"Music…like life is circular, I do believe that people will ALWAYS want to hear music that makes them feel alive! Rocks' very essence is about that..." -Michael Lardie/Great White
For almost a decade (since 2005) Frederick Entertainments' Freddy Stahmer and his impeccable team of rock and roll warrior staff have been bringing incredible rock shows to fans across the country. Wrapped around, before and after the hugely successful Farm Rock in Illinois (Sept 2014) Frederick Entertainment has carried out a series of concerts in the Phoenix/Tucson areas, known as the "Desert Rocks Concert Series". Frederick Entertainment has brought huge national acts such as Queensryche, Stryper, Great White and Warrant as well as hard rocking regional acts such as Stonebreed (from L.A.) and Veilside (from Chicago) to the masses of Arizona rock fans. The grand finale in this series of concerts culminated in a huge show known as "Septemberfest" at the AVA/Amphitheatre in Tucson, AZ on Sept.27,2014. Rock Over America Magazine proudly attended this series finale to witness one of the best outdoor concerts this year.
Over the last several years I have proudly attended many concerts and festivals across the country representing many genres and many generations of musicians. Perhaps one of the greatest joy's for me in recent year's, has been seeing the 80's and early 90's rock bands out touring heavily again, gaining fans in the next generation and reclaiming their place in rock music history. Although many of these bands continued to tour throughout the 90's and early 2000's, for a time, their popularity had waned when the musical scenery changed. Today, although it seems like hip-hop, electronic music, and pre-packaged pop stars dominate the radio, these bands continue to sell out venues across the nation and overseas. Perhaps the huge arena rock days have passed and certainly the way the music industry operates has changed, but for many of these bands I have seen a resurgence in their popularity and a greater recognition among fans of the incredible musical talents of these rock musicians. Frederick Entertainment's Desert Rocks Concert Series proved to be no exception to the continuing popularity of these bands and their ability to put on a killer rock show, play large venues, sell tickets, and gain new fans along the way.
On the bill at AVA/Septemberfest in Tucson,Arizona was special guest Gabbie Rae doing an opening acoustic set, Great White, Stryper, Sebastian Bach, and Extreme. I think there is no question that the belle of this ball is the incredible 16 year-old rock singer Gabbie Rae. Following her performance at the 2014 MOR Cruise earlier this year, this young lady has been wholly embraced by the rock community, touring and guesting on multiple tours and festivals throughout 2014. Watching her perform as the opening act at AVA/Septemberfest was my first time witnessing this young lady's superb talent. Her vocal abilities and maturity in performance far belie her 16 years. Within the first song of her set it was no question as to why this talented young performer has been on the radar of everyone in the industry. Gabbie Rae is without a doubt a breathe of fresh rock and roll air, in the current mainstream industry that is dominated by artists that are more about image than of substance and by over processed popstars singing canned music. Gabbie is the real deal rock musician, with sheer, raw, talent, stage presence and the gift of drawing a crowd that stands in awe, unable to stop and listen to the sound and strength of her voice. It is a joy and a wonder to watch her perform and to imagine what the music industry has in store for this young lady in the future.
Following Gabbie Rae, was Great White. I have seen this current touring Great White band with Terry Ilous as lead vocalist perform several times of the last few years and I truly have never been disappointed, they put on a phenomenal performance every time. Pre-show, I was able to conduct a short Q&A with Michael Lardie in which we discussed the current state of affairs in the music industry. As someone who has been involved with many aspects of the music industry both as an artist, producer and engineer for the past 3 decades, Michael had some incredible insights and a grateful and humble view of what is happening in the industry today. I think the general consensus is that Rock and Roll... is FAR from dead, it's just the landscape of the way the industry operates has changed. Times change, seasons change, and technology changes. By and large many people have an aversion to change and they become disgruntled. But, overall I think ML summed it up best in regards to the music industry by saying "... "Music…like life is circular, I do believe that people will ALWAYS want to hear music that makes them feel alive! Rocks' very essence is about that..."
After Great White's high energy rock show, STRYPER took the stage. Stryper has always been one of those bands who can continuously deliver, night after night, year after year. They are one of the best hard rock/metal acts to come out of the ‘80s and their performance at Septemberfest carried on their longheld and well earned ability to always give a solid and rousing rock show. From the first power chord they commanded the crowd’s attention. Robert Sweet & Tim Gaines’ rhythm section, coupled with Michael Sweet & Oz Fox’s guitar team, covered with soaring vocals including rich 3 part harmonies make for a lethal musical combination. Not to mention Michael’s pipes are still as strong as ever. Their set that consisted of mostly classic Stryper tunes & a couple newer ones kept the crowd on their feet & energized from beginning to end. Even their surprise cover of Kiss’ Shout It Out Loud was met with cheers, fist pumping & metal horns in every direction.
Next up was Sebastian Bach with his wild mane of hair flying and his octave piercing vocals, he is still by far one of the most spectacular voices in rock. But, the highlight of his performance was witnessing his interaction with Canadian loving fans as a group in the front row handed BAS a Canadian flag and he proudly displayed it for the entire crowd to see, then draped it over his shoulders, and thanked his fans for all their support over the years.
By the time the show’s headliner EXTREME was set to hit the stage, the foundation had been paved with some great rock & roll. Extreme has always prided themselves on being different than the average rock band and at Septemberfest they proved it by performing an entire album LIVE! Onstage. This is no small feat for any band! But, Extreme proves their incredibly competent musicianship, and plays their album "Pornograffitti" from beginning to end. From the striking of the first guitar chord, their heavy riffed grooves & super catchy songs prove that their musical talent and abilities are unsurpassable. Nuno Bettencourt is easily one of the best guitarists in the rock genre. From the intro sounds of Decadence Dance, the crowd soars on the wave of rock and the band lays it down in full force. They seamlessly & effortlessly flow through the entire Pornograffiti album, sounding spot-on to the studio version but with all the passion and thrill expected of a mind-blowing live show... treating the fans to a wide range of rock, funk, blues, jazz, acoustic & even Frank Sinatra inspired classic lounge music styles. Extreme brings it all, and then some. If you wanna see one of the best LIVE! bands of the genre, Extreme is definately the band to experience!
Huge Kudos, to Frederick Entertainment and Staff and all the bands at Septemberfest for proving that rock will NEVER DIE!
Special Thanks to:
ROA/Guest Photographer: Julie Sandretto
ROA/Guest Contributor: Thommy Jacobs Webster