Jun 19, 2010

M3 Rock Fest 2010 - Merriweather Post

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

M3 ROCK FEST 2010

June 19, 2010

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Columbia, Maryland

The meaning behind "M3" is: Merriweather, Maryland, Metal....yes, that IS the meaning behind M3, no lie! I guess the name "M3", like the 80's hair metal era, has a bit o' quirkiness to is, is slightly goofy, & if you're looking for something beyond pure face-value "fluff" then you should leave questions & curiosities at the front door because the M3 Festival is all things hair metal & on June 19, 2010 it arrived in Columbia, Maryland for it's 2nd year.

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The first M3 Festival was VERY loose, kinda unorganized, there were 2 stages that had bands playing as well as the tiny "Freak" stage where local acts & a freak show did their thing. I was really impressed with year one's show...Ratt & Twisted Sister were the headliners on the main stage & Steel Panther, LA Guns & others played the smaller stage with over a dozen other acts on the same bill. The 2009 M3 show was an overwhelming success! Merriweather Post Pavilion had stated that last years M3 boasted the largest concession sales of the year & it was a no-brainer if you were there....you had a sea o' middle aged men & women who had money in their pockets & do the math here....back in the 80's this was the crowd that supported these bands & partied hard so flash forward 20 some odd years; weight has been gained & hair has been lost but these are still the same folks who made these hair metal bands what they were, the same people who saw them back in the day when they were still new & fresh!

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Behind the scenes the tour was structured a little differently this time around. The venue tried to set up a system where there was organization, a list of media contacts if you wanted to do on-site interviews with artists & The Scorpions required a special pass to photograph them this particular day.

I had expressed an interest in doing a few on-site interviews at this show & sadly I hit a brick wall with all my attempts. I never heard back from the Warrant camp, I was told that Vince Neil had obligations to do a radio interview & his performance & that was all he had time for, then comes the interesting issue with Dizzy Reed.

I never got a reply back from Dizzy Reed's publicist so I decided to call him personally to see what was going on with my request. I got ahold of Dizzy's publicist & the guy told me that Dizzy was basically restricted from doing press because of AXL Rose. What I was told was that AXL is crazy, to quote Dizzy's publicist, "AXL is fuckin' nuts!" & he stated that there was a reason why Dizzy's been a member of Guns N Roses for 20 years, it was because Dizzy didn't talk shit about Guns N Roses or AXL. Basically, Dizzy is not allowed to talk about AXL or Guns N Roses because AXL gets upset when Dizzy talks about those subjects....I had offered Dizzy's publicist a deal; I would submit a list of the questions I wanted to ask, NO GNR or AXL questions, just Dizzy questions & maybe a question or 2 about the "Last Living Slut" book...I was told that book was another subject Dizzy wouldn't want to talk about, so I said to Dizzy's publicist...look, you tell me what I can't talk about & I'll play ball, ask lightweight question, if I'm told to not talk about some things I swear to you I won't....well, I never heard back from Dizzy's publicist, so I have AXL to blame for the Dizzy Reed interview not taking place or atleast that's how it was explained to me.

Another interesting situation was the amount of photographers in the pit area for this show; the barricade was FILLED & they didn't quite know how to handle the situation...at first they were allowing the first 10 photographers into the barricade so when I arrived & picked up my passes I heard Jetboy's set had just started so I hauled ass to the front so I could snap a few pics.

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Jetboy's set was similar to last years with a few exceptions; Jetboy has a new drummer & bass player, Fernie didn't have a hat on which proved to the shit talkers that he wasn't bald under the hat & it looked like some of the band members had a few new tattoos since the 2009 M3 fest. Jetboy's set featured a few selections off their new "Off Your Rocker" EP as well as the older classics. Talking to people in the crowd, I heard alot o' people both last year & this year saying, "Who the hell is Jetboy?" & basically, they were a lesser known band from that era, I think they had a bigger following in California then the rest of the world, much like local favorites KIX....to Jetboy's credit, they did try to update their image, their sound & although they are from the 80's they did manage to comeback with something that's relevant in 2010.

