Meister's Metal Mayhem


In continuing my rock and roll adventures, I recently had the wonderful experience of my first M3 Festival. M3 is a two day festival taking place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Maryland. The lineup consists of largely 80’s/early 90’s era bands and this year reads as a smaller counterpart of the Monsters of Rock Cruise showcasing many bands that appeared on that voyage a few weeks prior.

The experience began with a bang after a great Thursday featuring the events of the M-Pre-party presented by D-Toxin Productions at Sonoma’s Bar & Grill. The pre-party line up boasted the bands Saints of Rebellion, Wicked, Station, Nasty Habit and, the highlight of the night for me, Black Tora.

For Friday evening’s evenIMG_54208786478224ts, we were greeted with a torrential downpour in which I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams in getting soaked. Being chilly and damp for the rest of the evening didn’t dampen my spirits at all. I missed most of Winger while getting waterlogged but was able to catch “Madeline” and “Seventeen”.

Lita Ford’s voice seemed a little “off” to me, almost like she was having trouble catching up to the music, but Cherie Currie joining her on stage for “Living Like a Runaway” was a definite highlight. The Runaways‘ vocalist then stayed for three Runaways’ songs with “Queens of Noise”, “American Nights” and “Cherry Bomb”. Given the photo of Cherie, Lita and Joan Jett that had circled social media a few days earlier I was eagerly awaiting Jett’s appearance that never came. Lita included “The Bitch is Back”, “Hungry”, “Relentless”, “Gotta Let Go”, “Close My Eyes Forever” and “Kiss Me Deadly” to round out the ten song set.

Extreme’s set was something I hadn’t experienced since the early 90’s and I was curious to see how they had “held up” over the years. The answer: absolutely fantastic! Not being a fan of the III Sides to Every Story effort I could have done without those selections in the setlist, but my favorite Extreme song “Play With Me” from the debut and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Soundtrack was a different story. The whole band sounded awesome with Gary Cherone‘s vocals leading the charges. Their set list encompassed “Decadence Dance”, “Kid Ego”, “It (‘s a Monster)”, “Rest In Peace”, “Am I Ever Gonna Change”, “Play With Me”, “More Than Words”, “Cupid’s Dead”, “Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee” (short instrumental), “Get The Funk Out” and “Hole Hearted”.

KIX was the showP1060817 closer for the night and presented precisely what I had come to expect from them, great show built around the energy, antics and charisma of frontman Steve Whiteman. It was the KIX live show that won me over from “casual two album owning” fan to “rabid entire discography owning” fan after my first experience with them on 2012’s MOR Cruise. What did fit in very well with this set was the one song tease of what to expect on their forthcoming release, the first in some nineteen years! “Can’t Stop the Show”, “No Ring Around Rosie”, “The Itch”, “Body Talk”, “Love Me With Your Top Down”, “Girl Money”, “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, “Rock & Roll Overdose”, “Cold Blood”, “Blow My Fuse”, “Midnite Dynamite” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” completed the roster on another excellent KIX event.

Saturday was a long, long day jam packed full of great rock and roll including the four bands that I had wanted to see most at the festival, only one of which I had not seen previously.

The day started off good and bad for me with a heavy decision right off the bat. Two of those “must see” bands for me at M3 were Heaven’s Edge, who were the band I had no previous experiences with and the mighty Keel had overlapping time slots as they opened each stage!

Heaven’s Edge kicked things off to a rather full crowd at the general admission “Festival Stage” at 11:40 am. “Play Dirty”, “Skin to Skin” and “Rock Steady Rock” got things rolling as the band made full use of the stage area with lots of synchronized and choreographed moves that included arms swinging, headbanging and unison jumping. It was clear that Heaven’s Edge was here to make a statement and they were doing just that, winning over new fans as I listened to the chatter around me. I was actually rather sad and it was certainly difficult to pull myself away after only those three songs to catch Keel open the “Pavilion Stage”.

Keel put on an excellent show and has quickly risen as one of my “must see over anyone else” bands since my first live experience with them on MORC 2012. I have also met and chatted on more than one occaP1060844sion with many of the band members and they truly are a fan based band. Ron Keel’s vocals have not softened with age as with some of the others of the era and he can still hit the notes especially on the screams famous in the smash hit “The Right to Rock”. They chose not to play “You’re the Victim, I’m the Crime” for this set and I pondered how fitting it would have been for the crime that I was witnessing: The pavilion was well less than full for this, one of the best shows of the weekend. Keel represented their discography well opening with “Come Hell or High Water” from the latest Keel issue (and arguably best) Streets of Rock & Roll. Also included were “Speed Demon” from Lay Down the Law, “Because the Night” and “Tears of Fire” off Final Frontier, “Somebody’s Waiting” from Keel, “Rock & Roll Outlaw” originally appearing on the soundtrack to the movie Dudes and of course the title track to The Right to Rock.

The flip-flopping between “Festival Stage” and “Pavilion Stage” began as it was back over the hill after Keel for John Corabi on the general admission “Festival Stage”. Arriving a little late, Corabi delivered a standard set that I had become familiar with having seen him acoustic and electric on all three MORC Cruises and also during a stop in Toronto, but have never been a rabid fan. “Love (I Don’t Need It Anymore)”, “Never in My Life”, “Man In The Moon”, “Uncle Jack” and “Hooligan’s Holiday” were all featured.

Jack Russell’s Great White, with some different members than his stop in Toronto last summer, had a much fuller stadium for the second event on the “Pavilion Stage”. Jack himself looked rather worse for wear, hobbling around the stage hunched over for much of the time that I can only attribute to his fairly recent health battles and previous addiction issues. No matter how he looked, it was how he sounded that counts and there were no issues there! I much prefer the soulful, bluesy vocal sound, lack of keyboards and generally harder edge of this version of Great White as opposed to the more commercial sound of the Terry Illous fronted version. Many of Great White’s biggest hits graced a roster that read like this: “All Over Now”, “Desert Moon”, “Mista Bone”, “Save Your Love”, “Lady Red Light”, “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten Twice Shy”.

Now was the time for P1060877the third of the bands that I was really looking forward to, the all female Femme Fatale. With one release in 1988, spawning two MTV video hits, the Lorraine Lewis fronted band faded away. Returning in 2013 as the only original member (that was all male aside from her in the past), Lorraine collected a bevy of extremely talented beauties for this re-launch. Their sets on 2013’s MOR Cruise won over my fanship as they are an extremely fun party band, great musicians (given that the two guitarists also play Iron Maiden covers in the world’s only all female tribute to the Brits, The Iron Maidens) and of course not hard on the eyes! The set, usually comprised of that only release and maybe a cover song or two, had the addition of something special this time around. Back in the day Femme Fatale had recorded, but never issued, a follow-up album, which Lorraine proudly announced would soon be surfacing via Nashville’s FnA Records. From that finally forthcoming long lost gem Femme Fatale treated the M3 crowd to “Lady In Waiting”, a much heavier composition than the debut album’s containments and a great enticement for the album’s purchase. Along with “Lady in Waiting” Lorraine and crew rocked M3 with “Falling In And Out Of Love”, “My Baby’s Gun”, “Back In Your Arms Again”, “If”, “Rebel” and “Waiting For The Big One”.

Christian rockers Stryper took over the festival stage led on the wings of Michael Sweet’s distinctive vocal qualities. The band, whose latest offering, No More Hell To Pay, is just like Keel and the best in their catalog. Never really getting into Styper in their heyday, due in part to the shrillness of Sweet’s vocal range which seems to have softened just enough over the years, intrigued me with the snippets of the MORC performances that I’d witnessed in 2012 and 2013. A full show in Toronto after that and the issue of the awesome No More Hell To Pay cemented the bargain. They rocked the house at M3 to the delight of the decently packed pavilion Stage, still adhering to the gimmick of tossing out bibles near the end of the show. Looking around me, I couldn’t help being struck by the thought: how rude it is to throw the “horns” when this band is on stage! “To Hell With the Devil”, “The Rock That Makes Me Roll”, “Calling On You”, “Free”, “More Than A Man”, KISS’ “Shout It Out Loud”, “Legacy”, “No More Hell To Pay”, “The Way” and “Soldiers Under Command” were the song selections chosen.

Jake E. Lee’s return to the musical arena that got off to a rocky start with the premier event is now a steamroller out of control rocking over anything and everything in their path! Having seen Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel four times in recent months, they just seem to get better and better and M3’s show on the “Festival Stage” was no exception. For this shortened set event, they chose to go with “Ultimate Sin” (Ozzy Osbourne), “Deceived”, “War Machine”, “High Wire” (Badlands), “Shout It Out” and “Feeder”.

The Todd LaTorre fronted version of Queensryche stormed the “Pavillion” with their brand of progressive metal. LaTorre’s vocals sound distinctly similar to those of Geoff Tate and, therefore, he delivers the back catalog material flawlessly, injecting new energy at the same time. Confining their set to only the first five Queesryche issues we found “Nightrider”, “Breaking the Silence”, “Walk In The Shadows”, “Warning”, “Eyes of a Stranger”, “Empire”, “Queen of the Reich”, “Jet City Woman” and “Take Hold of the Flame” filling out the song selection. They also slipped in “Where Dreams Go To Die” from the self titled 2013 release featuring LaTorre on vocals.

The last of the toP1060923p four that I was looking forward to took their places on the “Festival Stage” as I trudged once again up and over the hill. Autograph’s Sign In Please album was one of the first that joined my collection in days of my youth and I’ve been waiting a long time to hear those tunes in a live setting. I got that chance aboard 2014’s MORC Cruise and now again here at M3, but that won’t be the end for me as I have their upcoming Toronto show in my sights as well! Happy to report that there were no disappointments whatsoever and they seemed tighter and more determined on this stage. Guitarist Steve Lynch and bassist Randy Rand are the sole original members remaining in the 2014 Autograph and are joined by vocalist/guitarist Simon Daniels (Jailhouse) and drummer Marc Weiland. Looking happier than possible to be back on stage Lynch and Rand simply shine while Daniels expertly handles the vocal role previously held by Steve Plunkett as Weiland pounds out the back beat like an animal. Gracing their setlist are selections from all three of the original Autograph outputs such as: “Deep End”, “Dance All Night”, “Loud and Clear”, “Bad Boy”, “Blondes in Black Cars”, “Send Her To Me”, “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me”, “She Never Looked That Good For Me”, “Crazy World” and of course the smash “Turn Up The Radio” to close things up.

In probably the biggest disappointment for me at M3, Sebastian Bach was due up next back in the pavilion. The former Skid Row frontman displayed what I can only describe as ridiculous, over-the-top arrogance throughout his set. That behavior served as the biggest turn off I’ve experienced in a live concert. Coupled with that was the incredibly louder than everyone else volume, which to a guy who “loves it loud”, never bothering (perhaps stupidly) to use earplugs just did not sound good. The whole charade took place in front of a huge Angel Down album cover backdrop, Bach’s release two albums ago!! “Slave to the Grind”, “Temptation”, “Big Gun”, “18 & Life”, “American Metalhead”, “Monkey Business”, “All My Friends Are Dead”, “I Remember You” and “Youth Gone Wild” completed a set that I even left without hearing the last two songs from having had enough of his pompous, crowd berating attitude.

L.A. Guns are a band that I’ve seen a few times and they always produce an entertaining set with M3 not breaking the mould. The packed set of “No Mercy”, “Sex Action”, “Never Enough”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “Over The Edge”, “Revolution”, “Kiss My Love Goodbye”, “Eel Pie”, “one More Reason”, “Electric Gypsy”, “The Ballad of Jayne” and “Rip and Tear” left little time for chatting between songs. The rain began falling again, light at first but getting heavier brought the memories of yesterday’s soaking flooding back and I retreated to the pavilion before the end of the L.A. Guns show.

Getting tired near the end of this long day jam packed with rock (as well as sun and beers) I chose to take it easy in my seat at the pavilion for Night Ranger. Not being a big fan of their music, only knowing “Sister Christian” and “(You Can Still) Rock In America” I was again, as I had been on 2012’s MORC, struck by their awesomeness live. During that set on The Monsters of Rock Cruise guitarist Brad Gillis was seriously impressive with his playing on a cover of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, which, unfortunately, did not appear here. The set was, however, peppered with Night Ranger classics as well as two Damn Yankees selections seeing as frontman Jack Blades was an integral portion of that “supergroup”. Nestled among the inclusions on the setlist was the debut of a new track, titled “High Road” from Night Ranger’s the forthcoming album.

Being as tired and P1070029“out of gas” as I was I chose to skip Slaughter’s performance over on the “Festival Stage” and instead grab a bite to eat and, what the heck, another cold beer! Back at my seat I awaited the last band of the festival, Tesla, to take the stage.

Tesla is an incredible entity live, sounding nearly identical to their recorded work. Eddie Trunk introduced them, declaring that they had just minutes ago signed on for their fourth consecutive Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2015. In keeping with what seems to be the M3 trend, Tesla also debuted some new music with a song from their forthcoming album titled “MP3(Too Much Technology)”. The song seemed not to deviate from the Tesla formula, which is not by any means a bad thing and sounded as it could have easily fit into The Great Radio Controversy album from 1988. The rest of the set contained “I Wanna Live”, “Hang Tough”, “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, “Mama’s Fool”, “Into The Now”, “The Way It Is”, “What You Give”, “Love Song”, “Signs”, “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi”

All in all, a great little two day festival event, stretched into three with the M-Pre-party and certainly something under my radar for 2015. I just hope that M3 takes place the weekend directly after the Monsters of Rock Cruise next year so that it’ll be easier to take the time off from work…..if I go to too many more rock festival vacations I’m liable to lose my job! And with that it’s off to Sweden Rock Festival in June…..stay tuned.

Chmeister logoeers,
The Meister


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The Meister at M3 Festival
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