First Night Wrap-Up Of Rock The Bayou


August 30, 2008

Joey Guerra and Sara Cress of HandStamp have written the following reports for The Houston Chronicle.

Rock the Bayou was a bit of a mystery going in. Our heads swirled with questions like: why did this have to land in our backyard? What did we ever do to deserve a pop-metal fest? Why not something cooler? Will anyone show up to a somewhat pricey four-day outdoor festival of hair bands during the hottest part of the year? In this time of Guitar Hero-rock nostalgia, could this thing actually be kind of cool?

As there are still three days of this ahead, it wouldn’t be right to offer a verdict right now, but my preliminary reading on this thing is that it’s going pretty well. The place isn’t full, but it’s not empty. The performances on the main stage have been athletic and surprisingly lacking the kind of dead-eyed, over-it attitude I feared I would see. These guys, whether they were there from the beginning or took over after someone more iconic left, are fully committed to rocking every face in attendance.

Skid Row, famous for I Remember You, 18 and Life and Gilmore Girls player Sebastian Bach, has had its current front man, Johnny Sollinger, for almost ten years. So it’s probably unfair of me — a person who rarely thinks of Skid Row — to think that hearing someone other than Sebastian Bach sing Skid Row songs isn’t the preferred method. Sollinger, a dead ringer for Kid Rock, owned the songs and did a fine job with them. He is also in possession of a very impressive metal wail; the kind you like to think you can do when you’re pretending to be a rock star, but, dude, you can’t do it.

One complaint about this festival’s setup is its seating. Four-day pass-holders have access to a few hundred seats set up in front of the stage, while one-day ticketholders — apparently the majority of the attendees — don’t have access to the seats, so they stand behind fences, which are behind the seats. What this means is that most of the seats are empty and a majority of the people who came to see the show can’t get anywhere near the stage, a highly frustrating situation when you see all of those empty seats.

During Skid Row’s set Sollinger, fighter for the little man, was upset by the empty seats and — against security’s wishes — told everyone to come to the stage and screw the rules! Yeah! Though I am generally one who believes in abiding by the rules, Sollinger was right to do this. The set was better for it.

One last note about Skid Row’s set: It opened with a recording of the national anthem. And I guess those of us in the audience weren’t being respectful enough, so someone on stage growled into a mic, “stand up for the national anthem, you f***kers!” The audience replied with cheers.

What a proud moment for our country.

I wandered the festival grounds after Skid Row’s set, looking for another stage. There are plenty of vendors, a small carnival (that no one was patronizing, but I’ll make sure to ride the ferris wheel sometime this weekend), some information tents and a large cooling center. All top-notch. The small, dimly lit Bud Lime stage at the moment I visited featured a dreadful, overcompensating, misogynistic (indeed, they manage to stand out as exceptionally vile in the sea of misogyny that is hair-band music) band of ridiculous hair and makeup called Blacklist Union. I won’t spend any more time talking about them.

Ratt is not one of those bands I knew growing up, so its set initially held little appeal for me. But those old guys grew on me. Singer Stephen Pearcy sounded great, looked great, and the set was a lively one featuring hits Round and Round, Wanted Man, You’re In Love, Body Talk and plenty more.

The real reason I signed up for this whole thing was to see Queensryche. How to explain my love of this very, very dramatic band that excels at over-the-top balladry with a dash of fantasy? After seeing it for the first time tonight, I can’t. All of the chest-pounding and lip-biting and front man Geoff Tate’s motivational asides about living in the moment and sharing wonderful moments together; I don’t know that I can put it into words. Tate is gloriously weird, his voice is supernatural, the band simply flies through difficult riffs, the strobes and lights were spectacular and it all added up to an amazing finale to Rock the Bayou’s first night.

I didn’t think I would say this, but it was kind of cool.

Photos of Day 1 can be found at

Lynch Mob and local ladies

Crowds are still light, but things are picking up, rock-wise. And so is the heat. Lawd, the heat.

A recently reunited Lynch Mob shredded away on the main stage. It was serious stuff. A talkative George Lynch said he was enticed to return via “smoke signals” that beckoned at his Swiss Alps home. Hey, whatever works.

