Photo by: Steve Trager
M3 Rock Festival
Merriweather Post Pavilion
May 12, 2012
Photos: Steve Trager
For many music fans, the eighties’ were considered to be amongst the best years for a generation surrounding the image of Hair Metal and Glammer rock. For some it was an institution all about music, and others it was a lifestyle with flair. Eighties’ bands ruled MTV and sold out concert venues to capacity. While many bands have drifted out of the public eye, others manage to keep the dream alive with pounding the road with extensive touring to get the word out that they still can bring the fire and the melodies which at one time many bands were on top of their game.
Like minded music fans who can’t never get enough of all those glorious Hair Band days, there is one sure fix and that is with the annual kick off to summer with the M3 Rock Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Maryland. Now in it is fourth consecutive year as an entity for concert goers to flock to the stage to catch many of those great relived memories of all those stellar hits that truly ring out like a shot from a gun with a blaze of glory all in a twelve hour head bangers delight.
While Rocklahoma was the first to deliver the goods with all the hair metal you can swallow in four days for the first few years, The M3 Rock Festival has become a local favorite concert spot since 2009 with two rotating stages of music to fill a day with nothing but the hits from every band under the sun that captured the essence of Eighties’ Glammer Rock. The extensive era of the Hair Metal days can often be rekindled with Satellite radio and VH1 rock blocks, many of those bands still kick around the rocks with founding members and others finding new vocals to generate a whole new breed of life in the music while retaining the brilliance of their peak as a band.
For the past years, The M3 Rock Festival has stitched together a roster of gleaming talent that truly puts the Trademark of Hair Metal and Glam Rock which makes the two hour drive from Philly tremendously worth the road trip. Last Year the Scorpions gave Maryland their last sting as a Band and the year before that Whitesnake wowed the fans with an unforgettable sizzling headliner set, this years line up truly blows the doors off those pervious roster lineups with Two co headliner sets by Queensryche and Ratt rounding out the main stage and New Jerseys’ own Skid Row closing out the second festival stage just a skip across the field it becomes a coin toss where to head first when you pull into the parking lot and run your finger down the schedule.
Even before the gates opened just looking around at this venue that has been in place since the sixties that hosted Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all sharing the stage at one time or another, Merriweather Post Pavilion reminds me of being in a back yard forest complete with a stage that dips down like a rollercoaster ride, it’s a great place to see any concert really a drive yet it feels like your close to home when it comes to the M3 Rock Festival simply because you get the maximum over load of rock fix with a nicely priced ticket..
This year’s lineup was truly impressive with the original line up of XYZ and STRYPER performing, and from the land of the rising sun Japan’s rock gods’ LOUDNESS with original blazing vocalist Minoru Niihara rounding out this bands only area appearance this year makes this a unique event to say the most. If that doesn’t impress any hard core rock fan enough, the second stage also featured Guitar shredding virtuoso George Lynch which makes any guitar hero push their way to the front of the stage to watch this guy work his magic on his trademark leopard ESP guitar.
While the M3 Rock Festival has turned into a two day event this year, the warm up pre – party featured Home grown rock icons Kix hailing from the back yards of Baltimore Maryland along side Night Ranger sharing the main stage. But, the real festive music interlude kicked off on Saturday bright and early right around the mid noon hour with two pioneer master drummers Carmine and Vinnie Appice going head to head while at the drums making this a one of a kind segment on the main stage a great way to kick the entire day off right into high gear.
With fourteen Bands spread between two stages and quite short sets covering just under thirty-five minutes each with exceptions of the co – headliners on the main stage, one gets a chance to hear the meat and potatoes in each set which is the core popularity of every single band at the M3 in the first place, we certainly wouldn’t want to sit through songs we never heard or hear rare songs that never made it say out of the recording studio. Music fans who adored the high point in the Eighties got exactly what they wanted and that is the stellar hit makers that can still be playing inside your head even when you close your eyes to sleep.
Perhaps one if the greatest ideal behind this whole day festival is the ultimate rotation of both stages where you never miss an actual performance truly a genius conception no over lapping music where you end up missing some great song from one stage going directly to another.
Among all the great performances at this show, Great White never sounded better with a new fresh voice of that being Front man Terry Ilous former icon of XYZ era. However it’s quite hard to believe that Jack Russell who fronted this band since the Seventies has a different version, although his vocals and those stellar hits made Great white stand tall on the rock map, Terry Ilous has a great voice, that rocker type image he’s portrayed all these years, seems to fit like a glove with this band just after he belted out the first few notes of the opening song in their set.
