May 14, 2011

M3 Rock Fest 2011 - Merriweather Post

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

M3 ROCK FEST 2011

May 13 & 14, 2011

Columbia, MD

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Music is a timeless art, it's a form of expression which signifies a time, it can create a moment, it can be an expression of a feeling....yet the artform of Hair Metal can be best summed up when David Coverdale from White Snake serenaded a woman during his set on Saturday at the M3 Rock Fest & said she was a beautiful woman, blah, blah, then ended with, "By The Way...nice rack!"

The Third installment of the M3 Rock Fest was a 2 day even which featured an interesting assortment of bands that defined the genre of hair metal although there were a few bands on this bill that made bigger marks on the genre than others.

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The 2 day event kicked off on Friday, May 13th....yes, it was Friday the 13th, but nothing over the top happened, the weather forecast was calling for rain & crappy weather but the reality of the evening was that it was clear & mild...it was hoodie weather for sure and it was a really pleasant evening for a show. The night started off fairly early with Black Mambooza at 6:15 PM.

I purposely made it to the show late so I missed Black Mambooza because I had absolutely NO interest in them & unfortunately the band's set ran over their allotted time so they were onstage a bit longer than most expected & this would screw up the bands to follow as far as time went.

Jetboy were next & I had mixed feelings about seeing the band without original singer Mickey Finn....Jetboy was known mostly for Mr. Finn & his mohawk! When Jetboy took the stage Billy's guitar went dead for most of the first song & he was frantically trying to correct the problem...it's such a common thing for bands to experience technical issues on these larger shows & when it happens you see the band members looking like wounded animals trying to correct the problem(s) and to his credit Billy & his roadie got it all sorta out fast & Fernie did a good job of holding down the guitar parts for the first song.

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Jetboy's new singer is good, he reminds me of a younger Chip Znuff from a distance...up close not so much, but from the crowd he was like Chip Znuff's son, looks wise, & he added new life to the band.

Set wise, Jetboy played all new material with the only older song being "Feel The Shake" which featured an extended jam at the end & the jam borrowed the main riff from "She Loves My Cock" by Jackyl....Jetboy definitely did a kick ass job though & their new singer definitely reinvented the bands sound...honestly, at this point they should consider letting the name Jetboy go & starting new because this is NOT what most older fans will remember as Jetboy.

LA Guns were up next & this is where the time lapse from Black Mambooza playing too long would effect the night.

Phil Lewis took the stage sporting a unique black leather jacket that had fake spiders all over it & 2 dangling fake mice on the back...sporting a black top hat, snakeskin pants & a fishnet shirt Phil was a weird mix of fashions that meshed Alice in Wonderland with the worst cliché's of hair metal but he DID look better this year at M3 than he did last...last year he sported tacky white pants & a white butterfly shirt that made him look like he came out of the 70's!

LA Guns set was ok, having seen this version of the band many times I'll admit that "Never Enough" sounded tired, "Sex Action" lacked any real action in it's energy & Eric back on bass was the only really cool part of the bands set from my vantage point!

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Blades is a killer Tracii Guns imitator, he sported a jacket with star sleeves that looked identical to what Tracii wore back in the bands early years & I'll give it to Phil, his voice still sounds strong & good but this set was just lackluster.

"My Cookachoo" was the only song in the set that was different from previous years the band played M3 & interesting irony here: The first year LA Guns played M3 they had to cut a song because they ran low on time so they cut "Ballad of Jayne" & did "Rip N Tear"....at this show they ran short on time again & had to cut a song so they cut "Rip N Tear" & closed with "Ballad of Jayne" which most people thought was a mistake.

I've said this before & I'll say it again...the song "Ballad of Jayne" is a great slow song, BUT, Tracii Gun's playing on that song is so much better...listen closely to how Tracii plays the song & how Blades plays it...from a players standpoint Tracii adds more to it & flavors the song way more than Blades.

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Interesting sidenote, by the time LA Guns took the stage the venue was almost totally filled...I don't have the exact numbers infront of me but on Friday when LA Guns played almost every seat was filled & the lawn was packed!

Warrant actually played an unplugged set in a sidebar area on the venue but most people were unaware of it & it was an invite only event...they played 3 songs & from what I heard it was amazing!

When Warrant took the stage just before that damn KIX band I will admit it, Warrant slayed the crowd!

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It sounds comical to say that Warrant kicked ass onstage in 2011 but Robert Mason adds so much energy, so much action, he's a great singer, he plays guitar well & as much as I enjoyed Jani Lane in his prime I will admit that Robert Mason is a million times better than Jani ever was!

The Warrant set featured quite a few new songs & the new Warrant songs sound very current & modern compared to what the band was doing with Jani...I think Robert's influence on the band is obvious & I can't stress enough, Warrant's set was the highlight of the night!

When I found out years ago that CC Deville from Poison was the one who played the solo's in "Cherry Pie" & that the guitarists in Warrant had other guitarist write their solo's because they were not good enough I will admit that I lost some respect for their ability as players...they are solid rhythm players, but when they play the solo's in concert it's obvious they were NOT written by them..atleast that's the case with the "classic" Warrant songs!

Warrant's drummer has a brown poodle on his head & his 70's facial hair makes him look slightly goofier than Tommy Aldridge & his monster drummer-fro....there were a handful o' drummers that just didn't look cool...ever, & Warrant's drummer was one of those guys...he seems so serious as he's playing that I wonder if he's having fun up there.

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"Cherry Pie" closed Warrant's set & then the stage was cleared out for the nights BIG event..."the Baltimore Beatles" aka KIX were up next & their set up was simple, they had a few stacks o' amps, a drum riser & above the crowd were nets holding over-inflated balloons.

KIX set was standard, they did pretty much everything they do at every local show & I guess I should preface this by stating that I am a Maryland boy, I grew up with KIX, I've seen them many, many times...living in Maryland you can't help but know who KIX are, they are legendary in these parts & their shows are always a flurry of energy, red pants, and drop to your knees rock n roll that's pure, 100% Maryland Rock N Roll!

KIX mixed in all their hits like "Blow My Fuse", "Girl Money" & "Don't Close Your Eyes" alongside tracks like "The Itch", "Cold Shower" & closer of the night "Yeah, Yeah Yeah".

Steve Whiteman is one skinny mf & he looks identical to how he did back in the bands early beginnings...some guys definitely aged better than others in the band & sound wise KIX always sound amazing, they deliver a solid rock n roll show that's got frills & flash along with solid musicianship...I know for a fact that a HUGE part of Friday being so packed was because of KIX...it was an obvious hometown crowd supporting their local favs & that's a beautiful thing when a local band can draw that many people!

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Night one of M3 was done & over just around 11:30 PM & when I woke up in the AM for day #2 of M3 I was bummed to find the morning was dark, dreary & raining...it was a dark morning but the day was destined to be fun regardless of the on & off again rain of the day...as someone said backstage to me, it was a bad hair day no matter what you did based on the humidity, misting rain & the fact that this WAS a hair band show made it slightly comical!

The show started off with Modern Superstar at 11:15 AM but due to the rain I arrived after 12 PM when Danger Danger were finishing up their set.

I was there in plenty of time to catch ALL of Pretty Boy Floyd's set but what happened in the media will call area was that my ticket was not there so I had to wait for them to hand deliver my ticket...during that time I missed the first 2 songs of Pretty Boy Floyd's set but did hear them playing "Toast of the Town" by Motley Crue as their 2nd song while I was entering the venue.

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I ran to the 2nd stage just in time to snap a handful o' pics of Steve & the boys adding the first bits o' Hollywood Glam to the days show...Kristy's wig looks cool, it's very Lilly Munster!

I will admit that getting too close to Steve Summer's crotch in the pants that he wore onstage was slightly scary too..all I'll say is the man has balls!

Ben Graves on drums adds a whole new energy to the band, this is clearly the best version of Pretty Boy Floyd EVER & PBF were actually really good! "I Wanna Be With You" & "Rock N Roll..." were the 2 songs that got the biggest crowd response & Steve tossed out quite a few CD's, shirts, etc. to the fans...PBF were the band to top on this day!

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I saw a bit of Firehouse in passing, they sounded ok but I've always been annoyed with them so I gladly skipped their set in order to interview Billy Sheehan in the press area.

Slaughter were next up & I was hoping that Mark Slaughter would have slimmed down a bit from the last time I saw him at M3...sadly Mark was a chubby shell of his past self!

Mark Slaughter is still a decent performer, I guess it's just best to say that he's seen better days...he's really let himself go, he's sloppy & I give it to the non-original members of Slaughter because they fill in the gaps where Slaughter & Strum come off a bit tired....Dana is still an entertaining player, he's full of life, bobs his blonde locks around all night & can still play solid but the bands most recent addition, their drummer...he's the star of that show & he's an amazing player to watch!

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Gary Cherone's Hurtsmile played at the same time Slaughter did so I shuffled over to the side stage to catch a few minutes of Cherone's band prior to interviewing him & Hurtsmile was old school rock...they had a very unique feel & sound, Gary's onstage dancing & prancing was funny to watch but based on the 2 songs I saw Hurtsmile do I headed back over to the mainstage to catch the last few from Slaughter..."Fly To The Angels" & "Up All Night" were Slaughters last 2 songs & the phrase going through the motions came to mind when I saw Mark onstage...again, the bands drummer kicked ass but Mark & Dana seemed unfazed & almost bored...Mark's weight makes him come off sluggish onstage & I'll also point out that Mark was wearing a vest with no shirt on under it....dude, wear something to cover yourself up, fat men are not attractive to anyone...I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just saying what everyone else in the crowd was saying!

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Sebastian Bach was scheduled to do press but arrived late & blew off all press...it was also insinuated that he blew off press because of his recent arrest for weed 2 days prior.

Great White followed Slaughter on the main stage & I could only stand seeing a bit o' Great White....the band on that stage was solid, BUT, it was a band that should be playing small bars & small clubs..it's NOT Great White without Jack Russell & the 2 guitarists were good but without Russell...lame!

Looking at Mark Kendall up close my first thought was, wow, what the hell happened?!? The man is totally bald, looks super freakin' old & Great White is a band that's just had so much bad luck...they remind me of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the fact that they are trying to still do it & at this point...it's NOT the same band anymore, it's trying to recapture the essence of something that's gone....I guess if people are still willing to pay I don't blame them, but on many levels seeing Great White in this form is just sad because it's NOT really Great White anymore.

I heard "Once Bitten Twice Shy" while I was waiting for Gary Cherone to come out for my interview & it sounded really slowed down & bland...I ended up missing all of the Black N Blue set doing my interview with Gary Cherone & I was actually fine with that because Tommy Thayer was NOT with the band for this show so there was no point in checking them out when I had Cherone to interview!

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As with any festival show you will eventually miss some bands sets....I got into a longwinded conversation with friends & missed my cue to take pics of Mr. Big so I saw a song or 2 from their set & they sounded great, Paul Gilbert had freshly cropped hair, the band sounded really loud, but I made my way over to catch Taime Pussycat & the rest of his Faster boys...Faster Pussycat were playing at 5:25 PM in the daylight & I wanted to make it a point to catch the bands entire set!

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"Cathouse" was the opening number of the bands set & they had a full, packed crowd there to see their set...they played NO remixes, they did every song in the original style it was written, they played a damn good set, Taime is still fat but he has slimmed down a bit from where he was at one point...seeing Taime in the daylight is comical though, you almost expect him to turn to dust once the sunlight hits him!

Faster Pussycat didn't play quite an hour long & I had to leave their set during "House of Pain" in order to do my interview with Miss Lita Ford!

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As I walked off to the media area I could hear "Bathroom Wall" & that signified the end of Pussycat's set...I was bummed I had to cut it short but an in-person with Lita Ford was more important than anything so I arrived a few minutes early & caught Lita doing press with a group before me & from a distance she still looks amazing, beautiful blonde hair, soft skin, pretty demeanor...however, up close you see the age, the drugs, the partying, the rough living...it all took a toll on her, yet she's still one of the coolest people in rock n roll, she's real, honest, sweet & when I went back to do my interview I have the funniest story...Lita went to shake my hand & I had my recorder in that very hand...without thinking I extended my hand & the damn recorded flew out of my hand & came close to hitting Lita...we all laughed at it & Lita commented that she liked my gloves & that she had a pair similar to them except hers were Freddy Krueger gloves.

Sebastian Bach took the stage at the exact moment my Lita interview began so I missed my opportunity to photo Sebastian...I caught part of his set from the crowd though & he mixed his solo material with the Skid Row classics....guess which went over best? The Skid Row songs like "Piece of Me", "Youth Gone Wild", "Monkey Business" & ""Slave To the Grind" brought the crowd to their knees...Bas's solo material was stock & the young kid he has playing guitar for him doesn't look like he belongs on that stage...quite honestly the entire Sebastian Bach solo band is mis-matched....for a man who's so self conscious of his image you'd think he would pick a backing band that "looks" cooler...the dudes in his band look like guys you'd see in ANY local cover band who work full time day jobs & are weekend rockers at night....Bas chopped off about an inch of his hair as well & his super long locks were just past his shoulders at M3...vocally Bas sounded ok, his band was whatever & I made my way over to see what Big Noize on the side stage was...I was shocked to find out that Big Noize was Joe Lynn Turner & Carlos from Quiet Riot...they jammed on quite a few DIO, Black Sabbath, Ozzy & Quiet Riot covers...there wasn't a huge crowd in attendance for their set but they were really good & probably better than Bas Bach on the main stage!

