It's interesting that the Ozzfest decided to stop as a touring entity these past few years, & the lack of an Ozzfest hasn't really effected the rock world in all honesty...Mayhem Fest & Crue Fest basically picked up where Ozzfest left off. Crue Fest, as the name implies, is a traveling festival styled bill with Motley Crue as the nights headliners. With the current economic sadness that the US is in, Crue Fest actually kept the ticket prices lower than usual & this definitely helped pack the show! I was there when gates opened @ 4PM & that point I was thinking to myself, wow, there's not many people here! However, as the day progressed, you could clearly see more & more people filtering in & by the time Theory of a Deadman came on, the pit was filled & the seats were filled...when Godsmack took the stage I'd say the place was totally packed...it was sold out, but it wasn't far from it, but more on that as the review progresses.
On a personal note, if you are ever driving someone to a show & it's just the 2 of you in a car together, when someone starts reading a book, it's proof positive that someone's bored & there's a good chance the driver might be a little annoyed with that behavior....now that I got that out of my system, back to the Crue Fest review! I actually arrived an hour before gates opened so I could interview Drowning Pool & hometown heros & my friends, Charm City Devils! The shitty thing about this day was, on the drive there it was overcast, but NOT raining, & I swear to god, within 2 minutes of arriving in the venue area, the sky opened up & the rain fell steady for nearly an hour! It pissed me off because I wasn't prepared for the rain, I had to shield my camera & mini disc from the rain, but I got totally drenched, so I spent the first 1/2 of my day at Crue Fest simply drying out from all the rain my clothes & hair absorbed! My only saving grace was, I didn't look cool in this weather & at this show & neither did ANYONE else, bands included...it was a bad-hair day all the way around!
So, after being walked around to the backstage area, we walked through hospitality & into Charm City Devil's dressing room, where John Allen, his wife, adorable daughter, & band were at...upon seeing us, John greeted me with a "Hello Bob, come on in!" & a hug & likewise from drummer extrordinare, Jason Heiser. Check out my interview with John & Jason from Charm City Devils at the end of this review. It was honestly really nice to catch up with the guys, take a few band photo's backstage & as I was leaving I mentioned to John that seeing C.C.D. on the main stage @ Nissan Pavilion, opening for Motley Crue was similar to watching your kid grow up & graduate highschool, because I've been to many, many C.C.D. shows over the years, I was actually at the bands first show @ the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland when they were opening for Buckcherry on the "15" tour & I just continued to check out the bands shows, wrote numerous pieces on them, & I had the opportunity to watch them grow, change, & become the band that they are today, so it was actually a very nice feeling to see the band start out small & make it to the big time!
After my interview with Charm City Devils, we darted out in the rain to go on board Drowning Pool's bus where I had a nice sit down interview with Stevie & Mike...you can read that interview at the bottom of this review as well, the bands were already playing, so it was more or less a situation where I had to get drenched in order to head to the main stage & catch the first band on the bill for the Main Stage, Charm City Devils. I might note that the 2nd stage had bands playing all day, BUT, due to the rain, I wasn't concerned with seeing any of those bands, I wanted to stay dry, & I won't even lie about it, the 2 main reasons I wanted to see this Crue Fest were Charm City Devils & Motley F**kin' Crue!
Charm City Devils played a short 25 minute set & there wasn't alot of time for filler, so John had to keep his banter limited..they opened with "Burn Baby Burn" & tossed out fan favorites like "Pour Me Another Drink" & "Best of the Worst" (Which I think should be the bands next single fyi!) before they closed with the Baltimore rock anthem, "Let's Rock N Roll". It was clear as day, the fans in the pit during Charm City Devils set were all the people who had been there from day one supporting the band, the fans, the family, the hometown crowd who came to see their boys rock Crue Fest on the main stage & C.C.D. definitely made the hometown crowd proud!
Drowning Pool were next on the main stage & it's interesting to note that this show has some historical significance in the bands history...Dave Williams actually passed away while on route to play this exact venue on the Ozzfest tour & this was the first time the band has since returned & played the Nissan Pavilion, since Dave's passing. It was interesting too, that the band didn't even realize that fact until I mentioned it to them & I pointed out that there's a road leading there that was re-named "Dave Williams Drive" & the band was shocked that they'd never heard that before, but it IS a true fact! I reminisced for a moment, telling Stevie & Mike how I was at the Ozzfest that Dave never made it to & what a somber experience that show was....Zakk Wylde was actually crying onstage, Ozzy had a photo of Dave Williams on the big screen behind him during the bulk of his set, Rob Zombie dedicated his entire set to Dave, Phil Anselmo from Down/Pantera was obviously upset over the matter & all the bands on that bill were in utter tears & devastation over the sad situation.
