POSTED ON MAY 25, 2011:
Weekend of Rock
Rocklahoma continues evolving as the state's biggest rock festival
When Rocklahoma first appeared five years ago, it grabbed plenty of attention, but the event was admittedly something of a curiosity.
Initially launched the first weekend of July 2007, it was the first time Pryor's Catch the Fever festival grounds had hosted a rock event and it did so by claiming its own niche. Instead of competing with modern rock festivals like Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, Rocklahoma claimed a different audience with a distinctly late '80s and hair metal vibe.
It was somewhat brilliant in that even the line up of bands wasn't your thing, it definitely stood out from the masses. The event even drew immediate attention from satellite radio and brought in syndicated metal host Eddie Trunk as a guest and broadcaster for XM Radio. There was only one problem with the plan: although the first (and even second) year put a new spin on the rock festival, the talent pool of bands was limited in its depth and options before the event started repeating itself. By the time the third installment rolled around, the dedicated fans were still excited, but the event was already starting to tap the same acts and the audience was already starting to wane.
In 2010, Rocklahoma got a facelift with a new partner and a new look. One of the leading concert promoters and event planners, AEG Live, stepped in and took the festival in a different direction last year, raising the event's profile and bringing it more up to date with a decidedly modern rock lineup and new date, moving the festival to Memorial Day weekend. The results were positive. Crowds grew and the event was fresh once again, but there was a slight backlash from fans who had grown to anticipate a chance to revisit their younger days and celebrate bands that no longer get the attention they once did.
This year, as the festival continues to evolve, AEG and Rocklahoma seem to have met in the middle with a happy medium that can satisfy both the original audience and a new and growing segment of modern rock fans. Over the course of three days, the festival draws a few of the biggest bands of the '80s, a few of the biggest bands of the past decade's modern rock movement and some of the hottest young up and coming bands. In turn, you can expect to see multiple generations of rock fans rocking out side by side this weekend at the festival grounds in Pryor, Oklahoma.
With four stages spread across the festival grounds, there's a little something for everyone as the event spreads the love around to local and regional acts on the Axis Campground Stage; hair metal and glam-rock -influenced bands on the Retrospect Records Stage; rising stars on the Hard Rock second stage and proven headliners on the Bud Light-sponsored Main Stage.
Although the Retrospect Stage will definitely draw its share of fans throughout the weekend, the truly interesting aspect will be seeing how the Main Stage and Hard Rock Stage draw and affect each other. You can expect a decidedly younger audience to park itself at the Hard Rock stage as headliners All That Remains, Cavo and Escape The Fate cap off the night's entertainment, but Sunday night's main attraction, Black Label Society, promises to draw nearly as many fans as the main stage headliner Mötley Crüe.
Friday night's lineup opens with a yet-to-be-announced KMOD Battle of the Bands winner at 4pm, followed by New Medicine and Texas Hippie Coalition before Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights and All That Remains wrap up the evening. Saturday begins with Electric Touch before bringing on Stillwater based Taddy Porter and cycling through Adelita's Way, Pop Evil, Cavo and perennial Rocklahoma favorite Gypsy Pistoleros. Finally, Sunday brings in One Less Reason, Art of Dying, Crooked X and Escape the Fate before Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society blow out the weekend with a furious set. Overall, it should prove to be an interesting snapshot of who's up and coming and an interesting barometer of what's predicted form modern rock and album-oriented radio in the next few years.
The main event is where things really get interesting, however. By opening on Friday night with current hot commodities My Darkest Days and Sick Puppies, the stage takes a decided modern rock approach leading into Skillet before OKC boys Hinder transition to one of the '80s biggest hard rock bands, Whitesnake, in one of the band's first stateside festival appearances in many years. Dave Coverdale and company remain huge overseas and in South America and arrive with a new album, Forevermore, in hand as the band wraps up a short US run with a stop at Rocklahoma.
Saturday's lineup keeps to the modern rock equation with newbies The Gracious Few leading into Rev Theory, Drowning Pool and Sebastian Bach before Staind takes over as headliner. The weekend then wraps up with another interesting hybrid as Saving Abel, Seether and Papa Roach kick things off on an alt-rock note before Poison and Motley Crue return Rocklahoma to its original party-rock roots.
In hindsight, headliners like Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe were exactly what the original Rocklahoma festivals needed to take the event to the next level. With the added firepower and buying power that AEG Live brings to the table, the festival can now pull it off, but a quick look at the economy and market says that a hybrid festival like we see this year is the smartest way to insure the loyal fans keep coming back while continuing to grow the festival and draw even more fans and revenue to Northeast Oklahoma.
By all indications, this should be a true turning point for Rocklahoma as it continues to grow and secure its spot in the summer festival landscape. By utilizing the festival grounds in Pryor, roughly an hour northeast of Tulsa, the event promises to not just tap Oklahoma audiences, but bring in fans from surrounding states to bring in a new revenue stream for the weekend, boosting not only Pryor's economy, but also affecting Tulsa's as well.
General admission three-day passes are still available for $169 plus service fees, while individual single-day tickets are available for $65 on Friday and Saturday or $75 for Sunday. The full roster of bands, scheduled times, directions and ticketing information are available online at rocklahoma.com.
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