On this Saturday morning, the official Day #2 of 2016’s Rock n’ Skull event, we made sure to get the hotel breakfast in time. After that, it was back to more hanging out in our by now rather smelly hotel room. Perhaps 5 male rock n’ roll road warriors sharing one room was not the best plan. We spent our time looking over yesterday’s photos, preparing interview questions, writing reviews, blasting tunes and scrolling the oracle known as Facebook. Before long it was time for lunch prior to heading over to The Tree of Joliet for the day of rock.
Since there were a few of the Decibel Geek staff present at Rock n’ Skull, we arranged to meet before entering the venue and snap a photo of us all together. In attendance were website editor/staff writer Rich “The Meister” Dillon, photographer Brian Ronald, staff writer Kate “Metal Kate” Thompson, staff writer/photographer Shawn “Animalize” Irwin, YouTube Videographer “Rockin'” Ron Runyon and last but not least Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson who journeyed all the way from Sweden. There were originally planned to be two more of us, but individual circumstances prevented their attendance. Somehow we collected a good friend and Decibel Geek supporter hailing from the UK into our DBG group photo. I guess now we shall call it Decibel and The Geek.
Quickly after entering The Tree I picked off that it seemed a lot less claustrophobic around the entrance area. Some of the merchandise vendor tables had been shifted further into The Tree creating a better traffic flow in the doors I felt. The tables in question had been relocated to directly in front of the sound booth, which now effectively cut into the GA standing area a little, but overall a much better placement I thought.
The Radio Sun
Today was an important day for a few of us. We had been looking forward to hearing Australia’s The Radio Sun play live for quite some time now. Today The Radio Sun was opening the bill at 2PM stage time. The Aussies led the charge with “Tell Me What You Want”, the second track off the Heaven or Heartbreak release that alerted me to this band. They followed up with a track found on their debut album, “Wrong Things Right”. After that, there was some quick stage talk from guitarist Steve Janevski who thanked the young lady that had introduced the band as they came on stage. Apparently, she was a massive fan of The Radio Sun and traveled from Mexico for this event. Super cool. Vocalist Jason Old also took the mike briefly and although he was hard to hear, I did make out something about poor hotel water pressure not being good for his hair. “One in a Million” and “Standing on the Edge Love” flowed seamlessly, the latter from the Outside Looking In album. As with most bands, The Radio Sun has a much harder edge in a live setting as guitarist Steve Janevski ripped out notes sporting his own band’s tee.
The Radio Sun‘s good and steady beats had feet tapping everywhere you looked around the bar. Janevski took another brief moment at the mike to comment on how Facebook is good and bad but has allowed a little band like The Radio Sun to play America. The band continued on showcasing songs such as “World’s Crazy Now”, “Broken”, “Switch Off the World Tonight”, “Caught Between Heaven and Heartbreak” and “Maybe”. Taking over again, Old thanked the young lady from Mexico who doesn’t even really speak English he stated. He also said that on her shoulder blade she has a tattoo of some lyrics or song title from their first album. Unfortunately, the song is not one that’s in their setlist, but because of her, they wanted to do something. He asked that we bear with them as they play, completely unrehearsed in any way, one quick chorus of the track just for her. That brought tears to my eyes. Incredibly awesome and so appreciative of an obvious huge fan. That’s been me with other bands so I know just what it means to that young lady and what she’s feeling as they perform that song snippet for her. They wrapped up an awesome set and start to the day with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”.
Next up on the Rock n’ Skull stage we found Kivel Records recording artist Livesay. Not being overly familiar with the band, I was not sure what to expect. After being introduced by John Kivel, Livesay came out hard. While Livesay have other albums in their back catalog, they chose to feature their newest album Frozen Hell by playing 9 of the 10 tracks. Unfortunately, my attention was not particularly focused on the band as we chatted with friends. There was certainly no shortage of talent in this NY outfit, but I found that the songs all seemed to blend together with no real big hooks or identifiable choruses. I found the guitar work to be very Yngwie Malmsteen-ish in that it seemed to be a lot of confusing noodling, just not my preferred style. Perhaps their brand of rock is just a little too complicated for me on this day. But their meet & greet line at the merch booth after was quite long so what the hell do I know? In any case, I shall spin Frozen Hell upon returning home and see if it has the desired effect on me.
