Day three of Melodic Rock Fest II didn't start out quite as we had expected. Due to some unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, we arrived back at The Road House just before the end of BOMBAY BLACK's set. of course, missing local act STRIKEFORCE's set entirely. But what we did see of BOMBAY BLACK sounded really, really tight. I have always liked these guys and actually own a couple of their releases. Hopefully I can get a chance to catch a full set real soon.
What we didn't miss was local favorites 7TH HEAVEN!
Just before the band hit the stage, Brian and I settled into a couple of seats on the Road House's "loft" balcony where we would spend the majority of our time for the next 10 hours while (always the professional) Mark set off to shoot pictures of the day's events from anywhere and EVERYWHERE he could. So now it was time for 7TH HEAVEN! Being no strangers to the scene and having already played Melodic Rock Fest I, these guys are always just a fun band to catch live. Again, wasn't all too familiar with their originals but was very impressed with the bands melodic but yet aggressive hooks and chorus.' Guitarist Richie Hofherr (also the band's main songwriter) really shines with his tasty guitar licks while lead vocalist Keith Semple has more than his fair share of opportunities to show off his versatile vocal range. especially on one of the band's signature medleys also known as their infamous "Thirty in 30!" What that is, exactly, is a mish-mosh of at least thirty songs (or at least song chorus') thrown together in one, big, long frenzy of hits! The band has actually recorded several of them which can be heard and/or purchased from their website at www.7thheavenband.com/ , but the one they chose to do on this particular evening was entitled "Pop Medley 2" and covered such classic hits as THE BEATLES' "Let It Be," "Juke Box Hero" by FOREIGNER, "Take Me Home Tonight" by Eddie Money, "Pour Some Sugar On Me" by DEF LEPPARD and even "Get Down Tonight" by KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND. and that's just scratching the surface! Just a really fun menagerie of songs that everyone's heard through out the years and a really cool way to end another great set.
Next up was the first widely-known band of the afternoon CROWN OF THORNS. Fronted by former PLASMATICS vocalist Jean Beavoir (who was sporting a rather large, black top hat with a grayish-silver cross stitched on the front. assumingly covering up his usual Mohawk), these guys came out and pulled off one Hell of a set! With the exceptions of "Hang On Sugar," the title track to their 2008 "Faith" release and a very, very cool rendition of LED ZEPPELIN's "Rock & Roll," the rest of the set was compiled with selections ALL off the band's stellar, self-titled debut including their set opener "Are You Ready?," "Hike It Up," the incredible power-ballad "Standing On The Corner For Ya," the band's moniker track "Crown of Thorns" and a killer rendition of "The Healer." The band finally wrapped up their set with fan-favorite "Dying For Love" which, as I understand, almost got cut due to time constraints but thank God they managed to squeeze it in as it really got the audience pumped up for the rest of the evening and besides, what would a CROWN OF THORNS set be without it?
The next artists on the bill turned out to be a rather long, extended set featuring two separate performers using the same back-up band. Kevin Chalfant's traveling project VOICES OF ROCK RADIO and Jimi Jamison. I was really, really looking forward to this as Jimi Jamison has always been one of my all-time favorite vocalists and with a line-up like Kevin Chalfant had compiled including former Ted Nugent front man Derek St. Holmes, former ROMANTICS vocalist Wally Palmar and, of course, Kevin himself, how could you possibly go wrong?
Truth be told, I must admit the set started off a "little" rough and I mean this as NO disrespect to Derek St. Holmes as his highlighted renditions of Ted Nugent favorites like "Hey Baby," the classic "Cat Scratch Fever" and the guitar-driven "Stranglehold" were really great, it just seemed that they were a "little" out-of-place for this crowd. not to mention Loooooooong! And while not as long, the same can be said about Wally Palmar who, again, sounded really good for his three-song set that included the ROMANTICS hits "Talkin' In Your Sleep" and "What I Like About You" as well as the little more obscure "She's Got Everything," but just watching the crowd reaction and listening to them talk, it seemed that while I could appreciate the differences in musical genre's and styles, it was a little bit of a stretch for this crowd. Hey, fans can be "finicky" sometimes and that being said, I think having featured artists like Joe Lynn Turner and/or the NELSON brothers would have been more accepted. like they were the first time around at Melodic Rock Fest I.
Right about now it was time for a man who is no stranger to the VOICES OF ROCK RADIO to take over the "mike". Jimi Jamison, and while he only did one song with the band in the form of the up-tempo SURVIVOR favorite "I Can't Hold Back," it REALLY brought the fans back to life and just in time for the always amazing vocals of Mr. Kevin Chalfant! Now this was more like it as Chalfant joined the fun opening with "You Keep Me Waiting" which has always been one of my favorite STORM tracks and a thrill to see performed live! Continuing on, Chalfant reached back into the 707 archives and performed "Mega Force" which would later become the ground work for Ace Frehley's hit "Calling To You". absolutely awesome!!! Then he finally wrapped up his set with "Running With The Wind," the title track to his 1997 solo release, and another STORM favorite "I've Got A Whole Lot To Learn About Love." What a golden opportunity to see this underrated front man perform. my only critique is that his set was too damned short! I would absolutely LOVE to get a headlining set out of this guy!
As Chalfant's set winded down, without any set or band changes Jimi Jamison stepped back out into the spot-light for his headlining set and it wasn't long before he was joined once again by his old friend Jim Peterik whose rock-star attire tonight included a tie-dyed headband, purple tie and a tiger-skinned vest. almost making him look like a deranged Fred Flintstone! But hey, it's all good and it's all Rock 'N Roll!!!
Jamison's set opened with "Crossroads Moment". the title track to his late 2008 release and MY CD-of-the-year here at Rockeyez. He also went on to play two more tracks from the same release through out the set including the anthem-like "Love The World Away" and the soulful power-ballad "As Is." I cannot tell you just how much it meant to finally hear these songs live after all these years of having this CD in regular rotation in my car and home stereo. It actually sent a chill up my spine and Jamison's vocals were, in a word. brilliant. I really wish he had more time to expose the audience to more of the absolutely amazing tracks off of "Crossroads Moment" because I, for one, could just watch him perform the whole CD over and over again all night long.
The rest of the set was filled with fan-favorite SURVIVOR classics like the obligatory "High On You," a bit of a surprise with "The Singer Not The Song" (a little lesser known gem from "Vital Signs"), and laying it all on the line with a chilling, heart-wrenching rendition of "The Search Is Over" which barely left a dry-eye in the house. Then, for the second time at Melodic Rock Fest II, the set closed with "Eye of The Tiger" only this time with Jamison fully at the helm, it ignited an All-Star Jam which had numerous artists who performed through out the event jumping up on stage to really shake the foundations of The Road House like never before! Absolutely superb performance by one of the world's premier vocalists and if this is any indication or just a "tease" of what his set is going to be like at this year's FIREFEST in October, I'll be saving every penny I can get my grubby little hands on in hopes that I can get over there this year. but again, the set was just too damned short.
Leaving little time to catch your breath or even grab a snack in between sets, it was once again time for our old friend Ted Poley to take the stage only this time, it was ALL about Ted. Backed up by one of the most talented group of musicians around in the forms of drummer Edward Faust, Doug Odell on bass and incredible duel-guitarists Eddie Campbell and Vic Rivera, Poley was once again on the top of his game cranking out a fantastic set of songs which spanned almost the entire career of this veteran rocker.
What I really liked is that while he DID perform some DANGER DANGER tunes, he was very selective and made sure not to repeat anything he had played with DANGER DANGER the night before. So there was no "Naughty, Naughty" and no "Bang Bang" but instead, Poley reached deep into the D2 archives for tracks like "Afraid Of Love," the set opener "Horny S.O.B.," "Shot O' Love," and one of my favorite (but rarely played) D2 tracks "Feels Like Love." In addition to the D2 tracks, the fans were stuffed with a hearty helping of Ted's solo material including songs like the high-powered "Tokyo Nights," "Smile," one of my all-time favorite Poley tracks "Maybe," "Could've Been Me," "Missing You" and "Lately" from his days with BONE MACHINE, and three tracks from the "lost" Poley/ Rivera CD "Only Human" including the title track, "Crossing This Ocean," and the fun, up-beat "Did We Just Have A Moment" which has not only become a common insertion into Poley's sets nowadays but has grown into a fan favorite as well. Unlike the D2 set the night before, Poley kept most of his "crowd-talk" to a minimum but still delivered a powerful, energetic and jovial performance all around. right up till the very end when fellow D2 band mate Rob Marcello jumped up on stage to jam along with "Feels Like Love" AND an absolutely mind-blowing version of JOURNEY's "Stone In Love" which included even MORE surprise guests in the forms of Dave Friday (TALON) and the amazing Eric Ragno and finally found Ted himself back behind the skins for the final musical outro to the song. This was REALLY a phenomenal sight to witness as it almost seemed like Ted was wrapping his long weekend up and coming full circle right back where he started. behind the skins for PROPHET waaaaaay back in the early 80's.
After a performance like that, Ted certainly didn't make it easy to follow him up but next on the bill were another group of guys who are certainly no strangers to Rockeyez, New Jersey's own TRIXTER! HOLY CRAP! Talk about energy?!? Now I have had a chance to see these guys more than just a couple of times over the past few years but damn, this has to be one of the most energetic and powerful performances I have witnessed yet! These guys came out looking to absolutely blow the roof off the joint. and that's exactly what they did. I was getting heart-palpitations just watching Mark "Gus" Scott" pound away on his drum kit, you could see the sweat just dripping off of PJ Farley's forehead, you could feel the electricity just flowing out of Pete Loran as he belted out hit after hit after hit and Steve Brown? This guy was just fucking insane running and jumping all over the place and if you weren't too careful, you'd lose him in a flash! Three words. PURE ADRENALINE RUSH!
There was just no stopping these guys and the only chance you had to even breathe was when they slowed it down just a tad with "One In A Million" or their hit ballad "Surrender." Fortunately they were timed out quite well into the set because after opening with energy-packed rockers like "On The Road Again," my favorite TRIXTER song "Nobody's A Hero," "Line of Fire" and "Heart Of Steel," you really needed to pull it back a notch for everyone's sake with "One In A Million." Then after a couple of more up-tempo numbers in "Play Rough" and "Power Of Love," "Surrender" fit in quite nicely before the guys kicked it into overdrive straight through the rest of their set with "Ride The Whip," "Rocking Horse" and finally into an extended, high-octane version of the song that started it all for these guys "Give It To Me Good." Wow!. What a show and what a performance! The only thing about a non-stop, high-energy show like this is that it just seemed to fly by clocking in at just under an hour in length but I think if it actually went on much longer, they would have been pulling out heart defibulators for some audience and band members alike!
This brings us to the end of Melodic Rock Fest II with the final band of the evening WINGER. From the opening chords to "Pull Me Under" from their latest release "Karma," it was very, VERY clear that this wasn't the same band you use to listen to back in the 80's. These guys were HEAVY adding an edgy, aggressive hook to even their most melodic or "poppy" tunes. Vocally, Kip was in fine voice and Reb Beach was just phenomenal proving he could rip and shred with the best of 'em.
I also thought the set list itself was just awesome as they seemed to pick songs that really worked well together. "Down Incognito" was just incredible representing the band's "Pull" CD and always one of my favorite WINGER albums. and they didn't stop there as they also ripped through "Blind Revolution Man" also from the same release. "In The Heart Of The Young" was also clearly expressed in cuts like "Can't Get Enough," and awesome rendition of "Rainbow In The Rose" which found Kip setting his bass aside and stepping behind the keyboards, and a really stand-out version of "Easy Come Easy Go" which was always one of the edgier WINGER tracks but now with the band's grittier, more aggressive feel it sounds just absolutely KILLER!
I also liked the fact that they just kinda "glazed" over their forgettable "IV" release but they definitely picked THE best song in "Your Great Escape" which fit in perfectly just before Reb's guitar solo. Then, of course, there were all the hits. "Headed For A Heartbreak," closing the set with "Seventeen" and then taking their final bows with not just my favorite WINGER ballad but one of my all-time favorite ballads "Miles Away" before jetting into a sharp, more modern sounding version of "Madalaine." Then finally, wrapping up the evening once and for all along with special guest vocalist Terry Brock, the evening's events and Melodic Rock Fest II came to an end in the form of a cover of THE BEATLES classic "Helter Skelter."
So there ya have it. the end to an incredible weekend of music! Make sure to check back shortly for our wrap up and back-stage photo gallery coming soon.