Our take on Rock USA 2015
As a seasoned Wisconsite, there are a few dates every year that you mark off on your calendar. The start of Packer and Brewer season, start of fishing and hunting season, and when your favorite festival or fair will be held. Wisconsin is home to some of the most amazing festivals out of the entire United States, Summerfest, Rockfest, Country USA, Country Jam USA and Rock USA. Just to name a few of some of the big music based festivals in Wisconsin.
July 15th – 18th 2015 was Rock USA in Oshkosh, WI and we at Found in Wisconsin were lucky enough to score two V.I.P passes and camping. So we will be detailing all the ins outs and dirty details of the fun and festivities. Plus……is the cost of the V.I.P ticket worth it? We will let you know.
If you so wish you can pay an extra fee and choose to arrive and set up camp on Tuesday. However, we found this unnecessary. We arrived at the camping check in gate around 1:30pm and the line was very short. We got in and to our campsite within about 15-20 minutes.
Depending on how much you want to spend depends on what you will get. They were normal camping ground. Our site was the cheapest at $199.00. There are sites that are in the woods, V.I.P sites, electricity sites, RV sites, disabled sites, and they are priced accordingly. All of those sites were sold out months before the festival.
Don’t count on getting much sleep before 2:30 am. People with RVs like to put these large blinking strobe lights on top of their RVs so that people in their party can find their way back to their spot. This can cause a problem if the light is a white light and you are trying to fall asleep after the last concert. However, do you really think you are going to get any sleep? If you happen to be near the porta potties you will get woken up around 5 or 6 am in the morning by the trucks coming to empty them out. It may be wise to bring a sleep mask and ear plugs.
There are flood areas in the camping area. While we were there we got hit with a major storm and people had to get moved to new sites. So be prepared if it is expected to rain. Also, if you have a canopy and a storm rolls in it will get destroyed. Almost no canopy at 2015 Rock USA survived Saturday morning.
It is hard to talk about the V.I.P experience only because to tell you about this years’ experience will not help you in regards to next years’ experience. For instance, they are adding a pit which means they will be changing the seating set up, moving the general admission closer, and going from 4 days of music down to 3. Hopefully going to three days of music means that for your money you will get food and drinks all three days, won’t have to pay for an over 21 wristband that first day or parking the first day.
I can tell you that V.I.Ps get real bathrooms, that are air conditioned. The price of the ticket includes V.I.P parking (separate from GA parking), free food, and all you can drink. On Rock USA’s website, it says beer and soda but they actually had beer, soda, wine coolers, and razz-a-rita and lemon-a-ritas. So, there was a little bit of everything, which is great for people who don’t like beer. There is also free water. Note if you are a V.I.P you can bring in your own cup or mug for them to fill with the drink of choice. I brought in a large mug instead of buying the $15.00 Rock USA mug.
As for food, it wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t great either, there was a snack usually of vegetables or crackers and cheese (I always seemed to miss the snack). On Wednesday, there was no free drinks or free food, on Thursday there was a snack, no lunch and a dinner of salad, vegetables, chicken parmigiana, fettuccine alfredo, and cake. On Friday, there was no snack, lunch of sloppy joes and a dinner of hamburgers or chicken sandwiches and on Saturday there was a snack, can’t remember the lunch and dinner of roasted pig, broasted chicken, cheesy potatoes, and cake (by far the best day). If all the days were as good as Saturday then I would give a great big thumbs up for the food.
If you are into 80s and late 70s rock than Rock USA is your scene as that is the main acts they bring in. There is usually one day that they have modern rock. They usually open up the day with a local or unknown band and then start building up to the headliner. Of course, there is also the offshoot stages in the tents. However, almost every time we went in there to catch a band, it was the same band playing. Road Trip. This band is amazing don’t get us wrong. They are wonderful musicians and in fact Road Trips cover of Shinedown was spot on sensational (for a moment we thought Shinedown had made a surprise appearance) but with the plethora or talent Northeast Wisconsin has at its disposal why couldn’t Rock USA open its doors to other bands that could benefit from the exposure? I hope next year they bring in more local bands to share in the spotlight. .
Wednesday’s lineup was
Wayland – Vixen – Warrant – Queensryche – Alice Cooper
Thursday’s lineup was
Road Trip – Dokken – Whitesnake – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Judas Priest
Friday’s lineup was
Wysteria – Pop Evil – Papa Roach – Breaking Benjamin – Avenged Sevenfold
Saturday’s lineup was
Dellacoma – Jackyl – Tesla – Styx – Def Leppard
You will have to forgive me as I did not see every single act. I did after all have to eat and sleep. I also missed every single first act because I woke up late every morning and by the time I ate and got ready I barely made the second act, so I apologize for missing Wayland, Road Trip, Wysteria, and Dellacoma. I also missed all of the side stage bands. So here are my reviews of the bands we did get to see.
Vixen – First off these ladies look amazing. They came out and rocked the stage as if they were a young band, but played liked seasoned. The band sounded decent and the show was entertaining. They played most of their hits, a few lesser known songs and a cover.
Warrant – We were interested in seeing how Warrant sounded without Jani Lane. When you think of Warrant, Jani Lane is the voice you expect to hear. We were pleasantly surprised. Robert Mason did a decent job. You definitely weren’t disappointed by his performance. They did all the songs you were expecting, Cherry Pie, Down Boys, D.R.F.S.R, Sometimes She Cries, I Saw Red. It was a good show.
Queensryche – This is another band that we were waiting to see, but hoping not to be disappointed. Without their original singer Geoff Tate, who has a very unique voice, we were sure that the band would not be the same. Boy, were we wrong! Todd La Torre, the current Queensryche’s front man, not only sounds like Geoff Tate, he may even be a better singer! The band played a bunch of early songs as well as some radio hits and absolutely killed it! But I was still waiting to hear Jet City Woman when they walked off the stage….a little sad they didn’t play it.
Alice Cooper – What can I say? He still has it! After all these years, it is still a great show to see. The songs, the theatrics, what a fun show! The standout member would definitely be Nita Strauss, the female guitarist for Alice Cooper. All I can say is….WOW! That girl has chops. Someone who had seen a full 2-hour show earlier in 2014 said he fit everything he did in that show in this tiny little hour block. Alice Cooper is a beast.
Dokken– This show was one of the saddest moments for me, as I at one time was a big fan. Musically it was a decent show, but Don Dokken himself is done. He needs to just call it, as he can’t even perform a song anymore. Again, I am not writing this with any joy, but if you are a fan looking to go see them, I would not pay money for a ticket. I guess I will have to just stick in my Tooth and Nail CD and jam out to that and pretend.
Whitesnake – I have had a chance to see them once before, a few years ago at Summerfest, and the never disappoint! Although he wasn’t as good as he was at Summerfest. The show is always pretty consistent, and David Coverdale can still sing very well at whatever age he is now. They played most of their hits, including Is This Love, and Here I Go Again. FYI Red Beach is a monster on guitar and made the show ever better.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Ok before we get lynched let me explain the situation. Right, when Whitesnake went on it started pouring. We were wet from head to toe. We watched almost all of Whitesnake and left right when they started singing ‘Here I Go Again’. We figured we’d eat, get dry and head on out to Skynryd. This is what happened. We got dry and it kept raining, we ate and it kept raining, we laid down for a moment and it kept raining. By then we were exhausted and warm in our blankets and exhaustion took over. So, unfortunately, we did not attend this show. A couple of times we encouraged each other that we should get up and go watch the show, but warmth and sleep overruled that desire. My youngest daughter stayed during the whole concert and she loved it, she said it was amazing, and she only knew 2 songs, Sweet Home Alabama and Simple Man (whom she thought was originally a Shinedown song. We had to give her a musicification.) However, now she is a Lynyrd Skynrd fan.
Judas Priest – Unfortunately, we were sound asleep by the time Judas Priest went on. We saw them play a few years ago at Summerfest and it was amazing. We heard people exclaiming about how amazing this show was so we assume that they did not let the audience down.
Pop Evil – We have seen Pop Evil many times. This wasn’t their best performance, but it was still a great show with a lot of energy. They played all the songs fans wanted to hear. If you like modern rock and an energetic show, make sure you go to the next Pop Evil show! They will be at the Marq September 27th with local rock stars the Red Light Saints opening.
Papa Roach – H-O-L-Y C-O-W Let me just say that again. HOLY COW. This was one of the best, most energetic shows of the whole festival! Not only did they get involved with the audience, their performance was great! Jacoby got down into the crowd and out past the V.I.P area. No other band did this. The guy is a monster. Even though this band has huge hits they made you feel like they were just some unsigned band playing for the love of music and their fans. They played many of their popular songs including their new release ‘Gravity’. By far they were the biggest joy to watch on stage.
Breaking Benjamin – When Ben fired his whole band and restaffed them a little over a year ago, we were really unsure as to what we were in store for. We were huge fans of the original lineup. All in all, they did really well. They played all their hit songs and even threw in a Tool cover that the bassist nailed both vocally and musically. That Tool cover was one of the highlights of their show. There was nothing bad about the performance at all but after the energy that Papa Roach had just given off you were left feeling a little like you wanted more. He was holding a guitar the whole time so that could have had something to do with it, but you were still left hanging. But I have a question – I am I the only one that thinks Ben looks like a serial killer? LOL.
Avenged Sevenfold – Right out of the gate the boys from A7X came out rocking, there was fire, fireworks, guitar solos, sunglasses, etc. The concert was very good, but somehow I felt like it was lacking some sort of emotion. Maybe it was because of the jet lag, or maybe it was the heat, but either way I am still glad to have been in the audience. It was a nice way to cap off the night.