As if the main stage hadn’t been drizzled with some great acts there, I also had the greatest opportunity to catch the original twenty year lineup of XYZ performing at this year’s M3 Rock Festival. Even with just a few great CD’s under their belt, XYZ got the crown fired up with six sizzling songs including C’mon and Love me, Face Down In The Gutter, and Inside Out. Always great to XYZ kick ass live even with just six quick songs, still wasn’t enough but better then nothing at all.
Any great rock festival wouldn’t be complete with out an ultra rare appearance from Japanese metal god’s Loudness, a band that never really made their fan target in America other then touring with Motley Crue in the mid – eighties, Loudness has collectively spun numerous blistering CD’s and many of them pricey yet worth the price. Been years since this band has toured and if they do, they play odd dates in the USA and then vanish but, have etched their fame abroad. I can’t even begin express how great it was to see this band from Japan for just six songs and with the original front man topping it off. For a metal band from Japan to be the first to truly set the tone at this type of event surly had to be nothing less the amazing. Loudness open the flood gate with Crazy Doctor went right into Crazy Nights and finished their set with SDI. Now, just a few riffs into the first song fans just watch Akira blister through the guitar solos with amazement as he is a well known guitar god from the land of the rising sun.
The second stage had a great roster of talented bands some of which made their first appearance at this years’ M3 event and that being Lynch Mob. Not exactly sure what version this was actually but the highlight was to visually capture every guitar lick from George Lynch. Were six songs enough to win any fan over…. most defiantly not! Lynch Mob opened their quick set with Wicked Sensation which was a great song to begin with, yet Lynch Mob has numerous relics hard to just sit through only six of them that including the infamous instrumental Dokken’s Mr. Scary putting the emphases on the ultimate guitar jam of the mid day meltdown by George Lynch sporting his trademark ESP guitar.
Quiet Riot made an ultra rare appearance this year with founding member Frankie Banali on drums with a stellar new lineup including the bands newest addition front vocalist Scott Vokoun who will never come close to the original voice of Kevin Dubrow but does fit his shoes with belting out songs like Bang Your Head (Mental Health) and C’mon Feel the Noize which are both rock anthems of this band in the early eighties that can still be heard on rock radio today.
The main stage at this year’s M3 Rock Festival featured Christian Rock Icons Stryper, while this is the original lineup including bassist Tim Gains back in the fold makes Stryper amongst the prime best this year. I as a music fan always enjoyed Stryper especially with their heavy hitters that have earned a unique signature sound. Still wearing all black and sporting their signature yellow and back custom guitars Stryper covered material from their Debut effort back in 1987 which included Free, To Hell with the Devil, and Soldiers under Command. These three tracks alone put Stryper on the rock map and had been a mainstay on MTV for weeks in the good old days. One trade mark that Stryper has done so well is connect with the fans with their live shows in additions to that still even tossing out the Stryper bibles closing out their last song, truly brings back memories of the old days with rock shows. Still extremely cool to see these guys rock out with just six songs but six well known songs from one great era in history.
As they say eighties Metal will never go away and those words couldn’t be better stated with a great performance from Warrant who performed in mid afternoon on the main stage. While Jamie St, James fitted well in 2007, Robert Mason fits like a glove in this band, has that rocker image, the voice, and the persona that rekindles that eighties stretch of Warrant in years past. Even those yearly signature classics still sound great such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Red, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinky Rich, and Down Boys which opened the doors for this band as a great new glamour rock quintet that become an over night sensation. Always a great live show with Warrant especially with all those great hits that captivated this band from day one, and now that Robert Mason holds the reigns in this fold, Warrant is moving in the best direction ever as a band a great front man who brings to the table a fresh new voice, and can carry his weight as one hell of a vocalist.
Perhaps one of the greatest moments at this years’ M3 Rock Festival happened to be the All Star Jam. Joining the stage this year members of Dokken, Warrant, Great White, and Stryper added a fresh musical interlude along sides of both Vinnie and Carmine Appice pounding out the drums on the main stage. Defiantly a great tribute to the greatest vocalist of all time and that would be Ronnie James Dio as both a solo artist and a generation fronting Black Sabbath, Robert Mason stepped up to the plate and certainly brought a standing ovation to those of loved Dio and his amazing talents as a musician all these years with performing Holy Diver. Rounding out the three other songs Terry Ilous joined Mason and belted out All Right Now by Free another great cult classic with a rock twist, and lastly one of the biggest rock anthems in the eighties Heaven and Hell creativity mastered by Michael Sweet of Stryper, this guy can still hold the high note choruses as he truly rocked that song closing out three great tributes. We the fans can never forget those fellow musicians who have brought to the table some memorable visions through songs Like Dio has in the past spanning a countless generation of musicians.
