The fifth annual Rocktember Festival at Grand Casino,  Hinckley, Minnesota September 8th and 9th 2017

I’ve always enjoyed going to this because I like a lot of these bands. It takes me back to the 80s which is exactly what this festival is all about. It’s held outside in their shed facility. The VIP pit passes are standing room only and then from there back assigned seats. The week and was beautiful so that adds to the whole experience. I meant to go through and review each band to give you a feel for the weekend.

DAY 1

Paradise Kitty– this is a cover band that does all Guns N’ Roses songs. They are all female musicians hence the name. These girls really know how to bring it were absolutely fantastic. I’ve never been much of a guns and roses fans all go out on a limb and tell you that there better than Guns N’ Roses. If you are a fan of the original band, it’s worth your time to check these gals out.

Last in Line– This is one of two tribute bands out currently playing the music of Ronnie James Dio. The other version is Dio’s Disciples. This version features Vivian Campbell who played with Dio on his first two albums and now plays with Def Leppard. What struck me the most about this particular band is how much fun Vivian was having. They played a full hour sat and went through all of the most popular Dio songs including some of the rarities.

Firehouse– I was amazed how many songs these guys did that I actually knew. From a musical standpoint, they were really good but like several of the bands this weekend, really boring. They just don’t have any stage presence. I don’t know what’s missing but they’re not fun to watch. The kind of like the 80s Toto in the respect that you know a lot of their songs but can’t name any of their members.

Slaughter– the two original members that are still in the span are Mark slaughter and Dana strum. For those of you that don’t know the history, Slaughter was formed after the implosion of the Vinnie Vincent invasion. That is the best possible thing that could’ve happened to us as musical fans because Slaughter was considerably better. They really know how to entertain and have a great repertoire of songs. This is also Vince Neil’s current backup band. In addition to Mark and Dana, you have Jeff Blando on guitar who is absolutely amazing. And one of the coolest most entertaining drummers that I’ve ever seen in my entire life, Zoltan.

Mark Slaughter currently has a new solo album out entitled Halfway There. If you’re looking for something new to listen to, I highly recommend this desk. It’s filled with really well-written songs that have hooks. The two that stick out for me are “Hey You” and the title track “Halfway There”.

Jackyl– This is the band fronted by Jesse James Dupree that was made famous by a crazy man running around on stage with chainsaw. He is the owner of the full throttle saloon in Sturgis South Dakota. He even for a time had a reality TV show. I’ve never been a big Jackyl fan but I have to say they’re growing on me. I saw them a few months ago at Rock Fest in Wisconsin. They filled in at the last minute for Tom Kiefer who had to cancel. They were fantastic and really got the crowd going. Same thing happened over the weekend they did it again and boy do they have a loyal following. When you stand back and look at it they actually have really good well-written songs and all of them are incredible entertainers. You can’t help but like them from their energy alone. I also get the sense that all of them are very happy to be there and appreciative of the audience. To me that goes a very long way in a highly recommend seeing these guys whenever you get the chance. Especially if you like bands that are southern rock in nature and have that down-home party atmosphere.

Extreme– Was one of the highlights of the day. They are an incredible band with outstanding songs. But they have kind of a broken past. They started out in 1985 and then kind of disbanded around 1996. They got back together in 2007 at been sporadic since then. I’ve always thought their music was incredible but a lot of people don’t seem to be all that familiar with them. They’re another one of those bands where you realize there’s a lot of songs that they do but you weren’t aware that it was them. I like bands like this that come out with a lot of energy and put on a great show. They did all the hits you would expect like “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted”. Although I must say was very disappointed that they did not do “Muthua Don’t Want To Go To School Today”, that was a song that got me hooked on the band in the first place and appears on the very first album. This is one I would recommend you look into their CDs and discover some incredible music from their past. They are always fun to see and highly recommend them.

DAY 2

The Iron Maidens- This is very much like Paradise Kitty in that it’s an all girl band that covers a heavy metal band. They do all Iron Maiden songs and do them to perfection. They were a very entertaining band and again I recommend you seeking them out when possible. They are from Los Angeles so I don’t believe they get to the Midwest very often.

Scrap metal- I believe this is the third year that they have attended this festival. Every time they come it’s with a different group of players. Typically, the Nelson Brothers, sons of Ricky Nelson are the leaders of the band. The other consistent is Howie Simon an LA-based musician that plays with so many different projects. From the looks of it, Howie was the one who orchestrated everything and did a fantastic job.

