Friday, May 16, 2014

M3 Festival 2014 (Part #2)....A Full Schedule on Saturday!

Day two started off bright and sunny and had me feeling great after the dull, damp coolness and rain of yesterday, but the morning was not without a downside.  I had learned that tragedy had struck during last night's events while the rest of us were partying away.  I do not have the full details but it seems that a patron (possibly intoxicated) had lain down behind a vehicle in the parking lot and an unsuspecting, reportedly sober driver had unknowingly backed over him.  I offer my deepest sympathies and my heart goes out to both families.

When the details of M3 had been originally announced one thing that they had said was and I quote "two non-overlapping stages", so of course right away two of the four bands that I wanted to see most had overlapping sets to start the day.  Liars (shakes fist at M3 organizers)!  As you can see by the schedule above Heaven's Edge was to be the first live performance of the day on the "Festival Stage" while a mere 20 minutes into their set Keel would be opening the "Pavilion Stage"!

I had only learned of Heaven's Edge when a friend (Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald) gave me the album to listen to a few weeks before as he knew that I would be seeing them here at M3.  He said only, "you have to hear this album" and he was right!  I was loving this 1990 debut Heaven's 
with friends waiting for Heaven's Edge
Edge, was excited when it was revealed aboard 2014's Monsters of Rock Cruise a few weeks ago that they would be joining the ship's registry for 2015 and eager to see them at M3.  I trudged over the hill with my friend Olivier from Sleezeroxx magazine and worked through the milling concert goers fairly close to the stage, preparing for Heaven's Edge.  As coincidences happen we were right next to my friend from Brasil, Newton Santos Junior who owns a cool rock clothing/record store in Curitiba, Brasil (Let's Rock Website).  One day I will visit Let's Rock in person!  We all were treated to a little of Heaven's Edge sound check after which Lorraine Lewis and Janis Tanaka of Femme Fatale surveyed the stage set up and took some photos of the audience building for showtime.

Heaven's Edge opening the "Festival Stage at 2014's M3-photo by The Meister
Opening up with "Play Dirty", they were obviously set to thrill their audience and make an impression, perhaps trying to grasp once again what had essentially eluded them on the first go
Mark Evans-photo by Meister
around.  Reflecting a moment as I watched them on stage, I pondered why and how these guys had not become a household name such as Poison, Def Leppard or others and I quickly put it down to the album's release in 1990, the cusp of the grunge era.  Aside from sounding tight and much like I recalled from my few listens to that awesome debut album, the synchronized and choreographed stage moves of rocking back and forth, swinging arms and unison jumping around had my attention.  The set was filled with energy as they used the full stage space, making fans quickly as I heard the buzz through those around us.  My first thought on seeing drummer David Rath was that he resembled Steve Carrell a little, but these guys were all quite obviously having fun up there, happy to be playing again.  "Skin to Skin" followed the opener and then "Rock Steady Rock", but unfortunately this would be the end of my Heaven's Edge viewing experience, although it was harder than I first imagined to tear myself away for my beloved Keel.
Keel performing at 2014's M3 Festival=photo by The Meister
Ron Keel-by The Meister
Keel were one of the main reasons that I was here, having missed their presence on the Monsters of Rock Cruise a few weeks ago.  Ron Keel had sailed solo, but it is with the full electric Keel show that my heart lies.  If you would like to read about my experiences with the guys from Keel, here's a link to my story (Meister's Right to Rock).  The only thing disappointing about Keel's M3 gig was the shitty time slot and therefore the less than jammed attendance.  I know that someone has to open but it just sucks that it was my  As the guys ripped through their chosen opener of "Hell or High Water" succeeded by "Somebody's Waiting", it was easy to pick out the "Keelaholics" (aside from my friends standing next to me, the Koehler family of Michelle, Zack and the other guy (inside joke) that is) as they were singing right along, fists raised in the air and dancing away.  The sound was clear and the band tight with Ron's impeccable vocal chords, still strong at this 30 year anniversary of the band, leading the way.  "Speed Demon" literally assaulted the "steadily filling up now that Heaven's Edge
Ron Keel-by The Meister
was ending" Pavilion before the more gentle Patti Smith cover "Because the Night".  Rose Tattoo's "Rock N' Roll Outlaw" took us into my least favorite, but always played Keel track "Tears of Fire" before they shut it down with the smash "The Right to Rock".  Ron noticed the Koehler family and I in the stands and pointed out to us as young Zack hoisted the poster sign he'd crafted for Ron and the band high over his head.  Another awesome, but way too short set from one of my all time favorite bands, can't wait to see you guys on MORC the meantime, ever hear of a little rock club in Toronto called The Rockpile?  One can dream can't  Out of the 2014 M3 line we've had John Corabi, LA Guns, Slaughter, Red Dragon Cartel, Jack Russell, Stryper, Queensryche and Autograph all play at the Rockpile.....could Keel be next?

