Day two (or the first "official" day of Melodic Rock Fest II), was a day filled with surprises. the most memorable, in fact, coming from the day's opener. Kivel Records recording artists FARCRY! I have to admit, I really didn't know all much about these guys going into the event but now that I have witnessed them "live," I am so glad that we showed up early.
Right out of the box FARCRY kicked their set into overdrive with a cover of Sammy Hagar's "There's Only One Way To Rock". great version, great opener and certainly an AWESOME way to kick off any rock festival but, and as I said, not really knowing what these guys were all about I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Yeah, ok. now what?" Traditionally, an original band should NEVER even attempt to open up with something like that because. lets be real here, you honestly believe that anything YOU guys have come up with could possibly compare to a song that big?!? Well let me tell ya, not ONLY was it an all out "balls-to-the-wall" move, but it really paid off because not only could the FARCRY originals hold their own, but in some cases came off as even bigger!
Where the Hell did these guys come from? Lead vocalist Mark Giovi put on a vocal clinic not only handling the cover with ease but his powerful voice won the crowd over in no time as they joined in singing along with all the potent grooves and melodic chorus' whether they had ever heard a FARCRY song or not! FARCRY continued on their set like seasoned veterans and sounded tighter than a virgin's daughter building to a dramatic climax with one of the best melodic rock ballads I have heard in years entitled (although stereotypical) "Heaven" and the potent, up-tempo rocker "Love Won't Wait." Great, GREAT performance from a young band that could really show some veteran rockers how it's done.
Next up was another Kivel artist. TALON. After a set like FARCRY's, I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Damn. I wouldn't want to be these guys!" But let me tell ya. these guys were pretty good to say the least.
Again, wasn't all too familiar with these guys but I had heard some tracks off their CD "Fallen Angels" and was rather impressed by vocalist Chandler Mogel as well as their nice, melodic hooks and melodies. BUT, this wasn't Mogel on vocals! Tonight the band was debuting their new singer Dave Friday as well as shooting some DVD footage for their next release and with world class keyboardist Eric Ragno sitting in for the set, what could go wrong? Well, unfortunately these guys were put through the ringer a bit battling a few technical issues from time to time throughout their set but overall, they pushed through like champions.
Friday stepped up and earned his rightful place as TALON's front man really shining especially on their new track "When Will I," their power ballad "Baby Jane" (which also featured some tasty guitar licks by lead guitarist Jim Kee, and "What About Me" with its catchy, sing-along type chorus. Ragno, of course, added his always masterful keyboards only enhancing the arrangements and the band's rendition of STARSHIP's "Jane" was just an absolute thrill to witness. All in all. a fun set from another band I'll be keeping my eye on in the future.
Now speaking of "fun sets," you can't get much better than this! After a brief delay in between set changes and, again, due to some more "technical" issues, it was time for ROCK SUGAR to take the stage for their headlining set. In true "rock star" fashion, lead vocalist Jess Harnell strutted onto the stage sporting his frilly white patch jacket and sequins-emblazoned white cowboy hat to match as the band burst right into "Don't Stop The Sandman". just like their acoustic set the night before only this time these guys were definitely plugged in!
As I looked around the crowd, there were definitely a lot of "tongue-in-cheek" looks on the fans faces as Jess and the band continued on with their novel melding of heavy-metal anthems with pop or classic rock standards such as their crossing of "Jessie's Girl" with "Crazy Train" to come up with "Crazy Girl," mixing "Welcome to the Jungle" with 'TIL TUESDAY's hit "Voices Carry" which becomes "Voices In The Jungle" or even daring to crisscross THREE songs as in "Prayin' for a Sweet Weekend" which, of course, is BON JOVI's "Livin' On a Prayer," LOVERBOY's "Workin' For The Weekend" fused with touches of "Sweet Child o' Mine." This was just such a fun, fun set. everyone was smiling, clapping and singing along as they waited in anticipation of what could possibly come next?!?
Their set drew to a close with one of my favorites off the CD "Shook Me Like a Prayer" (AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" and MADONNA's "Like A Prayer") and another "threesome" in "We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody". as I said in my day one review, figure that one out for yourselves! After all, I can't give everything away now can I? Now I'm only mentioning this because it's been such a huge topic of conversation all over MelodicRock.com's Message Boards. it was brought up that a few people believe that Jess was not always singing for all of the ROCK SUGAR set and was "lip-syncing" some of the songs. Look, I am not going to buy into this debate or give an opinion one way or another. All I know is that this was one of the most entertaining sets of the entire weekend and I KNOW these guys can play and I KNOW Jess can sing his ASS off. period! Furthermore, I think the majority of the fans in attendance would agree with me so. get over it!
