May 12, 2017 M3 Festival Brings Party To Merriweather Post Pavilion Columbia, MD 4-29-17
Following an exciting opening day of M3 Rock Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, many of the same faces returned for double the fun on Saturday, April 29th. Kicking off at 11 AM, there was a total of fourteen bands on tap split between two stages, the Pavilion Stage and the Forest Stage. Offering something different in 2017, the Forest Stage – a Giger-esque, Sci-Fi-ish green monstrosity that houses an impressive bandshell – was a new and well-received addition for this year’s festival. In fact, Merriweather is in the midst of construction on their VIP areas, working hard to create an even more accommodating space for each band’s Meet N’ Greet. That said, fans are, no doubt, already dreaming of what 2018’s festival – the 10 year anniversary of M3! – will have to offer. Before jumping ahead, let us look at all the action that transpired on Day 2, Saturday April 29, 2017, at M3 Rock Festival.
Following the day christening set of Fulton, Maryland’s 1 Nite Stand on the Forest Stage, At around 11:30 AM Rhino Bucket was kicking off the main Pavilion Stage. Hailing from Southern California, Rhino Bucket began their journey back at the tail end of the ’80s possessing a hard, Blues Rock sound. Pumping out one solid album after another through 1994’s Pain, Rhino Bucket would return nearly a decade later when Kix’s own Brian “Damage” Forsythe would join the fold. Still with the band until this day, Rhino Bucket recently released a brand new album, entitled The Last Real Rock N’ Roll, on April 21st via Acetate Records and they were ready to celebrate it with early arrivals at M3 Rock Festival.
Mixing up a set that covered a lot of ground in a short time, they played tracks including 1990’s “One Night Stand,” 1992’s “Beat to Death Like a Dog,” and the fresh, new chant-along “Hello Citizens.” All exciting and full of life, it was certainly a blast to hear such raw Rock-n-Roll tunes this early in the day. For those who missed this special, yet early set at M3 Rock Festival, be sure to pick up The Last Real Rock N’ Roll for one hell of a good time.
Meanwhile, over at the Forest Stage, another local product, Korupt, were get a party started. Formed all the way back in 1982, the Maryland based band has played their share of clubs and bars through the years. Friends of M3 Rock Festival, and always welcome, they would be returning to the stage once again in 2017.
Heavy and forceful, Korupt’s interpretation of classic tunes peaked a decent size crowd’s interest. That in mind, the band had plenty of ripping guitar solos, group shouting vocals, and crashing drums to keep the ball rolling and pass the monteum along to the bands which followed.
Those who decided to stick with the Pavilion Stage after Rhino Bucket were soon treated to Mitch Malloy. Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist Malloy had some seriously great hair when he debuted in 1992 with his self-titled album and continues to flaunt a stellar mane. Over the years, he has developed a solid and impressive musical career, in fact, he even auditioned for the vocalist slot in Van Halen, after the departure of Sammy Hagar! With nine albums over the past twenty-five years, including the most recent, 2016’s Making Noise, Malloy and his band were ready to kick things into high gear.
Taking the stage to present a short but superb set at M3, they kicked things off with the soaring “Our Love Will Never Die.” Before performing “It’s the Right Time,” Malloy took a moment to chat with the crowd and noted that he wrote the track with some unknown band called Van Halen. The tight, superb set was all too quick and it came to a glorious conclusion with rocker “Forever” and the infectiously upbeat “Anything At All.” It can be said with certainty that Malloy still has an amazing voice, as well as hair, and truly puts on a great show.
Remaining at the Pavilion Stage, another M3 Rock Festival alumni was about to kick off when Autograph took the stage just before the 1 PM hour. Also from California, Autograph celebrates over three decades now as a band. Sure there have been their breakups, but Guitarist Steve Lynch and Bassist Randy Rand have rekindled a new passion with Autograph since their reunion in 2013. Complete with Simon Daniels on lead vocals/guitar and Marc Wieland behind drums, Autograph has been touring solid for three straight years now.
Speaking of which, it was back in 2014 Autograph graced the stage of M3 Rock Festival and their return was received warmly as they kicked off with “Deep End.” Pumping out one blazing tune after another, “Loud and Clear,” “All I’m Gonna Take,” and “Send Her to Me” were a few of the highlights. All songs many are familiar with, it was the interjection of the band’s new material which turned heads as they played cuts such as “You Are Us, We Are You” and “Every Generation,” both off their 2016 EP Louder. Sounding crisp and powerful, Autograph closed out with their most popular song, “Turn Up the Radio,” as fans shouted back the irresistible chorus. Autograph will continue touring through the summer for select dates, so do not miss them.
Back to back with Autograph, many rushed over to the Forest Stage for a chance to catch Junkyard. A unique Blues Hard Rock vibed band, Junkyard are another talented band from the ’80s era which took some time off in the ’90s. As potent as ever, it has been over fifteen years since Junkyard reformed, and in that time they have played show after show. They have played so many shows there was little time to put out any new music, that was until recently when they gifted their dedicated fans High Water. Their first studio album in 26 years, the lineup of founding Vocalist David Roach along with Drummer Patrick Muzingo, longtime Bassist Todd Muscat, as well as Guitarists Tim Mosher and Jimmy James, Autograph took their places on the stage at M3 ready to go.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises of the early day at M3 Rock Festival, Junkyard had everyone’s attention as they played songs like “Life Sentence,” “Simple Man,” and “All the Time in the World.” Also mixing in newer songs like “Wallet,” they had demanded the crowd’s attention. With full grasp of the moment, the set came crashing to an end with “Hollywood,” but not without a delightful surprise as DC native Brian Baker joined them on stage. Baker, originally a regular in Junkyard for years, has devoted most of his attention to Bad Religion in recent years. Making an appearance on High Water, this was a rare instance to see him live with the band, and the fans of M3 Festival loved every minute.
Returning to the Pavilion stage, a crowd was forming for the one and only Danger Danger. Hailing from New York, New York, Danger Danger are known for being naughty, naughty with a bang, bang. A fabulously fun group of Yankees and Jerseyites who enjoy a delicious, good time but can still craft a truly poignant track, Danger Danger have semi-recently reunited with their original Vocalist, the incomparable Ted Poley. The band’s M3 line-up featured Poley, the inseparable Bassist Bruno Ravel and Drummer Steve West, as well as Guitarist Tony Bruno (ex-Saraya).
Ted Poley and co. took to the stage with a promise to “Rock America,” which quickly moved into the fierce guitar-work of “Beat the Bullet.” Midtempo rocker “Don’t Blame It on Love” and poignant plea “Don’t Walk Away” occupied the middle of their set, and saw Poley heading out into the crowd to rally the fans into a full-throttle sing-along. The group’s all-too-short set came to an epic conclusion with the massive, flirty-fun of “Bang Bang” and “Naughty Naughty.” Sure, they repeat themselves a bit, but Danger Danger have always been a truly bright spot in this collection of hair! Cannot get enough Poley? Be sure to check out his latest project, Tokyo Motor Fist, which sees him team up with Trixter’s Steve Brown.
There are some bands from the ’80s Metal era that really stand out, and San Francisco Bay area’s Vain are one of them. Led by the distinctive vocals of Davy Vain, the band would go on to break the Billboard 200 with their 1989 debut, No Respect. Since then, Vain has seen their share of changes, but sustained them all, surviving to put out a solid discography, including their new album, 2017’s Rolling With The Punches.
With exciting new tunes in hand, Davy and band took over the Forest Stage with authority as they played songs including favorites such as “Beat the Bullet,” “Secrets,” and “Love Drug.” Possessing the same haunting voice he did nearly thirty years earlier, Davy’s control of his voice was impeccable while the guitar work of Jamie Scott and Danny West blistered. Mixing in other songs like “No Respect,” “Who’s Watching You,” and the sexually charged “1,000 Degrees,” Vain were another gem during the hot afternoon.
Jack Russell’s Great White
Riding high off Vain’s set, many shuffled back to the Pavilion Stage for a dance with Jack White’s Great White. Forming out in Los Angeles, California in the late ’70s, Great White travelled a long road to commercial success in the late ’80s. It would be their cover of British Artist Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy” that would be the true breakout for the band, along with their 1989 album . . . Twice Shy. Then, around 2000, the band would split into two separate camps, with notorious Lead Vocalist Jack Russell creating the aforementioned Jack Russell’s Great White. Keeping the band going through more twists and turns, Russell’s Great White currently made up of Tony Montana on guitar and keyboards, Robby Lochner on guitar, Dan McNay on bass, and Dicki Fliszar on drums rently put together a brand new album, 2017’s He Saw it Comin’. A true fighter, with a refuse to give in attitude, Russell and company continue and came to M3 Rock Festival ready to inject a little Bluesy grit into the Rock-n-Roll of his Great White.
Receiving cheers, they launched wholeheartedly into their set with the Great White classic “Lady Red Light,” moving quickly into rocker “All Over Now.” The bluesy “Desert Moon” and bass-heavy stomp of “Mista Bone” kept the party rolling. Then, Ballad “Save Your Love,” groovelicious “My Addiction,” and fan-favorite “Rock Me” proved that Russell can still rock! They ended their set with the mega-watt hit, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” Not all voices can stand the test of time – battered and beaten over years on the hard road – but Russell has managed to keep his instrument in stellar shape and the M3 crowd was most appreciative of his continued dedication to Rock-n-Roll.
With more than half the day complete, back over at the Forest Stage, it was time to Bang Tango. From the City of Angels, while Bang Tango attained minor success in the late 1980s with their popular song, “Someone Like You,” the band’s true mark is their longevity. Another band that have seen many lineup changes over the past thirty years – with periods of hiatus and inactivity – Bang Tango have always had one constant: Vocalist Joe Lesté. Now working with a lineup consisting of Lance Eric on bass, Timmy Russell on drums, and Rowan Robertson as well as Drew Fortier on guitars, Bang Tango were ready to show M3 what they are made of.
Lesté led his troops to the Forest Stage for the blast-off of rocking “Don’t Count Me Out,” followed by the groover “My Favorite 9.” Funky “Soul to Soul,” midtempo rocker “Wrap My Wings,” and the heavy stomp of “Attack of Life” brought delight from the crowd and filled out the band’s diverse and impressive but brief set. Ending on a massive high, Lesté and co. presented the fans with the much-beloved “Someone Like You” showing Bang Tango still can deliver the goods. With more shows lined up between now and September, be sure to have a dance with these seasoned rockers.
Getting down to the nitty gritty of Day 2 of M3 Rock Festival, Warrant are a band that require little introduction. They have played in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” they love themselves some “Cherry Pie,” and they are indeed ready to take you to “Heaven.” Over the past thirty-plus years, the Down Boys have seen some massive line-up changes, but these days they are back to (almost) their full, original line-up of Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner, Bassist Jerry Dixon, and Drummer Steven Sweet, now with Vocalist Robert Mason (formerly of Lynch Mob). Sadly, the band’s original vocalist, songwriter and quintessential frontman, Jani Lane, passed away in August 2011. Coming to M3 to promote their brand new album, Louder, Harder, Faster – available May 12, 2017 – the Down Boys performed in front of stage-set bedazzled in imagery from the new release.
An ecstatic crowd went wild as the band took the stage to the anthemic “Down Boys,” and immediately rolled into one of their earliest hits, the upbeat “Big Talk.” Mason worked the crowd as he propelled the band into “D.R.F.S.R.,” an oldie and crowd-favorite. Taking a moment to dial it down a notch, Warrant performed their mega-hit “Heaven” for the assembled crowd with some truly admirable harmonies from Mason and Sweet. Cellphones and lighters were everywhere, as was a sense of the bittersweet: the great Jani Lane might be gone, but the band lives on and Mason is an exceptionally-talented and completely likeable frontman.
