Rock Eyez
New England Rock Festival
Poor Richards
Chicopee, MA
August 17 & 18, 2018


Twenty years is a long time for anything and when you are referring to operating an indie record label it
is a downright testament to being successful in a business that has fallen on hard times in recent years.
Everyone says rock is dead and that nobody buys albums anymore. Well, on August 17 & 18, John Kivel
and Kivel Records celebrated the fact that he’s been doing something right for the last 20 years as he
put on t the first annual New England Rock Fest and proved that rock most certainly is alive and well.


For the past seven years John Kivel has thrown his annual (and somewhat legendary) BBQ’s at his home where friends and some of his bands have celebrated the success of Kivel Records but this year he decided to turn it up a huge notch and throw a party with many of the bands from throughout the years of the Kivel Records roster and also some national acts to round out the festivities.

The setting of the New England Rock Fest was the newly christened Poor Richard’s (formerly Maximum Capacity) in Chicopee, MA and it was spread out over a Friday night and pretty much full Saturday. Hosting the event was the one and only Mitch Lafon, the host “Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon” on the Westwood One podcast network. He does some killer intrviews with some of rocks biggest names so check him out wherever you listen to podcasts. Starting off the festivities was a fairly new act from upstate NY named WICKED. This foursome is a total glam throwback with their stage appearance falling somewhere in between 70’s rockers Angel and Kiss with a sound of Cheap Trick and Kiss with a much harder edge. They are a band to keep an eye on for sure.

Next up was a new signing to the Kivel roster named THE RUMOURS. This Iowa-based band is a nu-breed rock act with classic influences from the likes of The Donnas, The Runaways, Kiss and even some Ramones in their sound. Led by front-woman Carli Foxx, The Rumours rock pretty damn hard and went over very well with the crowd. In fact, The Rumours would actually get to strut their stuff again the next day as they double duty and filled in for the band Smilek, an older Kivel act that was unable to perform due to singer Marty Smilek having some vocal issues. Hitting the stage right after that was yet another

new act on the Kivel roster as Nashville-based THE GREAT AFFAIRS hit the stage with their straight-ahead hard rock sound. The band put on a great set just as their label mates The Rumours did before them. After a brief set change it was then time for the main headliner of the evening with ERIC MARTIN and his solo band which included Steve Brown and PJ Farley from Trixter and Joey Cassata formerly of NY rockers ZO2. They turned in a great set of new and old Mr. Big songs along with several Trixter classics and even a song from PJ Farley’s solo record and one from the Steve Brown-fronted 40ft. Ringo. It was a fun set that lasted about ninety minutes.

After Martin and friends finished up it was time for a special performance from Kivel veteran act PYN SIREN. The Pyn Siren debut came out back in 2003 and was one of the earlier Kivel releases. The band has a sound that is reminiscent of Skid Row (“Slave To The Grind” era) and featured new member Chris Bickley on guitar for this show. They were a great way to end the first evening of the New England Rock Fest.

The second day started around 3:30pm with a great act that has released two albums on the Kivel label. MAXX EXPLOSION is a CT-based band featuring House of Lords members Jimi Bell (guitar) and BJ Zampa (drums) along with current Dokken bassist Chris McCarvill. This was the 2nd show with new member and keyboard player Mark Zito and he really adds to the sound of a band that was already great as a three- piece. They even played some new songs which they are working on for a new record.

After Maxx Explosion was a new act to the Kivel roster, so new in fact the album is still being worked on and will be released in the fall. WILD AMERICA is their name and the band is comprised of Joe Labbadia on vocals, Billy DiNapoli on guitar, John Gallicano on bass, Jason Northrop on drums and Andrew Kadin on keyboards. These guys rocked hard with a great guitar-driven sound and the debut album is sure to be a good one so be sure to look out for it. Up next was a recent signing to the Kivel label and one I was quite looking forward to in STEEL CITY.


Steel City is led by powerhouse singer Bryan Cole who is joined by partner in crime, guitarist Mike Floros along with Scott West on bass and Ron McClosky on drums and special guest Tony Stahl on keyboards. Steel City turned in a high-energy performance featuring songs off the debut album “Fortresses”. The band was one of the highlights of weekend and many people in the crowd were blown away with vocals of Cole. Next to grace the stage another veteran Kivel act named NO LOVE LOST. Their self- titled album came out back in 2013 and I hadn’t heard much from them since so I was looking forward to their set. The band put on a great set a killer cover of Whitesnake’s classic “Still of the Night”.

The Rumours made their 2nd performance of the weekend next as they too
to the stage again for some in your face rock, changing their set up a bit to keep things fresh was great as the crowd enjoyed the double dose of their music. As Saturday night drew to close we were now down two of the bigger names on the weekend. The first one being a band that I would venture is one of the more successful and most high-profile on the Kivel Records label in TANGO DOWN. The band has released five records dating back to 2005 with each one getting stronger and culminating in the 2016 release “Bulletproof”. Singer Chas West is a seasonal vet and meshes perfectly with original members Scott “Rif” Miller (guitar) and Keith Michaels (drums) along with newcomer Axel Gessner on bass. The band incuding is a well-oiled machine was certainly another highlight on the weekend. After their set it was now time the headliner and who better than FIREHOUSE to fit that bill? The band needs no introduction with MTV and radio hits like “Love of a Lifetime” and “Don’t Treat Me Bad”, if you are not familiar then you are not a melodic rock fan! The band has always been solid and with an all new set list to celebrate their 27th anniversary they were in fine form once again. Firehouse put on a flawless set to close out the first annual New England Rock Fest and make it a weekend to remember.

Now that I’ve talked about the bands and music of the weekend I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fan side of this New England Rock Fest/Kivel Records 20th Anniversary celebration. As with any of these specialized and smaller music festivals the VIP experience is a special way for the hardcore to really make it an event to remember. With the NERF the VIP’s ticket holders were presented with a great package put together by Kivel which included a gift bag filled with a commemorative glass, dog tag, anniversary t-shirt, anniversary CD (which features a demo track of the aforementioned Incognito band) and a Red Robin gift card. Quite the haul and a really nice set of memorabilia for fans to take home. The New England Rock Fest was clearly a fan-driven event in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Kivel Records so here’s to another twenty!

Be sure to check out all our photos from the weekend here!


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