Rock Boyz

Crüefest 2, Raw and Uncut

I might have guessed when they split the entering crowd into a men’s line and a women’s line for a full-body pat-down that Crüefest might get a little out of control. It was hot as hell, no breeze, the drinking began well before any of the featured bands hit the main stage, and the inhalables were out before the sun went down. The crowd ran the gamut, but tended toward overweight, underdressed, rock rednecks who had girlfriends eager to strip off their shirts in public. If I don’t see another beer-bellied dude with pierced nipples for a long time I’ll be okay with that. And if the crowd was unruly, the bands, when they stopped playing and started talking, were way worse. When did great music become disconnected with the ability to complete a coherent sentence without dozens of f-bombs? I could be getting old.

Nah. I’ve been to great concerts before, this just wasn’t one of them.

Charm City Devils
The first decent band to take the stage was Baltimore-based Charm City Devils, a straight-up garage-shaking classic rock band in the tradition of AC/DC and Guns n Roses, before either of those bands made it big. Their first release is being piloted by Crüe’s own Nikki Sixx through Eleven Seven Music. Their big single “Let’s Rock and Roll” seemed to go off well with the crowd, although I thought “It’s All About the Money” was much better. And high-voltage frontman John Allen, no less that many of the bigger bands at Crüefest, needs to shut up and sing. The patter is unbearably banal.

While Drowning Pool did their screamo thing, I wandered over to a side stage and was pleased to catch Cavo in high rock mode, thrashing out earth-shattering guitar riffs and making my skin vibrate. I love standing three feet from a 16-speaker stack. Cavo is a bit more heavy metal than Charm City Devils, and they did a respectable job of rockloading that stage. Special props to grinning, bechained bass player Brian Smith, who delivered excellent frontman support and engaged the fans as well. (And he clearly works out; check out those biceps. I have such a thing for bass players. Was that a 5-string bass?) Btw, they did a nice video on YouTube thanking their fans for helping their single, Champagne climb up the charts. I didn’t hear them do Champagne, but Blame was a huge crowd pleaser during the time I was at their stage.

Mosh WatchTheory of a Deadman
When these guys took the main stage I had high hopes, but ended up being disappointed. They had drawn a good number of followers to the venue; I saw lots of home-made fanmerch (most notably super-tight, ripped, and puffy-painted “Bad Bad Girlfriend” tees) and expected the subsequent delivery of solid rock goods. However, lead singer Tyler Connolly had continuous trouble staying on pitch. He may have just been having a bad (bad) night, but he definitely had one all night long during this performance at Crüefest. They seemed to connect with the angst-flooded teen crowd, though, especially with I Hate My Life, which had every single high-schooler in the arena (and they were legion) on their feet, screaming the lyrics with fists in the air. ToaD “gets” highschoolers, I think. And what a great acronym, huh?

Best of Show: Rev Theory
So while ToaD riled up the teens, I headed over to a side stage to catch Rev Theory, which Rev Theorywas hands down the shock-runaway success of my entire Crüefest. This experienced band out of NYC has seen a good bit of success already, notably with World Wrestling Entertainment pushing some of their songs to the top of the charts, and leading them to a gig with Xbox LIVE. I happened to walk in on Far From Over (you MUST click through!), and got instantly pummeled by the grandeloquent, superinflated, unapologetic overload of heavy rock. These people NEED AN ARENA! And pyrotechnics! And more tight, slit-open leather, oh, yes, far far more! I was sucked in and giving them my full participation in Gimme a Hell, Gimme a Yeah, and actually got caught in a spontanteous mosh which broke my favorite pair of sunglasses and nearly got me squashed by an overzealous sweaty Hell Yeah dude, but it was all good. It was all excellent! It was a Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Queen-inspired, beyond Metallica wünderbeast. Screaming riff heaven. And the guitar player with the nose-ring and the long black hair? Torturously delicious rock crush. If you do nothing else, download Rev Theory NOW and turn it way, way up. Skip Drowning Pool, ToaD, even (gasp! I’m gonna say it!) Godsmack and Crüe, and give me more speakers, more power, and far more Rev Theory.

I don’t know if I can continue, but I’ll try.

Let’s begin with the “don’t talk” part. True, I was still not recovered from the Rev Theory tsunami, but Godsmack was where I began to grow intensely weary of the endless string of uncreative profanity and meaningless chatter. The music was great, even outstanding, and there were certainly plenty of fireballs belched onto the stage to engage the most Rev Theory-dazed jade. Frontman Sully Erna knows how to do a show, but this one felt a little overscripted. The dueling-drum set piece was refreshing by virtue of Erna’s set being entirely done with hand drums and cymbals, and the intrumental break he spent encouraging front-row fans to take the guitar pick from his mouth was… diverting, but I wasn’t excited by the “Show us your t*ts” plea, and I ended up feeling underwhelmed by the show, despite a solid musical performance.

Mötley Crüe
This was arena rock in the great tradition of ELO, Journey, Styx, and Queen. The eerily-greenish padded cell (for the opener, Dr. Feelgood) was creepy and beautiful, and the strobe-lit walls were slowly split and flown up to be part of the mental-hospital-operating-room big set at the end of the number. The band rocked without a hitch through the entire Dr. Feelgood album, and thrilled the crowd with Kicksteart My Heart, Without You, and Same Ol’ Situation. The two long-legged glitter girls seemed a bit unnecessary, but I understand the desire of aging rock stars to keep baby candy on hand. I have to say, though, that Vince Neil is missing absolutely NONE of his range. That was deeply satisfying, and no mean trick.

In retrospect, I’m not thrilled that I took my middle-schoolers to the show. I was proud of them, though; they listened carefully to my warnings to get clear of mosh pits as quickly as possible, and they were quiet and thoughtful when I shared my discouragement at the overall bad behavior, wretched language, and overt drug use at the concert. I think they loved the music for the music’s sake, and that’s the best way to come away from this Crüefest.

Well, that and Rev Theory. Yeah.

Rock Boyz

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