It was a great evening for a rock and roll circus as Fozzy and friends parked their Save The World Tour at The Piazza in Aurora, Illinois on April 2, 2022.
This sports-bar-turned-concert-venue is filled with stairs, ramps, balconies, brick, and big screens everywhere you look. With a ceiling that seemed to be 800 feet up, the sound in this place was pristine. The venue was nicely prepared for this 4-band hard rock extravaganza, and I can see myself spending a lot more time rocking out in this comfortable space.
THE NOCTURNAL AFFAIR, “Dark rockers” is how this Las Vegas-based band is usually billed. Their live set of about twenty minutes on this night didn’t feel that “dark” to me. It felt serious and heavy, and it sounded damn good. The band has just released their debut album via Earache Records. They had John Moyer of Disturbed produce it, and Logan Mader of Machine Head do the mixing and mastering. This is a band that doesn’t mess around, and their live set reflected that work ethic. Although it was only a small sample that we got to taste, the music they made was powerful. The band had great presence even while being restricted to a very small piece of the stage. I wouldn’t mind seeing a longer set from The Nocturnal Affair, and I will be on the lookout.
Vocals: Brendan Shane
Guitar: Andy Ingraham
Guitar: Dru Lappin
Bass: Michael James
Drums: Parker Adsit
2.) Into The Darkness
3.) Ghosts On The Horizon
As the bands shuffled and dodged each other, the stage was set for the next band, KrashKarma in record time. As people started looking to the back of the venue to my left, I couldn’t help but follow suit. It took a while to find, but in the distance I saw drummer Niki Skistimas donning a marching band-like shoulder harness equipped with a snare drum, and singer/guitarist/bassist Ralf Dietel with a bullhorn a few feet behind her. As they strolled straight through the general admission pit to the stage, Skistimas was banging out a marching rhythm while Dietel was announcing their arrival. To really drive home the effect this entrance had, it would help to describe the look of the band. Niki Skistamas is a petite blonde beauty with an electric smile and a partially shaved head. Her look screams sweet girl next door with a big touch of badass. Ralf Dietel is a skinny guy that looks about eight feet tall with a head full of dreadlocks that are longer than a late-night freight train. It was a unique entrance and something that really got your attention.
When the duo took the stage and started to play, they seemed to grab the entire crowd by the throat. The intensity from these two was immense. Skistimas wears a headset and shares lead vocals while she wails on her kit, and Dietel is made for the stage. His look is spectacular, yes, but his confidence and command of his duties is what’s special here. He explained how they were making their huge bombastic sound by introducing his instrument as “Mrs. Frankenstein.” In addition to a guitar socket, there is a bass socket and pickup engineered into the instrument that allows Dietel to play guitar and bass at the same time. Fascinating.
All the energy and antics, but were they good? I can honestly say, with resounding tone, YES. One of the standout moments for me was when Dietel teaches the crowd some German. Although the band hails from Hollywood, it’s obvious from Dietel’s accent that he has German roots. As he taught the crowd the numbers 1,2, and 3, he asked the crowd to shout “die” (the number 3 in German) after he counts the 1 and 2 in their song “9 Lives (1, 2, Die)”. The moment was super heavy and spectacular. And, it’s always fun to have a heavy metal crowd chanting “die,” right?! These two were pounding out catchy metal songs that had an infused energy by themselves. When you land two performers like Skistimas and Dietel into them they come alive. This was one of the most entertaining opening bands I’ve ever seen.
Ralf Dietel: Vocals, bass, guitar
Niki Skistamas: Vocals, drums
1.) Wake Them Up
2.) The One Who Knocks
3.) Killing Time
4.) 9 Lives (1, 2, Die)
5.) Girl With A Hammer
6.) Tears Of Gasoline
GFM,or Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were the three gifts of the Magi, or the “three wisemen” as they are commonly referred to in the Biblical tale. To witness the power and might of the three sisters of GFM, you just might call them the heavy metal Magi. Their set brought the gifts of beauty, spirituality, and metal to everyone in the venue.
