M3 Rock Festival marks return of summer concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the M3 Rock Fest (Part 1)

Merriweather Post Pavilion is open for business again in Columbia, Maryland, and its summer concerts kick off with the M3 Rock Festival this Friday through Sunday.

“Glad to be doing concerts again,” Director of Operations Brad Canfield told WTOP, noting that this will be the first concert held at the outdoor venue since October 2019. “Getting the M3 to finally happen is a nice thing.”

The show has been postponed three times, Canfield said, adding that “A lot of people have actually had their tickets for this show for two years now.”

M3, which stands for May Merriweather Metal, is usually held in May. The 12-year-old event has become an annual pilgrimage for fans of ’80s rock, with 15,000 people per day and 45,000 a weekend.

“We have people come from all over the world,” Canfield said. “We’ve had people from Australia, a lot from Europe. It’s the one place where if you’re into ’80s hair metal, you can see all these bands perform in one location over three days.”

Friday’s lineup includes Kix, Slaughter, Heaven’s Edge and a fireworks display.

“We call it the Kix-off kickoff party,” Canfield said. “Slaughter’s on first and then fireworks and then Kix on Friday night.”

Canfield said the fireworks will start around 9:15 p.m. “People in the pavilion should head out to the plaza and lawn for the best view of the fireworks.”

Saturday brings Queensrÿche, Accept, Winger and Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses.

The festival wraps Sunday with Night Ranger, Warrant, Great White and Lita Ford.

“It’s a homecoming,” Canfield said. “People reminisce about the Hollywood Boulevard in the ’80s. … It’s the first time a lot of these bands get to see each other in many years. It’s sort of like a family reunion at M3 backstage with all of the artists. It’s certainly become a scene backstage of people reliving old good times and creating new good times.”

Merriweather is also introducing the SkyLawn, to allow concertgoers to watch from above the pavilion.

“It’s the same as the lawn ticket out behind the pavilion, but it’s elevated 60 feet in the air with a perfect view of the stage,” Canfield said. “We have retractable roofs and they have their own bars. It’s like a balcony seat for the lawn patrons and it’s first-come, first-serve.”

The throwback music has even captured new generations.

“It’s definitely a multigenerational event where parents, even grandparents, come to the festival and bring their kids,” Canfield said. “Their kids have listened to it in their parents’ car and get excited about the music and come, so we are noticing a new generation of fans that are younger and younger that have grown to appreciate this music.”

Mostly, it’s a chance for fans to reunite each year with likeminded folks.

“People are coming back from years [prior],” Canfield said. “There’s a very active social media following. People have gotten engaged and married at M3 festivals.”

Married? Make that M4.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the M3 Rock Fest (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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