M3 Rock Festival Celebrates its 15th year at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland on May 4, 2024 Day 1





This year celebrated the 15th anniversary of The M3 Rock Festival held at The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Maryland, and they did it in a big way. The day started when the parking lots opened at 9 am. The most diehard fans started setting up in parking lot number 5 for a day of tailgating and music. They braved the rain and came prepared with tents and lots of food to share with friends while a band played their favorite rock and metal tunes. While many fans stayed in the parking lot for a while longer, many started to congregate at the front gate and talk with old friends and make new ones while waiting for the venue to open. At 11:00am the gates opened for VIP guests and then at 11:30 for non-VIP. As you walked in, there was a merch booth set up to the left with plenty of band t-shirts and event t-shirts. Concessions stands flanked the right side as you walked down into the covered pavilion area, if you were lucky enough to have gotten a ticket there to stay out of the rain. People who were on the lawn brought tents, pods, and umbrellas to try to stay dry from the rain and drizzle which was prevalent throughout the day. On both sides of the lawn area were more vendors selling rock clothing and accessories. Further down on the opposite side of the pavilion were more concessions stands and merch booths. Also on that side was the Vip Meet and greet area. The lines were always long to meet the bands as there were only 45 minutes allotted to each band. 

This year’s festival featured many of your favorite artists from the 80’s rock and hair-metal genre, along with a few tribute bands and a special appearance from some of the students from The Soundcheck Rock Academy School of Music. Day 1 featured artists such as Doro Pesch from Warlock, Aldo Nova, Stephen Pearcy from Ratt, Queensryche, and Quiet Riot. The bands each had approximately an hour set on a huge beautifully lit roundtable stage. For those of you who never experienced this, it is a stage where when one band is playing, the next band is setting up behind the curtain. This allows for a quick changeover between bands and eliminates the need for multiple stages like many festivals have. The first performers, Kill The Darkness, took the stage a little early.





Soundcheck Rock Academy Band: Kill The Darkness – 11:55-12:20

Kill The Darkness is a band made up of 5 boys that attend The Soundcheck Rock Academy in Columbia Maryland. These teenagers came out of the gate heavy and loud with growling vocals that took me by surprise. Did I say Heavy? They played a five-song set of 3 original songs and 2 covers. These guys have a great stage presence and heavy sound that will be making their mark on the local metal scene. Check out their social media links at the bottom of the article.


Kill The Darkness is:

Kevin Taylor – Guitar and screaming

Alex Magno – Vocals

Riley Postma – Drums

Riley “Scott” Payne – Bass

Roberto Novack – Guitar




1. Supa (original)

2. Dread (original)

3. Sorry You’re Not the Winner (Enter Shikari cover)

4. I Hate the Sound of Car Keys (Kaonashi cover)

5. Bouncy (original)



Fan Halen – 12:45-1:25

Fan Halen hit the stage with a jump. Well, technically they didn’t play “Jump”, but Ernie Berru and Derek Fuller did pull of a perfectly synchronized jump off of the drum riser. These guys are known as the world’s most authentic tribute to Van Halen, and although I have only seen two other VH tribute bands, I would say they win in looks and performance hands down. From their costumes to their sound, these guys reproduce everything note for note, and even their choreographed moves. Ernie (as David Lee Roth) with his bleach blonde hair and sunglasses, Derek (as Eddie Van Halen) with his red and white striped jumpsuit and Frankenstrat, and Andy Catt (as Michael Anthony) even had his facial hair matching Michaels. They ripped through a nine-song set of your favorite Van Halen tunes mostly from the early days and even threw in the obligatory “Eruption” and “You Really Got Me”. 


Fan Halen is:

Ernie Berru (as David Lee Roth) – Lead Vocals

Derek Fuller (as Eddie Van Halen) – Guitar

Andy Catt (as Michael Anthony) – Bass

Michael Thompson (as Alex Van Halen) – Drums



Setlist :

1. Unchained (Van Halen cover)

2. Runnin’ with the Devil (Van Halen cover)

3. Panama (Van Halen cover)

4. Dance the Night Away (Van Halen cover)

5. Ice Cream Man (Van Halen cover)

6. Eruption (Van Halen cover)

7. You Really Got Me (Kinks cover)

8. Ain’t Talkin Bout Love (Van Halen cover)

9. Hot for Teacher (Van Halen cover)



Child’s Play – 1:25-2:05

Sirius/XM’s Tommy London came out to introduce local rock legends, Child’s Play to a crowd that was finally filling in on a wet and cold day. “Rat Race” was playing as their recorded intro music as they came out on stage. They pretty much never play it live. Lead by John Allen on vocals (former drummer of the band), they hit the stage with “Good Ol’ Rock and Roll”. The giant video screen behind the band played clips of them from the early days of their career. My daughter, who is a big fan of the band said, “They are killing it!”, with an emphatic enthusiasm. Original vocalist Larry Hinshaw joined in on LH Blues while John Allen hopped back on the drums for that song. Next John and Larry did a vocal duet on the song “Wind”. These guys sounded like they play out on a regular basis.


Child’s Play is:

Larry Hinshaw – Lead vocals (only performed on a few songs)

John Allen – Lead Vocals, drums, backing vocals

Phil Wiser – Bass

Nicky Kay – Lead and rhythm guitar

Jason Heiser – Drums




1. Good Ol’ Rock and Roll

2. Long Way

3. When Hell Freezes Over

4. I Can’t Believe

5. L H Blues (with Larry Hinshaw on vocals and John Allen on drums)

6. Wind (Vocal duet with Larry and John)

7. Day After Night

8. My Bottle



Aldo Nova – 2:25-3:10

After a long break, Aldo Nova just started playing out on a regular basis again in 2023. It was a treat to get them to play here at M3 Rock Festival. This weekend’s lineup included Jack Frost of Seven Witches on guitar, Dario Seixas on bass who has played with Stephen Pearcy, Firehouse, and Jack Russell’s Great White, and Billy Carmassi who has toured and recorded with Aldo Nova. Michael T. Ross was on the keyboard in Raiding the Rock Vault and has played with Lita Ford. Aldo sounded great and Jack and Dario had exceptional stage presence and crowd interaction. They played five songs off of their self-titled album and one off of Blood on the Bricks, ending the night with “Fantasy”. Towards the end of “Fantasy” Dario was helicoptering his bass like a madman. 


Aldo Nova is:

Aldo Nova – Guitar, vocals

Jack Frost – Guitar, vocals

Dario Seixas – Bass, vocals

Billy Carmassi – Drums

Michael T. Ross – Keyboards




1.  Heart to Heart

2. Under the Gun

3. Fooling Yourself

4. Ball and Chain

5. Blood on The Bricks

6. Fantasy



Doro – 3:30-4:20

Doro, the voice of Warlock, always commands the stage with her radiant smile and positive attitude and this time was no exception. There were several lineup changes for this show as some of the members were off playing with other bands right now. Filling in on Drums for Johnny Dee was Danny Piselli, and filling in for Bas Maas was Chris Caffery. Nick Douglas was on bass and, the madman, Bill Hudson on guitar. Although I missed Johnny and Baas, all of these musicians are seasoned professionals and proved they have what it takes. They hit the stage with “I Rule the Ruins” and the crowd was on their feet. Doro got the crowd motivated by chanting “hey, hey, hey!” and pumping her fist in the air. Doro played a new song for the fans at M3 called “Fire in the Sky”. Next, they played Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”. It started off slow with just Chris and Doro before it picked up to the normal pace. And of course, they played their biggest hit “All We Are” with the fans singing along to every word. 



Doro is:

Doro Pesch – Lead Vocals

Bill Hudson – Guitar, keyboards

Danny Piselli – Drums

Chris Caffery – Guitar

Nick Douglas – Bass




1. I Rule the Ruins (Warlock cover)

2. Earthshaker Rock (Warlock cover)

3. Burning the Witches (Warlock cover)

4. East Meets West (Warlock cover)

5.Time For Justice

6. Raise Your Fist in the Air

7. Fire in the Sky

8. Breaking the Law (Judas Priest cover)

9. All We Are (Warlock cover)

10. Fight for Rock (Warlock cover)



Lynch Mob – 4:40-5:20

Guitar legend George Lynch, formerly of Dokken was next to take the stage. The first thing I noticed was Tesla‘s Steve Brown behind the drum kit as filling in for Jimmy D’Anda while he was on a vacation that was booked before the band was confirmed for M3. Badass bass player Jaron Gulino was hammering away on the bass with his hair flying. Gabriel Colon makes the classic Dokken and Lynch Mob songs sound amazing! They played a seven-song set of Dokken and Lynch mob songs and played a version of “No Good” with an alternate chorus. Lynch Mob is on their “The Final Ride” tour which will end on next year’s Monsters of Rock Cruise.