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Tesla were next up on the main stage & Jeff Keith actually looks like he did back in the day...he's a country boy, very mellow, yet he's got a helluva voice & I've always considered him to be the hard rock version of Tom Petty!

Frank Hannon is the genius in Tesla as far as I'm concerned, Brian Wheat looked bloated & ready to hit a smorgasboard....the fake Tommy Skeoch is the only guy on that stage who looks like a rock star & "Heaven's Trail" which happened to be the bands 3rd song in their set was kick ass!

I might make fun of Tesla but for what it's worth they sounded great, they are all good players & I was bummed I had to choose between seeing their set & seeing Lita Ford on the 2nd stage....I caught ALL of the Lita Ford set on the side stage & Lita is a short woman, yet her presence on that stage is larger than life!

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Lita is still sexy & she had a fan onstage that kept her long blond locks flowing throughout the night...she had an interesting backing band that consisted of Gary Hoey on guitar & PJ Farley from Trixter on bass...the backing band was solid but it was ALL about Lita onstage & "Back to The Cave" sounded really sultry & sexy while her sets highlights were easily the last 2 songs, "Close My Eyes Forever" & "Kiss Me Deadly".

"Close My Eyes Forever" held some interesting value for me...I could relate to certain lyrics because it fit my personal life pretty well & my failed relationship status & "Kiss Me Deadly" was a great, upbeat party song to close the night off with & before Lita started it she blurted out, "I actually went to a party last Saturday night & I DID get laid & it was good!"

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Just before the Lita Ford set I witnessed an event that I won't forget...all of us in the photo pit area saw a large man yelling, "Watch out, Gotta Get though!" & we all thought, "What the f**K?" & next thing you know we all saw the large man yelling "Watch Out" was actually escorting his buddy out of the crowd & his buddy puked more puke than I've ever seen in my entire life...to say it was epic was an understatement & trust me, it was NOT something you'd ever wanna see....just trust me on that, getting the guy out of that crowd the best thing ever!

White Snake were already started by the time Lita's set ended & I heard Coverdale's voice from a distance as I walked over to the mainstage & thought to myself, Jesus, is that really Coverdale?!?

When I arrive to the main stage where White Snake were playing I was saddened to hear how crappy David Coverdale's voice was...he sounded like an English troll who had swallowed a frog!

Growing up "Here I Go Again" & "Still of the Night" had this subtle sexiness to it, there was that English charm to Coverdale's voice, he sounded amazing, he rocked hard & he was considered a good looking man with a great rock n roll voice....well, what I saw on this night was a man who looked good for his age, it appeared as if he had some plastic surgery, his hair was impressive, but his voice sounded crappy!

I ventured throughout the venue to see if his voice sounded better in certain spots & sadly, NO, Coverdale's voice was scratchy & limited no matter where you were!

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Doug Aldrich IS the sound of White Snake at this point...he's a great blues/hard rock guitarist & for most of the first 1/2 of the set Reb Beach was reduced to playing just rhythm!

Reb Beach looks worn out these days but when he was allowed to shred & play solo's onstage the man killed...his style is distinctly different than Aldrich's & that's what made me realize the bands secret to it's sound....Coverdale always hired 2 totally different styled guitarists to play in the band so the sound was mixed between shred, hard rock & blues!

Brian Tiche on drums added a new element to the band & Brian was amazing...way better than all previous White Snake drummers for sure!

It actually poured rain throughout most of White Snake's set & "Still of the Night" was the closer for the evening.

White Snake played all the hits, but Coverdale was a let down performance wise...like I said in the beginning of this review, he made a comment that there was a really beautiful women in the front row, he said a few nice words to her, then blurted out, "By the Way, nice rack!"...that was the highlight of the David Coverdale show for me...the backing musicians in White Snake sounded amazing but Coverdale was rough on this night!

The show was actually over before 11 PM & the crowd began leaving from the middle of White Snakes set in all honesty, so by the time the final strains of the last song in WS's set was done you could see hair metal fans scurrying in the rain to exit the venue thus ending the 2011 M3 Rock Fest!

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What I will say about this year is that it was by far the most organized show so far, the billing was solid, the crowd was cool, the overall vibe was like the weather for both days; chill & mixed & I'd say the 2011 M3 shows were an absolute success!