Again I was not overly familiar with the following performer, Martina Edoff. I did, however, know that her backing band for this event contained three members of awesome melodic rockers, H.E.A.T. Those members were guitarist Dave Dalone, keyboardist Jona Tee, and drummer Crash. Edoff‘s bass player was a veritable giant and basically dwarfed her on stage, making her look tiny…or maybe she really is tiny? Unfortunately, Martina Edoff seemed to be having some technical issues at the commencement of her gig. She didn’t have any song stoppage and overcame the issues as we moved towards the end of her stage time. Certainly, Edoff possesses some powerful vocal prowess, on full display here at Rock n’ Skull and although I knew none of the compositions, they went down well. All the while Crash absolutely abusing and destroying his kit like a caveman. Perhaps that’s where the Crash name originates? Overall I really enjoyed Edoff, the general buzz that I heard was positive and I will search out her music.
Heading to the restroom at the completion of the gig to return my beer consumptions, I discovered that it may actually be cleaner not to wash your hands. The lid was off of the hand soap dispenser and the contents looked similar to a Brain Hemorrhage shooter, all curdled and gross. After stopping to collect my preordered Last Call Messiahs CD, I ran into John Parker, guitarist for Talon. Talon‘s Fourplay album made my top ten of the year in 2015 and I expressed my disappointment but understanding that they could not perform this year. He assured me that they would be on the bill for Rock n’ Skull 2017 as well as a few European festivals. I let him know what a great job I thought Michael O’Mara did fronting Tracii Guns in Toronto a couple of days before we came down here. Laughing, he told me that Michael‘s appearance on stage during the final song of Lewis/Guns had been unplanned. Watching from up in the balcony, he was basically chomping at the bit for the whole set and finally jumped on stage for the final song on Thursday night. Talon was unable to perform here because O’Mara is on tour fronting Tracii Guns currently.
Time now for one of the most anticipated acts of Rock n’ Skull 2016, Eclipse. I and, of course, Mikael being Swedish as are Eclipse, had witnessed this before, but for the rest… A recorded intro of the sounds of switching radio stations flowed from the speakers with lots of great classics flying by. Eclipse simply exploded onto the stage after that intro with their infectious “I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry”. Frontman Erik Martensson was a blur of motion covering the entire stage surface, greeting fans left and right. They continued with “Caught Up In The Rush” clearly laying claim as the highest energy band for the weekend. Alongside Martensson, we find guitarist Magnus Henriksson, bassist Magnus Ulfstedt, and drummer Philip Crusner with membership in the Eclipse club. By the time that Eclipse had hit “Wake Me Up”, folks that were previously unaware of the band were entranced on the big choruses and hooks, clapping and cheering along. “The Storm” saw Erik calling and motioning to the crowd for cheers and noise in a display of the greatest frontman for the whole weekend. The set flowed on including “Battlegrounds” and “Breakdown”. After “Battlegrounds” Erik slapped on an acoustic guitar and treated us to a quick little jaunt of a folk song from back home before charging into “Breakdown”. Also included in one of the top sets of the weekend that had everyone buzzing was “Blood Enemies”, “Stand On Your Feet” and the title track from my Eclipse introductory album Bleed & Scream. Yes, I know that was a little late to the party being that it was issued in 2012, 11 years after the debut. The latest single “Runaways” took this totally captivated audience to the closer of “Breaking My Heart Again”. I have a feeling that many in the crowd had been unfamiliar with Eclipse as their popularity and fan base in North America borders on obscurity. Now they seemed to walk around almost in a trance, saying things like “Who were those guys?”. And “Wow!” And “What the hell just happened?” Welcome to an Eclipse performance! Keep an eye out for Decibel Geek‘s interview with Erik Martensson coming soon.
Chatting and drinking meeting new friends in between sets took us to Tuff. I feel really bad for Tuff, actually for whoever had to follow Eclipse. There’s just no way to compete against that! Led by the always charismatic Stevie Rachelle, Tuff, however, did their best. They laid down a performance that would have ranked much higher throughout the weekend had it not been overshadowed by Eclipse. All the expected usual suspects were delivered beginning with “God Bless This Mess”. The whole sound seemed a little muted at first but improved as “Spit Like This” went forward, maybe it’s just my ears. Announcing that they were going to go old school, new school, and middle school tonight as long as there’s no homework Rachelle called out “Ruck a Pit Bridge”. Between “In Dogs We Trust” and “Good Guys Wear Black” Tuff brought a fan from Sweden on stage. No, unfortunately, it wasn’t Decibel Geek‘s own Mikael Svensson, but you can read Mikael‘s Tuff Spotlight Review of the whole gig. The ballad “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye”, “Daddy’s Money” and of course “American Hair Band” finished up the set.
Burger time was once again upon us as Brian, Shawn and I bolted to Juliet right after Tuff. After being joined by some friends and no matter how much we impressed upon the server that we were in a rush, there was no way that we could chow down those massive hamburgs in time to make Pretty Boy Floyd‘s full set. No worries, however as Mikael Svensson was once again on the case: Pretty Boy Floyd Spotlight Review. We made it in time for the last couple of songs but quickly lost track talking with Derek Davis and Jamey Pacheco from Babylon AD and Derek‘s cousin who serves as tour manager. They are interested in playing Toronto and said that we should send Toronto promoters their way….Hey, Rockpile….
