The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

M3 FESTIVAL

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, USA

Saturday June 19th, 2010

 

By AARON DELBONO

 

As Evil & I stepped off the plane in Baltimore the day before the gig, we knew we had a long rockin’ day ahead of us at M3. The lineup was as solid as any single day festival we’d seen. We walked the grounds of Merriweather Post Pavilion later that afternoon and were encouraged to see the entire pavilion stage & seats under cover – no direct sunlight overhead or worry of rain if a freak storm came through. A nice second stage was being constructed a short walk from the main stage and everything was in place for a great day of rock & roll.

 

We arrived Saturday morning (after some serious partying Friday night) with plenty of time to get our credentials and get inside. Once we got that worked out we rushed down to our seats just minutes before JETBOY hit the stage. I spoke with guitarist Fernie Rod the previous night and promised we would be there for their set, and I’m glad we made good. They tore through their 35 minute set mixing old favorites ‘Heavy Chevy’ and ‘Evil’ with some new tracks from their EP “Off Your Rocker” (‘Perfectly Wrong’, ‘Dogs Gotta Roam’) until it was time to ‘Feel the Shake’! It was already incredibly hot (some circulating fans to move the air under the pavilion would be nice in the future) and vocalist Mickey Finn was feeling the effects….he lost his place halfway through the second verse and almost passed out. He chose to make good and redo it to the surprise of the rest of the band, who didn’t miss a beat. We spoke to him afterward at the meet & greet and he said, “I was singing the words in my head, but when it was time for them to come out of my mouth, they didn’t make it.”

 

We rushed back to our seats (and me to the photo pit) when we heard TRIXTER hit the main stage. They opened with ‘Bad Girl’ from their self-titled 1990 debut and for the next 40 minutes made me wonder why these guys get such a bad rap – they KILL it live!! Vocalist Pete Loran can still hit the high notes and guitarist Steve Brown is a beast onstage. They have the hits – ‘Surrender’, ‘One in a Million’, ‘Give It to Me Good’ – and perform them very well. I understand why they’re so early on a bill like this (and others), but they certainly hold their own with bigger & better selling acts.

 

 

After two great sets, we finally had an opportunity to get some food and take a break. As we searched for food, we were outraged at some of the prices. A slice of pizza for $10…seriously? There was no free water that we could find (but could purchase it for $4 a bottle) and a 24oz. beer was $11. I realize we were a captive audience (no in-and-out privileges) and they’re in it for the money, but gouging their customers adds insult to injury (especially with the economy like it is). Another problem we had as VIP ticket holders (in addition to the lack of airflow under the pavilion) was the lack of room between the seats. We were up against a wall in the last row of seats (which were removable folding chairs) and had less than a foot between ours and the seats in front of us. We literally had to stand on our chairs to let people pass. If M3 chooses to have VIP seating next year, they simply MUST remove a row or two.

 

Next up on the main stage was LA GUNS featuring Phil Lewis. I have had the opportunity to see both versions (the other featuring Tracii Guns on guitar) and while Tracii is a phenomenal talent, I prefer Phil’s version. In my opinion, any band that has “the voice” is simply better, and Phil Lewis is the voice of LA Guns. It just isn’t the same hearing someone else sing ‘The Ballad of Jayne’, ‘Over the Edge’, ‘Sex Action’, and ‘Rip & Tear’. The rest of the band (guitarist Stacey Blades, bassist Kenny Kweens and drummer Steve Riley) just embodies the spirit of LA Guns better than Tracii’s version.

 

 

Another band who seems to get no respect is WINGER. From Beavis & Butthead to Kip’s ballet moves, the “real rockers” always considered them wimpy, pretty-boy rock. Nothing could be further from the truth – Winger was easily the heaviest band of M3!! Hell, the long-haired Sasquatch in front of us in the Winger t-shirt knew that. Now, I’d noticed how bass-heavy the sound was already, and during this set it got even worse (that tends to happen when the vocalist also plays bass). Guitarist Reb Beach (who also had stints in Whitesnake & Night Ranger) is simply an amazing talent. Kip looked great & sounded excellent on the new material from “Karma” as well as the old favorites (‘Can’t Get Enuff’, ‘Seventeen’, and ‘Madalaine’)

 

 

 

We didn’t venture up to the festival (second) stage until BANG TANGO. With any festival, there is the inevitable overlap, so we missed the first couple songs. Apparently, after vocalist Joe Leste’s health scare last year, he cleaned up his act and started writing new music (one of which they played – good stuff). I was surprised at the size of the crowd (quite large) and disappointed at the height of the stage (I couldn’t see anyone onstage from the sound board). We hung long enough to hear ‘Dancin’ on Coals’ and the beginning of ‘Someone Like You’, but headed back to our seats for what we felt would be the highlight of the show – the Bad Boys from the Underground….Kix.