John Corabi-by The Meister
Back over to the general admission area of the "Festival Stage" now to check out some of Corabi's set.  John Corabi has been a staple on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, considered "The Mayor" of the ship and has also appeared for two nights in Toronto, so I've had ample opportunity to catch both his acoustic and electric sets.  Having always enjoyed his performances I knew what to expect here and I was not wrong, but not particularly being a rabid Corabi fan I was late in my arrival after ensuring to refuel on the way over.  I was able to catch "Love (I Don't Need It Anymore)" from his days in Union, Mountain's "Never In My Life", The Scream's "Man In The Moon" which came complete with a cake and the crowd singing happy birthday to John for today was his birthday.  A double shot from his one and only Motley Crue album with "Uncle Jack" and "Hooligan's Holiday" was also included.

After meeting some Canadians at the end of Corabi's set and needing to dispose of the remnants of the refueling process that took place on the way to Corabi, I listened to Jack Russell's Great White's
Jack Russell-by The Meister
opener of "All Over Now" from out side of the "Pavilion Stage".  Jack and company, which seemed to have had some replacements since his appearance last summer at the Rockpile in Toronto, sounded great and I much prefer this version to the Terry Illous fronted version.  No disrespect to Illous and the other members, I just choose the harder edged, less keyboardy, less commercial sounding and more soulful vocals of Jack's version.  Jack does not appear to be in good health after his previous substance addiction and health battles and hobbled around the stage hunched over.  He does however sound, perhaps, stronger than ever vocally and his soulful, bluesy tones carried around the open air amphitheater bringing with it a kind of magic that can't be explained.  "Desert Moon", "Mista Bone", "Save Your Love" (dedicated to the wives of the band), "Lady Red Light", "Rock Me" and "Once Bitten Twice Shy" were all selections that they treated the audience to, but sadly for me there was no inclusion of "On Your Knees" or "Shot In The Dark" two of my top Great White compositions.

Femme Fatale's Lorraine Lewis on the "Festival Stage" at M3-photo by The Meister
Back over the hill to "Festival Stage", I'm beginning to feel "over the hill" with all this traipsing back and forth, but come on you lazy bastard, you could use the exercise after your ingestion's of the
Nita Strauss-by The Meister
past few weeks!  Femme Fatale was due on there next and were the third of four acts I was really looking forward to here at 2014's M3.  Femme Fatale was a female fronted group issuing only one self-titled album in 1988 and while the album spawned a couple of MTV Video hits, the band would fade away afterwards never releasing the sophomore effort, which had actually been recorded.  Front woman, Lorraine Lewis has resurrected Femme Fatale, this time with an all female band including bassist Janis Tanaka (L7), keyboardist Katt Scarlett, guitarists Nita Strauss and Courtney Cox (both of The Iron Maidens) and drummer Athena Lee (Tommy's sister).  Shortly before the Monsters of Rock Cruise this year Athena seriously injured her shoulder and Linda McDonald (also of The Iron Maidens) sat in and was present behind the kit here as well.  Their performances are energy and fun filled, party sets,
Courtney Cox-by Meister
often including some audience participation ala being invited on stage to sing (I had this experience on 2014's MORC Meister's Final Day of 2014's MORC).  It was exciting news when during the set that usually encompasses the debut album and maybe a cover song, Lorraine Lewis proudly announced that the second Femme Fatale record would finally see the light of day via Nashville's F'n'A Records this summer.  The song following that declaration was "Lady in Waiting", a track from the forthcoming release that sounded much heavier than the selections from the previous offering.  Lewis also shouted out to many of her friends and fans that she saw in the crowd.  The altogether too short (literally at a half hour time limit) drew to a close but not before cans of silly string were emptied into the audience!  Femme Fatale setlist: "Falling In And Out Of Love", "My Baby's Gun", "Back in Your Arms Again", "If", "Rebel", "Lady in Waiting" and "Waiting For The Big One".

