The 2018 edition of the M3 Music Festival was supposed to be one for the record books. Sadly it was not. Instead it was an empty promise filled with chaos and confusion. Sure there were debuts and good times as well, but in retrospect, the bad outweighed the good for the first time since I’ve been attending the event. Although it was the 10th anniversary of this festival, and the promoters claimed greatness for year ten, I don’t think there was anything spectacular about it. The lone exception being that Ace Frehley was performing there for the first time in his career. That, however, still wasn’t enough to make it a grand 10th anniversary celebration.
Perhaps I am jaded from attending 9 of the last 10 festivals (I’ve only missed the first one), but I found myself wondering if this was going to be the last one I came to for a while. Yes, I love spending the week in Columbia with some great friends and capping it off with a weekend of fabulous music, but it might be time to consider a different festival in 2019. The future will show what course I take for certain next year, but for the first time since I’ve been going to the M3 festival, I am giving actual consideration to not going to the next one.
What exactly went wrong to even put those thoughts in my head? Well, there were several snafus that led to this train of thought. The first being the acts announced were far from the acts that ended up performing. When M3 was officially announced, the bands on the bill included LA Guns and Loudness. Both acts excited me for different reasons. I wanted to see LA Guns because they had just released a magnificent album with Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns in the band (The Missing Peace). And Loudness was unable to enter the country last year, so having them try again in 2018 was good news. I’ve seen Loudness in concert and they are exceptional!
Unfortunately, neither of these bands made the final lineup. Loudness once again had issues getting into the country and had to cancel their trip. This makes me wonder when they are going to get new management, because their current company clearly doesn’t know how to gain appropriate access for their band to come to the US.
LA Guns pulled out a week before the show. The rumors are that they didn’t like the time slot they were given. Now, I can’t overly criticize M3 for this, I mean with Night Ranger, Ace Frehley, and Queensryche wrapping up the night, when exactly did LA Guns think they were going to perform? As it was, they would have been either right before or right after Sebastian Bach. If you ask me, given the lineup, that’s a pretty good slot for them.
I love their new album, and I really wanted to see LA Guns perform with Phil and Tracii, but there is no way they can go on after Night Ranger, Ace Frehley, or Queensryche. I’m not even sure they can go on after Sebastian Bach. These are the heavy hitters of hard rocking metal and not to criticize LA Guns, they just aren’t on that level from a live performance perspective. It would be like Faster Pussycat saying they want to go on after one of those bands. I love to see them live, but they aren’t in the same league. LA Guns were not willing to accept this and thus they pulled out of the event. If M3 is smart, they will have to think about not inviting LA Guns back for a long while (if ever). It sucks to say that, but you can’t have bands pulling out if they aren’t comfortable with the time slot they are issued.
Other challenges occurred all weekend long as well. The most egregious of them was the fact that venue renovations were not completed before the concert. I paid decent money to have a good seat only to learn that it wasn’t covered and there would be no roof over my head. This caused several issues for me. The first being that rain was in the forecast for Friday night. If I didn’t buy a lawn seat, it was for good reasons, one of those being I don’t want to get wet during the night. Not having a roof over my head prevented the possibility of staying dry if the rains were to come (and they did).
My second issue with being in an uncovered seat (and probably a much bigger issue for me) was that there would be no protection from the sun. I am a borderline albino vampire and the sun and I just don’t get along. I’ve tried to make amends with the big shining star for years, but he’s not having any of it. If I stay exposed too long, I’m going to burn. I put on my sun block when I need to but I don’ t like it. And again, since I had purchased actual seats, I didn’t expect the sun to be an issue. But it was, because day two had all the elements. Heat, sun, and then rain. It made for an interesting day at the festival.
Perhaps because of the ongoing renovations there was no second stage this year either. Last year, the venue built a permanent structure in the woods that was a lot of fun to visit. It provided an opportunity to get up close and personal with any of the bands performing there If timed correctly. This year, the venue went back to the rotating stage, which I commend. However, I missed the opportunity to see certain acts in a more intimate setting in the woods. I guess the second stage will return next year once all renovations are completed, but it wasn’t happening this year.
Parking was also a complete mess. We had to get a parking pass well in advance of the show and could only park in the lot that was printed on that pass. The problem with that was the lots were not well numbered and it was impossible to find ours. On night one we just parked wherever we could and on day two we finally saw the tiny little sign that told us where our lot was. And the parking staff were pretty much useless (like most venue parking lot staffs). And due to the renovations, there was only one road in and out of the venue which led to some serious traffic.
And while those irritating nuances caused some disappointment, it was the music that I came for. Night one consisted of KIX (who were spectacular as always), Y&T, Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Faster Pussycat, and Tom Keifer. It was great seeing Pretty Boy Floyd, although I do have some personal issues with the band (a story for another time). As much as I liked them, there is animosity that prevents me from loving them. Nelson was tremendous and even gave a touching tribute to their estranged mother who had passed away a week earlier. Faster Pussycat had their lead singer intact this time around, so they gave a tremendous performance that included one of my favorite covers “You’re So Vain.” I was never a huge Y&T fan, so I sat through their set, but I really just wanted to hear “Summertime Girls,” which they did play toward the end.
KIX was magnificent! They gave a special 30 year anniversary performance of Blow My Fuse in its entirety which was jaw dropping and a real treat. I’ve seen KIX a dozen times now and this was the most special performance I’ve ever seen. Just hearing “Piece of the Pie” live made my entire weekend. Unfortunately, due to schedule constraints and the fact that they were not the headliners, KIX wasn’t able to play much more besides that album. And for the first time ever in witnessing their live act, they did not close with “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” which left a lot of fans angered. They didn’t even play it.
And that is probably the biggest issue I had with M3 in 2018. Look, I absolutely love Tom Keifer and I am a big supporter of his solo album and his Cinderella stuff, but there was no way that he should have went on after KIX. Especially not in Maryland. It just wasn’t meant to be. And if Tom’s ego forced him to say that he had to be the headliner on Friday night, then M3 should have said “Thanks, but no thanks. We’ll find someone else.” Keifer has been playing the same setlist for the last five years and he’s been at M3 four years in a row. It might be time to give him a rest and get some other acts in there. There are several that could have played in the slot before KIX on Friday night. Just off the top of my head they could have gotten any of the following: Mike Tramp (of White Lion fame), Dokken, Warrant, Michael Monroe, Extreme, Steel Panther, or Saigon Kick. I know it’s not easy organizing these events and it’s hard to secure bands, but M3 needs to stop going to the same well year after year. And while Keifer’s performance was solid, it wasn’t as good as KIX who should have wrapped the night.
Day two was filled with its own issues, but at least we were able to find the correct parking lot. And the lineup for day two was a strong one. Not historical, or one for the record books, but solid nonetheless. Tyketto, Last In Line, Warrant, Lynch Mob (both with Robert Mason singing), Stryper (who also could have filled that Friday night slot before KIX), Sebastian Bach, Ace Frehley, Night Ranger, and Queensryche. That’s one heck of a lineup!
Seeing Tyketto live was grand. I had never seen the band perform before and although their set was extremely short (I think they played for 25 minutes) they gave their all in one of the hardest slots of the entire weekend (opening band, day two). This is what draws me to M3 every year. An opportunity to see a band that I missed back in the golden era of glam rock. Tyketto was one of those bands and I am glad that M3 got them to perform. Now if we could get Vinnie Vincent or Mike Tramp for 2019 I may have to confirm my attendance.
For me, the treat of the weekend was Ace Frehley. I gave a brief review of his performance on a recent episode of my podcast (The Psycho Circus Podcast), but I’ll reiterate it here. Ace was exceptional and I expected nothing less. Some folks thought he was drunk or high, but he wasn’t. That’s just the way Ace is. He’s spaced out. But he’s clean and sober now which is a win for the fans. Ace was brilliant and gave an exceptional blend of KISS songs, solo songs, and Frehley’s Comet songs. The one gripe I had was that he talked about the brand new single he just released (Bronx Boy) and made it sound like he was going to perform it, and then went into an entirely different song. Now, I don’t know if that was due to the time constraints of his performance or that the band didn’t rehearse the song, but it was odd and a trifle annoying. Other than that, Ace was extraordinary.
I honestly didn’t think anybody was going to top his performance, but Queensryche showed why they were billed as the headliners for 2018 (a recommendation I’ve made in the past). Queensryche slayed onstage. As tired as I was from a long week of partying and rocking, I was on my feet for the entire set. The Todd LaTorre led version of Queensryche is an unstoppable force and if you haven’t taken the time to see them live, you must. Put aside the fact that he’s not the original lead singer and take in one of their shows. Your rock life will be forever changed.
All in all, it was another fun weekend, but M3 has to fix a lot of things if I’m going to be back next year. The venue has to be completed (or move it to another one – the Arts Center in Jersey would show them how it’s really done). The parking has to be fixed. And the acts have to be stronger and preferably acts that haven’t been there in a while or at all. Get Jetboy back. Bring back Steel Panther. Give us Poison as a headliner. Do something different. For 2019 I am going to have to seriously study the lineup and as painful as this is to say aloud, if the acts aren’t there, I may not be there either. It may just be time to check out another hard rock festival and create a new annual adventure.