Drowning Pool played a high energy set that included a good mix of old & new stuff & the last 2 songs of the night were "Tear Away" & "Bodies", BUT, the coolest part about the last 30 seconds of the show was the nice little surprise ending which was a partial cover of "Creeping Death" by Metallica!
Theory of a Deadman were up next, but the most important thing on that stage was obviously the singer's hair..I have no idea how he maintained it in that weather, but his hair looked beautiful. I'm skipping over the Theory of a Deadman set & going directly to Godsmack. I can't remember the running order of the set, they played "Whiskey Hangover" which was the only new song played this night, the rest of the set was a "best of" collection & they covered all the bases, played all the hits, Sully looked like he lost a few pounds, was in good shape, the band played hard & Baltimore's own Shannon Larkin was playing his ass off for his hometown crowd. In all honesty, the drum thing they did got a little boring...sure, Sully & Shannon are 2 of the best rock drummer out there, BUT, when I looked at the other 2 guys NOT playing drums in the band, they kinda had the same look on their faces that I did....bathroom break & beer run come to mind, but the covers they did in their set, the Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Sabbath, even Pantera, it was added little surprised that I didn't expect & had a good time with.
Overall, Godsmack hasn't really changed since day one...I saw the band numerous times on their first few tours, I saw them back when no one knew who they were & they are still the same guys, I think Sully let the "rock star" status go to his head a little because you can see a little more ego these days then there was in the past, BUT, it goes with the territory, I mean Godsmack IS one of the bigger rock bands in the world, & the ONLY thing I will kinda make fun of in regards to the band is what I saw a roadie doing before the band took the stage....quite literally, a tape measure was pulled out & each & every mic stand was measured to an exact height so the short one would have each mic at just the right level...it came off a little diva-ish, I mean it's rock n roll, I've never seen any other band have their roadies measure a mic stand & I might add that there were mic stands EVERYWHERE on that stage, Sully roams the stage & has mic stands at every available position & I will admit, their pyro looked really cool & added alot to their show!
The night has finally came to the grand finale.....the black curtain was lowered so no one could see what was being assembled onstage, BUT, the Crue's set was paying homage to "Dr. Feelgood" & they did their best to recreate that record & they played every song from start to finish! The Ramones "I Wanna Be Sedated" was the intro, then before the song ended it got really slow & stopped...The show kicked off with a giant wheelchair being pushed across the front of the stage by a girl who looked like she was out of the "Dr. Feelgood" artwork, then the giant wheelchair had a HUGE center where another girl popped out of....I felt dumb, because I thought at first it was Tommy Lee popping out of the chair..the girl had short black hair & her face kinda looked like Tommy's at first, BUT, it wasn't Tommy, then when the "Terror in Tinseltown" intro was over, the curtain dropped...the only problem was, the curtain got caught 1/2 way down & didn't drop as expected, meaning Motley Crue started playing "Dr. Feelgood" & were partially obstructed by a large black curtain, but the curtain finally fell & what the crowd was was the band playing in a warped, padded wall styled cell & the front was large but as it went back it got tinier & tinier & it resembled a tunnel...this was definitely the coolest effect I've EVER seen at a concert!
