THE YORK STATE FAIR HITS IT OUT OF THE PARK ONCE AGAIN
Date: July 27, 2021
Event: York State Fair
Location: York, Pennsylvania, USA
Reviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
YouTube videos: Jim Powers
Pennsylvania’s York State Fair returned this year in July, two months earlier than their traditional September run but once again bringing their “A” game as far as musical entertainment goes. The 2019 fair featured a “Triple Play” of KIX, Jackyl and Tesla in what amounted to a mind-blowing show. With three fantastic live bands on the bill, a bit of friendly competition may have transpired resulting in each of the respective acts upping the ante to deliver what were generally outstanding performances all around. When tickets to the 2020 installment featuring Skid Row, Warrant and KIX went on sale, attending was a no-brainer for me and I grabbed up my tickets as soon as they went on sale. Then came the unexpected, and the 2020 York State Fair (as well as virtually everything on planet Earth) went down in flames. Thankfully, it was all systems go for the 2021 dates. However, the bands appearing on the bill were slightly revised. That’s completely understandable given the state of the entertainment industry right now as things are still shuffling back to normal. While I was a bit disappointed that Skid Row were ultimately not able to appear, Slaughter were added to the itinerary and I was glad that promoters were able to secure a replacement of equal stature for the show. In the days leading up to the show, I had just returned from M3 a few weeks earlier where each of these bands performed brilliantly but with so little time having lapsed between M3 and the York State Fair, I was doubtful that any of the acts would change up their setlist or tweak their show in such a short window of time. But then again, I just spent a year of my life sitting in my living room so I think I can deal with the tribulation of hearing the same songs performed twice in three weeks.
KIX may be a big fish in the local pond with their loyal and devout fanbase, but they were once again relegated to the opening slot of the Triple Play. This was also the case at the 2019 fair and to me it seems like an odd call to have them go on first, however as Steve Whiteman explained at a recent show, it’s a common predicament that the band faces when they play shows with national bands. There are a lot of logistics and other factors that dictate the hierarchy on a concert bill, but I can’t necessarily say that those politics are always practical. Regardless, KIX took the ball they were handed and ran with it. And they ran like hell. Speaking of hell, when the band took the stage at around 7:00 pm, the temperature made it feel like we were actually there. The grandstand stage was in a direct line of fire from the scorching rays of the afternoon sun and there was just no respite from the oppressive heat until sunset. I truly felt bad for the band members having to perform under sweltering conditions in their stage attire consisting of long-sleeved shirts, scarves, jackets and vests. To better put things into perspective, the person standing next to me in the pit passed out from heat exhaustion and had to be carried out by emergency medical technicians. But KIX said it best in a song, “You can’t stop the show.”
“Midnight Dynamite” was a fantastic way to start the show. It got the adrenaline pumping through my veins and had me psyched up for what was to follow. After their second number, “Lie Like A Rug”, Whiteman paused to introduce the new face onstage with them (guitarist Bob Pare). Bob has been filling in for guitarist Ronnie Younkins and the band has made no secret of why. They continue to be transparent with their fans regarding Ronnie’s recovery from addiction and their ongoing support for him, which is classy and underscores the connection that they have with their fans.“Scarlet Fever” followed after that introduction, and it’s one of my favorite tracks of off Midnight Dynamite. From what I gather, the band isn’t particularly fond of playing the song live. Their explanation that the song “meanders like a fish” may have steered me to that conclusion. I assume that’s a reference to the zig-zagging tempo and time changes in the song. This time, “Scarlet Fever” struck back at the band though and threw a technical glitch in the direction of bassist Mark Schenker. Just after they played it, his wireless system failed which resulted in him being “put on a leash” (bass cord) as Whiteman joked. As he doubled over for just a moment to catch his breath in the sauna-like conditions, Whiteman put on his million dollar sunglasses to wager that “I’ll bet you don’t know what song we’re going to play next.” Of course we knew, but the props and rapport are all part of the fun.
KIX performing “Girl Money” and “Don’t Close Your Eyes” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
Always the comedian, when it came time for the audience to sing along during the idle in “Cold Blood”, the frontman instructed certain demographics of the audience to sing along and when. When it came time for just the “dumb ugly bitches” and “asshole morons” to recant the chorus in turn, the audience recital was much louder than one would expect. I think I laughed out loud that there even was a response. Drummer Jimmy Chalfant followed up the song with a short drum solo that was nonetheless frantic. To perform at the level that he does throughout their show (in sunglasses and a glitzy suitcoat) while also singing background vocals speaks volumes to the level of performer that he is. By the last song, you could see that the guys were just baked and dripping with sweat up there. Before clocking-out to “Blow My Fuse”, Steve announced that next year, KIX will be headliners at the York State Fair but regardless of their position on the bill. It’s not a competition — it’s entertainment — and KIX didn’t let the humidity and boggy conditions deter them from delivering a top-notch level of it.
01. Midnight Dynamite
02. Lie Like A Rug
03. No Ring Around Rosie
04. Scarlet Fever
05. Girl Money
06. Don’t Close Your Eyes
07. Cold Blood
08. Blow My Fuse
KIX performing “Cold Blood” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
By the time that Slaughter took the stage, the sun was starting to set and things were thankfully beginning to cool down just a bit. I was expecting the crowd to bulk up to a more substantial level by this point, but unfortunately that just wasn’t in the cards. The floor seating and pit areas were full, but the reserved seating in the covered grandstand was only at about ten percent capacity for this show and that’s a generous estimation. I’m not sure if that was due to rescheduling or the fact that the concert was on a Tuesday night. It’s difficult to say. Those in attendance were in for a real treat though, as Slaughter played a phenomenal set that was largely derived from their first two albums, Stick It To Ya and The Wild Life. As the lights dimmed, a familiar bass groove stammered from the P.A. against a faint echo of screams that built suspense to show opener “Mad About You.” It was the first of three songs from their debut album that they played back to back, which included “Burnin’ Bridges” and “Spend My Life”. “Burnin’ Bridges” is possibly my favorite Slaughter song of all time, so it’s always fun to hear that one thrown back into the set.
Slaughter performing “Mad About You” and “Burnin’ Bridges” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
Prowling the wide concert stage from the moment that their show began, frontman Mark Slaughter engaged the audience with the sheer power and range of his vocals which are a key element to many of the band’s songs. He’s sounding better than ever, and his vocal prowess remains right on point to this day. Bassist Dana Strum was also fully invested in the show, spending much of his time towering over the front rows of the audience by way of the monitors that he stood on at the front of the stage. He was repeatedly gesturing signals of gratitude down to onlookers when he wasn’t ponding out notes on his battle-scarred Arbor V bass. The band also managed to get to three songs from The Wild Life, with one of those being a shorter, stripped-down version of “Days Gone By” with Mark Slaughter (also playing guitar) accompanied by just Dana Strum on the bass. Mark followed the song up with a short guitar interlude that was an effective segue into the ballad “Real Love” which rounded out the tunes that the band played from its sophomore album.
Slaughter’s current drummer Will Hunt has been performing with the band for a while now and I think they found an ideal replacement for the drum chair. He hits hard and does so in a flashy style that jives with the general vibe of the band. This was my third time seeing the guys perform with Will onboard, and he’s just annihilated the kit each time. I also get the impression that Will could play these songs with one hand tied behind his back. He seems to be constantly tossing or twirling a stick in the air while holding down the beats with his other hand and feet. He’s completely confident to just rock out behind the drums and accent the band’s performance without bidding to dominate the spotlight. Long-time guitarist Jeff Blando did just that, when he took the microphone for just a moment to reflect on the loss of one of music’s true greats, Eddie Van Halen. His loss has obviously had a resounding effect on the music world, as he was undoubtedly influential to a legion of musicians and particularly the guitarists that he inspired to pick up the instrument. Slaughter then performed “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” in tribute to the late musician. As if Blando’s guitar playing isn’t extraordinary enough, the backup vocals that he supplies the band with are pretty amazing too. There were a few moments during the show where you could hear just him singing on his own and the talent level is high. I can always appreciate a band that uses real background vocals and if these weren’t, they certainly had me fooled.
I heard from many in attendance that although they were disappointed by Skid Row’s absence, having Slaughter added in their place was a welcomed addition. The audience’s response to their performance implied that the sentiment was felt by many. This was particularly so during and after the band performed the ballad “Fly to the Angels”, which was dedicated to those lost during the pandemic and the many service man and women that give their all in the midst of such a crisis. Nicely done. The encore of “Up All Night” ended things on a high note for the band as they took a routine detour into The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for a few bars before bringing it home. Delivering a set that simply dusted the fairgrounds, Slaughter squashed any notion that they weren’t up to the task of filling the vacancy that they were tasked with.
