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You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll: A First-Timer’s Look At The M3 Rock Festival

It’s no secret that I’m the youngin’ here at Icon Vs. Icon. At 25 years old, I was a baby when grunge came onto the scene and I wasn’t even thought of when most of the bands that play Maryland’s annual M3 Rock Festival were kicking ass on their original run. I’m much more of a punk guy. Now don’t get me wrong, I can jam out to the occasional Poison or Motley Crue hit, and Dangerous Toys is one of my favorite bands, but I’d be lying if I said I was an expert when it came to the hair metal/80’s rock era. However, when Captain Jason Price contacted me and said he had a photo pass for the festival I just couldn’t pass it up. Spoiler alert: I saw a lot of folks living out their heyday, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t having one of the greatest times of their lives. I was too! Before I get into it I just wanted you all to know that my life changed on that day. On April 29th, 2017 I became a huge fan of 80’s metal and the bands that continue kicking ass today. Now, let’s get into it as I take you into the M3 Rock Festival, held on April 28th and 29th, 2017 at Merriweather Post Pavilion, through the eyes of a first-timer.

All good times start off with a fantastic breakfast. I’d feel terrible if I failed to mention that Jason and I began our day ingesting delicious pastries from our local “bed and breakfast” Turnbridge Point. Listen, if you ever find yourself on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, make it a priority to check this place out! The folks that run the place are incredibly polite and make some of the tastiest treats you can imagine. After digesting our phenomenal baked goods, we said our goodbyes to our significant others and were off into the land of hairspray and leather pants!

We pull into Lot 4 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion and I already feel a bit out of place. Mind you it was 90 degrees outside so I decided to wear a light, Hawaiian button down to counteract the temperature. Everyone else in the parking garage were not so thoughtful. The most notable of attendees had the largest lion’s mane Jason and I had ever seen. I mean this in the nicest way possible, I was honestly jealous of this guy. He looked as if he had just told Dorothy and Toto to piss off because he was on his way to see Ratt!

We make our way to the West Gate, check in and receive our media badges, and away we go. The merch booth was full of black t-shirts from musical acts that played both, the night prior and that night. Most of the shirts were rather similar: all black with the bands logo in big bold letters in the center. This definitely appealed to the audience as this merch booth had a growing line all day. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed as I’m used to festivals in which each band has their own booth, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had about an hour to kill before the first band took the stage so we decided to get the lay of the land, peeping out the entrances to both photo pits and seeing what sort of food we would be devouring as the day went on. Before you knew it, the first band took the stage.

The opening band, on the Forest Stage, was local cover band 1 Nite Stand. I know what you’re thinking, “local cover band”? These guys knew how to get the party started. They came out and opened with The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”. The synth/keyboard opening was the perfect start to the day and the people began to flock to the stage. These guys know how to have fun and I would definitely like to see them perform these hits again, in the future.

It was now time to make our way over to the main Pavilion Stage to catch the first “Main Stage Act” Rhino Bucket! Make no mistake, I am 100% unfamiliar with these guys but I got to know them real quick. Led by vocalist Georg Dolivo, it wasn’t long to catch on to what these guys were all about. Coming up in the LA Rock scene, like GnR and Junkyard, Rhino Bucket pushes that dirty rock sound that separates them from the Glam/Hair Metal acts of the period. I would be hard pressed to say that these guys didn’t sound very similar to AC/DC. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, who doesn’t love that sound?! It’s also important to note that Brian “Damage” Forsythe, of Kix fame, plays lead guitar. Just a bit of a fun fact. Rhino Bucket released their latest album “The Last Real Rock N Roll” this past April and are showing no sign of slowing down.

Set times alternated between stages which was both a blessing and a burden. Catching every set was doable but damn if it wasn’t a hassle going back and forth. That being said, it was a great work out on this 90 degree day. As we made our way back to the Forest Stage I saw about 50 or so people in Korupt shirts. Being another band I was unfamiliar with, I wasn’t sure what to expect as each member took the stage. Formed in 1982, Korupt is a Maryland “Metal Cover Band”. Now, in theory that sounds a bit lame but it was far from the truth. These guys know how to shred and own every song as if it’s being heard for the first time. There around the Maryland area all the time and are opening for Faster Pussycat on July 16th. Tickets are available now!

At this point Captain Jason and I decided to grab some food. After much debate we settled on some pit beef sandwiches. No lie, this was most definitely a highlight of the day. I don’t know what they put in these sandwiches but they were bangin’! Needless to say, we went back for another one later in the evening.

