For the past three years here at Rockeyez it's become almost tradition to attend at least one festival every year. Back in 2008, we attended Rocklahoma for the first time which was truly an awesome experience over all. although a bit demanding physically. Then again in 2009, Brian Rademacher and Mark Balogh returned to Rocklahoma and while it just couldn't be compared to the year before, it was still a good time. So it goes without saying, initially we had every intention of returning to Rocklahoma again in 2010. THEN they announced the line-up! (Shudder!) Just another case of AEG LIVE getting involved and ruining what otherwise was a great festival and event.
So needless to say, as soon as the Rocklahoma line-up was announced we immediately ruled it OUT! We then started looking into other festivals and events and while some of them looked quite tempting, there was one that stood out immediately. Melodic Rock Fest II! We had attended the original Melodic Rock Fest back in 2007 in South Bend, Indiana and it was really an experience of a life time. Event founder and melodicrock.com CEO Andrew McNeice couldn't have been nicer and the artists he assembled for that evening were nothing less than first class all the way so it was really a "no-brainer" for us to once again get involved and help support Andrew and the web's premier melodic rock website.
On Friday April 30, 2010, Brian, Mark and I landed in O'Hare International Airport just around lunch time. We picked up our rental car and headed out to Elgin. home of The Road House and host to Melodic Rock Fest II. We were still a little early to check into our hotel rooms so we decided to grab lunch in the hotel's restaurant. Bennigan's. Turns out, we weren't the only ones because as the hostess led us to our table we recognized some very familiar faces. None other than premier guitarists Eddie Campbell and Vic Rivera, a couple of their friends and the man himself. Ted Poley!
Not really wanting to disturb their lunch, we exchanged some quick hellos and sat ourselves down at our table. A short time later, they finished up and Vic and the others left to get themselves settled into their hotel rooms. but not Ted! He plopped himself right down at our table and hung out with us for the next twenty minutes or so. After he left, Mark and I couldn't help but discuss between each other how absolutely fucking COOL that was! And I don't mean to come off like some giddy little school girl here, but it's still a bit weird sometimes. Here's a guy we grew up listening to on our stereos, watching on MTV and going to see in concert and now here he is. in the flesh! And not only is he here, but is someone we consider a dear friend as well. Never did I dream when I was 17 years old watching the "Naughty Naughty" video on MTV that twenty years later I'd be having lunch with this guy, he would know who I was and has actually been to my house! And it's not just Ted but so many other great artists and people we've had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know over the years. it still can be amazing sometimes.
After lunch, we checked into our rooms and just relaxed for a few minutes before we decided to go hang out in the hotel lobby for a little bit before we left for the show. Wouldn't ya know it, there was Ted again hanging out, signing autographs and taking pictures with his fans. And he wasn't the only one! The next person we noticed was Terje Eide, the man behind ON THE RISE! What a really awesome person to meet! He was just so nice and so personable as he signed autographs and took photos and he wasn't even here to perform! He was here, as he put it, "for the music and to support Andrew and all the performing bands." Hell of a talented artist but more importantly, a Hell of a great person as well. was an absolute pleasure.
There were also several members of the band ROCK SUGAR hanging around in the bar area in Bennigan's and then we noticed some more old friends. Talented CRUNCH bassist and bassist for Ted Poley's solo band Doug Odell came walking down the hall. It's always a pleasure to see Doug and not only would we get to see him perform with Ted, but he would also be sitting in with former RIVERDOGS front man Rob Lamothe for his acoustic set later that evening. Then, of course, a man who needs NO introduction. world-class keyboardist Eric Ragno was also hanging out amongst everyone else in the lobby. Eric is just a blast to talk with! His resume reads like a "who's who" of melodic rock and the stories he can tell could fill volumes of melodic-rock encyclopedias. Really fun, really interesting and just another overall great person.
After we hung out for a while, we finally decided it was time to head over to the venue. The Road House. So we gathered up our things, hopped in the car and in a few minutes, we were there. As we walked in the door, we were greeted by John Kivel, founder of Kivel Records, who had several of his label's bands performing throughout the weekend. After a brief chat, he took us inside and upstairs to say hello to a person who's been no stranger to Rockeyez, GOODBYE THRILL's Marc Ferreira. This was our first glimpse of The Road House and as we passed through the main entrance to the event hall, it opened up into a nice-sized floor area with a long bar along the left hand side and a small seating area to the right. There were 3 stair cases. one on either side of the stage and one more to our immediate right which led up to a bar-chair lined balcony surrounding the entire event center and the artists' room which was situated upstairs and directly across from the stage. almost like a loft in a barn. The stage itself was a little on the small side. but not so small that it wouldn't be able to handle any of the artists appearing over the weekend. Nice place overall and the sound was very, very good. especially for a venue of this size.
