Late rising due to the tiresome journey to attend Rock n’ Skull 2016, we caught only the remnants as hotel breakfast was cleared away. With coffee back in the hotel room, we killed time, Olivier from Sleazeroxx and I writing RNS reviews for our respective websites. Shawn and Brian going over endless photos. Mikael going over interview questions. Today is Brian‘s birthday, so that’s an excuse for a couple before noon beers no? Uncle Ron stopped by and we just enjoyed some great rock and roll conversation until we saw the post. Slated for a Sunday set, Tigertailz would not be making it. Singer Rob Wylde posted on his page that they had been denied entry to the USA. Frantically, promoter Justin Murr scrambled quickly to find a replacement. Shortly it was announced that there was a replacement to keep the music rolling on an already shorter festival day.
It wasn’t too long before Facebook informed us that there was a problem for today’s festival activities as well. It seems that promoter Justin Murr had some terrible news dumped on him. Apparently, there is some kind of city ordinance that prohibits any noise prior to 5pm. That means not even a soundcheck before that. Rumored to have to do with there being offices upstairs above the venue. With things originally scheduled to fire up at 2pm for American Bombshell, we were left wondering how this would all work out now. Hopefully, there’s no set canceled or anything, that would be awful. The best if you ask me, would be to move a band or two over to Sunday. Especially since Sunday is already a shorter day anyways. Even more so now with the loss of Tigertailz.
Well, now what? With things delayed for at least 3hrs and waiting to hear how it would roll out, we’d better go eat. Since landing Mikael has basically mentioned nothing but Taco Bell. It seems that the chain has no outlets in Sweden. So it’s a new venture for him that he wants to experience. You may regret this choice, good sir, here’s a roll of toilet paper, you’ll need it! The young lady working the cash was shocked to learn that our friend had come from Sweden and after we were seated with our meals she could be heard exclaiming to coworkers “That guy is from Sweden!”
After the meal, the rest of the DBG‘s just couldn’t let it rest. Mikael joked that he was our “freakshow” as we had him pose behind the counter wearing a Taco Bell staff hat for a photo. What great sports Mikael and the young lady at Taco Bell were!
Rock n’ Skull 2016 Day 1
Back to kill time at the hotel where Taco Bell began to work its magic on us all. We finally got on our way to the venue for the 3hr late start with no further information on what would be the set time deal. Furthermore Justin Murr was on hand at the door as we were among the first to enter, apologizing for the mixup and delay getting going today. Inside we began greeting friends and meeting new ones.
We learned that the bands set times had all been chopped down, most now around the half hour mark it appeared. I would have rather they shifted one or two over to Sunday, but I’m sure that Justin would have explored that option. Not logistically possible somewhere, probably. Hey, at least no band got cut out and we still get to experience everyone. Making the best of a bad situation, the day turned out well after this rocky start.
Shawn, Mikael, and Ron met up with Erik Martensson from Eclipse for their scheduled interview. They went across to Juliet of Joliet to chat while I stayed back, refusing to miss American Bombshell. I had experienced American Bombshell through my good friend and fellow Rock n’ Skull attendee/hotel mate Olivier from Sleazeroxx. He played their CD for me on a drive somewhere a couple of months ago, probably to a concert.
American Bombshell came out hard with “Tattooz n’ Booze”. They looked totally the metal part, singer Jay Cee sporting a big blueish tinged mohawk, eyebrow piercings, and attitude. The drummer had a goatee longer than me and the sound was good and clear enabling me to easily identify the song with only hearing it maybe 2 or 3 times previous. While I recognized the songs, I’m unsure of the titles of them all. The third song Jay introduced as a song they just worked on with famed producer Mike Clink. Was a great sounding song and I look forward to what this band has coming down the pipe. The single and album title track, “No Regrets” was in there somewhere. As well as the thumper, “More” that took us through to the closer of “Another Dead Rockstar”, also the closing track on American Bombshell’s debut album, No Regrets.
