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Heavy Metal Heaven – Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion Concert – Lords Of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, Anvil, T.T. Quick – Live Review 5/11/13

Posted in Gig Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by novametalreview

When this show was first announced I believe it was just Raven, Anvil and Twisted Sister, and that in itself already seemed like a “can’t miss” event, so the final line-up as listed really was exceptional. A night that many heavy metal fans perhaps thought they would never see, particularly T.T. Quick and The Rods, who are playing almost never and rarely, respectively. First though I should point out that the cause behind this event, namely hurricane Sandy, and the devastation left behind, is still a horrible reality for many people, so the spirit and intent behind this show was a motivation of great passion – all the bands donated their time, the organizers, Eddie Trunk and the boys from That Metal Show, the various production companies, etc – everyone involved deserves great kudos and recognition for making this happen. The show was fully sold out the day before and, combined with the money raised through a raffle of donated guitars and basses, over $40,000 was raised, that will basically be going directly to people in dire need. Metal gives back, or just gives, since I don’t think it ever “took” anything in this case.

Now I don’t know the full back-story behind the Old Bridge Metal Militia or the Heavy Metal Heaven record store, but between them they were the organizers of this exceptional event, and they did a fine job considering everyone was basically a volunteer. Pulling off something like this is by no means a cake-walk and at the end of the day I’d like to offer my thanks for putting the event on – notwithstanding the good cause, this was a heavy metal night to remember, and this is likely one of those nights that becomes legendary, at least in rock history.

Rather than string this out in my usual fashion, with a little history lesson here and a tale from the “old days” there, I’ll try and keep to the meat’n’potatoes of the night as much as possible, but first a word on the venue. Hailing from Northern Virginia, the Encore Center in Freehold, NJ, meant absolutely nothing to me, and when we arrived it seemed we were at a rather non-descript strip mall… not very heavy metal at all. Fortunately the sheer amount of long-haired, leather clad metal fans confirmed we were in the right place. Entering the venue, we were greeted with a variety of guitars and basses up for raffle, a display from Oktober Guitars (http://www.oktoberguitars.com/), who had donated two of the raffle entries (an 8-string bass and a Raven MGT guitar), event t-shirt sales, plus a Raven merch stand. Despite all this, I suspect this hall was more used to wedding receptions, than metal shows. Not that mattered once we made our way into the main hall, which was dominated by a wide, high stage, flanked by a serious looking PA with a back-drop of two large video screens. I think the venue capacity was 1500 and at its peak the floor was packed, but not ridiculously so. In other words the organizers got it pretty much spot on.

The running order was Lords of Mercy, The Rods, Raven, Twisted Sister, ANVIL and topped off with T.T. Quick. I managed to snap a photo of the official running order and set-time list – see below. Basically everyone was scheduled with a run-time of 40 minutes, which seemed fair, even if didn’t seem to run quite like that later. I was surprised by the start time listed for Lords of Mercy as the tickets stated “Doors 7pm, Show 8pm”, so anyone taking a late entry probably missed what was an exceptional kick-off for the evening. I can’t claim to know anything about Lords of Mercy except they were the local team and came out swinging. Front-man ‘Brandon Sweeny’ is a power-house and despite only catching a couple of numbers from front-of-house, if there was any need of an energy injection to light the night off, he was the man to do it. They did plenty more than enough to be sure I will be in the audience if they make their way down south anytime soon. Thinking about it they would be a good addition to the Rock Harvest II bill, due to take place at The House Of Rock (White Marsh, MD) in November. Before we leave Lords of Mercy, I have to say Brandon is a very personable chap and we were fortunate to meet him back-stage, and he even insisted on taking some pictures with our kids (yes, we turned this into a family outing!). Great PR.

With the evening off and running, the energy level in the whole venue was raised to ‘11’ and this was further stoked by Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, from That Metal Show, who were comparing, and next up they introduced The Rods. I had never seen The Rods before this night, but everything I had read told me to expect a much heavier show than their recordings, and boy, was that an understatement. It was interesting to me that tonight there were three true three-piece bands appearing, The Rods themselves, Raven and ANVIL, with each of them bring a serious slice of heavy. It’s somewhat poignant that I happen to be writing this on the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Ronnie James Dio, and that date was in my mind as I looked across the stage at the diminutive in height, but hugely talented guitarist, David “Rock” Feinstein, Ronnie’s cousin and band-mate during his time with ‘Elf’. I can’t help but think, had Ronnie been alive on this day, this would have been exactly the kind of benefit performance where we may have been blessed with a guest appearance. Somehow I know he was there in spirit, of that, I have no doubt. Their 40-minute set time passed way to fast and I was left wholly impressed with their power and overall heaviness. Again, another band to add to my list that I would travel a considerable distance to go see.

Now the venue was *really* heaving, and with the clock ticking past 9 o’clock, expectation was growing for the imminent arrival of rock legends ‘Raven’. Those who track the NoVAMetalReview blog will know I saw Raven a few short weeks past in Springfield, VA (Empire) and should recall I was raving (uhg, pun totally intended) about their raw energy and sheer outright musicianship. From the mighty Joe Hasselvander on the drums, who, for me, defines power and drive, to the outright insanity of Mark Gallagher on guitar (who, I swear, makes his instrument sound like there are two guitarists in the band) and incidentally easily wins the insane guitar face-pulling competition by several miles (sorry lads, thanks for playing…), to the hypersonic vocal abilities of John Gallagher, who I should also mention is easily capable of melting the frets off his bass, whether it has 4-, 8- or even 12-strings! Raven are one of those bands that don’t need written set-lists and use some kind of on-stage telepathy to know what song is up next. Looking round the hall, and not claiming any kind of science beyond “eye-balling it”, there seemed to be a very high percentage of the audience with Raven shirts on, so they either did a storm on the merch stand or they have some seriously loyal fans.

From the moment they opened with “Take Control”, the thing that struck me more than anything was the audience were singing along with every song, and heck, they knew every damn word. It was very cool to just stand there in the massive crowd and feel that happening. Up second was “Live at the Inferno” and the crowd went nuts. Personally, my favorite of the night was “Firepower” from the Wiped Out album, which I have previously stated is firmly in my top 10 records of all time, followed by “Rock Until You Drop” which perhaps was more appropriate this evening than many others, given the expect late close. Where The Rods scored with “heavy”, Raven went with “power”, just about evenly balanced with “energy”, and they brought it by the truck-load. Actually several silly-big trucks. Full trucks… Now, there was a little ‘odd moment’ at the tail-end of their set, when the stage manager (I assume that was his role?), basically ran onto the stage and announced ‘time’s up’ and cut the set short? WTF? I’ve never seen that at any show, at least as blatantly and just as it was clear that the lads were about to start what was presumably their last number, which I am guessing would have been “On and On”, since that hadn’t been played yet. We shall never know. I have a strange perception that Twisted Sister were getting slightly preferential treatment (more on that to follow) and this was a ploy to ensure T.S. got to hit the stage at their anointed set-time, but let me be clear, this is purely conjecture on my part. However, as Raven departed the stage, a huge chant broke out throughout the crowd: “RAVEN! RAVEN! RAVEN!…”, that echoed throughout the hall and far backstage I’m sure. Raven were the only band to receive this sort of adulation all evening.

Backstage, not one of the Twisted Sister members had ventured into the hospitality area, which certainly set them apart from all the other bands. If you look below you will see a photo of a poster that I bought to commemorate the evening, and every member of every other band signed that poster, but there are no T.S. signatures to be found. For me, as a fan of metal and wanting to be part of an evening that wasn’t about any one band or performance, T.S. did not enamor me one little bit and later this only got worse. But I am getting ahead of myself by about 40 minutes.

