It's that time of year again. Believe it or not, Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which signals the unofficial arrival of summer. With it comes the old tradition of disappearing to the lake and jumpstarting the season. Over the past few years, however, a new tradition has taken shape as Rocklahoma has transformed into one of the biggest hard rock festivals of the summer.
Although it may have started out as a hair metal festival in 2007, the event started its transformation three years ago as Live Nation and AEG Live got involved, bringing in a wave of modern hard rockers. Just a cursory look at this year's heavy hitters tells the story: Guns 'n' Roses, Alice In Chains and Korn headline consecutive nights with acts ranging from Bush and Papa Roach to Bullet For My Valentine and Cheap Trick providing support -- and that's just on the main stage.
Rocklahoma boast three stages, with rising stars or second-tier acts on the Hard Rock stage and developing or regional acts that have started to create a buzz of their own on the Retrospect Records stage. With 15 bands playing the main stage and 58 bands total on the three stages combined over the course of three nights, there's a little bit of everything for modern and hard rock fans this year.
As a result, Rocklahoma has become a premier hard rock event on the festival calendar, arguably in the ranks with Sturgis and Rockfest in Cadott, Wis.
So what have rock fans in Oklahoma (and visitors from surrounding states) got to look forward to this year? How 'bout a quick roundup:
On Friday, May 24, Rocklahoma kicks off with an interesting blend of old and new by opening with All That Remains, Ratt, Papa Roach, Bush and a long-awaited appearance by the modern-era Guns 'N' Roses. Meanwhile, the Hard Rock Stage boasts local act Zero Crossing opening the afternoon, followed by Otherwise, The Sword, Escape the Fate, Clutch and Device (featuring Dave Draiman, formerly of Disturbed).
Saturday's lineup (May 25) includes buzz bands Big Wreck and Halestorm before Skillet and Bullet For My Valentine lead into Alice in Chains. Second stage acts include We As Human, Young Guns, Asking Alexandria and Mindset Evolution amongst the night's highlights.
Finally, Sunday wraps up with Dokken, Steel Panther and Hollywood Undead channeling a bit of that old '80s hair metal vibe before giving way to the classic rock of Cheap Trick and a headline blowout by Korn. Red Line Chemistry and Thousand Foot Krutch make early evening appearances on the Hard Rock Stage to balance the night out with some modern rock while Tulsa hard rock act Firstryke makes its splash on the Retrospect Stage along with Alabama act Lyman.
Of course, that's just the highlights on the bigger stages. If you follow local music, you know our own bands get to mix it up with regional acts on the Axis Campground Stage, run and organized by Tulsa based Axis Entertainment. Axis kicks things off early with the official Rocklahoma pre-party as the campgrounds open up Thursday evening for incoming festival attendees.
The pre-party is stacked with locals, as Triple Se7en kicks thing off at 6pm, followed by Bruce Flea, Searching For Sanity, Sleepwaking Home, Motortrain, Baron Von Swagger, Rocker Lips, Drek and Kingshifter, playing hourly sets until it all quiets down at 3am.
The party restarts at noon with Roots of Thought, Chicago's Wanton Looks and Kick Tree leading the charge before the Hard Rock and Retrospect stages kick off at 3:15pm. After the big guns, the campgrounds fire up again at midnight on Friday with Shotgun Rebels, The Kul and Memory of a Melody keeping the party going until 3am again.
Saturday shines a light on regional and underground touring bands as Strikes at One, Well Hung Heart, and Vilifi kick the day off at noon. Once the midnight hour strikes, Axis pulls out its big guns with Echofuzz, The Chimpz, and Mine Enemies Fall wrapping up the night.
Finally, New Day Dawn, Unwritten Rulz, Framing the Red, and Meganaut open Sunday's festivities for a long day of rock. Once Korn wraps up the Main Stage at midnight, the after-parties begin with American Fangs on the Hard Rock Stage and Rhyme, Nasty Habit, and Glitter Boys putting on a show on the Retrospect Stage. Real Oklahoma rock fans, however, will take the party back to the fairgrounds where Tulsa's busiest rock band at the moment, The Bourgeois, teams up with Caroline's Spine to blow the night out right.
A full schedule of bands, stages and set times can be found online at Rocklahoma.com, so you can plan out your weekend in advance or pick your night if you can't commit to an entire weekend. Full weekend passes are still available for $185 for general admission or $400 with VIP reserved seating. And if you're on a budget, you can still get single day tickets for $79. Whatever the case, Rocklahoma is has become THE party for Northeast Oklahomans (and rock fans from the Southwest) to kick off the summer with a Memorial Day weekend getaway that you can't get anywhere else.
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Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, but that doesn't mean everyone is out of town at the lake or throwing down at Rocklahoma. Even if you don't go out of town, you'll have plenty of opportunity to get your music fix this weekend. As always, you can reference the events calendar for full listings, but here are the highlights to get you through the week.
Thursday, May 23
Country fans will flock to Cain's as Thompson Square headlines the ballroom and '80s pop fans will land at The Joint for the return of Hall & Oates. Meanwhile, those warming up Rocklahoma (or wanting a taste without the drive) can get their fix with Axis' Road to Rok (night #1) with The Bourgeois, The Kul and Roots of Thought at Vanguard while Echofuzz and Memory of a Melody play Hunt Club.
Friday, May 24
Axis Road to Rok continues at Vanguard with Baron Von Swagger, Meganaut and Sleepwalking Home. Meanwhile, Steve Pryor rocks The Yeti, Brandon Clark Band is at Hunt Club and Mercury Lounge welcomes Tyler Gregory to start the weekend.
Saturday, May 25
Axis Road To Rock wraps up at The Vanguard with Searching For Sanity, Shotgun Rebels and Unwritten Rulz and a hard rock fix. Hunt Club pulls a different vibe with New Dawn Day and Fiddlebacks and The Yeti goes Hip Hop as Alan Doyle opens for Von Roaden.
Tulsa Music Festival takes over Guthrie Green for the day as well with Admiral Twin, Briana Wright, David Castro Band, Tulsa Rock Quartet, Cold Case, Back Kat Benders, Blazer Band and Pop Machine filling the day with family friendly rock.
Sunday, May 26
Your best bet is to spend your afternoon relaxing at Guthrie Green with Green Corn Rebellion, Rob Bishline and Big Shiny Brass Quintet.
Monday, May 27
Dierks Bentley returns to The Joint for a very special headline show with proceeds going to the Folds of Honor Foundation, which funds scholarships for veterans and veterans' children. As of press time, a limited number of tickets were still available for $50 each.
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