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 were pressure-cooker incubators for bands ranging from the Doors in the '60s to Mötley Crüe in its '80s glam-rock, hair-metal heyday.
Anthony hoped to find the same environment when he settled in South Florida after years of producing rock events around the world, but he found that the vibrant rock scene he'd encountered in various cities around the globe was largely absent here. The venues certainly exist — Churchill's, Revolution Live, Culture Room, Hard Rock Live — but some of them have diversified beyond a strictly rock audience, while others are 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 such as 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," Anthony beams.
Cheap Trick was inducted in 2016, after many years of fans clamoring for the band's inclusion. The group hovered on the cusp of cult classic and full-blown rock stardom in the '70s and '80s via songs such as "I Want You to Want Me" and the adolescent-angst anthem to end them all, "Surrender." Joan Jett is also a recent inductee even though 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 such as "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." She remains one of the most influential female voices in rock history. Lynyrd Skynyrd is best known for putting Southern rock on the map via classic-rock radio staples such as "Sweet Home Alabama," but the famous guitar solo in "Free Bird" alone could have earned the band a spot in the annals of rock music. Skynyrd will headline Sunday night as RockFest, and Cheap Trick and Joan Jett will headline the Saturday lineup.
Scoring those acts is an impressive feat for a festival entering only its second year in production, with plans to take it through to 2020. Another festival is also in Anthony's plans, one that caters to fans of late-'90s and early-'20s bands such as Shinedown and Three Doors Down. Anthony hopes the festivals will set off a chain reaction in the local scene, spurring programmers to remember rock fans and revive the rock programming that has largely subsided in favor of other genres. "I just think 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. Noon 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.