In 2013 we went up to M3 just for Saturday. Last year we did both days, but drove home both nights. This year, we got a room and stayed in the area. Something else that was different this year is that it wasn't just Breck and I going to a show. Earlier this year I hooked up with a group of folks on Facebook also heading to the show. So by the time May 1 rolled around I had a few familiar faces to seek out, and I had an invite to a pre-show tailgate party.
The tailgate was epic. 100+ people, a few grills, plenty of beer, strangers handing me shots, and 80s metal blasting from multiple stereos. All of this is a parking lot that forbids grills and alcohol. However, we behaved, and security seems content to leave people alone if they aren't causing trouble. So thumbs up to Merriweather Post. And thumbs up to the good folks that organized the meetup. It took going to a concert and turned it into a full weekend party.
Now on to the music.
I may have missed a band Friday as I was having too much fun at the tailgate. Also, I preferred drinking the beers I brought over the \$10.50 craft pints in the venue. So the first band I saw was Trixter. I was pleasantly surprised. I was never a big Trixter fan back in the day, but they won me over live.
Next up was Dio Disiples, which are sort of the official cover band for the late Ronnie James Dio. They are good for what they are, but it is a cover band. It's just a cover band full of very serious and well known metal musicians.
Then we got Quiet Riot. For me, if Kevin DuBrow ain't singing it's not Quiet Riot. Some bands can rotate out a lead singer and not miss a beat. Quiet Riot is not one of those bands. The only member from the classic lineup is the drummer Frankie Banali, even through the bassist and guitarist are both former members too. Personally, I think they should be touring as "Frankie Banali's Quiet Riot," or something like that. That said, they sounded fine, and the audience seemed to dig them, so I might be in the minority on this one.
The next to last band to Friday was Dokken. Dokken was my favorite band back in the day, so it pains me to say this. He probably shouldn't be a lead singer any more. 40 year of touring, drinking, maybe smoking, and who knows what else have taken its toll on Don's voice. It wasn't even as bad as I was expecting based on recent reviews, but it wasn't good either. Also, Dokken has never been the most dynamic front man, so he can't really do the DLR thing and compensate by being entertaining. I appreciate that when you are a singer singing is what you do, but time stands still for no one. I've now seen Dokken live twice, once at their peak in 1988, and this weekend. I was disappointed both times.
As is recent tradition, Friday's headliner was Kix. I'm not a big Kix fan, and last year didn't enjoy their show at all. This year was different. They were damn entertaining, although 1 hour is about my limit with them.
I really did have a great time Friday, even if I wasn't thrilled by the performances.
Saturday started early with breakfast beers at the tailgate before 11 AM. We headed into the venue around noon for the first act, Bad Seed Rising. They are a local band fronted by a 17 year old girl with a powerhouse voice. They are more of a screamo / punk act that 80s style metal. So they didn't really fit in with the genre, and I'm not a fan of the death metal growl thing that she fell into in some songs. Lots of potential there though, and they have plenty of time to realize it.
Then we moved over to the side stage for Killer Dwarves. I remember them having one minor hit back in the day, and hadn't thought about them since. They put on a good show though.
Next up was Rhino Bucket, a west coast metal band that missed the window to hit the fame home run. The lead singer has a bit of a Brian Johnson thing going on with his voice, which you may or may not find grating. I don't, but then I'm a big AC/DC fan. They played a solid set, but there wasn't anything particularly memorable about it.
On the other hand, Tyketto blew me away. I had never heard of them prior to M3. They are a NY band that got signed just in time to get steamrolled by grunge. It's a real shame, as they have some damn good songs. In fact, I'm listening to their debut album right now, as I bought it from Amazon. They gained a fan with their kick-ass 30 minute set. Actually, I bet they gained more than one.
Next up (back on the main stage) was Vixen. All I can say about their set is I was bored. The mix was fine, they sounded good, but their set just didn't connect with me. I'm sure it's not them, it's me.
Then it was time for Black N Blue. They had the joint jumping, especially when they played their big hit from the 80s, "Hold On To 18." They still sound damn good, and they can still bring it live.
LA Guns was up next (the Phil Lewis version of the band.) I can't keep track of who is in and who is out of LA Guns, but at least there is only one version of the band right now. They sounded fine, and played all the songs you would expect. I guess I don't have any emotional investment in them anymore, so I can pretty much take them or leave them.
Following LA Guns was Bango Tango. They have a little bit of funk thing going on, which gives them a little bit of a different sound than everybody else playing 80s metal. I was never a fan back in the day, mainly because I missed them. I graduated college in 1989, and shortly after made a concerted effort to "grow up" with my musical tastes. It didn't stick, obviously. However all these bands that had one or two albums before getting run over by the grunge thing were never on my radar. I quite enjoyed their set though.
Now we get into what I would consider the "headliners" of the festival, starting with Krokus. Krokus was great, although I was disappointed that they didn't play The Ballroom Blitz.
Next up was The Winery Dogs. featuring probably the three most individually talented musicians at the show, all of who happened to be in the same band. They were freaking awesome. Billy Sheehan does stuff to the bass that other people haven't even thought of yet, and the solo tradeoffs between Billy and Ritchie Kotzen were just incredible. They also mentioned they are headed into the studio this summer to record an album due out before the end of the year.
Then it was back to the main stage for Warrant. We choose this time to indulge in the mediocre and ridiculously overpriced food at Merriweather Post. \$27 for two cheeseburgers and one order of fries? We sat out on the lawn and ate, without really paying attention to Warrant. Then we left early as I wanted to get up close for the next band, Y&T.
Y&T was one of my bucket list bands for this show. By skipping the end of the Warrant set we got to within 10 feet of the stage. Y&T, to put it simply, rocked. Easily a top 2 performance of the day. They may have been doing this for 40 years, but they look like they are having the time of their life on stage. Also, I was about six inches from owning a Mike Vanderhule drumstick, which I probably would have handed to the nearest kid anyway. So my streak of never catching a guitar pick or drumstick, or a baseball at a ball game, continues.
Queensryche followed Y&T, and Queensryche did exactly what you would expect. They sounded amazing, and interestingly they were easily the quietest band of the day. It was the only set at the main stage that I didn't use ear plugs for. Let that be a lesson to you kids. If you have real talent, you don't need to turn it up to 11. They also went deep into the archives and pulled out NM 156.
The closer on the side stage was Tom Keifer. He blew the roof off the joint, which is quite a trick given that he was playing under the stars. My impression of Tom from interviews was that he was a little bit of an introvert, so I wasn't prepared for just how damn good he is live. I'd go see a full show with him again tomorrow. He played 3 tunes from his record, a rocking cover of With a Little Help From My Friends, and all of Cinderella's big hits.
Closing the show on the main stage was Europe. I know 2 or 3 Europe songs, and one of them is Carrie. After the trifecta of Y&T, Queensryche, and Keifer, I couldn't imagine how Europe would be anything but a letdown, so we headed out and called it a night. If you are wondering how Europe got top billing over Queensryche, Y&T, or Tom Keifer, welcome to the club. In three M3 festivals I've skipped the official headliner twice.
My top 3 for the weekend are Keifer, Y&T, and Queensryche. Queensryche was freaking awesome, which just shows how amazing the other two sets were. My newcomer (to me) award goes to Tyketto, and the why the hell don't I listen to these guys more often award goes to The Winery Dogs.