WORDS BY MIKE KENNEDY AND PHOTOS BY ROBERT A CHADWICK | Go Venue Magazine
Billed as the World’s Loudest Month, the month of May is full of rock festivals, and the one that is regarded as the largest one day music festival in the country, Kansas City’s 98.9 KQRC’s ROCKFEST celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Held for the first time at the sprawling Kansas Speedway complex in Kansas City, KS, ROCKFEST was full of rock, fun and sun. ROCKFEST features two stages of classic hard rocks acts, popular hard rock bands, and up-and-coming acts.
The festival was improved tenfold at the new location at the Kansas Speedway. The open expanse of the concourse allowed festival goers to escape the sun and cool off. Gone were the porta-toilets, replaced with the concourse bathrooms. The two stages faced each other directly, and allowed an easy, albeit long walk back and forth. Merch tents, food and beer stalls, and food trucks all had easy access, and although the lines were long towards the end, most everything went off without a hitch.
The bands that performed at ROCKFEST 2017 were high energy, and fed off the crowd. Starting of the festival, Zakk Wylde performed the national anthem to a thunderous applause of those in attendance. Opening the main stage was Kansas City’s own Watching The Fall. Watching The Fall won an online contest to perform, and they were received by a raucous crowd with good reviews. Opening the main stage were hard tickets One Less Reason, who performed a hard driving set. Next up on the second stage was Sammy Hagar’s son and his band. Andrew Hagar not only looks like his father, but also has his father’s voice and swagger. Local Kansas City favorites, SIDEWISE were on point as Nico Manesh and the boys were stellar. Always eager to perform at home, the boys showed the same stage presence and professionalism they’re known for.
Eighties stalwart Tom Keifer, frontman of the classic band Cinderella, performed Cinderella classics, and his own originals. The highlight of Tom’s set was when he performed “Nobody’s Fool” with Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Tom and Lzzy flat killed this classic. Tom has always had a gravelly voice, and years on the road have adversely affected his voice, but Tom is a consummate showman. Nineties rockers Candlebox proved to the crowd that they could still rock with the best, and when they closed the set with their classic song “Maybe” the Candlebox faithful went absolutely nuts.
Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke provided the crowd with an interesting diversion from the hard driving rock that was the majority of ROCKFEST. Featuring a mix of southern roots, and Lynyrd Skynyrd showmanship I was pleasantly surprised. Midday of ROCKFEST was blistered by Zakk Sabbath and P.O.D. Zakk Wylde’s Zakk Sabbath pays homage to his employer’s band, Black Sabbath. Playing with all respect due to Black Sabbath, Zakk blistered classics such as “Children Of The Grave”, “Fairies Wear Boots” and “War Pigs” but the highlight of Zakk’s set was the classic “N.I.B.”.
So-Cal rockers P.O.D. had the crowd in a frenzy by the end of “Youth Of The Nation”. Buckcherry’s Josh Todd sounded considerably better than his performance at Rocklahoma. The Kansas City Buckcherry faithful ate up their set with hoots and cat calls when they played “Lit Up”, “Crazy Bitch”, and “Too Drunk…”.
Collective Soul provided the set of the entire day, in my opinion. Frontman, Ed Roland, had the crowd firmly in his grasp, and man were they good. They sound and perform like the seasoned veterans they are, and the entire crowd was performing karaoke during their entire set. Stephen Pearcy and the boys of classic hair band RATT, performed all their classics but Stephen’s voice is calling back for its glory days. Juan Croucier was HIGH ENERGY, and shredders and icons Carlos Cavazo and Warren DiMartini were on point. Lizzy Hale and Halestorm are Kansas City favorites, and have performed a number of times at ROCKFEST. ALWAYS received with thunderous applause, Halestorm blistered thru their set, leaving everyone in attendance wanting more. Danish rockers VOLBEAT playing a warm up show, before hitting the road with the mighty METALLICA are crowd favorites. Kansas City loves VOLBEAT. This is their third appearance, and by the number of VOLBEAT t- shirts I saw in the crowd they were well received. VOLBEAT is one of the Jack of all trades bands, performing several different styles but melding them all into a HUGE sound.
Second stage headliners were Sammy Hagar and the Circle. The Circle is Sammy’s backup band, but are not “back up” performers. Featuring Michael Anthony of Van Halen and Chickenfoot fame on bass, Vic Johnson on guitar and Jason Bonham, son of drumming legend John “Bonzo” Bonham of the MIGHTY Led Zeppelin. Sammy’s set featured Van Halen, Montrose, Led Zeppelin, Chickenfoot and Sammy’s own material. This supergroup of rockers had the crowd tightly in their grasp, and never once let go.
Headliners GODSMACK provided the same high energy set they’re known for. Sully and the boys always provide a great set, and this set was no different. Blasting out rock anthems right and left, such as “I Stand Alone”, “Keep Away” and “Voodoo” Godsmack NEVER disappoints. Sully, Tony, Robbie and Shannon are legendary, and know which buttons to push and when to push them. With 50,000 plus in a frenzy, the drove the crowd to “1,000 Horsepower”.
KUDOS to KQRC in Kansas City for making the choice to move ROCKFEST 2017 to Kansas Speedway because it was an amazing fan friendly experience. It was hot, sunny and an absolute blast for those in attendance.