merriweather post pavilion | 5/4 - 5/5
By Jay Oakley
Maryland's annual M3 festival, dedicated to all things 80s metal, was the party it always is. M3 had a lot of buzz around it this year. Celebrating a decade of decadence by having the roof of the venue that always hosts it collapse mere months before the already booked festival. There was also a lot of chatter about the lineup for the 10 year anniversary. I heard it all and my opinion never changed. The fans just need to chill out. We, as locals, get to have the biggest festival dedicated to this specific genre. A genre that doesn't have a ton of bands still performing and I think its worth supporting. I do think that most of the frustrations simple came from the announcement of the lineup coming a bit later then usual. Nothing more, nothing less.
The VIP performance was Tesla's Frank Hannon. Very solid with, of course, Frank's solid playing and actually a very exceptional vocal delivery. The VIPs were definitely given a treat.
Once the doors opened to the public the first band was Pretty Boy Floyd. They were amazing! They were one of the bands I was most interested to see. They hit the stage with so much energy that it was mind-blowing. Easily one of the best performances of the weekend. PBF founders Steve Summers and Kristy Majors have been back together for a while now and were excellent. Bassist JK Famous was killer to watch and really worked the stage and new drummer Nick "Tricky" Lane held down the kit like the pro he is and delivered. It is not an easy job being the first band with the shortest set and crushing it but PBF set the bar very high.
Nelson did very well. Very clean vocals, a strong performance by the Nelson twins. Matthew and Gunnar were very professional and worked the crowd incredible. The downside was due to their lighter rock style and playing so early in the day kind of made them the throw-away set. The fans didn't seem as into it and light because much of the crowd was still arriving and getting settled.
Faster Pussycat rocked. There is always excitement for Faster Pussycat but this year was different. Last year's M3, due to an untimely illness suffered by front man Taime Downe, Faster performed with a series of fill-in singers from the other bands on the bill. They seriously made it up to the fans. The band was tight, the mood was right and it got sleazy. Performing hits "Jack The Bastard," "Slip Of The Tongue," "You're So Vain," "House Of Pain" and "Bathroom Wall." Taime sounded fantastic. I talked to many fans about his voice and how strong it is now that he no longer drinks and smokes.
Unfortunatley, I don't have a lot I can say about Y&T's set due to an interview obligation. However, the songs I watched were solid, clean and strong. I really liked their performance of "Summertime Girls." Of course, a classic among the fans and it was awesome watching the ladies get down.
Kix is Kix. Always on. Usually the headliners of the opening night, tonight they were second to last. This was a very special performance though. They performed the Blow My Fuse album to this year being the 30th anniversary of it's release. The coolest moment was their performance of "Piece Of The Pie." A song that Steve (Whiteman) said they wrote, recorded and then never performed again. That's pretty cool to see.
Tom Keifer brought the night to a close. The consummate professional and dynamic performer. The set was dominantly Cinderella tunes opening up with "The More Things Change," "The Last Mile" and "Bad Seamstress Blues." For me, the power song has always been "Somebody Save Me." I feel it's the strongest song that Tom has ever put out and it packs such a punch live. Two songs were performed off Tom's solo record in "It's Not Enough" and "Solid Ground." The one thing I've noticed with all the times I've seen Tom perform solo is the quality of the musicians that he has surrounded himself with. Obviously, living in Nashville, like he has for many years now, has put him in contact with some amazing players and he has found the best. The Beatles "With A Little Help From My Friends" and Cinderella's " Gypsy Road" closed out the set and the first night of M3.
Day 2 opened up with threats of rain but that's ok, no worries because it's M3. Yes, there was some rain but spotty at best. Tyketto opened the day and did great. Danny Vaughn's vocals were great. The band killed it with their performances of "Wings," "Lay Your Body Down" and "Forever Young." A pleasant surprise to the set was the appearance of Ted Nugent Band's Greg Smith holding down the bass duties.
Next up was Warrant who were doing a combination acoustic and plugged in set. Warrant have always been solid. Similar to Nelson their set was a bit average due to the time of the day and the acoustic nature. They made the most of their set though with songs like "Down Boys," "Heaven," "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "Cherry Pie."
