monsters of Rock Cruise where everyone knows each other in a rock and roll family atmosphere and Sweden Rock Festival where there are multiple stages with more bands than you can shake a stick at spread out over four days and a rockin’ campground party running nearly 24hrs a day. I can’t name all the folks that I met, but they all welcomed the intrepid Canadian (who it turns out was not the only one in attendance! How you run into a Canadian friend who was even wearing the same shirt as me in 50,000 people is mind blowing), as well as friends made from previous events and it all added to the fantastic experience. There is even a service through which you Rocklahoma map 2016can rent an RV Trailer for the event should you not wish to try your hand at tent camping, Oklahoma’s weather is not always conducive to tent camping with the humidity and tornado possibilities.

To try and give you the lay of the land, the festival grounds are situated next to the camping areas (one for VIP camping and another further away for general admission camping) and there’s another stage outside the Festival grounds (Axis Stage) as well as one in the actual VIP Campgrounds (Camp Jager, which I believe is a private affair). Near the Axis Stage are some food truck stands, as well as a shower trailer (another one is located over near VIP Campgrounds) and of course Port-o-lets or shitboxes as I refer to them as. Now, I must say that the shower lines are not short in the mornings and after I already mentioned the heat and humidity you can just imagine the shitbox conditions at the high points of the day, but overall I felt that these amenities were reasonably well maintained, just choose carefully!

The actual Festival grounds opened on Friday, but Axis Stage fired up around 6pm on Thursday through until around 2am featuring a full schedule of bands. The stage at Camp Jager was also in action on Thursday and featured a slew of bands that would also appear throughout the rest of the weekend on stage 3, The Retrospect Records Stage in the Festival Grounds. Friday saw all five stages in action starting at noon on Axis and then inside the actual area as the gates were opened at 3pm. The stage at Camp Jager fired up later in the evening on Friday, presenting bands through until around 3am as I recall. Saturday and Sunday were carbon copies of Friday’s schedule with the exception of the VIP buffet.

rsz_p1100017Having VIP tickets is a great way to go and for all the festival and concert events around the world that I’ve had the pleasure of attending, I’ve never known VIP tickets to include an all you can eat buffet! While there was some griping (as there always is, you just can’t please everyone) heard around the VIP dining tent, the food was decent….and free! Dinner was served on Friday at 3pm and then a lunch on Saturday and Sunday at noon followed by a short break and dinner at 4pm. Coupled with the food was also free beer! That’s right, I said it…free beer! While the selections were only Bud and Bud Light and following the Oklahoma laws was only 3.2% alcohol content (basically water to a Canadian), if you drink enough, the desired effect still takes place over time. Again there was chirping about the lines, but if you just planned your hits a little more carefully, I hardly ever waited more than 5 or 6 people to fill my Rocklahoma souvenir thermos style mug (available for $10 each or 2 for $15) with watery beer. I can tell you that I made damn sure that I ate and drank my VIP ticket’s price worth of food and beer throughout the weekend, that’s a guarantee!

My VIP assigned seating tickets were at the back of the rows of pew-like wooden benches, the curse of late purchasing, for the main stage. The really cool thing (aside from the free beer, ’cause that’s really cool too) that Rocklahoma does is offer you to retain or renew your same ticket place each year. If you decline, the seats are then returned to the pool and put up for sale, but before that happens the existing returning ticket holders are offered the choice to move up closer with the seats returned to the pool. All of the side stages are totally general admission.

rsz_p1100011One downfall that I would be remiss not to mention is the Rocklahoma merchandise. Once the gates opened there was a mad rush to the Rocklahoma merchandise tent creating an unimaginable line. Later in the evening with the frenzy died down I entered the tent to discover that they were basically out of everything but a couple of shirt styles and even then the sizes seemed relegated to small only. Seems to me that after ten years of operation you should have a better idea of the sizes required for your customers and perhaps reduce the style options. I’ve not known Sweden Rock to run out of large sized festival t-shirts even on the last day in four years of attendance.

Let’s get to the music! While there were a ton of big names on the roster and I like those bands, it’s the smaller, lesser known acts that usually draw my rapt attention.That being said I was ecstatic to finally see Megadeth, (they’ve somehow escaped me for different reasons every time year after year at events around the world), on the main stage even if it was from the back of the pack. Rob Zombie, Collective Soul, and Scorpions were also bands I made sure not to miss from the main stage acts.

Here’s a brief few lines on some of the perhaps lesser known bands (basically in order of their first appearance) that left an impression on me (a lighter wallet too) and that I considered to be highlights at Rocklahoma 2016 (more in-depth spotlight reviews for some of these bands will be coming over the next few weeks). Basically all were appearing on the Retrospect Records Stage and I found myself spending a good portion of my time over at that stage and the subsequent merchandise tent (where I left with two t-shirts and no fewer than 7 CDs). I was disappointed that two bands from my radar somewhere along the way became casualties and were not in attendance, Banshee and SNEW (unless I missed a schedule change somewhere).

