ROCKLAHOMA 2009: DAY ONE
Catch The Fever started the Rocklahoma festival in 2007, and are proud to declare it the best 80’s rock and metal festival in the world. Held in Pryor, a forty minute drive outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, this four day festival attracts dozens of bands and crowds from around the country and around the world, all united together with a love for hard rock and metal music.
2009 saw Day One of the festival declared METAL DAY - and the lineup across the main stage and 3 side stages, plus the after-hours Garden Of Evil stage was bursting with fantastic Metal and Hard Rock bands.
At noon Wildstreet hit the Retro Stage, all spandex, hairspray and Def Leppard styled sounds. The New Yorkers put in a good set of slick, melodic hard rock – flashy but not just posing. I like these guys and buy the CD.
Leatherwolf are a great Hard Rock band with metal tendencies. They put on a truly scorching show that some say was easily the best of the day, but it’s a shame that so many turned up too late to catch them. Those that did catch them saw a very underrated band turn in a great performance that exceeded all expectations, much like the Armored Saint set that rekindled my love of that band last year - this year it’s Leatherwolf I’ll be cranking up.
A solo guitarist plays the Star Spangled Banner as an intro and to officially open the festival, then the full band hit the stage and the three axe attack takes over, tearing into my soul as lead singer/guitarist Mike Olivieri thanked the crowd for the opportunity to open “The greatest day in metal history in the United States”.
Derailed is a great song and features a furious three guitar assault in the blazing sun, Doctor Wicked is simply bone crunching, Gypsys & Thieves and Nowhere To Run are also standouts, and when they play one of their first singles Hideaway, the crowd is collectively in awe. An unexpectedly fantastic set.
We bumped into Mike, Leatherwolf’s singer/guitarist a couple of times over the next few days; he seemed to be enjoying himself and the feedback he got from the set. I really hope to hear some new Leatherwolf soon and if you get a chance these guys are well worth the ticket.
Mad Max played melodic European rock on the Strip Stage at 2pm, and was a revelation for me. I had only ever heard their first album which was okay, so I was there mainly to see legendary singer Michael Voss. The band put on an excellent show - definitely one to check out. It’s hard to believe that it can be so hard to track down releases by this great band.
Germany's Mad Max
Metal Church played their last ever show at Rocklahoma, and it was a spectacularly impressive way to go out. The sun was absolutely scorching by now, but the music kept everyone going, even the rockers on stage who bore the full brunt of the heat.
I wasn’t expecting much from them, not having listened to them for some years, but Hit You Like A Ton Of Bricks, Badlands and Gods Of Wrath came straight back to me and I was singing along like it was twenty years ago. When they closed with a VERY heavy cover of Deep Purple’s Highway Star, the crowd were pretty happy as they headed off to find shelter from the sun and water to help them cool down.
Bai Bang suffered equipment problems during their 4pm timeslot, much like last night at the Backyard Bar, but soldiered through admirably. Their arena sized choruses and anthemic tunes went down a treat and they won over the nearly full tent.
ANVIL were next to play on the main stage, and it must have been searingly hot for them clad head to toe in black. Lips ran onstage and down almost to the very front and proceeded to punish his flying V with a blistering instrumental intro, tearing off solo after solo. Then he took one step too far and his guitar lead pulled out, and running back to replug it, tripped on the concrete step and fell, luckily protecting his guitar from damage. It was an unfortunate accident for a band reknowned for bad luck, but he shook it off immediately and got back to playing like a true pro.
Lips taking a bite out of his V
During the rest of the set Lips never stopped interacting with the crowd, running back and forth along the front of the huge stage as if he owned it, safe in the knowledge that his rhythm section were backing him up perfectly. They’re obviously thrilled at the chance of bigger audiences following the crossover appeal and success of the Story of Anvil movie, and we can only hope they can continue to capitalise on the notoriety and get another album out soon to consolidate their position as metal gods.
Anvil headbanging through the heatwave
White Rhino featured an amazing drum solo from Rob Reiner – surely one of the most underated metal drummers in the business? He hit as heavy as a rhino, and it sounded like her had 8 arms, the pounding metal was so ferociously fast. The band finished an excellent set with Metal On Metal, the title track from their 1982 second album.
Rebel State are, shall we say, an unusual band: Swedish rednecks who musically sound like they are from the Southern States of the US. The music is, in all honesty, hit and miss - when it hits it’s so cool but when it misfires, especially in front of a sparse crowd it has you reaching for the bottle. I’d heard a lot of their stuff on Myspace and enjoyed it but today it didn’t really come together, coming across a little too “easy listening” when giving the songs a rawer, rockier edge live would have been far better.
Overkill were up next but the heat and ferocity of the previous bands had knocked the wind out of our sails, so we rested in the VIP during their tent. I did hear a few people praising their set afterwards, though.
Zeroking are a great new band and they had a hard time of it today. It’s a reasonably poor slot and the crowd is pretty thin on the ground but singer Andy Haught has different plans. He’s out in the crowd with his mike enticing us, then imploring us to join in. Even the reluctant do so, and it’s a testimony to the man and the work ethic of Zeroking. The songs themselves stand up well and those that were there witnessed a great set from a band that with the wind in the right direction could well be going places.
The Miss Rocklahoma finialists
Saxon are undisputed legends: the perennial British NWOBHM Band that never die (even though they did split in two). Biff used to live down the road from me when I was a boy and to be honest neither his hair nor the sound of Saxon has changed much over the years. That to me is a good thing, but it is twenty years since I last saw Saxon on stage on so I’m not certain what to expect!
What we get is the set of the day – these guys were the true headliners for me and just epitomise the British bands of the time: never truly fashionable, but always solid. Let’s face it - anyone who can get away with calling himself the ‘Barnsley Big-Teaser’ is either a genius or mad, but undeniably British either way!
Saxon rocked Rocklahoma old style
Newie Valley of the Kings sat well in the set with it’s Egyptian theme, and as Dallas 1pm and Wheels Of Steel led into main set closer Crusader, it was all over too fast, but masterfully played. An encore of early classics Denim & Leather and Princess of The Night pleased the faithful, and off they went, leaving the crowd screaming for more.
A triumphant Saxon take a bow
Denim & Leather
Beautiful Creatures - I can’t hide the fact that I’m a big Joe Leste fan so meeting him this year was cool. Beautiful Creatures should have been a contender; they have great songs and are a great live band, and tonight they get the biggest, most ready-to-rock side-stage crowd of the day today by far. We caught a glimpse of what to expect last year at the end of Bang Tango’s set when they slipped in a few BC songs but that was mid-afternoon and this is dark, dirty and sweaty under the canvas. It feels like a small LA club with the AC turned off and the heating turned up, and the fact the crowd are clearly enjoying themselves doesn’t cool things down at all. Their set has to be one of the Top three sets of this year’s ROK for me: '1AM' and 'Wasted' being particular highlights.
Anthrax hits the main stage running at 11pm with a daunting task ahead – how to follow Saxon, who totally won the crowd over with their Barnesly-storming set of classic old school metal. To add to the pressure, Anthrax have new singer Dan Nelson on board, who they are hoping will propel them back up the ranks and back into the big time again.
Some live material posted on You Tube wasn’t flattering to Nelson, so it was with great interest (and great tiredness and a touch of heat exhaustion as well as the slightest regret that we stayed out so late last night) that I settled in for their set.
The good news is that Dan Nelson is far better than expected, coming across like a cross between previous singers Joey Belladonna and John Bush, with a touch of added rawness to his voice. Accordingly, he had no problems singing songs from either era of the band’s history.
Scott Ian & Anthrax shred up some thrash to close Heavy Metal Day at Rocklahoma 09
Indians, Madhouse, Caught In A Mosh, Always Room For One More and A Safe Home showed the diversity and power of this influential band, and they almost played as good a set as Saxon. During the encore they sung Happy Birthday to bassist Frank Bello, and closed with a storming rendition of I Am The law and AC/DC cover Whole Lotta Rosie.
All text and photos by Mark & Shane, except DJ Will's