MB4 feat. Every Mother’s Nightmare, Kickin Valentina and Babylon Shakes Concert Review

STARTING THE M3 WEEKEND THE RIGHT WAY WITH THE SHOW BEFORE THE SHOW

Date: May 2, 2019
Venue: Fish Head Cantina
Location: Halethorpe, Maryland, USA
Event: MB4 — The Show Before The Show
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

I travelled to Fish Head Cantina in Halethorpe, Maryland on May 2nd for the MB4 — The Show Before The Show. Not only was I expecting MB4 to be an awesome evening of music in its own right, but it’s quickly becoming an annual tradition as well. The line-up of bands performing that night served as a pre-cursor to Maryland’s annual M3 Rock Festival. M3 is a huge concert draw for the area, with legions of rock n’ roll fans descending upon Columbia, Maryland for the weekend event at the Merriweather Post Pavillion from May 3rd to 5th.

Three local bands opened the show, all from the Baltimore area — cover band Timeless, American Jetset and Chatterbox. All three were entertaining and had a very distinct sound from one another. Timeless played fun renditions of classic rock gems from the ’70s and ’80s. American Jetset were in the Chevelle vein, offering up a potent blend of hard alternative rock. Chatterbox delivered a slab of relentless punk / metal originals, save for the one Social Distortion cover in their set.

Babylon Shakes:

Of the three national bands performing, this would be my first time seeing Babylon Shakes. They recently released their full-length debut, the fantastic Exile To The Velveteen Lounge via HighVolMusic. I was interested in the band based on a few songs that I had heard. What first caught my ear were the early-Aerosmith and glam rock influences throughout their songs, which are proudly conveyed. Babylon Shakes recently became a four-piece, adding bassist David Elmore to their line-up. He fits the band perfectly, and bassist Gary Jordan has taken over rhythm guitar duties within the band. Drummer Jeff “Morty” Mortimer was positively animated behind the kit hitting hard and also providing background vocals throughout the band’s performance.

The first single and video from the album, “Making A Million” was also the first song that Babylon Shakes played that night. The track seems to be all about “making it” in the music business, something they seem to be doing just fine with. “Silver Tongue Devil” is one of my favorite tracks on their album and was next in their set. It certainly stirred up feelings of nostalgia for me while recollecting on the hard rock scene of the 1980s. “Sunset Striptease” followed, and kept the party rolling with its nasty blues riffs and great lyrical content. Drummer Jeff Mortimer took time to joke with the crowd in between songs, possibly to give singer / guitarist Chris Clark a breather and recharge his pipes for a few seconds before kicking into the next song.

“Velveteen Libertine”, “Sin Parade” and “Die Pretty” followed. They slowed things down for their next number, “Star In Your Eyes.” It was the only slower tempo song that the band played that night. They wrapped up their set with the catchy “Motel Lights.” It has an infectious chorus and is very catchy. This was the song that everyone seemed to be waiting for and was a prime choice to close out their show with. The song is radio ready and there is no good reason why it’s not in regular rotation on rock radio stations. It would be a bona fide hit for the guys. I can definitely see Babylon Shakes on a larger, national tour with a band like Faster Pussycat, Michael Monroe or Hardcore Superstar. Their show was packed with fun, energy and plenty of “vintage sleaze” that left the audience wanting more from the Virginia band.

Babylon Shakes’ setlist:
01. Making A Million
02. Silver Tongue Devil
03. Sunset Striptease
04. Velveteen Libertine
05. Sin Parade
06. Die Pretty
07. Star In Your Eyes
08. Motel Lights

Kickin Valentina:

Kickin Valentina were next to take the stage. An apparent time crunch was on to quickly change over the stage and get Kickin Valentina’s gear in place. With six bands performing, having everything run on schedule is of precedence. Like Babylon Shakes, Kickin Valentina also recently underwent a line-up change. This was only their third show performing with new frontman D.K. Revelle, formerly of Jetboy. He replaced Brian Bezotte earlier this year and the change has definitely been a positive one. Having not seen Kickin Valentina before, I would not have known that D.K. was a new member to the band if they hadn’t spoken about it during the show. Revelle’s chemistry with guitarist Heber Pampillon, bassist Chris Taylor, and drummer Jimmy Berdine was perfect and he is a natural fit for them — stylistically and sonically. The audience seemed to agree. The charismatic performer had the packed house fully captivated and he never stopped mingling with the crowd throughout their show. All while punching out song after song.

They opened up their set with a new song “Sweat” and followed it with “On My Side.” The latter was the first and only song that they played from 2015’s Super Atomic. Their 2017 release Imaginary Creatures was touched on via the next pair of songs “Turn Me On” and “Devil’s Hand.” Another great new track made it into the set with “Easy Rider.” Based on the audience’s reaction to the song, you wouldn’t have known it was new. Generally when bands play yet-to-be released material live, it can cause a break in the momentum of the performance. This certainly was not the case here. Before continuing, the band dedicated their next song “Alone” to Joan Chapman, a fan of the band who was also in attendance. The ballad has special meaning for her and the band. You could see that it was an emotional moment for her as they played the song. From their 2013 self-titled EP, “Get Ready” finished out their excellent show. I’m eager to hear Kickin Valentina’s next studio output with their new singer.

Kickin Valentina’s setlist:
01. Sweat
02. On My Side
03. Turn Me On
04. Devil’s Hand
05. Easy Rider
06. Alone
07. Get Ready

Every Mother’s Nightmare:

While I was anticipating performances by Babylon Shakes and Kickin Valentina at MB4, my main reason for attending that night was to see Every Mother’s Nightmare. I’ve been a fan of EMN for many years, having first heard them on Headbanger’s Ball way back in the early ’90s. I’ve always had a hard time categorizing their sound. They mix elements of metal, country and hard rock into their music.

Following the success of their self-titled debut album and subsequent Wake Up Screaming on Arista Records, Every Mother’s Nightmare have released a slew of independent albums over the years. A few of those were initially released by Perris Records. They’re now resurfacing via HighVolMusic. The label also re-released their latest studio album Grind in 2017. Their independently released Backtraxx disc is the most recent to get a re-release, with the excellent Smokin’ Delta Voodoo disc having been given the same treatment late last year. It’s great to see these efforts get new packaging / cover art and another chance at being heard by the masses, and particularly Smokin’ Delta Voodoo, which now bares sinister cover art befitting of the great music on the album. They’re currently out on the road in support of both Grind and Backtraxx.

MB4 was the first of two shows that band had scheduled in the area. They were also playing a show the following night with Warrant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. While they certainly fit in with more melodic rock bands, EMN’s heavier material definitely packs a punch and makes for a walloping live show. Winding about the stage throughout their performance, frontman and mainstay Rick Ruhl spit out his vocals in a frenzy over dueling guitarists John Guttery and Travis Butler. They were backed by the solid rhythm section of bassist Troy “The Viking” Fleming and drummer Allan Bone.

Their set consisted mostly of songs from Grind. “Sacred Circle”, “Upper Hand”, “Loco Crazy”, “Blown Away” and Swing Again” all sounded phenomenal. Wake Up Screaming was represented via “Closet Down The Hall”. It’s interesting to hear the band’s older material alongside their more current output of music. I feel that the band has really evolved over the years sound wise. This was particularly evident when Every Mother’s Nightmare would break out those older songs from their catalog. My favorite moments of the set were when they spotlighted their 1990 debut. “Walls Come Down” has a nice, sludgy groove. When Ruhl introduced their trademark ballad “Love Can Make You Blind”, he reminisced that the song “took him around the world” thanks to its success. Finishing up at nearly 1:00 in the morning, the band ended their show with “Long Haired Country Boy.” Their 14-song set at MB4 was actually trimmed down from an even longer setlist. I can only assume that this was due to time constraints and an approaching curfew imposed on the club.

EMN were video-recording this stop on their tour, which left me wondering if they’re planning to officially release the concert footage in some capacity in the near future. It would be cool to see the performance turn up on a DVD or packaged as bonus on an upcoming album. We’ll just have to wait and see! For now, Every Mother’s Nightmare have dates booked through July.

Every Mother’s Nightmare’s setlist:
01. Push
02. Sacred Circle
03. Walls Come Down
04. Upper Hand
05. Southern Way
06. Closet Down The Hall
07. Loco Crazy
08. Pray
09. Blown Away
10. Swing Again
11. Snake
12. Days Are Through
13. Love Can Make You Blind
14. Long Haired Country Boy
Encores:
15. Stand Up
16. Get Away

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