M3 ROCK FESTIVAL 2022 (DAY ONE) CONCERT REVIEW
Date: Friday, May 6, 2022
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Location: Columbia, Maryland, USA
Event: M3 Rock Festival
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography
YouTube videos: Jeff Perlin (Count’s 77, Lizzy Borden, Doro), Jason Weinberg (KIX)
I’m not what you would call a superstitious person, but why take any chances? There’s a reason why hotels don’t have a thirteenth floor, couples generally don’t get married on the thirteenth of the month, and you shouldn’t invite thirteen guests over for dinner. With this, the thirteenth edition of the M3 Rock Festival now officially behind us, I can look back with a sigh of relief that nothing catastrophic happened and all went mostly as planned with the exception of some dicey weather and chilly temperatures. Still… seeing that “13” prominently placed on posters and t-shirts hyping the festival gave me a slightly uneasy feeling when promotions started to roll out for the 2022 M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland. On the flip side of the coin, it’s also said that the number 13 brings “the test”, and that more aptly summarizes this year’s festival for me. It seemed as though organizers were testing out a few new elements to give the festival a shot in the arm. As the saying goes, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”.
After getting bumped to July in 2021, the festival returned to its traditional early May slot on the calendar happening May 6th through May 8th at Merriweather Post Pavilion. When the line-up was first announced back in December, I heard elation and high praise for the roster of talent on deck this year. In full disclosure, it didn’t really bowl me over at first. The reason being that, while I am a fan of 99% of the usual suspects that appeared this year, there were a handful of bands that played that I’ve never really gotten into. Those minor “tweaks” that we heard were coming to the billing this year were starting to rear their head, so to speak. That’s in no way a snub to the new arrivals, it’s just that I go to M3 to hear my favorite hard rock bands from the ’80s and early ’90s — from those obscure, lesser-known acts all the way up to the platinum-selling headliners. There was still a very strong element of that present and accounted for at this year’s festival, but also a few bands that had me wondering why they were booked. Rather than being a stick in the mud, I wanted to stay open minded, so I checked out a few of those bands before the festival to better acquaint myself with their music.
A few weeks prior to the actual M3 show dates, scheduling was adjusted slightly which thereby gave general ticket holders more time to make it into the venue and grab their seats before the start of the show. After going without a VIP act in 2021, promoters brought back this feature for 2022 only to then render Count’s 77 part of the full itinerary for the entire audience right at the last minute. I had no problem with that. It would give the band a chance to be heard by a bigger crowd and play to fewer empty seats, which was a win/win for all. As of Friday night, the rain clouds that dogged us for the weekend had settled into position overhead as eager ticketholders were waiting at the gates to enter the venue. Revamping the time slots hopefully got a few more people in before they were soaked by the deluge that was beginning to come down. Sadly, this was just not the weekend to be out on the lawn enjoying the music and having a cold beer. That didn’t deter the first band from making the most of things and trying to warm the place up with a cooker of a set.
From Las Vegas, Nevada, Count’s 77 are a hard rock band fronted by Danny “The Count” Koker, who you may recognize from Counting Cars on the History Channel. The band has been around for a number of years, even prior to Koker’s run on the popular Counting Cars. In spite of his notoriety, I wasn’t that familiar with the television show or the band before this performance, so I was looking forward to hearing their set. As their name and song titles would suggest, the band is very heavy influenced by artists of the ’70s and their sound reflects that to some degree. “Riding With The Sons of Perdition” opened their show and confirmed all of the above. I liked what I heard. They were heavy, with loud/robust vocals and the music had balls. As I listened, my mind immediately drew comparisons to Little Caesar, the Four Horsemen and Junkyard. “Let The Rockin’ Do The Talkin” was up next and their “’70s sound” was more prevalent and at the forefront on this one. It had a rich, organ sound thanks to the keys played by keyboardist Tommy Paris (formerly of Britny Fox) and took them into what I consider jam-band territory. At that point, I could feel my attention starting to wander a bit. The energy of the song wandered around a bit too much and wasn’t up my alley.
