Rocklahoma 2017 || Pryor, Oklahoma || 26-28 May 2017
Review by Mike Kennedy || Photos by Jason Squires
The month of May is known as the “World’s Loudest Month”, due to the number of large, full-scale open-air festivals that fill up the weekends of said month. One such festival is AEG’s Memorial Day Weekend blowout, Rocklahoma. Held in Pryor, Oklahoma, Rocklahoma brings together many of the most popular national, international, regional and local rock bands, and packs them in a 3-day weekend filled with “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Rock.” 70,000 strong, Rocklahoma caters to the music tastes of any rock, metal or hardcore fans. Starting on Friday night and continuing to Sunday evening, there are three stages inside the grounds and another stage in the campground area for up and coming regional bands. 2017’s version of Rocklahoma was billed to be a super blowout with headliners Def Leppard, Soundgarden and the Offspring. Support bands included Stone Sour, Suicidal Tendencies, Ratt, Slaughter, Starset, The Pretty Reckless, Jackyl, Wage War, In Flames, Norma Jean, Diamond Head, Fozzy, ded, Skillet and so many more. Holding a festival in Oklahoma in the middle of severe weather season, in an open air venue with only one permanent structure can either be great, horrible or a mix of both. In 2017, it was great (Friday), half great, half brutal (Saturday) and great (Sunday) Friday’s main stage bands featured Fuel, The Pretty Reckless, Slaughter, Skillet, Three Days Grace and Friday headliners Def Leppard. Second stage bands included Less Than Human, Goodbye June, Badflower, Fozzy, In Flames and Pierce The Veil.
Friday was a fantastic day as far as festivals go, as all the bands got to play their full sets with no surprises from Mother Nature or any man-made catastrophes. Main stage standouts included Skillet, Three Days Grace and the mighty Def Leppard. Cautiously optimistic about seeing the 60 plus DEF LEPS perform a 90 minute set, I was more than surprised with not only the song choices from DEF LEP, but also the energy and charisma provided to the fans by the boys from Sheffield, England UK. Playing classic deep cuts such as, “Let It Go” and “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak,” to fan favorites “Rock Of Ages,” “Hysteria,” “Photograph,” and “Love Bites.” From the opening chords of the first song thru the end of “Photograph” the LEPS were on point, on in time and played like they’ve been together for years, which we know they have. Rick Allen’s drum solo features video footage of his foot pedal setup, and Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell and Rick Savage’s timing was impeccable. Joe Elliott’s vocals were strong and powerful, and a lot more on point than one would expect. Def Leppard capped off what was a great Friday at Rocklahoma.
Saturday proposed to be the best day of all at Rocklahoma featuring such heavyweights as Soundgarden, Stone Sour, Zakk Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies, Diamond Head and many more. Two weeks before Rocklahoma, sadly Chris Cornell, frontman of Soundgarden, took his own life in Detroit, Michigan. Left without a headliner for Saturday, veteran rock band Live offered their services at such a short notice. Pleased to be headliners, Ed and the boys seemed to be honored to fill the spot vacated by the Soundgarden tragedy. Saturday, however, had a mind of her own. Starting out with beautiful weather, albeit a little overcast, turned into an end of May Oklahoma weather nightmare. What started out with such great promise came to an ABRUPT end as Zakk Wylde called in a thunderstorm of biblical proportions around 4:30 PM. Never being able to reopen the festival due to inclement weather bands who did not get to perform were Stone Sour, Live, The Cult, Suicidal Tendencies, as well as Dinosaur Pile Up, Ded, and Red Sun Rising. Out of all the bands we saw on Saturday, Starset was fantastic with a new album to promote, Fuel was acceptable, but most of the VIP crowd had decided to eat during their set. But the crowd returned in droves to see mighty Zakk Sabbath. Zakk was 30 minutes into his set, and punishing “Fairies Wear Boots” when the crowd was told to leave the festival grounds as the “small” storm passed. Noah himself would have been in awe of the purported small storm. Needless to say, everything was cancelled after Zakk Sabbath with no refunds to those who only had tickets for Saturday.
With the rain over, and bright blue skies Sunday was a great day at Rocklahoma with a small electrical issue postponing the show for about an hour, and turned into a HUGE rift for Shaun Morgan and Seether. Sunday’s mainstage bands included Black Stone Cherry, Buckcherry, Ratt, Jackyl, Seether, and headliners The Offspring. Towards the end of Buckcherry’s set, the entire festival lost power for about an hour, which pushed all the set times back as well. When Ratt opened their set after the power outage, they RIPPED thru the set as Stephen and the boys displayed what had made them a great hair band in the glory days of the genre. Cognizant of the rescheduled set times, Stephen Pearcy stated that, “He wished they’d had more time to spend with you, Rocklahoma.” Next to the main stage were self-titled Redneck rockers, Jackyl. Jesse James DuPree and the boys were in their element, as the Rocklahoma faithful ate out of his hands, dubbing Rocklahoma, “Jacklahoma” and sharing his “brown liquor” among “friends.” With no regard to the rescheduled set times, Jesse and Jackyl played their ENTIRE set. This did not sit well with the next band up, Seether, and especially frontman Shaun Morgan. After set change, the lights dimmed, and normally Shaun is a man of few words during a Seether show, he was very out of character by saying, “Night Two brought to you by the fuck Jackyl committee.” Not 30 seconds later, as they played the opening chords of “Gasoline,” Shaun screamed into the microphone, “JACKYL FUCKING SUCKS!” During EVERY break in the set, Shaun continue to rail on Jackyl by saying “It must suck to be in your 50’s and still playing the same old shitty music.” “You guys know,” referring to the fans, “I am from Africa? Yeah, and the ONLY things that fuck Jackyls are Hyenas, bitch!” Seether did have enough composure to play a blistering, although shortened set. Headliners, The Offspring, were just glad to finally play Rocklahoma. Providing us Offspring faithful with all the favorites and a few obscurities, their set was right on time. The one thing I did notice during The Offspring was the lack of need for multiple Marshall stacks and Hartke cabinets. Their unassuming Egnaters, and single 4 x 10 bass cab sounded PHENOMENAL, proving bigger is not always better.