I was really looking forward to the next bunch of performers as, like ROCK SUGAR, they "melded" two of my favorite bands. lead vocalist Terry Brock from STRANGEWAYS and VALENTINE. Admittedly I was a little disappointed when I first heard of Hugo's departure from VALENTINE and was skeptical about Brock taking over and even trying to attempt a Hugo song but in just a few moments it was clear that this was NOT VALENTINE nor was it STRANGEWAYS but something completely new and fresh! While their set included songs thick from Brock's library, the addition of VALENTINE really put some incredible new twists and spins to the songs making them sound even better than they did when they were first recorded.
Guitarist Adam Holland is just such an amazing musician who added his own unique style to old STRANGEWAYS favorites like their opener "Where Do We Go From Here" from "Native Sons," "Where Are They Now" from "Walk In The Fire" and one of my favorite STRANGEWAYS songs "Love Lies Dying." Backed by multi-talented keyboardist and song writer Craig Pullman on the "keys" and the powerful, underlying rhythm section of bassist Gerard Zappa and percussionist extraordinaire Mike Morales, Brock reached further into his bag of tricks and pulled out a few more gems in "Only a Fool," "Another Chance" from Terry's solo effort and, to my surprise, even "Forever Again" from his days with THE SIGN. how great it was to hear these songs live at last after all these years. Then as a special treat, Brock and VALENTINE delighted the crowd with two new arrangements. the first was a song called "Face In The Crowd" which was on Terry's MySpace page for a while and "No More Mister Nice Guy". both of which are being recorded for Terry's next project with Mike Slamer.
Finally rounding out the set was an exceptional rendition of STRANGEWAY's "After The Hurt Is Gone" before closing with VALENTINE's "Soul Salvation." As I said initially, I was really worried about Brock attempting any tracks VALENTINE has recorded with Hugo but Brock took the song and really made it his own and while Hugo will always be missed, after this performance any fool could see that these guys belong together. Awesome set from an exceptionally talented group of musicians. I really hope that we'll be hearing more from these guys long into the future because if they could make all these old songs sound so fresh and new, just imagine what they can come up with together!
A short time after the Brock/ VALENTINE performance, the crowd was revved and ready for the U.S. debut of rock heavyweights EDEN'S CURSE OR, as I have come to call it, "the set that almost wasn't!" There was a lot of controversy surrounding this performance as well but without going into too much detail apparently the band's keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio was denied entry into the United States due to "visa" issues. This forced the band to spend most of Friday and Saturday morning in the rehearsal studio trying to tighten up their arrangements without the use of their normal, melodic keyboard accents. The result was one of the heaviest and raunchy performances of the entire weekend.
Michael Eden was just astounding as they tore through "CURSE" favorites like "Just Like Judas," "Fallen King," "After the Love Is Gone and "Signs of Your Life." Sure, the songs weren't as "melodic" as they may have been with the addition of Del Vecchio but the arrangements were tight and I really liked the rawer, edgier sound conceived through the hours of additional studio time. And HOLY SHIT! Did lead guitarist Thorsten Koehne ever step up to the plate! I always knew this guy was a great guitar player, but the additional fills and shreds he added to the performance were simply unbelievable. This was more than apparent in the band's heavy-hitting encores "Angels & Demons" and the killer, in-your-face shedder "Judgement Day." This was a prime example of a professional group of musicians overcoming adversity to produce a performance that was nothing less than magnificent. Kudos to you Michael and the rest of the band for all your efforts. we here at ROCKEYEZ salute you!
Not leaving much time to breathe, up next was guitar-virtuoso and song-writer extraordinaire Jim Peterik and his PRIDE OF LIONS! Sporting his typical "rock star" attire along with a rather large, black pirate's hat, Peterik and the band took the stage for what was to become another masterful performance in a weekend just jam-packed with incredible exhibitions.
Lead vocalist Toby Hitchcock was at the top of his game belting out PRIDE OF LIONS jewels like "It's Criminal," the opening track to the bands 2007 release "Roaring of Dreams" and one of my favorite PRIDE OF LIONS tunes "Heaven On Earth," the crowd pleasing "Music And Me," and another off their debut release "Sound Of Home." They even tackled old SURVIVOR classics like "I Can't Hold Back," the tender ballad "The Search Is Over" and really took the crowd by surprise with their interpretation (and, turns out, last minute write in) of a more obscure SURVIVOR song entitled "Oceans" from the 1986 release "When Seconds Count."
The set actually climaxed with the always amazing Jimi Jamison joining the band for the "lesser" (if you REALLY wanna consider it that) of the two ROCKY anthems "Burning Heart." This was an all out adrenaline rush as Jamison and Hitchcock both had their moments to shine as they traded off leads before uniting for the chorus which sounded like a symphony putting these two amazing voices together. All the while, Peterik jammed away on his guitar which extended into a short guitar feature and landed Peterik himself into and shoulder to shoulder with his adoring fans before breaking into the opening and unmistakable riff to Eye of The Tiger.
