08 June 2011
Festival Daze - Rocklahoma
Ambitious doesn't seem to adequate the naivety of my intentions when I agreed to work and partake in festivities of both Rocklahoma and Wakarusa Music festivals. Knowing the copious level of alcohol and other mind altering naturals that are accompanied with such festivals, my ambition of work should have waned from my two week exodus from flush-able toilets and showers. However, my hard working fervor presses on towards Pryor Oklahoma and is not completely foiled until my laptop companion fails me. Even in my endeavors to relapse creative efforts to a pre-digital age, my computer is a necessary coverage tool. I simply have not created an extensive Rolodex by which I could exhaust my hand in pen and pad and send my words to my readers. I'm sure a hand crafted review would fair well for those who enjoy looking at what has become me talking to myself mostly; but rather, I decided to enjoy Rocklahoma as a fan, as it was meant to be consumed. Wasting no time after check-in at the press tent and setting up my campsite, I transfered the beer from the ice chest into my Army issued backpack, fasten on a bottle of Jim Beam, and head to the pre-party at the campground stages. (Lesson #1 of Festival Life - if you bring an entire handle of whiskey to a concert... you will inevitably try and consume an entire handle of whiskey at the concert.)
The bands at the campgrounds were everything a drunken late night party should want... loud, descent, and played the occasional cover song. As I received my appetizer of rock from Camp Debauchery and Camp Jager I made friends around me, some being Native American, some being from Arkansas, I continued to find common interest and share my whiskey with each new friend I made. After depleting most of our Jim Beam reservoir, I eventually hand it off to the band on stage whose name from effects of both booze and time have escaped me. A local band from Tulsa I believe, they wore all black with a reverse image flag on their shoulders as a salute to those who have served in the military and would recognize the same insignia on their uniforms. I struggled to carry on an intelligent conversation with them after they played and eventually had to cut myself off from the party, but not after getting several musicians numbers with promises of making it to more of their shows. Unfortunately their phone numbers have letters in them and their names are unrecognizable.
The first day of Rocklahoma was light for me as I was both recovering from a pre-party and catching wind for what I knew would be an additional two weeks of the same. Missing My Darkest Days and Sick Puppies I finally make it to a stage in time to listen to Ritch from Texas Hippie Coalition belting out some of his strong southern metal. With an attitude and sound as big as he is, the band knows how to put on a show. Donning MC inspired leather cuts and long hair, possibly the only thing visually hippie about them, they kicked riff heavy sound right off the stage and into the crowd with the bass and guitar arrangements helping conduct the hands and heads of the crowd. As the sun set and the BAC rose, the music left no lack of headbanging or devil horn hanging. All That Remains continued from Texas Hippie Coalition's time at the rock pulpit and had the black masses shouting like a deranged Pentecostal gathering. It only took a short song for the crowd, coincidentally surrounding me, to start rolling like boiling water. Elbows tucked, knees bent, and head on a swivel, the double bass drums and guitar melodies cooed us all into a mosh readiness. As the less enthusiastic and under sized took warning and headed for the crowds outskirt, it begins. A hop and shove, followed by a spinning stumbling push, the shit show ensued. Despite the orders of a solo security guard who was either suicidal or headstrong beyond capability, we continued (for those non-moshers out there let me explain that the physicality of it all is done in good fun, much as a boxing match or football game is carried out.)
Day two kicks off with a trip to town to restock on booze and beer, for by the end of the pre-party and day one we had used all sobriety deleting provisions we had for the weekend. Unfortunately this trip was shared by thousands of other festival goers and the cost in time ran us late to the Benjamin Del Shreve show. After speed walking from the camp ground looking much like an elementary teacher getting her work out in, I arrived at the Axis Stage Tent in time to catch BDS playing their rendition of Ozzy's 'Mama I'm Coming Home'. A fist bump from the stage and I was well on my way to rocking, joining the crowd beside me in a air guitar fit as Ben tapped the fret board putting together a tonal arrangement that is rare to see from the stage. Jon Holder battled Ben's guitar skills as he plucked cords and mashed and tuned the pedal board to create a sound that would not be recognizable as guitar hadn't I seen it be created live. Though I have been lucky enough to see the Del Shreve crew do this several times as I try and catch every show of theirs I can, friends of mine that tagged along were equally amazed even though they only caught the last few songs from their set. They like me, must really experience a concert in whole to enjoy it. They are not the social concert goers who talk, and stand in back for atmosphere, they get right in the thick and make the show personal even among the mass of people. So I was worried that only catching the last of BDS had not given them enough appreciation of the band, but the rock spoke for itself and proved my worries wrong.
