|By Good-Evil Contributor||Monday, 28 Jun 2010|
Contributed by Chris Morgan.
Several months ago I was browsing through the City Paper for upcoming events of interest, and saw an ad for the M3 Rock Festival in the “Concerts” section. Since my girlfriend and Muppet co-conspirator is a Scorpions enthusiast (and I have also been known to hum along with “No One Like You” from time to time, admittedly thanks to Guitar Hero) I showed her the ad and we both decided this was an event we would have to make it to. Scorpions! Cinderella! Local hometown-heroes Kix! This would be like the Renaissance Festival, but with better mus– well, with funnier cost– well okay, so this was in many ways exactly like the Rennaissance Festival, except there would be no mead.
A plan was drawn up, tickets were acquired and we began the excitement phase. The girlfriend and I planned to take her sister along with us, meet up at a friend’s house who lives within walking distance of the Pavilion for some pre-gaming activities and a ceremonial viewing of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and then head to the show. Not being up on all of the kids’ music in these days or in those, the girl and I decided to build excitement in the week the preceded the show by watching Youtube videos of the bands who would be playing to brush up, as it were, and decide who we absolutely had to see; the prospect of spending 14 hours on a huge sweaty lawn in the Maryland summer heat being less than ideal and all. It was soon decided, with the help of the lineup, that we could get there around 3:30 in time to see Winger and not really miss any bands we cared about. (Sorry, Trixter and LA Guns!)
After the aforementioned video and some requisite teasing of hair (the girls were in full 80s regalia, I will not go into my costume here but pictures are surely already on Facebook) we walked the 2 miles up the road in the blasting heat and humidity to get there EXACTLY at 3:30, to hear LA Guns wrapping up the Winger starting their set. The footpath we took led us to the entrance by way of an area behind the festival stage (the smaller of the two) where a security guard motioned for us to take the “VIP entrance.” Presumably, our dress gave her the impression that we were one of the acts.
The question on at least two of our minds was of course: What does Playgirl-described “hot rocker” Kip Winger look like in 2010? The answer was shocking, as the face I saw on the video screen was we approached the lawn reminded me more of a late-era Gene Simmons than the lusty bassist I remembered from “(She’s Only) Seventeen” fame. I admit to not really recognizing much of their set until they closed with their 1988 hit, and this would largely set the precedent for the rest of the day.
After Winger I walked over the hill to the festival stage to see Bang Tango, who I had almost no knowledge of whatsoever before watching their videos on Youtube. They had clearly replaced their drummer with a newer, younger model since the late 80s but otherwise were exactly what I expected from the videos. The singer was a grown-up version of the Danzig-knockoff I’m sure A&R wanted him to be at the time, screeching in the requisite ’80s-metal-guy voice’ and trying to pump the crowd up for some “new Bang Tango in 2010!” songs. The only other notable feature of the band was their bassist, who looked about like what I imagined Douglas Adams’ fictional bassist from Disaster Area, Hotblack Desiato to look like when in action.
I returned to our place on the pavilion lawn where we would spend most of the rest of the day, and awaited Hagerstown Maryland’s own sons Kix. They put on easily the third-most memorable performance of the day and received the second-greatest audience response, still every bit as technically proficient and crass as I understand they ever were. I admit to never having seen or heard Kix myself beyond their 1988 hit song “Don’t Close Your Eyes”, which singer Steve Whiteman sardonically introduced with the phrase “we’re gonna play our hit now… we had a HIT.” Lots of crude jokes and soloing later they were done, by which time the heat was really starting to take its toll on us.
Having consumed nearly all of the 1.5L bottle of water I was allowed on entrance by this time (I drank nothing but water all day, which to my mind is the only sensible action to take if you’ll be laying under the hot sun for 8-9 hours straight; many of my fellow concert-goers felt otherwise, and many of them paid the price for this later on) I elected to skip Dizzy “G’n'f’n'R” Reed, Nelson and Warrant, all relegated to the festival stage rather than the main pavilion, in order to avoid leaving my blanket on the lawn and napped face-down waiting for Motley Crue’s Vince Neil to begin. Around now was when we saw a pair of kids walking around the crowd dressed as Vince Neil and Tommy Lee, who paused to give us all high fives for being unafraid to dress up as well and then had their pictures taken with many of the female audience members sitting around us.
Before Vince came out, I had some questions: had Vince even done anything since his days in Mötley Crüe? Would this set be a bunch of their old hits, rehashed by other musicians? I am loathe to accept former frontmen doing this to their bands’ work, but admittedly in this instance would have preferred a bunch of Crüe songs I might recognize to solo work which I surely would not. Besides, there was always the possibility of hearing his version of their version of “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” a song I have been a fan of since the first time I heard the original in the movie Rock ‘n’ Roll High School as a wee child.
We were in fact treated to several Crüe hits, notably Girls, Girls, Girls before the biggest surprise of the night (for me at least, and probably for
anyone else who appreciates music) came: instead of launching into a solo hit, or another Crüe hit, the guitarist started playing the riff from “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Not content to slaughter (pun only sort of intended) his old band’s music, Vince was now eagerly going through Led Zeppelin’s as well.** They went through most of Whole Lotta Love, then Vince paused for a moment to memorialize recently-passed rocker Ronnie James Dio and then play a bit of a Dio song, then finished Whole Lotta Love before going into ANOTHER Zeppelin song, and then finishing shortly later. Amazed, I decided now was a good time for another face-down nap while we waited for Cinderella to go on.
Philadephia’s own Cinderella entered the stage looking the most like a grown-up version of their early incarnation. Singer Tom Keifer still wore his top hat and double-necked guitar, and they played through a number of songs which I did not really recognize but my girlfriend’s sister admitted to knowing every title, and lyric, to. To be honest, by this time in the day (it was after 9pm, the sun had gone down so we could actually see the stage almost as well as the video screen, albeit much tinieer) we were all so tired and hot that we were sort of eager to get to the Scorpions and go back home to some climate control. So forgive me if I skip the rest of the Cinderella review to get straight to what we’d really been waiting for:
THE SCORPIONS. Or more correctly the Scorpions’ stage crew, who went as far as lowering the lights and turning off the PA (playing all of what you’d expect: Aerosmith, Guns n Roses, many of the bands featured in the course of the M3 lineup, and of course Pink) before playing the guitar… and the drums… and then the guitar some more… and then raising the lights again. My girlfriend and I spent a few minutes trying to guess when various songs would show up in the set, ultimately deciding that “Rock You Like a Hurricane” would have to be an opener instead of a closer, leaving the obvious closer to be Winds of Change. The band finally came on and surprised us by playing three songs that were not only not their hits, but songs that even my girlfriend did not recognize. This was almost explained after the first three songs when singer Klaus Meine cajoled a fan in the front row who’d been motioning for him to ‘turn it up’ and warned us all that he barely had any voice at all, and the only reason they had even gone on tonight was that they knew how disappointed their fans would be to have the headliner of this festival bail after sitting in the sun waiting all day. I could only agree.
The band eventually played more familiar songs like The Zoo and Big City Nights before treating us to some more new songs, and then a drum solo which almost, but not quite, brought to mind the Neil Peart solo I’d witnessed at Nissan Pavilion years ago: roller coaster video footage playing behind him, James Kottak (bass drum logo: KOTTAK ATTACK) alternated between going completely apeshit on his kit and trying to coax more response from the weary crowd, he finally ended his solo by declaring “after 15 bands, and nearly 12 hours… three words: YOU KICK ASS.” Duly appreciated, I felt this was a good time to hit the men’s room before the last few songs, which I knew HAD to be the hits we were waiting for, came. On my trek, I saw a record label stand selling t-shirts which proclaimed in huge pointed letters: NIRVANA SUCKS. An obvious reference to the wave of grunge rock that Nirvana brought in in the early 90s which all but squashed the giant which was hair rock. A bitter, vicious attack which I could do nothing more than shake my head ruefully at. I knew which side of that battle I came down on, and it didn’t smell like Aqua Net.
I went back to the stage to hear the end of “Winds of Change” before the guitar solo began. Matthias Jabs took his turn now, showing off the kind of guitar proficiency I had really been there to see all day, and not going on nearly as long as Kottak and with fewer words before they launched into… yet another song I did not recognize! My girlfriend thought she knew it, but by this time not even she was sure what songs she knew or liked anymore; we all just wanted to go back home and lie down on something cushioned and sip cold beverages which cost less than $6 a cup. But finally after that, and after one of the more impressive band re-entrances in recent memory, they returned to the stage to belt out Rock You Like a Hurricane, and thus ended the night. We walked back up the road to a library parking lot to wait for our friends, who had bailed early to eat dinner due to the lack of vegan options at MPP, to pick us up and go home.
The thing that really blew me away about the Scorpions’ performance was how genuinely grateful they seemed to be that we were there to see them. At least from way back in the cheap ‘seats’ they appeared for all purposes to be rocking their hearts out up there, just like Klaus promised he would. I found out after the fact (!) that this is apparently the Scorpions’ last tour, and I got no impression that they are tied of doing what they do. I’d see them if you have the chance, especially if you never have.
Overall, it was worth every penny I paid. Although I am generally not a fan of music festivals, I could think of much worse ways to spend a sunny June afternoon than baking in the sun listening to the rock of ages ago. We saw many families, kids wearing Lita Ford shirts and throwing devil horns in the air at age 6 or thereabouts, and it was truly charming. I would do it all over again, if I could. But I might bring an umbrella or something this time.
* (not the Animal Collective album, but the actual venue)
** this is, of course, only fitting.