As we walked into the artists' area, it was a huge room with several couches, tables and chairs scattered around. There was a small non-working bar off to the one side (or at least not-working for this event) and a sliding wall which opened up to a private balcony overlooking the entire club. Very nice and a very cool vantage point to enjoy any event from.
We sat ourselves down at a small table towards the back and just a short time before GOODBYE THRILL took the stage for their acoustic set to kick off Melodic Rock Fest II, lead vocalist and guitarist Marc Ferreira took a few minutes to sit down with us to answer a few questions for a short interview. The interview itself will be posted shortly as well as reviews of both the new GOODBYE THRILL CD/DVD release "Keepsakes" and Marc's solo release but it was really nice to get a chance to meet Marc again. I must admit, I was a little disappointed when I found out that original members Dean Cramer and Pete Eisleman were no longer with the band and that "Keepsakes" pretty much ends that chapter of GOODBYE THRILL but the band will continue on and now with his brother Alex backing him up on the skins and a brand new studio album entitled "Outrageous" to be released in the very near future, Marc is ready to push forward and bring GOODBYE THRILL to the next level.
It was time.
As the hands of the clock struck 6:00pm, "The Wombat" himself (Andrew McNeice) stepped out onto the stage and after a few short words of introduction, Melodic Rock Fest II was underway!
As I mentioned, kicking off the event were Kivel Records recording artists GOODBYE THRILL. Lead vocalist, guitarist and song writer Marc Ferreira was joined onstage by his brother Alex and very special guest Gus Monsanto (REVOLUTION RENAISSANCE/ TAKARA) on guitar (for the acoustic set), bass and backing vocals. These guys were just terrific opening with "Super Perfect World" which lead into "Ticket to Paradise". both off of the debut s/t GOODBYE THRILL release. I absolutely love Marc's vocals which still remind me a little bit of those of Jaime St. James at times, but this guy can sing. not to mention his superior guitar prowess and song-writing ability. The arrangements are tight, filled with tons of melodic hooks and harmonies and acoustically (along with Monsanto who is a fine singer is his own right) the vocals were really brought to the forefront with a full, crisp tone.
The guys continued on their acoustic set with three more songs from their debut release which included "It's Got To Be," "Taste" and my favorite GOODBYE THRILL track "Rainy Days." In addition, they went on to "thrill" the crowd with a jaw-dropping acoustic rendition of MOTLEY CRUE's hit "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" but the performance wasn't over yet as all the guys "plugged-in" for their final two songs, another one of my favorites "Fallen Heroes" and "That's What We Stand For" from the "Keepsakes" release. What and awesome opening set and a perfect start to a weekend that would be filled with great performances.
A short time later, ROCK SUGAR took the stage for their first of TWO performances over the weekend. Ya gotta love these guys! For those of you who aren't familiar with the band, what they do is meld heavy metal songs with "pop" classics making them the most original/ un-original band on the circuit! I can't believe no one has ever thought of this before! The concept is just so simple and works so well. especially with a seasoned group of professional musicians like these guys who are also the all-original band LOUD & CLEAR. And what makes the whole concept even funnier is that even the guys in the band itself LOOK a little bit like other people. Take away the scruffy 5 o'clock shadow, cowboy hat and long hair and lead vocalist Jess Harnell reminds me a little bit of George Clooney (try not to get too "wet" there girls), newest band member and bassist Johnny Five has kind of a Butch Walker look about him, drummer Alex Track looks a little bit like actor Michael Wincott who played the villain Top Dollar in The Crow and even guitarist Chuck Duran bears a striking resemblance to actor Timothy Spall who is best known for his portrayal of Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films.
This was really a fun set but a little disappointing in a way because just when it seemed the band was getting warmed up, it was time for them to leave. They only performed 2 songs in their brief acoustic appearance which included "Don't Stop the Sandman" (a melding of METALLICA's "Enter Sandman" and the JOURNEY classic "Don't Stop Believin'") and "Dreaming of a Whole Lotta Breakfast" (figure that one out for yourselves!). Lead vocalist Jess Harnell was definitely on and belted out all the songs and chord changes within the mish-mosh of vocal styles with ease. As I said, really fun set just too damned short but definitely left the audience hungering for their Saturday night performance still to come.