An enthusiastic gaggle of fans were propped near the front of the stage, fists in the air. It was one of the early day’s most energetic sets.

Local sounds are well-repped on the smaller stages. Houston band Swinging Theresa offered powerful vocals and blue-bearded bassist Phil Peterson. The band, originally from Detroit, performs again tomorrow.

I’ve kept up with La Sed on and off for a few years. Every time the band gains momentum, they lose a female vocalist. Current singer Monica (no last names) isn’t any worse or better than her predecessors. But her bright-colored dress, makeup and heels were at odds with the band’s sound.

I’m all for breaking with cliches, but it just looked strange. Like she was headed out to a dance club.

The band has a jangly, ’80s-inspired sound anchored by solid guitar work. If they can stay together and establish an identity, they could gain some respect on the local scene.

Another female, Kat James, unleashed guttural growls as the voice behind Woodlands band Troublemaker. It wasn’t a slick or easy sound, but that’s the point, right?

And BIG kudos for wearing shirts featuring the band’s name. Walk-ups are a festival fact, but most acts don’t even bother saying who they are and lose potential fans. Having it splashed across your chest is just common sense. Too bad more bands don’t do it.

Jetboy revs up again

I wasn’t too familiar with Jetboy, another early band on the big stage. But the glam-punk look caught my attention. Pleather red pants. Lime green skinny jeans. Eyeliner. And a kickin’ mohawk.

I needed to talk to these guys.

The group originated in 1984 but only recently reunited after more than a decade split. They were asked to play a release party less than two years ago for a glam-rock compilation, and it all clicked again. A new record is in the works.

“We got cut short of our career due to record company politics,” said frontman (and nice guy) Mickey Finn, who lived in Hawaii for six years. “It didn’t really take much to make me say, ‘I’d love another shot at this.’

“We never really did fit in with all the hair metal stuff. We had that punk edge. We were real blues-based rock ‘n’ roll.”

Maybe there’s room for a Jetboy renaissance. Finn seems to think so.

“Look at us — we all still look good,” he says with a laugh. “We’re almost better than ever. We’re gonna do it all, man.”

Gilby Clarke zips into town

Gilby Clarke is on the grouds, people.

The one-time Guns N’ Roses member and Rockstar: Supernova judge flew in this morning from Los Angeles for his afternoon set.

“There’s a lot of people that still love this music, whether it’s current or 20 years old,” he said. “It’s also great for the musicians to see all your friends.”

Clarke recently produced a quartet of albums for Silent Rage, the Alarm, Motorchrist and Crash Kelly. He said he was “beat up” from being in the studio and decided to tour over the summer to shake things up.

He also worked with Rockstar finalist and Houston singer Dilana on a few tunes — and doesn’t rule out a return to TV.

“I never really thought that music and television go together very well — especially rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “But I would be involved again. I learned a lot about television and different music genres that I didn’t know anything about.”

Clarke isn’t too familiar with Houston, but he won’t have much time to get acquainted. He flies out tonight for a Las Vegas show tomorrow. Ah, the rock-star life.

Rocking the bayou, gently

I didn’t expect a big crowd when I headed out early to Rock the Bayou. But I was curious as to who would show up. Would they have teased hair? Be in leather pants? Already drunk?

Taking the MetroRail was a mistake. It dropped me off at the far end of the camping grounds, where there was no entrance. I thought about sneaking through openings in the fence, but that’s just not how I roll. And someone would have probably stopped me, anyway.

I walked. And walked. And walked. Past freeways, a Burger King, Metro Police, homeless men asking for change and — awesome — other RTB fans. I was tired and hot by the time I reached the entrance gates.

Inside, the crowd was light, of course. A nondescript band howled on a small stage. A pair of twins in matching bikini tops and tongue rings — seriously — stood in the grass.

Faster Pussycat eventually took the big stage, and a few faithful bobbed their heads along with the music. It was a driving, drum-driven sound. And it’s only going to get louder as the day goes on. Am I ready for all this rock?

Courtesy of