M3 Festival

Merriweather Post Pavillon | 4/25 - 4/26

By Jay Oakley

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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 but as always average.

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 two, 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 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.

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 TorreQueensrÿche 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.