Arguably the most commercially successful Christian Rock band, Stryper, commanded the "Pavilion Stage" next starting off with "To Hell With The Devil".  Being a big fan of their latest  
Michael Sweet-by Meister
offering, the No More Hell To Pay album which I put up as their best ever, I was hoping to hear more from it than they played.  Understandable that they focused on the hits in this arena of shortened sets, so we only got "Legacy" and "No More Hell to Pay" from that album.  Stryper are very tight live and I was never really a fan in the past, finding vocalist Michael Sweet's registers too high for my taste, but I've certainly grown accustomed to them, either that or they've mellowed with age.  It disappoints me when I realize that I won't be able to catch their back to back sets at The Rockpile, but then I remember that I'll miss it because I'll be at Sweden Rock Festival and I feel better!  "The Rock That Makes Me Roll", "Calling On You", "Free", "More Than a Man", "Shout It Out Loud" (KISS cover), "The Way" and "Soldiers Under Command" (complete with Bibles tossed into the crowd) all filled out the roster.  When at a metal concert it is common (and an immediate reaction to a song you like) to thrust your hand in the air making the "horns", but I always try to remember not to do that at a Stryper show, it just seems
disrespectful given the messages in their music.

In the stands a few rows behind me I noticed a young lady with a lizard of some kind nestled on her shoulder. Turns out the little metal loving lizard made the trip from London, Ontario for the festival!

Back over the hill for Red Dragon Cartel, arriving a little late after meeting the lizard and coming in for "Deceived", the lead
Jake E. Lee-photo by Meister
track from the self titled album.  The awesome "War Machine" from the same album followed before they paid tribute to the late, great Ray Gillen with the Badlands cover "High Wire".  Two more from the RDC album with "Shout It Out" and "Feeder" closed out the set and I realized that I must have missed the Ozzy cover at the start of the show.  I once again reflected how great it was to have guitar virtuoso Jake E. Lee back on the musical landscape.  The whole band really seemed to bring it today, ramping up the efforts somehow and outdoing the three awesome shows (two on MORC and one in Toronto) that I'd already seen them play.  There was a moment of comedy and "head shaking" during "Feeder" as a gentleman who had quite obviously over indulged already and was be ejected with the assistance of security......Geez dude slow down, it's only 4pm!!

I couldn't help wondering why and how my friend and fellow Decibel Geek writer Kate Campbell was not in attendance at M3 as the next band filled the stands of the Pavilion.  I speak of none other than her "ultimate" favorite, Queensryche.  This is the Todd LaTorre fronted version of the band and
Queensryche-by Meister
they kept their setlist confined to the first five Queensryche releases, which are really the only ones worth having in my opinion, and their latest album with LaTorre on vocals.  Opening with "Nightrider" they quickly moved into "Breaking the Silence" followed by "Walk in the Shadows" and "Warning".  From that self titled album with LaTorre on vocals we received "Where Dreams Go To Die" ahead of "Eyes of a Stranger".  The album that got me into Queensryche, Empire, was represented next by the title track and I noticed my friend Dwain Miller, Keel's drummer, down on the floor area.  I was able to sneak down to say hi and show him the almost completed Keel logo in my tattoo during "Queen of the Reich".  Knowing who was up next on the "Festival Stage" I took my leave early to empty and refuel beverages and pay an outrageous price for a crappy little burger as I listened to "Jet City Woman" and most of "Take Hold of the Flame" before making my way over the hill yet again.

Autograph at M3 Festival-photo by The Meister
The fourth of the top four bands that coerced me into my first M3 festival, Autograph, was next on the "Festival Stage".  Having seen Autograph at the MORC Pre-party and again aboard ship,
Steve Lynch-by Meister
something I'd been waiting all my life to see, I was not disappointed and had an even higher bar of expectation here at M3.  After a few sound check issues they were ready to go about five minutes late, blasting into "Deep End".  For this 2014 reincarnation of Autograph, Simon Daniels (Jailhouse) steps in to shoes left vacant by Steve Plunkett and handles the material with ease.  The omission of the keyboards and the addition of Simon's guitar results in a heavier, thicker sound on these tunes I've waited a long time to hear in a live setting.  Aside from Daniels the 2014 Autograph consists of Marc Wieland on drums and original members Steve Lynch on guitar and Randy Rand on bass.  "Dance All Night" followed and I had to ask (to myself) "is there anyone cooler than Randy Rand" as he danced around the stage decked out in black with dark sunglasses and a bright ear to ear smile.  "Loud and Clear" was delivered before "Bad Boy" which became dedicated to a few members of the band "who got sent to the back of the plane last night".  For the third time straight I was mesmerized by Lynch's playing prowess, while Autograph is not necessarily known for guitar shredding, Steve Lynch is drastically and criminally underrated.  During "Blondes in Black Cars", Femme Fatale bassist Janis Tanaka, who I saw at every show on MORC and even joked that she was stalking me,
Randy Rand-by Meister
 wormed her way through the crowd right past me, recognizing me and saying "hi".  After "Send Her to Me" it was time for the two songs that vocalist Simon Daniels claims are about the same guy, a loser, with "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me" and "She Never Looked That Good For Me""Crazy World" and of course the hit and best known song, "Turn Up The Radio", brought the curtain down on another awe inspiring although, once again too short, Autograph set.  I chuckled to myself as I reflected back to the Rockerz Gone Wild Pool Party II in Miami a few days before the Monsters of Rock Cruise where I witnessed a group of people (mostly ladies) clamoring for a photo with Simon Daniels while Steve Lynch stood right next to him!  As I proclaimed this to my friend at the time Steve quickly brought a finger up to his lips in the universal sign for "shhhh" as he enjoyed his drink and watched the spectacle.

While it is extremely rare that I say anything overly negative about a band's performance or recording, I have to be completely honest with my comments on the next band.  I was looking forward to the Sebastian Bach live set as it's something I'd not yet experienced.  I'll never make that mistake again!  Arriving during "Slave to the Grind" I was surprised to hear that the volume for this
Sebastian Bach-by Meister
performance was at a very minimum at least twice as loud as the other sets previous to them.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the loud volume and (perhaps stupidly) do not even use earplugs, but this just did not sound good to me at all.  I was unfamiliar with the second song played, probably from his latest offering that I have yet to pick up and am certainly not in a rush to do so after this set.  The arrogance that he displayed through every action and word was a disgusting display and a real turn off which included, but not limited to berating the audience during the start of Skid Row's "Big Guns" for being asleep.  The whole escapade was delivered against a backdrop to Sebastian Bach's Angel Down album cover....wait a minute didn't that get released in like 2007?  You would think he'd have something a little more current given that there was at least one other album after Angel Down as well as the new offering.  "18 and Life", "American Metalhead", "Monkey Business" and "All My Friends Are Dead" helped to fill the setlist.  After "I Remember You" I could no longer take the attitude from Bach and took my leave to head to L.A. Guns, hearing "Youth Gone Wild" as I made my escape.  Needless to say I much preferred the Johnny Solinger fronted version of Skid Row that I saw at Sweden Rock last year to this fiasco.  You should be happy that we're out there buying your music....oh that's right I recall your recent rant on the lacklustre first day sales of Give 'Em Hell....wonder why that is Sebastian?  Maybe we don't like being abused, it sure didn't entice me to ever give you a cent of my hard earned money!!

