The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
LIVE-REVIEW-ROCKLAHOMA-2015

 

ROCKLAHOMA FESTIVAL

PRYOR CREEK,

OKLAHOMA, USA

Memorial Day Weekend, May 2015

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THE 2015 EDITION OF THE OKLAHOMA ROCKFEST WINS OUT DESPITE THE WEATHER...

 

FEATURING: TESLA, LINKIN PARK, GODSMACK, SLAYER, VOLBEAT, BREAKING BENJAMIN, PAPA ROACH, HALESTORM, THE WINERY DOGS, IN THIS MOMENT, APOCALYPTICA, IN THIS MOMENT, CROBOT, RAGDOLL, NONPOINT, WE ARE HARLOT, and many more...


ROCKLAHOMA 2015

 

On paper this year's Rocklahoma lineup may have seemed a little weak compared to the other AEG festivals such as Rock on the Range and Carolina Rebellion. However, a set of great performances by the big acts and surprises from some unknowns really made it a weekend to remember.

 

 

FRIDAY

Leading up to the weekend Oklahoma suffered some terrible weather and the camp grounds were a lot colder and muddier than I've ever seen. Festival goers were in high spirits though and the unique family vibe that sets Rocklahoma apart was in full swing. Onto the bands then!

 

 

IN THIS MOMENT

The highlight of Friday for me, and surely most of the people who watched their set, was In This Moment. Lady Gaga meets Marylin Manson hardly does the Maria Brink fronted band justice; exquisite set design, numerous costume changes and above all a slamming musical performance put the band head and shoulders above the rest of the lineup. Closer "Blood" was a glorious orgy of modern metal riffing, depraved sexuality and horrorcore imagery. If you have a chance to see this band live, do not pass it up.

 

RAGDOLL

WA power trio returned to Rocklahoma for their fourth consecutive year, and lit up the Retrospect/Jagermeister stage with the power and confidence of a band on the rise. Blasting out of the blocks with anthems "Here Today" and "Tell Me", the Aussies barely put a foot wrong, with incredibly tight playing showcasing some top notch songwriting. Singer/bassist Ryan Rafferty has never sounded better live while drummer Cam Barrett and guitarist Leon Todd delivered a showcase in precise musicianship. Debut single "Foot to the Floor" was sadly amiss from the set; however new single "Rewind Your Mind" and closer "All I Want" more than made up for it.

 

 

WE ARE HARLOT

I admit I was cynical about the Danny Worsnop fronted band before seeing them play, half expecting them to be all swagger and no bite. Thankfully I was proven wrong as the band ripped through a set of songs that wouldn't have been out of place on an early 90's Lynch Mob or Extreme album; funky rhythm section work coupled with some expressive and flamboyant guitar playing. Worsnop is a commanding front man who seemed perfectly at home in his new band; honestly it's refreshing to see a modern front man who isn't ashamed to be a real rockstar. Definitely a band I'll be checking out on record.

 

 

BUTCHER BABIES

Butcher Babies are a divisive band among metal fans, and their performance did little to change that; quite frankly, it didn't seem like they cared to change it at all, and kudos to them for playing to please only their fans. Whatever your opinion, the band really is a fantastic live act; solid playing and a sustained energy throughout the set whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and the spectacle of two stunning girls in leather in the middle of an Oklahoma field up front drew a massive crowd. An entertaining and fun show for all.

 

 

APOCALYPTICA

Surely one of the most anticipated performances was by Cello wielding Finnish superstars Apocalyptica; seemingly every person I spoke to at the festival name dropped them. Quite simply, I'd never imagine a crowd moshing and bouncing to cellists, but Apocalyptica delivered just that. All the cliche metal moves were somehow reborn a new in this format, with their cover of Inquisition Symphony by Sepultura a highlight in an action packed set.

 


 

SLAYER

Slayer have managed to overcome changing musical trends and personal tragedies to cement their place as a truly elite musical act, and tonight's performance highlights exactly why they command so much respect. While their set was interrupted and ultimately cut short by inclement weather, Tom Araya and co. hardly seemed phased. Closing with the unholy triumvirate of Raining Blood, South of Heaven and Angel of Death, Slayer could do no wrong tonight and brought the crowd to their knees. New guitarist Gary Holt was a standout, effortlessly riffing and soloing as though he's been in the band for decades.

 

SATURDAY

 

BLACK TORA

Rocklahoma veterans Black Tora always deliver the goods on memorial day, and this year was no exception. Seemingly more relaxed and laid back than in previous years, the south Texas trio tore through a set of finely crafted classic heavy metal that blew the crowd away. The standard of playing and singing in this band is leagues beyond what you can imagine; why they're not signed and touring the world is a real injustice because they're simply amazing.

 

 

CROBOT

As bleak weather approached, Pennsylvanian four piece Crobot fired up the Hard Rock stage with a set drawn from debut album "Something Supernatural". Riff heavy openers "The Legend of the Spaceborn Killer" and "Skull of Geronimo" had the crowd moving from the get go; singer Brandon Yeagley gyrated and swaggered around the stage like the love child of a young Robert Plant and Mick Jagger while guitarist Chris Bishop threw shapes, spun his guitar around his neck and jumped around the stage with reckless abandon. Put simply, Crobot channeled the spirit of the seventies hard and dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern festival era with ease.

 

 

THE PRETTY RECKLESS

The Taylor Momsen fronted band drew a big crowd on the main stage but managed to put in a rather lacklustre, by numbers performance. Break out single "Make Me Wanna Die" was a stand out in an otherwise unremarkable set.

 

 

HALESTORM

I was lucky enough to be seeing Halestorm for the second time at Rocklahoma, the first being under the scorching Pryor sunshine in 2015. While that performance left me slightly underwhelmed, today couldn't have been more different. Halestorm sounded and played like a band on top of the world. From Lizzy's soaring vocals to drummer Arejay (who literally was jumping off his drumstool), every member of the band brought their A-game. The final 4 songs (I Get Off, I Like it Heavy, Apocalyptic and I Miss the Misery) were a clinic in how to write and perform arena rock; well worth braving the rain and the mud for!

 

Unfortunately the impending deluge and thunderstorms meant that headliners Linkin Park, as well as Volbeat and Scott Weiland, had to cancel their performances. The grounds were evacuated and everyone prayed for better weather on Sunday.

SUNDAY

 

MACH 22

Kicking off the proceedings on the Retrospect/Jagermeister stage on Sunday were up and coming Philadelphia quartet Mach 22. Fronted by the charismatic and soulful Lamont Caldwell, the four piece tore into a selection of songs from new album "Like My Chances" as well as a cover of the AC/DC anthem "Whole Lotta Rosie". Big hooks, a pumping rhythm section and tasty guitar work from Sebastian LaBar (son of Cinderella guitarist Jeff) were the order of the day. Mach 22 combine the attitude of Appetite era Guns'n'Roses with a distinctly East Coast snarl that stood in stark contrast to a lot of the other acts on the festival.

 

BABYJANE

Western Australian rockers Babyjane turned a lot of heads and made a swathe of new fans with their debut Rocklahoma performance. Material lifted from the bands Michael Wagener produced debut "Are You Listening" and follow up "Make It Sick" struck a nerve with the muddy masses, with frontman Andy Smith's gritty vocals and massive range the highlight. Top notch songwriting made the WA boys stand apart and they delivered a pure, high class and mature performance in challenging conditions.

 

ISLANDER

One of the more unique sounding acts this weekend were newcomers Islander; fusing Nu-Metal riffing, reggae rhythms and arena sized hooks without sounding dated or ironic. Despite slipping and falling early in the bands set, frontman Mikey Carvajal didn't miss a beat and conquered the elements ina ferocious set. If you think Nu-Metal is a dirty word, Islander will change that for you.

 

 

QUEENSRYCHE

I was (un)lucky enough to witness the shambolic Queensryche show at Rocklahoma in 2012, which eventually lead to Geoff Tate's exit from the band. Seemingly spurred on by this, the reinvigorated Queensryche played like a band on a mission to dispel the haters and claim back their legacy. Their performance was, quite simply, flawless. New frontman Todd La Torre reminded all the fans why Queensryche's first five albums were so unique and special, his vocals equal parts soaring and sensitive. Watching the band members smile and interact with the crowd, clearly comfortable in their own skin, while pounding out classics "Eyes of A Stranger", "Jet City Woman" and "Queen of the Reich" was a special experience. Queensryche stole the show and were the band of the festival.

 

DELLACOMA

Ex-Sunset Riot vocalist Dellacoma Rio has assembled a really solid and honest rock and roll band, currently riding high after lengthy American and Australian tours. For a band that's been together for a little over a year, the guys played like seasoned veterans; "Bloodsucker" and "My Kinda Woman" sway and swagger in all the right ways. Frontman Del is a maniac, running around the grounds during instrumental sections and diving face first into the mud; if you can't beat the elements, then join them!

 

 

WINERY DOGS

There's not much to say about the Kotzen/Sheehan/Portnoy trio that hasn't already been said before, but their performance on the main stage at Rocklahoma was a highlight of the weekend. The songs, the playing and the singing were all flawless (as expected) but what struck me the most was the way the band was able to capture such an intimate vibe on such a huge stage, drawing in an audience who were used to being blasted by drop tuned riffing and patriotic banter and pulling them through emotional highs and lows and musical dynamics. Mike Portnoy smashing his drums at the end of the set was gloriously rock'n'roll too!

 

Stop! Stop!

The surprise packet of this year's festival was Spanish three piece Stop! Stop! Like some ungodly combination of KISS, Alice Cooper and a Vegas showband, the Spaniards put on an incredibly entertaining show with synchronised jumps, massive afro's and super catchy rock anthems. "Toilet Party" and "Spanish Woman" were standouts, as was their epic medley of CCR, Kiss and Dio songs. If you think rock music has become too serious, check out Stop! Stop! for a riotous show!

 

BREAKING BENJAMIN

Headliners Breaking Benjamin proved why they deserve to be top of the bill, bringing out a set jam packed with fan favourites and killer cuts off their new album. While they may look like a bunch of extra's from a HBO family drama, the band sounded every bit as polished live as they do on record. Closing with the obligatory "Diary of Jane" was an absolutely glorious overload of modern radio rock.

 

 

TESLA

Tesla may safely slot into the "heritage act" category, but they certainly didn't rest on their laurels to close out the festival. Jeff Keith's voice may have lost some of it's power and he may look like a wax sculpture, but he still performs like a rowdy 21 year old. Brian Wheat's bass was thunderous and Frank Hannon's guitar playing was pure class; why he's not mentioned in the same breath as Slash, George Lynch and Nuno Bettencourt really is beyond me. Opening with MP3 and Edison's Medicine set the stage while Hang Tough was an early highlight. Punching through classics like "Mam's Fool" and "Heaven's Trail" lead up to the classic cover of "Signs"; if you closed your eyes you'd swear it was the early 90's again. "Modern Day Cowboy" had the crowd salivating for more before a second encore of "Little Suzi" ended proceedings on a high note. There may be bigger bands, there may be heavier bands, but no one really does it quite like Tesla.


 

While the weather was often awful, the experience at Rocklahoma this year was really fantastic. Amazing sets by bands big and small and a real sense of community prevailed in what is a really unique festival. Until next year!

 

 

by Leslie Phillips and the Rockpit

photos by Elspeth Erickson

 


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