Monday, May 16, 2016

Concert Review: M3 Rock Festival April 29-30, 2016

Another M3 Rock Festival has come and gone. For the seventh year in a row I headed down to Columbia, Maryland to meet up with my great friend Rob Rockitt (of Hard Rock Hideout fame) for some much needed mayhem and music. This year we were joined by two other metal heads, Christine Sixx and Dee Deadly. They are fabulous friends who love the music as much as we do. This would be their first time in attendance for an M3 rock festival and I knew they were in for a spectacular weekend. I also knew from years of experience that there were going to be good times, bad times, and even ugly times. This is my take on all of them.

The Good

86 Bullets – 86 Bullets was the first band to kick off M3 this year, and they were a band I had never heard of before that night. We settled in our seats just as the band amped out their first song. I don’t know the titles of what they played, but I know that I was very impressed with their quick set. Hard hitting, heavy performers, 86 Bullets is a band that I need to pay a little attention to this summer.

Lynch Mob – “I got that Wicked! Sensation!” Oni Logan and George Lynch (along with the rest of the mob) were fantastic! Their Friday night performance was one of the best of the weekend. I’ve always loved Lynch Mob. They are an exceptional band that always delivers and this night was no different. They performed their best known Lynch Mob songs (“Wicked Sensation,” “She’s Evil But She’s Mine,” “River Of Love”) and some classic Dokken songs (“When Heaven Comes Down,” “Into The Fire,” “Tooth And Nail”). The Dokken songs sounded magnificent, much better than Don Dokken’s version. Seeing Lynch Mob for the abbreviated M3 set reminded me just how wonderful the band really is. I need to seek out their headlining shows and take one or two in. 

KIX – Every year KIX brings their best and gives an incredible live performance. This year, was no exception. They played a perfect blend of new cuts (from Rock Your Face Off) to classic hits (“Cold Blood,” “Kix Are For Kids”). The hometown fans absolutely adored it. I’ve said this several times over the years, but it bears repeating: KIX is an exceptional live band. And while I was disappointed that a couple of my favorite classic KIX songs were not included in this year’s set, I was extremely happy to hear the new material. Sure, I missed “The Itch,” and “Midnight Dynamite,” but I love the new songs, so I fell that the trade off was worth it. KIX was one of the few bands at this festival that actually released an album of brand new original material in the last two years. They should perform the new songs. The new material easily stands up to the classic cuts. KIX was the perfect way to end Friday night. 

Every Mother’s Nightmare – I will admit that I didn’t even remember Every Mother’s Nightmare prior to this show. They were one of the bands that I just didn’t pay attention to in the 80s. I don’t know why, because they were excellent! Granted, Rob and I were only able to hear three of their songs (due to getting to the venue a little late), but what I heard was terrific. I did get to hear their signature song “Love Can Make You Blind” and they played it note perfect. I am going to have to watch some of their old videos and maybe even pick up their CD on the used market. 

Faster Pussycat – I don’t get to see this band in concert enough. Every time I witness their performance I tell myself that I have to see their headlining set, but I never do. And then the next time I see them live, I scold myself for not seeing them more.

Faster Pussycat gave a quick, gritty, intense set filled with hits and fun. Taime Down wore a headpiece that proclaimed his love of the female sex (or at least what’s between their legs) which made me laugh. At first I thought the headpiece had I love cock written on it. I quickly realized that it wasn’t cock, but the c word for a woman’s nether regions.

Even though it was 11:30 in the morning, the seats were almost 70% full. Fans came out in droves in the early morning mist to see Faster Pussycat and they were awarded with a great set. “House Of Pain,” “Bathroom Wall,” and “Cathouse” were all played and sounded superb. Faster Pussycat showed that they are still a great live force. And yes, I need to catch one of their headlining sets soon. 

Night Ranger – Whenever I see Night Ranger, I am just amazed. This band still has it almost 35 years after they got their start. Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy, and Brad Gillis may be nearing social security age, but they still perform with the best of them. And although Joel Hoekstra left the band for Whitesnake, Keri Kelli was an exceptional replacement. His chemistry with the band was apparent from the opening song (“Touch Of Madness”). Night Ranger was tight and extremely happy to be on stage together. They performed their biggest hits, two Damn Yankees songs, and their latest single (“High Road”). There really isn’t much more that we could have asked for.

Queensryche – Words can’t even begin to describe how utterly spectacular Queensryche with Todd LaTorre is. Christine probably said it best, “This guy has me loving Queensryche again.” That’s a perfect statement to sum up the performance we saw. Queensryche with Todd LaTorre makes me forget that they used to have a different lead singer.

Todd’s voice is impeccable. He was able to hit every note on every song, and the band pulled out some deep cuts. The roaring approval from the crowd proved that we weren’t the only ones in love with Queensryche. They were easily the best band at M3 this year and hopefully they will be the headliners for 2017.

The Bad
The Weather – It was rainy, cold, and downright miserable for certain portions of the festival. It had to be terrible for those that were on the lawn. Thankfully we were in the covered seats section, so the rain didn’t affect us too much. However, by the end of Friday night we were shivering. April may still be a bit too early for this festival.

The Food – New food vendors charging higher prices. I get that the Merriweather Post Pavilion is undergoing renovations and they need to raise money, but the quality of the food has gone down severely and the prices increased almost 25%. What the heck?

Every year I look forward to getting a cheese steak sandwich at my favorite concession stand near the back of the pavilion. This year that concession stand was gone and the ones that had cheese steaks were terrible. In the past it was real steak with real cheese and all the fixings (lettuce, tomato, onion). This year it was steakum and cheese whiz. Ugh! Just terrible! And the other food was equally as bad. $12 for a slice of pizza that was no better than something I could buy in the frozen section of my grocery store? Come on!

Enuff Z’Nuff – Enuff Z’Nuff with Chip on vocals was not good. And that really saddened me, because I love Enuff Z’Nuff. With Donnie Vie and Johnny Monaco no longer in the band, Chip decided that he could handle lead vocal duties. Unfortunately that was a poor assessment on his part. He just can’t sing the tunes the way they were meant to sound. I understand that Donnie Vie is focusing on his solo career, but I wish they would have found a way to bring him back for this one performance. It just wasn’t the same without him --- it was actually pretty dismal.

The Ugly 

Vince Neil – Vince Neil was terrible! We’ve all heard the stories of how Vince is out of shape, sings every third word (if he remembers them at all), and really can’t carry a tune anymore. Sadly, those rumors are true. Look, I understand we all age. I understand that eventually father time is going to catch up to everyone. But I also understand that sometimes you need to have the wits to go out gracefully.

Vince is at that point in his career where he may want to reconsider performing live. It was just a shame to see. I truly believe that his glory days are long behind him, and Vince doesn’t have much to bring to a live show anymore. 

Slaughter – I’ve said this before. Slaughter really needs to hang it up. As much as it pains me to say that, it’s the truth. Slaughter is just a shell of what they used to be. Their amps are turned up way too loud, the bass overrides all the music, and Mark Slaughter no longer has a voice. Yet he still tries to sing in the high octave that made him famous. Unfortunately it just sounds like an angry cat now.

If they aren’t going to retire, the least they can do is try to perform to their current ability. Dana should turn his bass down and Mark should sing in a lower octave. We understand that you won’t hit the notes the way you used to. And if you try to adjust your talent level, we’ll forgive you. Unfortunately Slaughter tried to prove he still had it as rock screamer. He failed.

They did have one saving grace however. Drummer Zoltan Chaney (who also drums for Vince Neil) was absolutely insane! His bezerker style of drumming is a pleasure to witness live. He uses his hands, feet, elbows, and every other body part he can to bang the drums and cymbals. Chaney is nothing but high energy and he was the best thing to see in Slaughter. 

Stephen Pearcy – One word comes to mind when reminiscing about Stephen Pearcy’s set---atrocious.  He sounded terrible. He forgot the words to his songs. He came in to the bridge too early. And generally he looked like he didn’t want to be there.

Pearcy came out in a hoody and sunglasses, with the hood pulled tight over his head. He sang the first two songs this way. Rob mentioned that he heard Pearcy say he was hungover and apologized to the crowd. He should, his performance was awful. If you’re going to party the night before, have the sense to remember that you have to perform the next day. You owe it to the fans that paid money to see you in concert to always give your best. Pearcy did not give anything but his worst. It was just terrible.

The Bottom Line
As long as they keep having it, I will keep attending. The M3 rock festival is just a blast of 80s metal memories and good times. And having great friends to go with every year makes the festival that much more enjoyable. Sign me up for 2017!

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