Jackyl – Jackyl has always been a fun party, band. And as fun as it was to see them, I can’t help but feel that their Chainsaw Routine has run it’s course. I am not sure the audience was too impressed, and they really only have a few songs that people seemed to respond to. They did mention that this would be the last time they will ever play Rock USA in the day time. They want to be a headliner next time. So we’ll see what happens in the years to come.
Tesla – This was the third time I have seen Tesla, and it’s never a disappointment. They played all their hits, and I sometimes forget just how many they had! The one thing I kinda caught myself thinking is boy, the lead singer Jeff Keith is sure flamboyant. He did a sort of Mick Jager thing that I don’t recall him doing in the past. For having hip replacement surgery in March, he sure is moving a grooving up there. – All in all, a very good show!
Styx – OK – I have never been a huge Styx fan, but I have liked and listened to many of their songs over the years. I knew they we are all very talented musicians, but I was not prepared for the show they performed! It was absolutely amazing! Although I will say this no matter how hard you try you can never make playing the keyboard look cool. Sorry Lawrence Gowan….we know you tried with your silver hat and the spinning keyboard, your talent surpasses your coolness. One of his shining moments was when it was just him sitting and he played pieces of Rocket Man, Bohemian Rhapsody, Dock of the Bay, before going into Come Sail Away. It was a very Elton John/Billie Joel moment. Tommy Shaw is always a rockstar. Secretly I was hoping for a Damn Yankees tune but I knew it wouldn’t happen. Styx played almost all their hits but apparently not enough for the people behind us because they wouldn’t stop yelling “MR. ROBOTO MR. ROBOTO!” Alas, there was no Mr. Roboto.
Def Leppard – I have seen Def Leppard many times, and they never disappoint. I have heard rumors about Joe Elliott (the lead singer) having trouble hitting some of the notes he used to hit, but I can tell you that for the amount of touring they have done, for the amount of time they have been a band and for his current age, he is still doing a bang-up job! The show was great, and the crowd was loving every minute. – A great show every time! The guys behind us (different than the Mr. Roboto guys) were so fan girl excited I thought they might start crying. This is the effect that Def Leppard still has on people.
Normally I wouldn’t discuss security at all because well really what is there to discuss, but I feel it is necessary to bring the subject up. On Saturday morning, a massive storm rolled in. At 515 the Sheriff rolled through blaring their siren and through the loudspeaker told everyone to get out of their tents and into their cars. Of course, we must have been the LAST section they came through because as soon as we came out of our tent the wind hit us hard. As the storm came through Rock USA tents went rolling over RV’s and canopies were mangled into a mess of metal. There were ready mountains of metal being left at the garbage bins an hour after the storm. Chances were if you brought a canopy to the 2015 Rock USA than as of 530 am on Saturday you no longer had one. I know of only about 2 that survived. I tried to save ours but was forced into our car. Two people were injured but as we set to clean up the area and retrieve all our items we had about 20 sheriffs, fire department personnel, and Rock USA security stop by and ask us if anyone was injured. We were impressed by their diligence to make sure that no one was injured. Although we would have appreciated a little more notice to the storm.
The storm did take out several vendors tents damaging their merchandise. So if you choose to camp make sure you pound those stakes all the way into the ground. I was glad that I took the time to go back and make sure my stakes were all the way into the ground days before.
The Rock USA non-V.I.P food and drinks prices and vendors
It seems like throughout the years the vendors have been diminishing. I am not sure if it is because of the vendor prices to sell there or what but there just doesn’t seem to be as many as there used to be. Of course if you were looking for a shirt, bandana, something Harley, it was there but it would have been nice to have more vendors just to fill your day with. Burgers were $6.00 and it was just a normal burger. I wanted to get a Rock USA mug with just soda in it and it was $15.00, but it was also $15.00 if you had it with 3 shots and soda. So it was the same price regardless which didn’t make sense. I only wanted the mug to refill with soda and to use in the V.I.P tent. A beer was $5-$6 depending on the tent, soda was $4-$5 depending on whether it was a cup or bottle and food ran anywhere from $4-$8. If you don’t have your own food at a campsite or in your car you might want to consider taking out a small loan in order to eat and drink at Rock USA.
The carnival and rides
I’m 38. Do you really think I went over there and hung out? No. But my daughter and her friend did. Her take on the area was that it was fine. It was $15 for a 1 day all you can ride pass. However, there was really only a few rides that she wanted to ride so it wasn’t really worth it, but it was still kind of expensive. The carnival is a typical carnival. They are there to get your money, and you are there to try and keep your money for as long as possible.
Overall, it was a great experience. I’m way too old for the whole drinking all weekend and debauchery thing. Would it be an experience that I would do again? Not in a tent….I’ll only do it again in an RV. Much more of a comfortable experience. Next year we hope to bring Musicians Row to the Rock USA campgrounds. So keep an eye out for that.