I had had the chance to see Phil Lewis and L.A. Guns on a few occasions through the Monsters of Rock Cruises and thought them to be an excellent live band.  Unfortunately on the 2013 Cruise guitarist Michael Grant had forgotten his passport and was denied embarkation, but the band
Phil Lewis-photo by Meister
soldiered on without him.  For 2014 he had his passport and was aboard, so I knew what to expect with the full band here a few weeks later at M3.  Wasting no time they fired off with "No Mercy" followed by "Sex Action" and "Never Enough""I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Over the Edge" came next as did the beginnings of raindrops.  Instantly recalling my ridiculous soaking from yesterday I was weary of the rain, but held my ground.  "Revolution", "Kiss My Love Goodbye" and the awesome "Eel Pie" from the latest release, Hollywood Forever, were all delivered flawlessly as the rain thickened.  Thinking the end was near (as every other set had been about 7-10 songs) I listened to "One More Reason" and "Electric Gypsy" during my retreat back over the hill in search of more over-priced and not very satisfying food and shelter from the rain.  I later found out that the Guns had squeezed twelve tracks into their set and I had missed "The Ballad of Jayne" and "Rip & Tear".

Seeing Night Ranger on the initial MOR Cruise is what made me take notice of them, previously not taking to their more poppy and commercial sounds (albeit I'd only heard a couple of radio hits).
Brad Gillis-photo by Meister
Brad Gillis seriously impressed me with his playing there and I was surprised to learn of his time in Ozzy's band in the past.  During that show, aside from "Crazy Train", they had also broken out some Damn Yankees material given that Jack Blades had been an integral component of that "supergroup".  "Touch of Madness" began the M3 show with "Sing Me Away" close behind.  I was not familiar with much of the set, but Night Ranger certainly displayed their ability to wield the instruments and much of the crowd was right along with them.  They Included "Coming of Age" and "High Enough" from the Damn Yankees catalog in the set as well as debuting a new track, "High Road", from an album to be issued on June 10, 2014.  Their best known work with "Sister Christian" and "(You Can Still) Rock in America" wrapped things up on a show that I'll be looking out for once again on MORC 2015.

I took this time to finally check out the VIP bar area that I had only briefly made my way into for beverage purchase until now.  By doing this I was missing Slaughter, which did not upset me in the least after their shows in Toronto in early April.  It is common knowledge that Mark Slaughter's voice is not what it used to be but that is not even my issue if he sings in a lower register.  At a $40 ticket price tag they played only an hour long set of 6 songs all of which were drawn out with lengthy instrument solos in the middle that in most cases did not even fit with the songs, creating a horrible snoozefest!

Jeff Keith-photo by Meister
Tesla was the final event of the 2014 M3, introduced by Eddie Trunk who declared that they would indeed be back for a fourth consecutive voyage on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in 2015.  In keeping with what seemed to be an M3 trend with many artists doing just this Tesla also debuted a new track from their forthcoming album.  On the cruise they had debuted "Ricochet", but here for the M3 crowd it was "MP3 (Too Much Technology)", another song that doesn't seem to deviate from their trademark formula, but that's not a bad thing by any means.  Tesla is somewhat of a miracle to see live, sounding bang on to the recordings in every time I've experienced the phenomenon.  The rest of the set filled around this new track included "I Wanna Live", "Hang Tough", "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)", "Mama's Fool", "Into the Now", "The Way It Is", "What You Give", "Love Song", "Signs", "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Little Suzi".

And there we have my first (but definitely not last) M3 Festival of events with great friends from around the world and the music that we love.  Out of all 19 bands appearing at the festival I only missed two sets completely (Bad Seed Rising/Slaughter) and only one I didn't enjoy (Sebastian Bach).  For me as I had expected and looked forward to Keel, Heaven's Edge, Femme Fatale and Autograph were the stand out faves for me, but every band seemed to just have that little more kick in their step at this event......and now it's off to Sweden Rock in June, stay tuned!

The Meister

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