I just have to mention here how smoothly all the set changes were going. When I first looked at the set times and saw only 20 minutes max in between most bands on the bill over the weekend, I really didn't think they could pull it off but for the most part, they did. There were no 45 minute delays between bands. the road crews moved things right along. Given, it was a mostly acoustic night but even the rest of the weekend, things just kept rolling with little to no "major" delays. Kudos to all the crews who kept things going all weekend long!
Now it was time for former RIVERDOGS vocalist Rob Lamothe to take the stage. With our old friend Doug Odell by his side, Lamothe stayed away from any RIVERDOGS material and performed four songs from his solo releases including "Pull Me Under," "Raining All Over" and "Mantra" from his debut 1999 solo release "I Am Here Now" and "Train Song" from 2001's "Wishing Well Hotel." In addition, they performed two covers. a very cool rendition of THE BEATLES time-honored "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" which really put a smile on the crowds face and THE ANIMALS "House of the Rising Sun." Overall a good entertaining performance. a bit more laid back than most of the artists we would hear over the weekend but Rob's still got the chops to make anything he performs sound great. I was a little disappointed that he didn't try and incorporate at least one RIVERDOGS song into the set but I guess he's put those days behind him. or at least for this evening.
Next up (for me anyway) was the true highlight of the evening. ALIAS! While minus original members drummer Mike Derosier, guitarist Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen, guitarist Steve DeMarchi and keyboardist Dennis DeMarchi joined their old friend and the "voice" of ALIAS, lead vocalist Freddy Curci for this very rare and special performance. I always absolutely LOVED the original ALIAS album and even did an interview with Roger Fisher shortly after its release for one of the first publications I ever worked for but I never did get to see them perform live back in the day. So this was a real treat for me and although it was only a 5 song acoustic set, Curci can still sing his fucking ass off!
Their set opened up with one of my favorite tracks off the first album "Waiting For Love." This was just perfect in every way. the vocals, the sound, the performance. really an absolute feast for the ears. As the show continued, Curci interacted with the crowd by telling stories in between songs like another track off of their self-titled debut called "Haunted Heart" and "Into the Fire" off their second album "Never Say Never" which was never really TOTALLY completed and only released just last year. But the real show stoppers were, of course, the band's truly beautiful presentation of everyone's favorite wedding song "When I'm With You" from Curci's days with SHERIFF and the ALIAS mega-hit "More Than Words Can Say" which was equally as impressive. What an incredible night from an incredible artist. we really need to hear more of these guys!
Now speaking of great voices, last on the bill this evening was the "live" world debut of Frontiers recording artists MECCA. The brain-child of lead vocalist and co-songwriter Joe Vana, MECCA's first self-titled released caused quite a stir in the melodic rock world and while it's been almost ten years since its release, the band had never performed live. until tonight!
Vana has definitely got himself a set of pipes with his smooth, melodic tones which remind me a little bit along the vocal lines of bands like TOTO or MR. MISTER. And what a great set as Vana and his band rocked out three killer tracks from the debut release, "Without You," "Silence of The Heart" and a chillingly-incredible version of "Falling Down." But the REAL treat was a sneak-listen to some new tracks from the upcoming MECCA release "Catharsis" which has been almost five years in the making and includes (rumor has it) performances by the likes of Steve Farris (MR. MISTER) and both Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather (TOTO) just to name a few. With tight arrangements, sold song-writing an titles like their show-opener "Life's Too Short," "Ten Lifetimes," "I Know," and "Perfect World," it looks like Joe Vana and MECCA already have another MAJOR hit on their hands when "Catharsis" is finally released! What a fine "live" debut! The only criticism I have was their choice in ending with an instrumental entitled "Wire to Wire," also from the upcoming "Catharsis" CD. Not that the song was "bad" by any means! I just think it would have been great to hear Joe belt out another tune with that incredible voice of his. Also, I was a little surprised that Jim Peterik didn't show up to jam with the band as well. After all, he did co-pen a lot of the tracks off the first album but c'est la vie. was still an awesome set and we'd be seeing a lot of Peterik over the next couple of days anyway.
That pretty much just about wraps up day one. There was a meet-and-greet with some of the artists after the show but after our flight in the morning and the long day, Mark, Brian and I just called it a night, grabbed a bit to eat and headed back to the hotel. After all. we still had two more days to go and the best was yet to come!