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Former Poison frontman Bret Michaels knows that hair metal or pop metal, or glam metal, or whatever subgenre title you want to apply to the style of music that became synonymous with AquaNet hairspray and spandex pants will perhaps never earn retroactive points with dismissive critics.
But he also knows there's a growing nostalgia for that music among the masses, and he intends to help satiate it with some help from a few of his friends.
Michaels will headline this Saturday's BearFest at Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City, an event that will serve as a 30th-anniversary celebration for local classic rock radio station KBER 101 FM. He'll be joined by tourmates and fellow '80s rockers Ratt, Dokken, Warrant and Lita Ford.
And when he belts out the lyrics "Don't need nothin' but a good time," you can rest assured he means it.
"Well, regardless of what it's called, it was absolutely an era with an identity it had a party vibe, it was fun," Michaels said in a telephone interview. "The show is BearFest, but the tour is simply called 'Bret Michaels' The Party Starts Now Tour.' … Every year we play at Usana, I go out in the parking lot, I take my motorcycle out and find people partying, and I give them passes to come backstage. We're gonna make this a proactive, interactive super-party."
Proactive and interactive are apt descriptors for his career these days. After the initial demise of Poison, Michaels reinvented himself as a reality television star, remaining in the public consciousness via his VH1 dating competition show, "Rock of Love," and an ultimately victorious appearance on Season 3 of "The Apprentice."
He's now part of the six-week ABC show "Greatest Hits," which employs a weekly guest performer to put a spin on hit songs of various genres from a particular five-year span, often with the help of the original artist. Michaels' episode airs next Thursday.
But all along, he's continued making his music.
Last year saw the release of "True Grit," an album detractors charged with being an unashamed attempt to hitch himself to the increasingly popular country music movement's pickup truck. It did, after all, feature tracks called "Rock'n My Country" and "New Breed of American Cowboy," a cover of "Sweet Home Alabama" featuring some members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Poison classic "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" reimagined as a duet with Loretta Lynn, and the lead single "Girls on Bars," co-written by country hitmaker Luke Laird and featured in prominent rotation on CMT.
Michaels doesn't dispute any of that, but maintains there's nothing particularly calculated about it, either.
Yes, "True Grit" features Skynyrd and Lynn but he's a fan of and friends with both, and the album also features rocker pals such as KISS' Ace Frehley, Van Halen's Michael Anthony, and Aerosmith's Joe Perry. Yes, this version of "Every Rose" is countrified, but "if you put a song out now that sounds like 'Every Rose' … I think there's a good chance that would probably wind up going straight to country radio," he noted. And as for "Girls on Bars," well, that's an easy one, too: "I said, 'Look, it's deep in winter I need a Panama City summer beach party song for my own brain. Something that's a fun video … that's a party!' "
As for those who prefer Michaels simply stay in his rock 'n' roll lane, he has some potentially good news: Asked about a potential Poison reunion, he replied, "The honest answer to that is I absolutely hope so, and next year it'll be Poison and Def Leppard. The last time we were out was, I think, 2012, and we'll go out and bring it again, and it'll be insane."
In the meantime, Poison songs performed by him and his band (featuring Cinderella's Eric Brittingham on bass, Pete Evick on guitar, Mike Bailey on drums and Robi Wylde on keyboards "The band is my best buddies I grew up with, aside from Poison," Michaels gushed) will have to do.
Regardless of whom he's playing with, Michaels said his enthusiasm that continues to resonate with audiences remains his driving force for performing.
"I still feel as passionate today as I did when I was playing in my basement, when I was rocking in my garage," he said. "When I hit that stage, it's three generations of fans that I feel blessed to be out there [with], and they can feel my energy. I don't look at it like this is something I have to do, it's something I want to do."
Give the man points for that, at least.
KBER 101 Bear Fest with Bret Michaels
Featuring Ratt, Dokken, Warrant and Lita Ford
When • Saturday, July 9; doors at 3 p.m., show at 4
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5200 S. 6200 West, West Valley City
Tickets • $29-$65; Smith's Tix; Usana Amphitheatre box office