[published]: 2016, August
[in]: Kelowna Now
[article]: The Resurgence of Rock and Roll
[by]: Savannah Bagshaw/Cami Hill

What do you get when a 17 year-old and 20 year-old head to a classic rock music festival? One hell of a good time! As you can imagine it's very rare to see a young person headbanging to Prism in this day and age, let alone two.

It came as no surprise to us when we received comments like "Do you even know who this is?" or "Were you even thought of when this song came out?" You can imagine how surprised the people around us were when they discovered that not only could we name each song, we could also name the album title and year of release before they had the opportunity to exhale.

But that's not to say we didn't make friends. As we ran through the crowd shooting, hyping everyone up and belting out lyrics with strangers, we couldn't help thinking about how these thousands of people were all united by one mesmerizing, energizing force - the force of Rock and Roll.

How is it that a simple sequence of notes, words and high-pitched vocal chord vibrations from 30 years ago can still cast such a spell over people? Well we're gonna tell you how by taking you on a visual journey through our weekend at Rock the Lake, including some words of wisdom from Al Harlow, of Prism.

Humans crave the chaos that is Rock and Roll.

Al Harlow, lead singer and guitarist of Canadian rock group Prism, sums up some of our favorite parts about the genre into one eloquent statement.

"You're supposed to hear the human flaws in rock, the way that the instruments and rhythms interact with each other, that is real people, breathing!" - Al Harlow

Two bands from the weekend immediately came to mind when I heard this statement, Kick Axe, the only heavy metal band of the lineup, and guitar genius, singer-songwriter, Jerry Doucette.

To be honest I was slightly concerned going into Kick Axe's set as they are known for their raunchy guitar riffs and blood curdling vocals, I wasn't sure if they'd be able to deliver the same show-stopping performances I had seen in footage from 1986. Boy, was I wrong.

Original guitarist Larry Gillstrom still had it; absolutely annihilating every guitar solo.

Recent inductee of the band, lead singer Daniel Nargang was the epitome of rawness. One minute he was just an regular guy singing a rock song, and the next he turned into some sort of rock and roll god, hitting notes you wouldn't think possible. And he wasn't too hard to look at either with his luscious locks and nose ring, reminding me of the once ever so dreamy, Axl Rose. With the immaculate instrumentation in combination with the stellar showmanship, this band had us headbanging to the point of whiplash.

There are many words to describe Jerry Doucette's performance, but in all honesty we are still awestruck. It was as though Jerry wasn't just playing a set to thousands of people but giving each and every one of us a part of his soul. The entire crowd was completely enamored and we all went silent and listened to the sweet sounds coming out of his mouth and guitar.

At one point, we're not really sure why, (probably the blistering heat) he needed a break and left the stage for a few minutes only to come back and deliver what may have been the most astonishing performance of the weekend.

Behind him stood two body guards ready to catch him in case he fell ill again. He sat for a moment looking out at us, "You guys have been so incredible," he said before launching into the first few chords of "Mama let him play". We all went insane. He slowly stood up, wobbling a little, and then proceeded to play one of the most intricate guitar solos I've ever witnessed.

Doucette gave a performance that was both honest and powerful. In short, we cried like babies.

The Harmonization of Hundreds

"Ultimately music is supposed to be about connection and emotional communication, and giving a voice to the human experience" - Al Harlow

One of the many reasons I think Rock and Roll has remained in the forefront throughout the decades and across so many generations is because it unifies. It brings a sense of freedom and togetherness that can be felt by a crowd of thousands, maybe even millions. It is so fascinating that when an artist or a band performs they can synchronize a crowd of people, despite their differences in age, religion, race, sexuality... (the list could go on forever). The even more impressive part is in how Rock and Roll executes it.

There is no better way to describe to you the feeling of this unity then talking about Prism and Loverboy's performances on Friday evening.

When I think of the most fun I had at this festival all I can do is relive the memories in my head of Prism. A combination of excitement, anticipation, and nausea is what I felt in the final moments leading up to seeing them live for the first time. I never thought I'd be so excited to hear a keyboard in my life but as soon as the first interstellar notes of "Spaceship Superstar" chimed, I almost dropped my camera.

One by one members of the band stepped on to the stage, with each member the cheers only grew louder. Lead singer and guitarist Al Harlow was the definition of a superstar, dressed to the nines and full of energy you'd think that it was his debut performance.

It was almost as if we all knew we were about to be part of something epic, because as soon as the first guitar string rang tune of "Armageddon" we lost our minds. It didn't matter who you stood beside, you put your arm around each other and sang your heart out. We were like one giant family and coursing through our veins was rock n' roll.

The second Loverboy took the stage the energy that swept over the crowd was undeniable. It left us and the original fans of Loverboy in awe.

There was something about lead singer Mike Reno. Maybe it was his signature Loverboy headband and spiked hair or maybe it was just the black leather that transported everyone to the 80's (whether it was for the first time or for a triumphant return).

Reno's vocals were near record perfection as he hit and held every note that came along. Loverboy, being a staple band of the 80's, had us all up singing and dancing as if the world was about to end. We had our camera's in one had, raised our devil horns with the other and partied all night with our newly made friends, loving every minute of it.

Shattering the squeaky clean, perfect musical landscape.

