Rokisland – Wednesday – 1/17/2024

Wednesday morning, yes, that’s right, morning, the festival kicked into high gear with the addition of Gavin Evick to the line-up at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. Gavin is the son of Bret Michaels Band guitarist Pete Evick and can be found fronting his own band, who delivered a set of fun nostalgic cover tunes during a set that began shortly after 11 am.

Gavin is excited to be part of a new generation of rock music and shared his thoughts on this pivotal time in the industry during a phone interview when he released his first original single.  He was joined by Gavin Hades and Logan Blake on guitars, Ivorie Helmbright on bass, and Steven Huggins on drums, and as you may have guessed, this was not the last we saw of the band during the festival.

Keeping with the fresh and youthful vibe, the fun continued with the Kamenar twins: Sean on guitar and John behind the drums.  Hailing from Tampa, Florida, the duo can be found supporting with national acts like Enuff Z’Nuff and even Kings X this winter.

Kamenar embarked on their first national headlining run entitled The Live Loud and Raw Tour last year, and have a new single out entitled “Now That We Both Know.”  While they have been known to have additional bandmates, we are still intrigued by their performance as a two-man band, especially considering that we were indeed seeing double.  Loved the show, but found ourselves pressed for time trying to catch Paralandra on the pier for a daytime VIP show and a very special All-Star jam which brought a few special guests into the spotlight.

After their own set, Paralandra was joined by Adam and The Metal Hawks and the pier was opened up to all festival guests for an All-Star jam that offered up a revolving arsenal of musicians, including special guests Jaron Gulino of Lynch Mob and Heavens Edge and Chip Z’Nuff of Enuff Z’Nuff.

While we headed down Duval to catch that special event with Paralandra and Adam and The Metal Hawks mid-afternoon, the party continued at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon when That Arena Rock Show took the stage.  We know their show well having seen them at the festival last year, and have also caught their more elaborate touring act locally with full costumes, guitars, and special effects.  So, we made a quick stop to grab a glimpse of the action before heading to the Amphitheater for the main event.  I know it is hard to believe, but the day had just begun.

I suppose in hindsight trying to do everything on the schedule that first day wasn’t the smartest idea, but I had spent a couple days relaxing and was ready to rock! I wasn’t the only one, after all, those glam metal characters from Norway had finally made their way to Key West.  With much anticipation and visa’s in hand we could finally welcome Wig Wam to Rokisland.

Wig Wam is a glam metal band formed in Halden, Norway that formed in 2001. Taking on the personas of comic book characters, Wig Wam’s lineup which consists of vocalist Glam (Åge Sten Nilsen), guitarist Teeny (Trond Holter), bassist Flash (Bernt Jansen), and drummer Sporty (Øystein Andersen), has remained unchanged since the band’s formation.

Though there was a time when they split for a bit, they eventually got the band back together with much success. Wig Wam’s style mixes glam metal and hard rock with humorous lyrics and imagery and had initial success with the song “In My Dreams” before their recent resurgence which began in 2022 when James Gunn chose their song “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” as the opening theme for the HBO Max television series Peacemaker and featured “In My Dreams” on the soundtrack. Wig Wam has released six studio albums to date with the latest being Out of the Dark.

We sat down with frontman Glam to discuss the band’s issues entering our country and their latest album prior to their performances on the Monsters of Rock Cruise last year, and have been huge fans ever since from the over the top imagery to their rockstar presence to their infectious lyrics we can’t get enough of this band.

We are happy to report that despite illness in the band camp, they were able to pull off one hell of a show opening the festival on Wednesday evening.  In fact, Age had the crowd singing back to him most of the night and he even visited the crowd to take some selfies and share the microphone.  Favorites included “Non Stop Rock and Roll” and “Forevermore” as well as the song that everyone knows (even the Karaoke guy at Rick’s apparently), “Do You Wanna Taste It.”

For anyone who ‘can’t get enough’ of Winger (yes, sometimes I just have to amuse myself), I would encourage you to hit our archives, as we’ve had a few interviews with Kip Winger, Reb Beach and even Rod Morgenstein over the years.  We know this band well, and having been a fan for decades, I find it challenging to get back to basics when offering up coverage.  But, I have found that in most cases this is a band that artists respect, while the general population has them underestimated.

For those who haven’t gotten past the early platinum successes that were Winger (self-titled) and In the Heart of the Young, which brought those heavily requested singles “Seventeen”, “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Miles Away,” I’d strongly encourage you to check out their latest and appropriately titled 7th studio album. It is the first new studio album since 2014’s “Better Days Comin’,” and, if you didn’t realize that they have released Seven, then you really should dive into the catalog.

Despite many other projects, Winger has amazingly been able to keep all of it’s original members with Kip Winger (guitar, vocals), Reb Beach (guitar), Paul Taylor (guitar, keyboards), Rod Morgenstein (drums), and newest addition John Roth (guitar), who joined the four founding members nearly thirty years ago.

As always they started their set fast and kept a blend of the old and the new often entertaining us with a triple axe-attack and arena-sized soloing from our local boy Reb Beach (who you all might recognize from Whitesnake and even Dokken).

While they weren’t in top billing, Mr. Big was without question the most anticipated performance of the evening (if not the entire festival).  It is after all just the beginning of the US run of the Big Finish tour and for many it will be the last time that they see Paul Gilbert pick up that drill as part of the supergroup that features Eric Martin (Lead Vocals), Paul Gilbert (Guitar and Vocals), and Billy Sheehan (Bass and Vocals), and noteworthy new addition Nick D’Virgilio (Drums and Vocals) from the prog rock band Big Big Train, who is also know for his work with Genesis, Spock’s Beard, and Tears For Fears.

Since the band formed in 1988 Mr. Big has never been known for doing anything on a small scale (just think of that elephant on the Defying Gravity cover). Their patented singalong harmonies and instrumental virtuosity have brought them mega hits, sold-out tours, resulting in lots of laughs and unfortunately a lot of tears too.

It is no surprise that after 35 years of being addicted to that rush, Mr. Big has decided to take a final bow as they say farewell on an all-out world tour (with now end in sight).  When we interviewed frontman Eric Martin following the release of their Live From Milan album, the wounds were still fresh from the loss of drummer Pat Torpey to Parkinson’s disease back in 2018 after splitting percussion duties with drummer Matt Starr on his final tour with the band. And now, they have decided it’s time to part ways officially.

“We wanted to do a proper farewell, and this seems like the right way to do it,” asserts bassist/ vocalist Billy Sheehan. Notes guitarist/vocalist Paul Gilbert, “We’re in the process of making sure we come up with a suitably big entertainment extravaganza to go along with our music. And since our music has resonated so wonderfully in places all over the world, we’re going to play in as many of those places as we can.” Submits lead vocalist Eric Martin, “If we were in the movie business, we’d just put it all up in lights and say, ‘Welcome to The Big Finish’! Seriously, I’m glad we’re getting a chance to do it all onstage together as Mr. Big again and raise a flag to everything we’ve done as a band over the years.”

One of the coolest aspects of this tour is the decision to perform the entirety of their  Platinum-selling 1991 album Lean Into It from start to finish as a featured highlight of the live setlist.  From the psychedelic favorite “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind,” to the power-drilled and power-chorded  “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy” (holy shit, did you realize there are four guitar picks screwed onto the end of that drill!) or the tear-jerking and sentimental “To Be With You,” Mr. Big did not disappoint.  It had everything we’ve come to expect from the band including Billy Sheehan’s vicious attack on his bass and Eric Martin’s playful sense of humor.

I can’t wait to see them again, and apparently either can Pittsburgh, because our town recognizes Paul Gilbert  as our own and tomorrow’s show at Jergel’s has been SOLD OUT for quite some time now.   We were actually surprised that the band wasn’t performing at The Palace Theater in Greensburg, where bassist Billy Sheehan last performed with his other supergroup The Winery Dogs.  But we won’t complain about getting another chance to catch Mr. Big in a bar setting after this mind-blowing show at Rokisland’s big stage. Hit our archives for conversations with Eric Martin, Paul Gilbert, and Billy Sheehan.  Honored to have interviewed them all for TPRS and radio over the years.

Night Ranger had a lofty challenging following that Mr. Big set, but with guitarist Brad Gillis taking the heat as a replacement on Ozzy Osbourne’s tour in the aftermath of Randy Rhodes death, we are sure that getting the attention of the Rokisland audience was a piece of cake (or funnel cake as we learned during Bowling for Soup on Saturday).

Night Ranger have earned widespread recognition that includes both multi-platinum and gold album status all while leaving their indelible mark on the music industry with a long list of best-selling albums (Dawn PatrolMidnight Madness7 WishesBig Life and Man In Motion). Their popularity is fueled by an impressive number of hit singles that we all know the words to, and a live show that never fails to impress. How could it not, I mean the drum solo alone (with full band participation) is enough to blow your mind!

Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead & rhythm guitars), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (lead & rhythm guitars).  These guys truly are rock legends.  In fact, Night Ranger recently released a live album titled, 40 Years and a Night with Contemporary Youth Orchestra which was filmed live at the Key Bank State Theatre in Cleveland.

And on Wednesday night, they performed a lengthy set that included “Sister Christian,” “(You Can Still) Rock In America,” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me” among many others. And, we were told a few member of the band even hit Duval street’s Durty Harry’s during the festival to jam with the local house band.  How cool is that!

Not sure how we did it but after the walking from the festival grounds to the heart of old town, we caught another performance from Adam and The Metal Hawks at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon afterparty, and we sure were glad that we did! Who needs sleep when you can sing along to Queen, right? (hold that thought because we’ve got to tell you about Thursday’s show at the Tuna in our continuing Rokisland coverage!).

More Rokisland fun is on the way with a day two recap in the works. If you haven’t already, check out our Kick-Off party coverage.  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.

Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen on 1/27/2024.  All event photos by Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.