Roy Anthony is a self-described “L.A. boy” who grew up frequenting the famed rock ‘n’ roll dive bars on the city’s Sunset Strip. The Roxy, Troubadour, and Whisky are clubs so legendary they attained one-name status during the time they served as pressure cooker incubators for bands from The Doors in the ’60s, to Mötley Crüe in their 1980’s glam rock and hair metal heyday.
Anthony hoped to find the same environment when he settled in South Florida after years of producing rock music events around the world, but he found that the vibrant rock scene he’d encountered in different cities around the globe was largely absent. The venues are certainly here – Churchill’s, Revolution Live, Culture Room, Hard Rock Live – but some of these venues have diversified beyond a strictly rock audience, while others serve as proxies for Live Nation’s artist bookings. On the Sunset Strip, he says, you “can jump into a van, jump out of a van, and go see five different local rock bands every night of the week.” He sees a similar potential in South Florida, where he says rock fans are plenty, but they’ve been forgotten or increasingly ignored by radio programmers and live music venues as other genres surge.
Anthony looked to successful country music festivals like Tortuga and Chili Cook-Off for inspiration as he set out to fill the void he perceives in live rock music programming in South Florida. The result is RockFest 80’s – a two-day celebration of rock ‘n’ roll in its diverse iterations, from the power pop sheen of Cheap Trick, to the foundational pop/punk of Joan Jett, to the gritty Southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “I’m not sure if anybody realized it, unless they really looked deep, but I brought three Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductees on the same weekend,” beams Anthony.
Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2016, after many years of fans clamoring for their inclusion. They hovered on the cusp between cult classics and full-blown rock stardom in the ’70s and ’80s with songs like “I Want You to Want Me” and the adolescent angst anthem to end them all, “Surrender.” Joan Jett is also a recent inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but she’s been making music history since she was a teenager as part of the pioneering punk band The Runaways. After their dissolution, she stepped out with her own band, the Blackhearts, and became a chart topper with hits like “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” She remains one of the most influential female voices in rock music history. Lynyrd Skynyrd are, of course, best known for putting Southern rock on the map with classic rock radio staples like “Sweet Home Alabama,” but the infamous guitar solo in “Free Bird” alone could have earned them a spot in the annals of rock music. They’ll headline Sunday night as RockFest, while Cheap Trick and Joan Jett headline the Saturday lineup.
That’s quite an impressive feat for a festival entering only its second year in production, with plans already in action to take it through to 2020. Another festival is also in Anthony’s future plans; one that caters to fans of late ’90’s or early 2000’s bands like Shinedown or Three Doors Down. Anthony hopes the festivals will set off chain reaction in the local scene, spurring programmers to remember rock fans and restart the rock programming that has largely subsided in favor of other genres. “I just think that there’s a void to be filled,” he says. “The audience is here, [it’s] just, everybody forgot it, so I’m here to remind them.”
RockFest 80’s. 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, November 4, through Sunday, November 5, at C.B. Smith Park, 900 N Flamingo Rd., Pembroke Pines; 954-357-5170; broward.org/Parks/CBSmithPark. Tickets cost $79 to $129 via rockfest80s.com.