"In today's musical landscape, you can now quantize and roboticize everything to squeaky clean perfection so, it's like people's ears are now tuned into a certain type of technical perfection on records and Rock is not supposed to be perfect, you know?" - Al Harlow

I have two words for you - The Headpins. If you want to talk about shattering the musical landscape? look no further than lead singer Darby Mills. Alongside women in Rock and Roll like Joan Jett, as well as sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Mills has been blazing a trail for women since the 1980's.

It's not just the fact that The Headpins have a female vocalist, it's the fact that she is one of the best, at times even being compared to Led Zeppelin's, Robert Plant. Turn it Loud was one of the first albums I had been introduced to and Mills was, and still is a goddess to me (and to many other women I am sure) so, for us to be in her presence was, to say the least, a gift from the rock gods. From the very first hairflip we were all in love. Her raw, powerhouse of a voice cranked up the hype to 11, even the breaks and cracks in her voice left us breathless, defying all preconceived notions of female vocalists.

When you're working with a voice like that, you gotta keep up, and the rest of the band did just that, and more. Lead guitarist Tony Dellacroce was on fire, shredding rift after rift, and drummer Bernie Aubin gave a two minute drum solo that would put the loudest thunder to shame.

Needless to say, The Headpins gave a performance that destroyed the term "squeaky clean" and replaced it with "Raw and Dirty".

Speaking of trail blazing female rockstars, Canada's queen of Rock and Roll, Lee Aaron gave an explosive performance. Aaron's smooth, jazzy voice gave a whole new vibe to the Rock the Lake stage, one that anyone could enjoy. Weather she was running across the stage, dancing with her guitarist or interacting with crowd Aaron never slowed down.

"The bastard child of other styles"

"Rock is capable of borrowing heavily and still remaining unique, making it easy identify" - Al Harlow

Rock and Roll is a genre of music that when originally introduced in the late 1940's, shot into stardom because of it's ability to mimic and borrow pieces of other genres such as jazz, blues, gospel and country and make it totally unique. You could say that Rock n' Roll has morphed into what Al Harlow would call, "the bastard child of other styles". Due to the inspiration of other genres, rock has branched out into many different styles, allowing artists to pay tribute to one another when performing by covering their songs but with their own twist.

This weekend brought with it many covers and tributes but there was one band whose renditions stood above the rest.

Nick Gilder and Sweeney Todd, now that was a group that surprised me. Having always been a fan of Gilder's voice in hits like "Hot Child in the City" and "Roxy Roller" I was both glad and intrigued when I saw their name on the line up. Coming out ready to get started these glam rockers gave there all in one incredible performance.

The main highlight of their set for us was the fact that they took the time to pay tribute to all of the late and great artists the music world has lost this year. With a compilation song that featured tracks such as "Purple Rain" by Prince, "Suffragette City" by David Bowie and "Take it Easy" by the Eagles, Gilder's unmistakable vocals added a unique twist to these monumental hits, paying the ultimate respects. These impressive renditions reminded us that you can categorize a song however you want, but rock and roll will always swoop in and take it over.

"Raise a little hell"

"Somebody once said, and I really appreciate this, 'As a performer, never think you are playing or singing to people, you are doing it for them' " - Al Harlow

When it comes to entertaining a crowd, the first band that pops into my head is Harlequin. They absolutely crushed every angle of their performance from the moment they set foot on the stage to the moment the left. Lead vocalist George Belanger stopped at nothing to get a rise out of the crowd, adding his own personality into all that he did (even when tackling The Rolling Stones) his facial expressions and impressive vocals lead to boisterous cheers.

What is it with guitar players? Throughout the whole weekend, the women wanted to be with them and the men wanted to be them, Harlequin guitarist Derrick Gottfried was no exception. Throwing his head back and wailing on the guitar is what really got everyone going and he would sometimes add in a saucy wink or high kick just to amp it up that extra bit. Throughout the entirety of their set, Harlequin had us all begging for more.

Ending off the first ever Rock the Lake festival was pop rock group Trooper. They were the band everyone had been waiting for. A loud, booming noise came over the speakers, we immediately knew that it was going to be insane. Out came the band bathed in white light, dressed like your average Joes though their performance was everything but.

Co-founder and lead vocalist Ra McGuire belted out the first note and it was stunning, it sounded as if he had just gotten out of a time machine, bringing back his 1977 self. Each member exuded confidence, adding some flare to every little thing they did but, Guitarist Brian Smith had a well deserved moment in the spotlight where he delivered a close to 5 minute guitar solo that made the hair on my arms stand straight up.

The whole set just made a person feel good, like you were hanging out and jamming with your buddies. Trooper went out of their way to make sure you were there for a good time, not a long time treating the crowd like they were the honoured ones, not us.

This goes to show that being a performer is not just about glorifying yourself, but rather giving your die hard fans a time to remember.

2016 has arguably been one of the most important years for Rock and Roll, and it's fans in the new millennium. Many of the biggest bands in the world such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, and Guns n' Roses are back and touring, Oldchella was introduced along with many other classic rock specific festivals and we have also suffered some terrible losses. We went into this weekend eager to learn about how or why this resurgence of Rock and Roll is happening and what we discovered through this festival and the people we met is this: Rock and Roll never left, it's has withstood the test of time and it just refuses to die. You can see it in the musicians and more importantly the fans, without whom this genre may have disappeared into the abyss.

You wanted to know about the resurgence of rock and roll and its life source, well, it's us. As long as we keep craving the chaos, raising a little hell, and support the rawness and thoughtfulness that is Rock and Roll, it will live on. So, Rock on my friends.