Friday, July 17, 2009

Wakeboard National Championships, Rocklahoma and Thunder Caravan

I'm a little slow on the blog this week as everything I am written about happened last week. I had an exciting 4 days starting last Thursday as I went to check out the Wakeboard National Championships on Thursday, attended the Rocklahoma music festival on Friday and again on Sunday and I worked the Thunder caravan on Saturday. I have some fun little stories of Rocklahoma that I hope people will find enjoyable, even if you don't like the music.

Thursday afternoon I had a meeting at the Thunder office and immediately afterward drove a few miles on over to the Oklahoma River where the Wakeboard National Championships were taking place. I am not a fan of water sports and don't like participating. Having said that, I still appreciate the talent that goes into performing on a wakeboard. My brother in law loves wakeboarding and heard that the championships were going on in OKC so he suggested that I go check it out. I figured that since I was already going to be downtown that day, I might as well see what it was all about. I got there at around 4:00 pm and it was over 100 degrees out, fortunately I had a pair of shorts and t-shirt in my car so I changed and went on over to see what the best wakeboarders were capable of doing. The championships were going on all weekend so Thursday they were doing preliminary competitions to try to qualify for the championships and I think they called the guys that I was watching the Junior Nationals, I'm guessing they were around 16 years old. Some of those kids were doing amazing things with flips and various tricks. I watched for about 2 hours which was just enough for me.

Friday afternoon I drove 150 miles Northeast up to Pryor, Oklahoma for the 3rd Annual Rocklahoma Festival. Pryor's venue is Oklahoma's version of the Gorge only not quite as scenic (probably more like White River Amphitheater since it is only about 40 miles from Tulsa) and has become the home to one of the nation's best Heavy Metal/Glam Rock festivals in the nation. I know I don't fit the profile but as many of my family and friends know, I grew up on Glam Rock (Heavy Metal, Big Hair Bands, or whatever you want to now call the genre) so having this festival not far from OKC was exciting for me. Much like Seattle, I don't know very many people in Oklahoma that appreciate this music so I went solo.

I was working for the Thunder early the next day so this was quite the commitment as it meant I wouldn't be sleeping much that night. I got to the festival at around 6:30 pm and got to listen to Warrant, Night Ranger and Ratt. I actually saw Warrant and Ratt in Clinton Oklahoma a few months back so my primary reason for making the trip was to see Night Ranger, a band that I have been a huge fan of since I was about 12 years old and have never seen in concert. Warrant was awesome as I knew they would be and Night Ranger was phenominal. Most of the guys in the band are probably in their late 40s but I have a feeling they are a little more conservative than some of the other bands of their era and haven't lived quite as hard as some of them. They were high energy, sounded great and were well worth the trip. I only listened to Ratt through the first 4 songs as I had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me and had to get up at 4:45 am the next morning. I had a great time and knew that the festival was going on all weekend and that I would be back.

Friday night I got less than 2 hours of sleep as I had to be at the Thunder offices at 6am on Saturday morning to work on the Thunder Caravan. The caravan takes place every weekend during the summer (usually only on Saturdays) and is an event in which we stop off in two different cities throughout the area to set up a carnival type of atmosphere for a couple of hours in order to promote the team. Our events last Saturday also included our mascot Rumble, a couple members from the Thunder Dance Team at each location as well as our play by play broadcaster Brian Davis (the same Brian Davis from back in Seattle).

Our caravan stops last Saturday were in Chickasha (about 45 miles southwest of OKC) and then Anadarko which was 15 miles west of Chickasha. Our day consisted of pulling into the Mid First Bank parking lot at 7am, setting up inflatables, a sport court, hoop, tents, tables, sodas, etc and then we were open to the public from 9:00-11:00. At the end we broke everything down and loaded up the 2 trucks and a van, went to Chickasha and set up all over again in another Mid First parking lot as they are our primary sponsor, open to the public from 3:00-5:00 and then break down and head for home. At the stop in Chickasha we were set up right across the street from JoeBob's Bail Bonds. Don't see too many places named JoeBob's in Seattle. Chickasha's stop was somewhat quiet as it was early in the morning. It also turned out that their annual Fish Derby was also taking place that morning so many potential fans were out catching fish. Anadarko was a much better turnout as we probably had around 250 people show up.

These events are a lot of fun but there is some labor work involved which is tough when it is over 100 degrees out and you are going on less than 2 hours of sleep. I felt faint at times but drank plenty of fluids throughout the day and let my adrenaline carry me. I wanted to go back to Rocklahoma that night as there were a couple of bands that I really wanted to see (Jackyl and Stryper) but I was just too tired to make that long drive and then go to a concert so I decided to head home, rest and get a good night of needed sleep.

Saturday night was a time for sleep so I didn't bother getting up any too early on Sunday. I knew that there were a lot of old school bands playing at Rocklahoma that I really wanted to hear so I hopped into my car and head back to Pryor where I hoped to see Vixen, Bonfire, Nelson, Great White, Skid Row and Twisted Sister.

Vixen was hitting the stage at around 12:30 and were one of the bands I really wanted to see. They were an all girl band that was big in the late 80s and although they no longer have the same lead singer, I still wanted to hear how the old tunes sounded. Unfortunately I got a late start and combined that with a one hour traffic delay going through Tulsa, I missed them entirely. I was bummed but I was still happy with my decision to sleep in.

Sunday was another hot day out, I'm guessing around 105 degrees. A German band called Bonfire was the first act that I saw on the main stage. Apparently they were somewhat popular in the mid 1980 but I had never heard of them. They sounded good though and I thought the lead signed was a little crazy for wearing a jean jacket and jeans in the heat. He did end up taking off the jean jacket and fortunately he kept the jeans on :-)

There was approx 45 minutes between bands and the parking lot was much closer to the stage than say the Gorge in George so I made it a point to use that time to head out to my car, lift the back door, plant my lawn chair in the shade of the door and read a book. That worked out really well. The next band was Nelson, twin brothers Gunnar and Mathew (sons of the late Rickey Nelson of music and Ozzie and Harriet fame). Nelson had a few hits right around 1990 and I've never been a huge fan but I do like them. I sat down to listen to a few songs but used some of their stage time to walk around the grounds, eat, drink and stand underneath the mist tents that were set up throughout the grounds. Don't know what we would have done without the mist.

I also discovered something on Sunday that I didn't realize on Friday which I thought was ingenious. Most of us had General Admission seats which meant we were further away from the stage. They set up this system in the middle of the stage where there was a fence going right out from the stage for about 100 yards and you could get in line to get close to the stage. You got in the line of people and every 3 or 4 minutes the security guards would wave 20-30 people forward and let them get up right next to the stage to watch the band. When your time was up they would make you exit along the other side of the fence to where you were able to either go back to the GA area or you could get back in the line again and work your way back up to the front of the stage for a few minutes. Early in the day when Bonfire was playing, you could stand right up by the stage and not get asked to exit at all. The lines started getting longer throughout the day and by the time Twisted Sister played that night, it took about 30 minutes to keep up to the stage. Great system!!

Great White played next and I had mixed feelings about seeing them. I am a huge fan of their music and had only seen them one other time, about 10 years ago in a club in Seattle. That night they were having equipment problems through the first 3 songs and during the 4th song their lead signer, Jack Russell walked off the stage and never returned. It was a funny night because the guy that was their opening act ended up running onto the stage and sang a few cover songs with the rest of the band so it wasn't a complete waste but I more or less decided that night that they ripped us off and that I wasn't going to go out of my way to ever go see them again. Since that night Great White has gone through so hardships as they were the band that was playing a club in Rhode Island a few years back when a pyro accident caught the place on fire and killed 100 people. Unfortunately I still have not seen them play a great show. They came onto the stage and Jack Russell limped out to the microphone and sounded awful. He was slurring a lot and I seriously wondered if he had possibly had some sort of stroke in the not so distant past. A few songs in Russell started talking to the crowd and told of how he had recently been in an accident and broke his pelvis, back and a bunch of other bones. I'm pretty sure that the slurring was the results of being on pain medication. He mentioned that it was either lay in bed with a drip going into him or play music so he choose music. I commend him for toughing it out but he was definitely not at his best.

Skid Row was next and they were worth the price of admission. They were one of my favorite bands in high school and I had never seen them until Rocklahoma. I was always questioning if I wanted to see them as they had a new lead signer. Turns out he was very good and sounded great singing their old hits.

Between Skid Row and Twisted Sister, I decided to check out some of the side stages. LA Guns was playing at the main side stage and it was packed. They were fairly big for a time back in my teen years and I was a little surprised that they were playing a side stage. I listened to one song and then decided to make my way over to another tent with a stage to check out a band. I walked in and there were only about 100 people listening to this group with 9 guys on the stage (3 guitar players, 1 drummer and 5 signers). It wasn't a very big stage and so they looked crowded but they looked like they were having a great time and they sounded really good. I found out that their name was Bang Camaro and that they are from Boston. I looked them up on the internet when I got home and found that when they play on the east coast closer to home, they sometimes have up to 15 or 20 people up on stage as they like having a big chorus sound. They made a new fan in me and I will definitely make it a point to see them if I ever have another chance.

I'm not a big Twisted Sister fan but I do like them and have always wanted to check them out. Very interesting band. They are very proud (and rightly so) that they have their same original 5 band members still intact and mentioned that a few times. This was also their 25th anniversary of their biggest album so to commemorate it they played every song on in the order that it appears on the album. This made for a few funny moments as lead signer Dee Snyder got a little confused about the order a couple of times and told a story about a song only to find it wasn't the one they were about to play. Interesting band in that Snyder still wears the make up from back in the day (other band members don't) and he also likes to drop f-bombs whenever he speaks. He told the crowd that they only play about 12 shows a year these days so it was cool to see them.

Good times in Pryor, OKC, Chickasha and Anadarko. I have a feeling my next blog might involve yet another concert. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

GW said...

Very interesting stuff. At least you have one heck of a collection of cool t-shirts. Didn't the Geneva convention outlaw wakeboarding :)