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  GRAND ROCKTEMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL III
The Grand Casino Hinkley, Hinkley Minnesota, USA
September 11th/12th 2015


Jeff Kunze

jeff kuntze


rocktember

The Grand Casino Hinkley Outdoor Amphitheater was the site for the two-day music event Grand RockTember Music Festival III that took place September 11-12, 2015. The venue was easy to access and parking was a breeze. I knew after walking through the gates it would be a blast.

The first band on the stage was Steelheart, led by singer Miljenko Matijevic who hasn't lost a step on his endless vocal range. They played two hits from the debut record, 'I'll Never Let You Go' and 'Everybody Loves Eileen'.

They also kicked out songs from the soundtrack 'Rock Star' that Matijevic contributed on, opening the set with 'Blood Pollution' and adding 'We All Die Young', 'Stand Up', and 'Livin' The Life'.

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Jack Russell's Great White was up next. With a large catalogue of Great White songs to pull from, the opener 'All Over Now' was unexpected but sounded great.

The parade of hits followed, including 'Desert Moon', 'Save Your Love' and 'Rock Me'. Blending in 'Purple Haze' with 'Mista Bone'was a nice touch and the closer 'Once Bitten Twice Shy' is always a crowd pleaser.

Candlebox are a completely different animal from the rest of the 80's based bands. Despite that, they played with energy and a determination to get attention.

The set pulled heavily from the first record with 'Don't You', 'Change', 'You', Far Behind' and 'Cover Me'. They also mixed in covers of 'Hungry Like A Wolf' by Duran Duran and 'Alive' by Pearl Jam.

Skid Row, now featuring Tony Harnell (Ex-TNT), was one of my most anticipated acts. How would Harnell stack up trying to handle the material and how would fans receive him?

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Tony Harnell from Skid Row

The energy quickly shot up as 'Slave To The Grind' opened the set. The adrenaline rush continued with 'Big Guns', Piece Of Me', 'Monkey Business', and 'Riot Act'. The massive hits '18 and Life' and 'I Remember You' went over big.

One of the biggest responses all weekend was for 'Youth Gone Wild'. Tony Harnell is not, and never will be Sebastian Bach; however, he is capable of hitting the high-end notes and has enough grit to keep the heavy stuff sounding heavy. I was fully impressed by him and how tight the band sounded.

Bret Michael closed out the first day. He opened with 'Talk Dirt To Me' and scampered through the Poison hits. He mixed in covers of 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Mama Don't Dance'.

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Bret Michaels

Bret was very entertaining and his band brings a ton of energy. However, I really did miss C.C. on guitar. He brings his own unique aspect to the music and adds that extra ingredient that serves the songs so well.

Saturday kicked off with Eric Martin playing an acoustic set. His partner in crime was Howie Simon (Jeff Scott Soto, Scrap Metal) helping with vocals and guitar.

Rolling through the Mr. Big catalog with 'Alive And Kickin', 'Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy', and 'Take Cover', the big finale 'To Be With You' featured the Trixter boys singing background harmonies.

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Steve Brown from Trixter

Eric sounded fantastic and put on a fun show engaging the crowd throughout the set.

Saliva faced the same challenges Candlbox did the previous day. They looked out of place but represented themselves well. They stuck to the hits like 'Superstar', 'Click Click Boom' and 'Ladies and Gentlemen'.

Trixter, boasting all original members, cruised through an entertaining set that hit on songs from all four albums. They included 'One In A Million' Rockin' Horse', 'Heart Of Steel', 'Tattoos & Misery', 'Line Of Fire', and opened with the new song 'Rockin To The Edge Of The Night'.

Steve Brown is one of the most talented and entertaining guitar players out there. The expected closer 'Give It To Me Good' rocked the house.

L.A. Guns presented a more aggressive style as they opened with 'No Mercy'. The band blew through 'Sex Action', Never Enough', Electric Gypsy' and the big hit 'Ballad Of Jayne'.

The highlight from the set for me was 'Over The Edge'. Phil Lewis still has the swagger and the pipes pull off the material flawlessly. A roaring version of 'Rip And Tear' closed the set.

A project called Scrap Metal, featuring Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, along with guest musicians featured throughout the set was next. They opened with the two biggest Nelson hits 'After The Rain' and '(Can't Live Without Your) Love And Affection'.

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Scrap Metal

Following this, the first guest star Pat Travers played 'Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights) and 'Snorting Whiskey' to a huge crowd response, thenDerek St. Holmes played 'Hey Baby', 'Stranglehold' and 'Cat Scratch Fever'.

Stephen Pearcy hit the stage next and covered 'Lay It Down', 'Back For More', and 'Round And Round'. Pearcy stayed on vocals when Brad Whitford came up to cover 'Last Child' and 'Train Kept A-Rollin'. Things weren't always tight throughout but it was enjoyable anyway.

Tom Keifer got the biggest responses of the weekend. From the opening 'Fallin' Apart At The Seams' the crowd was 100% on board. Tom sounded exceptional and gave everything he had.

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Tom Keifer

Playing Cinderella classics 'Shake Me', Somebody Save Me' and 'Shelter Me' had fans hanging on every word. He also hit the ballads like 'Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone) with his wife joining him on stage to sing as a duet.

He sprinkled in a couple tracks off his solo album and covers of 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I like it)' and 'With A Little Help From My Friends' before closing the set with 'Gypsy Road'. A really fantastic performance.

Hitting the stage a bit late, Ace Frehley and his band opened with 'Rocket Ride' and then 'Gimme A Feelin'. He hit on many of the Kiss trademark songs like 'Parasite', 'Love Gun', Detroit Rock City', 'Shock Me' and 'Deuce'.

Three songs from the original solo record followed with 'Rip It Out', 'Snowblind', and 'New York Groove' really shining. All the usual props were in play, the smoking and light up guitars that trademark his shows.

Richie Scarlet was in constant motion. He sang on 'Break Out' and completely nailed it. Overall a good show even though 'Rock Soldiers' was left off the set.

Finally the beast that is Twisted Sister hit the stage. Dee Snider tore it up from the opening number 'What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)' until 'S.M.F.', the closing anthem.

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Dee Snider

The band was firing on all cylinders as they lit the fire under everyone in the amphitheatre. Mike Portnoy was behind the kit filling in for the departed A.J. Pero. "The Sound Of Thunder" was written across the Twisted Sister backdrop in honor of A.J. and it was clear his presence was missed.

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Mike Portnoy

Emotion spilled over throughout the night and especially during the song 'The Price'. The stage went black during 'Burn In Hell' as a video of Pero playing a drum solo was shown. It was a very cool moment in the show.

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Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister covered all the bases as the fans sang every word to all their classic cuts. It was an awe-inspiring performance from a band with an illustrious career. A show I will never forget!

Overall this was a spectacular two-day music event. The bands brought some impressive music and the venue supplied a remarkable environment and spectacular sound. The amphitheatre provides great sightlines to the stage making every seat a good one. I am counting down the days to RockTember IV.

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