The 23rd annual Rockfest, which starts at noon Saturday at the Liberty Memorial, will be notable for several reasons.
For the first time, the all-day festival will feature a third stage showcasing all local bands.
For the first time, it will include a rap artist: Kansas City’s hip-hop titan Tech N9ne.
And its co-headliners, Rob Zombie and Anthrax, will be making their first Rockfest appearances.
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As it has for the past six years, the festival is expected to draw a crowd of 50,000 or more. It has grown substantially in scope and attendance from its modest beginnings.
The first Rockfest was at Smithville Lake on Aug. 23, 1992. Three bands performed: Cheap Trick, Lillian Axe and XYZ. About 10,000 fans attended the show, sponsored by radio station KQRC (98.9 FM), which had changed to a heavy rock format in April 1992.
The festival moved to Sandstone Amphitheater in the mid-1990s, where it drew crowds of 20,000 or so, then to Liberty Memorial, where attendance steadily climbed to 50,000.
Bob Edwards, the station’s program director, talked to The Star about this year’s festival, the decision to put Tech N9ne on the bill and some of his favorite Rockfest memories.
Q: When did Rockfest’s attendance start to take off?
A: It really started to blossom about seven years in, when we started selling out Sandstone Amphitheater. Our last show there was in 2003. We moved to Liberty Memorial in 2004, and our second year there, we drew more than 30,000. A couple years later, we drew 40,000, and a couple years after that, we topped 50,000.
Do any of the 22 festivals stand out?
I’d say the first year we were at the Liberty Memorial was special. It made for a unique show in that atmosphere.
In 2005, when Stone Temple Pilots headlined, was a big show, more than anything else because I was hoping and praying they would show up, given that band’s track record. It was great to see them onstage and have it go as well as it did.
2010 was memorable for being the big mudfest that it was. I still have shoes with mud on them from that show.
But, really, they’ve all been great. It’s so gratifying to see 50,000 people come out every year and have the time of their lives.
How far do people travel to attend Rockfest?
People come from everywhere. We get feedback from people in every state, even Alaska. This year we have a group coming in from the Caribbean.
This year’s lineup includes some different names: Rob Zombie, Anthrax and Tech N9ne.
Yeah, this will be the first year our two headliners will be making their first Rockfest appearances: Rob Zombie and Anthrax. We’re always looking for bands that not only have a lot of hits but bands who put on great shows, and those are two of them.
How has the inclusion of Tech N9ne in the lineup been received?
I’d say about 70 percent of the reaction was really positive and about 30 percent of people have been vocally negative. They don’t think it makes sense to have a rap artist in a rock show.
But I think when they hear his band and how it’s very guitar- and metal-oriented, they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Tech is more rock than some people realize. But he’s got that metal feel and attitude.
He’s a great artist with a great following in Kansas City, and we felt like he needs to be on a stage and play in front of 50,000 people in his hometown. You see all the work he’s done in Kansas City and how he’s built his career to the level it’s at, doing it all by himself. He’s a self-made Kansas City guy and he represents a lot of the Kansas City work ethic. And if anyone deserves to play on a big stage in Kansas City, it’s Tech.
Rockfest begins at noon Saturday at the Liberty Memorial. For the first time, it will feature a third stage dedicated to local bands: the Guild, Ashes Armada, Ashes in Vein, Adriel’s Tragedy, My Fathers Gun and Lola Black.
The performers on the two main stages: Rob Zombie, Anthrax, Volbeat, In This Moment, Papa Roach, Nothing More, Tech N9ne, Motionless in White, Halestorm, We Are Harlot, All That Remains, Otherwise, The Pretty Reckless, Crobot, Sidewise.
Go to rockfestkc.com for more information.