"Time For a Change" was probably the most epic song from that record & it sounded amazing, "She Goes Down" sounded good but it was always one of those songs I considered to be a little bit o' filler, "Slice of Your Pie" was a personal favorite for me because the break down always had a Beatles-ish quality to it & I always wanted to see them perform that one live! "Without You" sounded great & Mick didn't use te lap steel for it like he used to on previous tours & it was actually weird to see "Kickstart My Heart" played as the 4th song of the set. When the "Dr. Feelgood" portion of the show ended, the band left the stage for a few minutes, the set was changed from a mental institution to a post apocalyptic war zone & Mick Mars came out & played an acoustic guitar for a few minutes...I wasn't quite sure if he was starting to play "God Bless the Children of the Beast" or if he was just jamming, then he started playing his black Fender electric that's usually tuned to drop D, then switched over to his old faithful, beat up cream colored Fender to finish his guitar solo that went directly into "Wild Side". "Shout at the Devil", "Saints of Los Angeles", "Home Sweet Home" & the closer "Girls, Girls, Girls" were all part of the encore & Tommy Lee made a few special appearances romping about the stage in cut off ghetto styled denim shorts & I noticed he was also wearing pink socks! Tommy passed out some Jager, tried to pump up the crowd, but to be honest with you, other than playing piano on "Home Sweet Home", I'm not sure why he was onstage, he was more or less the MC for the evening & at the end he came out & threw a few drumsticks to the crowd, but he didn't play drums at all during this show due to his hand injury.
My ONLY complaint about this show was "Looks To Kill" was omitted & I think most Motley fans would agree, that's a staple, a song, much like "Shout at the Devil", that you wanna see Motley play more so than "Saints of Los Angeles", but overall, I can't say anything bad about Motley's set, they played a good strong set, Mick's guitar playing was the thing that kept the band's music moving & Nikki's onstage banter was cut short for more performance time, Vince gave it his all & on a production level, this was the most impressive Motley performance I've EVER seen!
As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to interview John & Jason from Charm City Devils & Stevie & Mike from Drowning Pool...here's what they had to say:
Rock N Roll Experience: What does the tattoo on your arm mean?
John Allen: Alot of tattoos mean things to people, I tried to make this one tie into Baltimore in a way, I wanted some kinda mariner theme, hence the anchor, I found out that the neighborhood my parents grew up in, which was Highlandtown, originally was called Snake Hill, so the artist put in a snake for me, & then the rose is just..I was thinking of maybe making roses for my little girl or something, & the crescent was just a little something he put in.
Rock N Roll Experience: With 2 great drummer setting right here infront of me & on this tour, how come Motley didn't ask one of you 2 to fill in when Tommy injured his hand?
John Allen: I know, right? I'm so pissed! (editor's note: this was said jokingly by John)
Jason: I've been playing that shit for years!
John: I don't think...
Jason: We're not high profile enough.
John: Anybody on this tour, no one even knows that I play drums, but Tommy's been playing every night, I guess they just had Morgan (Sevendust) come in & help out, & now they've got Frank (Street Drum Corp). Rock N Roll Experience: This tour is all about the drummers though, there's you 2, Sully & Shannon from Godsmack, Tommy Lee...have you guys all jammed at some point?
John Allen: No, we haven't had the opportunity to jam, but it's funny, because I still think of myself as a drummer in alot of ways..probably in ALL ways, when I watch these bands each night I usually wind up, I try to watch the singer for a while, but I always kinda gravitate back to watching the drummers because that's what I did for so long & this is a tour to see some great drumming.
Rock N Roll Experience: Are you going to start playing guitar again?
John Allen: I actually started on guitar when I first started, & it seemed like it was too difficult for me, it was alot easier...as soon as I picked up drumsticks I was able to play som assemblance of a beat, I remember seeing footage of drummers & how they played & I played air drums when I was a little kid, so the first time I sat down behind a kit I was playing a little better than the kid who's drum kit it was, then he instantly grabbed the sticks out of my hand & didn't want me to play his drumset anymore.
Rock N Roll Experience: Do you watch Motley Crue's set every night on this tour?
John Allen: Every night that we can...we are driving alot, alot of the shows have really bad drives & we are in a van, we're not in a bus...we are driving ourselves, so every chance that we get we watch.
Rock N Roll Experience: Do you miss Baltimore at all when you're on the road?
John Allen: Yeah, I mean, Baltimore is our home town, it's favorite, quirky little place in the world & yeah, definitely...from listening to 98 Rock, right on down to our families, & the sites, the smells...you know, we smelled a dumpster in the backstage area at Boston the other night & it smelled really bad, but it wasn't the same as a dumpster on a hot August day outside a crab house in Baltimore...my wife actually called & asked if I wanted her to bring crabs here & our tour manager, being from Detroit was, "We don't want crabs!", but anyways....(does a rim shot noise)
Rock N Roll Experience: How was it playing Preakness?
John Allen: Preakness was fun, it was really cool, we were really fortunate to be a part of that, & the whole event....the next day was really awesome too, Rock on the Range, that was really focused on the bands instead of...like, the Preakness, it was about the bands, but it was really more about the horse race & Rock on the Range the next day was all about the bands, Motley Crue played the day we played & it was an incredible event! If anyone thinks about going next year to Rock on The Range, I would highly recommend it, it was a blast!
Rock N Roll Experience: So what's next for C.C.D when Crue Fest is over?
John Allen: They are working on a Fall tour right now, they are talking about putting a package together, if we can't jump onto something else, we should know something the top of next week, so we're definitely really excited to get back out, the label talks about us working this record for 2 years, so we'll be on the road for a while & we'll play every nook & cranny...we are going to do regional stuff around Maryland, PA, VA, & we might headline some of that stuff, I'm hoping that we'll get back into Baltimore in October, we are plying York Fair on September 12, & something that I've never really thought about, but we've hit a level where you play different places & they actually have these things called contracts & they have these radius clauses where they say, If you're playing my place, you can't play anywhere near close within 100 miles for like 120 before & 60 days after, so it makes it tough, or we would probably come back & play as much as possible, but you can only do so much.
Rock N Roll Experience: What's the next single going to be? I'd pick "Best of the Worst"
John Allen: I don't know, there's been debate, but that's the one everyone's talking about...personally, I think that too, but there are people within the organization that want us to stay with a rock track, a more up tempo tune, so we'll see how it shakes out, I mean, I don't know what will happen...but yeah, "Best of the Worst" is a great song, I'd be happy if that was the next single.
Rock N Roll Experience: Jason, as the drummer in Charm City Devils, what's your favorite song to play live?
Jason: I like "Money" & I really like "Pour Me" too
John Allen: He can really lay into it, like mid tempo.
Jason: Plus I get to play cowbell! (laughs) & John will go, "Hey, do you guys like the cowbell?"
Rock N Roll Experience: How's the Crue Fest been so far?
Stevie: The tour's been great, this is our first rainy weather day of the tour...we've been setting heat records everywhere we go, & today it's cold & rainy. I just looked it up online, just so you know, the chance of rain today is 60% (laughs & the reason this is funny is because it was pouring outside as this interview was happening!)
Mike: That's up to date information!
Rock N Roll Experience: Did you guys see that there's a street named after Dave Williams in this area.
Stevie: I didn't know that
Mike: It's funny that no one ever told us that.
Rock N Roll Experience: This is the first time Drowning Pool has played Nissan Pavilion since Dave's passing, you guys actually missed the Ozzfest here that year.
Stevie: You're right....
Rock N Roll Experience: Did you guys ever consider changing the bands name after Dave passed?
Stevie: Of course...alot. We went back & forth about it for a long time, but ultimately we decided that none of us wanted to be in a band that Dave was never a part of, we started with him & had gone through so much that we wanted to keep the name going, because he'll always be a part of Drowning Pool. That's what made us keep the name, that was the idea that made us all stick together.
Mike: Dave is still a part of the band, he always will be a part of the band, Ryan is in the band in an odd, morbid twist of fate, because of Dave's passing, ya know? We were all friends & the truth be told, we wanted a "Ryan" before we had Jason in the band, but after having our band have the worst hand dealt, ever, we weren't going to go & split up some friends of our's band to steal their singer, so just kinda bided our time & waited & then Ryan became available while we were still out on the road, he quite Soil for about 9 months or so & we jumped in & it was always, like Stevie said, you wake up everyday & are like, "Am I gonna be the same?" "Is the band going to be the same?" "Should we keep the name?" "Should we change the name?" & different days you feel differently about it, but ultimately it was more, we just all felt, all 3 of us, Stevie, CJ & Myself, that we are going to be talking about Dave, we wouldn't have been a band without him, we wouldn't have gotten signed without him, we still wouldn't be here right now without him, so we would be Drowning Pool for that reason & some people are like, Oh, you SHOULD change the name...blah, blah, blah, but you weren't in the band, so...
Stevie: Dude, I'll tell you what cracks me up....every once in a while someone will send a message to our myspace or someone will copy me on something they found online, & they know how I feel about it, but someone will write, "Yeah....Drowning Pool..it's just not the same!" Yeah...really dude, NO SHIT! The singer is different, it's something obvious like that, like it was our f**king choice, so that one always cracks me up.