M3 Rock Festival
May 30, 2009
Merriweather Post Pavilion
By Steve Johnson
The M3 Rock Festival invaded Columbia, Maryland on May 30, 2009 and brought with it some of the greatest bands from the mid to late 80’s. Merriweather proved to be a good choice of venue for the show, as it provided ample amounts of shade on a sunny and warm day. While the performances themselves are of utmost importance, there is something to be said about the atmosphere in the parking lot prior to the gates opening. The parking lot at Merriweather was full of people tailgating and listening to their favorite tunes from bands performing at the show. I have not seen that many IROC-Z28 Camaros, Mustangs or vintage concert t-shirts in one place since the late 80’s. Luckily the parking lot police seemed to be turning a blind eye toward their policy of no drinking in the lots, as everyone seemed to be downing a cold one or two.
Gates for the show opened at 11:00 am and many of the revelers in the parking lot quickly made their way inside. The layout of the festival was rather impressive considering Merriweather isn’t the largest outdoor venue I have been to. The main stage/pavilion area was separated from the second stage by a long line of tents filled with various giveaways and other businesses advertising their products. There were also ample concessions, at rather reasonable prices. One fantastic addition to the festival was a VIP bar area appropriately labeled Hammerjack’s. If you are not familiar with the area, Hammerjack’s was an extremely popular concert venue in downtown Baltimore in the 80’s and 90’s that attracted many of the biggest names in rock. This was a nice touch that added to the nostalgia of the entire event.
The festival’s opener was none other than former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. While his set was short, Clarke showed off the skills that landed him with a job in one of the greatest bands in rock history. Much of Clarke’s set included solo material, but he did throw in some Guns ‘N Roses for good measure. Highlights of Clarke’s set included “Tijuana Jail,” “Cure Me or Kill Me,” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” Next to take the main stage was Y&T. Y&T managed to play many of the hits from their 35 year career in their allotted thirty five minute set. The band sounded good and fired off fantastic versions of “Dirty Girl,” “Mean Streak,” and “Summertime Girls.”
Slaughter took the main stage after Y&T and delivered a blistering performance. The band sounded great and Mark Slaughter proved he still has the ability hit his signature high notes. Slaughter’s set consisted of a lot of their older material, with some of their newer stuff mixed in. They ended with two of their greatest hits, “Fly to the Angels” and “Up All Night.” After Slaughter left the main stage, fans were greeted with a spectacular set by Jani Lane of Warrant. He opened up with “Down Boys” and, as expected, performed all of Warrant’s hits and sounded good while doing it. Jani looked better than he has in years and didn’t miss a step as he took command of the main stage for a blistering performance. The Jani Lane of old was back that day. Here’s hoping he has continued success in the future.
The onslaught of classic 80’s metal bands continued with a stellar performance by Dokken. While I was only able to catch a few songs by the band, I enjoyed what I heard and the crowd responded well. Normally I would have checked out all of Dokken’s set, but I had to make my way over to the second stage to check out the band everyone had been talking about, Steel Panther. I had heard a lot about the band and had seen them featured on television and in many YouTube videos of them performing with celebrities in L.A. I went into their set not expecting much, but came out a huge fan. Steel Panther may be a parody of glam metal, but those guys can play and delivered what may have been the most entertaining set of the day. The band performed a few songs, including “Fat Girl,” and “Death To All But Metal.” The rest of their set was filled with comedy gold by way of interaction with each other on stage and with the crowd. The band even slowed it down with their latest single “Community Property” and a massive guitar solo which served as a tribute to the rockers that came before them. Steel Panther are a visual spectacle for sure but do not think for a second that these rockers don’t have the musical chops to stack up to the talent on the rest of the bill. They provided not just a show but an experience, The result of the all too short set was evident as fans went wild and wondering why these guys weren’t on the main stage. Ladies, lock up your daughters! Steel Panther is on the prowl!
As Kix rocked the main stage, I kept my post at the second stage to check out the legendary L.A. Guns. There are currently two versions of L.A. Guns touring the country. This L.A. Guns features Phil Lewis on vocals and Stacey Blades on guitar. While some people in the crowd may have been disappointed that this version of Guns doesn’t feature Tracii Guns, Stacey held his own and the band blasted through many of their greatest hits, including “Sleazy Come” and “Rip and Tear.” Up next on the main stage was Extreme and by this time fans continued to file into the venue to and search out a good spot to see their heavy metal favorites. Gary Cherone and the boys of Extreme sounded good and remain some of the best musicians from their era. The crowd’s enthusiasm continued to grow with each passing moment and each jam they belted out. Extreme’s last song of the night “Hole Hearted,” was fantastic and was the proper choice to end with. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Extreme live, you shouldn’t delay, as they definitely pack a punch and leave you hungry for more.
At this point in the day, many people had gathered to the main stage/pavilion area to witness the two headlining bands of the show, Ratt and Twisted Sister. Ratt took the stage around 8:00 pm and performed an hour long set that featured all of their hits. Highlights included “Lay It Down,” “You’re In Love,” “Back For More,” “Round and Round,” and “Nobody Rides For Free.” Vocally, Stephen Pearcy sounded great and Warren DeMartini absolutely shredded on the guitar. Ratt had one of the better performances of the day and pumped the crowd up for the last band of the evening. Twisted Sister blasted onto the stage around 9:30 and initially had some sound problems. Everything was quickly corrected and the band delivered a blistering set of their classics. Dee Snider is a great front man and proved it on stage at M3. He ran around fists pumping and banging his head. The rest of the band delivered a great performance and sounded just as tight as they did twenty five years ago when they gave us Stay Hungry. Highlights of their performance included “Under the Blade,” “We’re Not Gonna To Take It,” “Burn in Hell,” “The Price,” and “I Wanna Rock.”
The M3 Festival was a great time and provided fans of classic 80’s metal a cheaper and much closer alternative to Rocklahoma and Rock Gone Wild. The bands were all fantastic and all of the concertgoers seemed to be having a great time. The M3 Festival has breathed new life into a scene that has long been forgotten in an area where it was once king. Here’s hoping it is back for more next year!