by Alex Barbieri
– Senior Columnist —
Feedback following the recent Melodic Rock Fest 3 Festival (MRF3) has been positive and enthusiastic. The general consensus is that MRF3 was an incredible weekend of music, friendship, and bonding between the musicians who played, and the fans who attended.
The event, which took place September 27 – 29 in Arlington Heights, Chicago, IL, was a who’s who of the melodic rock world, including Adriangale, Steve Augeri, Bombay Black, Coldspell, Glen Burtnik, Harem Scarem, House of Lords, LOVEBLAST, Eclipse, Eric Martin, Ted Poley, Tango Down, W.E.T. featuring Jeff Scott Soto, and others.
According to founder/organizer, Andrew McNiece of melodicrock.com, “I’m pleased to say that MRF3 was a complete success — both critically and financially — which means that MRF4 is a definite possibility!”
In celebration of the success of MRF3, Hardrock Haven reached out to those who were there and asked, “What are your favorite MRF3 memories and experiences?” Here are the (mostly) unedited replies. Enjoy!
The highlight of MRF3 for me was having the privilege to play for, and meet die-hard rock n’ roll fans from all over the world. Some of the people I had corresponded with on Facebook or email for quite some time, while others were seeing LOVEBLAST for the first time. Everyone there was incredibly nice to us, and we had a great time getting to talk to everyone who stopped by our merch table. And of course, getting the chance to see House of Lords do “S.O.S.” live was just kick ass!
— Brian Durbin – LOVEBLAST
Melodic Rock Fest 3 memories, hmmm … on Friday night I had left the venue to run back to my room for a little while and missed my shuttle back at 9:00 pm, so I had to wait another hour for the next shuttle. I’m kinda glad it happened because when I went down to catch the 10:00 pm shuttle, I ran into Jeff Scott Soto in the lobby. So I approached him and said, “Hello” and it was a pleasure to meet him and looking forward to his performance with W.E.T. the following night. A very polite and friendly person, he was. As we were talking, here comes Eric Martin who was set to perform that evening acoustic! So again, I introduced myself and he was very nice as well. It was just us three on the shuttle going to the venue and I was kinda beside myself. I’m sitting here next to two people I have admired for more than 20 years and I’m sitting there just chatting with them like old friends. Truly a moment I will always remember!
Being a huge fan of the band Bombay Black, it’s always an honor and a privilege to introduce these guys to the stage before they blow the doors off the venue, and in fact they did just that. The sound was bombastic. They have brought the rock show element to the stage and performed better than ever. I cannot wait to hear what is next for these guys.
I had a good friend with me from Singapore named KH Lim, and on Friday night after all the performances, we went back to the hotel and got to hang out with the rhythm section from Coldspell (Perra Johansson and Chris Goldsmith ). Just kicking back telling stories, laughing, having a few cold ones and it was certainly the beginning of a good friendship. Just great guys and so damn funny. I want to give a big shout out to Andrew McNeice for all his hard work and making these events possible!
— Andy Kalenowsky – Rocker and official Bombay Black introducer
The two highlights for me at MRF3 was meeting and seeing bands that I have loved over the years, including James Christian of House of Lords, Ted Poley, Coldspell, Tango Down etc. Not only did the performers treat us with much love and respect, they appreciated us for supporting their music. And getting personal invites to future shows as a guest, how cool is that? I remember arriving at the hotel venue to be greeted by the Tango Down guys at the hotel entrance — that was really unbelievable — they actually remember and know me!!!!
Of course, equally memorable was meeting fans and “real people” (ha ha) that love melodic rock. I was greeted by people I know on Facebook the moment I stepped into the hall and felt like we have known each other for years. People came up to me and asked, “Are you the guy from Singapore?” and “Was all the traveling worth it?” The answer to both those questions is a loud and proud, “Yes!”
The audiences were great too!! I remember one big guy who kept giving out guitar picks to the people surrounding him every time he caught one from the band. And nice of some big guys to give up their spot near the stage since I am kind of short . As one of my friends said “They may look tough on the outside, but they are teddy bears on the inside.”
— KH Lim – Superfan!
I have to back up a few steps for perspective. I got to play in two bands at MRF3. I’m the bass player of House of Lords, but I’m also the lead singer and bassist of Maxx Explosion. Guitarist Jimi Bell and drummer BJ Zampa are also in both bands. At the 11th hour, Maxx Explosion signed a record deal with Kivel Records. Not only did John Kivel get us splashed all over melodicrock.com and get our CDs manufactured, but he arranged for us to close the MRF3. With everything else he had going on that week with festival preparations, I have to give him huge props for making Maxx Explosion not just emerge, but explode (sorry – haha) onto the scene.
Since James Christian (singer of House of Lords) lives in Florida and the rest of us live in Connecticut, we don’t get to rehearse often. James got into town Tuesday Sept. 24, and that was our first House of Lords rehearsal in quite awhile. Jimi, BJ, and I had been rehearsing the HOL material for weeks in advance, along with the Maxx Explosion material. By the time James rolled into town, we were more than ready. This is the best House of Lords has ever sounded, in my opinion. Probably because us three knuckleheads play all the time with Maxx Explosion.
So, late rehearsal Tuesday night, early rehearsal Wednesday night, and we had extra time, so we ran the Maxx Explosion set at the end of rehearsal with a captive audience of J.C. He was nothing but enthusiastic for us. That was really cool. From there, we went to Kelli Groballi’s photo studio and did album cover and press pics for the upcoming House of Lords record. Shoots take hours of course, so not much sleep and we haven’t even started the shows yet.
We played Thursday in Rhode Island. While MRF3 began on Friday in Chicago, we were playing in Connecticut. Saturday in Massachusetts, then we had just about enough time to drop off some gear at home and head directly to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. We flew into Chicago O’ Hare International Airport, and managed to get to the hotel around 11:00 am Sunday. Jimi went out to the festival to show some face. The rest of us crashed.
Jimi, BJ, and I got to the cavernous HOME bar in Chicago in the early evening on Sunday and John Kivel immediately marshaled us to the Kivel Records booth, which was totally kickass. We signed many, many, many Maxx Explosion CDs. It’s one thing to work on a record for a long time, but you never know what people will think. So far, the response has been incredibly positive. I really didn’t expect so many people to have heard it, like it, and want it signed. (The formal release date was the first day of MRF3). Kivel made posters for us too, and of course many of those required signing. That was awesome. Of course, there were tons of House of Lords CDs to sign, too. We hung out backstage with some old friends — great to see Jeff Scott Soto and Gary Schutt — been awhile! We made quite a few new ones.
James got to HOME Bar, got his customary red wine, and we hit the stage around 8:15 p.m. after some minor technical problems. In my opinion, we crushed. We’d just done three solid gigs in the nights before, and the crowd was fantastic, lights were great, sound was great, venue was great. We generally like to complain, but it was pretty impossible to, ha ha. James even told us afterwards that he thought we never sounded better. We were very tired afterwards, but still, 90 minutes of House of Lords was over too soon.
Then we waited … and waited.
Quite a few bands were going on before Maxx Explosion’s debut. Steve Augeri, Eclipse, I think there were a few others — all fantastic bands. James tried to hold out to see our show, but it was just too late and we all really hadn’t slept enough. He also had to fly to Europe in the early morning, so we let him off the hook. Jimi then started to fade, but two Monster energy drinks revived him and he was back. The crowd, however, didn’t falter. We were really surprised that by the time Maxx went up (after 2:00 am … on a Sunday!), there were still so many people present and fully enthusiastic. In fact, I saw more than one person screaming the lyrics back of “Falling Away.” That was really cool. Sort of like a “we’ve arrived” moment. We ended with our epic number called “Forever,” and with it we closed MRF3.
I have to thank John Kivel for masterminding the introduction of Maxx Explosion, and also for being a gracious host, along with Andrew McNeice, to both House of Lords and Maxx Explosion. Also BJ Zampa went way out of his way to get House of Lords involved in the first place, and helped negotiate all the thankless details of our flights, rooms, transportation, etc. Well done, dude! The whole thing was a massive success. Great time!
— Chris McCarvill – House of Lords/Maxx Explosion
Having Jeff Scott Soto come out and watch us play “Stand Up and Shout” from the movie Rock Star, then tell us after the show that he had seen a video of us doing it on YouTube and thought we really did it justice, and Erik did a great job with the vocals! My brain was fried from that point on. Made my year! I don’t remember much else. Lol.
Oh yeah, Erik had bought some of Jeff Scott Soto’s favorite tequila before we played MR2 because W.E.T. was supposed to be on that bill. Since we play “Stand Up,” our plan was to present him with the tequila and see if he would be interested in coming on stage when we did that song. Scheduling conflicts arose and W.E.T. was unable to make that show, but we’ve been hanging on to that tequila ever since, just in case :-)..
Fast forward to MR3 and W.E.T. WAS THERE! Unfortunately after the killer set Saturday night, JSS wasn’t trying to put his voice through any undue strain Sunday, so he didn’t join us on stage. He did however, watch the whole song from side stage and seemed to approve enthusiastically. Later, in the green room, he tells us that someone sent him a link to the YouTube video through his Facebook page of us doing that song. He said, “I thought, it’s about time somebody did that song justice. It just took me a second for everything to fall into place that you were the guys from that video.”
Needless to say, I was floored by that comment! Then he looks at Erik and says, “That’s no easy song vocally either, you do a great job with it.” Erik is a HUGE fan, so that was a big deal. From what folks in the scene have told me, JSS is a super nice guy but if he didn’t like the performance, he just wouldn’t have said anything. That kind of kicked the compliment up a notch for me :-).
— Rob McCauley – Bombay Black
It was a good day when I received word that I would be performing at MRF3. Having been lucky enough to perform at Melodic Rock Fest 2, I knew what to expect and I was really excited. This is the only festival like this in the U.S. Sure, there are lots of festivals, but none compare to the fan and artist interaction like this festival.
There is a similar festival in Europe, but MRF is easily the U.S. equivalent. People travel from all corners of the world for their love of melodic rock music — both on an artist and fan level. Even the artists themselves look forward to seeing both friends and fans we have met throughout the years for three days of rock ‘n roll goodness. Basically, everyone will walk away from this festival with a “Rockstar Rock ‘n Roll Road Story” of their own.
Not to mention the quality of talent from every single artist on the roster. Every single band from the opener to the closer is great, and no one ever leaves disappointed. I could go on and on and give you some of my own stories, but there is not enough time or space. I write this as I am rolling through the U.S. from show to show on my cell phone. So if you see me, come up and I will tell you personally a few MRF3 stories. Hopefully, I will be lucky enough to be at MRF4 and we can make some new stories. I would like to give a shout out to the promoters and organizers of the show for the great job they do and the friends and fans that really make it what it is. I love you all. Cheers, Ronnie.
— Ronnie Parkes – Tango Down/Seven Witches
Hardrock Haven thanks all those who submitted copy and photographs for this feature.
For more on MRF3, including reviews, set lists, and fan feedback, visit http://www.melodicrock.com/