Believe it or not, the largest Memorial Day weekend party in the United States happens just North of Pryor, Oklahoma in a cow pasture that's been converted to festival grounds. Each year thousands of people flock from near and far to the Catch The Fever Festival Grounds in the name of "Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Rock"; 2013 was no different. A diverse lineup consisting of Korn, Alice in Chains, Guns N' Roses, Bush, Cheap Trick, Clutch, The Sword, Scorpion Child and more brought in a reported 50,000 people making this the biggest Rocklahoma to date.
I wrote that opening paragraph about a week ago. I have stared at it everyday since then struggling with what should come next. Worse than that, I spent weeks before that looking at a blank content field before deciding on that opening paragraph. Why the struggle and strife? One, I am no writer. Two, Rocklahoma was different this year. When it was all said and done, I was left with a "Grapes of Wrath" feeling; It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Finding a way to commit my thoughts and feelings of the weekend to the eternal tome of the internet in a coherent manner has become a greater burden than my feeble mind can bear. Then it hit me, just do a "Best Of Times" list and a "Worst of Times" list. That being said....
The Worst Of Times:
Traffic - The traffic this year was HORRIBLE. I haven't experienced traffic like that since the NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1998. Vehicles "nuts to butts" as far as the eye could see crawled at a snails pace for hours while baking in the Oklahoma heat, some to the point of breakdown. I am sure the reason for having Guns N' Roses headline Friday was an effort to increase three day attendance and boy howdy did it work. The down side was Friday is the day thousands of campers show up, thus creating a parking lot many miles long consisting of everything from smart cars to RV's, busses, trucks with trailers, etc. Add to that HWY 69 is a major route for semi's, traffic to Grand Lake and it's Memorial Day weekend for the rest of the world too and you get 18 wheelers, trailered boats and other personal watercraft exacerbating the problem. With the "How do we increase three day attendance" issue solved, hopefully the new traffic issue will be addressed for next year.
Diva Headliners - Do you know what time Guns N' Roses goes on? Yeah, 10:30 but do you know who doesn't care about that? Axl Effin' Rose, that's who! Seriously, can someone either buy this poon a watch or start lying to him about set times? Gun N' Roses were scheduled to go on at 10:30, at 10:40 I watched Axl Effin' Rose arrive with a police escort (he wasn't even in the county at the time he was supposed to go on). They finally hit the stage about 40 minutes late then Axl Effin' Rose proceeded to give the worst performance of Rocklahoma 2013. Now don't misinterpret that as the Guns N' Roses set was horrible! Axl Effin' Rose was horrible but his band is incredible. They would be even more amazing with a new front man.
Diverse lineup - You are going to see this in both lists. One thing I've always loved about Rocklahoma is the diverse lineup. I always manage to discover a couple new bands (Volbeat, The Darkness) but this year some of the diversity came across more like "filler". Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, Dokken, Cheap Trick, Asking Alexandria, etc; filler, diversity or am I just too old?
The Best Of Times:
Charity - I love that every year the organizers of Rocklahoma go out of their way to raise money for local charities and 2013 was no different. Rocklahoma's charity efforts have raised over $50,000 this year for tornado relief in the Oklahoma region. The festival also hosted a charity auction with autographed band memorabilia through June 14.
Diverse lineup - Told you this would make both lists. Rocklahoma 2013 had some really great artists (Alice In Chains, Korn, Clutch, The Sword, Scorpion Child, etc) and some diverse bands that I might not have discovered if they weren't on this bill (Steel Panther, The Chimpz, Bullet For My Valentine) This is how a festival is supposed to be. There should be artists you want to see, some you are curious about and some you never heard of.
Killer headliners - I had my doubts about the headliners but man was I wrong (except for the Gun N' Roses debacle). I don't know if it was the great sounding PA, the killer stage lights or that Axl Effin' Rose dramatically lowered the bar but both Alice In Chains and Korn gave performances that left me slack jawed in amazement. From what I could tell by looking at the reactions from the sea of humanity in attendance, I wasn't the only one.
Alice In Chains - Man, these guys. I have always been just a casual fan of Alice In Chains and I have never seen them live so I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect. The moment the stage erupted from silence and darkness with Them Bones, I was captivated and amazed. New songs blended seamlessly with old. Hit after hit performed perfectly. I could find no flaw with their performance. During the encore, fellow Okie Jerry Cantrell even brought his father "The Rooster" out to say hi before closing out the night with the song named after him. Such an amazing performance.
Korn - I really like Korn but have always found their live show lacking, kind of boring and more like a "Jonathan Davis Show" Their set at Rocklahoma 2013 was totally different. Korn delivered the best set I have ever seen them perform. It was very clear that Brian "Head" Welch returning has an impact. There was an energy and emotion level on that stage like I had never seen. I had my doubts that Korn could pull off the "Festival Headliner" slot. Not only did they prove me wrong, then rubbed my face in it.
Clutch, The Sword, Scorpion Child - Not much to write here. These three bands kill EVERY time. If you like rock music and haven't heard of these bands, you need to check them out NOW!
Steel Panther - Holy hell, where do I start? The 80's hair metal version of Spinal Tap. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. This band was one of my "discoveries" this year. Solid musicianship, great 80's hair metal songs, and a stage routine that has to be seen to be believed. WARNING, this an NC17 artist!
All in all, it was another awesome weekend for Rocklahoma. Were there some problems along the way? Yeah, but I am sure they will be addressed and next years event will be another party that you won't want to miss!
Photos from Rocklahoma 2013
All That Remains. To see the full gallery, click HERE!
The Sword. To see the full gallery, click HERE!
Clutch. To see the full gallery, click HERE!
Scorpion Child. To see the rest of the gallery, click HERE!
Cheap Trick. To see the rest of the gallery, click HERE!
Korn. To see the full gallery, click HERE!