Great White was a late addition to M3 due to Loudness' visa issues. They were solid, they really were but their set does come across as forgettable. The band played well and Terry's (Ilous) vocals were strong and clean but what appeared to be noticeable issues with Terry's ear monitors hurt the performance. GW still performed excellent versions of "Lady Red Light" and "Rock Me."
Last In Line delivered the first really eye-opening performance of the day. Made up of member of Dio's original lineup they had the place jumping. Opening with "Stade Up And Shout," LIL also played a few originals from their debut album Heavy Crown in "Devil In Me," "Already Dead" and "Starmaker." "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow In The Dark" were, as imagined, crowd pleasers but closing song "We Rock" was was the shining moment. Singer Andrew Freeman deserves recognition for his vocal deliver on the Dio material and it was very cool to see Vivian Campbell on a smaller stage without Def Leppard.
Lynch Mob was the second time you saw Robert Mason perform that day following the Warrant set. "Street Fightin' Man" and "She's Evil But She's Mine" opened the set and a Dokken series in middle, made up of "It's Not Love," "Mr. Scary" and "Alone Again" was accepted with joy by the crowd but a scintillating version of "Wicked Sensation" was the shining moment. Guitarist George Lynch was ON! I actually watched this set from the side of the stage and his performance was chilling. There is no wondering why he has influenced so many guitar player.
Stryper was another set that I missed due to an interview commitment. But I caught the end and a very sharp, strong performance of "To Hell With The Devil."
Slaughter is always an excellent performer. Opening with "The Wild Life" and "Burnin' Bridges" they worked the stage incredibly. Dana Strum is a killer. He was everywhere and I actually really enjoyed Mark Slaughter's vocals. I've seen Slaughter a few times, including a previous M3, and I really thought this was Mark's strongest vocal performance yet. "Fly High To The Angels" and "Up All Night" closed the set out with a flurry. The star of the set which is impossible to deny is drummer Zoltan Chaney. Its like watching the Tasmanian Devil!
As a fan, Sebastian Bach was my favorite set of the second day. It was very excellent. Sebastian has always been a consistent performer and you know what you're going to get, a heavy dose of Skid Row. That's to be expected but also to be enjoyed. The set had strength, opening with "Slave To The Grind," "Piece Of Me" and "18 And Life." He performed one solo song in "(Love Is) A Bitchslap" and two covers in "American Metalhead" and "Shout At The Devil." As I was watching the set a few times between songs Bas would deliver some commentary about varies topics but nothing major. I personally like it when the talent bonds with the fans a bit but a coupe dudes behind me sure didn't like it. Constantly shouting out, "Shut up and sing!" Well, as far as I'm concerned, if you don't like, no one's forcing you to watch so go kick rocks. As usual, Bas brought it home with "Youth Gone Wild."
Ace Frehley, I have to open with a chuckle, Ace Frehley. The biggest name to be unleashed on the 10 year anniversary and it was a little bit of everything. Highs and lows. When it comes to his playing, I thought it were great. Solid as it gets and his signature smoking guitar was something to behold. Vocals on the other hand were a whole other story. I thought they were mumbled and undecipherable so for a guy who has preached sobriety for the last number of years it's hard to wonder if he well off the wagon and maybe got run over by it. I did think that drummer Scot Coogan gave an amazing vocal delivery all night and especially on Kiss classic "Love Gun." I look forward to seeing Ace again, everyone can have an off night but for this night, I do think it was a rough outing for Space Ace.
Night Ranger have always been solid and I think this was no different. I think their consistency is what makes them so great. Do I think they give us anything new? No, not really. But, that's not the point. I think that when you do something and do it well and to the best of your ability then that can speak volumes. I said in my Bach post that you knew you were going to get a heavy dose of Skid Row. The guy hasn't been with the band for 22 years and has just as much solo material as he had SR material so there you go. Night Ranger have always been a band that I have enjoyed live. Jack Blades and Kelly Keagy have taken amazing care of their voices and Brad Gillis is a beast of a guitar player. The guy has an aura around him. One of the things I liked the most was the completely cleared the stage. Kelly's drums where off to the side on a rolling platform so the band had so much space to run around and go nuts and they did. It was a very energetic set. Opening with "Somehow Someway," "(You Can Still) Rock In America" and "Sing Me Away" they started out big. They played a few Damn Yankees songs which always goes over well. NR brought it home with "Sister Christian" and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me."
Queensrÿche took the headliner spot in stride and might not give it up very easily. The fans were down for the cause. The thing about Queensrÿche is they take what they do very seriously and are great at it. Todd La Torre has such incredible range and leaves jaws on the ground. Michael Wilton and Eddie Jackson are the backbones of the band but I do think it's important to acknowledge Parker Lundgren. He is quite exceptional to watch and think because of the history and legacy of the band that he often get lost in the shuffle. Many know that Scott Rockenfield was not present due to taking time off for family but Casey Grillo did an amazing job. Opening with "Best I Can" and "Damaged" the bar was set high. I still think that "I Don't Believe In Love" is a monster track and it comes through so heavy live. The jaw dropper combination of "Queen Of The Reich" and "Jet City Woman" put the fans down for the count and "Eyes Of A Strange" brought 2018's M3 to a close.
Merriweather Post Pavilion | 4/25 - 4/26
M3 is here! Big hair, make-up, leather, and...rain. Gates open and just rain but that's not gonna ruin anyone's mood. School of Rock grads Bad Seed Rising starts the show with their brand of 80s influenced rock. Clean and well played by the pint-sized teens who just released there first CD.
Winger, the first of the big names, follows. Winger just released their sixth record, Better Days Comin' and treated the crowd to some of the new tunes while of course busting out the classics, "Seventeen" and "Headed for Heartbreak."
Lita Ford then roared out and played the best set of the night. Never shy on the crowd pleasers, "Close My Eyes Forever" and "Kiss Me Deadly" but the big surprise was the guest appearance of former Runaways band mate and front woman Cherie Currie. They played a series of Runaways classics including everyone's favorite, "Cherry Bomb," with the crowd going crazy from start to finish.
With the bar set pretty high Extreme took the stage playing there first show in the US in five years. They were on point from the start. Gary Cherone sounded as good as ever and guitarist Nuno Dettencourt ripping into his classic cords despite some issues with his axe that he blamed on his guitar tech for unplugging him. A stellar version of "Play With Me" had the crowd electric and their hit ballad "More Than Words" closed the set.
When it comes to the end of the night M3's Friday night isn't called the Kix-Off for nothing. The Maryland legends always bring it with their fun-edged hard rock. With a new record coming out in the next couple of months Kix treated the crowd to two new songs mixed in with all the classics including a rare playing of "Body Talk" that a fan allegedly played the band $1000 to play. "Girl Money," "Cold Blood," "Blow My Fuse" and "Midnight Dynamite" of course were included and had Merriweather loud with singing.
With day 2, the sun was shining and the spirits were high. The show opened up with solid opening sets delivered by Heaven's Edge and Keel, a great way to start.
A surprisingly stellar set was then delivered by John Corabi. I only say surprising because John has been doing mostly acoustic sets lately in support of his latest record Unplugged and that's what most people were excited to see. Instead the former Scream and Mötley Crüe vocalist delivered a killer, fully plugged-in set of tunes spanning his career from originals to Scream and Crüe classics. A crushing version of "Outlaw" opened with the well known "Hooligan's Holiday" closing it out.
Unfortunately, Corabi was followed up by a series of weak performances. Femme Fatale just didn't deliver. Broken vocals that only sounded good when the backing vocals kicked in from the respective guitarists and a shy, timid bassist who was so far back that she was practically hiding behind the drum kit. On a high note, guitarist Nita Strauss shredded and a charismatic drummer stood out from the band.
Red Dragon Cartel was my biggest disappointment of the day. The band, featuring former Badlands and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee, I was most looking forward to seeing and they just sounded muddied and tired. RDC just released an excellent debut but it doesn't translate to the live stage. Half the set was other bands material from Jake's catalog, the singer didn't do anything and came off like a tool saying he couldn't wait to get smashed after the set.
Autograph, they were just filler. A band I truly like but playing on the main stage to a crowd that didn't really look like they cared. The only highlight being their trademark hit "Turn Up The Radio" featuring vocalist Simon Daniels. Again, the lackluster crowd made it feel that without the signature voice of Steve Plunkett it was flat and forgettable. Bummer.
Jack Russell's Great White was solid all the way through. One of two versions of the band, this one features original vocalist Jack Russell and sounded crisp and tight. Jack's voice is unmistakable and closed the set with, of course, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy."
Stryper sounded great with their big hit "To Hell With the Devil" actually opening their set. With the release of their ninth record No More Hell to Pay, Stryper shows that they are a staple of the genre and are not going anywhere. They were easily the sharpest and cleanest of any band of the day. Their cover of Kiss' "Shout it Out Loud" brought a smile to my face though they actually have better covers, but that's a tiny blemish on an otherwise perfect set.
L.A. Guns have played almost every M3. They always sound great. Giving the fans all their favorite songs like "No Mercy," "Sex Action" and "Ballad of Jayne." L.A. Guns have had a new guitarist for a while now in Michael Grant who I actually really enjoy but he does lack some of the talent and musicianship that his predecessor Stacey Blades had. I did get a little bit of amusement when I realized that Michael was playing the same guitar that John Corabi was playing which made me wonder if they were sharing equipment or it was a coincidence.
Sebastian Bach's just a bad ass. Always delivering an energy filled set with all the tunes we know and love from Skid Row to solo. Treating us with a couple songs from his new record Give 'Em Hell but opening with "Slave to the Grind" and ending with "Youth Gone Wild." A series of awkward moments though where a cameraman just seemed enamored with Bach's crotch since every now and then a closeup of that region would be on the big screen.
Queensrÿche is showing that there is life without Geoff Tate. New vocalist Todd La Torre has a terrific delivery and really brings his own style to the classic Queensrÿche material. Recently releasing their first record with La Torre, Queensrÿche is looking to be in pretty good shape. There was nothing over the top to say about the set but if you're a fan and weren't there you have nothing to fear. The last time they played M3 they had already fired Geoff but he was there due to contractual obligations. They're set was solid but the tension was so vivid.
Slaughter was easily my WOW! set of the night. They killed it! Front man Mark Slaughter was everywhere. Crushing out his vocals, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand, worked the stage and even performed a song out in the middle of the crowd. Bassist Dana Strum also showed his chops but the star of the show was touring drummer Zoltan Chaney. If you have never seen him live, go! What a psycho, he kicks his cymbals while playing, picks up his stood and hits the drums with it, even picked up a whole pillar of his cymbals and crashed them across his kit. It was something to behold. They played all their hits and closed it out with "Up All Night."
Night Ranger are always a blast. Just great playing with sick stage presence and terrific vocals. Fronted by Jack Blades with guitarist Brad Gillis, who has an aura all his own, Night Ranger have a new record coming out soon called High Road. Mostly known for "Sister Christian," which is actually sung live by drummer Kelly Keagy, but they are a slamming hard rock band. The crowd started to get restless and unhappy when Friday's rain came back, but after songs like "(You Can Still) Rock in America" and "Don't Tell Me you Love Me" The crowd was going nuts and great delivery on a couple Damn Yankees tunes really got people fully into the set.
Closing out the night was Tesla. The southern hard rockers brought a solid end to the rain-soaked crowd's evening. Playing new tunes from their upcoming album Simplicity as-well-as the well known "Signs" and "Modern Day Cowboy." Front man Jeff Keith's gritty voice compliments guitarist Frank Hannon's style so well and it makes for a clean and very tight set. All-in-all a well chosen collection of songs brought a great day yo a close with a smile on everyone's face.
As a closing to the day, M3 has announced that it will return next year and this year's M3 set a Merriweather Post Pavilion attendance record.