Closing out the festival stage fans crammed for one last eighties jolt with New Jerseys’ own Skid Row. I don’t think I’ve seen a band hit the stage with such aggression and blow through a thirty minute set like they did. Skid Row has always been a great live band even without Sebastian Bach at the front, yet they still can kill it live as they rampaged right though six blistering songs including Monkey Business, 18 and Life, I’ll remember you and the rock gem closing out their set with Youth Gone Wild. If that song alone doesn’t give you a head rush at full tilt, better take another listen next time, such a bad ass song live period.
Always nice to save the best bands for the evening like Dokken, who stole the crowd over with Jon Levin’s hot guitar licks behind such tracks as In my Dreams, Into The Fire, and Alone Again he truly earns his spot light in this band. Dokken has always been one of my favorites from the eighties and there is no better way to get your Rokken with Dokken fix then those songs in your face at full maximum level then at the M3 Rock Festival.
As a last minute addition, LA Guns also played a great set with Phil Lewis still packs a vocal punch with Never Enough, Rip and Tear and the Ballad of Jayne. Not sure what version this is of LA Guns but they do still rock even without Traci Guns in the fold. Nine pelting songs to get you all fired up specially if you’re a huge glamour fan of LA Guns and they certainly served up the glam at M3.
The evening couldn’t have been more spectacular with two co headliners at M3 Rock Festival and that being first up with Seattle’s own Queensryche. While it’s hard to believe Queensryche has not only celebrated thirty blissful years as a band, Queensryche is one band that has truly mastered the live experience with the epic tale of Operation Mind Crime. It’s quite obviously all about the showmanship that this band has possessed all these years, the epic songs that combine stellar guitar riffs and monumental chorus breakdowns by the master himself Geoff Tate, Queensryche opened their sixty minute set with Get Started moving right into Damaged then not even slowing down and going right into I don’t Believe in Love which was just the icing on the cake Queensryche’s set is the heart and soul of those great memorable hits that have become a staple in their set as eighties icons pulling songs from the critically acclaimed stellar platinum selling Empire amongst Operation Mind Crime which are the best works of Queensryche under their catalog as a band,
After a long sun drenched beautiful day here at Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, we the fans of the eighties rock were once again ready for the closing headliner spot light for Ratt. Right before taking the stage Eddie Trunk had a few choice words to address the full house with comments like 2012 was the only date for Ratt as they had no immediate tour plans this year, they came here to rock out for all you the fans, he also commented on a famous quote of his Never let anyone tell you that this type of music will ever go away, never let anyone tell you that Metal and Hard Rock has gone astray, as you can see its still alive and well thanks to the cult following of fans like yourselves. After that its seemed fitting for a round of a stellar applause since those are none of most expressed heart felted words that can only be true with a show like this.
Of course Ratt is no stranger to the eighties Glamour Rock Hair Metal scene as they came out of the Cellar in 1984 and transcended into Rock Icons with a career spanning into the limelight for almost three glorious decades as a band. While Ratt has had numerous lineup changes, that haven’t slowed this band down for a quick second, as Ratt’s current line up now features original bassist Juan Croucier, who has always, been the backbone with great bass licks and blistering backing vocals definitely is quite fitting to have him back in the band after all these years. In addition to this lineup, Ratt also features rhythm guitarist Carlos Cavazo. While we all will always miss Robin Crosby, this is the best line up addition to date. Ratt’s catalog captivates a career of signature hits as well as familiar core favorites among fans of countless generations.
Ratt opened their set at 9:45 with Dangerous But Worth The Risk, keeping it simple yet very effective with 15 tracks pulled from their early days during their recent set at M3 Rock Festival. Ratt always never disappoints any long time fan as their live performances have been nothing short of greatness with a handful of harmonies not to mention blistering guitar solos from Warren DiMartini captivates this band in best of show in any live setting. Among fan favorites Lay It Down, Wanted Man, and Way Cool Jr. Never missing a rock beat Ratt tied a rock ribbon at the M3 long Day Rock Festival with their biggest Anthem Round and Round.
As I look back at Rockstarweekly’s first coverage of this yearly pre – summer concert experience, it comes to no surprise that this type of event will never go away fast nor will it go away, if we the fans hunger for the eighties, we the fans will always get a chance to sink our teeth into a great day like this with a roster of great bands, friends, and the visual atmosphere of a time period that we hold tightly close to our hearts.
All Star Jam