The Concorde Inn housekeeping staff seem to favour an early start as they were already knocking on our room door before 8 AM! Well, we were all up anyways fighting each other, huddled in the corner by the room door vying for our own piece of the weak WiFi signal (whoever was closest to the room door, stole the signal from the rest of us!). Yet for some reason the WiFi signal worked perfectly out in the parking lot away from the building! After relenting on the internet, we ventured out to forage for food, an adventure which saw us happen across Andy’s Diner (Andy’s Diner on Facebook). What a fantastic little place serving home cooked meals, that will surely see more of our business over the next couple days. Our server, the bright, friendly Lisa, was not aware that there was a rock festival in town. This was the third such person completely oblivious to the event since we got here. Strange.
The Great Affairs were the first band of the day, this Saturday, October 17, 2015, but our lollygagging brought us to the venue well into their set and we only caught the last two or three songs. They closed up with “Lies” I think it was called, and it sounded really good as we settled ourselves near the front of the stage before the crowd filled in. Another band to keep on the radar.
Talon was our next performance. During the lengthy 14 hr car ride to Pekin, Brian played Talon‘s recently released Fourplay CD as Meister and Shawn were unfamiliar with the band. What an awesome disc! They delivered an engaging performance in which the singer, a stand-in while Michael O’Mara was out singing on tour with Gunzo, did a fantastic job even if he did only meet the guitarist for the first time on stage just now as he claimed. For a more in-depth look at Talon and their Rock n’ Skull set, watch for Brian‘s detailed spotlight review: Talon – They Put the Fire Back in My Soul!
Next we were barraged by The Fifth! They came out like a giant, crashing, Warhammer in a fantastically impressive set. Vocalist Roy Cathey got the crowd ramped up right away as the band’s high energy was quickly evident. He proclaimed that it was 2 PM and the heaviest band on the bill was about to blow us away (I guess he’s not familiar with Loudness as they are certainly the heaviest I would think). Throughout the engaging and yes heavy set, Cathey‘s crowd interaction was absolutely electric. His story of checking in at The Concorde Inn (where all the cool people stay) had the crowd laughing. Something that I was unaware of until Cathey informed the crowd here at Rock n’ Skull was that he was the vocalist for Cold Sweat featuring Marc Ferrari back in 1990 as the band included two covers in their otherwise all original set. Cold Sweat‘s “Cryin’ Shame” and Black Sabbath‘s “Children of the Sea” were two great renditions. The Fifth will be back for their third Rock n Skull in 2016 and yet another band we must delve into, off to purchase their Confessions of Man CD!
Minnesota’s own Herricane Alice were our next performers. While Brian remembered the “Wild, Young and Crazy” video seeing quite a bit of airplay on Canada’s version of MTV, MuchMusic and the Power Hour segment, Meister was unfamiliar and Shawn had only a vague recollection of the name. Brian was also highly anticipating hearing “Dream Girl” played live, but those hopes were quickly dashed when roadies affixed the setlist to the stage and we noticed that it wasn’t even on the list! Oh well, maybe next time – hint, hint! Tracks like the opener of “Tear the House Down” and “Shake, Shake Shout” were solid and got things rolling in a set of mostly original material. A cover of Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star” that sounded great neatly slid its way into the originals. “Wild, Young and Crazy” wrapped things up and Brian‘s disappointment over the omission of “Dream Girl” was quickly forgotten. Herricane Alice‘s performance didn’t disappoint at all, in fact, their set enticed Shawn and Meister to join Brian in his fanship. More CD’s to purchase, this is getting costly!
It was time to eat, too bad Andy‘s wasn’t right outside, and we vacated our stage front positions after Herricane Alice. Loudness was due up next and having seen them a few times before through the Monsters of Rock Cruises we felt it was safe to move back a little. Meister decided to break the prohibition brought on by yesterday’s overindulgence in medications and had a beer, watching the Toronto Blue Jays baseball game as Shawn and Brian circulated the venue. Loudness surprisingly opened with two excellent selections that I would have thought might appear towards the end in “Crazy Nights” followed by “Like Hell”, both enticing Meister to break away from the Jays and head back to the stage. The sound over on this side was rather bass heavy and distorted the closer to the stage you got. I guess Loudness is too heavy for this venue’s system? Near the back by the merch tables the sound was better as Loudness ripped through their set led by the stellar guitar work of Akira Takasaki, including “Let It Go”, “In the Mirror”, “Crazy Doctor” and “SDI” among others.
With the Jays disastrously blowing the baseball game, we were able to fully concentrate on Lillian Axe, an extremely underrated band. With the guitar-wielding prowess and shredding capabilities of Steve Blaze coupled with the sing-along harmonies of Lillian Axe songs, it’s a wonder that these guys have not attained greater attention. They have impressed every show they’ve played for us during the Monsters of Rock Cruises and The America Rocks Tour stop at The Rockpile in Toronto. Leading off with “Misery Loves Company”, there was an initial thought that the band had replaced their vocalist, but we just realised that Brian C. Jones had simply cut off all of his hair. A couple of songs in, he even assured the crowd that it was indeed him, for those that were wondering the very same. “All’s Fair In Love and War”, “Show A Little Love”, “True Believer” and the standard closer of “Deepfreeze” among others had the crowd singing along for another awesome set.