Warrant have an exciting new album out this Friday, entitled Louder, Harder, Faster, and the song of the same name injected a vital dose of 2017 into the band’s fun set. Of course, M3 is all about the good ‘ole days, so the quintet was quick to dial it back to “Sometimes She Cries,” a power ballad off the band’s major label debut, 1989’s Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. The melancholy ballad “I Saw Red” and bass-heavy “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had everyone singing-along as the boys rocked out full-force. They wrapped up the party with the explosive sexual innuendo of their mega-hit, “Cherry Pie.” Always a good time, never a disappointment, the crowd loved Warrant!
Representing the ladies on Day 2, Vixen were ready to rock on the Forest Stage. Another return guest to M3 Rock Festival, Vixen were a bright spot in the late ’80s Glam Metal scene out in Los Angeles. Comprised of all ladies, Vixen have also been active on and off through the decades. Currently complete with Janet Gardner on lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Roxy Petrucci on drums, Share Pedersen on bass, and newest member, Britt Lightning on guitar, Vixen came out revved up.
Making their presence known a day earlier when Pedersen joined Faster Pussycat on stage, it was now time for Vixen to take the full spotlight as they cast off with “Streets of Paradise,” “Rev It Up,” and “Bad Reputation.” Egging on the crowd and solidified, it was a great day for Rock-n-Roll well-known songs kept coming with “Cryin’,” “I Want You to Rock Me,” and “Love Made Me.” Mixing in some cool covers including Ray Charles’ “I Don’t Need a Doctor,” they closed out with “Edge of a Broken Heart,” a song everyone sung along with, including yes, Faster Pussycat. Returning the favor from the night prior, the guys came out to gang up on one mic to deliver an epic ending to Vixen’s set. For those interested, and you should be, the ladies of Vixen will be out on the road for select shows this summer, plus there is allegedly new music in the work, so stay tuned.
Cinderella’s Tom Keifer
“Who the hell is Tom Keifer?” Anyone who does not know the great Tom Keifer does not belong at M3 Rock Festival! Lead Vocalist of the multi-platinum success Cinderella, the accomplished singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has sold some 15 million records worldwide. Battling through a paralyzed vocal chord in recent years, Keifer is still famous for his gentle blend of Hard Rock and Blues Rock, and his unique, gritty vocals.
Keifer took to the stage – after an intro tape playing Prince – with his Cinderella hit “Still Climbing.” It was the perfect introduction to a set that would highlight quite a few Cindi favorites, as well as a gentle smattering of Keifer’s solo material. Cinderella’s rocking “Somebody Save Me” and the epic ballad of loss, “Heartbreak Station,” met with massive appreciation from the assembled crowd, who clearly adore fairy-tale rock. Keifer’s own funk-assault of “The Way Life Goes” was appreciated alongside the Cinderella mega-hit “Shake Me.”
A pause to appreciate what we have, Keifer had the crowd singing along to every single word for the massive Cinderella hit, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” The infectious hit “Nobody’s Fool” followed, before a step onto some Bluesy “Solid Ground.” A trio of hugely popular Cinderella fan favorites – “Night Songs,” “Coming Home,” and “Shelter Me” – served to sate the crowd’s thirst for all things Keifer and Cinderella.
Taking a break from his impressive oeuvre of material, Keifer tackled the Beatles’ classic “With a Little Help From My Friends.” While last year’s M3 Rock Festival saw Keifer paying homage to fallen musical hero Prince, this year’s event brought Keifer to pay his respects to the late, great David Bowie; performing the epic “Space Oddity” and creating a fully surreal, beautifully bittersweet atmosphere. It was the perfect introduction for his final song of the evening, the Cinderella mega-hit “Gypsy Road.” A truly gifted musician with an impressive band, Keifer offered a stellar set to the M3 crowd, proving that he is still one of the very best vocalists within the genre.
In the end, there were only two bands left standing and one of them would close out the long, action-packed day at the Forest Stage. That band would in fact be the top record selling Dokken. A band which was at the peak of the mountain during the ’80s Glam Metal storm, Dokken has sold millions upon millions of albums, heavily at the hands of classics such as 1984’s Tooth and Nail, 1985’s Under Lock and Key, and 1987’s Back for the Attack. Thirty plus years since Dokken has done their share of exploring other styles, as heard on 1997’s Shadowlife, they still remain anchored by the powerful vocals of Mr. Don Dokken. While the classic lineup of the band remains apart, Don and Drummer Mick Brown stick together with Guitarist Jon Levin and accomplished Bassist Chris McCarvill to keep the dream warriors alive.
Immediately filling the air with loud guitar, “Don’t Close Your Eyes” launched the set before Don and band went into one hit after another with “The Hunter,” “Kiss of Death,” and “Into the Fire.” Having the audience’s head spinning with the song selection, they continued with “Breaking the Chains” and “Dream Warriors.” Settling in, Dokken kept it going as the more mellow “Alone Again” followed with Great White’s Jack Russell joining Don for a collaboration that made the song rise to new heights. A moment that could have been the perfect bookend to the set, Dokken threw the crowd for a curve, finishing up with 1999’s “Maddest Hatter” before 1995 memorable single “Too High to Fly.” Going strong all these years later, Dokken will be out on the road as well all summer and are still well worth rockin’ with.
The final act of Day 2 of M3 Rock Festival 2017, a band which truly needs little introduction, Ratt are a band that helped define Rock in the ’80s. As one of the earliest successes in the Glam/Hard Rock genre, Ratt admittedly paved the way for many of the other artists who are now celebrated at decade themed festivals such as M3. With a career that spans nearly 40 years, Ratt have seven studio albums to their credit, countless accolades, and a truly dedicated fanbase. That said, in recent years there was fear that perhaps Ratt would be no more. Well, one needs to understand this is a band that does not give up so easily, in enough words, they have Rock-n-Roll running through their bloodstream. Proving such, founder and Lead Vocalist Stephen Pearcy has proudly said nothing is over until they say it is. Just the words fans wants to hear, Ratt are back with an almost complete classic lineup featuring Guitarist Warren Demartini, Bassist Juan Croucier, along with Guitarist Carlos Cavazo, and helping them out behind the drumkit, Jimmy DeGrasso.
A stop on their Back For More Tour 2017, Ratt kicked off their impressive set with “Wanted Man” and “Dangerous but Worth the Risk.” A perennial favorite, “You Think You’re Tough,” as well as the band’s infamous cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog,” continued the excitement for everyone in the crowd. Then, the pomp of “Way Cool Jr.,” grit of “Lack of Communication,” and crowd favorite “Lay It Down” continued the Rock-n-Roll party with Pearcy completely on-point. Still sporting a Rock-n-Roll look distinctive to Pearcy, his even more distinctive voice had everyone screaming along to much of the lyrics.
Moving along, a pair of tracks about love – the good and the dirty kind – “You’re in Love” and “Lovin’ You’s a Dirty Job” brought even more cheers from the elated audience. Hips were moving for “Slip of the Lip,” which segued flawlessly into the heavy groove of “Nobody Rides for Free.” The frenetic pace of “Body Talk” served to beautifully build the excitement and tension for the band’s grand finale. That finale was of course a helping of two of Ratt’s biggest cuts, “Back for More” and the mega-hit “Round and Round.”
Fiery, vital, Ratt were the perfect ending to one hell of a two day exploration into ’80s Rock. While they will continue on for more shows this summer, the question remains, is there another album in the works? Only time will tell, but until then, fans should enjoy these killer shows as they come. As for M3 Rock Festival, 2017 was another successful year filled with hot weather, hot chicks, and even hotter bands. Isn’t that what eponymously Rock-n-Roll is? In addition, those who stuck around for Sunday, there was a special M3 Southern Rock Classic show. Perhaps a new extension to the ever growing annual festival, who knows what 2018 will bring!
Photos by: Aintellin Photography