Every time they come they bring different guests with them. Each guest artist plays a couple of their own songs with the backup band. The fun thing for me with this is you never know who’s going to show up so it’s always a great variety. This year they had Pat TraversBarry Goodreau the original guitar player in BostonMichael Sweet of Stryper fame, Elliot Easton of The Cars and George Lynch of Lynch Mob. The entire set lasted one hour and they bang through hit after hit. I was look forward to this band  again because you never know what they’re going to do. I don’t believe they tour on a regular basis and only do a few festivals per year so were lucky to have them come to Minnesota.

Great White– currently there are two versions of Great White touring. The first one is the official Great White, which is this version. The second one is the former lead singer Jack Russell’s Great White. Somehow, I don’t think that that leads to any less confusion. They’re going through the same thing Ratt is currently going through as well as Starship/Jefferson Starship. It seems like people just can’t seem to get along but no one wants to give up the name of the band. I have now seen both versions of great white in the last two months. I must say Jack Russell’s Great White is considerably better than this version. This version is lifeless and just stands there. There’s no energy and it feels like they’re just walking through the moves. They are uninspired and I just didn’t care for them. The version that Jack Russell has, seems so much more energetic like Jackyl. They are fun to watch. I want to go on the record and say that I’m indifferent to this whole thing. I was never much of a fan either way. I am laying this out from what I’ve seen this year. I have no idea what these guys are fighting over and could care less. But for my money, The other version is the way to go.

Warrant– is one of the few remaining bands that lost the lead singer and actually did it right. They chose Robert Mason who fits them perfectly. That only are they full of energy but he is an excellent performer. It must be tough to be in a rock band that was popular one point, loses their lead singer and tries to continue. I give them a huge amount of credit for picking the right person to front them. I thought they were very energetic and very entertaining. They have a lot of great songs that most people would know which added to the performance. But I also want to mention that their new material is exceptional. They are well-written songs that fit into the set. I’m one of those people who always wants to hear new music, so for me it was a treat to see them do something new off their latest record “Louder Harder Faster”. I’ve seen them in several festival settings have always looked forward to their set. My advice, check them out if you get the chance.

Skid Row– I think this band finally has the Sebastian Bach monkey off their back. They gave such an incredible energetic performance, I was truly impressed. Like several other bands on the bill, Skid Row understand how to entertain an audience. That’s part of what kept them for so long. I would say they’re another band were able to figure out who they should get as their lead singer. ZP Theart fits the bill perfectly for their style of music and songs. I guess they have become a classic rock act now at this point. I was skeptical about seeing them because I had not seen them since they were altogether originally. I was going on the assumption that the new singer would screw it up but was I wrong. They are full of energy and really put on a great show. Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo are still the heart and soul of this band. Another thing that really struck me is how appreciative they were to be there and play for everybody. The fact that people came out and spent their hard-earned money to see these bands play live was certainly not lost on them. I highly recommend you seek them out when they come to your town.

Queensryche– This is another band who has weathered the storm of losing the original lead singer. I would argue that Queensryche is another band who came out on the other end ahead.  Their lead singer Todd La Torre is quite amazing. I’ve never been a huge fan of Queensryche but of always liked some of the more popular songs. They are a band that’s changed throughout the years and lost a little bit of their edge as they progressed. That was something I enjoyed more than their early albums. They seem to really enjoy their fans and play stuff all the way back to the first record. They’re a very good band with incredible musicianship. The newer songs that they’ve been recording seem to work well alongside the classics. They are entertaining to watch and I would also recommend that if you like heavier melodic sounding rock, they are a great band to see live. I’m happy for them that they have been able to continue to play these festivals and have a career after their original singer left. Like I said considering the trade I would take Todd over Geoff any day the week. In my opinion, they ended up way better off.

Styx– Is truly a legacy act at this point. They are the one band that seemed a little bit out of place in the weekend. I’m not saying that is a bad thing but I’ve always viewed them as classic rock not metal. Having said that, I’ve seen them many times over the years and here is yet another example of a band who has withstood the loss of an original lead singer. I’ve never been a huge fan of the band but I’ve always thought Tommy Shawwas an incredible musician. I’ve always liked his contributions to the band more so than the rest of the members. They are an energetic group of guys that put on a wonderful show. Like many of the bands that went before them this weekend they seem genuinely happy to be there playing for everybody. Of all the bands that were there over the weekend, they have the deepest number of hits that the casual fan would recognize. Its seems like they are on a never-ending tour, so if you want to see them, they are bound to come to your town.

Review and photos Tommy Sommers