When TS hit the stage they certainly delivered musically and Dee Snider appears quite disturbingly the exact same as he was 30 years ago, vocally and appearance-wise, less the make-up. I’m not going to try to pretend I’m a fan and know any more than the standard TS MTV hits, but basically that was their exact set last Saturday. Good stuff, well played and, not surprisingly, the audience knew every song. We got several feel good moments just listening to the audience singing along to music they grew up to. A very well received little extra came in the form of Dave “The Snake” Sabo from Skid Row, who joined the band for a ripping version of “Under The Blade”. I couldn’t hope to captured this verbatim, but during one of the song interludes, when in times past Dee Snider has been know to let rip at the crowd, he turned this around and tore into the “authorities” for the situation left behind in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, and based on the intensity and sincerity in his voice I really felt his passion. Of that, I have no doubt. Their set closed with ‘I Wanna Rock” and this had the crowd totally hooked, belting it out and loving every moment – it was amazing to be part of this.

At that point, I was headed backstage and despite a badge that said “All Access” apparently this didn’t mean “all” when T.S. are leaving the stage area, and security were blocking everyone, no matter what badge or reason. Something about this ‘privileged’ behavior left a bit of sour taste and it wasn’t only me that noticed this. Where every other performer worked around the chaos, little that it may have been, it seems T.S. were above all this. So, this ‘fuss’ and the rather obvious “get Raven off the stage, or Twisted are going to have a hissy…” were perhaps the only two downers throughout a wickedly good evening. Well that and the fact that the venue ran out of alcohol at some point…

Up next we got the mighty ANVIL, a band I have a particular soft-spot for, having been a fan since “Hard ‘n’ Heavy”, with that particular signed album cover taking pride of place in our ‘music room’ up on the wall, alongside an ever growing collection of memorabilia. I’ve seen ANVIL several times in the past 2 years, ranging from a terribly advertised show at Jaxx (Springfield, VA), where there were perhaps 25 or so people in the whole place, to sold out shows in Vienna (VA). The one thing you can never say is they don’t deliver, no matter what size crowd. Of course, that was not a problem for this show.

However, following TS was not perhaps the easiest and opening with ‘March of the Crabs”, they simply did what ANVIL does. While they may have closed with “Metal on Metal”, in many ways this is the band mantra. Turn it up to ’11’, feel the power and go with the metal. If you ‘get it’ you’ll be head-banging with the best of them, otherwise go find a spot at the bar and chill. Robb Reiner is a monster on the drum kit and in many ways I have felt he is the power-plant of the band – he is the musical master, from which everything flows. While Lips is no doubt a showman, he is certainly not the most technically appointed player and there are times when I wonder what a few less ‘weed sessions’ might have given us? On any other day that thought probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but when you’ve got master musicians like Mark Gallagher, Dave Feinstein and Dave DePietro to measure up to, it isn’t hard to see who’s got the chops. However, Robb, on the kit, is more than a match for anyone on any given day, and for me it was his performance I noticed.

It was great to see Sal Italiano pumping it out on bass. Even though he is truly the “new guy”, he brings more to the band than previous bassist, Glenn Gyorffy, ever did in my opinion. I am very pumped for the new ANVIL album, “Hope In Hell”, due to hit the streets at the very end of May, which will be the first to feature the current line-up. From what the guys were able to tell me and from the few pre-release reviews I have read, we are in for a treat, taking us back to the true roots that brought us “Metal on Metal” and “Forged In Fire”.

At this point it was noticeable that the crowd had begun to thin a little and I’m sure the combination of TS having been on relatively early and the fact the venue was out of beer at this point, and perhaps not everyone present knew who T.T.Quick are, was to blame, but, for me at least, I was pumped at this point. Mark Tornillo has been doing a fantastic job with Accept and I have been fortunate to see them twice in the past 2 years or so. I know many Accept fans find the lack of Udo up front a problem, but Blood of the Nations (2010) was an exceptional heavy metal record and Mark does a fine job on the older Accept material. The idea that we were about to see T.T.Quick was now almost reality, something that I never thought I would see.

