M-Pre Party featuring Station, Wild America, FarCry, Zenora and Babylon Shakes Concert Review


Date: Thursday, May 5, 2022
Event: M-Pre Party
Venue: Cancun Cantina
Location: Hanover, Maryland, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

Very few things are certain in life. Death, taxes and a list of local rock n’ roll shows leading up to and trailing the M3 Rock Fest are among them. The list of (official) supplementing entertainment was somewhat on the thin side this year but thankfully, the annual M-Pre Party (hosted by D-Toxin Productions) led the pack and was back again in 2022 to jumpstart the weekend party that is Columbia’s M3 Rock Festival. Taking place once again at the Cancun Cantina in Hanover, Maryland, the roster of talent assembled to entertain and usher in rock fans from far and wide was once again impressive as it has been in years past.

Things got started with the much-anticipated comeback of Babylon Shakes, showcasing material from their brand-new album Vintage Soul Rocknroll. From there, it was on to the dynamite Zenora, melodic rock of FarCry and Station, and a sucker punch from Wild America that put the cherry on top of the cake. Considering all the great music on tap, tickets were very reasonably priced and presold for $25. Not bad at all considering that ticket included five bands. And with M-Pre taking place on the beach side of the venue that’s partially exposed to the outdoor elements, we were fortunate that the bad weather which plagued M3 hadn’t moved in… yet.

Babylon Shakes

Supporting new release Vintage Soul Rocknroll, Babylon Shakes made their heralded return to Maryland to jumpstart the M-Pre Party and officially begin the long weekend of music. They did just that and brought a good energy and all-around positive vibe to the stage with them. Fans of their previous effort, 2019’s Exile To The Velveteen Lounge, will find a lot to like with the new album too. Following a short-lived metamorphosis into The Blouse Brothers before resurrecting their original brand, the guys recorded a very rootsy, soulful and bluesy effort that is finally available online and at their shows. If that description has you worried, don’t be. The band hasn’t officially turned in their sleaze card.

They’ve just incorporated a few more elements into the overall scope of their music, but not outside of their wheelhouse or what they do. Think Cinderella’s transition from Long Cold Winter to Heartbreak Station or The Black Crowes‘ Shake Your Moneymaker versus The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, and you’ll have a general inkling as to the comparison that I’m making regarding the band’s evolution. The first time I heard the new album, I wondered if these songs were intended for The Blouse Brothers‘ debut before being reworked into a Babylon Shakes record. Nevertheless, the songs sound great and I always prefer that a band writes and records songs from the heart rather than catering to what their audience expects them to do over and over again.

Their nine-song set served as a means to introduce the new music to the masses and was very well received. Showing off a shiny new Thunderbird bass, Chris Herninko made his presence known on the blues stomping “Is It Any Wonder?”. The song sways, furrows and bounces which also makes it the perfect opener to their new album. The ballad “Another Broken Halo” was in fourth and slowed things down just a bit while displaying another facet of the band’s sound. It also gave the audience a chance to catch their breath after the first three songs of the set. It’s really a great song with a strong southern rock influence. “All My Mirrors” had that same hue, and immediately brought to mind Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps”, complete with cowbell which is nearly a requirement for the picture that the song paints so vividly. “Drink My Wine” was another standout in the show and opened with a howling harmonica while benefitting from big, bass drum kicks contributed by drummer Jeff Mortimer. “Same Ol’ Story” had that very same stomp and closed out the set alongside “Hatful of Soul”. Many of the songs that Babylon Shakes played in their brief set sounded like they were custom-made for the stage, and perhaps they were. I could have listened to them for much longer. They were that good. Give Vintage Soul Rocknroll a shot. I think you’ll be very glad you did.

Babylon Shakes’ setlist:
01. Seven Sisters Seven Moons
02. Feather On The Highway
03. Is It Any Wonder?
04. Another Broken Halo
05. All My Mirrors
06. Drink My Wine
07. Fifth of Never
08. Same Ol’ Story
09. Hatful of Soul


Returning from 2021, the skilled and always energetic Zenora made their way back to Maryland for a second consecutive appearance at the M-Pre Party. They didn’t forget to bring along the fire and frenetically delivered virtuoso that makes their music so unique and an onslaught to the listener’s ears. The New Jersey / Philadelphia based band plays with such gusto and zeal, that it’s hard not to like what they do and succeeds at setting their music apart from the pack. The young band’s music is also varied, and they incorporate different elements of metal and rock into what they do. Stylistically, they were possibly the heaviest band on the bill this year, helping to set them apart from the other bands due to that very footnote, and particularly on songs such as “Wasted” and “Fist of Lightning”.

