Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MY WILD WEEKEND AT '80s IN THE PARK (Cocoa Beach, FL — Feb. 15-18, 2018)

International Palms Resort
Cocoa Beach, FL  Feb. 15-18, 2018

It was one wild weekend.
Throngs of faithful fans
converged on Florida's other
"World-Famous Beach,"
all bathing in the golden
sunshine, while soaking
up the golden sounds from
the glorious arena rock era.

I experienced this year's massive production from two drastically different, yet equally compelling, first-hand perspectives — both as one the event's main stage performers and also as one of the many crazed fans. A longtime music industry veteran, I've traveled over the years with some of the biggest names in the rock biz while working on enormous arena-caliber tours. As a result, I've seen it all, and I was fully prepared to experience a wild weekend — one likely filled with lots of great live music and perhaps even a little bit of behind-the-scenes tension and drama. I certainly got all that. But I got more — a lot more!

The 5th annual '80s In The Park
festival at the 
International Palms Resort
in Cocoa Beach, FL (2.15-18.18)

*All photos courtesy of Rock Legends Photographers
I recognized in short order, that as the four-day celebration commenced on Thursday, this event would be about much more than the high-octane music blasting onstage and the emotion-filled scenarios brewing already backstage. In fact, '80s In The Park 5.0 proved to be all about PEOPLE — their unique stories and personal passions. There was the 20-something fella who traveled from Brazil to worship at the feet of his lifelong rock heroes — the mother and daughter combo who commuted from Tacoma, Washington to extend their recent Monsters of Rock Cruise party vacation — the young 11-year-old drum phenom seeking additional inspiration the memorabilia vendor who journeyed from Oklahoma City — the legions of locals who have supported this Florida festival since its 2013 inauguration — and of course, the team of professionals who were dedicated to seeing this energized juggernaut to a successful conclusion. 

Blues-based "Hollywood" hard core combo
JUNKYARD kicked off Friday's main stage soiree.

'80s hair metal poster boys WINGER
delivered an incredible Friday night set.

Arena rock powerhouse LA GUNS
closed out Friday's main stage festivities.
Over the course of four days and nights, fans would experience live performances from two dozen bands — the famous and the infamous. Aside from the action-packed main stage sets, there also were side stage performances, after-show parties, up-close-and-personal meet-and-greets — even an afternoon '80s-themed cruise on Friday. More "bang for the buck," indeed.

BURNING STARR guitarist Jack Starr (top) and LILLIAN AXE guitarist
Steve Blaze (bottom) both treated fans to impromptu jam
sessions during Saturday's "Rock Con" expo.

I was thrilled and honored to have connected with so many
wonderful people and to have made such great new friends
while appearing at the '80s In The Park "Rock Con" expo.
From tropical heatwaves to torrential downpours, '80s In The Park promoters have faced an array of Mother Nature's "surprises" over the years while staging the annual outdoor production. In fact, this festival had been scheduled originally for last September, but due to Hurricane Irma, it was postponed until February. Consequently, performers and fans experienced several reservation snafus when attempting to check in at the International Palms Resort due to the additional hotel guest load generated by the weekend's Daytona 500 race. There also were a few related band cancellations. So, did I have any personal concerns as I witnessed these potentially problematic issues unfolding? Yeah, sure. But the show did go on. And what an incredible show it was!

Saturday's main stage lineup kicked off
with a raucous set from TANGO DOWN.

'80s alterno darling GENE LOVES JEZEBEL
ignited Saturday's main stage show.

delivered a mighty set.

NOVA REX truly laid it
down on Saturday night.

Renown guitarist George Lynch
closed out Saturday night's show
with his band LYNCH MOB.
From the main stage to the side stage to the "Rock Con" expo meet-and-greet held in the hotel's downstairs lounge to the related memorabilia displayed throughout the site, '80s In The Park 5.0 was a sprawling, weekend-long celebration of the neon-tinged, hair sprayed, spandex era.

Bret Michaels impersonator Michael Spooner was
the life of the festival's nightly after-show parties.
TUFF frontman and founder
Stevie Rachelle was on-hand all weekend
manning his popular "Rock Con" expo booth.
As in previous years, husband and wife team,
Charles and Lissa Knight were fabulously
engaging '80s In The Park hosts.
Appearing all weekend at the festival's "Rock Con" expo, I still managed to personally catch several of the live main stage sets  Every Mother's Nightmare, Lillian Axe and newcomers Silvertung each "crushed" it with blistering performances, especially Chicago-based pop / rock legend Enuff Z'Nuff.  And as I humped my way numerous times back and forth across the property from the "Rock Con" venue to the main stage, I witnessed first-hand what '80s In The Park is really all about — PEOPLE. I saw untold numbers of fans laughing, singing, dancing and having the time of their lives as they partied on the beach under Florida's warm sunshine. Apparently aware of my current personal faith mission, I was stopped on Sunday by a fan, seeking of all things, prayer for her own personal struggle that morning. It was pretty freaking awesome — we held hands right there in the hotel courtyard, proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ and embraced God's blessings and the ability to take on the day boldly. Kinda crazy, right?

Rock newcomers SILVERTUNG delivered
one of Sunday's highlight performances.

Simply put, LILLIAN AXE was AMAZING!

One of rock's all-time greats, ENUFF Z'NUFF
electrified fans on Sunday's main stage.

As the sun set Sunday night, my own band,
DEAD SERIOS hit the festival's main stage.

HOUSE OF LORDS closed out the
four-day '80s In The Park celebration
with a superb Sunday night.
My band DEAD SERIOS is known for our outrageous live concert performances. So, you'd think after 33 years, my ex-wife would have known to duck and cover when the pieces of broken toy lawn mower debris came flying off the stage at the end of our '80s In The Park set. Nope. She got clocked royally — accidentally, of course. I recall walking off the stage and hearing the instant shouting, "Chris, you just killed your ex-wife!" I turned around, and there she was, sitting on the ground with her face pressed against a blood-soaked towel. Fortunately, festival staff was on top of the situation and beefy-looking guys wearing tight-fitting security shirts rushed her backstage immediately where she was attended to by medics. Despite lots of blood and a bruised nose, she'll be fine.

My ex-wife's gashed face shortly after being
introduced to flying pieces of toy lawn mower
debris during the DEAD SERIOS set.

'80s In The Park staffer Belinda, mugging
for the camera after the Sunday night
show with SILVERTUNG frontman Speed.

Dressed to TOTALLY impress, I was psyched
to say "Hi!" to South Florida '80s rocker, Roxxy
following Sunday night's DEAD SERIOS set.

Maybe to an amateur, or to the untrained eye, watching the event unfold from behind the scenes, '80s In The Park 5.0 might have looked like a cluster of chaos, conflicts and confusion. But for me, my band and our crew, the weekend offered a wild, wonderful and extremely positive and professional experience. As a fan, the festival packed one powerful punch — delivering an array of incredible bands and state-of-the-art production — more "bang for the buck," indeed. And the personal memories and relationships that I've taken away from the weekend will last forever. As a certain '80s group once said, it was "Nothin' but a good time," for sure!

-Christopher Long
(February 2018)



C'MON! -

1 comment:

  1. Great coverage! Love the way you take the reader there. Enjoyed the photos too. Good job :)