After a few more words from Eddie Trunk, T.T.Quick hit the stage and despite some initial mic issues (which were not the first of the night; we had witnessed at least two other instances where a mic ended up being thrown across the stage because it wasn’t working), the band hit the stage with a power and bite that showed they were here to deliver some serious metal. David DePietro is a guitar monster and I had been primed to pay attention – anyone that was involved with teaching Zakk Wylde must have some serious chops and from what I saw in the first couple of numbers had me convinced! Revisiting “Metal of Honor” after the show really had me wondering why T.T.Quick never achieved more success? Sometimes the music industry just has me shaking my head. The entire set was a power-play and for me I think it was ‘Front Burner’ and ‘Metal of Honor’ toward the end of the set that really had me doing my nut, but there wasn’t a weak number in any of the seven numbers they delivered. Eddie jumped up on stage and incited the audience to call them back for more and we were treated to “Go For The Throat” and then a crushing version of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” that included an impromptu ‘all-star’ appearance by John Gallagher from Raven who delivered a couple of lines and was off again! And then we were done. I don’t remember looking at the time but it must have been around 1.30AM and one of my most memorable moments in my heavy metal life was over, but the memories will live on.

Since the show I have seen many great pictures of the night, but I have yet to see any really good quality video footage – hopefully there is some. Overall I had a blast and I have only seen good things said about the show. Scoring this seems a little pointless, since how do you score something that is unique? But for completeness this was a straight 10/10.

Running order for the show

Running order for the show

Backstage there was cake! Metal cake!

Backstage there was cake! Metal cake!

The Rods

The Rods

Raven doing crazy Raven-things!

Raven doing crazy Raven-things!

Twisted Sister

Twisted Sister

ANVIL from side of stage

ANVIL from side of stage

T.T.Quick

T.T.Quick

The 'Poster'

The ‘Poster’

M3 Festival – Love/Hate, Steelheart, Trixter, JSRG, Great White, Loudness, FireHouse – Live Review – Day 2

Posted in Just Stuff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by novametalreview

Merriweather Post Pavilion – 5/4/13

For those who attended the festival, the list of bands in the title above clearly isn’t complete; there were some fifteen bands total playing on the second day of this 2-day festival, but I am going to fully cover those listed, simply because they killed it and I like them! However, they weren’t the only bands I saw, and, as you will discover, not all passed the M3 “rocked-it” test.

For those that blinked and missed my Day 1 Review here’s a link: http://wp.me/p2hj3p-3Y

The Saturday for M3 is always a bit of a marathon, with both stages in use and bands scheduled from 11AM all the way round the clock dial to 11PM. What most people don’t realize is the sheer distance you can end up walking in a given day, especially if you happen to like bands on the main Pavilion and Festival stages that keep you switching back and forth. Add in a little bit of midday sun and a few beers…

For me the schedule was front-loaded with bands I wanted to see starting early with Love/Hate on the main stage at 11.50AM and a planned early exit prior to 9.40PM to ensure we missed the (lame) headliner, “Bret Michaels”. I know a lot of people planned similar early getaway strategies. I’ll try to keep my rhetoric under control, but this is by a long, long, long-way the weakest headliner that M3 has offered up and if they pull such a limp move again, you can be sure my $200+ ticket money will not be heading their way. Value for money isn’t hard to calculate. Most of the acts on the bill this year can be seen at venues such as Empire in Springfield, VA, or Soundstage in Baltimore, MD, for a $15-$30 ticket price, so it takes a full line-up from the headliner down to make that ticket price stand up. I gave them a pass this year and went to see the bands I cared about, but next year I suspect I will be more critical.

Love/Hate

You pretty much have to be on your A-game in the world of hair-metal to know much about Love/Hate, but those that were fortunate to discover them at the very beginning of the 90’s will typically be strong fans and both albums that received US-release were exceptionally good. “Blackout In The Red Room” (’90) and “Wasted In America” (’92) both have a pretty cool metal-funk-sleazy-vibe going on that demands the volume to be cranked up to ‘11’. Who knows what great music we would have enjoyed had grunge not come along and slapped down everything before it?

