What: M3 Festival
When: May 30, 2009
Where: Baltimore, Maryland @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
Who: Twisted Sister, Ratt, Extreme, Kix, Dokken, Slaughter, Y&T, Gilby Clarke, Keel, Jetboy, L.A. Guns, Jani Lane, XYZ, BulletBoys, Carmine Appice’s SLAMM, Steel Panther
A lot of people considered M3 a “mini Rocklahoma:” great Glam bands in one day instead of four. There is surely something to be said for one day festivals: they are pretty efficient and you don’t feel like a corpse by the time the last band is done. Held at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the fest ran as a “turn-key” operation: real bathrooms, true infrastructure, beautiful grounds. The best weather imaginable helped make M3 a massive success.
The day started early with Gilby Clarke. For the noon hour, Gilby had a great crowd. This was an indicator of just how well M3 sold. Even for a one day fest, people were willing to fly thousands of miles. I mean, I did – this wasn’t just a Baltimore crowd! As expected, Gilby did a mix of his own tunes and some Guns n’ Roses classics.
The thing that made M3 exhausting was the back-to-back scheduling. If I were queen, I would have given 10 minute gap between bands on both the main and second stage. Overlapping meant always missing a song by one band while rushing to the other.
Around for forever and a day, Y&T are enjoying a resurgence of sorts: they’ve been playing more and more festivals. That can only be good because that means their brand of music is still in demand. The band played their most famous songs and I was surprised that “Summertime Girls” was toward the middle of the set. Seemed like a perfect set ender for a rock festival.
The Glam husband loves Slaughter. All last week, all he said was “We’re seeing Slaughter soon – ‘Fly to the Angels!’” I was in the pit for much of the day, but for the beginning of Slaughter I actually went to the security area in front of the barrier. Glam knows I love Mark Slaughter. Too bad the sound was so bad for them I had to leave and go to a seat to hear better. Poor Mark was having a bit of a rough one I think. He was struggling. Maybe he was sick? At any rate his voice was pretty raspy – but “Fly to the Angels” was still the best song of the set. Everyone around me was singing along.
Jetboy is an impressive live band. They always play far earlier than their talent deserves – and they shouldn’t have been on a second stage, either. The same can be said for XYZ. Both bands have played Rocklahoma, albeit the main stage. At M3, tons of people were walking around in Jetboy shirts – and definitely headed back to stage two for XYZ. Jetboy and XYZ were certainly two of the most energetic bands on the bill. The members of each act had no problem running from side to side, climbing over stage rigging and the like. No one was suffering from “feet plant” disease.
“Feel the Shake” is always excellent, but I do think Jetboy sounded better at M3 than they did at Rocklahoma 2008. The number of people screaming every word of the 1988 single was damn impressive. I mean, Jetboy is far more obscure than, you know, Def Leppard.
You never know what you’re going to get when Jani Lane is involved. What M3 got was one of the best performances of the day – bar none. Guitarist Keri Kelli played with Jani and the two of them together = glam happiness. Jani sang all the predictable Warrant tunes and also a new song he just wrote called “Changes.” I tell you, perhaps the cutest thing I saw all day was Keri mouthing along the words as Jani actually sang them. It sort of gave off the vibe that Keri was willing to step in just case Jani needed some help – but he didn’t. By the end of the set, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one saying “Warrant, who?” Performing as he did at M3: sober, tight and talented, Jani doesn’t need his old band to earn a living. A brilliant songwriter, I hope Jani keeps up his craft, protects his voice and continues to do electric shows like at M3. Truly impressive and a definite highlight of my day.
Right after the Jani and Keri hour (of which I stood right in front of Keri while he played and acted all “fan girl” on him) I had to interview Extreme. This meant I didn’t see Dokken or the Bulletboys.
Steel Panther were scheduled for stage 2, right before Kix. If you’re going to open for Kix in Baltimore, you better damn well know what you’re doing. 1) Steel Panther rule 2) They know what they are doing. So, after two days of fake rumors the band wasn’t really playing (and hell, they may have started the rumor themselves to hype their set) it was time for a whole lot of people to get clawed by the Steel Panther. Can I just say I love parodies? Steel Panther is a great band because they play up every Glam cliché to the millionth degree – but back it up with great talent! A major draw for many, seeing Steel Panther outside of the west coast was a huge boon for us easterners. I do love Lexxi Foxxx, the so called dumb bassist. I am crazy for subtle humor, so my favorite part of their set was when Lexxi continually pulled out a mirror and fixed his lip gloss. Great wig too! Even up close, it looks real. Seeing a truncated festival set of Steel Panther meant we got all their own tunes – no cover songs and I love that. The band has a new album out soon, so they were hyping the single “Death to All But Metal” pretty hard. The crowd loved “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)” and “Girl from Oklahoma” - and I just tended to enjoy the ridiculous choreography. Great band really. If you get a chance to catch a Steel Panther show, just do it: they play every week in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. (Steel Panther also did the official M3 after party and this meant a longer set of Steel Panther tunes and a little bit “edgier” material. Nudity may have been involved. Ok, it was. Great party. See this band!)
Then it was time for Kix.
Seriously, Kix played at 5 in Baltimore? Why doesn’t someone give this band a headline spot? Overlapping schedules meant leaving Steel Panther for Kix – but priorities! People were literally RUNNING down the hill from Steel Panther to get to the pit for Kix. Some kind men let me stand in front of them because I’m short and was angling for better positioning in the pit. So, here I am, jumping up and down while Steve Whiteman wails on “Midnight Dynamite” and I kept right on jumping and screaming through “Same Jane” too. Here’s what I’ve decided: it is scientifically impossible for Kix to do a bad show. Like, it just doesn’t happen. I’m sure the boys felt a little bit of pressure before the show – I mean, most everyone was there to see them. No point in denying it. So, the pit was a chaotic mess of too many people crammed in a small space and – no lie – I turned around and all I could see was a mass of bodies. Just humans everywhere, singing every bloody word of “Poison.” Festival sets mean that bands play their biggest hits, so Kix did “Cold Shower,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Girl Money” and the like. Since I could listen to Kix play for probably five hours, I’d love some random obscure goodness, but I’ll take whatever I can get when my beloved Kix is involved. Seriously – I know there were lots of people seeing Kix for the first time at M3 – I’m sure the band just earned some more lifelong fans. Random aside alert: You know, it just dawned on me: the guys in Kix (being generally sweet and polite men) actually dress to perform. I never really thought about their stage clothes before, but each guy has a certain style of clothes he likes to wear while performing. As we all know, street clothes and stage clothes are two totally different things...but Kix just look different. Everybody and his Glam brother can wear some chains and cowboy boots on stage, but the guys in Kix wear clothes of a different age that actually match the style and tone of their music. Random aside over: lest there be any doubt: Kix were the best band of the day (as per usual).
Phil Lewis’ version of L.A. Guns played M3. Gasp! The band didn’t play “The Ballad of Jayne,” but they did play some tunes from Hollywood Vampires and classics like “Rip and Tear.” Too much jumping and screaming (and drinking and no eating) meant I had to do some major migraine prevention during L.A. Guns so I sat on a picnic table instead of standing. My apologies to Phil and the boys, but I pledge my allegiance to Tracii anyway. That’s another post for another day!
Now when I talked to Extreme, I asked the band about their upcoming tour with RATT, recording new music...and how they select songs for festival sets. The band admitted to liking long songs that tend to eat their time. Extreme was sort of a jam, but Gary Cherone sure sounded good. It did look as if a large part of the crowd left after Kix, but there was still plenty of people rocking out to Extreme. A highlight for me was “Get the Funk Out.” Always thought that song was genius and it does translate well live.
Keel is one of the few bands at M3 I’d never seen before. I was sort of curious to see Ron Keel in person. He’s an interesting figure with his country music ways. He also wears one of those pop star microphones so his hands are free for guitar. That’s sort of unique among Glam singers. Watching Keel, I got the impression they were kind of (ok, really) excited to be playing together again. A lot of people were walking around in Keel shirts and I think most of them had waited a long damn time to see the band in action. Keel performed their most famous songs like “Right to Rock” and “Because the Night,” plus Ron explained a little about the band’s history and work with Gene Simmons. I think the band was well received and I’ll check them out at Rocklahoma as well. Keel is main stage at Rocklahoma and that means a longer set.
So I was curious about SLAMM! A mix of performance art, Glam and drum master class meant a very unique way to close out stage two at M3. So, Carmine Appice and a bunch of drummers are making music on a traditional kit, some garbage cans and other stuff. The musicians also painted their bodies in day-glo paint and sometimes there was guitar. Interesting for sure and I can see why Timbo (Slaughter’s touring drummer) was checking out SLAMM! near the stage.
Why was John Corabi playing with RATT? No one seemed to have a definitive answer for that one, except the band must have been in a hell of a jam. Despite whatever inner turmoil the band was facing on game day, the M3 set was pretty good. You know what RATT played that I missed? “I Want a Woman!” Yeah, my favorite RATT song that I’ve never heard live and they played it while I was in the bathroom. Seriously. Scheduling bands back to back and crazy overlapping meant I was trying to limit bathroom trips and when I had no choice but to go, I miss “I Want a Woman.” At least I did hear “Lay It Down!” Argh.
Twisted Sister headlined M3. The band had some major guitar issues right at the beginning of the set, namely neither guitar worked. Some fighting with pedals and plugs and things started running smoothly. I was concerned this would make Dee Snider go batshit crazy, but he kept his cool. I always enjoy hearing “The Price” and this time, Twisted dedicated the song to the other bands sharing the bill with them, specifically Y&T. I was at the top of the pavilion for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and it was an interesting experience, watching a lot of exhausted people try to muster a last bit of energy to jump around and pump fists right along with Dee Snider. No matter, Twisted got the job done and closed out M3 with a giant pyro bang. Seems fitting.
Photo key: Lexxi Foxxx, Michael Starr (Steel Panther), Brian Forsythe (Kix), Jani Lane, Kerri Kelli, Lexxi Foxxx (Steel Panther), Steve Whiteman (Kix), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister).
More photos tomorrow!