For more than a century, the Fiesta Oyster Bake has been bringing musical entertainment of various genres, dizzying carnival rides and games, wine tasting and copious amounts of food to a two-day festival as a scholarship fund-raiser for St. Mary’s University and the official kickoff to the city’s annual 11-day Fiesta extravaganza.
This year, Fiesta morphed into 18 days due to today’s Easter Sunday falling in the middle of the party.
In the past half decade, gradual signs of Oyster Bake traditions trimming down or being cut out entirely have reared their head. Wine tasting went by the wayside on Friday nights. Places where stages once existed are now fenced off. Then there was the unthinkable that occurred last weekend: the disappearance of shelled oysters (thereby relegating the lone presence of oysters at the Oyster Bake coming in the form of shots).
But one thing’s for certain. The rock music will never die at the Bake. And while the heavy bands that perform at the Bake are predominantly in the style of those repeatedly played on 99.5-KISS FM, with a few coming back every other year, the Oyster Bake’s tradition continues to draw thousands from around the country partaking in a festival that many other cities wish they could revel in (see 62-photo slideshow below).
Headlined by Seether and preceded by 10 Years, Red Sun Rising, Dirty Honey and for the first time, local rockers Jessikill, this year’s rock stage again accomplished what it always sets out to do — rock people’s asses off in a family-oriented atmosphere.
Backed by a virtually cloudless day in the mid-70s that saw temperatures quickly drop to a windy 50s prior to the headliners taking the stage, this year’s collection of bands delivered the goods in fine fashion. Puddle Of Mudd, a band often filled with drama causing show cancellations or walk-offs as usually centered around frontman Wes Scantlin, was supposed to play the Bake for the first time since 2010. But alas, a cancellation of a different kind — the band being unable to fly out of snowy Sioux City, Iowa, the night before — altered the set times of the early bands and made for longer intermission periods until Red Sun Rising came on 90 minutes later than scheduled at Puddle Of Mudd’s original time of 5:30 p.m.
With two albums and an EP behind them, Red Sun Rising made its first visit since the 2017 Oyster Bake. They dominated their set, wisely so, with the brilliance of debut album Polyester Zeal on tracks such as opener “Imitation,” “The Otherside,” “Emotionless,” “Amnesia” and “Push.”
If you were to determine the bands that typically play San Antonio more frequently than any others, they’d likely be Saxon, Chevelle and 10 Years. Not necessarily in that order.
Not only did 10 Years return following Oyster Bake visits in 2014 and 2016, they were at the Rock Box two months ago celebrating a decade of Division. This time, a mixed set delighted the crowd that was either there to rock or mingle and drink with friends as thousands explored the grounds that also included Tejano, R&B and country music stages one night after Starship headlined the ‘80s era evening.
10 Years stole the show in terms of enthusiasm and playing to the fans as vocalist Jesse Hasek bodysurfed his way into the throng on three different songs. More than any musician, Hasek put the men in blue — which unlike recent Bakes comprised most of the law enforcement presence rather than county sheriffs that have been known to not take kindly to moshers and body surfers — to work as they quickly approached the barrier each time and ensured everyone’s safety.
“San Antonio, you have something really special here,” Hasek said when he was back to standing upright on stage. “We will gladly do this again and again and again.” Truer words may never have been spoken.
Seether, meanwhile, had the honor of being the featured attraction but the unlucky fate of seeing temperatures rattle many in attendance due to a brisk night wind by the time they hit at 9:15 p.m. Nevertheless, “Stoke the Fire” opened the set and was soon accompanied by fan favorites “Gasoline,” “Rise Above This,” “Broken,” “Fine Again,” “Words as Weapons” and the tune whose video was filmed in nearby Boerne — “Country Song.”
Often alternating between the trio of frontman Shaun Morgan, bassist Dale Stewart — both of South Africa — and drummer and Oklahoma native John Humphrey — and a quartet, Seether recently added Corey Lowery on guitar. Lowery, formerly of Seether touring partners Saint Asonia, is the brother of Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery. Watch my 2015 chat with Lowery and Saint Asonia vocalist Adam Gontier for AXS.com here, plus conversations with Stewart and Humphrey.
Whether the Oyster Bake continues to recycle some of its rock acts or do away with some traditions in the future is secondary compared to the festival existing at all in grand form. While we may not be around for another 103 years to appreciate that many subsequent ones, you can’t beat the enjoyment of roasted corn, burgers, chalupas, chicken on a stick or chocolate-covered strawberries in one hand while holding high your horns with the other as long as you still can.