M3 Rock Festival – Day 1 – Columbia, MD – 5/6/2023

This year’s M3 Rock Festival kicked-off early on Saturday, May 6, 2023 with Danny “The Count” Koker’s band Count’s 77 leading the charge.

The Count, who is best known for his adventures on the Pawn Stars spin-off Counting Cars, keeps busy with several ventures including his club Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas, Sin City Whiskey, and this band which features Stoney Curtis and John Zito on guitar, Barry Barrnes on bass, Paul Disibio on drums, and ex Britny Fox frontman Tommy Paris on keyboards.

With a 1970’s era vibe well captured in their anthem “Summer of ’77,” the band has two albums out on Shrapnel Records, but doesn’t perform live often, so we were excited to see their return to M3 this year after hosting a VIP-only performance at last-year’s event.

Count's 77 (Danny "The Count" Koker) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Count’s 77
Vixen – Taste Test of Count’s Sin City Whiskey

Bringing the crowd in early for the day were local Baltimore favorites, Child’s Play with barefoot and energetic drummer John Allen taking the lead on vocals. We found it ironic that the title track from the band’s 1990 major label-debut “Rat Race,” didn’t make the set, but “My Bottle,” sure did! Very cool to finally catch this band live as their local date for the 1990 tour at Pittsburgh’s Graffiti was cancelled (and we didn’t exactly have the means to venture to Baltimore for a show back then).  If you missed this, you can see them on September 17th opening for KIX at Merriweather Post Pavilion, and lawn tickets are currently still available.

Child's Play (John Allen) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Child’s Play

Third on the bill Saturday afternoon were Britny Fox, which quite honestly was a difficult performance to watch, knowing that their second singer Tommy Paris was actually in the venue.  And, that we’d just disembarked from the Monsters of Rock Cruise with their original drummer Johnny Dee who performed on the cruise with Doro before heading to Europe with Tyketto (following the planned retirement of Michael Clayton on the boat).  So you might ask, “who was with Britny Fox?” Well, as many learned the hard way, the only remaining member of the band is bassist Billy Childs.

And while you can certainly say the same for Quiet Riot, whose only classic-era member is bassist Rudy Sarzo… But, in their case, the band has suffered the loss of Randy Rhodes, Kevin DuBrow, and most recently, Frankie Banali. So it seems that in contrast, most fans are grateful to see the music live on and Rudy up on that stage hammering away at his bass guitar. For most, it is a bonus to see long-standing member Alex Grossi playing lead guitar and frontman Jizzy Pearl sneaking in some Love/Hate for us die-hard fans amongst the anthems that we all know and love.

Britny Fox (Billy Childs) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Britny Fox
Quiet Riot - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Quiet Riot

Honestly, this lady requires no introduction, but we must say that we were so happy to see M3 welcome back the iconic Lita Ford.  She is now joined by bassist Martin Andersson (Steelheart) who she welcomed to the fold about a year ago, along with Patrick Kennison on guitar and Bobby Rock on drums.

While the band’s performance was better than ever, one issue we’d noticed was that her powerful mid-day set seemed to battle against the VIP autograph and photo opportunities leaving the crowd (especially those close to the stage) a bit sparse.  Lita seemed to notice the lack of participation, noting that the crowd was a bit too “quiet” this year, and encouraging more feedback.  Perhaps many were still fighting some “boat throat” issues like us after singing along all week on the Monster’s of Rock Cruise?

Regardless, it is worth noting that it is odd that there are multiple lines for VIPs leaving the crowd who pays the most for good seats, standing in line through most of the performances.  It seems that there could be a better way to handle these events that won’t leave the seats empty.

Lita Ford - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Lita Ford

It is always a treat to catch up with our friends from Slaughter, and this was our second festival opportunity this year.  This time, we enjoyed some amazing vantage points around the venue included an up-close view of the energy of the band from behind Jordan Cannata’s kit as the stage engulfed in fog around the band. We also enjoyed the touching sentiment of writing the lyrics of “Fly to the Angels” across the big screen that evening, and of course the many other favorites like “Mad About You,” and of course, the anthem of our party days, “Up All Night, Sleep All Day”!

