M-Pre Party Concert Review

M-PRE PARTY ROCKS

Show Date: April 30, 2015
Location: Columbia, Maryland, U.S.A.
Venue: Sonoma Bar & Grill
Reviewer: Olivier
Band Websites:  www.lastcallmessiah.com     www.facebook.com/pages/Lady-Beast-Heavy-Metal/    www.nastyhabitkills.com    stationnyc.bandcamp.com/    www.mach22music.com

As I was leaving the Sonoma Bar & Grill venue after the five bands — all handpicked by M-Pre Party organizer Dave Dillman — had played their sets, I could not help but think how lucky I was to have seen all these bands play live under one roof given that none of these bands had yet to play in the Toronto, Canada area as far as I know. I admit not being familiar or that familiar with any of the bands aside from Nasty Habit when the line-up for the 2015 edition of the M-Pre Party was first announced. As it would turn out, the two bands that I was not familiar with at all at that time, Last Call Messiahs and Lady Beast, turned out to have delivered some of my favorite records of recent time. Last Call Messiahs‘ debut EP pretty much is the epitome of what sleaze rock is all about (click here to read my review) and Lady Beast‘s debut record will instantly bring you back to that amazing New Wave of British Heavy Metal era (click here to read my review).

IMG_2900With that being said, it should be no surprise that the two bands that I was most looking forward to seeing play live were Last Call Messiahs and Lady Beast, and both delivered in spades. Last Call Messiahs had the somewhat difficult task of kicking things off and hitting the stage around 7:30 pm. Nevertheless, they did a great job and had the support from a large North Carolina contingent that apparently came to support the band all the way to Maryland. The sleazy rockers kicked off their set with a couple of tracks that I was not familiar with but which sounded quite good on a first listen. Frontman Chris Clark introduced one of the those songs as “White Trash Kittykat” and I won’t be forgetting that song title anytime soon. Before long, Last Call Messiahs started playing the songs from their stellar self-titled debut EP which included three in a row starting with “City Of Trash”, “Sinner’s Swing” and “Hollywood & Vine”. In my review of the band’s debut EP, I had previously mentioned that I did not know which song was my favorite but I have now settled on “Hollywood & Vine”.

IMG_2925Last Call Messiahs sounded great and I particularly liked lead guitarist Jeff Young‘s guitar playing which wasn’t flashy or flamboyant but melodic and well played. The band played a few more new songs, “Amen To Alcohol” and “Innocent”, which I really liked and hope make it onto the band’s next record. Last Call Messiahs ended their set by calling out two of their North Carolina supporters on stage to sing background vocals during their set closer “Last Call Messiah”. While the two ladies were certainly into the last song, their background vocals missed the mark for a good portion of the song as a lot of time, they were not singing in the microphone! Funnily enough, bassist Steve Blasko had to help the ladies focus on where to sing into. In any case, Last Call Messiahs closed off their set in rocking fashion and have come a very long way in a very short amount of time considering that the band is only in existence since last year. This is definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

IMG_2985The most anticipated band of the night for my friend The Meister and I was hands down Lady Beast. As it turns out, we were lucky to have the band grace the stage on this night as the group had all sorts of hurdles to overcome to make it to the M3 Pre Party. Probably, the biggest hurdle was that long-time bassist Greg Colaizzi was suddenly unavailable to attend the gig anymore due to a little baby soon to be coming to this world. Luckily, drummer Adam Ramage‘s brother Andy Ramage came to the rescue and filled in on the bass for the show. Had I not known that Andy Ramage was just filling in, I would have thought that he had been part of the band for a long time because you could hear his bass licks as clear as day, the band sounded tight and he looked comfortable out there. Not only was it Andy Ramage‘s first gig with the band but it was also new (but also “old” as lead singer Deborah Levine explained) guitarist Stephen Lauck‘s debut IMG_2996gig with the band. As I would learn later on during the night after Lady Beast‘s set, Lauck had just returned on Tuesday from a three week motorcycle trip so the band did some major practice cramming in the days leading to the M3 Pre Party. Whatever the case, Lady Beast sounded great and tight.

The star of the show was undoubtedly Levine who was sporting tons of tattoos, blue hair and one huge grin during the entire band’s set. Levine prayed like a panther on the stage while singing her guts out. Her huge smile spoke volumes on how much fun she was having up there. There was no doubt who was the heaviest band on the bill on this night. Lady Beast‘s brand of NWOBHM will take you back to those early Iron Maiden days. In a way, it was a funny contrast to see Levine smiling from ear to ear and bopping along while performing when the band’s songs are so heavy. However, although Lady Beast‘s songs are definitely on the heavy side, I find them quite uplifting as well. Lady Beast kicked off their set with “Heavy Metal Destiny”, the first song released from their new record Lady Beast II, and “Lady Beast”, the title track to their stellar debut record and perhaps my favorite track from the group. Levine even gave a shout out to The Meister and I after the band’s second song for being true supporters of rock and roll (or something like that).

IMG_2960From then on, Lady Beast launched from one song to the next from their new record Lady Beast II. Unlike other reviews where I mention “record” but implicitly mean “CD” since a band’s record is really only available on CD, Lady Beast‘s new record Lady Beast II was only available for the time being on vinyl! I usually don’t plug a band’s merchandise but Lady Beast have both of their records out on vinyl and the albums are absolutely spectacular looking taking you back to the good old days of vinyl (think of the album opening up the way KISSAlive did). Even though both The Meister and I each do not currently have a vinyl record player, we each could not resist the temptation of purchasing vinyl copies of the band’s records. As it would turn out, I missed out on that opportunity as the band left presumably back for Pittsburgh — and unfortunately for me — during Station‘s set prior to me picking up my vinyl copies. The Meister was quicker on the draw for that one! My favorite tracks played by Lady Beast were the first two, “Bind The Runes” and set closer “Banshee”. A big thank you goes out to the Meister who was kind enough to allow me to use his Decibel Geek videos for this review.

IMG_2967The one drawback about Lady Beast‘s set is that it was a short one, particularly after I saw how long that Station got to play later on (more on that later on in this review)! However, from what I understand, given that Andy Ramage was pinch hitting for the band on short notice, he only learnt or had time to learn those eight songs. At the end of the day, I was just happy that the band was able to make it out at all considering all the hurdles that they had to overcome. As it turns out, due to the rioting and 10:00 pm curfew imposed in nearby Baltimore at that time, Lady Beast had to cancel their gig in Baltimore for the next night to The Meister and I’s chagrin since we had planned on leaving the M3 Rock Festival early to catch Lady Beast‘s set in Baltimore. Clearly, Lady Beast‘s set left us clamouring for more of the band’s NWOBHM style heavy metal.

IMG_3015Next up was Syracuse, New York band Nasty Habit. These four young guys put on what I consider to be the best performance of the night, particularly due to lead singer Tommy Ende‘s complete use of the stage and obvious comfort in communicating with the audience. Right from the start, it was obvious that Tommy Ende was very comfortable with being on stage. As the M-Pre Party’s organizer Dave Dillman thanked certain sponsors, Tommy Ende spontaneously took the opportunity to advise that he had one person to thank and that was Dillman. While I may not have been enamoured with all of the songs on the band’s second EP Desperate Times, Desperate Measures, I enjoyed all of the songs that Nasty Habit had to offer on this night. Although I only recognized a handful of songs, namely “Goodbye”, “Heartless” and “Don’t Bring Me Down”, the ones that really caught my attention were some of the new tracks and in particular “Rain Or Shine”, which is built on an awesome guitar riff and groove from guitarist Kenny Ende.

IMG_3017I don’t know if it was because Nasty Habit were returning to the M-Pre Party for the second year in a row or due to their set’s timing but they had the biggest crowd on hand to see them. The Sonoma Bar & Grill is a bit weirdly shaped for a live venue in that as you walk into the venue, the stage is to the left with a bar on the other end of the room while on the right are tons of high chairs and tables. Accordingly, any band taking the stage is really only playing to half of the venue although almost the entire venue has sight lines to the stage. Unfortunately for Last Call Messiahs, as the first band of the night, they had the entire front of their stage cluttered with the other bands’ drum kits. From what I understand, the bands’ drum kits were all located outside last year but with the rain coming down for part of the evening on this night, it was decided to “store” the drum kits of whichever bands were not playing in a row at the front of the stage. Whatever the case, by the time that Nasty Habit took to the stage, it seemed like most of the drum kits were no longer there.

IMG_3024What set Nasty Habit apart right away from the other bands on the bill is that the group had two banners with its band name on either side of the drum kit. While that might not seem like much, it gave a different visual look to their set compared to the other four bands. In addition, frontman Tommy Ende did not hesitate in repeatedly standing on the barriers between the stage and the audience giving again a different look to the band compared to the other four bands. Good for Nasty Habit for being able to distinguish themselves from the pack. After Nasty Habit‘s set, I spoke to Tommy Ende, who admittedly at first did not seem that happy with me due to Sleaze Roxx’s prior reviews of Nasty Habit‘s records. Once we jokingly — I hope — got past that, Tommy Ende eventually advised that the band had not put out its usual stage show as the group usually has smoke spewing and other things of that nature. At the end of the day, I enjoyed what each of Nasty Habit‘s members had to offer, from drummer David Jordan‘s hard hitting style to bassist Frankie Wheeler‘s awesome vocals and good looks (don’t read anything on that latter comment) to guitarist Kenny Ende‘s facial expressions while playing his groove licks to frontman Tommy Ende‘s poise and confidence while addressing the crowd. Hopefully, Nasty Habit make their way to Toronto one of these days because I would be more than happy to see them play live once again.

IMG_3046As it turns out, the “headliner” of the M-Pre Party was the band Station. I conclude this because Station got to play a lot longer than the rest of the four bands since they played what seemed like between 15 to 20 songs. Frankly, I lost count and interest halfway through their rather long set. Unfortunately for me, Station were the band that I was least familiar with out of the five bands playing the M-Pre Party. Although I heard a few of their tracks here and there, I simply could not get into their polished commercial sounding hard rock in advance of the M-Pre Party. I did enjoy the energy of the band and the first half of the group’s set. However, I got tired of hearing Station‘s brand of what I dub to be “lighter” hard rock. I think what happened was that I was expecting each band to play about the same number of songs so whenever I thought that Station would wrap up their set, they played another song and I eventually lost interest.

IMG_3033M-Pre Party’s organizer Dillman obviously really likes Station since they were apparently returning to play at the event for the third time and they got to play such a long set. In my mind, it was a shame that Station did not play at least four songs fewer since that could have meant that each of the other four bands would each have had an extra song to play. Although I was not crazy about Station‘s extended set, I did end up purchasing their new self-titled record since I did enjoy quite a few of their songs and particularly at the beginning of their set. While Station may not have made that much of an impression on me, they probably had the second biggest crowd of the night and they seemingly kept their audience — aside from perhaps myself — during their entire set.

IMG_3060The surprise act of the night was Philadelphia based Mach22. I had heard a couple of songs from Mach22 and seen their video for “Go Ahead” in support of their debut record Sweet Talk Intervention so knew that I liked their songs. I really liked what I heard and saw when the band finally hit the stage at what felt like quite late in the night. From frontman Lamont Caldwell‘s bluesy yet forceful vocals — which reminded me a little bit of Living Colour‘s Corey Glover both in style, facial expressions and skin tone — to bassist Jaron Gulino‘s energy, the band played a brand of music that I could hear all night long. One surprise tune was when Mach22 played a cover of Cinderella‘s “Shake Me”. Apparently, this should not be a surprise since Mach22‘s guitarist Sebastian LaBar is the son of Cinderella‘s guitarist Jeff LaBar.

IMG_3083Frankly, I thought that Sebastian LaBar looked a lot more like John Corabi with his look than his father. The ties between the band and Jeff LaBar actually go even deeper as the latter produced the band’s debut record that was released back in May 2014. Unfortunately for Mach 22, given that they ended up starting their set quite late, the crowd had thinned out quite a bit but that did not seem to bother the band who delivered a spirited performance nonetheless. Mach22 is definitely a band that I look forward to following in the future.

Last Call Messiahs’ setlist:
01. Hollywood’s Scream
02. Man’s Ruin
03. White Trash Kittykat
04. City of Trash
05. Sinner’s Swing
06. Hollywood & Vine
07. Amen To Alcohol
08. Innocent
09. Last Call Messiah

Lady Beast’s setlist:
01. Heavy Metal Destiny
02. Lady Beast
03. We Are The Witches
04. Lose To Win
05. Frost Giants Daughter
06. Bind The Runes
07. Caged Fury
08. Banshee

Nasty Habit’s setlist:
01. Money Hungry
02. Waste My Time
03. Heaven’s Gate
04. Goodbye
05. Hip Shakin’ Fox
06. Trophy Kids
07. Heartless
08. Turn Up The Radio
09. Rain Or Shine
10. Don’t Bring Me Down

Mach22’s setlist:
01. Like My Chances
02. Get Ready
03. Another Day
04. Radio
05. Go Ahead
06. Still Standing
07. Shake Me (Cinderella cover)
08. One Trick Pony
09. Don’t You Give Me
10. I’m Just A Man