Wise beyond their years, CJ (22), Maggie (20), and LuLu (17) make up this juggernaut of hardcore metal, business savvy, do-it-yourselfers. The Jacksonville, Florida sisters, with the help and support of both parents, have carefully pieced together a business model that delivers not only on their musical promise but their message of faith as well. These devout Christians are legitimate musicians that also come armed with level heads and formal college degrees. They have created their sound, created their fashion, and even created their own genre with “beautycore.”
Before CJ, Maggie, and LuLu took the stage to pummel the general admission crowd, they treated their VIP ticketholders to a special acoustic performance that I was invited to attend. As the VIPs were escorted to the band’s tour bus I started to think about other VIP sessions I’ve witnessed. Almost all of them take place in a back room of the venue or in a common area. To be on the band’s bus, where they basically live their lives for several weeks on the road, held a certain charm and intimacy. With twelve of us in the lounge area of the bus, it felt like friends around a campfire. CJ played an acoustic guitar, while Maggie and LuLu sang, and it was exceptional. The band talked about their inspiration, their spirituality, and what makes their songs tick. With a goodie bag of stickers, a pick, a photo, a drawstring bag, and a VIP-only CD of an acoustic set, the VIPs were able to chat individually with the members of the band and take any kind of photos they’d like.
I had a chance to talk to the band about their makeup, and took the opportunity to get a close-up photo to show the details of their efforts. I also had a chance to talk with drummer LuLu about any anxiety she might have. Watching how cool, calm, and confident they were with the rock and roll lifestyle spinning quickly around them, I wondered if they ever got nervous or rattled by all of it. LuLu told me that there is always some concern that your electronics and your sound is going to be in working order, but as for the “butterflies in the stomach” thing, she puts herself in God’s hands. She told me that it is not about the drums for her, it’s about reaching people and impacting them in a positive way. I would imagine that with that mission in mind, the pressure of performing is minimized.
As the time came for GFM to plug in and release their message they attacked the stage with a power and fury not unlike the heaviest of metal bands. I think it has always been a common misconception that faith-based bands lack some of the muscle and heaviness of their counterparts within the metal genre. GFM obliterate that fallacy and hit you square in the face with each of those gifts I spoke of earlier – beauty, spirituality, and metal. Just like the acoustic set for the VIPs, these young ladies work tirelessly to bring a feeling of community and worship of a higher power without sacrificing the brutality of the pure metal music that they play.
There were two small square platforms on each side of the stage that were used like springboards for CJ and Maggie as they ran and vaulted themselves tirelessly during the entire set. The chaotic stage setting was a pulpit for these purveyors of power. About three songs into the set, Maggie let everyone in the venue know about the band’s mission and their faith in God. A hush fell over the crowd as the band’s faith was professed and proper thanks was given to their higher power. It was a beautiful moment of poise and tenderness that took place amidst a pandemonium infused sonic landscape. There was playful banter between the girls in between songs that added even more charm to their set. Another moment that put the sweet personality of this band on display was when they offered cupcakes to the crowd. Drummer LuLu’s kit is painted to look like cupcakes and the tossing of cupcakes from a member of the road crew, much like their cheerleader costumes, fit their aesthetic perfectly.
Each member of GFM is exciting to watch on their own. CJ grooves and thrashes to every riff and rhythm, Maggie cranks on her low-hanging bass while providing the growls and screams, and LuLu is the booming backbone of it all with a bottom heavy blast of drums and a smile that just never quits. When you put these three young ladies together, you understand why Chris Jericho handpicked them for this tour.
After the show, CJ, Maggie, and LuLu come out to their merch booth and make themselves available to fans. Never have I seen such a hands-on approach to appreciating fans and embracing people. The band made sure that everyone that approached them was in a safe place mentally. They find great importance in being a hand to hold on to or being there to pray with someone. To see a group of young people helping and supporting each other so passionately was something that restored my faith in humanity. A band that storms stages and puts fists in the air that can also put hands together in prayer, is something this world desperately needs.
The world desperately needs the gifts of GFM.