01. Mad About You
02. Burnin’ Bridges
03. Spend My Life
04. Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
05. Eye To Eye
06. Wild Life
07. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love (Van Halen cover)
08. Days Gone By
09. Real Love
10. Fly To The Angels
11. Up All Night (with snippets of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”)
Slaughter performing “Up All Night” with snippers of The Who‘s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
In something of a 180 from their M3 performance, each of the members of Warrant were catalysts to the energy and momentum that was transpiring onstage at their York State Fair show. The last time I saw the band, frontman Robert Mason and bassist Robbie Crane were more fluid and kinetic onstage while guitarists Erik Turner and Joey Allen mostly held their ground at stage right and left while stoically tearing through riffs like a pair of badass bookends. Crane has been filling in for original bassist Jerry Dixon and is a fantastic addition to the band. He’s very passionate in his performance and brings an enthused vibe to the stage with him. And the guy just nails it on the bass! I’m not sure what the extent of his tenure will be with Warrant at this time but nevertheless, he truly is just a marvel as far as his playing goes. One minute he’s perched on the drum riser locking into the rhythm with drummer Steven Sweet and the next moment, he’s back on his microphone belting out backing vocals as his fingers just fly across the fretboard of his “Rockaholic” bass. Those gang vocals were particularly powerful and synchronized on “Song And Dance Man”, with the high-end falsetto range tackled by Steven Sweet.
Warrant performing “Mr Rainmaker” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
Lead guitarist Joey Allen is always cool and collected up on stage but was noticeably animated this time around. His guitar solos (and playing in general) are always fantastic, however I think his performance was more inspired and expressive for this go. He also travelled the lengths of the stage a lot more than I’ve seen him do the last few times I’ve caught the band in concert. Having now experienced the entire Cherry Pie album performed in concert twice, I’d have to say that in general I’m not into hearing albums performed at length. The reason being that when albums are recorded, there are generally always songs that don’t go over as well live. That isn’t the case with Cherry Pie. I can’t think of one song that Warrant played from the album that I would remotely consider a clunker. Even the deep cuts rocked. Robert Mason picked up the harmonica to wail on Warrant’s rocking cover of “Train Train” by Blackfoot.
Warrant performing “Train Train”, “Down Boys” and “DRFSR” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
While I do prefer to hear a set that spans a band’s entire career, they also threw in songs from Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Dog Eat Dog for a well-rounded set. Fortunately, “Machine Gun” was included – it was heavy and pure bliss. A bit of brutal honesty was unveiled when Mason introduced the track as his “favorite song from Dog Eat Dog. Just kidding – it’s the only one that we rehearsed.” D.R.F.S.R. mascot “Guido” made a surprise appearance to harass and chastise the band members as they played the title track from their debut album. He didn’t have his money gun with him this time, but it was nonetheless a comical twist to the show that I think is an entertaining novelty for the audience. It had me thinking that this isn’t the first time that Warrant have incorporated the character into their show. If memory serves me correctly, he was part of their schtick when they were touring behind their first record. At the very least, I remember him being featured in their video for “Big Talk”. When Warrant release their next studio album, it would be a cool throwback to see him incorporated into the cover art in some small way.
In between songs, Mason expressed his gratitude to be back playing music again following Warrant’s time off from the road and also thanked the audience for supporting live music. I’m still lobbying to hear Warrant add a song or two from Lynch Mob’s 1992 album into their show. “Jungle of Love” would flow seamlessly alongside Warrant’s originals, but “Cold Is The Heart” might be the perfect chaser to a guitar or drum solo. Before closing out their show with “Cherry Pie”, Mason announced that a very special guest was on hand to join them. That “guest” turned out to be frontman Ted Poley of Danger Danger and Tokyo Motor Fist. He assisted on background vocals and brought the party with him. He received a warm welcome from the crowd, who were undoubtedly happy to see him perform this song with the band and close out an all-around excellent set. Warrant’s tour in celebration of their benchmark Cherry Pie album is full steam ahead. Check them out if you have the chance. You won’t regret it.
01. Sure Feels Good to Me
02. Love In Stereo
03. Bed of Roses
04. You’re The Only Hell Your Mama Ever Raised
05. I Saw Red
06. Song And Dance Man
07. Mr. Rainmaker
08. Blind Faith
09. Train Train (Blackfoot cover)
10. Down Boys
12. Sometimes She Cries
13. Machine Gun
15. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
16. Cherry Pie
Warrant performing “Heaven” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” live at the York State Fair in York, Pennsylvania, USA on July 27, 2021:
The 2021 Triple Play turned out to be another stellar showing for the York State Fair’s musical offerings. It’s always refreshing to see rock n’ roll well represented on the entertainment schedule and once again the event organizers had their finger on the pulse to deliver what turned out to be a spectacular evening of live, in-your-face rock n’ roll. With 2022 already promising to bring the likes of Lita Ford, Autograph, Vixen and KIX to the grandstand, I’ll be on standby waiting for tickets to go on sale.