M3 Rock Festival 2019 (Part One of Day Three) Concert Review

A MAINLY STRONG START TO DAY THREE AT M3

Date: May 5, 2019
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Location: Columbia, Maryland, USA
Event: M3 Rock Festival
Reviewers: Tyson Briden and Jeff Onorato
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography  (XYZ, Bang Tango and Vixen) and Jeff Onorato (Vain)

This year, Sleaze Roxx had not one, not two, not three but four representatives attending the M3 Rock FestivalSleaze Roxx IT guru Ed DeGagne, professional photographer Christopher Carroll, seasoned writer Tyson Briden and new writer and cartoonist Jeff Onorato were all in attendance at M3, and both Tyson and Jeff reviewed the band’s performances. If you haven’t already done so, please make sure to check out Sleaze Roxx‘s reviews of Day One and Day Two (Parts 1 and 2).

Tyson Briden: Well, on this morning, I did awake to the sound of pouring rain. Was the wind whispering? Good question. I didn’t even notice to be honest. I did notice that my head was feeling much better than the morning before. I must have been a little easier on myself. My wife and I decided to slowly get out of bed and take our time. Once dressed, we opened the fridge and decided to take a beer downstairs, call an Uber and wait. By this time, it was a light rain. My wife fogged a few fags [cigarettes] and I impatiently waited, checking my watch periodically. “Babe, I think we’re going to be late for Vain!” “No, we’re not!” “Well, it’s 11:45 and it’s a twenty minute drive!” We bickered lightly back and forth, but nothing more than usual. Guys, you know the routine. We’re right, she’s wrong and if she only admitted it, things would go a lot smoother.

Our Uber arrived. I jumped in like Roscoe P. Cole Train, with Flash in tow [not making reference to my wife] and announced, “Step on it, we’re in hot pursuit!” I’d like to believe that’s how it all went down, but I’d be lying. I was anxious, but I can’t be pushy. I am a passive Canadian remember. Within 20 minutes, we had arrived to the Merriweather Post Pavillion. We were late and Vain were on the stage. There would be no line to contend with. Once inside, the venue was much more desolate than the day prior. I think the rain, not Vain, was keeping the concert goers away. We once again made our way up the infamous hill to retrieve a couple beers each. You never know what could happen, “It’s a long way to the top”, so always be prepared before venturing to your seat. With a few songs remaining in the Vain set, we finally made it to our seats.

Vain:

Tyson Briden: My goodness, what I saw and heard on that stage was not what I had expected. Vain were a band that I didn’t exactly discover until the mid 2000s. I had always heard about them, but during the era, I really wasn’t a fan. When I finally got a copy of the band’s debut No Respect, I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. It was then that I went out and bought the rest of the band’s amazing catalog.

What took me by surprise most about Vain’s performance on this day was how amazing their background vocals were. It was obvious that when the band was recording in the studio, the members of the band actually stood in the booth and did the parts. It’s not like Mötley Crüe where many singers would come in and do backing vocals. That is why the band had to bring in back-up singers on tour. My good friend Kevin Gale of Slik Toxik once told me that in the studio, Slik Toxik indeed did the backing vocals and that was why when you saw the band live, they sounded like the album. To me, that’s the way it should be done. That’s what your audience expects.

What I can also say about Vain, is that singer Davy Vain has not lost a step. His vocals still sound as strong and as solid as they did back in 1989. Davy Vain, as always, strutted around the stage barefoot and loving it. Hell, I loved it. It was very Woodstock to me. It was rainy, damp, the roof was leaking in front of us, but Davy Vain was strong willed enough to go barefoot on what I would assume was a cold stage.

Visually, the band looked great. The hair on some isn’t as long as it once was, but the band still looked like the rock stars that they have always been. There was some makeup on various members. Some were dressed in leather, but overall nothing was different from years past. Bottom line, Vain still kick ass and I felt they were at the top of the performances of the weekend.

Jeff Onorato: Opening Day #3 with a strong six-song performance, San Francisco’s Vain played a selection of songs from their 1989 debut, No Respect. They opened with “Secrets” and it was quickly apparent that the band is still in fine form today. Namesake Davy Vain’s voice still sounds great, and he delivered the songs to a sparse but welcoming audience. With a 12:00 show time, most attendees were still trickling into the venue. The band did not seem to let that bother them. They never stopped moving throughout their set and worked relentlessly to get the crowd moving. “Icy” was up next, and Davy Vain paused to fill the audience in on the overzealous woman that gave him the inspiration to write the song many years ago. A quick, amusing story to say the least!

“1000 Degrees” was an interesting inclusion in the set but certainly fit right in among the other No Respect tracks that they performed. The more up-tempo “Who’s Watching You” showcased original guitarist Dylana Nova Scott’s skills. She played with fire and intensity throughout their set. They finished up their set with “Beat The Bullet.” Vain have long been on my bucket list of bands to see, and definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s easy to see why they remain a cult favorite. I would like to see them perform again with a longer set and include material from the albums All Those Strangers or Rolling With The Punches. Both include songs that would go over very well live.

Highlights of Vain performing live at the M3 Rock Festival on May 5, 2019:

VAIN – M3 Highlights 2019

This video has the highlights from Vain playing Live at M3 on Sunday May 5th 2019. Such an amazing band!! #VAiN #M3/2019 #NoRespect

XYZ:

Tyson Briden: As XYZ arrived on the stage, it quickly occurred to me of how I came to know this band. Myself and two friends had gone to the old Bowmanville Mall Cinemas (Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada — a rural community about an hour east of Toronto) to watch a movie. Being that is was my 16th birthday, before the movie, we hit the local CD/tape shop as I had birthday money to spend. Now, you may think that I purchased the debut XYZ album. That is not so and in a few brief moments, you will come to discover why. At the local shop, known as HOV (Hooked On Video), I purchased Whitesnake‘s Slip of The Tongue and Faster Pussycat‘s Wake Me When It’s Over, which were both brand new releases. We then proceeded to watch our movie of choice. Being that this was a cinema that only had two theatres, our choices were limited. To be honest, I can’t remember what we saw on this evening. I think it may have been Sex, Lies and Videotape? Not really a blockbuster hit to say the least.

A couple hours later, as the senseless and meaningless movie came to a close, we made our way to the car. As we walked outside, we discovered that it had started snowing profusely, which was very freak and strange. Being that it was mid-November, this was a strange occurrence in Eastern Ontario. Major snow usually didn’t arrive for a few more weeks. As we were heading back home, my friend who was driving, white knuckled it the whole way. You couldn’t see two feet in front of you as the snow was coming down so quickly. Suddenly, a song I had not heard before came on the radio. It was on a weekly radio show called The Power Factory hosted by Joey Vandetta on Q107. The song I heard was “Inside Out.” As it came on, I thought to myself, “Wow, this really has a Dokken feel to it!” The main guitar riff was so entrancing. As I continued to listen and the song came to a close, Vandetta came on and announced who the band was. “That was XYZ with ‘Inside Out’! Produced by Don Dokken!” Then I thought, “I read Metal Edge religiously. How did I now see this band in the magazine?” This came out of nowhere and I was totally mesmerized. I had to hear more. In making mention of the Dokken comparisons, as it stands now, that is something that I don’t really hear in XYZ’s music 30 years later, I just think, “It’s XYZ!” In the beginning, we always seem to make comparisons to something. Dokken were just that all those years ago.

So as you may be able to tell by my story, I was so pumped to see XYZ. Now of course, like many bands on the day’s bill, this wasn’t the original line-up from the band’s first two releases. Although disappointed that original guitarist Marc Richard Diglio was not present, I was open to someone else playing his classic guitar lines. As you may or may not know, primarily the original vision of XYZ was brought to us by singer Terry Ilous and bassist Pat Fontaine. Both were on the stage on this day, so really you know the brainchild behind the band is present. To me, that means the performance will be top notch and the players will do the original line-up’s material justice. That was definitely the case here.

During the set, my wife turned to me and said, “Oh the singer is in really good shape!” I just smiled and said, “Yeah. That’s good to see!” My wife also made mention of the fact of how great Ilous’ voice was. Truth be told, this man has kept his voice in top form and he was truly spectacular.

The set was short but sweet. Only five songs, four from the debut album and one from the second album Hungry! Now, that one song was one that hits me so hard and really got my adrenaline racing. Then as if it couldn’t get any better, Ilous announced to the audience that they were going to perform a song that was written about his first wife. What I found funny about that statement was that I could so relate as I have been down that road. It sounded funny in some aspects. I really can’t really say why, possibly because it’s such a normal statement these days. Regardless, XYZ went into “What Keeps Me Loving You.” As it had the day before, something in my brain triggered a reaction that brought a smile to my face and a shiver down the base of my spine! It was a sheer sense of security. I was in my glory.

What a roller coaster performance of emotions. That wasn’t it though. Suddenly, Ilous brought the performance down a notch and gave an emotionally draining performance of the acoustic driven “After The Rain.” Wow! As the band broke into the classic “Inside Out”, I checked my phone for the time. It was only 1:00 pm. Were XYZ only doing five songs? Oh well, let’s sit back and enjoy what may be one of the most electrifying hard rock riffs of the ’80s. I was mesmerized and sang along at the top of my lungs. Simply put… Electrifying!!!

Jeff Onorato: XYZ have seen a resurgence of late, with vocalist Terry Ilous now giving the outfit his full-time attention following his departure from Great White. Of their five-song set, all but one song was taken from their Don Dokken produced debut album. “Take What You Can” was a great choice to kick things off. Dokken (not ironically) spoke later that evening on stage about producing the effort. 1991’s fantastic Hungry was showcased with the riff heavy first single from that disc “Face Down In The Gutter.” Not only is this one of my favorite songs, I remember what a cool video it was when the album was released. Needless to say, I was thrilled that they chose to include the track in their performance. It has an absolutely punishing guitar riff that qualifies it as a concert staple. Original bassist Pat Fontaine and the rest of the band played brilliantly, but Ilous may have one of the most pristine voices in rock. This was evident on their next number “What Keeps Me Loving You.” He joked that he wrote the song for “an ex-wife, probably his first one.” He was accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar, compliments of Tony Marcus. They finished up their show with their very first single — “Inside Out.” Stash from 100.7 The Bay served as Master of Ceremonies for M3 and introduced the band to the stage by saying “the last three letters of the alphabet belong to XYZ.” I could not have agreed more.

XYZ’s setlist:
01. Take What You Can
02. Face Down In The Gutter
03. What Keeps Me Loving You
04. After The Rain
05. Inside Out

XYZ performing “Inside Out” live at the M3 Rock Festival on May 5, 2019:

Inside Out – XYZ – M3 Rock Festival

XYZ performs during Day 3 of the M3 Rock Festival. Shot from Section 202, Row B, Seat 14 with a Panasonic Lumix ZS100.

Bang Tango:

Tyson Briden: This was one of the performances of the day that I really found to be uninspiring. When the band took the stage, it became obvious that singer Joe Leste’s vocals were not cutting through very well. Something really seemed amiss. I could tell by my wife’s body language that she wasn’t really into Bang Tango. What I will say about singer Joe Leste was that he still looked young and vibrant. He cruised the stage like an old pro wearing the ever so popular aviator sunglasses. Now, due to the fact that there was a constant rain and it was overcast, anyone else wearing a pair of sunglasses would be thought of as unusual, but this was the singer of a semi-prominent band of the ’80s. Nothing really comes across as unusual as it seems to be a free ticket to do pretty much whatever you like onstage.

For those that were fans of the original Bang Tango, this version of the band is somewhat different from the band of 1989. Joe Leste is the only original member. What I found very odd was that the band now plays as a four piece. To me, in some ways this hurt them. It wasn’t that they didn’t sound like Bang Tango, but sometimes we remember things to what they once were and it becomes hard to change that. In my eyes, this is a band that needs to possibly get back together. I know that there was talk last year of that possibly happening, but it didn’t. That was very disappointing. Some forget the reason they were successful in the first place. It wasn’t just one member, but all five that made it special. Who knows what the future may bring. Overall, Bang Tango weren’t my favorite on this day. Maybe next time!

Jeff Onorato: M3 veterans Bang Tango also had a very early time slot, hitting the stage around 1:30 on Sunday. The band performed as a four-piece. Their set of seven songs consisted primarily of tracks from Psycho Café, their most commercially successful release. Opening with “Attack of Life”, the guys seemed to be faced with some issues as far as the sound went. I’m familiar with all of their albums, and at times I had difficulty telling which song they were playing. Frontman Joe Leste also appeared to be battling some minor vocal problems, which could have been attributed to their early show time. Their second number “Love Injection” saw him struggling to find his stride. Fortunately, things improved from there. “Untied And True” from Dancin’ On Coals kicked down the door with its heavy, pulsating bass groove and we were back in familiar territory. Dancin’ On Coals would see further representation on the funky “Soul to Soul”, showcasing Lance Eric’s impressive bass guitar chops. Despite the few hiccups in their performance, Leste made effort to engage the audience like a true professional. He worked the stage throughout their show. They finished up with the popular “Someone Like You.”

Bang Tango’s setlist:
01. Attack Of Life
02. Love Injection
03. Untied And True
04. Soul To Soul
05. Wrap My Wings
06. Don’t Stop
07. Someone Like You

Bang Tango performing “Someone Like You” live at the M3 Rock Festival on May 5, 2019:

M3 2019 BANG TANGO Someone Just Like You

M3 2019 BANG TANGO

Vixen:

Tyson Briden: Now this line-up of Vixen may be slightly different than the Vixen of a few short months ago. I am sure most know that original singer Janet Gardner has moved on and been replaced by Femme Fatale vocalist Lorraine Lewis. What do I have to say about this scenario? It’s a very fine and calculated move on the part of the other three band members to get a reputable singer who comes with a pedigree and can easily do the job.

As Vixen hit the stage, both my wife and myself were pumped. Being that I had introduced my wife to this band, I could tell she was watching the band’s every move. What was really cool was that instead of Vixen coming onstage rocking out to one of their own many great songs, they actually began their set with Femme Fatale’s “Waiting For The Big One.” At first, I wasn’t sure what song they had actually begun with, but as the chorus hit I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes it can be very loud and your brain doesn’t exactly comprehend what is being heard at first. Your ears may even sometimes play tricks on you.

Lorraine Lewis came on stage wearing a very cool, yet nostalgic pair of red sunglasses. Somehow, those glasses really stood out. Of course, the remainder of the band looked just as cool. Guitarist Britt Lightning really impressed me as she looked beautiful, captivating and shredded just as well as any other player on the day’s bill. That girl can really play. As for bassist Share Ross and drummer Roxy Petrucci, they both held their own. They kept the backbeat of this terrific band in check. Of course it wouldn’t be a Vixen show without the band playing the songs that made them famous. “Edge of A Broken Heart”, “Cryin’” and “Rev It Up” all sounded spectacular. Another Femme Fatale song would make it into the set as “Falling In And Out Of Love” would be played.

The only disappointment of this fine performance was that the band did not perform “Love Is A Killer.” This is a song that both my wife and I love immensely. Emotionally, that song has so much captivating power. It has a certain “November Rain” type feel to it with so many ups and downs with killer dynamics throughout. I have to say, either way, I was still impressed with the band’s performance. They are slated to play in Welland, Ontario, Canada in July and then with Kip Winger in Niagara, New York, USA in November. My hope is that I make one or both of these shows as Vixen are yet another band on this weekend that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Amazing job ladies.

Jeff Onorato: Femme Fatale’s Lorraine Lewis recently resumed her role as lead singer for Vixen (after filling in for an ailing Janet Gardner back in March 2018) following Gardner‘s departure from the group. The band seems to have lost no momentum in the change, as the group delivered faithful renditions of the Vixen classics. Interestingly, they opened with a cover of Femme Fatale’s “Waiting for the Big One.” The track from Femme Fatale’s 1988 debut album fit right in amongst Vixen’s repertoire of hits. The title track from Vixen’s sophomore album Rev It Up followed. Ensuing crowd pleasers “How Much Love” and “Cryin’” won the ladies a roar of acceptance from the audience. Lewis responded by vowing that she was “coming out soon” into the crowd or an up close and personal performance. Time has certainly been kind to the ladies of Vixen, as bassist Share Ross and drummer Roxy Petrucci do not appear to age as regular humans! Another Femme Fatale cut, “Falling In and Out of Love”, made it into Vixen’s set. As a fan of Femme Fatale, it was cool to hear these songs performed live. Guitarist Brittany “Britt Lightning” Denaro is also a welcome addition to the band. Not only does she play flawlessly, but she has a terrific stage presence and fits the band seamlessly. They finished up their show with “Edge of A Broken Heart.”

Vixen’s setlist:
01. Waiting For The Big One
02. Rev It Up
03. How Much Love
04. Cryin’
05. I Want You To Rock Me
06. Falling In And Out Of Love
07. You Outta Know By Now
08. Edge of A Broken Heart

Vixen performing “Edge of A Broken Heart” live at the M3 Rock Festival on May 5, 2019:

Vixen – Edge of a Broken Heart

M3 Rock Fest 2019