CJ English: Vocals, guitar
Maggie English: Vocals, bass
LuLu English: Drums
2.) Never Again
3.) Graveyard Of Identities
4.) I Don’t Need Your Fantasy
7.) Taking Over
8.) Give Me A Sign
9.) The Other Side
Fozzy, for me, is the perfect return to traditional heavy metal. Their brand of heavy yet melodic metal is reminiscent of legendary acts like Judas Priest, AC/DC, and Metallica. Chris Jericho and his band brought that kind of energy to the stage on this night, and it was like a breath of fresh air.
First thing I noticed was the presence of bassist PJ Farley. I had forgotten that Farley had become a member of Fozzy just around the time COVID hit. After seeing him in Trixter and as a “go-to” for people like Lita Ford and Eric Martin, it was great to see him playing something a bit heavier as a permanent member of Fozzy.
The band was flanked on each side by their guitarists Billy Grey and founding member Rich Ward, and I feel it’s important to point out their massive contribution. These two guys traded licks all night, almost like the dual-guitar bands from back in the day (e.g. Thin Lizzy, Lynyrd Skynyrd). I find it rare these days, even from some of the best new bands, to get enough guitar in a live set of music. The extended guitar solo seems to have become a thing of the past, but it rose like a phoenix over the Fozzy set. At one point late in the set, during the song “Enemy,” Ward and Grey took the crowd on a runaway locomotive ride with scorching guitars fueling the supercharged engine. It was a guitar battle that lasted well over five minutes, with the rest of the band whooping the crowd into a frenzy with a heavy pounding rhythm that served as the perfect foundation for the guitar gladiators. At the end of it all, the crowd noise seemed to jump a few decibels as they vocalized their appreciation of a lost art.
When I first heard Chris Jericho had Fozzy going back in 2000, I thought it might be a joke or a fleeting money grab for a wrestler/actor on his way down. I was sorely mistaken, and the catalog he has amassed and his performance of it here slapped me across the face. I’m ashamed I ever thought of it that way because Jericho comes out and performs like a true rock star. He definitely looks the part with a bedazzled leather jacket, tight black gloves, long hair, and a still chiseled physique. But, Jericho is also a legitimate vocalist that sounds comfortable within these songs. He heard the chants of “Fozzy! Fozzy!” on more than one occasion, and he would step up on the platform at the front of the stage with arms wide to revel in the adoration, much like a wrestler might step on the ropes to face his fans. Jericho seemed to be absorbed in the moment with a huge smile on his face throughout the set. As a roadie armed him with a high-powered smoke blaster a few times during the set, he took on a rock and roll Rambo look that was pretty darn cool.
As the band closed their set with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap),” I think it exmeplified what Fozzy is all about. This is a traditional hard rock and heavy metal band that loves guitars and a good time. And indeed, a good time was had by all in attendance.
Chris Jericho: Vocals
Rich Ward: Guitars
Billy Grey: Guitars
P. J. Farley: Bass
Grant Brooks: Drums
2.) Drinkin’ With Jesus
4.) Nowhere To Run
5.) Do You Wanna Start A War
6.) Lights Go Out
7.) Relax (Frankie Goes To Hollywood cover)
8.) Sin And Bones
9.) I Still Burn
10.) Burn Me Out
15.) Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap) (AC/DC cover)
Follow Fozzy Online:
Follow GFM Online:
Follow KrashKarma Online:
Follow The Nocturnal Affair Online:
Hello everyone! My name is Scott Itter, but some know me as Dr. Music. I am a music journalist and photographer out of the Chicagoland area, and I have been in practice for over 20 years. I grew up in the 70’s with two big brothers that showed me all kinds of rock and roll. As I grew older I ventured out into different genres like jazz, funk, folk, and whatever else I could wrap my ears around. As I read every liner note and every Circus and Hit Parader like they were the Old and New Testament, I came to realize that I just love sound and appreciate all the people that create it.
I later became a stay-at-home dad and started honing my writing and photography skills to keep my mind from turning into mashed peas. My kids are now adults, my mind is only slightly mushy, and I am thrilled to have the honor of presenting my work to you!