By: Addie Hayes, Editor/Lead Writer, Regional Music Journal
Photos Courtesy Steve Thrasher Photography
Every year tens of thousands of music fans, along with almost 100 bands descend on Pryor Oklahoma over Memorial Day Weekend. Rocklahoma has become one of the premier summer music festivals in the United States, and people travel from all across the country to attend what has been tagged the biggest Memorial Day Weekend party.
Rocklahoma is a rite of passage for some people. 2018 was the festival’s twelfth year and fans continue to arrive in droves year after year. As time goes by, more children appear at the festival along with their parents; the tradition is being passed down from generation to generation. It is not uncommon to see three generations of a family attend Rocklahoma.
Strong bonds have been formed at the festival; rock solid friendships are forged over a mutual love of music and in some instances partying, while some people find the love of their life. This year Rocklahoma saw its first wedding. The campground is its own unique experience. The Rocklahoma community is dedicated to the festival; several people setup camps within the campgrounds and have annual events and parties where people can mingle and meet new friends. For many, the festival is their yearly vacation.
Rocklahoma is a very unique festival compared to it’s counterparts throughout the United States. The campgrounds are massive and stages pop up throughout the weekend and mainly host local and regional bands with a few acts from outside of the region making an appearance. While the stages are not sanctioned by Rocklahoma, the promoters do not forbid their presence.
There is one campground stage that is officially recognized and promoted by Rocklahoma, the Axis Entertainment Campground stage. Axis Entertainment hosts the Thursday night Pre-Party, and schedules performances to compliment festival hours. Bands kick off at noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and wrap up by three o’clock when the festival grounds open. After the evening headliner finishes, the Axis stage starts back up shortly before midnight, wrapping up around two in the morning. Axis Entertainment assembles a stellar lineup of local, regional and national bands, some of which eventually work their way up to performing on stages within the festival grounds.
Rocklahoma 2018 officially begins on Friday afternoon; however, the annual Thursday night pre-party offers campers an early glimpse at the weekend’s entertainment. The 2018 pre-party was kicked off with a performance by Tulsa band Wither and continued throughout the night with bands like Honor Amongst Thieves from Las Vegas, New York City band Ryder, local favorite Weston Horn & The Hush from Tulsa, One Step From Falling from Syracuse, New York, Omaha band Save the Hero, and the evening wrapped up with two Dallas bands, As Above So Below and Dark Avenue. Fans who arrive to the campgrounds early, crowd the Axis Entertainment tent to see these bands perform and start the weekend off with some great music.
On Friday, the official start of Rocklahoma 2018, the gates opened and the festival started with Oklahoma City band Everybody Panic taking the River Spirit Casino Stage. Throughout the day bands such as Andrew W.K., SOiL, Red Sun Rising, and The Used entertained fans from the River Spirit Stage. The D&B Processing stage was the second side stage at the festival, and on Friday fans saw performances by bands like Joyous Wolf, Cimino, Chaotic Resemblance, and The Midnight Devils.
Bud Light sponsors the main stage in the festival grounds and fans always look forward to the performances from up and coming artists, current chart topping rock bands and seasoned musicians. On Friday, the main stage opened with Trivium, followed by crowd favorite Sevendust, who always puts on a great show. Following Sevendust’s performance, Eddie Trunk took to the stage to announce the winner of the Miss Rocklahoma contest. Each year fans vote for their favorite lady of rock to become the reigning Miss Rocklahoma. 2018 saw Kim Jones, from Bartlesville Oklahoma, crowned as Miss Rocklahoma. After the ceremony, the music continued with I Prevail, followed by Stone Temple Pilots.
Oklahoma weather is often unpredictable in May and in 2017, the festival organizers had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Saturday night performances to insure the safety of artists, staff and festival goers alike. Iconic rock band The Cult was slated to perform that evening and many people were disappointed to miss their set. However, promoters we able to book the band to return and perform in 2018, and fans were excited to see The Cult take the stage. The Friday night headliner was one fans were looking forward to seeing. A Perfect Circle took the stage and ignited the crowd. The band’s ethereal and mesmerizing music was accompanied by a fantastic light show. Friday night ended with a strong performance by A Perfect Circle, who set the bar high for the bands to follow throughout the weekend.
Friday Night Headliner A Perfect Circle at Rocklahoma 2018 – Photos Courtesy Steve Thrasher Photography
After the main stage closed out for the night, the Axis Entertainment stage started up again. Los Angeles band KillSET had a standout performance and won over fans with their set. The audience was captivated by their performance and crowded into the tent to see the charismatic band tear through their set and re-energize the crowd. The night closed out with Silent Theory and Dead Horse Trauma.
Saturday started with Pryor Oklahoma’s own Stanley’s Revenge taking to the Axis Entertainment Stage. The band did their hometown proud with a strong set and got fans geared up for the rest of the day. They were followed by Saint Monroe, Duel and Renegades.
From Left to Right: Like A Storm, Butcher Babies, SOiL and Powerman 5000 Performing on the River Spirit Casino Stage at Rocklahoma 2018 – Photos Courtesy Jazmin Monet Photography
Once the festival grounds opened, Wayland took to the River Spirit Casino Stage. They were followed by Like A Storm, Powerman 5000 and Rocklahoma favorite Butcher Babies, who always puts on a great show. Like The Cult, Diamond Head also returned after their performance was cancelled in 2017 due to bad weather. They had a powerful set; Underoath wrapped up the performances on the River Spirit Casino Stage.
The D&B Processing Stage was opened by Rocklahoma veterans T.R.O.Y., who was followed by Wild Planes. LA Velvet took the stage and captivated the crowd with their infectious rock music. Black Tora, War of Thrones, and Dead Girls Academy also performed on the D&B Processing Stage throughout the second day of the festival.
Ghost Performing on the Bud Light Main Stage at Rocklahoma 2018 – Photos Courtesy Shane Loudon Photography
Up and coming band Shaman’s Harvest opened the main stage on Saturday. They were followed by Pop Evil and a much anticipated performance from Clutch. In the early evening, Vince Neil took the stage with his band and didn’t disappoint fans eager to see the Motley Crüe frontman. Swedish phenom Ghost took the stage as direct support for the Saturday night headliner and their elaborate stage set was fascinating. Ghost is a band that thrives on stage during the live performance. The ever changing persona of their frontman from Papa Emeritus, to Papa Emeritus II, Papa Emeritus III and most recently Cardinal Copia, helps the band keep their live shows fresh and entertaining. Music fans seem to have a variety of opinions about the band. They are either loved or hated depending on who you ask; but there is no doubt they know how to entertain a crowd, and with a Grammy under their belt, along with performances at several festivals and arena tours, Ghost obviously has more supporters than detractors.
The main stage headliner for Saturday night was Godsmack. The band always puts on an amazing live show. Godsmack is celebrating their 20th anniversary with their seventh studio album, When Legends Rise, released on April 27, 2018. The album has already yielded a hit single “Bulletproof”; the song was number one on the Billboard Main Stream Rock Chart for four consecutive weeks as of June 25, 2018. The band performed the new song along with their multitude of hits from the past twenty years and a fantastic cover of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”. Godsmack is a band completely at home on stage and their live show never disappoints.
Following Godsmack’s performance, the Axis Entertainment Stage wrapped up the night with performances by The Maension, Maplerun and Hallow Point.
By Sunday, the Oklahoma heat had drained many festival attendees but that was not going to slow them down as they prepared to enjoy the final day of Rocklahoma. The band Bringer opened the Axis Entertainment Stage and was followed by Jenny Wood, Oddfellas and The Grizzly Band. Each year Tulsa rock radio station 97.5 KMOD hosts a battle of the bands called Rocklahoma Madness. Local bands compete for a chance to perform on the River Spirit Casino Stage. When the festival grounds opened on Sunday, the 2018 winner of Rocklahoma Madness, Tulsa band Basses Loaded, took the stage. They were followed by bands like Nonpoint, Lynch Mob and Adelita’s Way to name a few.
From Left to Right: Candlebox, Tom Keifer and Halestorm Performing at Rocklahoma 2018 – Photos Courtesy Shane Loudon Photography
The D&B Processing stage saw performances from bands including A Brilliant Lie, Coda Cutlass, Maxx Explosion and Davey Suicide, along with others. Metal band 10 Years opened the Bud Light Main Stage on Sunday and was followed by 90s legend Candlebox. Former Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer took the stage and was briefly joined by Halestorm singer Lzzy Hale. After Tom Keifer wrapped up his set, it was time for Lzzy Hale and her band Halestorm, who has performed at Rocklahoma several times and always proves to be a crowd favorite. Lzzy Hale is a captivating performer and she knows how to work a crowd.
One of the most anticipated performances at Rocklahoma 2018 was Cheap Trick. The band is rock royalty, having been inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. They performed several classics like, “Surrender”, “I Want You To Want Me”, “Dream Police”, “Ain’t That a Shame” and “The Flame”. Fans young and old alike sang along to the hits, proving just how much music can transcend generations. When the band performed “Surrender” they brought out members from Halestorm, Lynch Mob and Tom Keifer to sing along.
From Left to Right: Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander & Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick and Bret Michaels, Rikki Rockett & C.C. DeVille of Poison Performing at Rocklahoma 2018 – Photos Courtesy Shane Loudon Photography
Poison closed out the main stage for Rocklahoma 2018 and fans enjoyed every minute of their show. All four original members came together to perform, which made the set much more enjoyable for fans. The band performed classic songs like “Every Rose Has its Thorns”, “Nothin’ But A Good Time”, “Something to Believe In”, “Talk Dirty To Me” and more. Music fans always enjoy the classics and Poison was the perfect band to close out Rocklahoma 2018.
Every year the promoters at AEG Live work tirelessly to put together the massive festival that is Rocklahoma. Fans start making plans for the next year as soon as they get home from the festival. Many renew their tickets before the lineup is announced, which is a testament to how much Rocklahoma has grown and become a part of people’s lives. Music and friendship brings tens of thousands of people to the small town of Pryor Oklahoma every year. Rocklahoma shows no signs of slowing down and music fans look forward to future festivals where they can see some of their favorite bands, experience new talent and party with good friends.
© Copyright 2018 Regional Music Journal