It’s Meatloaf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, David Lee Roth and Joan Jett. It’s loud rock ‘n’ roll played for thousands of beer-guzzling fans under the afternoon sun. It’s Rocktoberfest, the best concert of the early ’80s.
Unfortunately, it took place in 2002.
Rocktoberfest, which took place last Saturday, was a landmark event for many reasons, just not the reasons you would think. The promoters behind the event saw the parking fields not exactly full. Ticket sales were so low that dozens of tickets were handed out for free to any outlet they thought could disperse them quick enough, thus taking a monetary hit to the tune of $80 apiece.
But this wasn’t a day for the promoters. Instead it was the fans who could mark this mid-October day on their calendars. Toothless Confederate flag-toting rednecks, big-haired women squeezed into rhinestone leotards and mullet-laden, acid-washed 30-somethings were out in force to reminisce over “the good old days” the best way they knew how – with large quantities of rock ‘n’ roll and Budweiser, of course.
And thanks to the starting time of 11 a.m., there were sure to be a lot of good memories had by all.
Not five minutes after I entered the gates, I saw a couple hidden behind the VIP seating area making sweet, wrinkled love under their toddler’s baby blanket. Soon after, Vince “Dr. Feelgood” Neil took the stage and played “Girls, Girls, Girls,” a Motley CrÃ¼e hit made famous by strip joints nationwide. It was immediately evident why the song had become famous as I looked around the crowd and saw pairs of women, young and old, grinding naughtily against one another while the surrounding men scrambled wildly for their cameras.
After restraining my girlfriend from attacking an elderly skinhead sporting a T-shirt bearing a swastika, we headed to the VIP area to watch Joan Jett. Jett and her band, the Blackhearts, dressed in torn and spiked clothing, were truly punk rock. They proceeded to play a musically excellent concert that, consequently, confused the majority of the crowd. Her gravelly voice and Ramones-esque driving punk power chords made for a spectacular concert. I knew that I was seeing a legend of punk rock put on a concert I would never forget.
My train of thought was soon wrecked, though. Two couples in front of me, both badly burnt from too much sun and beer, began to scream at each other over a chair that both parties claimed to be holding for a friend. Following the beer throwing that ensued, the conflict died down when they all realized more alcohol was needed. The moral here is that no matter how old we are, there is one rule that always applies – “same seats.”
Meatloaf was the next act to take the stage, and boy, was it a sight to see. The performer, who has released one album in the last two decades, showed why acting is his best attribute, not his music. He let the melodrama and shoddy one-liners flow throughout his performance, which was also ornamented with endless cursing and songs he has been singing continuously for almost 30 years. The crowd lapped it up regardless. Forty-somethings boogied down to songs from their favorite vocalist like they were at the drive-in getting tipsy on their parents’ Cutty Sark.
As darkness fell, the inebriated crowd became anxious for the masters of southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also became excited because, hey, I’d like to think that I like Skynyrd as much as the next guy; except, on this night, the next guy was wearing a shirt depicting a flaming skull and the words “Southern Rock: Play it Loud and Play it Proud.”
Skynyrd put on a real down home, rock ‘n’ roll marathon. The crowd showed their approval by way of infinite air-guitar impressions, “South Will Rise Again” banners and large, rather hairy, men doing a variety of hilariously uncomfortable impromptu dances.
And then there was “Freebird.” The ultimate live rock concert request became a reality for myself and countless others. The crowd decided this would be the best time to break out the marijuana and ecstasy. It was quite an uneasy atmosphere that surrounded the epic performance of a true classic by Skynyrd.
Rocktoberfest was a day where way-past-their-prime rock stars and audience members could come together to relive their respective primes with a rockin’ good time. And although some performers were absolutely horrible (here’s to you David Lee Roth and Warrant), most provided some quality rock ‘n’ roll. But the real stars were in the crowd on this October day. So, here’s to you, Rocktoberfest crowd – 1980s forever!
Contact Nick Margiasso at firstname.lastname@example.org