Break out your leathers, your chains, your Aqua Net and your zebra print, because springtime means M3 time. This year’s M3 Festival took place at base camp, the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, the weekend of Friday, April 28, 2017.
Over the past nine years, the M3 Festival in Northern Maryland has become the hot spot for all things 1980s (and early 1990s!) Rock-n-Roll, Glam, and deliciously naughty Hair-band fodder. The yearly, springtime gathering of hairy heavyweights has become a much-beloved tradition for bands and fans alike, who travel from far and wide to attend. In 2017, matters are no different and Friday night’s line-up was a jam-packed roster of Rock: Kix in the headlining spot with Loverboy, Winger, Faster Pussycat, Dangerous Toys, Baton Rouge, Station, and Lita Ford giving the VIP’s a little something special, acoustically-speaking. The entire festival was hosted by Eddie Trunk and Lita Ford, the most Metal MCs a fan could ever meet.
Hostess with the mostest Lita Ford is a woman who requires no introduction. Beginning her musical career as the lead guitarist for The Runaways in the late 1970s – performing beside equally fierce rocker Joan Jett – she would then segue into a successful and still-running solo career in the 1980s. Perhaps you have heard of some little duet called “Close My Eyes Forever” that Ford recorded with some guy named Ozzy Osbourne? On this early afternoon, Ms. Ford gave a short but sweet acoustic experience to all of the M3 VIPs. Her performance included the beautiful ballad “Lisa” – off 1990’s Stiletto and written for the singer’s mother – and capped off quickly but flawlessly with her hugely popular hit single, “Kiss Me Deadly.”
One of the opening acts, Station were the “baby band” at M3 Festival, a quartet of rockers from New York City who formed in 2011. With the admirable goal of keeping Rock-n-Roll alive, Station play high voltage Rock with infectious melodies, much like many of the greats present at M3. In fact, they have shared stages with most of these acts and beyond, from Vince Neil and Bret Michaels to Pat Benatar and .38 Special.
Up early in the afternoon, Station would draw from their young catalogue of independently-released Rock: their 2013 debut EP Wired, as well as their 2015 full-length, self-titled disc. Their set was weighted in favor of their eponymous full-length with “One and Only” as their energetic, blasting kick-off for M3. Patrick Kearney’s vocals simply soared as the band launched onto the stage and then segued into “Everything,” an infectiously upbeat, straight-up melody. The brand new track “All You Need Is A Heartbeat” went over great with the crowd, as did “Are You Sleeping Alone” – a song that asks that eternal question: do you think of me when you’re alone at night? Their solidly fun set ended with the superbly catchy “More Than Enough,” and fans happily lapped up every moment of these New Yorkers’ performance. For more on Station, please visit StationBand.com
Next up was Baton Rouge unsurprisingly hailing from Louisiana, where they got their start in 1986. They attained a mid-level of success with their albums Shake Your Soul (1990) and Lights Out on the Playground (1991), though it would be another six years before they released their third and final, eponymous disc. Each member of the band would go on to work with a multitude of other musical projects before, in 2006, reuniting to perform at Rocklahoma that year.
Performing the festival circuit and celebrating the music that they love, Baton Rouge came to M3 to party with their fans. Taking the stage to the sounds of “Doctor,” they proved ready to play games with the assembled crowd – especially the ladies. No strangers to getting “Hot Blood Movin’,” the band followed up with mid-tempo “Bad Time Comin’ Down” and confessional rocker “Slave To The Rhythm.” The ode to stormy relationships, “There Was a Time (The Storm)” dialed the pace down a notch to highlight the band’s stellar musicianship. The infectious “Baby’s So Cool” – off Shake Your Soul – is arguably one of the band’s best known tracks and it was a massive hit with the M3 crowd. “Me and pretty baby and the devil make three,” crossed many a pair of lips and seemed the perfect anthem for M3! With the crowd singing-along, Baton Rouge moved right into their grand finale, “Walks Like a Woman,” a sleazy-perfect early hit about a little Lolita; it was a delicious flirtation to end on, leaving the crowd wanton for more.
Moving along, it was time for Dangerous Toys, originally hailing from Texas, where they formed in 1987. Their debut 1989 eponymous disc would propel the band onto the Glam/Hard Rock scene with its sexual humor and deliciously fun lyrics. In fact, they clearly made an impact on one young fan, who would go on to form his own band, Shadows Fall, and in 2006, pay tribute to Dangerous Toys with a cover of “Teas’n, Pleas’n” on his band’s compilation album, Fallout From the War. While Dangerous Toys continue to perform live – mainly at festivals such as M3 – they have sadly not released any new studio material since 1995.
Dangerous Toys love a good tongue-in-cheek, sexual thrill – as well as a generous dose of lyrical humor – and their set proved it with some of their biggest hits on display alongside fan favorites. They kicked off their set by “drinking ’til the morning light’ with “Outlaw” and the riley swagger of “Take Me Drunk,” which plays off the popular drunken slogan, “Take me drunk, I’m home.” Continuing to romp hard with “Sport’n a Woody” and the sincere ode to one rocking “Queen of the Nile,” they soon went heavy for the grinding “Line ‘em Up” before tackling their two biggest hits, the deliciously addictive “Teas’n, Pleas’n” and superb rocker “Scared.” When it was all said and done, Dangerous Toys ended the set on a massive high, amping up the fans’ spirits with infectious Rock-n-Roll and setting the stage beautifully for the next band.
Keeping the ball rolling it was time for Faster Pussycat, a band which is a bit of an enigma, as they blend Punk, Hard Rock, Glam and, occasionally, Industrial sounds to create something that is truly unique in this genre. Named for the 1965 cult classic film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the band was formed around 1985 in Hollyweird by Vocalist and Gothic ringleader Taime Downe. Their 1987 self-titled debut, along with 1989’s Wake Me When It’s Over, were successful (both went Gold) though still somewhat underrated efforts for their time. Faster Pussycat’s most recent studio effort came some eleven years back, with 2006’s The Power and the Glory Hole.
Unfortunately, before they could ever take to the M3 stage, Faster Pussycat met with a tragic twist of fate and Downe was hospitalized. Not wanting to disappoint fans, the band went on with the show and invited a bevy of guest vocalists to help them through their fun, jam-session of a set. They kicked off with Drummer Chad Stewart on vocals for the double entendre-filled “Cathouse,” as well as the ode to making verbal oopsies, “Slip of the Tongue.” One of the band’s biggest hit singles – a cover of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” – brought Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys to the stage to handle vocals. There was not a soul in sight who did not sing-along to this classic hit as handled by Faster Pussycat and co.
Another of the band’s big hits, the ballad “House of Pain,” brought Share Pedersen of Vixen out on-stage to channel her inner-Downe for the vocals. A pair of covers – AC/DC’s “Sin City” (with Stewart back on vocals) and Supersuckers’ “Pretty Fucked Up” (with FP Bassist Danny Nordahl on vox) – occupied the centerpiece of the band’s set. Their fabulous musical mixer came to a close with Ted Poley of Danger Danger handling the vocal duties for the naughty fun of writing on the “Bathroom Wall” and the twisted ode to Hollywood “Babylon.” It was a wonderfully upbeat set though still bittersweet, as Downe has always been the nexus and true spirit of FP. Cheers to a swift recovery, Downe, and bravo to the band – Stewart, Nordahl, Xristian Simon, and Ace Von Johnson – for making damn sure that the show went on and in a stellar fashion, at that!
The time came for Winger, a band popular for their brand of Hard Rock that encompasses elements of Glam, Metal, and Progressive Rock. They formed in New York City in the late 1980s and their debut album, 1988’s Winger, as well as 1990’s In the Heart of the Young, would make a lasting impact on the Hard Rock scene with such infectious hits as “Seventeen,” “Headed For A Heartbreak,” and “Miles Away.” Showing longevity, Kip Winger and co. have released six studio albums throughout their lengthy career, the most recent being 2014’s Better Days Comin’.
Anyone who knows the band knows Winger have always had a die-hard fanbase and M3 proved no different. They stepped onto the stage to massive applause and immediately went into the addictive, fun rocker “Madalaine,” and followed it up with the mega-hit “Easy Come Easy Go.” In the fact, the bulk of their set-list was composed of their biggest hits and fan favorites, including the popular “Hungry,” rocker “Rat Race,” and the Southern groove of “Down Incognito.” Power ballads “Miles Away” and “Headed for a Heartbreak” were, undeniably, huge hits with the assembled masses. Sexy rocker “Can’t Get Enuff” had the crowd on their toes, while an instrumental jam session kept everyone’s interest piqued and showed off the band’s amazing chops. The big finish came with their break-out hit, “Seventeen.”
Rocked and rolled until the sun went down, it was down to the final two bands and heading M3 Festival’s opening day was Canadian rockers Loverboy. Formed in 1979, behind an energetic drive to keep pushing forward, Loverboy’s determination led them to high places, going on to record some of the ’80s biggest Arena Rock hits, including “Turn Me Loose” and “Working for the Weekend.” Trucking along after all these years later, the band of brothers led by Lead Vocalist Mike Reno along with Guitarist Paul Dean, Keyboardist Doug Johnson, Drummer Matt Frenette, and newer generation loverboy, Bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, still know how to light up stages.
Consistently touring in recent years, Loverboy remain highly adored and their presence at M3 was welcomed with many open arms. They took the stage to the rocking “Notorious,” immediately proving that they are indeed “Lucky Ones.” Uptempo “Queen of the Broken Hearts,” funktastic “Take Me to the Top,” and danceable “It’s Your Life” anchored the band’s impressive, upbeat, fun Rock-n-Roll set. Of course at the center of it was Mr. Reno, as passionate and enthusiastic a frontman as ever. Moving around the stage and enticing the crowd to sing along, large crowds are what Loverboy’s tunes were made for.
Charging into “Lovin’ Every Minute of It!,” they moved into “The Kid Is Hot Tonite,” a cut that provided a great sing-along opportunity for fans, before the band soared along with “When It’s Over.” Smiling and having a blast, their set closed out with “Hot Girls in Love,” the beloved “Turn Me Loose,” and the massive hit “Working for the Weekend.” The latter, a song which became the anthem for many an ‘80s child and those children, now grown,rocked out in full-force to Loverboy’s amazing, high octane finale number. Still pumping out material, Loverboy recently released a music video for their new single “Stop the Rain.” While there are no immediate plans for an album just yet, keep a look out for Loverboy as they continue to pop out singles and tour through the summer.
At last, the time had come for the last act of M3’s epic opening day, hometown boys Kix. Fun and engaging, Kix are band which holds a very special place in the hearts of the Maryland locals, because, well, they are family! Hailing from Hagerstown, Maryland, Kix got their start in 1977 and released their debut, self-titled album in 1981. It would not be until 1988’s Blow My Fuse, however, that the band received some level of success due, in part, to the anti-suicide, power ballad, “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” Finally charting on Billboard and seeing their video hit massive MTV rotation, the band would go on to release 1991’s Hot Wire and 1995’s $how Bu$ine$$. The band members would ultimately go their separate ways and focus on a multitude of different musical projects before, surprisingly, reuniting in 2003. Touring around the country regularly, in 2014, Kix released Rock Your Face Off with Loud & Proud Records, wowing fans with a real killer collection of tunes.
All this in mind, Kix blasted onto the M3 stage with the apropos “Can’t Stop the Show” and followed that with “Sex” of the aural variety. Maryland then got “The Itch” and the Glamlicious “Midnite Dynamite,” with a healthy game of “Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT.” Then it was time for a “Cold Shower” and one of the band’s newest songs, 2014’s rocking “Love Me With Your Top Down,” fraught with double-entendres galore. Keeping the crowd rocking out in full-force, Kix continued their stellar set with crowd favorite “Hot Wire” and another of their newest songs, the grooving “You’re Gone.”
The superbly sexy, dance-inspiring “Girl Money” kicked off a pair of crowd favorites that included the band’s mega-hit, power ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” With cellphones and lighters everywhere, Kix took a moment before continuing the party with “Wheels In Motion” and “Cold Blood.” While all band members dazzled throughout the performance, the talents of Jimmy “Chocolate” Chalfant were highlighted with a drum solo, followed by Kix making an offer that the fans could not refuse with “Blow My Fuse.”
Moving their jam into a finale, Kix launched into one of their earliest tracks, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” The crowd loved every second of the finale and the entire set, and it is clear that Maryland and M3 Festival love this band. That in mind, everyone wishes Guitarist Ronnie Younkins well, with hopes he returns to the team soon.
An electrifying opening day, M3 Festival would continue bright and early the following day with a total of fourteen bands on tap. Welcoming a variety of the best bands from the ’80s Hair Metal era, it was sure to be a blast of epic proportion, but who would expect anything less from M3 Festival!
Photos by: Aintellin Photography