The vocals from Jizzy Pearl have an edge and character that are somewhat unique in my book and I had previously seen him performing with one of the 48 variants of LA Guns (one of the now-defunct Traci Guns versions I believe) back in 2011, at Jaxx (now Empire, Springfield, VA). The only LA Guns recording to feature Jizzy (“Shrinking Violet”, ’99) is a great record too, so I have a lot of respect for him as a vocalist. The remainder of the line up was made of the excellent Robbie Crane (Ratt/Lynch Mob) on bass, Keri Kelli (Alice Cooper, Slash’s Snakepit) on guitar and drummer Matt Starr (Ace Frehley).

We made sure we arrived in plenty of time to ensure we did not miss any of their set since they only had a 45 minute slot, meaning a short set of perhaps 25-30 minutes tops, and pretty much right on the dot of 11.50AM Jizzy hit the stage and they slammed into “Why Do You Think They Call It Dope” from Blackout’. Immediately it was clear that Jizzy had come to bring it, with all the character in his voice per the albums. The PA was nicely cranked up, with a clear powerful sound – hey! What the hell do you expect? We are at a rock-show dummy! If it’s too loud, you’re too old… haha!

Unfortunately I was right regarding the set-length, and a short 25 minutes took us through “Tumbleweed”, “She’s No Angel” (both from Blackout’), “Wasted In America” (from the album of the same name) and closed with “Blackout In The Red Room”. By this time most people had shaken the sleep out of their ears and realized they were at a metal show – hello people, you just missed one of the highlights of the weekend. Basically they slammed it and I scored them 9/10. It will be a crying shame if they don’t tour the East Coast sometime again real soon.

Steelheart

Another latecomer to the hair-metal scene, Steelheart delivered their self-titled debut album in 1990 to much critical acclaim and significant sales in the Asian markets (33,000 sold on the first day in Japan alone) and quickly achieved platinum status. The second album, Tangled In Reins (’92), was a slightly more dirty sounding record and was not nearly as successful in the US due to the arrival of the dreaded ‘grunge’, but in Asia the ballad  “Mama Don’t You Cry” was a massive #1 hit and is still to this day a staple of cover bands throughout the region.

The band is still led to this day by vocalist Miljenko Matijevic, who provides the key character to the Steelheart sound with his wide-range and piercing high-notes. So, the number one sniff test for the show at M3 was could he still deliver? I must admit I never realized until recently that the primary reason Steelheart stopped playing and disbanded in 1992 was a serious injury to Matijevic that occurred during a concert in Denver on the Tangled In Reins tour, when a 1000lb lighting truss broke free and knocked him to the ground, breaking his nose, cheekbone and jaw, and leaving him with a back injury that would take several years to fully recover. The original guitarist, Chris Risola, is still in the line-up, completed by Rev Jones on bass and Mike Humber on drums.

Another odd fact I never paid any attention to was Matijevic provided some of the vocals behind the lead character in the movie “Rock Star” (2001), for the fictitious band “Steel Dragon”, and the set here for M3 kicked off with “Blood Pollution” from the movie. It was quickly obviously that Matijevic still has that amazing vocal range, and as soon as they broke into “Gimme Gimme” from the debut record, I was rockin’ it. Live they came across as a much heavier band than perhaps is obvious from their records.

Again they were fighting the clock and were only able to play six songs, with the breakdown being 3 tracks from the Steelheart album, “Blood Pollution” and “We All Die Young” from the movie (the latter track was also re-recorded on the “Wait” album released in 1996), and a new track called “Cabernet” that I don’t believe is on any recording to date. Missing from this list is anything from the quite excellent “Good 2B Alive” album which is their most recent recording released in 2008. Also nothing from Tangled In Reins. So much good material left untouched!

Their performance was top notch and the band was firing on all cylinders, with the guitar work from Risola being tight and meaner than I anticipated, while the whirling stage presence from bassist Jones was quite a show. At one point he was playing a vicious looking 6-string Dean bass that I swear looked about 6 feet long. Again, anyone that missed them should be slapping themselves as they were excellent. I’d score them level with Love/Hate at a 9/10. So far so good, eh?

Trixter

Up next were Trixter, who I was intrigued to see for the first time. I picked up their most recent release, “New Audio Machine” (’12) earlier this year and it’s a pretty decent record, spoiled by a couple of seriously lame and limp ballads that are so yucky I have to skip them any time they sneak onto my iTunes playlist. Perhaps I should just delete the damn songs? Without the two offending tracks it’s a pretty good listen. While Trixter have a history pretty much that parallels both Steelheart and Love/Hate that preceded them, they really didn’t achieve quite the same level of success, so I was rather perplexed as to why they were playing later and indeed might have seen them as a better fit for the Festival stage really. What is interesting is the band retains the same line-up today, as they did back in early 90’s during the peak of their success.

Their set opened with a backing track, I think from the latest record, but pretty much as soon as they kicked off it was apparent that things were a little bent out of shape. Oh dear. Now, as a guitarist of some 35 years experience, any time any one is having any kind of issue with gear or their instruments I tend to pick up on it, and it was obvious to me that the guitar of Steve Brown wasn’t in tune with the backing tape or the bass of P.J. Farley. Not good. I don’t know what it is, may be we can blame pollen or something, but this is the second show in as many weeks where we’ve experienced a bit of a mess, with instrument tuning issues. This then went from bad to worse, when the guitar rig cut out entirely. I fully understand the pressures of the festival environment, but come fellas, no one else seemed to have a problem all day.

I think we tried to hang in their for the second song, but the fire was out for me, and we decided to make a run for it and scout out the merch stands. Later we found out that the temptation of a little too much backstage hospitality was probably to blame for the issues we had just walked away from, though I need to be clear and state that is entirely rumor. Personally, I’d rather it was that, than a fundamental and basic cock-up – I can excuse a rock band hitting a couple of six-packs hard, but screwing up sober is harder to understand. Sadly I scored them a 3/10.

JSRG

Let me be clear, just because you are a ‘girl band’ does not excuse you the necessity of performing at the exact same level as a ‘guy band’, so I’m assuming that we all agree on that? I say that, because there seems to be some exceptions to the rule, perhaps more so recently, with a few ‘girl bands’ that seem to think the less clothes you wear, the less it matters how well they play or write songs (or don’t write them to be more accurate). Now, there have been some great ‘girl bands’ – Girlschool and The Runaways – and some great musicians – for example “Orianthi” is an outstanding guitarist, and when we saw her with Alice Cooper she shredded like the very best. So, what we have here are the remains of “Vixen” who were hailed as the “female Bon Jovi” back in the day. Hmm? Yeah, right…

Vixen put out two albums in ’88 and ’90 and then imploded. When you dig a little deeper you find that the biggest hit they had, “Edge of a Broken Heart”, was co-written and arranged by mega-songwriter Richard Marx. Unfortunately for some, image triumphs over substance.

Let me keep this brief. We walked back from the merch area and JSRG were already into their set. I don’t know how many songs in to be honest, but somehow it seems they were allocated time to fit nine songs into their time. We took our seats and listened to the song in progress, as I said, I have no idea which one. Then the next one started. Odd, the vocal melody seemed exactly the same as the previous one, give or take. To be fair, the crowd seemed to be into it, but I must have been missing the point or something. Then the next song started. Er, hello, didn’t this one also sound the same as the one before? Well, not quite, because this was a cover of an Adele song! WTF? An ADELE song. Seriously? Is that what M3 has become now… an opportunity for 3rd tier bands to turn out cover songs of current pop stars? Bloody hell, that was lame. I will say, Roxy Petrucci, the drummer was good and that was about as far as I can take it. Everything else was sort of, blah, whatever. My score for them 4/10.

Great White featuring Jack Russell

After leaving the Pavilion and stopping for a beer or two in the VIP area, we wondered up the hill to see what was going on at the Festival stage and found Great White absolutely swamped with people, and they sounded great. I won’t drag out the “this or that Great White” debate… There is enough of that with Queensryche to last all year currently, but this version of Great White sounded right-on, and Jack Russell clearly still has it vocally. We saw the last two songs of the set, which were “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” and both were rocking. I’d score them 7/10.

Loudness

Last year Loudness just blew apart the Festival stage and most people regarded them as the best band at the show, so expectation was high. This would be the third time I’ve seen Loudness in the last 2 years or so, and they are in my top 10 bands to see live. I was excited to see them again! But… in the week preceding there was a lot of conjecture as to whether they would be at the show. There were all sorts of rumors circulating and a string of club dates were cancelled. Allegedly there were problems with work visas. Not good. All this “will they, won’t they?” was answered on Friday night, when we walked into the hotel reception and found Akira (guitar God!) and Masayuki Suzuki (drums). Obviously they were very tired, but pleased to be here at all. Yes, visa problems!

We found our seats well ahead of the 4.20PM kick off time and waited with great expectation as their gear was set-up, and just slightly later than scheduled they ran an opening intro tape. This quickly became “Fire Of Spirt” from the Metal Mad album  from 2008. Holy hell, Loudness have released no less that 28 studio albums. Yes. Read that again. Twenty-eight studio albums. That’s damn close to one per year (just short, they formed in 1980). It was clear that there were some problems with the sound at this point. There was NO bass guitar at all and it was clear from the scuttling around on stage that the sound crew was well aware of this. However, Akira on guitar is a monster and his sound is always so awesome that I was dealing with this.

Some people have a problem with Minoru Niihara’s vocals, but those who are hardcore long-term fans understand that once you go with the flow this is not an issue. To be fair the mix could have given us a little more vocal, but Minoru was in fine voice and worked the crowd as best he could given English is a long way from his first language. By about the third track (“Crazy Nights”) they sound crew had found the bass and the mix suddenly caught fire. Loudness easily score the “heaviest band at M3, 2013” award of the weekend. Sounding both heavy and melodic Loudness slammed us with power and a display of out-right master craftsmanship on all of their respective instruments.

Up fourth was “Crazy Doctor” which is a crowd favorite, even for those less fanatical fans and they tore this one up. Akira is perhaps one of the worlds top 10 guitarists in my book and he was on form today. He has a mesmerizing ability to mix melody with just crazy technique and today was no different. There were times when he let rip with riff upon riff that just pummeled you into submission – and then he tore the fretboard off his guitar with a solo that most guitarists could only imagine in their most out-of-world dreams. This guy is a *master*.

Next up they destroyed “Heavy Chains” and then we were hammered by a vicious drum solo. OK, I’m not a fan of drum solos. Give me a guitar solo and I’m smiling, drums not so much, but this was heavy and a part of pretty much every Loudness show. Even so, this was the only part I would have skipped if I were writing the set list.

To close out the set we were hammered with “King Of Pain” (title track of the 2010 release), followed by “Survivor” (Eve To Dawn, 2011) and the classic “SDI”. Of course this track is a must-have for any Loudness show and had the audience fully powered up. And that was it. Loudness were easily the heaviest band of the show and that in itself is a challenge for many in attendance. For me it was perfect. Looking at it in retrospect I would still rate their performance from 2012 better than this time around ,and that may be a function of the intimacy that the Festival stage brings, versus that of the more distant Pavilion experience. Despite this, I still rate them a 9/10.

FireHouse

Ok, at this point I am horribly out of sequence… what the hell happened to Kings X and Steel Panther? Well, we did catch the very tail end of Kings X and they sounded good. I can’t claim to know anything much beyond how to spell the band’s name, so I will leave it that they sounded tight and very musical.

Turning now to Steel Panther… haha! They take what Kix allude to do and wind the comedy dial all the way past ‘11’ and much more. So, Kix tried to be funny, while Steel Panther ARE funny. Since we had seen them a few months back at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, I figured they would pretty much roll out the same set. They did, but shorter. They are both a parody and enigmatic at the same time, primarily because they can play the hell out of their instruments. On a certain level they frustrate me, because I suspect they would be a damn good serious band. Looking at it from a purist perspective you could argue they are wasting a slot a serious band could be playing in, but lets not loose perspective – this is the entertainment business.

So, while Steel Panther did their thing, we waited right up the front of the stage for FireHouse who are one of my all time favorite “hair bands”, whether that hair still applies or not! So, like several of the earlier bands who played earlier, FireHouse arrived on the scene in 1990 with the self-titled debut that spawned three massive hits, including “Love Of A Lifetime” which is one of those hits that any self-respecting musician would love to write and ensures that paying the bills for the rest of their career is not so challenging. This was then followed by the album “Hold Your Fire” which delivered another top 10 hit in the shape of “When I Look Into Your Eyes”. Lightning does strike twice.

From the moment FireHouse hit the Festival stage they were firing on all cylinders and delivered a basically faultless performance from the first note to the last. The sound up front was heavy and pounding, and I will say that FireHouse always come across as a heavier band than their records might have you believe. They opened with “Hold Your Fire” (title track of the second album) and from then on it was a master class from every member of the band.

CJ Snare is still nailing those high notes despite the 23 years that have elapsed since the first record, and you’d have to look hard to see any evidence of that time having passed. Bill Leverty is a seriously good guitar player and he was note perfect throughout the set. There wasn’t a hammer on out of place. Excellent. Michael Foster on the drums is a riot to watch. He is constantly twirling sticks or throwing them impossibly high into the air and still pounds out a vicious rhythm on his super low-slung kit. Allen McKenzie fills out the line-up with tight bass-lines and some super sharp vocal harmonies.

Up second is the massive “All She Wrote”, which still sounds fresh to this day, followed by “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, which of course has all the couples in the audience groping each other… This was soon put to rest with the rocker “Overnight Sensation” which is a wicked head-banger of a track. Keeping the hits coming, we then slowed back down to fit in “Love Of A Lifetime” and sadly the set closed way too soon with “Don’t Treat Me Bad”. Something is wrong when a 3rd tier band like JSRG can make it to the main stage and have time for nine songs, while a top tier act like FireHouse only gets time for six songs. Hello M3 organizers are you listening? My score for the superb FireHouse 9/10.

And We’re Done….

And at this point my M3 was done… huh? What the hell? No Twisted Sister? No Bret Michaels review? LOL, well, no. For the latter, you’d definitely have to buy me several 6-packs of a good IPA to get me to even consider listening to him. In fact I might just pour that IPA in my ears for Bret Michaels. Funny, I never noticed until now, if you shorten Bret Michaels you end up with B.M., which also stands for… Enough! No B.M. for me, not tonight or ever. There are plenty of other Poison cover/tribute bands, that another one is unnecessary.

So why no Twisted Sister? We had already decided to head up to New Jersey for the Old Bridge Militia Reunion show on the next weekend featuring Twisted Sister, Raven, Anvil, The Rods and TT Quick, so we knew we were going to see Twisted Sister a short seven days later, and what a killer line-up the rest of the bill indeed! So, we decided that a tactical retreat to a civilized dinner would be a better way to close the evening. On reflection we could have probably stayed for a couple of T.S. numbers, but all the reports were they nailed it and were one of highlights of the weekend. I totally believe it. I will report from the Old Bridge Militia show.

As for B.M. I am so pleased we didn’t even get a whiff of the ol’ bandana himself. From the fact that he felt he could keep the crowd waiting and come on late, to the Skynyrd cover and the fact he only delivered eight songs, it all leaves me with a sense of relief that I was in a ‘not crowded’ bar knocking back Guinness with some good friends and eating a decent meal at that time. I bet the temperature had dropped something wicked too…

So, closing thoughts? For me Loudness, FireHouse, Love/Hate and Steelheart (in that order) took the day, though I should probably award Twisted Sister a virtual tie with Loudness. Unfortunately this year was a definite step down compared to last year, and that in itself was a step down from the previous, so there is a slide in the wrong direction taking place. M3 needs to step it up next year, or we can begin to count the event out pretty soon. My overall score for day 2 was again a 5/10. It might have been lower had I actually suffered to hear any of B.M., so be thankful!

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Jizzy Pearl – Love/Hate

Steelheart

Steelheart

Loudness

Loudness

Loudness

Loudness

Akira - Guitar God

Akira – Guitar God

Michael Foster - FireHouse

Michael Foster – FireHouse

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CJ Snare – FireHouse

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Bill Leverty – FireHouse

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Allen McKenzie – FireHouse