After Jetboy's set I decided to take a walk around the perimeter, check out the vendors, the merch areas, & see the crowd a little before the alcohol-fest began because I knew by the end of the day alot o' the bodies there would be rough looking from the sun & alcohol o' the day. I realized in hindsight that this was a mistake but more on that in a moment.

There were 2 main merch booths set up that contained shirts & shit from all the bands on the bill, Jetboy had physical copied of their new EP for $10, LA Guns sold 8X10 promo pics for $10 & Spoonman Lewis & his version of the LA (Tracii) Guns band later came out & signed those promo pics, you could buy an autographed pair of Scorpion's drummer Kottak's drum sticks, & the merch booth on the left had better stuff then the merch booth on the right if you were looking for limited autographed items; it's also the area where Nelson, Jetboy, Bang Tango & LA Guns came out & met fans, posed for pics & signed autographs.

After checking out the general area for a few minutes I headed back to the photo area for Trixter's set & this was where I learned a hard lesson; myself & quit a few photographers were told we could take pics from the back but NOT in the pit because they were only allowing more than 10 people at a time & there was no taking turns or rotating people up there...this was where they needed someone to take charge & rotate people so we all got a fair shot at taking pics. Needless to say, the next band on the mainstage was LA Guns & I wasn't risking not getting in the photo pit for LA Guns, so as soon as Trixter's set ended I stood next to the barricade to get inside & stake my place for LA Guns set. It sounds gay as hell, but it's how it was for media; you had to camp out from set to set & it's why no one really covered the 2nd stage until Bang Tango came on.

I saw Trixter's set from my seat & snapped a pic from my seat...the band sounded decent, it was ironic that the bands singer wore a RUN DMC shirt to an 80's hair metal show...infact, let's be honest here, Trixter was too late to really be considered a hair metal band, were they not? The 3 original members all sported grown up short hair cuts, the only non-original member was their bass player...no clue why P.J. is no longer a member of the band & their drummer was alot pudgier than I remember him...the puffy hair was all gone! Funny how the drummer from Trixter, the drummer from Warrant & Tommy Aldridge all shared that really frizzy drummer hair in their prime....out of those 3, Tommy Aldridge is the only one to still sport the "Drummer-Fro" at this point.

I saw Phil Lewis from LA Guns on the side of the stage prior to the bands set & my first thought was, "Dude, it's 2010, NOT 1972!" The reason I thought that was because of what Phil was wearing....my pics explain it all!

Phil Lewis wore white pants, a white button up shirt with butterflies on it, a tan vest & a snakeskin belt....Phil looked like he had disco fever! I will admit that new bassist Kenny Kweens does add to the bands live show & I always thought his previous band, Beautiful Creatures, really borrowed alot from the classic line up of LA Guns & seeing Kenny onstage with Phil Lewis you can see the Kelly Nichols thing Kenny has going on. The band played a solid set, they were good, but as a guitar player goes, listen to how Tracii Guns plays "Ballad of Jayne" live & listen to how Stacey plays it; Tracii adds alot o' fills & extra parts that Stacey doesn't; I've seen the Phil version of LA Guns a few times over the years & this was the first time I'd seen Phil try to play guitar during "Ballad of Jayne" & to be honest with you Phil should ONLY sing the song because his guitar playing wasn't great for that song.

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I've seen Phil's version of LA Guns quite a few times & this particular performance was not the best I've seen; I think last year Phil brought his a-game & this year the bands performance just didn't impress me like it did last year....I don't know if it's because they played the smaller stage last year & it was standing room only whereas this year they played the main stage where it was a pavilion of seats or perhaps Phil was just in a bad mood after the internet arguing he's been doing with Tracii Guns via the Metal Sludge message boards. I won't get too into that situation, I'll just say that Phil made some nasty comments about Tracii recently & Tracii responded via Metal Sludge with the facts & he put Phil in his place because both Phil & Tracii post on the Metal Sludge message boards. LA Guns set list was:

No Mercy

Gypsy Soul

Sex Action

Never Enough

Over The Edge

I Wanna Be Your Man

Wheels of Fire (Listed but NOT Played)

Electric Gypsy

Ballad of Jayne

Rip And Tear

Following LA Guns set I once again had to stand in line so I was guaranteed a spot in the photo area for Winger's set. The thought popped in my mind at this point, "Holy shit, it's 2010 & I'm at a Winger concert!" I spotted Kip Winger checking his keyboard rig on the side of the stage & the main question everyone was wondering about was, "Is Reb Beach playing with Winger?" because Reb Beach is the star of the show next to Mr. Winger. I checked out part of Winger's set & Winger will always be the band that Stewart had on his shirt. Stewart, FYI, is the un-cool character from Beavis & Butt-Head, the guy that B&B-H always picked on & made fun of because he was such a dork. Up close you could see how time had not been kind to the band members, I've photographed Reb before & he makes weird facial expressions when he plays & I usually get these shots of him where he looks like he just woke up or he's really drunk & Kip looks like some dude you'd see in a trench coat walking into an adult book store...the trademark good looks that made all the women drool back in Winger's prime have left the building, so to speak, but Kip is actually a good bass player & I have respect for his playing. Winger featured 3 of the 4 original members...the rhythm guitarist decided to not partake in the reunion so they have a fill in these days but as long as Reb & Kip are there that's all that matters. My only complaint is that I didn't care for the mix during Winger's set...maybe it's just where I was, but the sound wasn't as good as LA Guns in my opinion.

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I decided to get bold & leave the main stage area after Winger & head over to the 2nd stage to catch Joe Leste & his new version of Bang Tango. Alex Grossi was part of Bang Tango for this show, but Alex told me that he will no longer be in the band over the next few weeks because he's joining Adler's Appetite for their entire tour. The main stage had a shit load o' photographers camping out for good spots, so the 2nd stage for Bang Tango had 3 of us there taking pics which was fine with me!

Joe Leste delivered a good performance this day, he was sober, his voice sounded strong and he was wearing a Hookers & Blow shirt, Alex's guitar tone sounded good, Trent's drumming was loud & the band played a very short but very sweet set! The new song "Suck It Up" was played amongst the set of older Bang Tango classics & the ONLY sad thing was that "Love Injection" wasn't played!

Living in Maryland my entire life I don't view KIX as a big deal...they play these parts a fair amount, I've taken pics of them many times, seen them live many times, so I didn't focus heavily on KIX for this review...they played a great set, they had a balloon drop at the end of their hour long set, Steve Whiteman did his thing, told his jokes & KIX are KIX...they almost always play an amazing set, they had the biggest crowd of the day, hands down too I might add!

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I ventured back over to the side stage to see a bit o' Dizzy Reed & when I got to the 2nd stage area there was Mr. Reed in a Danko Jones t-shirt & vest doing a soundcheck. I thought at first that the soundcheck was the set & I started to take pics....then I saw Dizzy go to the side of the stage & change shirts, chug jager & a few minutes later the actual set started. I saw Dizzy's lyric sheet on the stage & in it were Cactus, Iggy Pop & GNR song lyrics. I stuck around for the first 2 songs Dizzy did & I had no idea Dizzy was actually a singer; Dizzy walked about the stage with mic in hand belting out songs then he'd get behind his keyboard to play a part, then he'd stand upright again & pretend to be a lead singer.

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I didn't bother sticking around for the rest of Dizzy's set for 2 reasons:

#1, Dizzy's band wasn't horrible, but technically they were nobodies...Dizzy isn't Slash, Dizzy isn't AXL, Dizzy isn't Duff...hell, Dizzy isn't even Gilby Clarke; Dizzy is a keyboard player & he lacks the persona that a frontman has, he's only up there because he's been in Guns N Roses for all these years, his set was no better than the best local bands in each & every town in every state throughout the USA....that "Guns N Roses" name makes him relevant & these days Dizzy no longer sports the dreads, he has a shoulder length bob & to be blunt he's balding on top really bad.

#2, I had to claim my spot in the barricade for Vince Neil's set...Vince Neil is a higher priority than Dizzy Reed!

I actually laughed as I was making my way to the main stage because I heard some woman say to her friend, "Let's go check out that Dizzy guy, he used to be in Guns N Roses or something." That statement kinda summed up Dizzy Reed in a nutshell. Vince Neil was actually the first band of the day to have a full length back drop/banner & the backing band for Vince is essentially Slaughter minus Mark Slaughter! Vince's stage was covered in HEAVY fog....my best description of how much fog he used is, if you've ever seen Slayer, Slayer covers the ENTIRE stage with fog before they take the stage...Vince did the same thing & it looks kinda cool to some degree, BUT, it's a total bitch to photograph through....they allowed us the first 3 songs & all 3 were a bitch because heavy fog means fuzzy shots, not to mention Vince was running all over the place! For a large portion of the show they used that really heavy smoke machine effect.

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The first thing I noticed was that Vince cut his hair shorter...I think he went a little too short, he's got that Henry the 8th look going...Phil Lewis & Don Dokken actually had that same look a few years back & Vince has a fat face so he needs the longer hair to cover it up a little. Dana Strum playing Motley Crue covers....whatever! I say that with a grain of salt, because they did play the new Vince Neil single as well as a cover of "He's a Whore" by Cheap Trick, but Dana Strum doesn't seem right for Vince Neil's solo band, I see Dana Strum & think of Slaughter & Vinnie Vincent. Vince was decent, but his set started late & went about 15 minutes past the time he was given.

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Weird irony started around 7 PM when Nelson's set on the 2nd stage began because joining Nelson on lead guitar was Mark Slaughter; Mark was playing the 2nd stage while the rest of Slaughter was playing the main stage as Vince Neil's backing band! I stayed for Vince Neil's set up until he left the stage & allowed his guitarist Blando to sing lead vocals during a Led Zeppelin cover; I felt like that was a lazy move for Vince....it's the Vince Neil show, Vince Neil should sing EVERY song, I don't wanna see Vince leave the stage & let someone else sing during his set! This was the time for me to check out Nelson's set

Nelson, Matt & Gunner....they were NOT hair metal, I don't understand why they were on this bill, but regardless, the 2 brothers were there, they co-headlined the 2nd stage, they smiled non-stop, thanked the crowd, were extremely mannerly & ANTI-rock n roll to be blunt with you. Seeing Mark Slaughter as their lead guitarist was odd too....there were 3 guitarists onstage for their set & my first thought was, "Really?", I mean, it was Nelson, NOT Lynyrd Skynyrd! Mark Slaughter isn't a great lead guitar player either FYI, that's a fact!

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After a few minutes of Nelson I decided to head back to the main stage to see if Vince Neil had taken the stage again & indeed he did! "Same Old Situation", "Wild Side" & "Girls, Girls, Girls" were packed into the end of his set & Vince Neil's solo shows are always very loose, very spur of the moment...Vince wasn't drunk off his ass, he gave a decent performance, he's still skipping words when he sings but that's just what he does!

Next up on the main stage were co-headliners Cinderella. The stage was simple, there were amps, guitars, a keyboard & the band! I've said it before & I'll say it again, Tom Keifer & Lzzy Hale from Halestorm really are similar both in appearance & singing on many levels.

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Tom is still super skinny, his voice sounded amazing, he still has his hair, he was sporting a slight mustache that looked odd on him considering he still has the "glam" thing going on; he was wearing a dark red sweater with a scarf. Jeff looks a little weathered these days, his hair is straight & Eric is the guy that most people looked at & went, "Is that the same guy?" because Eric is thicker in stature, covered in tatt's, has short black hair & wins the award for most changed member of Cinderella! "Second Coming" was the opener of the night & the set list was stuff from the first 3 Cinderella records. "Somebody Save Me", "Night Songs" & "Nobody's Fool" were clear highlights in the set.

