As the temperatures rise, those who travel via motorcycle begin to hit the open road. Bike festival season is on the horizon.
The big four nationally recognized veteran bike events are well known across the US: Sturgis, South Dakota; Myrtle Beach, Florida (both in their 76th year); Daytona Beach, Florida, in its 79th year; and then the Laconia, New Hampshire, event, marking its 93rd year.
And yet the Arizona Bike Week, now in its 20th year, might have them all beat. The event will hit Westworld in Scottsdale April 6-10.
Between its unwavering support of local charities and variety of fundraising efforts, exhibits, stunts, and flat-track racing, it attracts more than a quarter-million bike fanatics and enthusiasts each year.
In addition to the sounds of purring engines, the sound of rock music is always in the air during AZ Bike Week. This year, event organizers have booked five days' worth of rock legends to play its fabled Rock Yard stage.
“We have never had the same band play twice in the past, but this year we decided to bring back some of our favorites,” says Lisa Cyr, AZ Bike Week marketing and media director and half of the duo that manages the entire event. “On top of that, we doubled the number of concerts, bringing twice as much rock for your buck.”
A five-day pass will run you $58, and tickets to individual days will cost $20 to $30 a piece, depending on the day. You can buy tickets at the Bike Week website.
The all-star band lineup for the five-day festival will include Joan Jett, Blues Traveler, Reverend Horton Heat, Social Distortion, Ratt, Buckcherry, local band Metalhead, and more. Here's a guide to the musical festivities.
Blackberry Smoke, 7 p.m. — One of rock’s leading bands to have reclaimed the traditions of Southern/country rock, the quintet, led by Charlie Starr, hit gold on its fourth album, Holding all the Roses, which went to number one on the country charts last year.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, 9 p.m. — The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and former guitarist of seminal punk band The Runaways is considered the Godmother of Punk. She first hit platinum pay dirt on the strength of her 1981 album with the title track “I Love Rock ’n Roll.”
Warrant, 7 p.m. — The glam metal band's first two albums, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie, went platinum.
"[Motorcycle events are] an amazing American tradition, just like Harley-Davidson motorcycles and rock 'n' roll," Warrant rhythm guitarist Erik Turner tells New Times. "A couple of the guys have Harleys, and we always consider it an honor and a damn good time to play biker events."
Blues Traveler, 9 p.m. – Considered one of the key blues rock jam bands of the '90s, BT garnered the 1996 Grammy Award for its signature song "Run-Around." Lead singer and harmonica wizard John Popper suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1992 and is still a fan of the sport and culture.
Reverend Horton Heat, 7 p.m. – Considered the mad professors of psychobilly/rockabilly, the Dallas trio has recorded 11 high-octane albums with titles like Wiggle Sticks, Big Sky, and Let Me Teach You How To Eat.
“We’re gonna do the best we can to bring some high-energy music,” says Jim Heath, better known as Reverend Horton Heat. “The whole motorcycle world has been a big influence on me."
Social Distortion, 9 p.m. – For the past 38 years, Social Distortion has been one of the world’s most enduring punk rock band originators. Led by band founder, guitarist, and vocalist Mike Ness, the Fullerton, California, foursome has cranked out seven albums with hits like “Ball and Chain," “Gimme The Sweet And Low Down,” and one of the best remakes ever, of Johnny Cash’s classic “Ring of Fire.”
"[We’re ] so stoked AZ Bike Week has asked us back. We feel this is a great match,” says Ness.
Ratt, 7 p.m. – Heavy metal favorites of the '80s LA glam scene, Ratt climbed the charts with its early hits “Round and Round” and “Lay It Down.” Along with fellow metal rivals Motley Crue, Ratt helped redefine metal music and gave it a popular sound that defined the era.
“Some guys in the band ride and some don’t, but we always played festivals with bike weeks or bike festivals," says longtime Ratt drummer Bobby Blotzer.
And, for what he enjoys seeing at AZ Bike Week: "Just a lot of bad-ass bikes and about 30 million tattoos.”
Buckcherry, 9 p.m. – Bridging the gap between metal and hard rock, the Anaheim band found a hit in 2005 with “Crazy Bitch." The band's most recent album was released last year.
While the music is a lure for even the most average bike fans and riders, Arizona Bike Week is, let’s not forget, about bikes and bike culture.
The event started as a small gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts coming together to celebrate their passion for riding. It quickly began to take shape as an organized rally. Since purchasing the rights to Arizona Bike Week in late 2005, FX Promotions has seen a steady increase in annual attendance. With the implementation of nightly concerts, included with general admission passes, the attendance in 2006 doubled. Continuing with that concept and during an economy in which many events experienced declining turnouts, the event has become one of the fastest growing rallies in the country, according to Cyr.
Here are some of the bike-related events happening during the festival:
Peace Out, Prostate Cancer Ride sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale
FMX Freestyle Motocross Extreme Stunt Shows
King Tony's Busted Knuckles Stunt Tour
Harley Davidson of Scottsdale Drill Team
Saddle Up For Kids Ride Sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale
The fourth annual "Saddle Up For Kids" ride will span more than 235 miles, covering some of Arizona's most scenic highways. Proceeds benefit Arizona's Camp Courage, a summer camp for youth burn survivors.
6th Annual Hamsters Charity "Dry Heat" Run presented by Paul Yaffe's Bagger Nation
NASCAR legend, Rusty Wallace will be making his first Dry Heat Run on his brand new, Bagger Nation custom Street Glide, as well as Gerald Rinehart, founder of Rinehart Racing.
Hand in Hand Ride Benefitting Phoenix Children’s Hospital
The Third Annual Bad AZ Bike Show and The 6th Annual Baddest Bagger in Arizona Show!
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Flat Track Racing presented by Chuck Franklin Law
Down and Dirty IV League Flat Track Racing in the "HellRacers Dome" for several dozen classes of riders
Sponsoring venues providing activities before, during, and after the daily events are Rally Roadhouse and HandleBar Saloon, to name a few.
For more information, interested fans can visit the AZ Bike Week website at azbikeweek.com.