Rev Theory provided a substantial prime for the more rewarding band, Adelitas Way, whose lead vox Rick DeJesus kept the crowd involved as he taunted them to crowd surf and jump towards stage and then flipping off the security as they escorted those that made the journey out of the area. Owing something to the crowd for his efforts he challenged the crowd to catch and carry him as he left the stage following their final song. The fans obliged and passed him along their hands all the way to the back where he was met by hundreds of handshakes and pictures. Drowning Pool, for all intensive purposes fulfilled their duty... playing fan favorites and filling a time slot before Aaron Lewis was staged. Once Staind was finally on stage... all 35,000 people in attendance had settled on the lawn and were coaxed to their feet again by Lewis and crew's playing of the star spangled banner. Aaron Lewis' voice has not changed or wavered at all in the 10+ years since hitting it big in the 2000's Alt-Rock Era. He played classic after classic from early albums such as Break the Cycle and as late as his new solo country efforts with "Country Boy" which had the entire festival singing along.
(Insert drunken night of me consuming more than a fifth of various whiskeys and yelling at cops / defending strippers)
Day 3 was a struggle at Rocklahoma... didn't wake up until 3 pm, still drunk, blood all over me, running out of water, and sick of sandwiches I fail to start the "Blow-and-Go" truck. .056 BAC after 12 hours of sleep unarguably means I had a good night, I don't remember most of it but the video evidence insists I did. We kick around the camper for a few more hours and drink the melted ice from our ice chest trying to pass the interlock device in the car, but after hours of no avail we say fuck it and open another beer and head to Seether on the Main Stage. They begin by playing a few of my personal favorites including "Fine Again", "Broken", and "Needles". Continuing in the Alt-Rock goes Country theme of the festival, the band makes a stab at Nashville by playing their new single "Country Song" before paying tribute to Nirvana in a "Heart Shaped Box" cover for Rocklahoma and in Cobain inspired rage busting the custom guitar with a penis and smiling sperm adorned fret board across the stage and throwing it into the raised drum set before exiting. Sure knows how to make a rock festival crowd happy... and the perfect set up for Bret Michaels, Zakk Wylde, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx.
(fan video w/ descent audio and drunken first person pov)
While Poison and Motley Crue are rock icons and delivered a great show, to be honest they just didn't have the same effect for me that Black Label Society was able to provide. Zakk drew out the largest group of Black Label Supporters I've ever seen and had them all shuffling and shifting to vie for the best spot to see the guitar proficianado. Zakk entered wearing a towering black and white Native American headdress with fox skin underlining which acted as both an act of reverence for the native state and intro for his song "Crazy Horse". The entire Black Label Society experience is almost a religious experience and definitely has a cult like following. If you have never been to a Zakk Wylde production then you have not experienced rock music to its fullest. They have mastered and continue to add to the quintessential rock ambiance in every aspect. The production value of lights and smoke, the guitar riff ripping from Zakk's hypnotic wields, the careful drum and bass accompaniment that has been rhythmically tied with the guitar instead of just beaten and forced into the sound like a lot of metal would try and do, all of this provides for what was the best live metal concert I have ever experienced. Not even the overtly rude and delusionally tough redneck in front of me that insisted I was standing too close to him and though I was trying to steal his weed (it's a metal show... I will be inevitably balls deep on you while raging... don't take offense to my acting homosexual if you look like you are assuming the fact already) could distract me from my jumping fist raised tantrum. The highlight of the set was by far the Memorial Day weekend shout out when Zakk played a 10 minute solo ranging the full scale of the guitar and piecing together what seemed to be an impossible free styling of chords and notes and ending it in a Jimi Hendrix' Woodstock-esque Star Spangled Banner. From a veteran... I thank you Zakk. It was well received and I can't wait to see you shred again.
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