WASHINGTON — It may be 2014, but we partied like it was 1989 this weekend at the sixth annual M3 Rock Festival.
Big hair and spandex were in style again as bands like Winger, Extreme, Kix, Stryper, Queensryche and Great White played back-to-back sets to adoring crowds.
This wasn’t my first M3 rodeo, but I learned a lot this time around:
1. Always bring a poncho and rain boots, especially with a crowd wearing that much hairspray!
On Friday, the rain started not long after the staff let the crowd into the venue. Those with seats in the pavilion were counting their lucky stars they spent the extra money to be undercover. But the rain — torrential at times — didn’t dampen the rock ‘n’ roll spirit.
Even when the skies opened up again Saturday evening, the crowd stayed put and the show went on. I’m a bit of a weather wimp, so I stayed undercover by the main stage, but the big screens showed Slaughter tearing it up in the pouring rain to a capacity crowd singing along to their big hit “Up All Night.”
2. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
A lot of the bands on the lineup were promoting new albums, mixing new songs in with old favorites. Winger and Sebastian Bach released their album the week of the show and Tesla, Kix and Night Ranger all have new releases this summer. In Kix’s case, the gap between new studio albums is almost 20 years!
3. You might want to think twice before interviewing Sebastian Bach.
Bach seemed disgruntled through his entire performance, alternating between berating the audience and doing his trademark scream over and over again. He even took one interviewer to task for asking him the difference between touring in the 80’s and touring now. At that moment, I couldn’t have been happier that my attempts to set up an interview him fell through. I wasn’t the only one who left before Bach’s set was over to check out LA Guns on the Festival Stage.
4. “Hair Metal” is no joke.
Fans came from all over the world to experience M3 and this year was no exception. One group of friends drove 12 hours from Montreal to be here. When I remarked how far that was, they replied, “You think that’s far? We were talking with a bunch of Brazilians on the lawn!” Later, at the unofficial after party at a nearby bar, I found a group that had traveled from Australia.
5. The guitar solo is a lost art form.
Most metal shows in the ’80s weren’t complete without showcasing the licks of the lead guitarist. Lately, that trend has fallen by the wayside.
“Do you wanna blow 5 minutes on a guitar solo? I think people would rather hear the music,” says Steve Whiteman from Kix.
“It disappeared because it got bad,” says Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme.
6. Check the fine print on the band you’re seeing.
Acrimonious relations between band members have caused some bands to split yet play under the same name. For instance, M3 featured a set by Jack Russell’s Great White, which is the original lead singer with a new backing band. Don’t confuse this incarnation with Great White, which consists of three original band members plus a new singer and bassist.
Even more confusing is the situation for the band Queensryche. They had a much publicized split with lead singer Geoff Tate in 2012 and a legal battle ensued over the name. As it stands now, there is the Queensryche that played M3 this weekend featuring new singer Todd La Torre and “Queensryche featuring Geoff Tate.”
7. Know your concert etiquette.
If you are in the front row, please don’t wear a fake Mohawk hat. It only annoys the people behind you. Also, don’t stand on your seat. The people behind you paid for their ticket, too, and have just as much right to see the band instead of your back. A fight almost broke out in the middle Tesla’s set over the last issue.
8. I don’t hate Night Ranger.
I was always under the impression that I didn’t like Night Ranger because of their song “Sister Christian.” Honestly, the only reason I was in attendance when they went on Saturday evening was because of the wet weather. But to my surprise, they were great! Singing songs from both their own catalog and a few from Damn Yankees, since both bands feature singer and bassist Jack Blades, they played, in my opinion, the second best set of the weekend.
9. If the band is having fun, so will the audience.
My top three bands from the weekend — Extreme, Night Ranger and Tesla — all had one thing in common: chemistry.
The bands enjoyed playing and you could tell. Add in a frontman with charisma and likability — like Gary Cherone from Extreme, Steve Whiteman from Kix and Jack Blades from Night Ranger — and you have a winning formula. Honorable mention goes to Slaughter. I couldn’t hear the set since the sound wasn’t piped into the other stage, but the visual made me wish I had trekked in the rain to check them out.
Bonus points go to their young, energetic drummer who, at one point, had a drumstick in each hand, one in his mouth and one balanced on the top of his head.
10. M3 WILL be back next year.
Host Eddie Trunk from VH1’s “That Metal Show” announced before bringing on Tesla, the last band of the weekend, that it was confirmed that M3 will return rain or shine.