Epic Live Kick-off to 2024 with Steelheart, Lynch Mob, Quiet Riot and More – Ashtabula, Ohio – 12/29-12/31/2023

With the year coming to an end, we took a road trip to Ashtabula, Ohio, just off the coast of Lake Erie, where Epic Live has recently taken over a sports & entertainment complex with a roller den, music lounge and arena concert venue.

Our weekend began with a unique and intimate acoustic show by Steelheart frontman Miljenko Matjevic in the music lounge where the venue hosts music, comedy, and dinner shows.  Unlike the opening act Oblivea, who took the stage first, Mili opted to set up his microphone just in front of the crowd and even join a few lucky fans at their tables for a chat and a song.

Having seen Mili fronting Steelheart in large theaters and a festivals like Monsters of Rock Cruise and M3 Rock Festival, it was amazing to watch this ‘Rockstar’ at a stripped-down, and very intimate show, with just a 12-string guitar and his powerful voice.  He took breaks to invite the audience to ask any questions about his career, and he told us the stories behind his songs in a very unscripted and honest dialog.  And he covered crowd favorites from his anthem “We All Die Young” off the soundtrack from the Rockstar movie where he was the voice of Mark Wahlberg’s character Chris “Izzy” Cole and of course “I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes),” from Steelheart’s 1990 debut.

Following the show, Mili greeted fans who lined-up for autographs and photos, and many returned to Epic Live on Saturday to continue the fun, including openers Oblivea who took the concert area stage electric in support of Lynch Mob along with a regional cover band Metal Edge, who took their name from the hair metal bible of the era.

Still maintaining the 1970s decor of the roller den complete with the snack bar, neon carpets, and walls lined with lockers.  The arena venue featured a stage spanning the width of the rink with enough room for three drum kits, and a spacious VIP area for those who chose to upgrade their general admission tickets for a closer view.

Lynch Mob, featuring former Dokken’s axeman ‘Mr. Scary’ recently announced that the band is making its final ride to end touring in 2025. So, as any fan would do, we plan to catch as many performance as possible in the year ahead.  This was our first opportunity with a local show an Jergels coming up soon on February 1, 2024.

These days it seems Lynch has found consistency at last with a powerful line-up featuring Gabriel Colon on lead vocals, longtime drummer Jimmy D’Anda (Bulletboys), and Jaron Guilino (Heavens Edge) on bass.  With so many bands saying farewell, I must admit this one is going to sting a bit given the history and how great these guys vibe together on stage.  Ironically, some of my first live shows happened around the time that Lynch Mob was formed and Don Dokken went solo. In fact, the first time we met drummer Jimmy D’Anda, the Bulletboys were ironically on tour with Steelheart.

And, with decades of music, and countless line-up changes behind him, George Lynch is sounding better than ever.  The set covered both solo and Dokken favorites like “Wicked Sensation,” “Into the Fire,” and of course lots of George being George and amazing us with his fretwork. Check out his latest instrumental release Guitars at the End of the World and the band’s latest Babylon, and check back for more next month from Jergels.

The fretwork and nostalgic theme continued as Quiet Riot were brought in to headline on New Year’s Eve. And we couldn’t think of a better way to countdown to 2024 having kicked off our year with the band (and many others) at Rokisland Festival last January.

In support, Truckstop, a rising new band from West Virginia that evolved during quarantine, hit the stage with a mix of originals and unique covers.  You can check out our coverage from their show with Metal Church for more information on their eclectic approach to thrash. They were followed by Never E Nuff who brought out the big guns with covers of Bon Jovi, Poison, LA Guns, Bulletboys, and many more.

In celebration of 40 Years of Metal Health, Quiet Riot is Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate, Ratt, LA Guns) on lead vocal, longtime guitarist Alex Grossi (Hookers & Blow, Beautiful Creatures), drummer Johnny Kelly (Danzig, Black Label Society) and bassist Rudy Sarzo (Whitesnake, Dio, Manic Eden).

I’m sure I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it is nearly impossible to take my eyes off of the fist pounding, hell raising, bass playing Rudy Sarzo, when I see this band live…But, you’ve got to when you’ve got Jizzy resurrecting his band Love/Hate’s “Black Out In the Red Room” (even if he is poking fun at us for dressing up and wearing crowns to bring in the New Year), Alex blowing us away with those iconic riffs (and even a tribute to Randy with some “Crazy Train” fun), and Johnny pounding through the arena rock-sized hits (despite feeling under the weather).

As Sarzo reminded us during the introduction to the ballad “Thunderbird,” the Quiet Riot family has suffered such big losses with Randy, Kevin, and Frankie, but the music remains…and what a great line-up to deliver the favorites like band’s anthem “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” and those electric Slade covers “Mama Were All Crazy Now” and “Cum on Feel the Noise” to get the party going.  We also enjoyed a post-show count down from the band and venue management to send us into 2024 with a bang, and couldn’t have found a wilder way to ring in the New Year.  Furthermore, we can’t wait to see what the new year will bring for these bands and for this Epic new venue that is just a short road-trip from the ‘Burgh, Erie, or Cleveland.

Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more local show coverage including Zakk Sabbath, Mr. Big, Lynch Mob, and Extreme this winter. Later this month, you’ll find us in Key West’s at the Third-Annual Rokisland Festival, in March, we’ll be on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.

Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen on 1/2/2024.  All event photos by Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.