‘Journey’ back to the 1980s with RockStar

Local rocker leads group

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 2, 2021

 Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider is one of many rock frontmen Ken Lewandowski portrays. Lewandowski grew up in Sterling Heights and attended school in Warren and Fraser.

Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider is one of many rock frontmen Ken Lewandowski portrays. Lewandowski grew up in Sterling Heights and attended school in Warren and Fraser.

Photo by Anne Nicolazzo

 RockStar vocalist and showman Ken Lewandowski, left, who grew up in Macomb County, got to meet one of his music idols, Bret Michaels of Poison,  during a show.

RockStar vocalist and showman Ken Lewandowski, left, who grew up in Macomb County, got to meet one of his music idols, Bret Michaels of Poison, during a show.

Photo provided by Ken Lewandowski


WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — “Catching Up With Alumni” highlights the accomplishments of local high school alumni. In this issue, the spotlight falls on 1997 Cousino High School graduate Ken Lewandowski, who also attended St. John Lutheran School in Fraser from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Welcome to the jungle, where the rock music is cranked to 11, the hair is teased to the max and the party never ends.

For the past nine years, “The International Arena Rock Revolution” known as RockStar has been bringing the Spandex-fueled days of ’80s rock ‘n’ roll to audiences of all ages. There’s even room for some ’70s rock stars that still made music a decade later.

Leading the RockStar pack is frontman and 1997 Cousino High School graduate Ken Lewandowski, who on stage pays homage to the movers and shakers of the rock scene: Bret Michaels, Dee Snider, Steve Perry, Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose and more.

Through costume changes, wigs, strong vocal performances and choreography, Lewandowski transforms himself into different music idols for an entertaining show that relives the heydays of big arena tours, hair band anthems and broken eardrums. Because the stage show is so grand, the band usually performs at festivals and outdoor venues, but has been known to draw fans in bars. The band even has a tour bus.

At each show, you’ll see the likeness of David Lee Roth’s jump splits, Alice Cooper’s top hat, plenty of glitter makeup and more old school throwbacks from Lewandowski, lead guitarist Gordie O’Shea, bassist/keyboardist Michael Marzolo, drummer Dan Niewolak and lead guitarist Dave Hamilton.

“I wanted to create a show with the energy that was the ’80s. People come to see us and it takes them back to a time they were really happy,” said Lewandowski, who grew up in Sterling Heights. “Everybody in the band is really passionate about the music and nailing it live. They are seasoned professionals and amazing musicians.”

The segment that usually garners the most reaction is Lewandowski’s recreation of Freddie Mercury’s 1985 Live Aid performance with Queen. The RockStar singer goes all out with a black wig, moustache, sleeveless white T-shirt and stonewashed Wranglers. “Hands down,” it’s Lewandowski’s favorite part of the show. It’s obvious 30 years after he died, fans still miss Mercury.

“He was so talented,” Lewandowski said. “He’s an icon. There was a presence about him and such an energy.”

Other standouts include Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” and the band always brings it home when the audience joins in on Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin.’”

“Everybody sings that. They love it,” the vocalist said. “Steve Perry is one of the best vocalists live.”

‘It looked like a wild party’    
Lewandowski was 9 when bands like Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and Van Halen caught his attention on MTV. He’s wanted to be a singer ever since.

“They didn’t look like anybody else,” Lewandowski said. “It looked like a wild party.”    

The musician would pick Sammy Hagar as his “favorite artist right now.”

“I loved him in Van Halen,” the stage performer said. “That’s the first album I heard.”

RockStar gets its mojo cranking with help from business partner Janisse Nickola, who has an eye for detail and makes all the band members’ costumes and wigs by hand. There’s plenty of leather, studs and headbands. Nickola, known as Sloan Wolf, also manages the band and books their gigs.

“I like to work with denim and leather. My objective is every single guy on the stage should pop. I want all the guys to get as much attention as Ken,” she said. “Our objective is to make it fun and put smiles on people’s faces. I think the visual aspect of the concert is so important. How they look makes it a fun spectacle. We’ve taken the fun of the ’80s and just blown it up to bigger than it ever was.”

Nickola said the goal is to add some other bands to the repertoire that started in the 1970s, including Boston, Styx and Kansas. Something that Nickola has noticed is the generation gap closing a bit when parents bring their kids to RockStar shows.

“They’ll say, ‘I hated my mom and dad’s music until I saw the show,” Nickola said.

Past RockStar performances include Warren’s Birthday Bash, the Magic Bag in Ferndale and the Lexington Village Theatre. The band not only plays in metro Detroit, but has traveled to Traverse City, Ohio, Las Vegas, and Cancun for shows.

RockStar has performed ’80s events at a resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with Berlin, the Romantics, and Loverboy on the bill. It’s where Lewandowski met Tony Lewis of the Outfield, ’80s video babe Tawny Kitaen and Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy. Sadly, Lewis and Kitaen have since died.

“Great guy,” he said of Lewis. “Tawny Kitaen was a sweetheart. She was just amazing.”

Meeting “super personable” Bret Michaels of Poison during a performance was a thrill. The two singers found they had something in common: Both have Type I diabetes.

RockStar also likes to give back to its fans. In coordination with Skull Island Camp in White Lake, Michigan, the band just raised $24,000 for the Great Lakes Burn Camp of Michigan at its annual summer show on the island.

On July 14, RockStar performed at the Music on the Lake Concert series at Veterans Memorial Park in St. Clair Shores. The concert attracted about 5,000 fans.

“They have an incredible reputation for putting on a great performance. Petitpren our sponsor was very happy with their involvement,” Parks & Recreation Director Henry Bowman said in an email. “I think it was a fantastic show and the dance floor was packed. Someone texted me during the show and said we needed a bouncer on the floor. The band was very professional. They are definitely a band we would like to see come back.”

For more on RockStar, visit www.facebook.com/RockStar80s Band. Contact rockstarsloan@gmail.com for booking information.

Bang your head!

RockStar has two gigs coming up. The band will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Romeo Peach Festival, at the Romeo Lions Club Refreshment Fieldhouse, 269 East Washington. According to romeopeachfestival.com, the show is ages 21 and older. Doors open at 6 p.m. with a $5 donation to enter. RockStar is also slated to perform Sept. 18 at the “Saturday Night Throwback” at Charlevoix and Maryland streets in Grosse Pointe Park. The event is from 7 to 11 p.m.