Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Rock’n the Valley headliners Skid Row, The Last Vegas

By John Parks

Rock’n the Valley Friday and Saturday, July 13-14, is the biggest festival to hit the stateline area in years. The festival will be at Winnebago County Fairgrounds, 500 W. First St., Pecatonica, Ill., and will run 48 hours straight, kicking off Friday morning and ending late Saturday night.

The camping/concert/Midwest Mardi Gras event benefits the Wounded Warrior Foundation and will be showcasing more than 50 bands capped off by headliners Skid Row, Warrant and The Last Vegas.

Tickets are just $22 and can be bought at http://www.rocknthevalley.com or by calling (815) 977-5407.

We talked to Auburn grads-turned-national rockers Nate and Adam Arling of The Last Vegas as well as Dave Sabo and Johnny Solinger of headliners Skid Row about the show. Following are those conversations.

Skid Row

Q: Skid Row is still packing them in after all this time, and you’re headlining the festival and closing things out here Saturday night at Rock’n the Valley. Does it still amaze you the connection you guys made with fans 25 years ago?

Dave Sabo (guitarist): KISS is one of my favorite bands, but KISS is not a band for the critics, it’s a band for the fans. That’s something that’s always been a guiding principle of Skid Row as well. I think it’s important to never become so enamored of being a “rock star” that you lose sight of that. So, I’m proud to be in this band. I’m proud to have started it and to still be a part of it, and I’m honored that we can connect with people in some way and that we mean something to them. One of the things we are very, very blessed by is the fact that we are able to have fans that are SO cool that they bring their kids to the show, and the kids get turned on to us and the cycle begins all over again. They want their kids to get the same charge out of us that they did when they first saw us, and I just think that’s friggin’ amazing.

Johnny Solinger (vocals): I love this band. I’ve been with these guys for over 10 years, and every single one of them has been like family to me. But that’s also how they treat the fans, all generations of them.

Q: The little “Youth Gone Wild”?

Sabo: Yeah! They grow up and have kids of their own, or they have little brothers or sisters that they pass that down to. It is everything to me that I have four older brothers who turned me on to all of the stuff that ended up mattering to me. The great thing about that is that they really didn’t have any genres of music in particular that they exposed me to, so I listened to EVERYTHING. There were no barriers back then between a great Black Sabbath song and a great Jackson Five song — they were just great songs. I just listened to songs that moved me. I have no idea where I would have ended up had my brothers not had such a myriad of different kinds of music coming out of the upstairs bedroom of my mother’s house. That’s the truth. One day it was Elvis, the next day it was the Beach Boys or Procul Harem or the Four Tops. I’m just very thankful to have had the pleasure of playing my guitar and making music, and I know better than to take anything for granted.

Solinger: We love our fans, old and new, and especially love these outdoor festival nights. We played one the other night with Cinderella, and it was just smiling faces as far back as you could see. It doesn’t get any better than that. We can’t wait to hit Pecatonica.

Q: One last question: You guys are headlining, so can we expect a nice full show with all the hits?

Solinger: You better believe it. When we’re headlining, we will literally play until they shut us down, so you’ll hear all the old favorites in addition to some new songs from my era and even some songs from the Slave to the Grind era that haven’t been played in a long time. We’re gonna deliver all that and more. We fly out and play upwards of a hundred gigs or so a year, and these guys don’t come all this way to just play a few songs.

The Last Vegas

Q: The Last Vegas has a new album, Bad Decisions, coming out this August, which, of course, means a new stretch of touring. You play a lot of dark, smoky venues and theaters, which suits the vibe of your band. Is it an altogether different vibe when you play an outdoor festival like Rock’n the Valley?

Adam Arling (guitars): Anytime you can get out there on a big stage like that and play to a crowd that’s totally in party mode and has been having fun and camping and all is a great thing. To be able to do it with a hometown crowd and see a lot of familiar faces is just even better. Growing up in Rockford, that whole festival vibe is just ingrained in your DNA — the whole history with On The Waterfront or even Lollapalooza — in Pecatonica. We’ll be playing both nights at Rock’n the Valley, and it will be a blast Friday AND Saturday night, as far as we’re concerned.

Nate Arling (drums): We always try to have a good time whenever we play a show — that’s the whole reason we got into this to begin with. But playing a big festival like that at the fairgrounds where I saw Metallica at back in the day is a pretty cool thing. The promoters involved did a great job putting together a really fun 48-hour camping/partying festival to benefit some great causes, and we’re looking forward to it.

Q: The Last Vegas is a Chicago band, but you two went to Auburn and have always had great shows in Rockford. Is it kind of a second home for you guys?

Adam: Absolutely. We’ve always had great relationships here, and everyone comes out to the shows and has a good time. It’s always a blast to come back and see people you’ve known for years. People from Rockford really appreciate the opportunity to see a rock show or get out of that daily, blue-collar grind. I felt that way, sure. I think being from Rockford never really leaves you (laughs). No matter where you go or what you do, you are still that same kid from Rockford, Ill., which can be a good thing because you can relate to real people. The majority of the world has more towns like Rockford than it does places like London or New York.

Nate: Growing up, obviously we had a lot of influences including being able to see the hometown guys in Cheap Trick and realize that they’ve made records and gone on all these tours. If you grew up here, you realized it was a big deal and to be able to make records and go on tour and somehow connect to a new generation with that same sense of fun on any level is totally what we’re going for.

From the July 11-17, 2012, issue

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