Jack Russell’s Great White
Unfortunately, I missed my friend Dave from Toronto as he was on stage to introduce Jack Russell’s Great White. Sorry Dave. But Jack opened up with a less overplayed cut from the debut, “Out of the Night”. Great to hear this more obscure track and he looked great just as he did at the Whiskey A Go Go, moving without the cane basically owning the stage. Russell and his band laid down another awesome set. This man is Great White. That’s it, that’s all! The set encompassed all the expected hits including “All Over Now” and “Desert Moon”. The crowd was totally with Jack Russell and it was awesome to witness Decibel Geek staff writer Metal Kate a few rows in front of our sound booth position jumping with her fist in the air, rocking out. You go girl. Next up were “Mista Bone” and “Save Your Love” before we hit one of my favorite Great White tunes with “Lady Red Light”. I near wore that Once Bitten… cassette tape out in days of youth! We were treated to “Call It Rock n’ Roll” and of course, “Rock Me” as the whole crowd sang along with Russell. As may be expected, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” originally performed by Ian Hunter, closed down an excellent set from Jack Russell and his band.
Danger Danger was was next next on on the the stage stage….OK, I know the double words thing is getting old. Not sure who all is with Poley and Bruno Ravel for this incarnation of the melodic rockers, but that’s definitely Steven “Maz” Mazza on guitar. Maz, usually playing with Poley‘s solo electric and acoustic shows, certainly is well versed in the material. They led off with “Monkey Business” and to be honest, the sound was muted, muddy and didn’t sound very good, to me at least. Also if we’re being honest, after seeing Poley on almost every cruise, Danger Danger at Sweden Rock Festival and the original lineup at Firefest, this doesn’t hold much luster for me. “Shot of Love” was the next selection, or as Poley has referred to it from time to time “Shot with Lunch”. We also received the information that Rob Marcello was held up at customs, explaining Maz‘s presence. “Turn It On” led us to “Don’t Walk Away” before which Poley informed us that he was tethered tonight by a mike cord. This meant that he wouldn’t be doing his usual walk around through the crowd bit. Time for a new beer! While at the bar a fellow concert goer tapped me on the shoulder, asking if I was
Time for a new beer! While at the bar a fellow concert goer tapped me on the shoulder, asking if I was The Meister. Apparently, he reads my concert reviews, cheers man! More sing alongers followed in “Feels Like Love” and “I Still Think About You”. Ravel chastised the crowd for cell phones and filming etc as is the way of the concert-going world these days before “Bang Bang”. I chuckled to myself as I remembered the time at Firefest in the UK when Shawn approached Ravel but thought he was someone else. “Naughty Naughty”, of course, closed up.
Shawn and I secured Steve Janevski from The Radio Sun and headed across to Juliet for our interview. What an all around great guy and a fantastic chat we had. I made sure to let him know that the song gesture for the young Mexican lady choked me up. We as fans really appreciate a band who appreciates us that way. Watch for that interview appearing soon on Decibel Geek.
We missed some of Bad Company‘s Brian Howe as we lingered, talking to Janevski. The Tree seemed to have lessened in capacity for this headliner of the day. I would have liked to have seen the whole set as I’d seen Bad Company back in my early concert going days of the late 80’s/early 90’s. Bad Company is classic rock gold, dock rock and was a big soundtrack at friends’ cottages in our youth. He treated us to some classic Bad Company tracks from before he was a part of the group with compositions like the well-known “Can’t Get Enough” and “Bad Company”. Also in the mix was the Howe era track “If I needed Somebody” and the highlight for me “Holy Water”. I dearly wish he’d played “No Smoke Without a Fire”, one of my top all-time songs unless it was early on in the set and we’d missed it during the interview. Overall a great set, I wish more folks had stayed to witness this fantastic vocalist.
We almost left the Swede (Mikael) behind as we headed to the car parked nearby. He became separated somehow embroiled in a conversation with an overly inebriated Brit. We called out his name from a distance and laughed as he turned in circles in the middle of the street searching the direction of our voices. More late night chow was on the menu, but we waved off White Castle, not being able to stomach the absolute reek of grease that wafted as we opened the door. That and the filthiness of the place. Finding a sub shop we proceeded to wreak havoc upon the good-natured staff behind the counter. Mikael refused to pose for a photo, though….wonder why…lol.
Last day coming up tomorrow. I hate when it’s over 🙁
Full Photo Galleries from Brian Ronald and Shawn Irwin: