While the summer season of outdoor concert events begins to unfold for yet another blazing, sweaty, rock and roll, ear candy, hell ride for the summer of 2013, it becomes an annual mental choice, Rock on The Range, Rocklahoma, or even Carolina Rebellion. For many of us like-minded Rock fans, who just can’t get enough of the loudest all day events on a yearly basis, there is just one true rock event that caters and truly carries on the tradition of the hair metal eighties. That is M3 Rock Festival in Maryland, which has become a staple for reliving a sanctuary of music that can often be sacred to ones’ musical youth, a youth that sometimes lives in the eighties.
Now, in its 6th consecutive year, M3 Rock Festival has become an east coast destination for a two day event that demonstrates that the eighties still have a long embrace, especially with many bands fading into obscurity. One great entity of this whole yearly show is that the avid rock fan will never get sick of the fresh lineup of bands jam packed into a two day event with the pre party on Friday with just a hand full of bands and Saturday’s fully blown event kicking off at noon. The venue, in its own realm of musical talent, has a unique history with both legendary icons, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, gracing the stage in the seventies.
Friday’s lineup included headliner sets from both W.A.S.P and Maryland’s own rock favorites Kix. First up, fans enjoyed a stellar quick set by Danger Danger who performed a few songs from their debut recordings that charted them on MTV and sold out club shows with “Bang Bang,” “Boys Will Be Boys,” and their infamous stellar seductive mega hit, “Naughty Naughty.”
Kix moved into the spotlight for about 70 minutes and crammed as many hits as possible into their set. Kix, well known for a hand full of hits that made them home to playing clubs in their careers, never really earned the true attention of playing big arenas in the eighties other than jumping on the Ratt Tour back in the day. Still, Kix can hold the attention of any crowd as they did at this year’s M3 Festival performing hits like “Cold Shower,” “Blow My Fuse,” and “Midnight Dynamite,” among others.
Rounding out Friday’s pre-party, Legendary rockers W.A.S.P pulled out many of their career spanning hits that have made them outrageously famous with Lawless tossing out raw meat in the late eighties during such performances. While Blackie remains to be the only original individual rounding out this outfit, their set was superior till Blackie mentioned they were now going to entertain us with some material from Crimson Idol. That seemed to be a quick downer. In the back of a rock fan’s mind you want to hear the stellar hits, but in many cases we don’t always seem to get everything we want. Definitely a great set as Lawless showed clips of W.A.S.P. in their early days during such key songs throughout their set with Chris Homes and Randy Piper at the helm performing “L.O.V.E Machine,” “I Want to Be Somebody,” “Blinded in Texas,” and their cover of The Who’s, “The Real Me.” Still, one has to give props to Lawless for a great show even if it seemed to be a lack luster polished set.
Saturday’s stellar day of music obviously seemed to a big deal for many eighties fans moving about the grounds of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Again, the weather was picture perfect; yes it was hot with the sun beating down on those on the lawn stretched across a wide patch of green, chugging down ice cold beverages in hand. Still, that is a true symbol of party time as the music kicked off at high noon on the main stage with Korupt opening the doors wide open for a great day of music.
Street Light Circus returned for their second calling to the festival stage this year. Perhaps this band seemingly outshines as an independent rock band to play such a magnitude of a festival with big names stapled across banners hoisted above the drum risers. A quick 35 minute set from these guys and I am sure they might get an upgrade to the main stage next year.
Other great sets on the festival stage were done by LA glam rockers Tuff, best known for rock ballads and saucy videos, performed a great set from their debut CD. Definitely brings back memories when Front man Stevie Rachelle was yelling to the fans, “Any of you guys have our first record?” It was a great CD from the eighties packed with hits. Even if this isn’t the original lineup other than the bassist and Rachelle at hand, Tuff can still pull it off as a band I don’t think has played out in quite some time.
While trekking back and forth from stage to stage the entire day on Saturday, many of the bands started cranking up the PA to the point that earplugs seems to only hold the decibels down just a tad for the likes of Steelheart who blew the doors wide open on the main stage. With Steelheart’s front man roaming the stage and his octave vocal range nearly a clip of the many bands to follow right behind them, obviously the louder the better.
Quite nice to see New Jerseys’ own Trixter belt out some old eighties gems on the main stage that included “One in A Million” and “Give It To Me Good” which spawned a MTV stellar hit for this band early on in their musical career. Nothing like watching the original lineup rock out and bring back rock memories.
The festival stage welcomed the newest band to unfold this time, Jack Russell’s Great White. While his vocal ability carried the original band from early on in the early eighties’ his version is nothing short of greatness during their midday time slot at M3. One thing is for sure, Jack Russell can still hold it together live on stage despite his personal health issues forcing him to take a break from the limelight. He has returned to the rock fold better than ever with a solid lineup of musicians still providing the freshly polished Great White signature sound all these years. Jack’s set list included “All Over Now,” “Save Your Love,” “Rock Me,” and “Once Bitten Twice Shy.” It’s always nice to see Jack Russell out in the limelight, even in the 90 degree heat at M3 Rock Festival.
The main stage also featured an appearance of the all female rock band known now as JSRG, formally known as Vixen, four individuals dressed to kill and ready to rock. While Vixen had their monumental moment on MTV, they also earned themselves notable success with their debut material from Full Throttle which happens to be a great CD. JSRG made their mark at this year’s M3 Rock festival with a stellar set that featured their hit single “Edge of a Broken Heart” as well as “Cryin’,” and, “Rev It Up.” There’s nothing like having an all female rock band shred the main stage and earn some long awaited fans to sing along to their hits.
The festival stage wouldn’t be complete without great performances from Texas Trio well know to the rock world as Kings X, and yes, they still bring the music and the fun atmosphere of a great band that featured many great songs from material spanning their career especially their mega hit “Over My Head” which was defiantly a crowd pleaser.
Last year Loudness graced America with their first ever appearance at the 2012 M4 Rock Festival, and they returned to the main stage to shred even louder than before. While the music from Jack Russell’s Great White was just in the midst of ending, Akira was already way into sound checking his signature guitar by testing the waters. Loudness always seemed to be the best metal band to come from the land of the rising sun. Loudness continuously spit out master piece songs, the power, the drive, and the creativity that they possess has always been nothing short of spectacular as a band even as ¾ of the original line up. Loudness as a live band truly gives the whole new meaning of Japanese Heavy Metal. During their amazing set the decibels shooting out of Akira’s guitar was just that incredible to watch this guy run his fingers up and down the strings like a madman while shredding through amazing solos to “Crazy Doctor Crazy Nights,” “SDI,” and “Heavy Chains.” Loudness put Japan on the map in the eighties’ as the first band to conquer metal in the east, period.
The eighties seemed to be a glorified memory with many bands using music intros which, in those days, set the tone for what many would call a great rock show. In the early evening hours, the next band did just that on the festival stage. Firehouse kicked everything into high fashion, opening their set with some of many great classics like “Hold Your Fire” and “All She Wrote.” CJ Snare’s ability to hit his usual high notes never sounded more in tune with just those two songs in the first 6 minutes of their show. Firehouse cracked open the hits from day one and still to this day completely demonstrates a no holds bar attitude with a great performance at M3.
The festival stage closed out with Jackyl performing a great 35 minute hell raiser show. We all know Jackyl is best known for Jessie Dupree’s live stage antics of going ballistic with a chainsaw to a bar stool, and it definitely brings to the table a classic element to any live show. Even with a short set, Jackyl proudly pounded the festival stage with “I Stand Alone” and “Down On Me.”
Many eighties bands continued the tradition of hairspray, spandex, and outrageous stage productions. Steel Panther, a band that still follows their peers is a crowd sell out every time, in every single market. They put on a funny –as-hell stage show and a laughable set of songs that make any fan love these guys. Much of their set is simply made up of parody songs with no real meaning. Steel Panther’s live show keeps this band at the top of their game with tracks like “Asian Hooker” and “Community Property,” but there are just two songs that simply stand out above the rest, “Death to All But Metal” and “17 Girls.”
No festival is complete without two co-headliners on the main stage. This year fans enjoyed full sets by headliners. The first was from Twisted Sister, who brings the cult classics to the table in the rock house, especially with “I Wanna Rock,” “Stay Hungry,” and “The Kids Are Back.” Dee Snyder’s antics of thrashing mad never get old as he stormed out onto the stage and just had the fans by their balls from song one. Twisted Sister is the all time classic metal band straight from the eighties. Their musical career captivated stellar hits, world tours, and dominated both MTV and rock radio. Still Twisted Sister dominates the stage with the greatest live show ever. It is well worth hanging around the entire day to see the five original members truly bring back the eighties front and center.
Half the place seemed to empty out right before Bret Michaels took the stage. Already twenty minutes behind schedule, Bret Michaels still puts on a great show cramming in many Poison songs we have come to love throughout the years as well as some sweet covers like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s, “Sweet Home Alabama.” While Bret Michaels wrote many of those stellar hits of Poison, it is hard to see someone else run around the stage and do the CC Deville’s solos. Still the ninety minute plus show encompasses Bret Michaels’ musical career as both a solo artist and the front man of Poison.
Sitting through 20 bands is no easy task, but the entire two day festival is worth the wait each and every year simply because each band was hand selected. They all bring the hits, knocking on your front door song after song. That is what makes M3 Rock Festival such a unique experience.