Rocklanta Day Two (Part 1) Concert Review w/ Denman, East Side Gamblers, Roxy Blue & Tora Tora
ROCKLANTA’S DAY TWO OFF TO ROCKING START
Date: March 30, 2019
Venue: Center Stage
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Organizer: Brad Lee Entertainment
Band Photos: Joe Schaeffer Photography
After a meagre but solid four hours of sleep following Day One, it was time to get up so that I could finish transcribing my interview with former Frehley’s Comet and Ace Frehley bassist John Regan from a few weeks ago. Sadly, I missed the hotel’s free breakfast and as usual, transcribing the interview took longer than expected so that I only got out of my room at 1:00 pm. I ended up having one banana and was banking on eating some pizza at the Center Stage venue as I did not want to miss one note from Day Two opener Denman‘s set. Going to a rock festival is a different experience for each person. While some people take it as an opportunity to socialize with all their rocker friends, I usually take it as an opportunity to see bands perform from up close in a great atmosphere. In other words, I always strive to get to the stage barrier to get the best possible up close vantage point to the stage. This is of course within reason as I will not waste hours of my time standing in line waiting to get in first to get to the stage barrier (such as one might have to do when seeing a band such as Iron Maiden). The drawback with staying at the barrier for the entire festival is of course that you miss out on hanging out with others and getting to meet all of the artists that might be milling around Center Stage. In any case, given that Day One ended around 2:00 am (or perhaps later for anyone going to the after party), I suspected that there wouldn’t be that many people at Center Stage for Denman‘s early 2:00 pm start time.
With Denman about to hit the stage in five minutes, I headed down to the general admission area and secured a fantastic spot pretty close to the middle of the barrier. I believe that there were two friendly ladies to my right by the names of Loriann and Dawnell who had the same train of thought as me going into the festival. The ladies informed me that they had also been at those spots for Day One from 6:30 pm or so all the way until 2:00 am. I will have more to say with respect to Dawnell in Part 2 of my Day Two review.
Although Brad Lee Entertainment had secured the services of satellite radio host Lüc Carl to “host” the event, I noticed that it was Brad Lee that had introduced a couple of bands on Day One and was doing so again on Day Two with Denman. Perhaps the “host” position entails other duties than introducing bands that I don’t know about but I simply don’t see the point of having some sort of rock celebrity “hosting” a rock festival. I thought Brad Lee did a great job introducing whichever bands that he decided to introduce and there was no need to retain Lüc Carl to do that. Don’t get me wrong. I think Lüc Carl plays an important role promoting the genre of music that we all love but if I was going to cut a festival expense (and again I don’t know the extent of the host’s responsibilities), the host position is surely one that could be cut.
I had previously caught Denman live at Brad Lee Entertainment‘s Sleazy Slimey Sunday 3 in Hanover, Maryland, USA last year and was really impressed with the youngsters’ set. So much that I ended up ranking their performance at #3 overall for that weekend (out of 33 bands). The big difference this time around was that Denman had just released their debut full-length album Raw Deal (which by the way is one great album) back in early February 2019. Accordingly, Denman would have more material to choose from for their setlist. Denman started off strong with their latest single “Gunslinger” and never let up. The guitar tandem of brothers Dakota and Ben Denman is something to behold. Their guitar harmonies were awesome and it was so much fun seeing the duo trading guitar solos throughout the night. I give the edge to younger sibling Dakota in the guitar playing department but Ben is not far behind. I had been following Denman ever since they released their first single “High Heels And Leather” so was very familiar with all of their songs.
The group plays a brand of faster paced ’80s hair metal mixed in with some old school thrash metal. Every song played live was a good one. I even got goose bumps hearing some of the guitar soloing on the track “Down Comes The Wall.” Denman played three songs from their debut EP The Life We Live and five from their debut full-length album Raw Deal. The band ended its set with a surprise cover of Metallica‘s classic “Battery” which was probably the heaviest track that was played live at Rocklanta. Denman absolutely killed it with their Metallica cover song but that should be no surprise given that three of the four Denman band members play in a Metallica tribute band called Fade To Blackened. Unlike Day One when O.D.D. started things off rather slowly, Day Two started off with a bang with Denman‘s set. After the band’s set, I ran into the Denman brothers’ father who I believe had driven all the way from New York (via Nashville) to catch his boys’ set. Mr. Denman was beaming with pride as I told him that his boys absolutely killed it!
03. High Heels And Leather
04. Miles Away From Home
05. One Night Love
06. Down Comes The Wall
07. Prison City
08. Call of The Wild
09. Battery (Metallica cover)
The East Side Gamblers:
Next up was The East Side Gamblers, which I never thought that I would get to see play live given that this is the side project of Tom Keifer‘s guitarist Tony Higbee whenever the latter is not busy with the former. In addition, The East Side Gamblers seem to play mostly out of Nashville, Tennessee, which is quite far from Toronto, Ontario in Canada. The East Side Gamblers consist of Tony Higbee on lead vocals and co-lead guitar, Cody Higbee on bass, Josh Dutoit on co-lead guitar and Chris Brewer on drums. They play a brand of down and dirty rock n’ roll and just like the Denman brothers beforehand, I really enjoyed the guitar harmonies between Tony Higbee and Josh Dutoit.
I was familiar with the songs from The East Side Gamblers‘ last EP The Big Machine and the group ended up playing four of the five songs from the EP — “The Getaway,” “High Time,” “Welcome To The Big Machine” and the set closer “Eye For An Eye.” Although I didn’t like the last song played on the EP, it actually sounded a lot better in a live setting. Rounding off their set were two songs from their debut self-titled EP (“Let It All Bleed Out” and “Sweet Love”) and two from their sophomore EP All In! (“Backdoor Man” and “Get it High”). I was pleased to be able to pick up the latter EP at the Rocklanta merchandise booth since purchasing a physical copy is not an option via amazon.ca. The surprise song of the night was The East Side Gamblers‘ cover of the Black Sabbath classic “Fairies Wear Boots.” The guys pulled off a great rendition of the track.
Obviously, it wasn’t just the audience members that were excited to see Sweden’s Hardcore Superstar play as Tony Higbee mentioned that he had the first four Hardcore Superstar albums (released between 1998 and 2003). Although I definitely enjoyed The East Side Gamblers‘ set, I will note that I think it’s more fun for the audience if it looks like the band members are enjoying themselves on stage. There was no question that Tony Higbee and Josh Dutoit were enjoying themselves but bassist Cody Higbee seemed to have a rather glum look on his face for most of the band’s set. I don’t know if that is his natural disposition but it felt like he wasn’t having any fun up there until towards the end when he cracked a small smile. Drummer Chris Brewer had his serious game face on throughout the entire set and it was hard to tell whether he was enjoying the band’s set.
The East Side Gamblers’ setlist:
01. Backdoor Man
02. Let It All Bleed Out
03. The Getaway
04. High Time
05. Sweet Love
06. Fairies Wear Boots (Black Sabbath cover)
07. Welcome To The Big Machine
08. Get It High
09. Eye For An Eye
I can’t remember who advised the crowd but we were told that Nashville based rockers Roxy Blue‘s drummer Scott “Scotty T” Tramwell was late getting to the venue. I have never been that much of a Roxy Blue fan but if I was, I would have been disappointed that the group only got to play five songs due to Tramwell‘s late arrival. Of course, I did not know that Roxy Blue would be limited to only five songs until I believe that Roxy Blue frontman Todd Poole announced that they were playing their last song of the night. Speaking of Poole, he has tons of energy and was seemingly always moving around except on the closing ballad “Times Are Changin’.” He looked to be in great shape and covered the stage quite well. All of the tracks played were from Roxy Blue‘s 1992 album Want Some? except for one. I do believe that Roxy Blue played one new song called “Rockstar Junkie” from their upcoming new studio album, which will be released in the future via Frontiers Music Srl. My favorite track played from Roxy Blue on this night was “Rob The Cradle.”
To be honest, I was kind of glad that Roxy Blue were limited to five songs because hunger was starting to consume my thought process. After all, it was already past 4:30 pm and I only had a banana to eat for the day up to this point. The pizza that I (mistakenly) thought would be coming out was nowhere to be found. Brad Lee had warned that there would be no food in the venue but I thought that pizza would be available for purchase like on Day One. I ran into new friend Ed Lashua who advised me that there might be some food for VIP ticket holders. Ed went over to the VIP section to check it out and messaged me that food was indeed available. Unfortunately, it was now too close to Tora Tora‘s set, which I was really looking forward to so I elected to stay put until after the Memphis, Tennessee rockers’ set was done.
Roxy Blue’s setlist:
01. Love’s Got A Hold Of Me
o2. It’s So Easy
03. Rockstar Junkie
04. Rob the Cradle
05. Times Are Changin’
To say that I was excited to see Tora Tora would be an understatement. They, along with Dangerous Toys, were the two biggest reasons why I initially purchased a ticket to Rocklanta. I have been a Tora Tora fan ever since I heard their absolutely splendid full-length debut album Surprise Attack. I have all of their albums (except 2008’s The Warehouse… 20 Years Later) including the many releases from FnA Records. Tora Tora came out to a no frills stage set (no banner of any kind) and let the music do the talking. When you have such killer songs like Tora Tora have, do you really need anything else? The band members were definitely enjoying themselves as you could see smiles from guitarist Keith Douglas and bassist Patrick Francis throughout their set. There was no question that Tora Tora frontman Anthony Corder was having a great time on stage. He had a huge smile the entire time and you could see him grooving and moving along to the music whenever he wasn’t singing. After all these years, Corder still has one great set of pipes.
The Tora Tora setlist was pretty much what I expected. Five songs were played from Surprise Attack (1989), one from Wild America (1991), one from Revolution Day (2011) and two from the band’s new studio album Bastards of Beale (2019). I was surprised that Tora Tora didn’t play “Nowhere To Go But Down” from the Wild America album but some songs likely had to be dropped for the two newer ones. Speaking of the new songs, I thought that they fit in well with the rest of the songs played although they were not quite as upbeat or catchy as tracks such as “Guilty” or “Walkin’ Shoes.” Overall, I had high expectations going into Tora Tora‘s set and those expectations were more than met after the band finished its unfortunately too short set. With food starting to dominate my mind whenever a band wasn’t playing, I made a beeline to the VIP section right after Tora Tora‘s set while someone held my spot at the barrier. Unfortunately, it was like a bunch of vultures had pillaged the food section because there was simply nothing left except a few tortilla chips. My hunger woes would continue a little longer…
Tora Tora’s setlist:
01. Love’s A Bitch
02. 28 Days
05. Son of a Prodigal Son
06. Rose of Jericho
07. Revolution Day
08. Phantom Rider
09. Walkin’ Shoes