 

M3 has turned into a worldwide destination with attendees from every corner of the globe. So it was with great pride that our mates Perry & Shivvy from Perth, Western Australia were given the honor of introducing Kix for travelling the furthest to attend the show. Congratulations….you deserve it!!

 

Perry & Shivvy

 

KIX is from Baltimore, Maryland (as is long-legged Rosie from their song ‘Girl Money’) so M3 was basically a hometown gig for them. They have a huge following there and could do no wrong, but that didn’t stop them from kicking our asses for the next hour! I have said several times Kix is the perfect festival band. Vocalist Steve Whiteman is a ball of energy, very funny & a great frontman, and their catalog is perfect for just about any festival. Their ten song set never failed to disappoint with ‘Sex’, ‘The Itch’, ‘Cold Shower’, ‘Midnight Dynamite’, ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ (which Steve facetiously called “The Hit”), ‘Blow My Fuse’ and the classic ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’. They mostly play gigs on the east coast of the USA, but will play in Hollywood, California for the first time in 19 years during the Sunset Strip Music Festival. Catch them if you can….

 

 

 

As I waited for VINCE NEIL to hit the stage, I thought to myself, “The first cover tune I hear, I’m gone.” Unfortunately, that is the ONLY thing Vince plays….covers. Whether its Motley tunes (I know he’s the singer and the fans want to hear them, but its still a cover in my opinion) or anything off his new covers album “Tattoos & Tequila”, I figure I’m only hanging around through the first three so I can get some good shots. After an incredibly bass-heavy intro which featured Samuel L. Jackson’s bible passage sound bite from the movie “Pulp Fiction”, Vince tore into ‘Live Wire’ and the stage was bathed in white smoke – NOT very conducive to photographs. Luckily it dissipated long enough to get some good shots. It was typical Vince – “sing” half the lyrics and let the crowd take care of the chorus. When he left the stage so his band could do more covers, so did I. What a waste of time.

 

 

I’m glad I left Vince when I did….NELSON was just beginning their set on the festival stage. Now those boys can sing! Another band that gets no respect, they are a solid live act and had a special guest – Mark Slaughter on guitar. I have always been a fan of their music and never really thought of them as a “hair metal” act. I consider them melodic rock with a country flavor. The first album “After the Rain” was very polished and got a lot of MTV exposure, but had a harder edge live. Their second album “Because They Can” was much less popular and had more of an Eagles feel to it, but was better than the first. They played all the hits (‘Love and Affection’, ‘After the Rain’, ‘Only Time Will Tell’) and a couple of new tracks. Vocals & musicianship were top-notch and their set was a highlight of the festival.

 

 

I left Nelson a little early to get a prime spot in the pit for CINDERELLA. Unfortunately, Vince Neil was STILL onstage. This prima-donna asshole went over his time at least 20 minutes and put the headliners in jeopardy of having to cut their sets short due to the 11pm curfew. In my opinion, he should have played before Kix - especially since Kix was in their hometown.

 

 

When Cinderella was announced for M3, many were concerned they wouldn’t even make the gig due to the volatility of Tom Keifer’s voice. It’s no secret the problems he has had in recent years, but early reviews for their shows in 2010 were positive. Well, let me put those worries to rest – the vocals were spot on and the show was excellent! They opened with ‘The More Things Change’ and it was a fitting sentiment for the entire day….more than a dozen great bands all together after 20 years plus to kick our asses all over again. Tom broke out the top hat & double-neck Gibson SG for ‘Night Songs’ and continued to impress throughout the entire set – ‘Somebody Save Me’, ‘Gypsy Road’, ‘Push Push’, ‘Coming Home’, ‘Shelter Me’ and a double encore of ‘Don’t Know What You Got (Till its Gone)’ & ‘Shake Me’. It was great to see Cinderella back on the scene and I look forward to seeing them again later this summer.

 

 

The sun was finally going down and the end of a long hot day was in sight. I made my last trudge up the hill to the festival stage to catch WARRANT’s set. They are on their third singer - after one album & tour with Jamie St. James and a train wreck reunion with original singer/songwriter Jani Lane, they have recruited former Cry of Love/Lynch Mob and current Big Cock vocalist Robert Mason. Robert has the voice and the attitude to bring the Down Boys to the next level (he’s known by the initials BMF…I’ll let you figure out what that stands for). Once again, I missed the first couple songs due to overlap (and I assume Vince Neil going overtime with his set of covers). What I did catch was killer vocals & high energy. They played all the Warrant standards and the crowd ate it up. I went back to my seat early to catch the band that started me out on this long, crazy, rockin’ road…. THE SCORPIONS!!

 

 

It seemed like an eternity before the lights went down. Sound check actually included a full instrumental by the techs. Lights were tested and retested. The PA was turned up….then turned down. Finally the pavilion went dark and M3 headliners The Scorpions hit the stage over a half hour late. They opened with the title track to their latest (and final) album “Sting in the Tail” and didn’t let up until they gave us ‘Make it Real’, ‘Bad Boys Running Wild’ and ‘The Zoo’. A few fans were complaining about the vocals being too low, and as if on cue, lead singer Klaus Meine told us why – he had the flu and almost cancelled the show. He actually singled out one fan down front and told him if he were to sing normally, he would have no voice left by the end of the show. Klaus then asked the rest of the crowd to bear with him and help out when they could - the response was the biggest cheer of the entire day and for the remainder of the show, he had help. The band immediately launched into instrumental ‘Coast to Coast’ followed by Vince Neil sharing vocals on ‘Another Piece of Meat’. The middle of the set featured three straight ballads (‘Holiday’, ‘Wind of Change’, and my new favorite Scorpions song ‘The Best is Yet to Come’) to further let Klaus make it through the night with his voice intact. New track ‘Raised on Rock’ and ‘Tease Me Please Me’ brought the energy back up, then it was time for the “Kottak Attack” featuring drummer James Kottak. The solo featured him playing along to several Scorpions classics while humorous video vignettes played on the big screens with him acting out the corresponding album title (such as “Fly to the Rainbow” and “Animal Magnetism”). The bit was very entertaining and must be seen to be appreciated. The rest of the band came back for ‘Blackout’ before a truncated Six String Sting by guitarist Matthias Jabs. The set closed with ‘Big City Nights’ and a single encore of their biggest hit, ‘Rock You like a Hurricane’.

 

 

When it was all said and done, we were treated to sixteen bands and 11 ½ hours of incredible rock & roll. With the exception of a few minor issues, I felt the second annual M3 festival was a huge success, not only for the organizers, but for 80s style rock in general. We showed the world once again that the music we love continues to bring together thousands from around the world. There was talk immediately afterward of expanding M3 to two days. If they bring the same caliber of classic acts along with some new acts from the genre (such as Hardcore Superstar, Crazy Lixx, Crashdiet, Reckless Love and Wig Wam) to Baltimore next summer, M3 could become the quintessential hair/glam/sleaze fest by which all others are measured.

 

I will keep my fingers crossed…

 

Aaron DelBono

 

Pavilion Stage

11:20 - 11:50 - Dingle Dynasty

12:00 - 12:35 - Jetboy

1:05 - 1:45 - Trixter

2:15 - 3:00 - LA Guns

3:30 - 4:15 - Winger

4:40 - 5:40 - Kix

6:15 - 7:15 - Vince Neil

7:40 - 8:40 - Cinderella

9:30 - 10:55 - Scorpions

Festival Stage

12:35 - 1:05 - Z02

1:45 - 2:15 - Black Mambooza

3:00 - 3:30 - Mass

4:15 - 4:40 - Bang Tango

5:40 - 6:15 - Dizzy Reed

7:00 - 7:40 - Nelson

8:40 - 9:25 - Warrant