M3 Rock Festival – Day 1 – Columbia, MD – 5/4/2024

The 15th anniversary of the M3 Rock Festival 2024 official kicked off Saturday, May 4th following a VIP performance and a sold-out Official Pre-Party at The Collective Encore nearby and a non-official band showcase at The Reckless Shephard Brewery in Columbia, which included an unexpected all-star jam.

With performances from Queensrÿche, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Last In Line, Quiet Riot, Lynch Mob, Doro, Aldo Nova, Child’s Play, and Fan Halen, and a soundcheck with the Backstage Rock Academy Band, it was a line-up worthy of such a special anniversary at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

To kick things off as the M3 Rock Festival fans made their way through the gates, we are told that the Backstage Rock Academy was to warm things up before Fan Halen took the stage.  Having hit all of the parties Friday night, we found ourselves arriving later than scheduled and missing the opportunity to shoot the Fan Halen set.

They are a tribute to Van Halen that is known for being the most authentic tribute to the legendary band.  They are fronted by Ernie Berru in tribute to Diamond Dave with guitarist Derek Fuller as Eddie Van Halen, Andy Catt performing on bass as Michael Anthony, and Michael Thompson playing the part of Alex Van Halen on drums. They say no tribute looks or sounds closer to the real thing. And, we enjoyed watching them mid-set from the front of house and catching up with Andy during the sing-along after day two of the festival and at the Merriweather Lakehouse hotel.

Given that Child’s Play has two strong frontmen, the two-song photo rule has made it impossible document Larry behind the microphone and John behind the drums before now.  But now that we know these guys, we were invited to stay a bit longer during their show.  So, I hope you all enjoy these exclusive photos which truly capture their performance.

The set began with John Allen fronting the band while his Stone Horses bandmate Jason Heiser took the seat behind the kit as we’ve come to expect with this being the band’s third show at Merriweather Post Pavilion in the past year! These guys have been busy, having performed in the opening slot at the KIX farewell show in between two M3 performances and we also caught up with John and Jason in their band Stone Horses on their tour with Brother Cane and Orianthi since last year.

Original frontman Larry Hinshaw took the microphone for a few songs while John played drums later in the set.  And, Nicky Kay and his son Mikhali handled guitar duties while Phil Wiser was on bass.

Once again “Rat Race” was missing from the set, but John says it may find its way in next time.  The set included a tribute to their lost bandmate Brian Jack and concluded with a few of our personal favorites, namely “Day After Night” and “My Bottle.”

The first of three bands we caught before heading to M3 Rock Festival was Aldo Nova, with Queensryche being the second, and Faster Pussycat being the third, a nice perk of living within driving distance I suppose, while the inevitable miss still happened with Last in Line performing in Pittsburgh while we were covering day two of the festival.

The Canadian hard rock musician and producer Aldo Nova was joined by Jack Frost on guitar, Dario Sexias on bass, Michael T. Ross on keyboards, and Ange Curcio on drums.  For those who are not familiar with Aldo Nova, he is a guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist that gained recognition with self-titled debut album back in 1982 and brought us the hit “Fantasy,” and later came on our radar during the end of the “hair metal” era for his work with Jon Bon Jovi and on the song “Blaze of Glory” and his later signing to the Bon Jovi label with his own album Blood on the Bricks.

His performance was cut short with festival timing at M3 and while we enjoyed seeing him and the band rocking out on the big stage, we were very glad to have caught up with them locally on Thursday evening at Jergel’s to hear all of our favorites. You can check out that recap here.  Looking ahead we will be seeing Aldo Nova at The Mountain Music Festival in August in Gatlinburg, TN as well.

Doro was joined by Danny Piselli on drum in absence of longtime drummer Johnny Dee who is currently on the road with Tyketto in Europe.  Additionally, Nick Douglas returned on bass for the first time we’ve seen him with the metal queen since pre-covid on the Monsters of Rock Cruise!

Meanwhile, guitarists Bill Hudson (Northtale, I Am Morbid) and Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra)  shared guitar duties in the absence of Tommy Bolan who usually joins the band in the US due to Bas Maas’ visa requirements. I guess my point is, this a line-up we have never seen before, which made for a triumphant return from her highness as she brought a heavy dose of metal to the festival with anthems like “All We Are” and “East Meets West.”

I recently caught up with Doro for a nostalgic video interview in honor of her 40-year anniversary on the throne and even had the opportunity to catch the band in Italy last summer headlining Luppolo in Rock in Cremona, Italy. Listen in to our interview here.

Lynch Mob was also missing their normal guy Jimmy D’Anda behind the kit as he was enjoying some family time, but Jimmy will soon return to the “Final Ride” tour as dates continue to be announced into 2025.

Tesla’s Steve Brown could be found filling in for this set during a brief break in recording of the band’s latest album.  Shredder George Lynch was also joined by Gabriel Colon on lead vocals and Jaron Gulino on bass for a quick but explosive set of Dokken band and Lynch Mob favorites that included “It’s Not Love” and “Wicked Sensation.”

The day rolled on with Quiet Riot delivering a consistent high-energy set of arena rock anthems as always.  It is no secret that we can’t get enough of this band now that Rudy is back in the fold.

The line-up remains of Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate, Ratt, LA Guns) on vocals, Alex Grossi on guitar (Hookers & Blow, Beautiful Creatures), Johnny Kelly on drums (Danzig, Black Label Society) and bassist Rudy Sarzo (Whitesnake, Dio, Manic Eden) returned to M3 Rock Festival again this year, and kept us engaged the entire set.

The metal veterans will headline “Rock for Ronnie, DIO cancer fund event, next weekend in Woodland Hills, CA and we look forward to bringing you coverage of that as well through our West Coast contributor Joe Schaeffer.

Speaking of Ronnie James Dio, Last In Line continued with more classics.  They are fronted by Andrew Freeman, bassist Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy Osbourne), and former Dio bandmates Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard) on guitar and Vinny Appice (ex-Black Sabbath) on drums.  What began in honor of the Dio legacy has evolved into a monster of its own with three studio albums behind the band to date.

Their all-star band is fronted by Andrew Freeman, one of few who can hold their own when paying tribute to Dio classics like “Stand Up and Shout” and “Holy Diver,” and he is surrounded by some major forces behind bands like Dio, Black Sabbath, and Ozzy Osbourne.  With songs like their opener of “Landslide” and their tribute to Dio bassist Jimmy Bain with “Starmaker,” mixed in amongst classics like “Rainbow in the Dark,” this should have been one of those sets that people couldn’t shut up about because of the talent in check…

Unfortunately, people can’t seem to stop talking about Andrew’s rant about people sitting during the show.  And, that my friends is just sad.  It was cold and rainy and the crowd was weary, and while yes, it is a rock show, it was a long day for many and none of us are getting any younger.  Many bailed early that day, and those who chose to literally weather the storm and stay didn’t need a lecture, they needed some love.

Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) hit the stage next with Johnny Monaco and Erik Ferentinos on guitars, Matt Thorne on bass, and in the absence of drummer Scot Coogan who is currently out kicking ass with Ace Frehley, drummer Blas Elias (Slaughter, Trans Siberian Orchestra) has recently stepped in to fill the void.

I’m not sure if it was the addition of Blas, who is one of the most entertaining drummers to watch with his stick twirling attack, or the fact that the band was performing the 1984 Ratt band debut of Out of the Cellar on this appropriately dubbed “Back in the Cellar” anniversary tour, but all I can say is wow!

This line-up has come such a long way since Johnny joined the charge two years ago with less than a day’s notice and the delivery just keeps getting better.  We are hoping to catch a lot more of Stephen Pearcy and his band during festival season this summer!

Despite the quality of the line-up on this first day of the festival, it seemed many were heading out before and during Queensrÿche especially given their announcement of the “Origins Tour” set list.  Many casual fans didn’t take well to a set missing favorites from their commercially successful era, and likely missed that the band encored with “Empire” before saying farewell.

Those who’ve followed the band since the beginning, were thrilled to see them headlining the evening with those classics from the 1983 EP and 1984’s The Warning album, performing both classic releases in running order. I caught the set in Pittsburgh the week prior and couldn’t wait to see them again.

Queensrÿche is Todd La Torre on lead vocals, guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone, bassist Eddie Jackson, and drummer Casey Grillo.  The band is wrapping up The Origins Tour with Armored Saint with dates in Florida, and as a bonus for M3 attendees, Phil and Gonzo from Armored Saint stopped by to join the fun when vocalist John Bush needed an unexpected day off due to vocal issues.

We hear that Jason McMaster of Dangerous Toys has once again stepped in to help out John as the tour winds down and we just loved sharing the photo pit with Gonzo again like we’d done on Megacruise!

Coverage from DAY 2 and the pre-party can be found here!

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Watch for continued coverage of local shows and regional shows with Faster Pussycat, Judas Priest and Sabaton, Queensryche and Armored Saint, Aldo Nova, and more.  Follow for more from day 2 of the M3 Rock Festival.

Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen posted on 5/11/2024.  All event photos by photographer Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.