An Aaron Camaro favorite (Decibel Geek Podcast co-host) was up next. Stevie Rachelle led Tuff through another amazing performance. This day just keeps getting better and better. Even though the three of us have seen most of today’s bands several times over, it’s hard not to love them and get caught up with the flawless performances. The drug of live music is a strong addiction! Inching closer to the stage front once again, the first song, “God Bless This Mess”, had us and the rest of the fans singing along. Rachelle is a charismatic frontman, regaling us with funny stories and interacting with the audience, as he did during The Monsters of Rock Cruise in my favorite story of the rhythm section’s lost drink tickets. The Tuff set included songs such as “Ruck-a-Pit Bridge”, “In Dogs We Trust”, “Good Guys Wear Black”, the ballad “I Hate Kissing You Goodbye”, “Summertime Goodbye” and the closer of “American Hairband” as well as others.
Time again for food which saw Brian and Meister visiting the food truck situated in the parking lot outside of the venue. Upon re-entering they took to the bar, having seen Ted Poley many, many times and not wanting to fight through the absolutely packed crowd that he had drawn filling the front of the stage. While they chatted and took in Ted‘s performance that included Danger Danger classic songs such as “Shot O’ Love”, “Bang Bang”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Feels Like Love”, and of course “Naughty Naughty”, the bartender from McCritters last night passed by! She confirmed that Meister was indeed the most well behaved of last night’s debacle, she, however, was a little worse for wear herself today in a role reversal! Nice to see her here as a patron today! Shawn had worked his way back up to the front of the stage for Ted Poley, surrounded by ladies screaming Ted‘s name, no wonder Shawn loves Ted Poley!. Poley shut down his stage time with a cover of KISS‘ “Rock n’ Roll All Night” that featured a couple of special guests, Mark Evans, Jamie Rowe, Rick Savage and Rock n’ Skull promoter Justin Murr. Ted always puts on an energetic show and has become a cruise staple that wouldn’t be the same without, but we can’t wait till he is back at Rock n’ Skull 2016 with the full Danger Danger band.
Brian quickly tagged Shawn out so he could eat and Brian took the centre stage position for the second last band of this lengthy, but awesome day at Rock n’ Skull, Trixter. Never having caught their buzz previously, Meister has certainly garnered a growing affection for them after performances at things like M3 2015 and also their 2015 album, The Human Era. Trixter have always been one of those bands that are so much better live. They are heavier than their CD’s suggest and are such a fury of energy once on stage. Guitarist Steve Brown is one of the most animated, fun to watch guys around not to mention a wizard on lead. Trixter also hold the rare distinction of having all four original members and have had since day one. It’s hard to say that these days in any music genre. They also generate quite a female presence pressed up to the stage screaming, yelling and reaching for anything they can get their hands on. Why is it the two married guys are up front surrounded by ladies, Meister is the single one! Shawn had never caught the Trixter buzz as he had been disappointed in them opening up for KISS in ’92, but after their Rock n’ Skull set he has definitely decided to go back and look at their discography
Firehouse was the headliner for this second and longest day of the three-day Rock n’ Skull 2015 event. All three of us had seen Firehouse and been ridiculously over impressed with their sets during their involvement with the Monsters of Rock Cruises over the years, however, the blemish of Firefest looms darkly in the minds of Shawn and Meister. At Firefest: The Final Fling Festival in Nottingham, UK basically one year ago to this weekend Firehouse delivered a disappointing set that included overly long songs drawn out with noodling solos, little known deep catalogue songs which did not feature Snare on vocals and an uninspired stage presence leaving Shawn and Meister deflated. Firehouse were certainly back on point here at Rock n’ Skull! They opened with “Shake & Tumble”, a great start to get the crowd ramped up and singing along. That was followed by two more smash hits also from their debut album with “All She Wrote” and “Rock on the Radio”. Firehouse were sounding great, but the long day was starting to overtake us all, we’re not as young as we used to be! We tried to hold out as long as possible, wanting to hear classic songs like “Overnight Sensation” and especially “Reach for the Sky”, alas it was not to be. We held out through “Holding On” and the sing-along ballad of “When I Look Into Your Eyes”, but, unfortunately, our night was over. Firehouse was well into “Love is a Dangerous Thing” as we threw in the towel and made our way to the exit.
Extremely tired, yet highly buzzed on the phenomenon of live rock and roll our stomachs loudly spoke in unison as we headed to the car. Better get some food! A stop at Domino’s Pizza along the way resulted in being yelled “Delivery only!” at by a staff member through the plate glass window as we discovered the front door locked. Back at the hotel, of course, the phone wouldn’t work (either that or the operator, Irwin, couldn’t figure it out), so it was a call from the car using OnStar. The extreme rudeness of the person answering the Domino’s Pizza phone was only exceeded by his hanging up on us as we asked what other specials they might have! Oh well, back in the car it was off to the only other place we saw that was open aside from McDonald’s, Taco Bell. We’ve probably made better decisions!
A photo gallery of Day #2’s highlights, as well as a live Talon video, appear below.
Brain Ronald / Shawn “Animalize” Irwin / Rich “The Meister” Dillon