MIDDLE OF THE DAY SLEEPINESS
Show Date: May 2, 2015
Location: Columbia, Maryland, U.S.A.
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Band Websites: www.laguns.net www.facebook.com/BangTangoManagement/ krokusonline.seven49.net www.thewinerydogs.com www.warrantrocks.com
While the title of this concert review may imply that all bands playing in the middle of the day on Day Two of the 2015 edition of the M3 Rock Festival put me to sleep, this is not the case and definitely does not apply to sleaze rock veterans L.A. Guns.
L.A. Guns were one of only four bands returning to the M3 Rock Festival from last year alongside Queensryche, Bad Seed Rising (why?) and of course Kix. Instead of playing the side stage like last year, L.A. Guns were scheduled to play the main pavillion stage. As usual, the band put on a spirited kick ass performance playing all the tracks that they are known for and then some. Kicking off with the classic “No Mercy” from their self-titled debut record, L.A. Guns did not seem to have lost any step almost thirty years later. One of the keys of course is to add some young blood to the group and guitarist Michael Grant and new / old bassist Kenny Kweens bring that youthful element to the band. In addition, despite being almost sixty years old, frontman Phil Lewis has apparently kept himself in remarkably good shape compared to some of his contemporaries and he does not look out of place alongside the younger Grant and Kweens. This was the third time now that I was seeing Grant play live and it seems that the man has the total package — killer guitar playing and that rock star look and feel. In fact, the previous time that I had seen L.A. Guns play live, I thought that he stole the show.
With a limited set to play, L.A. Guns obviously put the focus on the fans playing three songs from their self-titled debut record (“No Mercy”, “Sex Action” and of course “Electric Gypsy”) and five songs from the follow up Cocked & Loaded which ranged from usual show closer “Rip And Tear” to the less obvious “Showdown (Riot On Sunset)”. A nice treat was hearing Lewis announce that the band would be performing a “deep cut” that it does not play often which turned out to be the raucous “Hellraisers Ball” from 2002’s Waking The Dead record. As was the case at last year’s M3 Rock Festival, L.A. Guns ended their set with their three punch of “Electric Gypsy”, “The Ballad Of Jayne” and “Rip And Tear”. Lewis never seems afraid to add a few humorous comments and prior to “The Ballad Of Jayne”, he declared that the band was not getting paid if it did not play the next track. At the end of L.A. Guns‘ stellar set, Lewis announced perhaps presumptuously “See you next year”. Considering that L.A. Guns have practically played every edition of the M3 Rock Festival, Lewis‘ parting comment may not have been much of a stretch and that is great news for next year’s edition of the M3 Rock Festival!
Next up was Bang Tango on the side stage. Unfortunately, Bang Tango have never been a band that I have been into back in the day. Two years ago, Bang Tango were scheduled to come to Toronto to play so I bought their greatest hits collection The Ultimate Bang Tango Rockers & Thieves to get more familiar with them. It ended backfiring because I did not bother going to see them play after being unimpressed with their songs in general. The great thing about a rock festival is that you might get to discover some bands that you might not bother going to see play on their own and this was definitely the case for Bang Tango for me. With my buddy The Meister having elected to take a nap in the relative comfort of his main pavilion stage seat rather than head over to see Bang Tango — likely the hot sun, two prior late nights and his beer consumption were getting to him — I made the five minute walk from the main pavilion stage to the side stage to catch a portion of Bang Tango‘s set. I was surprised to see quite a few people standing along the hill and rocking along to the band. There did not seem to be as many people as when the Killer Dwarfs and Tyketto had played but there was still quite a sizeable crowd and it was definitely tough to get close to the stage or even get a good view due to the awfully low height of the side stage.
Apparently, Bang Tango have quite the following despite the Meister and I’s rather dim views of the band. I was surprised to find out that Bang Tango was even the favorite band of Last Call Messiahs‘ frontman Chris Clark whom I had the pleasure to interview for Sleaze Roxx after the M3 Rock Festival. Although I am clearly not familiar with Bang Tango‘s music, I was able to make out that the band played “Soul To Soul” and based on the website setlist.fm, I apparently also heard “My Favorite 9” and “Breaking Up A Heart Of Stone”. This was also my first time seeing former Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson in action and although I was impressed with his guitar work on Lock Up The Wolves, I did not find that his guitar playing shined that much with the Bang Tango material. One funny story which I heard post M3 Rock Festival is that the second guitarist on stage for Bang Tango (I believe whose name is Drew Fortier) — who looked more like he could work in some large company’s corporate department than be playing on stage with a band like Bang Tango — had been asked by frontman Joe Lesté the day before whether he would like to play with the band at the M3 Rock Festival. Fortier promptly got in a car and drove 10 plus hours to get there! Given that the two M3 stages were unfortunately overlapping somewhat, I left early to ensure that I could catch Krokus playing on the main pavilion stage. I can’t say that hearing Bang Tango play three songs live has made me a fan of theirs but at least I can now appreciate that the band seems to have a loyal following of fans.
One band that I was intrigued to see play at the M3 Rock Festival was Switzerland hard rock pioneers Krokus who had apparently not played on American soil for ten years until April of this year! I have never been a big Krokus fan but do know them from back in their MTV video days from their songs “Ballroom Blitz” and “Midnite Maniac” and I am familiar with their classics such as “Eat The Rich”. Krokus hit the stage predictably with “Long Stick Goes Boom”. Frontman Marc Storace initially and strangely looked like he was doing some slow moving physical exercises in the way that he was posing and moving. I was quite surprised to see Krokus play their cover of The Guess Who‘s “American Woman” next. It just seemed so cliché. In addition, for a band with over fifteen studio records under its belt and being limited to nine songs on this day, you would think that Krokus would limit the cover songs and play more of their own original songs.
Krokus‘ set rolled on. I was not familiar with the group’s show closer “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” so was surprised when my friend The Meister advised that this was another cover song and a rather obscure one at that. Since Krokus played two cover songs, I think that they should have included The Sweet‘s “Ballroom Blitz” which likely got them a lot of exposure in the States back in the mid 1980s. I get that Krokus are likely not fond of their commercially sounding The Blitz record but it is a shame that the group did not play any songs from that album which is one of its two biggest selling records on American soil. Just like Europe later on, I found that Krokus did not get the memo that it would be better to try to play your best known hits that got you over in the States when you have a time limited set and you are playing a country that you have largely bypassed for most of your career. I should state that Krokus‘ set is when fatigue started kicking in for me after averaging only a few hours of sleep the two previous nights and being stuck standing in the hot sun with nothing to drink for almost three hours earlier on that day, Accordingly, although Krokus may well have put on a good performance, I was battling fatigue throughout the Swiss rockers’s set which may well have hampered my views of their performance.
With fatigue having now hit me full on, I elected to skip The Winery Dogs‘ set at the side stage. Although I more than recognize that bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy, and to a lesser extent guitarist Richie Kotzen, are some of the best at what they do, I have never gotten into their collective musical output that is The Winery Dogs. Rather than trek over to the side stage for a more than likely poor view of the band considering that they likely started when Krokus were still playing, I decided to try to get some sleep while seated at my main pavilion seat while Warrant‘s gear was being set up. I didn’t get much sleep but did feel a lot more rested simply from closing my eyes for a little bit. As it turns out, I would have loved to catch The Winery Dogs play “Shyboy” which I know from Sheehan‘s days with David Lee Roth. However, since the band played that song last in its set, I would have likely missed it in any case to catch the beginning of Warrant‘s set on the other stage.
Warrant are yet another band that I also did not get into back in the day. Sure, I was familiar with Warrant‘s biggest hits such as “Down Boys”, “Heaven” and “Cherry Pie” but that’s about it. As you can likely tell, the middle portion of the 2015 edition of Day Two of the M3 Rock Festival was not the portion that I was looking for the most! I did end up purchasing The Best of Warrant in advance of this year’s M3 Rock Festival but wasn’t overly stoked with what I heard. One big attraction for me in seeing Warrant was hearing their latest frontman Robert Mason sing live. I have always loved his singing including with Lynch Mob and particularly with Big Cock. I was intrigued to hear him sing the Warrant classics. While there is no denying that Mason has a great voice, I found him at times on this day to be a bit of an awkward fit for the Warrant songs. Mason did seem quite appreciative of the moment as he declared something along the lines that it was a privilege to keep doing this as “you guys keep showing up!”. Mason was also witty as he declared prior to “Heaven” that the crowd should be able to sing along given that there were the “easiest background vocals in the history of background vocals”.
Although I am not a huge Warrant fan, I admit that I was really looking forward to hearing and singing along to the band’s arguably most well known song “Cherry Pie” which would undoubtedly close its set. Prior to the band launching into their classic song, Mason brought out singers Jack Russell and Jamie St. James to sing the song with him. Everything seemed set up for a cool and memorable rendition of the Warrant classic. Unfortunately, this must have been an impromptu decision because all three seemed to be disorganized up there while the song was played and frankly, the song was best described by my friend Rick who labelled it a “train wreck”. What should have been the high of Warrant‘s set turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the day. Luckily, the last four bands — Y&T, Queensryche, Tom Keifer and Europe — were about to put on kick ass performances to close 2015’s M3 Rock Festival.
L.A. Guns’ setlist:
01. No Mercy
02. Showdown (Riot On Sunset)
03. Sex Action
04. Never Enough
05. I Wanna Be Your Man
06. Over The Edge
07. Hellraisers Ball
08. Electric Gypsy
09. The Ballad Of Jayne
10. Rip And Tear
01. Long Stick Goes Boom
02. American Woman (The Guess Who cover)
03. Hoodoo Woman
04. Screaming in The Night
06. Easy Rocker
07. Eat The Rich
09. Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) (Bob Dylan cover)
02. Down Boys
03. Sure Feels Good To Me
04. Sometimes She Cries
05. So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against The Law)
06. I Saw Red
07. Sex Ain’t Love
09. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
10. Cherry Pie