Rokisland Festival Kick-Off Party – 1/16/2024

Having traveled south from Pittsburgh on a direct flight to paradise, I was able to enjoy some sunshine including pool-time and some island exploration before heading to the Rokisland Sunset Pier Kick-Off Party at Ocean Key Resort.  Sadly some passing storms dampened the mood leading up to the private event for ticket package holders at Rokisland fest, but after a slight delay and some fun sheltering in the parking structure and at the bar, the pre-festival party was a big success.

Entry into the Kick-Off Party was included in all Full Experience Packages, and while the intimate event was SOLD OUT to the public and pass buyers, some gathered nearby to see what the buzz was about.  Fans seemed to have mixed feeling about the new location, but unlike the green, the pier is a quick walk from old town and the action on Duval Street.  And while many were uncertain about the line-up, nobody was complaining once they heard the bands in question.

We were surprised to find that Kip Winger was opening the show given that he was the only veteran act on the bill.  His performance was plagued by some sound issues and drum damage from the weather, but that didn’t stop him from putting on an amazingly entertaining show.  Kip surprised the crowd by inviting Winger guitarist Reb Beach to join him and his bandmate Ben Hans, and it was a lucky break for the band given the unanticipated damage to Ben’s drum, which forced the set to focus on Winger band material instead of Kip’s solo releases.

For those in the know, Kip is not only the frontman of his band Winger, he is also an accomplished singer/songwriter/composer and Grammy nominated artist who has had much success with classical music and his credits even include a musical entitled Get Jack. Kip initially gained notability as a member of Alice Cooper’s band, contributing bass to his Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell albums where he met Winger bandmate Paul Taylor, who could be found in the audience Tuesday night.

Kip’s bandmate Ben Hans is a Nashville based musician and music instructor that keeps a busy performance schedule delving into many genres of music. Ben has shared the stage with a diverse list of artists.  Some you’ll definitely recognize like Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Steve Brown and PJ Farley of Trixter (who he later performed with during a Sapphire VIP show and at the main amphitheater on Thursday evening as part of the Trixter Acoustic band), and Anthony Corder (Tora Tora). Many will also recognize Ben from his performances with the Eric Martin Band at last year’s Rokisland Fest.

With ponchos in check and phones in the air, the crowd packed in along the narrow pier despite the lack of a normal vibrant Key West sunset. We still got a glimmer of the sun setting through the cloud cover.  And, as mentioned earlier the set was focused on Winger band material with favorites like “Hungry” and “Down Incognito,” and of course with the addition of Reb, and the bumpy start to the set, there was lots of humor.  In fact, one of our favorite moments was when Kip told the production videographer to stop filming his behind and to get off the stage! (I didn’t see that poor guy during the full Winger band set the following evening, I guess he was afraid to return).

You may not know much about Adam & The Metal Hawks and if that is the case, I’d suggest you check out their socials and the video footage from their shows. Adam used to be an independent singer, and was a finalist on American Idol in 2015 before he joined forces with Metal Hawks.  Consequently, they changed their name to Adam and the Metal Hawks a few years back and soon released their self-titled debut album.  They are Adam Ezegelian (lead vocals), Johnny Barry (guitar), Ryan Daversa (the bass), and Griffin McCarthy (drums).

Listing influences ranging from Queen and Aerosmith to Guns ‘n Roses and AC/DC, this band brings an explosive youthful energy to familiar classics like the “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” that totally blew us away.  Aside from choosing an uplifting mixed of covers, the delivery was theatrical, expressive and precise.  Frontman Adam is a true rockstar with expressive faces and a booming delivery, and his band just takes things over the top.  It was such a fun show, we were thrilled to find members of the band hosting the All-Star Jam on Sunset pier along with Paralandra the following afternoon.  They even had some pool party fun in store for those at The Gates hotel complex on the far side of the island.

Closing out the evening was Paralandra, a band that was formed by guitarist Paul Carson and his daughter, Casandra Carson in 2013 when the Carsons started playing the songs they were writing together.  With Casandra on lead vocals and guitar, they are joined by drummer Dakota Watson and bassist Sawyer Rikard.

Paralandra won us over with favorites from bands like Queensryche, Heart, and Blue Murder, but it is noteworthy that their set included original as well Like “Gypsy Rose,” which we heard a couple times last week and their new single “Dirty Love.”

Paralandra is well versed in festival etiquette having played everything from Rocklahoma to NAMM to the KISS Kruise. Nationally, they have supported Yngwie Malmsteen, Tantric, Saliva, Alter Bridge, Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin, making a name for themselves with rising star Casandra Carson taking the lead with big smiles, bigger licks, a killer wardrobe, and a voice that can handle the vocal gymnastics of songs like “Barracuda” and personality that can delivery songs like “I Was Made for Loving You” (a favorite from their sets, especially when Wig Wam’s frontman Age Sten Grande-Nilsen joined them at the pier jam).

Paralandra delivered at every show from the pier to the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon where they closed out the festival, and each set was refreshing and unique offerings something new for those who caught more than one show.  Definitely a band to add to your watch list.

More Rokisland fun is on the way with a day one recap in the works (now live).  Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more festival coverage as well as local shows including Mr. Big this Sunday 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 1/26/2024.  All event photos by Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.