STRONG START TO DAY TWO
Show Date: May 2, 2015
Location: Columbia, Maryland, U.S.A.
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Band Websites: www.badseedrisingband.com killerdwarfsband.com www.rhinobucket.com www.tyketto.com vixenofficial.com blacknblueofficial.com
With literally zero minutes to five minutes scheduled between bands’ start times between the main pavilion stage and the side stage for the first six scheduled bands on day two of the M3 Rock Festival, I knew that I would have to make some hard decisions early on regarding which bands’ sets I would not see in their entirety. The first decision — which actually was quite easy — was to bypass entirely the first band (Bad Seed Rising) scheduled to open day two. Accordingly, my friend The Meister and I made our way to the side stage at 10:45 am, which was a whopping 45 minutes before the first band (Killer Dwarfs) was scheduled to start there. The sun was shining with a few clouds in the sky. I was quite shocked to see that the side stage’s dimensions and layout had changed dramatically from the previous year. The biggest difference was that the side stage was now much lower to the ground and so much so that the bands performing would likely only be one “head” above the first row of the crowd in front of them. This was a sharp contrast to last year’s side stage that was high up in the air and which gave all in the audience a great view of that stage.
While The Meister and I’s view of the side stage for the Killer Dwarfs‘ set was going to be very good since we were part of the second row of people behind the stage barrier, it quickly dawned on me that the sight lines of the side stage for most of the crowd would be poor to abysmal (due to being limited to seeing the performers’ heads and not much more). This prompted my first “hard” decision of foregoing the sets from both Rhino Bucket and Vixen on the main pavilion stage in order to keep my spot near the stage barrier for the upcoming sets from Tyketto and Black ‘N’ Blue on the side stage. While the Meister and I waited patiently in the hot sun for the Killer Dwarfs to start their set, we ran into two friendly ladies from Toronto who were surprise surprise Killer Dwarfs‘ fans. Funny how we had to be nine hours from the Toronto area to all meet when we likely all attend many of the same shows in Toronto.
While patiently waiting for the Killer Dwarfs, I ended up catching most of Bad Seed Rising‘s set on the main pavilion stage because their set was shown on the big screen next to the side stage. I get that Bad Seed Rising are likely considered the local new band but frankly, I find that the youngsters’ music genre does not fit in with the M3 Rock Festival. Bad Seed Rising play what I would consider to be alternative rock which is far removed from the “80s sound” that most of the other bands on the M3 bill play. I have nothing against Bad Seed Rising but when I think of the M3 Rock Festival including this group for the last three years in its line-up, I think of a parent forcing a child to eat something that the child does not like. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t need it and you don’t want it but yet you are forced to take it in. While the band surely has an audience for its genre of music, the M3 crowd is most likely not that audience. To make matters worse for Bad Seed Rising, the band scheduled to open the side stage was the Killer Dwarfs who were making their much anticipated debut at the M3 Rock Festival. There was literally a sea of people as far as my eyes could see waiting prior to the Dwarfs hitting the stage (and while Bad Seed Rising were still playing).
This takes me to the Killer Dwarfs. Having already seen them play live a couple of times in the last few years, I knew what the Dwarfs were capable of. It never gets old for me to see the Killer Dwarfs‘ 50 year old (or so) lead singer Russ Dwarf ride a tricycle, do head stands and surf the crowd, and the diminutive frontman did not disappoint. That being said, although the Killer Dwarfs have their share of stage antics due to their lead vocalist, it is the music that counts at the end of the day and the Killer Dwarfs have a multitude of great songs to choose from. I was actually curious to see which songs they would end playing considering that they only had 30 minutes to play. It seemed that there was a real buzz in the crowd to hear and see the Killer Dwarfs play. The Dwarfs hit the stage with “Comin’ Through”, one of my favorite songs of theirs. Russ Dwarf was walking around like a seemingly deranged patient from a mental institution before he started singing the song. The big smile on guitarist Gerry “Dwarf” Finn‘s face spoke volumes of how the band likely felt while playing its set.
Given that the group only had 30 minutes to play, frontman Russ Dwarf kept the chatter to a minimum although he jokingly addressed the crowd by saying “Hello Cleveland” and acknowledged to a fan that he knew it was drummer Darrell “Dwarf” Millar‘s (50th) birthday. I am sure that had the band had more time to play, Millar‘s 50th birthday would have been acknowledged a lot more by Russ Dwarf. The band’s signature ballad “It Doesn’t Matter” was played early on as the third song of the set and had a large portion of the crowd singing along. I was particularly pleased to hear the band play “Stand Tall”, for which the band made a hilarious video for back in the day. Given that the sight lines for the side stage were quite poor for anyone not in the first two rows, it was awesome to see frontman Russ Dwarf do his traditional crowd surfing and even cooler to see him literally stand on top of the crowd. There is only one Russ Dwarf — that’s for sure! In addition, not only did Russ Dwarf do his traditional head stand and ride a tricycle (I can’t even imagine sitting on one with my feet on the pedals) but this time around, he smashed his tricycle to smithereens. The tricycle’s destruction must not have been planned because manager Rob Zakojc was seen afterwards initially trying to put the tricycle back together from the side of the stage. The Killer Dwarfs closed their too short set with their anthem “Keep The Spirit Alive” and the strong “Dirty Weapons”. The Dwarfs put on an amazing performance and set the bar nice and high for the next acts to follow.
One band that I had really been looking forward to see for the first time was Rhino Bucket but given that I did not want to lose my spot at the side stage, I elected to skip their set on the main pavilion stage. I was able to catch Rhino Bucket‘s set given that it was broadcast on the big screen adjacent to the side stage. I love the group’s music but it terms of stage presence, Rhino Bucket didn’t seem to do a whole lot.
At my friend The Meister’s recommendation and insistence, I made a priority of catching Tyketto‘s set even though I could not get into their lighter fare hair metal songs prior to this year’s M3 Rock Festival. The Meister had apparently first saw Tyketto play at last year’s Monsters of Rock cruise and has not been able to help himself from singing the band’s praises ever since. Whomever announced Tyketto to the stage had advised that their frontman Danny Vaughn had an amazing voice and that almost felt like an understatement once I finally heard Vaughn sing. Not only could Vaughn really sing but he proved to have a good sense of humour and was entertaining to listen to when he addressed the crowd. For instance, Vaughn noted that it had been twenty years since Tyketto last performed in the state of Maryland. He then asked a series of questions to the audience including “Who has not seen Tyketto before?” to “Who was thinking who the fuck is Tyketto?”. Vaughn also shared some good news in that Tyketto‘s debut record was finally going to get rereleased meaning people would not have to pay an arm and a leg via amazon to get it.
Tyketto played mostly songs from their debut record with four out of six tracks emanating from that release including set opener “Lay Your Body Down” and set closer “Forever Young”, the latter of which prompted a lot of people to sing along. I have to say that I was quite surprised how much I liked Tyketto‘s songs as they really came alive in the live setting of the M3 Rock Festival. Just like the Killer Dwarfs, there was a sea of people behind me as far as the eyes could see. Even though I thought that the Killer Dwarfs had set the bar very high early on with their performance, I was surprised that Tyketto were able to meet that level and maybe even raise it a notch or two. My friend The Meister was right! There is something magical about Tyketto live and the group’s magic was indeed present at the M3 Rock Festival. I will definitely be picking up Tyketto‘s debut record whenever it gets rereleased.
Another casualty for me due to the poor sight lines of the side stage turned out to be Vixen. By the time that Tyketto finished their set, I was now at the stage barrier itself with no one in front of me to impede my vision of the side stage (aside from the various photographers for the first three songs of any band’s set). I simply could not let such a great spot go when Black ‘N’ Blue were next to hit the side stage. Accordingly, I skipped Vixen‘s set in its entirety and settled for watching most of it on the big screen by the side of the side stage. To be honest, I was not heartbroken by any means since Vixen‘s songs such as “Cryin'” and “Edge Of A Broken Heart” were always too much on the light spectrum of rock for me back in the day and still to this day.
By the time that Black ‘N’ Blue were about to hit the stage, I must say that the sun and the lack of any liquids in my body for the last two and a half hours were starting to take their toll on me. The effect of this would actually kick in later on in the afternoon. Back in the mid to late 80s, I wasn’t into Black ‘N’ Blue but I did pick up the group’s debut record in anticipation of the band’s M3 Rock Festival appearance this year. It turns out that I really like Black ‘N’ Blue‘s debut record so I was really looking forward to hearing the band play live. Black ‘N’ Blue did not disappoint as they put on a spirited set of classic 80s metal. The band sounded actually heavier than I remembered them back in the 80s. Lead vocalist Jaime St. James was all decked out in 80s type clothing and look with a huge bandana, fish nets on his arms, a leather vest and of course his big hair.
Just like the Killer Dwarfs and Tyketto, Black ‘N’ Blue sped through their set and St. James kept the chatter to a minimum given the mere 30 minutes that they had on stage. Not surprisingly, more than half of the songs that Black ‘N’ Blue played emanated from the group’s stellar debut self-titled record. Since I was mostly only familiar with that record, I was pleased with the song selection. After the band kicked off its short set with “Get Wise To The Rise”, “School Of Hard Knocks” and “Autoblast”, St. James advised the crowd that the luckiest person in the world was “him”. It seemed to me that it would have been more appropriate to state that the luckiest people were all five band members and it actually seemed like newest Black ‘N’ Blue member and guitarist Brandon Cook was about to correct St. James on that point.
I was actually very impressed with Cook who looked like he had been in the band for decades rather than two or so years based on how comfortable he looked out there and how well he fit in the band despite his rather serious look throughout the group’s set. St. James in particular seemed very appreciative of playing in front of such a big crowd at the M3 Rock Festival as he pointed out after “Nasty Nasty” that this “was worth the flight to the east coast right there”. The one song played by Black ‘N’ Blue that I was not crazy about was the ballad “Miss Mystery” but I get why the band played it. Black ‘N’ Blue closed their set with “Chains Around Heaven” and their sing along classic “Hold On To 18”. Just like the Killer Dwarfs and Tyketto before them, I thought that Black ‘N’ Blue brought their A game and put on a great performance!
Killer Dwarfs’ set list:
01. Comin’ Through
02. Hard Luck Town
03. It Doesn’t Matter
04. Stand Tall
05. Keep The Spirit Alive
06. Dirty Weapons
01. Lay Your Body Down
02. Rescue Me
03. Burning Down Inside
04. Dig In Deep
06. Forever Young
Black ‘N’ Blue’s setlist:
01. Get Wise To The Rise
02. School Of Hard Knocks
04. Nasty Nasty
05. Miss Mystery
06. Chains Around Heaven
07. Hold On To 18