By Shane Pinnegar

I decided to make the pilgrimage the day I heard that Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow had died.

He passed away on 19 November, 2007, though it was probably days or even weeks later that I heard the news, and I don’t even recall how I heard it – I probably read it after the fact in the pages of Classic Rock Magazine, or maybe I’d seen it on the internet.

I sat on the porch of my house and raised a bourbon to his memory. Quiet Riot were an important band in the annals of heavy metal. They weren’t influential for long, but their 1983 album Metal Health was a fundamental bridge between the hard rock of the ‘70s and the hard rock and heavy metal revival of the mid-to-late-‘80s. As a schoolkid I endlessly chanted “Bang your head – metal health’ll drive you maaaaaaaaad”!

It occurred to me that many of those who I had grew up listening to were getting older. Most had never and would never tour Western Australia – we’re too remote, and my tastes have often leaned more to the cult periphery, bands who would struggle to fill a room on the other side of the world in the town we affectionately/bitterly often refer to as ‘Sleepy Hollow’.

If most of the bands on my bucket list were going to have fundamental members too infirm to play, or worse, pass away soon, I reasoned, and they were highly unlikely to ever make it to a local venue… the only solution was to go to them.

It made sense. And so my plans for what I would quickly christen a ROCK PILGRIMAGE were founded.

It took a while to save the money – the economic downturn was just around the corner and my catering business was already feeling the pinch – and to find the right destination, but within a year I had booked the bones of the trip, to commence July 2009.

I literally tossed a coin between Europe and North America as my destination. The latter won when the coin came up tails. I researched painstakingly and finally chose Rocklahoma as the keypoint stop on my five week trip.

Again, it made sense. Over four days, sixty-something bands would play, a sizable number of them on my bucket list, and a lot of others who I enjoyed. I started researching the rest and found there were very few bands on the bill I didn’t want to see. These were the Myspace days, and I struck up conversations with several of the acts by reaching out through there.

I joined the Rocklahoma forums and gleaned what information I could, and started making friends – and blocked one or two aggressive dickheads. Trolls are everywhere – never be afraid to cut them off.

Rocklahoma would finish two days before my birthday, and I hadn’t yet worked out what I wanted to do for that.

I flew into LAX on the first of July – having also left Perth on the first of July. Jetlag messed me up a bit, a steady drip of alcohol added to a general feeling of comfortable numbness. The rock n’ roll started almost immediately.

Most notably in that first week, I got to see my favourite punk band of all time, The Anti-Nowhere League. It was a wild gig, despite feeling no pain. I still vividly remember standing there on a raised level watching this band I had loved for years. THIS was why I had travelled halfway around the world. THIS was what the pilgrimage was all about. At some point I even ventured into the fringes of the frenzied moshpit, which really was taking my life into my own hands.

I emerged unscathed, beaming, having enjoyed a fantastic gig by Nick ‘Animal’ Culmer and his ragtag group of hardcore punk reprobates.

Then things got dark. We’ll save that story for now.

This week marked ten years since Rocklahoma 2009. I’ll talk more about that another day as well.

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