Dakota Rock Fest 2009 Live!

July 24 & 25, 2009 W.H. Lyon Fairgorunds, Sioux Falls, SD.

by Derric Miller
Staff Writer

Friday’s Lineup
6:00 pm TALON
7:00 pm ESCAPE
8:00 pm FAR CRY
10:00 pm HEAD EAST
11:15 pm APRIL WINE

Saturday’s Lineup
12:00 pm ESCAPE
1:00 pm TANGO DOWN
2:00 pm ENUFF Z’ NUFF
4:10 pm L.A. GUNS
7:45 pm DOKKEN
9:00 pm SKID ROW

The second annual Dakota Rock Fest—aka Eastern South Dakota’s Biggest Rock Formation—stepped up its draw this year by bringing one of the hottest musicians/TV stars on the planet to Sioux Falls, S.D. Bret Michaels closed the festival on Saturday night, and his star power brought tens of thousands of spectators—those who love him for his numerous hits as Poison’s frontman, and then, those who want to do more than love him for his cable TV smash hit “Rock of Love.”

Like last year, Dakota Rock Fest 2009 featured area acts (Jukebox Zeroes and Nebraska’s Paisty Jenny), new Hard Rock bands carrying on in the tradition of Poison, Motley Crue, Ratt, etc. (like Tango Down, Bombay Black, Far Cry) and then multi-platinum ‘80s giants like Dokken, Firehouse, Skid Row, and Bret Michaels.

The promoters also signed on tribute bands for Aerosmith, Journey, and Guns and Roses. By far, the GNR tribute band Appetite for Deception lived up to their namesake, with the other two struggling to mirror their heroes.

Dakota Rock Fest went even farther back than the ‘80s, closing out Friday night with Head East and April Wine. It was obvious that Saturday’s/Bret Michaels’ crowd was a bit more spritely than those who stayed to see April Wine on Friday.

The organizers (Leisinger Entertainment) welcome feedback and actually listen to their customers, so this year’s VIP access was even better than last year. For $150, it’s all you can drink and eat, while having access to mingle with the bands in the VIP area. It’s by far one of the better priced festivals in the nation.

For some reason, the bands that truly seemed hungry and happy to be playing this year were the lesser-knowns, like Far Cry, who blew the crowd away with their songwriting, musicianship and live energy. Tango Down did the same, offering up a mix of Firehouse and Ratt-like compositions that pulled the crowd in even if they didn’t know the songs. As always, Bombay Black owned the masses with their blend of infectious, snarky, heavy and fun Hard Rock.  Paisty Jenny one-upped them all, bringing on three gorgeous bikini-clad women (see pictures below) to dance around and wake up the crowd as they sang “Jack/Coke a little bit of Bud Light!” on the track “Take It Like a Shot,” while their somber “Better Man” showed another facet to this talented foursome.  

Unfortunately, maybe because of a tech glitch at the start of their set, the band who seemed the most uninterested was Dokken. They opened with “Breaking the Chains,” and lead singer Don Dokken stopped the set and said, “Trust me, this song sounds a lot better when you can hear the guitar.” While he tried to slough it off, professionals have short fuses, and by the time the guitar was back in the mix, Dokken was forced to nix a song or two from their set. After that, Dokken seemed comfortable singing an entire octave below the original melody line on some of the songs, making them sound droning. Without Jeff Pilson in the band to match the harmonies and backing vocals the great Dokken hits mesmerized with, and with Don himself comfortable sleepwalking through the harder vocals spots, Dokken as a band struggled mightily, and the crowd echoed the lack of energy accordingly.

The biggest surprise was L.A. Guns, who now have Jizzy Pearl on lead vocals. Just thinking about it, Pearl makes sense. Forget his hired-gun status in Ratt; Pearl sang the best drinking song of all time, “Black Out in the Red Room” with his band Love/Hate, and he’s the perfect mix of sleaze, grit and melody to replace Phil Lewis. They played a new original song, and it may have been the highlight of the set, although “Ballad of Jane,” “Sex Action,” “Show No Mercy,” etc. were all highlights. Traci Guns is a talent, and with Pearl able to once again record new music, look out for the newly invigorated L.A. Guns.

Bands like Skid Row and Firehouse are incapable of playing a bad live set, no matter the circumstances, and the crowd ate up their stage time. Enuff Z’Nuff, while excessively talented and armed with some of the most melodic Hard Rock you’ll ever hear, followed the combustible Bombay Black, so their set lacked a bit of energy in comparison.

By Saturday eve, the crowd seemingly doubled in size from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and a large number of those attendees were female. If you needed proof that Michaels’ name alone can fill up a festival, well, should have been there. Regardless of how you feel about Michaels, he is a performer first and foremost. He mixed his set with hits from his new solo album and of course the Poison mainstays. He always lays it out for the crowd, he’s a consummate showman, and his set capped off Dakota Rock Fest to perfection.

Dakota Rock Fest 2009 Photo Gallery

Photos by John Kindred/Derric Miller.

Dakota Rock Fest 2009 Video Gallery

(Congratulations to Leisinger Entertainment for another successful Dakota Rock Fest and thanks for bringing quality Hard Rock outdoor entertainment to Sioux Falls.)