Noticeably different at this show was lead singer Dylan Graff, who has grown more into his role as the frontman and face of the band. During several songs, he stowed his guitar away to set focus on commanding the stage. That did bode well for the audience’s perception of Zenora and made their set even more entertaining to watch. Rather than seeing four musicians onstage playing parts to various songs, Zenora presented themselves as a more cohesive unit this go around. Brothers Nick and Daniel Shute (on guitar and bass, respectively) with drummer John Kelly-Keifer anchor the band and power up the impact and musical precision that they’re known for. There was rarely a time that I looked over and didn’t see one of the guitarists headbanging or windmilling along as the band played on. Songs such as “Wasted”, “Sinner” and “Faster” demonstrate that unbridled, free-spirited fervor in their music which is tightly fired-off.

For me, the crown jewel of their set was once again “Bring Back Rock And Roll”. It’s anthemic and packed with big background vocals and an indelible beat. This one sounds great in the car, too. “Faster” and “Wasted” have those very same qualities. If not for the lead guitar riff that weaves in and out of the song, it could almost be considered punk rock. They wrapped things up with “Sinner”, which I thought to be one of the band’s most accessible songs of the whole night. The bobbing bassline and harmonious background vocals which Graff emotively croons over mesh together well and are a good representation of where Zenora really shine.

Zenora’s setlist:
01. Warchild
02. Faster
03. Catch A Break
04. Eyes of Diamonds
05. Wasted
06. Bring Back Rock and Roll
07. Fist of Lightning
08. Sinner


FarCry were the first of two fantastic melodic hard rock bands that were showcased at M-Pre. They do what they do very well in a true homage to this sub-genre of music – superb melodies layered over shredding guitars, crashing cymbals and underscored by a tight rhythm section. Appearing to promote their excellent 2021 CD Balance, they were one of two acts on the bill (with Station being the second of them) that I had never heard live before, despite the fact that they’ve been around for years and have opened for everyone from Skid Row and Lita Ford to Vince Neil. Not surprisingly, the bulk of their set was comprised of songs from Balance. My favorite of those was “Reaper”, which also opened up the show. The band reminds me of Dokken a bit, save for the fact that there are five band members.

Speaking of which, the concert stage at the Cancun Cantina suddenly becomes close quarters with that many people on stage. That makes it somewhat difficult for the members of the band to move around onstage and interact with the audience. “I’ll Find A Way” was another standout, with the guitar intro executed to perfection. The same can be said of the playing by all of the band members. Lead vocalist Bob Malone carried out all of the songs to perfection with a clean, polished vocal style. Remarkably, the band’s rhythm guitarist Jon Giesller was also running the band’s sound and would leave the stage long enough in between songs to twist the knobs and make sure all was well with their sound. Lead guitarist Pete Fry stole the show during FarCry’s set, blazing through one incendiary guitar solo after the next. For fans of polished, ’80s AOR hard rock, FarCry harken back to the days of screaming guitars, bombastic drums, big harmonies and lyrical themes of love lost and youthful disenchantment by the cold realities of the world. Where do I sign up?

FarCry’s setlist:
01. Reaper
02. She’s Crazy
03. Stay Away
04. I’ll Find A Way
05. Too Hot To Hold
06. Broken Dreams
07. Balance
08. Have It All
09. Love Won’t Wait


Following FarCry’s performance, it seemed as though everyone in the building rushed the floor in anticipation of Station taking the stage. Best known for melodic rock songs such as “Everything”, “All You Need Is A Heartbeat”, “With Me Tonight” and “A Matter of Time”, the melodic New York City based band is led by vocalist Patrick Kearney and guitarist Chris Lane and appeared in support of their 2021 album Perspective (their third release to chart on Billboard). No sooner than the final member of FarCry had left the stage, there was suddenly a huge swell of people at the front of the club and standing room was a huge commodity. You know what they say…. when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I grabbed a spot up front so that I could see exactly what all of the buzz was about, and the hype was not without merit.

As soon as Station took the stage, it didn’t take long to figure that out. Aficionados of high energy, straight-up arena rock delivered with plenty of attitude and passion were in just the right place if they were facing the stage for Station’s set at M-Pre. The band barreled through over fifteen songs and their set was so good it seemed like it was over in a blink. It was one of those performances that you get so caught up in the excitement that the show just flies by in no time. Station’s music is filled with hard pounding percussion, catchy choruses and the very unique guitar tones of Chris Lane. Kearney’s vocals are well-suited to their material but belted out with enough piss n’ vinegar to give certain songs an edge, particularly on “Dressed To Kill”. With a sound encompassing all of the qualities I’ve mentioned, they were a shoo-in to please an audience that was likely in town to attend the M3 Rock Festival and they certainly achieved that goal.

Station performing “Believe” live at the M-Pre Party in Hanover, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2022 (Video from concertsrock’s YouTube page):

Station’s setlist:
01. All You Need Is A Heartbeat
02. Emily
03. Don’t Keep Me Waiting
04. Never Enough
05. Believe
06. Cost of The Sand
07. If You Want Love
08. Shot of Life
09. Everything
10. More Than The Moon
11. One and Only
12. Dressed To Kill
13. Are You Sleeping Alone
14. Speak
15. Can’t Find My Way
16. I Won’t Break Your Heart
17. More Than Enough

Station performing “Dressed To Kill” live at the M-Pre Party in Hanover, Maryland, USA on May 5, 2022 (Video from concertsrock’s YouTube page):

Wild America

Wild America deliver the kind of no-frills rock n’ roll that will surely have you reminiscing of an era gone by. The days before auto-tune, backing tracks and gimmicky visuals littered concert stages and the flavor of the month predicated much of what we hear. What they do is honest and real, and their music is perfectly suited for a sticky rock bar on a Saturday (or Thursday) night. My introduction to this band was about one year ago, when they were part of Brad Lee Entertainment’s Sunday Showcase Series and they played at the very same venue. I remember it being over ninety degrees in the club that night, and despite what felt like an indoor savannah, the guys blazed through not one but two sets of material. Three quarters of the band were also doubling in Stairway to Halen, who were first on the bill that night. I mention this only because it exemplifies the work ethic of the band. A rough and tumble, take no prisoners vibe that they seem to flourish on.

Following Station’s phenomenal show, Wild America certainly had their work cut out for them but rose to the challenge. Those that stuck around until the wee hours of the night were treated to a fantastic set derived from their albums Gasoline and the newly released Old School Cool, both available on Kivel Records. From their debut album Gasoline, Wild America got off to one hell of a start with the chugging “Long Road”. Their set represented both albums with mostly equal attention, and from there they tackled “Outside” from their just released new CD. The highlight of the new material included the ballad “Sometimes Love” and the rocking “Are You Ready”, which features some lyrically pointed societal commentary but also serves as a reminder to us all. The latter also showcases the talents of drummer Derrick Pontier, formerly of Great White. Pontier is an extraordinary drummer and absolute madman behind the kit. He hits the drums hard and fast. If you ever get the chance to experience his playing in a small club, it’s not to be missed. You just have to see it for yourself.

“Love ‘Em And I’m Gone” was another favorite of mine in their showing and it came across just as aggressive in a live setting as it is on the new album. As I’ve come to expect from Wild America, guitarist Billy DiNapoli was setting off fireworks from the fretboard of his guitar, to the shock and awe of many. In a word, phenomenal, and his playing lifts the band’s music to another level. Bassist Steve Wovkanech hammered down on his bass throughout the show while also providing excellent background vocals that fill out the band’s sound. No easy task given the other half of the rhythm section that he’s keeping up with. Wild America kicked and clawed their way through one hell of a set. Simply put, they’re a grade-A, blue collar live band. Their set was one of my favorites of the night and my hat’s off to them for consistently delivering modern classic rock that’s devoid of any and all pretenses.

Wild America’s setlist:
01. Long Road*
02. Outside
03. Rockstar*
04. She Will*
05. Sometimes Love
06. Are You Ready?
07. Love ‘Em And I’m Gone
08. Gasoline*
09. She’s A Good Woman
10. Something Inside
11. Name
12. Renegade
13. Until We Meet Again

D-Toxin Productions“M-Pre” Party has become a yearly tradition for me that I hope continues in the years to come. Not only does the promoter have a finger on the pulse of the music that fans are there to hear, the excitement and energy building up to the M3 Rock Festival finally being upon us is electric and almost tangible within those walls on the eve of one of the year’s best musical events. It’s also a great support system to the fledgling bands the come in from various parts of the country to hopefully gain some exposure to a wider audience that’s ready and willing to soak up a healthy serving of rock n’ roll.