Being the first one in the pilot seat this trip, I was determined to get us as far into the trip as I could before I got too tired. You could say I got us pretty far…all the way to the Illinois..Iowa border as a matter of fact….it's just too bad that we weren't supposed to go that way. Oops. After a little backtracking and regrouping, we were set right and on the road to Rocklahoma once again.
If my memory serves me correctly, after a couple of fruitless trips to a few Radio Shacks, and one stop at a Taco Bell where they swear they've seen us before (but had never been too), we pulled up to the festival grounds around 2:30 PM. They gave us our camping passes at the gate and sent us on the way to where we were going to live for the next few days. We were very excited to see that not only did we have very spacious accommodations, but a wonderful shade-giving tree gracing our campground. The tree provided us with some much needed shade, as the sun felt no less than 135 degrees.
We were excited to be camped near our friends from Pownd, which was awesome, but we made a few new friends too. While Lothar and Johnny V. headed out to grab our oh-so-powerful "backstage" passes, Jamie, Internet Radio Phenomenon Tom Wylde, and I introduced ourselves to the neighbors across the way, from Asphalt Valentine. Great bunch of guys from Atlanta, who knew how to drink AND play bocce…which surprised the cannoli outta me…BING! Later, while Jamie and I went on a beer run (priorities children…priorities), the remainder of our camp came across a few more blokes from across the pond that call themselves The Jakals (Not to be confused with Jackyl…..seriously, they're WAY better than Jackyl.)
With booze secured, and our little Rock N Roll neighborhood finally established, we all trekked out, with fliers in hand, toward the stages. We hopped on the "Party Bus" and hit EVERYONE we could find with the fact that we would be playing Sunday night on the TriLabel stage. Everybody was really friendly and really receptive. Things were looking good.
Once we walked onto the grounds, it was truly a site to behold. I managed to snap a decent pic of both the main stage and the TriLabel stage, which are posted below:
We approached the south stage to find a few more friends of ours setting up to play. Lance King (Owner – Nightmare Records, and Singer – Krucible/Avian/etc.) was onstage with Christian "SavaDude" Wentz. Krucible was set to perform as soon as Extreme was done on the main stage (which seemed like something that would never happen), and Christian was taking care of some tech stuff for them…can't you tell?
Finally, after a 72 minute version of More Than Words, Krucible got their chance to light up the south stage…and light they did. Unfortunately due to the ramblings of Gary "Why Is He Not Retired?" Cherone, Krucible only got to jam for about 20-25 minutes, but that was OK. Lance's voice and Don LaFon's guitar soared across the festival grounds with ease, for all to enjoy. They had a great crowd, and a great show that set the bar for the South stage that we were happy to attempt to beat ;)
By this time, it was already pretty late, and we were running out of headliners, so we positioned ourselves as far front and center to the main stage as our passes would allow (which wasn't very front, nor center…discuss!!) and decided to relax and enjoy a little Triumph (the band that is…although, surviving the storm and the heat so far was a victory in and of itself). Most critics you read will tell you that Triumph played a little tired and loose…showing their age. Well, I'm no critic, and I had a blast. It's pretty cool to hear Lay it on the Line and Magic Power live for the first time…no matter if it's the 10 Billionth time that they've played it together.
Before they finished their encore, we beat the rush out of the fairgrounds, back to the campgrounds and settled in for some D & D (No, not Dungeons and Dragons…Drinking and Dumbassery!!!.) Between Christian's stellar guitar playing (offer's still there!!), and Brent's Beer-Soaked, Rock N Roll Wisdom, we ended the night well, with a whole new day of working and rocking still ahead of us before we even play.
Saturday woke with a nasty sweat…it was even hotter than the day before (which I thought was impossible) and it became apparent that not only would it be pointless to shower…but the lines were too long, we'd never get in. So, we resigned ourselves to sweat, reek, and glisten of Coppertone Sport for the entirety of this day….it's like our own private Woodstock, without the drugs…..right…..anyway. No, seriously we headed over the fest grounds early that day to start the "Gears of the Machine" turning (sorry….sorry…..I keep doing that) and get people excited about our show on Sunday. We had a pretty simple agenda for the morning..early afternoon. Eat, promote, watch some live music, and drink water (I'm serious about this heat thing…it was brutal…someone died….not kidding.) On that front, most things went according to plan. After some confusion with the V.I.P. buffet, we sat down for a little carnival breakfast while we listened to Fidget. These punk princesses from Toronto kicked about as much ass as you can for a hung-over crowd at 11:30 AM…they put on a great show…plus it was nice to see another Canadian band there, since Warmachine had to cancel. After that, we got to see Order of Nine perform (always a great show), and The Jakals all on the TriLabel stage, which was awesome. Once The Jakals were finished, we headed back to camp to regroup.