Before “Do You Feel Me?”, frontman Danny Koker chatted with the audience as he did throughout the band’s set. He was very charismatic and made effort to engage the crowd while explaining the inspiration behind several of their songs. When they finally kicked into the song, I picked up on a more modern sound in this one. It was filled with more of those warm, Hammond B-3 licks, but served as a vehicle to tout Koker’s powerful, raspy voice. Of everything that Count’s 77 played in their short set, “Summer of ‘77” had the most immediacy and mass appeal. I would consider this their feelgood, FM-bound crowd pleaser. Complete with a catchy chorus, soaring guitar solo and nostalgic lyrics, this track from their 2017 album Soul Transfusion was one of those songs that quickly latches onto your ears. Closing number “Sin City Boogie Man” is an ode to the band’s desert home base of Las Vegas and featured an extended foray into the blues via the jaw-dropping talents of guitarist Stoney Curtis, who wailed away on the guit-fiddle as the band wrapped up their set.
All in all, it was a terrific set from Count’s 77. It wasn’t necessarily an optimal fit for M3, but an enjoyable show nonetheless. I’d like to see Count’s 77 perform a full set in a smaller, more intimate theater or club. I expect that what they do would be even more potent in an up-close and personal proximity without such distance between the band and much of their audience. If not for their likable stage presence, the musicianship of this band will simply melt your face off.
Count’s 77’s setlist:
01. Riding With The Sons of Perdition
02. Let The Rockin’ Do The Talkin’
03. Do You Feel Me?
04. Summer of ‘77
05. Sin City Boogie Man
Count’s 77 performing “Let The Rockin’ Do The Talkin'” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2022:
Marking the band’s long overdue return to not only the concert circuit, but Maryland in particular, the legendary Lizzy Borden was one of my most anticipated performances throughout the entire weekend. Also known as the Master of Disguise, the singer is renowned for his costumes, theatrics and once risqué antics that gave his persona such an air of danger back in the ’80s. As the house lights dimmed, a foreboding and ominous march of doom pulsated from the P.A. and we knew that the moment was upon us for Borden to take the stage. As his band slowly appeared from the sides of the stage and began to play, noticeably absent were longtime guitarist Ira Black and bassist Marten Andersson. That notation was quickly squelched from my train of thought as the shadowy figure lurked out onto the stage during the intro of “My Midnight Things”.
Cocooned in a large, black cloak with pointed spires that towered over his svelte frame, the master showman wore a three-sided mask that was possibly conceptualized in a nightmare and giving new meaning to the term “Siamese dream”. This was the first of two songs that Borden and his band performed from their 2018 album of the same name, much to my astonishment. I was really hoping that the band would get to at least one or two cuts from their 2018 release My Midnight Things but had doubts beforehand that they would make it into the set. Admittedly a bit of a departure from their previous album Appointment With Death, the My Midnight Things album features one of my favorite songs by the band in “Obsessed”. With Lizzy Borden’s truncated set consisting of just six songs, I expected that the band would focus their time solely on older, classic material however that was not the case and that was fine with me. My Midnight Things is a fantastic album with many hidden gems, and this would give them an opportunity to be heard.
In contrast, “Master of Disguise” was expected and followed their opening number but not before the eponymous frontman vanished from the stage for a quick costume change as he did numerous times throughout the band’s performance. The melodic, seven-minute opus sounded fantastic, and the crowd was pumped up to hear an old-school metal classic pulled from the vaults to be played live once again. It was glorious. Drummer Joey Scott is still a beast behind the war machine and appeared to have as deep an affinity for the material as his brother belted out the words to the songs. “American Metal” began with that grating guitar lick and driving bass groove that give way to Borden’s passionate vocals, which still sound superb to this day. The singer draped himself in an American flag that he outstretched to envelope in his guitarist and bassist as they flanked him for the finale of the song, which was met with resounding applause from the crowd.
Culled from their Best of Lizzy Borden: Volume II release, “Pet Semetary” kept the spotlight on the band’s namesake and despite being a punk rock classic, Borden puts an interesting spin on the beloved song and makes it is own with his higher vocal register. It’s ultimately just a fun moment in the show that lightens things up a bit. But not too light. For his classic “Me Against The World”, the self-ordained frontman did the unordinary and ventured down into the first few rows of the audience to give his blessing. And it was a consecration in blood! Nice. I doubt those audience members will ever forget that experience of seeing Lizzy Borden dip his fingers down into that chalice of bodily fluids, in a good way. That song appeared on the soundtrack to the 1988 film Black Roses, and fittingly he carried a bouquet of them around onstage while performing the song before tossing the flowers out to eager fans.
As bundles of black balloons were released onstage to bounce and fly out through the audience, Lizzy wrapped up his quick set with “Long May They Haunt Us”. Ultimately, at around 30 minutes, Lizzy Borden’s stage time was entirely too short. I could have watched the band for another hour easily. Hopefully this appearance was just a teaser of what’s to come in the near future from this renowned ’80s metal icon.
Lizzy Borden’s setlist:
01. My Midnight Things
02. Master of Disguise
03. American Metal
04. Pet Semetary
05. Me Against The World
06, Long May They Haunt Us
Lizzy Borden‘s entire live set at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2022:
In my mind, there are two legacy performers that hold the title as a reigning “Queen of Metal”. The first being Lita Ford, who I have seen live many times over the years and the second being Warlock’s legendary vocalist Doro Pesch. How cool would it be to see the two of them team up for a duet? Doro would be the first of several “carry overs” from the 2020 M3 line-up that went down in flames only to rise from the ashes like a mighty phoenix. Finally seeing Doro perform in concert after many years in waiting was monumental and a performance that I won’t soon forget. Her attitude, spirit, and love of metal are abundantly outpoured and that energy that she transfers out to the crowd is reciprocated back to her ten-fold. Seeing that exchange drove home the realization that it would be nearly impossible for Doro to convey her emotions and material in the manner that she does without the true conviction that she has for rock n’ roll. It’s apparent in her eyes as she looks out into the audience.
With Warlock guitarist Tommy Bolan at her side, Doro and her band delivered eight songs that blew through the place like a runaway train. Opening her show with the fast and furious “I Rule the Ruins” from Triumph And Agony, the song was even heavier live than it is on the album. That was the case with much of the material that made up their set. “Burning The Witches”, from the album of the same name, was up next and was another track that was executed aggressively in what became a full-on assault on the ears. The older Warlock material just translates so well by way of live treatment and they absolutely pummeled the crowd from the word “go”.
Seemingly from the moment that the band took the stage, guitarist Tommy Bolan whipped and thrashed his way around his side of the stage like a hurricane. Just an unbridled energy level when you take into account the fact that he’s intensely focused and playing his guitar at the same time. All throughout the next song, he was spinning around on the floor of the stage like a man possessed. “East Meets West” revisited Triumph And Agony, much to the delight of those in attendance. Doro’s long-time drummer Johnny Dee hit his drums in resemblance of a thunderclap as is required to do the song justice. We were three songs into the thick of things before Doro got to any material from her bountiful solo work, but when things are sounding THAT good it’s hard to take notice! “Raise Your Fist In The Air”, from her 2012 album Raise Your Fist continued to raise the roof off of the place. Much of Doro’s solo material is heavy, anthemic and ideally suited for arena/rock audiences. This one is no exception. The same can be said of “Revenge” and “All for Metal”, and those remaining two songs in her set were taken from her solo albums Raise Your Fist and Forever Warriors.
The momentum of Doro’s powerful performance never waned, and I can understand how with a shorter set, she would want to keep things rocking for the duration of the show. Still, It would be great to see her again in a headlining performance and see her slow down to throw in one or two ballads. “Lift Me Up” or “Make Time For Love” would be at the top of my list to hear included at a future show. Doro continues to be a true force of nature. She wrapped up her show with what is possibly one of the most brilliant and celebrated anthems of the decade – Warlock’s “All We Are”. Raise your fist!
01. I Rule The Ruins
02. Burning The Witches
03. East Meets West
04. Raise Your Fist In The Air
07. All For Metal
08. All We Are
Doro performing “I Rule The Ruins” live at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2022:
It’s never a surprise to see M3 kingpins KIX reprise their Friday night headlining slot. I think at this point, M3 just wouldn’t be the same without them kicking things off on Friday night. It would be like a December without Christmas. Perfectly fine for a select few but bemoaned by many. They’re one of several bands that just pack the house like a sardine can. When KIX are on, you’ll be hard pressed to find an empty seat under the shed. And the fanfare that they garner is well deserved. As many times as I’ve seen the veteran Maryland band perform, they’re always near-perfect and I’ve never walked away from a show disappointed.
2022 brought more of the same that I’ve come to expect in a KIX set. And maybe that’s the problem for me. It’s become more of the same. Hits from six of their seven studio albums (with nothing from 1995’s Show Business), lots of back and forth between Steve Whiteman and the crowd, and “Don’t Close Your Eyes” at the three-quarter mark. All boxes checked. With his recent health scare, I’m thankful that original drummer Jimmy Chalfant is back in the band and still rocking. With the loss of Ronnie “10/10” Younkins in the line-up, things can potentially feel very mannequin with just two original members standing onstage. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here as Chalfant is still in the fold and continues to deliver a high level of exuberance behind the kit. So, what was different this year? To be fair, no representation of their debut or Cool Kids records this time around. The set was heavily weighted around the Midnite Dynamite and Blow My Fuse eras of their catalog. And who can blame them really? Of course they’re going to lean heavily on tracks from their two most popular albums at their biggest show of the year. As I said earlier, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
Taking center stage in a sparkly red jacket, black vest and red satin shirt, Steve Whiteman is cut from that same cloth as Mick and Keith or Steven and Joe. He has his art down to sheer science and always delivers. The band opened with a pair from Blow My Fuse, “Get It While It’s Hot” and “No Ring Around Rosie” before setting off “Midnight Dynamite”, which never disappoints. Taking a quick breather after the first lap around the track, Whiteman mentioned that his solo album, You’re Welcome, is “available at the merch booth. I sold a shit ton of them here last year and I’d love to sell another shit ton”. Folks love his candor and comedic routines in between songs — myself included. Whiteman has the power to fully engage an audience and is one of the few entertainers that I’ve seen that can do that like clockwork.
“Lie Like A Rug” was up next and followed by “Scarlet Fever”, possibly my favorite cut off of Midnite Dynamite. While I was watching KIX play, I thought to myself that their music always sounds just as good live as it does on the recordings. That’s a rare thing. Following “Scarlet Fever”, a dialogue was once again opened with “Hi. My name’s Steve, I’m a Virgo, I love pizza, I love beer, I’ve been married to the same woman for over thirty years, and I love my wife. But shit slows down”. It was an appropriate segue referring to the tribulations of married life and the subject matter about to be touched upon in the next song. Or not touched upon, as the case may be. Huddled under a familiar stage prop, bassist Mark Schenker joined Whiteman at center stage under an umbrella to harmonize on the intro to “Cold Shower”.
When it was time to play their biggest hit, the ballad “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, the singer donned his red hat and glasses while the short keyboard intro played on. During several of their songs, guitarist Bob Pare and Brian “Damage” Forsythe traded off on guitar solos which is one of my favorite aspects of watching a guitar duo of this stature perform. KIX rounded out their show with the ever-popular “Cold Blood” and “Blow My Fuse”, which were interspersed with short guitar and drum solos. KIX remain at the top of their game. I can’t see them reinventing the wheel at this stage of that game, but it would be fun to hear a new song in the set or some older classics dusted off and brought out. The bar was raised high on Friday night by the likes of Doro and Lizzy Borden. KIX rose to that challenge, giving their competition a reminder of why they’re leaders of the pack.
01. Get It While It’s Hot
02. No Ring Around Rosie
03. Midnight Dynamite
04. Lie Like A Rug
05. Scarlet Fever
06. Cold Shower
07. Girl Money
08. The Itch
09. Love Me With Your Top Down
10. Don’t Close Your Eyes
11. Guitar Solo
12. Cold Blood
13. Drum Solo
14. Blow My Fuse
KIX‘s entire live set at the M3 Rock Festival in Columbia, Maryland, USA on May 6, 2022: