For those who didn’t get to the amphitheater to see Enuff Z’Nuff open Thursday evening, there was another opportunity as the band that brought us the album Diamond Boy, could appropriately be found hosting the ‘Diamond Premier’ VIP party at the historic theater at the San Carlos Institute while the Smokin’ Tuna and The Gates hotel were also welcoming Rokisland fans.
With a warm welcome from the festival founder, frontman Chip Z’Nuff was joined by bandmates Tory Stoffregen and Jason K. Herman on guitar along with the newest addition to the Enuff Z’Nuff family, Joe Corson on drums.
While the previous day set focused heavily on the band’s own material, this intimate performance was dedicated to the music of the Beatles, featuring their Hardrock Nite album which covers both band and solo hits from the ‘Fab Four’.
We got a little glimpse of that material during their set on Thursday with “Jet” and a finale of “A Little Help from My Friends,” and caught about half of the show in the theater before jetting over to The Gates hotel party to see some Wig Wam at pool. Luckily the rain held off, and while the fog cover delayed flights, it didn’t delay or close down the show.
I always enjoy the jam aspect that allows for some fun in their Beatles set, but does anyone else find the humor in the American Flag backdrop at a show dedicated to the British Invasion? If you don’t, just wait until you see what fun the Trixter boys had with the flag on Saturday.
After dipping our toes in the pool and literally running into the legendary Jean Beauvior from the Plasmatics at The Gates, we enjoyed some acoustic version of Wig Wam favorites and caught up with friends. And when the rain rolled in, we shared a Lyft over to the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon for an afternoon of debauchery with That Arena Rock Band, who partied on the bar in Coyote Ugly fashion while fans showed up in force wearing neon eighties gear, including wigs, sunglasses, and lots of Aquanet!
Trixter bills this show and their upcoming tour as “Trixter Acoustic,” because it is a stripped down version of the delivery we remember from the full band back when MTV played music and guitarist Steve Brown and bassist PJ Farley were running around in flannels for that memorable “Give it to Me Good” video. The two are joined by percussionist Ben Hans who could also be found supporting Kip Winger’s acoustic performance at the Kick-off Party on the pier.
Steve is making headlines by co-producing the new Ace Frehley album 10000 Volts, which critics are calling his best solo effort to date, and is also celebrating success with his new line of signature SBS guitars (GuitarFetish.com).
For the most part Steve Brown has taken over vocal duties including the classic songs like “One in a Million” and “Surrender” that were once sung by the original Trixter frontman Pete Loran, but PJ Farley who has a noteworthy career outside the band as well as a solo artist and with Chris Jericho’s Fozzy and Kuarantine (an ironic unmasked KISS tribute that formed during Covid) takes the lead for “Tattoos & Misery.”
You can find PJ and Steve pictured below with brothers Ajay and Jeremy Popoff from Lit, who also later joined Bret Michaels on stage for the Parti Gras finale (and this was not Ajay’s first time sharing a microphone with Bret…). And, you can also find them both on the Jericho wrestling cruise this week.
Jefferson Starship was the only other act we’d never seen live before Rokisland, and that’s just sad considering they’ve played locally back home twice in 2023 (and I was out of town covering festival during both performances). We met their guitarist Jude Gold the evening before and learned that he is also a long-time editor at Guitar World magazine.
His bandmate David Freiburg is a multi-talented performer whose band descended from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees and 2106 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients Jefferson Airplane. And their band, Jefferson Starship is one of the most successful arena rock groups of the 70s and 80s, earning 3 platinum and 8 gold records, as well as numerous Top 40 singles.
While Jefferson Starship continues to tour today, the band has experienced numerous lineup and personnel changes and currently features founding member David Freiberg, along with Donny Baldwin (drums), Jude Gold (guitar), Cathy Richardson (guitar and vocals), and Chris Smith (keyboards).
So as one can imagine from the band’s name, we heard both Jefferson Airplane and Starship covers on that beautiful evening in Key West, and many were simply in awe of David Freiberg’s performance as he put on many hats that evening despite the need to site through most of the show. Favorites included the band’s 1981 hit “Find Your Way Back,” Starship’s “Sara,” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” highlighting the powerful voice of Cathy Richardson. But, to be honest, the entire set was a highlight as it offered a relaxing vibe before the parti went full throttle.
The Parti Gras celebration began with a set from singer and rock icon Lou Gramm, the original voice of the band Foreigner and successful solo artist. As many know, Lou Gramm had emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor in 1997 that forced him down a long road to recovery that temporarily stripped of his vocal and songwriting talents.
Despite our best efforts, and having caught Foreigner live more than a dozen times with new frontman Kelly Hansen at the helm, we haven’t been success in catching Lou Gramm live since his recovery. So, when he took the stage and we heard the voice that partnered with guitarist Mick Jones to write that arsenal of multi-platinum magnificence, it literally brought me to tears. It was nothing short of miraculous to hear Lou Gramm sounding at his best and when he looked into my camera singing those familiar lyrics that I know all too well. I just couldn’t compose myself. What a legend!
And, speaking of legends, another very famous frontman Dee Snider from the infamous Twisted Sister took the stage next. We last caught Dee at the band’s induction into the Metal Hall of Fame where our contributing photographer Joe Schaeffer caught the red carpet moments and induction ceremony last year.
During that event on January 26, 2023, Twisted Sister reunited playing a 3-song set for their induction into The Metal Hall of Fame with a line-up that consisted of inductees Dee Snider, Jay Jay French and Mark Mendoza with Mike Portnoy filling in for inductee A.J. Pero and Keith Robert War filling in for inductee Eddie Ojeda. This year’s event just took place on January 24th and was sponsored by Metallica’s blackened Whiskey, but unfortunately we didn’t make it out given the need to recover from Rokisland.
As one would guess, horns were in the air as Dee Snider took the stage and declared “I Wanna Rock” backed by the Bret Michaels Band (as were Lou Gramm and of course Bret Michaels), and it brought back memories of the first Rokisland when the earth literally shook from Dee’s delivery of a full set of Twisted Sister classics. Just look at the live feeds from the festival or the number of hands in the air in our photo coverage and there is no denying that Dee’s performance was explosive. He even introduced the Poison hit for the finale explaining that he hit the stage at Rock of Ages to the sound of “Nothin’ But a Good Time” each night.
And somewhere in between, Poison frontman Bret Michaels took the stage to join his long-time guitarist and band director Pete Evick, Dean Cramer (So Low, Funny Money), bassist Norman Voss, drummer Meri Schaefer, and keyboardist Rob Jozwiak to perform favorites like “Ride the Wind” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” before welcoming an all-star parade of musicians to join the band for an over the top finale. Guests included Jean Beauvior of the Plasmatics, members of Enuff Z’Nuff, Bowling for Soup, Rubix Cube, Trixter, Lit, and Jefferson Starship, and of course Dee Snider and Lou Gramm.
Following the epic Parti Gras finale, we all rushed to the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon for what promised to be an eventful afterparty with Gavin Evick and special guests from the Bret Michaels Band in the house. Gavin’s band warned us that Friday night was going to be a lot more intense than the Wednesday morning show that introduced them to the festival crowd, and they weren’t kidding. The band was joined by friends and proud fathers of both ‘Gavins’ Pete Evick (pictured below) and Jeremy Brink, as well as other guests who included Meri Schafer filling in for Steven Hudgins for a bit on drums.
More Rokisland fun is on the way with a day four recap in the works. If you haven’t already, check out our Kick-Off party coverage, coverage from the first day of the festival here, and coverage from day two here.
Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more festival coverage as well as local shows including Mr. Big tomorrow (1/28/2024) and Lynch Mob, The Guess Who and Extreme early next month. In March, we’ll be on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.