Slaughter (Dana Strum & Mark Slaughter) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Slaughter (Jordan Cannata) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com
Slaughter – (L to R: Dana Strum, Mark Slaughter, Jeff Blando, and Jordan Cannata)

Slaughter was to be followed by Extreme, who sadly had to withdraw from the festival for the second year in a row.  So disappointed to see the band cancel at the last-minute after guitarist Nuno Bettencourt who injured his knee playing basketball during an annual competition with other rockers and cruisers aboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise.

While Nuno did suffer his way through Extreme’s second show on the boat while seated, he was unable to make the festival performance as he was in need of medical care.  So, instead, Extreme’s manager Robby Hoffman’s band Voyage, a tribute to the band Journey took Extreme’s place.

The classic rock tribute band featured Steve Perry look-alike, Hugo Valentine on lead vocals, leaving many in awe of his spot-on performance of the Journey classics.  Ted Poley joined the band on vocals briefly for “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” but sadly his Tokyo Motor Fist bandmate Greg Smith, who usually performs on bass with Voyage, couldn’t make the gig due to another touring commitment.

Voyage (Hugo Valentine) - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com

Also fresh off the boat were Winger, who we got to catch live for the third time in a week! No boredom here as the band mixed things up each time, introducing “Proud Desperado” from their long-awaited album Seven and bringing back the medley earlier in the week in addition to including our favorite “Rainbow in the Rose” from their sophomore release in this M3 set list. In my mind, this photo says it all (well most of it as you can’t see drummer Rod Morgenstein from this vantage point), but just look at the talent on that stage, enough said!

Winger - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com

In continuation of the classic-rock vibe that was sprinkled throughout the day, we were very excited to catch Styx for the second time this year, with the first being at Rokisland Festival in Key West. And we certainly weren’t the only ones.  In fact, one die hard fan came dressed up as “Mr. Roboto,” in anticipation of that one song!

While Winger just introduced album number Seven, Styx has made their way to seventeen, but is still going strong.  The band line-up features  James “JY” Young on lead vocals and guitars, Tommy Shaw on lead vocals and guitars, Chuck Panozzo on bass and vocals, Todd Sucherman on drums and percussion, Lawrence Gowan on lead vocals and keyboards, and Ricky Phillips on bass and guitar and vocals.

The stage set-up seemed even bigger this time, showcasing the entire band, with stairs, lights, and moving parts like that awesome rotating keyboard stand that allows Lawrence to show off his fancy footwork. One of the secrets behind the quick change-overs between sets at M3 is that there is also a rotating stage set-up in place, which enables such an elaborate set to be build as soon the the band performing two time-slots before them leaves the stage.  Such advance preparation meant that the concert was over just before 11pm, and that there was plenty of time for an afterparty.

Styx - M3 Rock Festival - Photo by Kara Uhrlen TPRS.com

The afterparty began when friends reconvened at the Merriweather Lakehouse ballroom for a down ‘n dirty performance by Philadelphia’s own Heaven’s Edge, complete with low ceilings, minimal lighting, and standing room only. The band hosted this official record release party to a lively crowd who just ate up the vibe from the intimate atmosphere, which enabled die-hard fans to fight their way to the stage, and to meet and greet the band after the show for autographs on the new album.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the band featured Percy Trayanov filling in on bass duties as Jaron Gulino was on the road with Lynch Mob that week, but luckily guitarist Reggie Wu was able to join in despite missing their last-minute Sunday show replacing Loudness at the Pavillion. Click here to get yourself a copy of the band’s new album, Get it Right.

Heaven's Edge - M3 Rock Festival Afterparty - Kara Uhrlen - TPRS.com
Heaven’s Edge – Release Party

We are just getting started with M3 Rock Festival coverage.  Follow us @ThePureRockShop for more from the two-day 2023 event at Merriweather Post-Pavilion…Want more M3 coverage now, check out previous years, including 2019, 2021, and 2022. (update: Day 2 Coverage now live)

Lots happening this past month as well as upcoming captures, recaps, news and interviews from of local and regional concerts and festivals including Jackyl, Faster Pussycat, Chris Jericho’s Kuarantine, and more this summer so check back often…

Recap and Live Photos by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen for The Pure Rock Shop.  Posted on 5/29/2023.