Raise the roof: M3 Rock Festival to reopen Merriweather after collapse

The M3 Rock Festival will reopen Merriweather after the venue's January wind damage.

WASHINGTON — When someone says hair metal, it brings to mind the late ’80s, when the boys wore as much — if not more — makeup than the girls. Everyone’s hair routine included enough hair spray to rip a hole in the ozone layer, Spandex wasn’t just for the gym and bands like Warrant, Skid Row and Cinderella ruled the airwaves on both the radio and MTV.

While grunge music burst the glam metal bubble, there are still plenty from this area who remember when Baltimore’s Hammerjacks was the largest rock ‘n’ roll bar on the East Coast.

This nostalgia is what first brought the M3 Rock Festival to Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009, and what allows it to keep going strong for its tenth anniversary this weekend on May 4-6.

“We just had an inkling that there was a market that wasn’t being served for ’80s hair metal,” said Brad Canfield, vice president of operations and co-producer of M3. “These bands played smaller clubs, but there was no real festival anywhere on the East Coast that was playing all of them in one place. … We decided to give it a whirl … and have been doing it ever since.”

This year’s festival is particularly important, marking Merriweather’s first event since the much publicized storm damage back in January, as high winds collapsed the iconic pavilion roof.

“I woke up one morning and there was an email … saying, ‘The roof collapsed,'” said IMP chairman Seth Hurwitz, who also runs The Anthem, 9:30 Club and Lincoln Theater in D.C. “I said, ‘What do you mean collapsed?’ He said, ‘Like done, like flat on the ground.'”

What caused the roof to collapse under high winds?

“We’ve been renovating Merriweather in big phases and one of the big phases was raising the roof,” Hurwitz said. “Everything had been taken out of the roof anyway, so it was just the shell left. … [When the damage happened], it was on jacks that were lifting it up before, which is why it fell, so it’s now on permanent [support]. So, there’s no chance of it falling.”

Hurwitz says it was actually a blessing in disguise.

“That roof was going to get renovated anyway,” Hurwitz said. “If you’ve ever done any kind of renovation or remodeling, you know that it’s actually easier just to start over, so it kind of did the demo work for us. We salvaged most of the material and were able to rebuild the Frank Gehry [design], that iconic roof, that trapezoid that floats over the seats.”

Hurwitz and Canfield are confident the venue will be ready for the onslaught of rockers who attend M3 this weekend. As fans safely return to the venue, wearing their best ’80s hair-metal garb, why does the music genre continue to be so popular 30 years after its heyday?

“It’s created its own community,” Canfield said. “[Our area] had a rich tradition of this style of music, but the festival is actually attended by people … all over the world. … We’ve had people from every continent except Antarctica. A couple came from Australia and got married!”

Expect another possible wedding this weekend, along with a lineup Canfield calls the “all stars of M3,” all playing longer sets than in the past. Regular M3 attendees will also recognize author Eddie Trunk as host, as well as Maryland favorites KIX on the Friday bill, although not in their typical closing spot. Instead, co-headliner Tom Keifer of Cinderella will end the night.

Saturday’s lineup includes M3 first-timer Ace Frehley, best known as an original member of KISS, along with Warrant, Night Ranger, Stryper and Slaughter. Sunday shifts to a southern rock theme with Pure Prairie League, the Georgia Satellites and the Marshall Tucker Band.

Two-day passes and single-day tickets for M3 are still available on the festival’s website.

Don’t forget, you now need parking passes, available for free on the same website.

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