We got back to camp around 5:00 PM. Some people changed clothes, some people made phone calls, others tried to just relax. We were anticipating rain, so we packed up all the perishable stuff in the van and tried to secure the tents as best we could. Before 6:00 even hit, the drops came. At this point, you gotta understand, that we were all still in a fairly lighthearted mood. I shut myself in one of the tents, lit a smoke, and just tried to enjoy the sound of the rain. Lothar and Jamie decided to use Mother Nature to get that shower that they couldn't get their hands on earlier. (Seriously.) Eventually Tom Wylde joined me in the smoking tent, and we were set to wait this thing out. Then, out of nowhere, the winds picked up. Later we found out that we were facing 60-70 MPH winds. All I knew was that if we stayed in this tent any longer, we might actually blow away in it…or more likely get beaned by some other flying debris…so Tom and I made a beeline for the van. Brad, the trooper that he is, noticed that I left the tent open, so he went out to close it…but it was too late. Both sleeping bags and all the other shit in that tent were soaked. We were just praying that our stuff didn't blow away.
There we were, 6 grown men, stuck in a van, in the middle of the worst storm of the summer, absolutely helpless, just praying that what was going on outside wasn't so bad that it would ruin why we came here…..well, if anyone's read any news since last Saturday you'd know…it was. Jamie waited until the winds died down and ran out to the festival grounds (knowing that if we waited too long, we would probably lose admittance for security reasons) only to see the unimaginable. When he returned to the campsite, he was visibly shaken up, and as white as a ghost. "Both side stages are down"
I really didn't hear anything after that.
Tales of broken arms, panicked merch-booth employees, gear left behind, collapsed speaker arrays, and colliding super cells were being thrown around, but in truth, it all fell on deaf ears. I think we were all stunned. It was Johnny V. (ever the practical one of the bunch) who stated so simply, "This thing is done." We all had to content with that reality. All of the hours we drove, all of the contacts we made, all of the preparation back home….all, possibly for nothing. It was, to say the least, heartbreaking.
As we tore down our flooded camp, Tom rode ahead with driver Jack (the coolest driver in the whole camp…by the way) and tried to find Lance, or anyone with news. Turns out, that would be the last time we spent in our new home. We loaded the trailer and headed out, off the grounds. I don't know about everybody else, but I absolutely had to leave. Just to think about what we just went through was too much. I needed to escape. We drove off, hoping that Brad (who had left and was 20 minutes away in Locust Grove) would be able to wrangle a room for us. With our luck…even that wasn't looking good.
What happened next was incredible. We had heard some ramblings, but nobody believed them……sound!!! That's right. From way off in the distance, we heard music….coming from the main stage!! Less than 60 minutes after a storm that LEVELLED both side stages and the show was up and running. There was hope after all.
Ok, I'll stop trying to be dramatic and just lay facts on you for the rest of this unnecessarily long blog. We hit the Best Western in Locust Grove (thanks to Sharon!!) and ate everything but the tables at the Denny's across the parking lot, then turned in for the night. The final word that Tom had heard from Lance was that they were working on contingency plans to get the remaining bands (that didn't leave town that night) up to play the next day. We let Lance know, in no uncertain terms, that we weren't going anywhere and we were willing to play at any cost!!
Next morning came with the first good news we'd heard in at least 12 hours. They had erected three stages, in the festivals three huge beer tents that were across the field from the main stage. We were told that we were going to get to play, but we didn't know when so we had to get there as soon as possible. After checking out of the BW, we headed back to the grounds and set foot near the stages for the first time since the events of Saturday night.
This is what greeted us:
I can't even begin to describe how surreal it was to see that field without those side stages. They weren't tiny stages either, they were massive, intricate structures made of light, and sound, and metal, and energy….it must have taken a large crew many many hours to put those up. It took God about 3 minutes to tear them down.
Ok, one more apology for the melodrama…sorry. Now that we were there, and the stages were confirmed (thanks in LARGE part to the Texas Hippie Coalition, and Dennis!!!), we were back on track. Kicking things off on the NEW TriLabel Stage was Halcyon Way from Atlanta. A very tight, kick-ass, melodic prog band. I was definitely into them…especially since the bass player had the Schecter that I want!! We took the stage at 5:05, (after U.F.O. finished their set on the main stage) and destroyed that tent!!! The crowd was fired up and we were definitely feeding off that energy. Thanks goes out to all the die-hards that stuck around and said, "Fuck the Storm!!!" Oklahoma was ready to rock and it showed.
After our set, Jack took us on a "Victory Lap" around the grounds, which was undoubtedly cool (especially since we went back behind the main stage a few times..HA!). The rest of the night, honestly, flew by. It was mostly a blur, highlighted by a crazy bus ride, a few turkey wraps, many beers, a packed tent for the THC, and a rather awesome set by Queensryche. It was the virginal Mindcrime experience for both me and Mr. Wylde, so we were stoked.
At this point, I've officially run out of interesting things to say. We left the grounds after Queensryche, hit up the Best Western one last time, then hit the road to go home. We were all so spent (physically and emotionally) that we hardly spoke on the trip back. Hell, it took me 3 days just to work up the energy to write this little recap.
On that note, I'll stop now. I hope this was informative and somewhat entertaining, but if anything, I hope this might be just a little insight into how messed up things can get sometimes. The worst part was…there was nothing that any of us could have done to stop it. Silver lining: everybody made the best of it and we played anyway. As the Twisted Sister album title states, "You Can't Stop Rock and Roll"