Rocklahoma festival lineup covers wide swath of sonic territory
After almost two decades as the lead singer of a rock band, Charlie Starr has become enthralled with the gypsy lifestyle of the touring musician.
“You get addicted to the ‘play and get out of town and go to the next one’ — Play, go to the next one, play, go to the next one. It really becomes a cycle that some people hate it, some people love it. I love it,” said Starr, frontman of Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke. “And festivals are a special kind of energy. You know, it’s a party.”
The Southern rockers are among the more than 40 acts on the lineup for the 13th annual Rocklahoma music and camping festival. The event features three days and three stages of rock ‘n’ roll Friday through Sunday at the Pryor Creek Music Festival Grounds (formerly the “Catch The Fever” Festival Grounds) in Pryor.
With high-profile acts like Korn, Disturbed, Shinedown, Bush, Seether, Lita Ford and more on the bill, Rocklahoma is known for spotlighting top new rock artists and classic bands. But the extensive lineup covers a lot of sonic territory, with heavy metal, hip-hop, hardcore punk and more represented.
“I love the variety of acts. ... It can be a little bit intimidating, as well. We played a festival in Sweden years ago, and we had to go on right after Death Angel, this speed metal band. And they were fantastic. It was like, ‘Oh, OK, what we do is completely different than that, so I hope people are ready.’ And luckily, they were. But that keeps you on your toes. It’s like, ‘Oh, OK, well, that was awesome. What are we about to go and do?’ ” said Starr, who with his Blackberry Smoke bandmates will bring out the Southern side of rock Sunday night at Rocklahoma.
“You definitely come in there locked and loaded. You don’t want to be the band of the day that people are like, ‘That sucked.’ ”
The Rocklahoma 2019 lineup is jammed with familiar names: KISS co-founder Ace Frehley, heavy metal icons Gwar, female-fronted gothic metal act In This Moment. But festivals also are opportunities for newcomers like Los Angeles rockers Dirty Honey, who have been together about 18 months and are making their Rocklahoma debut.
“The opportunity is incredible. ... The festival scene is definitely more of an event than the club shows, and there’s an atmosphere around it that’s fun and exciting. So far, it’s been really awesome,” said Dirty Honey frontman Marc Labelle by phone en route to the recent Lunatic Luau festival at Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“That’s the one that on our Facebook page and on social media people seem to be most stoked about. … So, we’re expecting probably the biggest crowd we’ve ever played in front of at Rocklahoma.”
Specializing in a bluesy rock sound, Dirty Honey, playing Sunday at Rocklahoma, is touring in support of its new self-titled debut EP, produced by Nick DiDia, who has worked with Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and Stone Temple Pilots.
“It had those elements of what we wanted Dirty Honey to be, which is a very raw-sounding, exciting rock ‘n’ roll band,” Labelle said of the March release. “We were walking around New York, and everywhere you go, you’re seeing Rolling Stones T-shirts, The Who T-shirts, Aerosmith shirts and Zeppelin shirts. And it’s like ‘Why is there not more music with this sort of soulful, sexy, wide appeal in today’s sort of more mainstream lineup?’ … And when you go around the country and you sort of see what’s happening at the live gigs and certainly at the festivals, there’s definitely something happening in this rock ‘n’ roll scene right now. We’re happy to kind of be in the forefront of it.”
Starr and his Blackberry Smoke bandmates are touring on two 2018 releases: their sixth studio album, “Find a Light,” and the acoustic EP “The Southern Ground Sessions.”
As Blackberry Smoke makes its Rocklahoma debut, he said the Georgians are proud to bring their Southern sound to the lineup.
“I’ve tried over the years to wrap my brain around … what an audience might want to hear, and you can’t really do that. I say that, meaning, ‘We should play our heaviest stuff because we’re at a heavy festival.’ Or ‘We should play our most country stuff because …’ and in my experience, it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is just do what you do. You can’t please everyone, so there will obviously be people that it’s not their cup of tea. But if you obviously just focus on what you do well or what you think you do well, that’s when you’ll win people,” Starr said.
Where: Pryor Creek Music Festival Grounds (formerly the “Catch The Fever” Festival Grounds) in Pryor.
Information and tickets: www.rocklahoma.com.