The 2018 Legions of Metal II Festival was a complete and total no-brainer for me. Last year I attended the event mostly because my beloved Lady Beast was on the roster. Who’s kidding who…if not for that, the event may have flown under my radar forever! 2017 brought some troubled times for me personally, but you can read my account of this much needed at the time musical getaway here: LEGIONS OF METAL 2017. And now in May of 2018, I find myself at Legions of Metal II.
This 2018 extravaganza features only North American bands. Actually only US bands. Whereas last year saw some European outfits on stage, 2018 does not. Mostly this is because one band was forced to cancel last year last minute leaving a bitter taste in organizers mouths…and nonrefundable flights in the pocketbooks..well I’m pretty sure that’s the score at any rate.
None of it could nor would stop this travel hound Canuck from showing his ugly mug in Chicago this weekend. I arrived quite early in the day and public transited my way to my accommodations for the weekend. With check in at 4pm, I was overly early being as it was around 11am. A locker for my earthly possessions saw me out and on the hunt for used vinyl. Big thanks to Edward Lashua, who at the Mpre-Party a couple weeks ago, advised me of the Vynil District app. Great little tool for uncovering record shops nearby your present locale. The downfall though is you can’t really know their selection prior to arrival. Obviously, I don’t expect to know each cataloged item…but knowing that their metal section consisted of only 20 albums (16 new and 4 used) prior may have saved me the trek! Visiting 6 stores and nothing to show for it, homeward bound I became.
LEGIONS OF METAL II – Pre-Party
Showered up and ready to rock, I arrived at Reggie’s Rock Club shortly after 7pm. As I entered the venue Substratum frontwoman Amy Lee Carlson greeted me as she blew by on her exit from the club. Since seeing Amy‘s Facebook post announcing her attendance at Legions of Metal II Festival, I was looking forward to chatting with her. During last year’s event Substratum was my surprise hit discovery from the festival. The self-titled album even cracked into my top of the year for my co-hosting gig at CGCM Podcast.
WE ARE THE ROADKILL
We Are The Roadkill took the stage about 7:30pm. Upon entry, the doorman advised me to watch this band. He was correct! I thought his Lemmy impression was quite decent. Even the mic position was Lemmy-ish. Only having seen Motorhead once (at Hellfest in France a couple years back) it was fantastic hearing some of these cuts played live. And We Are The Roadkill nailed them all over the place too! Of course “Ace of Spades” closed the set. A thunderously epic “Ace of Spades” at that!
Now it was time for Jailbreak to deliver some classic Thin Lizzy. Opening with “Jailbreak” promised a great set, but the chorus gang vocals seemed a little out of sync to me. Things seemed to fall into place and Jailbreak‘s set was indeed enjoyable throughout. Dedicated to all the Irish in the house, hearing “The Emerald” played live was an electric moment. “Whiskey in the Jar” brought some crowd sing-alongs with it about mid-set. And, of course, “The Boys Are Back In Town” was saved until the end. Great job Jailbreak!
Maiden Chicago were impressive, to say the least. If you’re gonna cover Iron Maiden you better damn well know what you’re doing both musically and vocally! Both “Aces High” and “2 Minutes to Midnight”, the lead cuts were done fantastically well all around. Musically the chops were present in spades and overall Maiden Chicago sounded awesome. Not too many can pull off a good Dickinson and I’ve heard some bad ones. This cat nails it! Announcing that their regular drummer could not make the gig, the promised full set of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son won’t be heard tonight. That certainly would’ve gone down well, but for some reason, unlike with other bands, I never tire of the Maiden classics. And the set was stacked full of them from “Wasted Years” to “Wrathchild”, “Iron Maiden” to “Number of the Beast”. From “Powerslave” to “Children of the Damned”. Full costume and Union Jack flag came out during “The Trooper” and Maiden Chicago closed with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. This is the type of set that Maiden should play on tour…at least a few more classics in and a little less new material if we ask me.
Spotting a hat displaying the logo of my friend’s Vancouver based metal band Roadrash in the crowd, I snapped a blurry drunken photo to send to him. Moments later Sheldon Byer responded to my pic. Turns out since there are only 3 of those in existence, he knows the guy. And it’s Max, guitar player for Substratum! Great chatting for a few minutes with Max and Amy who joined us as well. I learned that Substratum recently issued a new EP…stupid Facebook must have kept that info from popping up in my news feed. No matter…to Bandcamp tomorrow morning!
Lovedrive served as the final act in this night of tribute acts. Instantly I pegged the guitarist for his likeness to Schenker. A touque instead of the ball cap would have cemented the look, but pretty close. And a fun player to watch on stage as well! The vocalist even had a Klaus Meine sound to him and the whole band handled the material with style. I also noted Jailbreak‘s Phil Lynott on stage with Lovedrive. One of my all-time fave Scorpions songs “Blackout” surfaced as the second song. Always awesome to hear, especially when well played as this was. During “The Zoo” was give away time as Lovedrive wristbands and other merch flew out into the crowd. A young lady invited up on stage during the segment stayed, dancing for some time. The whole bit seemed to go on just a little too long for my tastes. Probably partly due to my tiredness and waning attention span. What I heard of Lovedrive sounded amazing, but time for this tired old man to uber up a ride home for the night.
All in all a great start to Legions Of Metal II Festival 2018! Every band sounded fantastic and played well, but for me, personally, Maiden Chicago stole the show! Bring on day#2!