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rsz_niterain_logoNITERAIN: Already having the band’s Crossfire album from 2013 I was looking forward to seeing them at Sweden Rock, but wait they’re at Rocklahoma as well! Fantastic Norwegian glam/sleaze style rock and I loved both shows of theirs that I saw. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of merch aside from one t-shirt. They mixed a couple of covers into their set that included originals and a great track from their forthcoming disc. NITERAIN Website / NITERAIN Facebook

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Diamond Lane logo 2DIAMOND LANE: With no schedule on the camp stage, simply hanging around and drinking on Thursday brought surprises. Hearing the first little bit of “The Enemy” told me that Diamond Lane was on now. I’ve been spinning their Terrorizer album since being introduced to the band via a Decibel Geek podcast episode and it was nice to add the hardcopy to my collection. They also mixed in a couple covers of KISS tunes with their original compositions in which he sounded better than KISS! DIAMOND LANE Website / DIAMOND LANE Facebook

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wilson 4WILSON: Fellow Decibel Geek writer Bakko has been plugging Wilson for ages. I never really got it to be totally honest. Now after a live set, I totally get it! Fantastic stage energy of the highest level. Detroit’s Wilson may be a more known name than the few I mentioned before them, but many I spoke to were still unaware of the band. I was happy to secure their Right to Rise disc that made Bakko‘s top ten of 2015 list in the #1 spot! “Dicks up, windows down!” WILSON Website / WILSON Facebook

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Freeway MadFREEWAY MAD: While I had always planned to check out Freeway Mad, it was beyond fortuitous that I had also wanted to see Banshee who was not in attendance moving Freeway Mad into their spot, 3 hours earlier! Fantastic young band from the UK with a 70’s swagger. Right from the opener of “Speed Machine” I was hooked and I look forward to more from these dudes. I’m so glad that I caught the set (unlike Ron who missed the change) and I’ve been ripping the Dangerous EP that I picked up ever since I got home!  FREEWAY MAD Website / FREEWAY MAD Facebook

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rsz_ragdoll_back_to_zeroRAGDOLL: I’d heard some buzz from Ron‘s friends around the campsite about this band from Australia that was at ROK and had been here a few times before called Ragdoll. I first caught them on the camp stage which is a different atmosphere, but they were definitely a band to watch with a high energy set, another group channeling their inner 70’s influences. Ragdoll recently issued their debut full-length (that made it’s way home with me as well) and dearly hope to have the chance to see these young guys again in the future. RAGDOLL Facebook

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rsz_electro_nomiconELECTRO NOMICON: Was an absolute stunner! I wandered over without ever hearing of them before, but identifying with the realization that I was loving The Retrospect Stage bands and POD/Avatar not being my thing really. “Three guys from Argentina (Buenos Aires) and one American who met on MySpace, the singer described the band during a song break also adding, “here we are, dreams do come true”. They had already won me over but their final song, a rendidtion of “Heaven & Hell” blew me away and drew several more onlookers. ELECTRO NOMICON Facebook

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rsz_beggars_jamBEGGAR’S JAM: Again, hanging around “my home” at ROK, The Retrospect Stage, Beggar’s Jam was next up after Electro Nomicon. Chatting with friends, bloating up on free watery weak beer, my ears perked up. Damn that vocalist/guitarist looks familiar! Holy crap it’s Michael Voss from Cassanova, Wolfpakk and Mad Max, two fave bands especially Mad Max having finally seen them live at Sweden Rock last year. Beggar’s Jam had a sort of blues/country rock kinda feel to it from my listening point, some great feel good party music from Mr. Voss, again glad I was at Retrospect! (couldn’t find a website or Facebook 🙁 )

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rsz_second_passSECOND PASS: What a pleasant surprise to discover a few days before departing for Rocklahoma that my friends in Toronto band Second Pass were on the bill! Super news for them and well deserved. They had an early time slot on the second stage and ripped through their short set on the wings of frontwoman Veronica McNamee‘s intense stage presence. Guitarist Steve Pass is clearly insane as he was wearing not only a hoodie but also a leather jacket during the performance! SECOND PASS Website / SECOND PASS Facebook

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rsz_nova_rex_logoNOVA REX: DO NOT MISS NOVA REX was the command I received from Decibel Geek‘s Swedish Sleaze King, Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson and thank God for it. He was 100% bang on with this band, named one of the top “Hair Bands” of all time even without a hit record. Their set that began with “Bring the House Down” instantly captured the crowd and held them through to the closer of “Turn It Up Loud”. Nova Rex was also a part of the Hair I Go Again movie, maybe I should finally rip off the plastic cellophane and watch that DVD! NOVA REX Website / NOVA REX Facebook

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Other notable, mostly Retrospect Stage, artists that I was able to catch were MYCAH, Prophets of Addiction, Dead Metal Society, The Tip, Project Terror, Chainmail, Grind, 5-Star Hooker, Nicnos, and T.R.O.Y.

All in all, Rocklahoma was an incredible experience. Thank-you Rockin’ Ron Runyon and everyone in his camp of friends/acquaintances for the welcome and hospitality, I’m sure I’ll see you all again……at Rocklahoma 2017!!

Rocklahoma Website / Rocklahoma Facebook / Rocklahoma Twitter / Rocklahoma Instagram

Keep an eye on this YouTube Playlist below (Rocklahoma 2016) for all our live performance ROK videos as they’re added

icon_001Cheers,

The Meister

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