We missed a couple of sets but thankfully made it back to the Forest Stage for my favorite set of the day, Junkyard. As stated above, these guys came up in the 80’s LA rock scene with bands such as Guns N Roses and the formerly mentioned Rhino Bucket. As a matter of fact, Junkyard picked up in popularity after Axel Roses sported a shirt during a photo shoot. After further investigation, singer David Roach stated that he wasn’t even sure if Axel had heard the band, he just liked the shirt and decided to wear it. These guys were most definitely the stand out of the day. This is the only band of the day that I could see playing both M3 Rock Festival and Punk Rock Bowling. Their roots are definitely set in the LA punk scene rather than the Hair Metal scene of the era. These guys slayed. Their fast paced hard rock mixed with their DIY style attitudes definitely place them in my wheelhouse. Brian Baker from Bad Religion even joined the group for a live rendition of “Hollywood”. What a breathtaking performance! Junkyard just released their first studio album in 26 years, “High Water” in April. I picked it up as soon as their set ended and might I say…these guys KICK ASS!

Back to Main Stage for some Danger Danger! Again, I’m the youngster on the scene, unfamiliar with 80% of these bands. That may be a good thing though. I’m learning about all of these kickass bands for the first time, and that’s also the case for the Queens natives. The band kicked off in 1987 and despite multiple lineup changes, and legal issues, they’re back and going strong today. Lead vocalist Ted Poley knows how to have a fantastic time on stage. His constant audience interaction throughout each song really makes the crowd part of the show. From “Rock America” to “Naughty Naughty” these guys definitely know how to have a good time, and make sure everyone around them are having fun as well.

It was starting to get hot guys…really hot. We needed a break from the crowd so we decided to walk around the festival grounds and check out a few of the merch tents. We popped on by the HammerJacks tent, yes the legendary Baltimore venue is coming back! Being the “hipsters” that we are, Jason and I grabbed a couple of shirts just to show that we were there for the venue’s return! Jokes aside, I’m absolutely stoked for the re-opening. I didn’t get to experience the original location firsthand but I’ve heard plenty of phenomenal stories. Can’t wait to experience these things myself. After leaving the HammerJacks tent I began to notice the lack of vendors/merch tents in the area. I’m so used to each band having their own tents, ready to shill any amount of merch they possibly can. Sadly that wasn’t the case here. I was ready to spend some money dammit! Back to the tunes.

Next up, on the Main Stage, Jack Russell’s Great White! Great White was one of those bands that everyone has told me I would dig but I never got around to listening. You can bet your ass I’m listening now. Leading up to the festival I made sure to check out a few old Great White tunes as well as a bit of Russell’s solo work. Now listen, this guy’s voice hasn’t changed a bit in terms of listening to the through the computer…I never expected Jack to sound that good in person. Holy hell was I wrong. This man hasn’t missed a beat. He hit every single note necessary to take you back to the days of the original Great White. While it is understandable that their set mostly consisted of Great White hits, I would’ve loved to hear a few more of Jack Russell’s Great White songs. Regardless, Jack Russell has attacked his demons and has them in a chokehold. I can’t wait for them to make their way back to the east coast so I can experience those sweet sultry vocals again!

We began to make our way back to the Forest Stage for one of Jason’s choices Bang Tango. No surprise here, another band I am completely unfamiliar with. I’ll be damned if I didn’t get familiar real quick. Joe Lesté, the last original member, was king of the world as he entered the stage on the shoulders of either a security member…or training pro wrestler. They kicked off the set with “Don’t Count Me Out”, a track off of their final OG lineup album “Love After Death”. Throughout the show I could honestly see that this band never reached its full potential. Lesté is a star in terms of a frontman, it’s criminal that these guys never got the love they deserve. There’s a documentary entitled “Attack of Life: The Bang Tango Movie” that tackles this very topic. Fun fact, the filmmaker behind this documentary is now the band’s rhythm guitarist. Their last album, “Pistol Whipped In The Bible Belt” was released in 2011.

Alright guys, we’re down to the bands I’ve heard a lot about! I know, it’s been a long ride. This is in no way a shot at the bands mentioned prior, I’m just a young guy. The bands above all killed, but now we’ve reached a few I’m familiar with. We make our way back to the Main Stage for Warrant. With the departure and eventual death of former lead singer Jani Lane, this incarnation of Warrant receives a decent amount of “hate” from fans. This is a hatred I can understand by people who grew up with a different band. That being said, Robert Mason and the rest of the crew rocked the house! They played a plethora of hits, spanning the band’s lengthy career. I can honestly say their new stuff holds up just as well as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or even “Cherry Pie”. Their newest single, “Louder, Harder, Faster” is just as the title describes and I can only assume the upcoming album will be just the same. The new Warrant album, “Louder, Harder, Faster” will be released on May 12th.

Next up we had Vixen on the Forest Stage, finally a few females in leather to balance out the crowd. We had heard about Lita Ford making the introductions for each band but had yet to catch them in the act. Thankfully that all changed as she introduced us to four badass chicks who know how to rock! These gorgeous ladies came out and brought the house down. Kicking off their set with “Streets in Paradise”, Janet Gartner shows that she still has it…as a matter of fact, she never lost it! Also noteworthy is newcomer Britt Lightning, shredding through each track as if she’s been there since day one. These girls put on a spectacular show and closed out the set with “Edge of a Broken Heart”, even being joined by a few members of one of Friday’s bands, Faster Pussycat.

It was starting to get late and this young “old man” was getting sleepy…but we still had three performances left dammit! Back over at the Main Stage we were introduced to Cinderella front man, Tom Keifer. While not my favorite set of the night, it was definitely the coolest. Keifer just has this aura about him that screams “check this out”! He went through a multitude of Cinderella hits, ramping up the performance as he went on. Along with hits from the lead singer’s band, he also covered David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and The Beatles “With a Little Help from My Friends”. Once he reached the Beatles cover, Jason and I had already made our way back to the Forest Stage but I’ll be damned if Keifer didn’t have everyone at that stage singing along as well. There’s just something about that man that makes you want to listen and be involved. It is incredible that even after intense vocal surgery this man can still perform the way he does. When Tom Keifer is in town, you make sure you’re there!

As I stated, Jason and I were back at the Forest Stage as Keifer’s set began to wind down. We were well prepared for the Forest Stage headliner, and one of my personal favorites, Dokken! Most of you know that I cover most of the horror stuff here at IconVsIcon, so I’ll have you know that “Dream Warriors” is my jam. When Don Dokken took the stage you knew you were in for a treat. I won’t lie and say that he sounds exactly as he did on past recordings, however, he’s adjusted the vocals of each song to match how he can sing now. It works perfectly. I respect any artist who can adjust their music to where they are in life, and still knock it out of the park. Dokken did just that. During this set we were also given another spectacular performance by Jack Russell as he joined Dokken during their song “Alone Again”. Am I the only one that wants a Russell/Dokken collaboration album that consists of Don and Jack sharing vocals? Just me? Well that’s too bad, because these guys killed it together!

Alright ladies and gentlemen, the main event of the evening. Back on over to the Main Stage everyone was getting set for RATT. Might I say that they pulled out all of the stops. Confetti and fog machines had us a little confused in the photo pit but damn did it assist in a great show. I know that former drummer Bobby Blotzer had his own version of RATT appear at M3 in previous years, but this was the real deal. There’s only one Stephen Pearcy. The guys started off the set with “Wanted Man” and, of course, ended with “Round and Round”. While few stated that Pearcy seemed a bit off throughout the set I feel as though he was just taking it all in. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and was ready to go all night. This was a great finish to cap off a spectacular day.

So that was that; a first timer’s look at the M3 Rock Festival. No doubt that I had a fantastic time and hope to return next year. Speaking of next year, it’s going to be the tenth festival this company has put on and they promised a few special surprises. I’m personally hoping for a Twisted Sister reunion and Quiet Riot (I know their current lineup is a bit wonky). I would also love for Dangerous Toys to be back on the festival next year as they played Friday night and I was unable to attend. The fanbase for this hard rock/hair metal genre is remarkable and dedicated. I would expect nothing less from the amazing people I had the pleasure of interacting with at M3. Hope to see you all again next year. KEEP ROCKING!

For all the latest info on the big event, visit the official website at www.m3rockfest.com.

About The Writer: 
Dylan Lyles – Staff Writer
The Phenomenal Dylan Lyles is an obsessive fan of cinema, pro wrestling, horror, vinyl, and comic books. Bursting from the womb in 1992, Dylan’s surrounded himself with all things geek culture. Earliest memories include Wrestlemania 11, ‘The Death of Superman,’ and Jason popping out of the water. You may see him sharing his opinion on just about everything on the internet or maybe even working the MonsterMania Con on the east coast. You love him and he loves you!
Twitter: @thedylanlyles

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