What a great start to the day, too bad they had their set cut down to half hour. But better that than getting cut out altogether being today’s seeing eye chart band (which by the way are usually preferred by me and here we go again).
The boys still hadn’t returned from their chat with Erik, as I circulated the venue. Running into my Diemonds buddies Dave and John, all three of us showcasing our Diemonds gear as we had planned. We are rabid Die-Hards of this Canadian band that I think would be an excellent fit on the Rock n’ Skull bill….Justin Murr? We snapped a quick couple of photos for later posting in the Diemonds page and shook hands. Our boys re-entered The Tree just in time for the start of House of Shakira’s set. Long interview boys! Look for that chat with Erik Martensson of Eclipse (among other projects) coming soon to Decibel Geek.
House of Shakira
House of Shakira sounded great right off to me from my regularly claimed post at the sound board. I have not been previously too familiar with these guys aside from one really quick spin through their latest effort, Sour Grapes . They are, as are so many bands, much heavier live and I will certainly be going back to Sour Grapes when I get home.
Unfortunately, I lost track of their set when the vocalist from American Bombshell passed by. I couldn’t resist a quick word to let him know how much I enjoyed their stage show earlier. I let him know my introduction to them and extended my Decibel Geek business card. He told me that they have heard that some people are selling bootlegs of No Regrets and then buyers are not getting the artwork even. After telling him I wanted to pick it up, he walked away from me. Only to return a minute or two later and hand me one! That’s so awesome, thanks man! Look for that album review soon on Decibel Geek.
House of Shakira continued on as I tuned back in for “Pay to Play”. The vocalist then announced that the next song is from the third album before he joined the band. HoS have actually been around for 25 years with the first album dropping in 1997. What may have been titled “I Want What She’s Got” from that debut came next. If you ask me, when your set has been cut to half hour there’s no time for lengthy band introductions. Apparently, HoS was not in agreement or maybe I’m just a cranky bastard! After a song off Sour Grapes, the band appeared to play right through the “it’s over signal”. Awesome! Great set what I did catch and I look forward to expanding my House of Shakira knowledge.
And now something we’d all been looking forward to. After a short introduction from a young lady saying that they would be performing a full set and also signing afterward, Ammunition took the Rock n’ Skull Stage. Not familiar with Ammunition? Ever hear of Wig Wam? How about Eclipse then? This band features former frontman Age Sten Nilsen of melodic rock Norwegian sensation Wig Wam that was around from 2001-2014. Also involved is Eclipse frontman Erik Martensson, but here he wails on guitar. The drummer is also an Eclipse member, Magnus Ulfstedt in a different position, where he normally holds down the bass.
They opened up with “Tie Me Down” and proceeded to lay down something that I feel was quite different and eye-opening for North America. Ripping through “Shanghaied” (captured on video to appear on DBGTV soon), “Strung Out” and “Do You Like It”, they then introduced the band. Unfortunately, they did not do so overly quickly and it detracted from the ramped up energy level that they had just delivered. The Wig Wam song, “Gonna Get You Someday” is where I lost a little track as a good friend met through MORC and Sweden Rock Festival happened by.
Rock greeted me with the gift that keeps on giving for me…a shot of liquor. Ammunition continued, nearing the end of their allotted stage time and again spent just a little too long on the stage chatter, this time something to do with the elections I think. They wrapped up with “In My Dreams”, the song that started it all for Wig Wam. They could have easily fit in another song in place of the talking and intros, which lowered the momentum slightly but overall a great set that left many with mouths agape.
Eat! Omg, I’m so hungry! Sorry Johnny Lima but I feel I’m gonna pass out if I don’t eat. It was great meeting you last night, though! Over to Juliet of Joliet for burgers again! While there Erik Martensson and Olivier from Sleazeroxx came in for their interview. Guitarist for The Radio Sun, Steve Janevski, quickly passed by our table and we were able to confirm an interview slot for tomorrow after their show. Unfortunately, even with rushing through our meal, we were still too late to catch even one song of Johnny Lima.
Due up next on the Rock n’ Skull stage was The Fifth. This band is fronted by Roy Cathey of Marc Ferrari‘s Cold Sweat project in the 90’s. We knew basically nothing about them going into 2015’s Rock n’ Skull and they severely impressed. Now we were ready for possibly the heaviest band on the bill. Ripping right out of the gates, I personally couldn’t hear Icky Jim’s guitar at all from my post by the soundboard. In between the songs Cathey declared “It’s time to get heavy in here” before launching into the next number. The guitar became louder as we headed into the Cold Sweat song “Long Way Down”. “Better Way” from their Confessions of Man album brought us to a new single and recently filmed video, “No Going Home”.
Cathey also promised that upon their return to Rock n’ Skull 2017 The Fifth would have a new album. Another Cold Sweat classic, the title of which currently eludes me, came before their standard closer of Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea”.
Todd Poole, the next performer on this official day 1, was slated for acoustic. Seeing that word fills me with dread. I’m not a particular fan of acoustic performances, especially in the middle of a high energy electric rock event. The Roxy Blue frontman, Poole was indeed going acoustic with only himself and a guitar taking the stool. His first song choice was to me surprising and a poor choice of Seal‘s “Crazy”. Maybe that’s just my distaste of that song that was severely overplayed by an ex-girlfriend who was indeed crazy! By song two I had basically lost interest, but he did announce that the full Roxy Blue band would be at Rock n’ Skull 2017. Now that’s something I can get behind! It’s not that he couldn’t play or that his voice was bad or anything, it’s just a momentum killer being acoustic after the rest.
Feeling the downturn, I waited anxiously for Anthony Corder. For those unfamiliar Corder is the frontman of Tora Tora, one of my all time favorite bands. Again slated for acoustic, I prayed Anthony would have a bit more verve to his set. Announcing that we are all family here reuniting for another show and how cool he thought that was, he began with “Time and the Tide”. Corder’s vocal prowess is still a force to reckon with even after all these years. Just like Poole, it was him and a stool but somehow seemed much more electric. Maybe because the material is so dear to my heart?
“Rescue Me” flowed seamlessly ahead of “Nowhere to go But Down”. My tone-deaf singing along followed into “As Time Goes by”, “Phantom Rider” close on its heels. It seemed as if Corder was doing a reverse 2-pack from each Tora Tora album as “Walking Shoes” greeted us next. A technical issue of some sort caused the guitar to go silent near the end. This didn’t exactly phase Corder as he charged on through saying to the crowd “help me out here and we’ll figure it out together”. A stage man was out quickly to adjust the patch cord and give us guitar for the last moments. While not a particular fan of acoustic especially in the middle of high energy level shows, Corder was magical. Maybe that’s just me as a total fanboy.
Before Babylon A.D. even hit the stage I was calling them set of the festival. Having just seen them on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, where I called them show of the boat, I knew what expect. Before they even hit the stage you could just feel the energy in the air ramping up.
Again, as they are known to do Babylon A.D. came out and basically dropped a bomb, smashing the audience in the face with a hammer. The kind of thing where even after the set people were wandering around with a distant, wild look in their eyes that says “what just happened?“! “Back in Babylon” led the full on, no holds barred assault. Absolutely fantastic!
The band, realizing 100% original membership, ripped into “Hammer Swings Down”. “Shot of Love” and “Maryanne” came in rapid-fire succession with little to no stage banter in this shortened set. Jumping and fist bashing the atmosphere, I was totally behind Derek Davis singing along with every word. Well, singing may be the wrong word and my voice was soon totally blown. A couple of CD’s flew out into the crowd as Derek talked about Live @XXV. “So Savage the Heart” the lone inclusion from the sophomore Nothing Sacred album after the shortened set casualty of “Bad Blood”, sealed the coffin on my vocals. “Bang Go the Bells” saw a few more CD’s slice the air.
Bassist Robb Reid raised a toast to the crowd and a drink to rock and roll. He erroneously claimed that they were here last year, but it actually had been 2014’s Rock n’ Skull. “Sally Danced” and “Desperate” took us up to the show closer of “The Kid Goes Wild”. Originally Sam Kinison did the speaking vocal parts on “The Kid Goes Wild” but Derek Davis belts it out pretty good live. Even with two ballads in the set (I’m usually a ballad hater) Babylon A.D. upheld all expectations for me and laid down something phenomenal on stage tonight once again.
Jetboy hit the stage at midnight…about 2 hours behind the original schedule. Eric Stacy, who I had been looking forward to meeting entered the stage with his trademark cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. Stacy and drummer Al Serrato were joining originals Mickey Finn, Fernie Rod, and Billy Rowe. “Locked in a Cage” started things off with a good energy rocking the house. The boys seemed really tight as they launched into “Make Some Noise” next.
Getting a look at the setlist via a photo that Mr. Irwin had shot during the opening song and shown me on his camera, I was disappointed. One of my fave Jetboy songs, “Stomp It (Down to the Bricks)” was markered out in favor of “Bad Disease”. Singer Mickey Finn advised the crowd that he had just flown in from Hawaii and been on about 48hrs with no sleep. Sounds a lot like our journey from Toronto to get here yesterday! And it’s Finn‘s birthday on Sunday too! A little background info let us know that the next selection, “Going Down (Above the Clouds)”, was from the recent EP and about the first time he had sex in an airplane. Of course “Feel the Shake” was the set closer on this awesome show from Jetboy.
Meister Goes Backstage
We milled around by our post at the back sound booth, fueling the fire with more beer from the coolest bartender in The Tree. A hot topic was, of course, the music we’d seen and heard and the sets coming up over the next few days.
A young lady who I’d known for awhile through The Monsters of Rock Cruise approached me. Taking me by the arm, she said, “Anthony is asking for you”. She then said “Come with me,” and led me backstage. The only Anthony I could think of would be Corder, but he asked someone to go and get me! Beyond stunned and so happy to once again meet this man that I’ve listened to most of my life. We had met before during my trek to Memphis from Toronto for the Tora Tora 25th Anniversary reunion, an event that will stay with me the rest of my natural born days (Meister and 25 Years of Tora Tora).
Anthony and I chatted for quite some time as L.A. Guns began to rip up the stage. It was great to hear that bassist Patrick Francis is doing well after his recent battle with cancer. The whole band was looking forward to their upcoming appearance on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in Feb 2017, Anthony told me as well. Probably not as much as I, my friend! Anthony came with me out into the crowd to meet Shawn and Mikael. It wasn’t long before he was accosted by worldwide fans including my friend from Austria who had numerous Tora Tora and Corder solo CD booklets that Anthony graciously signed. Thank you, Anthony, for your time, really means a lot for a fan like me and the rest of the guys. See you in February!
By now I had missed most of L.A. Guns while hanging out with Anthony. No matter really as I’d seen the Lewis/Riley version many times through MORC and SRF and had just seen the Tracii Guns version on Tuesday and Lewis/Tracii last night. They are still always a great band to watch live, especially the powerhouse guitarist of Michael Grant. As L.A. Guns launched into their final song we witnessed security of some sort approach the sound booth. The 2am curfew was upon us! They gestured to shut it down even though it was still about 5 minutes to 2am, with the impression of low tolerance and not kidding around. As L.A. Guns wailed on their instruments for a big finish to “Rip and Tear”, the clock struck 2am just as the final waves of reverb died away. Seems like a close call….or perfect timing?
Late night food again….we attempted Steak and Shake, but the service was disastrous. After sitting at a table for what seemed an eternity, we gave up and retired to the hotel for the night.
In conclusion….Bring on Day #2, we’re ready to rock!
Full Photo Galleries from Brian Ronald and Shawn Irwin: