M3 Rock Festival Day One Concert Review

DAY ONE KIX ASS

Show Date: May 1, 2015
Location: Columbia, Maryland, U.S.A.
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Reviewer: Olivier
Band Websites: www.jackrussellsgreatwhite.com    www.korupted.com    www.trixterrocks.com    www.ronniejamesdio.com www.officialquietriot.com    www.dokkencentral.com    www.kixband.com

The M3 Rock Festival was finally here. Unlike last year’s edition, I wisely flew into town the day before. Instead of missing two complete acts (Bad Seed Rising and Winger) and parts of Lita Ford‘s set last year on Day One, I ended up only missing one song given that Jack Russell’s Great White started earlier than I thought. That is major progress already!

IMG_3112A nice new addition from the M3 Rock Festival this year was offering an acoustic performance from Jack Russell’s Great White to all VIP ticket holders. This is certainly a nice incentive for people to purchase VIP tickets. Funny enough, I don’t think that I had ever attended an acoustic performance before so Russell‘s set would be a first! As my friend The Meister and I made our way to the main pavilion stage, we could hear Russell singing “Call It Rock N’ Roll”. Russell may have gone through hell and back about five or six years ago but the one thing that he kept was his great voice. Accordingly, Russell was a good pick to kick off the M3 Rock Festival for VIP ticket holders especially if the set was to take place on an acoustic basis. I enjoyed the Great White songs that Russell elected to play alongside guitarist Robby Lochner. Songs like “Desert Moon”, “On Your Knees” and the new track “Hard Habit” fit in well with the Great White staples “Save All Your Love”, “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten”. There were some surprise covers including Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” and Neil Young‘s “Old Man”. Lochner treated the crowd to a guitar solo essentially mimicking a classical composition which name which still escapes me at this time. Russell closed off his set which appeared to go over his allotted time slot with the Led Zeppelin cover “Going To California”.

While it was great to be able to benefit from the bonus performance from Russell due to having paid the higher VIP ticket price, I think that attendance might have been better had Russell not played the night before at a venue called Union Jack’s Pub, which was literally walking distance from the Merriweather Post Pavillion venue. It also took a little bit away from the VIP ticket holders’ “exclusive” performance from Russell since any of the M3 Rock Festival attendees could catch Russell doing what I understand was the exact same songs a night earlier in the same town. At the end of the day, you can’t blame Russell for lining up another gig in order to make a living and I was happy to see Russell given that I had elected to attend the M3 Pre Party at the Sonoma Bar & Grill rather than Russell‘s acoustic performance at Union Jack’s Pub the night before.

IMG_3136I have never been a big fan of tribute or cover bands so the choice of having Maryland based Korupt play at the M3 Rock Festival felt like an odd one to me. The fact that Korupt chose to forge ahead with their scheduled M3 Rock Festival performance despite the recent passing of their lead vocalist Sean McCall to pay tribute to their fallen comrade certainly provided a “feel good” story but did not in my eyes help to justify the band taking the spot of a legitimate original band. I was able to identify half of the songs that Korupt played, namely Megadeth‘s “Symphony Of Destruction”, Accept‘s “Balls To The Wall” and Judas Priest‘s “Electric Eye”. At the end of the day, I enjoyed the songs that Korupt played and temporary fill in lead vocalist Buddy Zappa did a good job for what I understand was his first gig with the band.

IMG_3147Trixter was next and unfortunately is not a band that I ever got into back in the 90s. I did end up purchasing their Undercovers record prior to the M3 Rock Festival but that did not really warm me up to the band’s music. What struck me the most when Trixter hit the stage was how short that lead vocalist Pete Loran, guitarist Steve Brown and bassist P.J. Farley seemed on stage. The one thing that I noticed which was different from last year’s M3 Rock Festival was that Trixter had their band logo up on a big screen on stage which was a lot better than seeing the M3 banner for all of the bands’ performances like last year. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the songs played by Trixter but I found that the band put in a good performance overall and that in particular, guitarist Brown was a bundle of energy.

Finally, Dio Disciples were up next and really were the first band that I was really looking forward to seeing live. I was intrigued to see who would be handling lead vocals for this super group who has counted on some well known vocalists such as IMG_3178Tim “Ripper” Owens and Oni Logan in the recent past. I was not surprised to see that the line-up consisted of ex-Dio members, guitarist Craig Goldy, drummer Simon Wright and keyboardist Scott Warren alongside bassist Bjorn Englen. As the band launched into an awesome rendition of “Holy Diver”, I could not make out exactly who was the lead vocalist but assumed that it was Mark Boals. As it turns out, it was newly recruited singer Joe Retta and his singing along with Queensryche‘s Todd La Torre‘s vocals were probably the most impressive of the M3 Rock Festival. Man, this Retta sure could sing! One surprise was seeing Logan show up for “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, the second song played by Dio Disciples. It was even more surprising to see Logan and Retta share the lead vocals from time to time for the rest of the evening. While Logan may be the better known lead vocalist, Retta was clearly the singer that impressed me the most out of the two when it comes to tackling the always difficult task of singing the songs from the incomparable Ronnie James Dio.

I am not a big fan of the Rainbow song “Stargazer” but after that one, it was just one fantastic track after another with “Stand Up And Shout”, “The Last In Line”, “Long Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Heaven And Hell”. The stellar tracks one after another had me singing along quite loudly and highfiving and giving thumbs up to many strangers and a few friends close by. The only disappointing thing about Dio Disciples‘ set was that it was only eight songs long as I would have loved to hear some Dio classic tracks live such as “Rainbow In The Dark” or “Children Of The Sea”.

IMG_3185With an improved view / vantage point, I was sure to really enjoy myself for the remainder of the evening. Next up was the legendary Quiet Riot which only has drummer Frankie Banali left from the group’s most famous and popular line-up. Having seen the band play live about two years ago when lead singer Scott Vokoun was still in the band, I was very intrigued to hear how new lead vocalist Jizzy Pearl would sound and fit with the rest of the band. My verdict is that I really like Pearl fronting Quiet Riot. Not only does he do justice to the Quiet Riot classics but I found that the group felt like a band of  “closer” equals — although Banali is unquestionably the leader — given that Pearl has a solid heavy metal resume under his belt having fronted bands such as L.A. Guns and Ratt in the past. Having seen the Vokoun fronted Quiet Riot in the past, it sort of felt like that version of the band had three metal veterans with a rookie vocalist.

IMG_3215Not surprisingly, Quiet Riot played six tracks from their six time platinum “debut” record Metal Health. Songs such as “Run For Cover”, “Love’s A Bitch” and “Let’s Get Crazy” still sound fresh and current to this day. I was particularly pleased that the group played “Sign Of The Times”, one of my favorite from the underrated Condition Critical record. Quiet Riot played one track, “It Sucks To Be You”, that sounded good but that I was unfamiliar with. I initially thought that the song must emanate from the band’s last record 10 which features six new studio tracks featuring Pearl on vocals but I later figured out that the song originates from Rehab, the last studio record featuring deceased frontman Kevin Dubrow. Quiet Riot ended their strong performance with their two best known songs, “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Metal Health”, which seemed to have just about everyone in the audience singing along.

IMG_3228One band that needs no introduction for me since I own all of the group’s discography is Dokken. While I admit that I have not listened to the most popular Dokken tracks in a number of years, I still know all — or almost all — the words to the Dokken hits and it was a real treat to be up close to see Dokken play on this night. The biggest unknown of course was going to be Don Dokken‘s voice. How would the man sound? Certainly, some of the youtube videos that I had seen in recent years suggested that Don Dokken‘s voice was almost shot. I was pleasantly surprised how good Don Dokken‘s voice sounded at the M3 Rock Festival. Sure, he doesn’t sing like he used to thirty years ago but on this night, I thought he sounded pretty good. Dokken hit the stage with “Kiss Of Death” and the first thing I noticed was that Dokken had — as usual — one kick ass guitarist, this time being Jon Levin. That guy can play the guitar and with his thin frame, also has a great look!

IMG_3264It was fun and entertaining to hear Don Dokken regale the audience with tales from the time when the band was recording songs such as “Into The Fire” and “Breaking The Chains”. One surprise of the night and a real treat was the inclusion of the track “Dream Warriors” that I had not heard in probably ten years and that I originally bought on vinyl back in the day! It was also fun hearing party animal “Wild” Mick Brown screaming from time to time to the audience “Everybody scream!”. Brown is a solid ying to Don Dokken‘s yang. All of the other expected Dokken hits were played including “Alone Again” and “In My Dreams”. Towards the end, it seemed that Don Dokken sped things up a bit so that the group could squeeze one more song, “Just Got Lucky”, into its set. Overall, I was really happy to have seen Dokken play on this night as the only time that I had previously seen the band play live dates back to 2002. While there have been divergent views on the quality of Don Dokken‘s voice during his band’s M3 performance, for me, Dokken were the band that caught me the most by surprise in terms of putting on an excellent set and I count their performance as one of my favorites of the M3 Rock Festival 2015 event.

IMG_3316When the M3 Rock Festival’s official “schedule” came out a few days prior to the event starting, I was shocked that Kix was getting to play for one hour and forty minutes on Day One, which was 55 minutes more than any other performer on Day One and 35 minutes more than any performer on Day Two including headliner Europe. While I still feel that Kix‘s time could have been distributed a little more evenly between the bands that played on Day One, you got to hand it to Kix, the Maryland based rockers know how to put on a great show and rock the place out year after year! Led by the incomparably energetic Steve Whiteman, Kix never fails to entertain whenever they hit the M3 stage. Judging by the audience reaction around me, it is also safe to say that many people in the audience were more than happy to have Kix play an extended set on Day One.

IMG_3290Hitting the stage with the opening track “Wheels In Motion” from their very good new studio record (in 19 years!) Rock Your Face Off, Kix put the foot on the accelerator and never let up the entire evening. By the time that Kix started playing their second song of the night, “Girl Money”, crowd participation was already very strong as the crowd sang along right on cue whenever prompted by Whiteman. Kix‘s new songs from Rock Your Face Off were spread out throughout their set and frankly fit in really well with the Kix classics from 25 to 35 years ago. One of the encores was even new track “Can’t Stop The Show”. Whiteman unshamefully plugged Kix‘s new record even calling people — hopefully jokingly — “assholes” if they had not bought the new record yet! What I like about Whiteman and what makes him stand out — aside from his super energetic movements and slim figure — is IMG_3337that he engages the audience, talks to them and frankly is a bit unpredictable and sometimes politically incorrect on what he might say.

While I might have been a little miffed at first at how much time that Kix were getting to play on Day One compared to the other bands, shortly after Kix started their set, I was happy that the group was getting to play a long set. As their set time grew to a close, I was ready and pining to hear more from the local state heroes. There may be controversy every year on whether the M3 Rock Festival’s headlining band was the appropriate one but one thing is for sure, Kix always delivers on Day One of the M3 Rock Festival!

Dio Disciples’ setlist:
01. Holy Diver
02. Egypt (Chains Are On)
03. Stargazer‎
04. Stand Up And Shout
05. The Last In Line
06. Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll
07. ‎Man On The Silver Mountain
08. Heaven And Hell

Quiet Riot’s setlist:
01. Run For Cover
02. Slick Black Cadillac
03. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
04. Love’s A Bitch
05. Sign Of The Times
06. Let’s Get Crzay
07. It Sucks To Be You
08. Cum On Feel The Noize
09. Metal Health

Dokken’s setlist:
01. Kiss Of Death
02. The Hunter
03. Dream Warriors
04. Into The Fire
05. Breaking The Chains
06. Alone Again
07. In My Dreams
08. Tooth And Nail
09. Just Got Lucky

Kix’s setlist:
01. Wheels In Motion
02. Girl Money
03. No Ring Around The Rosie
04. You’re Gone
05. Sex
06. The Itch
07. Midnight Dynamite
08. Mean Miss Adventure
09. Don’t Close Your Eyes
10. Get It While It’s Hot
11. Guitar solo (Ronnie Younkins)
12. Cold Blood
13. Drum solo
14. Love Me With Your Top Down
15. Blow My Fuse
Encores:
16. Can’t Stop The Show
17. Guitar solo (Brian “Damage” Forsythe)
18, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah