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September 7-9, 2001
Hotel and meals: $600.00.
Hanging out with old friends, making new ones, and hearing some cool music: Priceless.
Cheers to Dave, Deb, and Sean for weathering the madness and surviving
with psyches intact (for the most part).
Jeers to the Burbank Hilton for being absolute pricks.
Jeers to American Slang and Spiders & Snakes for not even
bothering to show.
I arrived a day early to "ease into" the weekend and help out with
stuffing bags, etc. I'm glad I did. I got a good solid night's sleep
Thursday night and was ready to hit the ground running on Friday.
The weather was wonderful! I was expecting blistering heat (shows
you how much I know about SoCal), and it was quite comfy. Low-to-mid
80s during the day, and down into the 60s with a nice breeze at night.
I got to hang out with a bunch of old friends: Paul Lackey, Gary Allen,
Jeff Prentice, Sean Jennings, and of course Dave and Deb; and make
some new ones: Sue Yasinitsky (nice to put a face with the online
persona :), John Parker, and the devastatingly cute Nicole (I can't
believe I never got a last name. Doh!)
I spent entirely too much money at the Century Media table;
the largest single-event purchase of CDs I've ever made. Have credit
card, will travel. :)
Here's my brief take on the performances, rated 0-10:
Ok, so I'm a pinhead. I skipped the preparty and stayed at the hotel
to stuff bags and a bunch of us sat up bullshitting until 2:30 a.m...
Teabag. Heavy Metal. ??/10
Imagika. Heavy Metal. ??/10
Steel Prophet. Power Metal. ??/10
Agent Steel. Power Metal. ??/10
Or is it "Order of the Illuminati"??? Who knows...
Chain Link Faith. Hard rock. 9/10
- Wow! What a surprise! These guys are good...real good. Extremely
melodic hard rock with plenty of hooks. Folks in Arizona need to
check these guys out!
Black Symphony. Modern Melodic Metal. 8/10
- Solid stuff. A bit of a modern edge, yet some good melodies and hooks.
The Black Symphony was chosen to perform live on ESPN and ESPN2 for Pro
Beach Hockey, and their independent debut has sold in excess of 50,000
Sicnest. Nu-Metal. ??/10
I needed a break, so I skipped these guys. Their bio writeup scared
me a little: "downtuned guitars, underground thrash, hip-hop, and
modern neo-metal..." Umm....pass.
Zero Hour. Prog rock. 4/10
Egads, it doesn't get more proggy than this... and we all know how I'm
not a great fan of prog. I guess they're proficient musicians, but
in all honesty I'm not sure, since their self-indulgent noodling never
held my attention for more than a nanosecond. Prog bands by and large
should simply stay in the studio, since when they play it's simply for
Byfist. Heavy Metal. 6.5/10
These guys have the image, and they certainly are heavy. The lead singer
is a bit out of control vocally. They provided one of the more "interesting"
moments by setting off the smoke alarms with a smoke machine. The fire
department was less than amused.
Silencer. Heavy Metal. 5/10
Very heavy stuff, but nothing really jumped out at me stylistically.
Their whole set kinda just blurred together.
Jarra. Melodic Metal. 7/10
Decent hard rock/melodic metal 4-piece act fronted by a Doro Pesch
lookalike. I was expecting something fairly proggy, but this is straight
Onward. Power Metal. 9/10
Good schtuff. There's a reason these guys are on Century Media.
Solid U.S. power metal. They sounded good top to bottom.
Talon. AOR/Hard Rock. 8.5/10
These guys were fun to see and hear. Melodic hard rock with plenty of
hooks. The lead guitarist is amazing. I wish the sound had been mixed
a bit better for this act in particular, as I think they deserved a
quieter, less "in-your-face" sound. I think these guys will do quite
well on the Frontiers label.
Cage. Heavy Metal. 10/10
One of the highlights of the show! I had enjoyed their set at last year's
show, and they were even better this time around. A dual-axe attack,
that looks and sounds like vintage Judas Priest. Extremely polished,
both in terms of image and sound, these guys show how professional
a heavy metal band can be. The material from their latest album
"Astrology" was quite well received, and the new yet-to-be-released
song "Kill the Devil" was awesome! They had just returned from playing
Wacken. Keep an eye on Cage; they may be headlining sooner than you think...
DC4. Hard Rock. 7.5/10
These guys were enjoyable, better than I was expecting. Melodic hard
rock with a slightly modern twist. Given the fact that the lead guitarist
is also the lead guitarist for Armored Saint, I was expecting something
considerably heavier. The melodies are fairly catchy, and the guitar
work uses some unusual effects.
Burning Rain. Hard Rock. 8/10
I enjoyed Burning Rain's set, but not quite as much as I had anticipated.
Why? Keith St. John is just simply annoying. The Mick Jagger/Robert Plant
wannabe act is just out-of-place here. Doug Aldrich's guitarwork was,
as one would expect, phenomenal. Get a new frontman. :)
Ken Tamplin/Howie Simon. Acoustic Rock. 10/10
Another highlight of the show for me! These guys were great last year, and even
better this time around. Extremely melodic and tight, they played a mixture
of originals and covers, both of which went over well. Howie is just a
monster on the acoustic guitar, and both smoked on some of the Flamenco
instrumentals they performed. I'd love to hear a CD of this live stuff!
Fred Flory and Jimi Powers. Acoustic Rock. 8/10
A last minute addition, these 2 gentlemen from Chain Link Faith (see above)
stepped in and performed quite admirably. A mini-set of acoustic numbers
provided a nice segueway between acts.
Tony Harnell/Mark Reale (Westworld). Acoustic Rock. 9.5/10
Yet another stellar act. Tony's voice is phenomenal! Again, a combination
of covers and original tunes, which ended with an impromptu singalong of
10,000 Lovers in One. :)
Sunday Main Stage:
Sonic Jungle. Hard Rock. 7/10
From the rubble of Aerosmith tribute band "Rocks" comes Sonic Jungle.
Fairly decent glammish hard rock. Nothing spectacular, but well
Tony Clark. Whodafuqueknows. 0/10
What the [CENSORED] was this? Tangerine Dream goes to Hell?
A lone guy sitting at his keyboard screaming. Remind me to avoid
anything considered "performance art" ever again. Gods this was bad.
Thrust. Heavy Metal. 7/10
A last-minute stand-in, these blokes crushed with extremely heavy
material. I could barely make out the vocals, unfortunately. Thrust
has been around since the early 1980s, put out an album in 1984 on
Metal Blade records, which was reissued in 1998 by High Vaultage
Records. A new album is due out soon.
Cut Throat. Hard Rock. ??/10
Lunch break, so I missed these guys. What I heard of their CD they
were playing at their booth reminded me of a heavier version of
Shards of Seven. Hard Rock. 6/10
Rather nondescript hard rock, 2 of the band's members are from last
year's Moore. The performance was solid, but not memorable, with the
exception of the guitarwork, which was quite good. The lead vocalist
had more tattoos and piercings than I've seen on a single individual;
that *HAD* to hurt...
Iain Ashley Hersey's Fallen Angel. Metal. 6.5/10
This group is just getting started, and I think ultimately they will
do quite well, but for now they didn't do much for me. A group based
around yat another guitar noodler. The general consensus among those
I spoke with was that his guitar tone was beautiful, but the playing
was sloppy; missed runs, etc. Female lead vocalist that was good on
the eyes belted out blues/classic rock vocals (voice characteristics
reminded me of Tina Turner a bit).
Robin Brock. AOR. 9/10
I liked her set considerably more this year than last year's acoustic
set. Considering that the backing band had only met her the night
before, the tightness of the performance was incredible. A nice
mixture of ballads and mid-tempo rockers, her set was exceptional,
and very well received. A new album "Hidden Power" produced by
Keith Olsen is available on A2
Stone. Blues Hard Rock. 8.5/10
I was going to skip these guys and get dinner, but I'm glad I stayed.
This 3-piece churns out some amazingly good blues rock. The musicianship
is solid and tight, and the lead vocalist/guitarist *really* gets into
the music. One of their songs "Teaser" was featured on the John Carpenter
Prototype. Metal. ??/10
Hey, I had to get some dinner, gimme a break! :)
Vicious Rumors. Power Metal. 9.5/10
Whoa. Infinitely better than last year's set. New/returning lead voalist
Brian O'Connor is extremely intense and powerful. The band is tight and
has a very forceful presence. They surprised many by playing a lot of
older classic material. They're gearing up for the opening slot with
Symphony X and Savatage. Go see them!
All in all a fun weekend. If it gets any heavier next year, my
head will simply cave in. :) Here's looking forward to next year!