Cinderella didn't go for frills with their show, they relied on their musical ability & they were definitely the best band on the bill as far as I was concerned.

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The last 2 bands on the bill were Warrant & The Scorpions. Warrant headlined the 2nd stage while The Scorpions headlined the main stage. Warrant's set started at 8:40 & this version of the band was the entire original line-up minus Jani Lane. I was curious to see what the band had to offer, how they sounded, how they looked, what this version of Warrant was all about. Jani Lane made a comment last year when he played the main stage at M3 that "Jani Lane IS Warrant" & to be honest with you, Jani IS correct. Robert Mason is an ok frontman, he is a good singer, but he's NOT Jani Lane! The members of Warrant are really nothing without Jani Lane & that IS a fact! Warrant played all the "hits" like "Heaven", "Uncle Tom's Cabin" & "Down Boys", but without Jani it was flat, lifeless & sad. I was never a huge Warrant fan, but I could appreciate what the band did, the songs were always brought to life by Jani Lane's voice, his presence & even when Jani was a drunken wreck, he WAS Warrant!

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The original members of Warrant are ok players, but when you realize that the 2 original guitar players didn't write most of their solos because they were not good enough to structure solos, then seeing the band "try" to play the stuff they didn't write....like the solo in Cherry Pie" for instance...it was written & played by CC Deville from Poison & seeing an aged Joey Allen trying to play it....I don't want to trash this version of Warrant so I'll say this about the band; They sounded ok, it was a Warrant cover band without Jani Lane, Joey Allen is unrecognizable these days, he's chubby & bald, the drummer's poofy hair is gone, the spark that the band had back in the day is NOT there without Jani, but I give the band credit for trying to re-live past glories & giving their fans a chance to see them play the older Warrant tunes one last time.

The Scorpions were last on the bill & they had the full main stage, they had really nice digital video screens, a full drum riser that lifted Kottak way up in the air & this is where I need to offer a special thanks to a good friend of mine as well.

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The promoter gave all media crappy tickets for the show, so I was a longggg way from the stage for Scorpion's set. My buddy, Charm City Devil's drummer Jason Heiser ran into me a few times throughout the day & during The Scorpions set Jason goes, "Bob, come down & party with us!" & he pulls me down to the front so after the first few songs in a very crappy section of the venue I had a super-cool upgrade thanks to Jason!

I'll admit that by the time The Scorpions took the stage I think the bulk of the crowd was dead tired! I was planning on leaving early so I could beat the traffic, but after I got a really nice upgrade in seating I decided to stick around for the rest of the show & thank God I did!

During the middle of the show, Klaus says to the crowd that he'd like to bring out an old friend to sing with the band & he then introduces Vince Neil & they do "Another Piece of Meat"! That's not something that happens every day at a Scorpions show!

Vince Neil sang with Klaus & even if Vince's dance moves were goofy & his clothes looked like he had stolen Chevy Chases clothes from National Lampoons Vacation movies, it was still cool to see Vince jam with the Scorpions!

Kottak's solo was cool, he utilized the video screens & re-created most of the Scorpions record covers via these weird dream sequences..it was an entertaining break in the show.

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On an unrelated side note, I remember seeing The Scorpions open for Motley Crue back in like '99 at the very same venue & because of that show, Motley Crue are banned from playing Merriweather Post Pavilion ever again; it had to do with strippers being topless & playing with a dildo.

The end of the night was within reach, The Scorpions came out for their encore, "Rock You Like A Hurricane" & as the show ended, I realized something; the hair band era was a fun, careless, carefree fun era, BUT, it was also an era that had to end! Going to this show, it also reminded me that not everyone could pull off the glam look...it's a look that's NOT for everyone!

All in all, the show ended a little after 11 PM & it was a fun day for hair metal; I heard people stating that it was way better than Rocklahoma this year & it's a guarantee that there will be a 2011 M3 Rock Fest based on the success of this year & last years shows. On Another side note, the ONLY boobs flashed at this show were old man boobs!