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Rocklahoma 2010: New Format, Larger Audience

“We usually get a circle going. I’m not sure how we’re going to do this,” said Sevendust voalist Lajon Witherspoon while performing at the fourth annual Rocklahoma festival. The festival is held in Pryor, Okla. Rocklahoma is no longer just for the hair metal set. This year, the promoters teamed with AEG Live to inject some new excitement into the fest. This meant adding modern metal and rock acts and dialing down the nostalgia factor. The event was also pushed up to the Memorial Day weekend to avoid the extreme Oklahoma heat. What resulted was large attendance and brisk merchandise sales.

Bands like Sevendust, Saliva, Chevelle, Godsmack and Three Days Grace mixed with Tesla, Cinderella and ZZ Top. Buckcherry and the Last Vegas acted as a bridge for fans of both ’80s metal and modern rock. All in all, both groups of fans coexisted without incident.

Three stages kept thousands of fans entertained for three days of nonstop music. Up and comers like Shaman’s Harvest, Richy Nix and New Medicine were anchored by final stage closer Lacuna Coil. Classic metal had its place on the Retrospect stage featuring bands like the Glitter Boys and Krank.

Guitarist Clint Lowery recently rejoined Sevendust and the band recorded ‘Cold Day Memory.’ The band has been on the road for months, supporting the album. Rocklahoma was Sevendust’s last stop before a break and then the Carnival of Madness tour later this summer. Ignoring 90-plus degree heat, Witherspoon jumped around the stage, swinging his dreadlocks about while spitting out the lyrics to songs like ‘Praise’ and ‘Face to Face.’ The band also performed its newest single, ‘Unraveling.’ The Rocklahoma pit is small, so a circle mosh was ignored and instead everyone in the crowd fist pumped through the set. A red banner emblazoned with the phrase “Sevendust has arrived” kicked off the finale ‘Face to Face.’

Chevelle didn’t like the small pit either. Lead singer Pete Loeffler finally asked people in the general admission crowd to come down close, and they did, much to the chagrin of security. The Hard Rock side stage had no audience segmentation issues and there was a big crowd going for acts like Richy Nix and especially Lacuna Coil. When Lacuna Coil performed, singer Cristina Scabbia took a moment to remember fallen metallers Ronnie James Dio, Paul Gray (of Slipknot) and Peter Steele (of Type O Negative). This was an immense crowd pleaser. Through a thick accent, Scabbia theorized about Heaven and Hell and then went into ‘Heaven’s a Lie.’ It should be noted Lacuna Coil performed the same day as Ronnie James Dio’s public memorial in California — a fact that was certainly not lost on most members of the audience.

Buckcherry are road warriors and recently took off a few days to record their new record, ‘All Night Long.’ While at Rocklahoma, Josh Todd flopped around the stage as he does, adding color by remarking on the heat. “It’s hotter than a devil’s d— in a Texas whorehouse,” Todd said while laughing. His band mates couldn’t help but snicker, too. Heat or not, Buckcherry ripped through live favorites like ‘Lit Up,’ ‘Sorry,’ ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Crazy B—-.’

ZZ Top prove rock has no age limit. While the band can never be accused to being overly active on stage, they did deliver on what’s important: the music. Songs like ‘Legs’ and ‘La Grange’ had the largest crowd of the weekend rocking. A computerized screen added interest to the stage, showing small movie snippets of the band members gambling before ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and a dancing woman for other parts of the show.

Since this was the first year Rocklahoma added more modern bands, Godsmack were Rocklahoma virgins. Lead singer Sully Erna kept referring to the crowd as being from “Oklahoma City,” but no one seemed to mind. The band played a long set of around 15 songs, including the new single ‘Cryin’ Like a B—-’ and the old favorites ‘Voodoo’ and ‘I Stand Alone.’

Despite all the changes, the Rocklahoma promoters gave a nod to the past by letting a classic band close down the festival. Tesla raced against time, fighting to get their set in before storms could shut them down. They succeeded and played tunes like ‘Song and Emotion,’ ‘The Way It Is’ and ‘Signs.’

Official attendance figures have not been released, but a strong walk-up meant a large general admission crowd for much of the event. Those interested can call the Rocklahoma administrative offices for renewal information regarding the 2011 event.

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