Yeah, I know. a bit "expected " and maybe even a little "corny" but everyone in the place just loved it and, let's be real here. how could you just ignore a tune that was not only Peterik and SURVIVOR's biggest hit but also a song that has become a true American standard? PRIDE OF LIONS are simply AOR at its best and at one point, Peterik promised that after the bands next release, he would take the band on the road all over the U.S. and didn't care whether they had to play bars or back-yard barbeques. this is one promise I expect him to keep because these guys really deserve and NEED to be heard.
Lots of bands have a front man but when you think of REAL front men. the kind of guy who can step out onto the stage and command your attention, the kind of guy who seems almost bigger than life and has the attitude to match, the kind of guy who does more than just sing but through his onstage antics and crowd interaction puts on a show, you'll find that they're a dying breed. Truly GREAT front men are hard to find. names like Steven Tyler, the late Ronnie James Dio and THE quintessential front man himself David Lee Roth spring to mind. but of course the next band on the agenda for Melodic Rock Fest II certainly doesn't have that problem as they still have one of the best in business in Ted Poley and as the hands of the clock hit just around 9:15 it was time for DANGER DANGER to take the stage.
Obviously neither DANGER DANGER or Ted himself have been strangers to Rockeyez but it had been a while since I've seen the band together so I was really excited to see them again and they did NOT disappoint. The song selection itself was one of the best I've heard out of these guys in a LONG time as they knocked out fan favorites like "Boys Will Be Boys," "Under The Gun," "Monkey Business," "Beat The Bullet" (which has always been one of my favorite D2 tracks), and one of my all time favorite ballads "I Still Think About You." Lead guitarist Rob Marcello was just mind-blowing and made the most of every opportunity he had to show his stuff as Ted was, well. being TED! In between songs he would joke and interact with the crowd while toasting to bassist (and one of the bands founding members) Bruno Ravel for his birthday on more than one occasion but all the while keeping everyone pumped up and practically begging fro more.
As the set continued on, D2 mixed in a couple of more obscure selections like "Crazy Nites" and "Don't Blame It On Love" with (to my delight) a few selections off their last release "Revolve" like the melodic "Hearts On The Highway," the edgy "Keep On Keepin' On" and the CD's opening track "That's What I'm Talkin' About." It was just so refreshing to see hear these songs live for the first time. awesome! And I guess it goes without saying that they performed ALL their popular anthems as well like the mid-tempo ballad "Don't Walk Away," everyone's favorite and mandatory rocker "Bang Bang" and wrapping up their set with and extended, killer version of the song that started it all "Naughty Naughty." A tremendous set from a band whose lyrics everyone knows by heart. My only critique would be that it seemed that Ted's incredible voice got lost a little in the mix from time to time which was a shame as Ted was definitely in great voice for the appearance but overall the performance by all of the guys was just superb.
After the D2 set, I happened to look at my watch and noticed it was almost 11:00 pm! I couldn't believe I had been there almost 11 hours already but with all the great acts and performances I got to witness the time just flew by. Hell, I didn't even eat! But there was no time for "snacking" now as the final band was just about set to take the stage. legendary rockers Y & T!
It should come as no surprise that these guys came out like the true professionals they are and simply took control of the stage and probably the biggest crowd I remember seeing at The Road House all weekend. Pounding the crowd right out of the box with the "Black Tiger" favorite "From The Moon," Y & T continued to stimulate the audience with crowd-pleaser's like "Mean Streak," "Lipstick & Leather," "Black Tiger" and their 1985 hit "Summertime Girls." Meniketti's voice has really withstood the test of time and as for his guitar playing? World-class. period.
A couple of the highlights from the set came in the form of two new songs from their latest release "Facemelter." The first was a tune called "Shine On" which had that typical, gritty Y & T vibe to it combined with a strong, melodic chorus and the second entitled "I'm Coming Home" was a bit more aggressive with its pulsating melody and potent yet aggressive chorus. Both were really nice compliments to their headlining set but the real fun for me were the three tracks they played off of their 1987 "Contagious" release including an awesome version of the title track, the more laid-back "Eyes Of A Stranger" and an emotional and passionate rendition of the instrumental "I'll Cry For You." Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. as a whole "Contagious" was not the bands best effort but it was actually my first introduction to the band and for that reason, those songs and that album will always be special to me.
Their normal set was brought to a close with the Y & T classic "Forever" before the band took their last licks to the tune of three encores which included "Barroom Boogie," the heart-pounding "Don't Stop Runnin'" and finally bringing down the house with another Y & T staple "Rescue Me." Outstanding performance by these veteran rockers and a fitting end to a day filled with rock-solid performances.
With that we come to the end of day 2 of Melodic Rock Fest II. 13 bands down.. 9 to go!