Article and photos by Rick Munroe
Rockfest 80’s took over South Florida’s music scene this past weekend for two full days of rock and roll, car shows and colorful art. The weather on both days of the festival could not have been better, even with a brief downpour that greeted attendees late Saturday afternoon.
For those who attended last year’s debut of the festival, this year was quite different. With just one stage rather than two, the event was considerably more streamlined without sacrificing the experience and the quality of headline acts. The stage, sound quality and festival layout worked well for concertgoers who came to rock. The food options were limited; however, there was no shortage of beer stands close to the stage, making it easy to get a drink without skipping a beat.
Headline acts this year included Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Cheap Trick and 38 Special. Lynyrd Skynyrd was the scheduled headliner Sunday night; however, they had to cancel their show as original founding member Gary Rossington fell ill and had to be admitted to the hospital just days before their scheduled appearance.
Metalheads showed up on both days, showing that there still is a demand for concerts that feature bands that once filled stadiums and arenas. It’s a clear indication that they still love the ’80s and love rock and roll.
All of the bands performed above expectations, but the buzz on Saturday night was how amazing Dokken sounded. Don Dokken has been criticized in the past about his vocal qualities. If this is Dokken 2.0, then fans of the metal band will gladly welcome them back to South Florida in the near future.
The highly anticipated Joan Jett performance was outstanding musically; she played most of her hits to the delight of those still standing when the band took the stage at 9 PM sharp. If there was one thing missing, it was her level of excitement. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts delivered what everyone came to hear, but they could have been a little more animated, like every other band that performed Saturday.
Cheap Trick didn’t disappoint either, Rick Nielsen, who has been performing since the early ’60s, shows no signs of slowing down. He and Robin Zander bounced around on stage like a couple of kids jamming in their first concert. These Rock and Roll Hall of Famers clearly showed why they were invited to Rockfest: simply put, they rock!
Sunday afternoon brought performances by Jack Russell’s Great White, Lita Ford, Foghat, Little River Band, The Outlaws and 38 Special. Although Sunday was generally a bit more subdued, somebody forgot to tell Lita Ford. Ford and her band came to rock and that she did. For those who don’t know, she and Joan Jett were members of the mid-’70s band The Runaways.
The highlight of the night was the outstanding performance of The Little River Band. Not only did they delight the crowd with their hits including “Take It Easy on Me” and “Man on Your Mind” but played a few covers which had the entire crowd singing along.
Overall, Rockfest delivered what fans wanted. For many, it took them back to their high school days of headbanging music when life appeared to be much simpler; for others, it gave them a chance to reconnect with the bands they heard on the radio and recorded onto cassette tapes. For new fans of these legends, it bridged the generation gap between a parent and child whose musical differences might appear as far apart as Venus and Mars.
If you were there, you may have heard that Rockfest will be back in 2018. I’m sure many will be waiting to find out who will be rocking Pembroke Pines next year.