Lynch Mob is:

George Lynch – Lead guitar

Jaron Gulino – Bass

Steve Brown – Drums

Gabriel Colon – Vocals




1. Lightning Strikes Again (Dokken cover)

2. River of Love

3. For a Million Years

4. Dance of the Dogs

5. No Good (alt. chorus)

6. It’s Not Love (Dokken cover)

7. Wicked Sensation



Quiet Riot – 5:40-6:30

The Iconic Quiet Riot took the stage with a vengeance! Not many can compare to the showmanship of Rudy Sarzo. He is such a talented musician, playing the bass over his head, pounding on it, and beating it like it was a rabid animal. Jizzy does all the songs justice and also took the blame for the rainy weather, “because someone had to”. And of course, they had to put some money into their retirement funds of Slade by playing “Mama Weer All Craze Now” and “Cum on Feel the Noise”. Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative, Danzig, Silvertomb, and just about every other band has been on drums with them since 2020 and is amazing. They ended their set with “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” with the crowd on their feet singing along!


Quiet Riot is:

Rudy Sarzo – Bass

Alex Grossi – Guitar

Jizzy Pearl – Lead vocals

Johnny Kelly – Drums




1. Run for Cover

2. Slick Black Cadillac

3. Mama Weer All Crazee Now (Slade cover)

4. Thunderbird

5. Blackout in the Red Room (Love/Hate cover)

6. The Wild and the Young

7. Let’s Get Crazy

8. Cum on Feel the Noize (Slade cover)

9. Metal Health (Bang Your Head)


Last in Line – 6:50-7:40

Last in Line was formed in 2012 by members of the band Dio after Ronnie James Dio passed.  All of these musicians are top-notch, and it shows in their performances. Singer, Andrew Freeman seemed to have a problem with the fact that many fans were sitting during their performance and said that he was paid to be there, and the fans paid to be there, Stand Up! He didn’t take into consideration that the crowd had been out in the cold and rain for hours prior to their set. This caused a stir on the M3 Rockers page with lots of people saying that they paid to be there and if they wanted to sit, they could sit, and he should put his ego in check. By this time in the evening, you could see the singer’s breath because it was so cold. They played a set of 50% Dio cover songs and 50% original music, dedicating the song “Starmaker” to the original late bass player of the band, Jimmy Bain


Last in Line is:

Vivian Campbell – Guitar

Vinny Appice – Drums

Phil Soussan – Bass

Andrew Freeman – Vocals





1. Landslide

2. Stand Up and Shout (Dio cover)

3. Straight Through the Heart (Dio cover)

4. Devil in Me

5. Do the Work

6. Holy Diver (Dio cover)

7. Bastard Son

8. The Last in Line (Dio cover)

9. Starmaker

11. Rainbow in the Dark (Dio cover)




Stephen Pearcy – 8:00-9:00

Stephen Pearcy was without a doubt one of the day’s biggest surprises. Everyone was amazed at how good he sounded. “The best he sounded in the last five years” commented one fan that was in attendance. He is out on tour celebrating 40 years of Out of the Cellar. In addition to the normal lineup of Johnny Monaco and Erik Ferentinos on guitar, and Matt Thorne on bass, I was surprised and excited to see Blas Elias behind the drum kit. From what I heard, he will be playing with them until this fall when he returns to play with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Blas was amazing behind the drum kit, such a showman. They played the album Out of the Cellar (not in order) along with a few other classic Ratt songs thrown in. 


Stephen Pearcy is:

Stephen Pearcy – Lead vocals

Blas Elias – Drums

Erik Ferentinos – Guitar

Johnny Monaco – Guitar

Matt Thorne – Bass




1. Wanted Man (Ratt song)

2. You’re in Trouble (Ratt song)

3. In Your Direction (Ratt song)

4. She Wants Money (Ratt song)

5. Lack of Communication (Ratt song)

6. Back For More (Ratt song)

7. The Morning After (Ratt song)

8. I’m Insane (Ratt song)

9. Scene of the Crime (Ratt song)

10. Round and Round (Ratt song)

11. You’re In Love (Ratt song)

12. Lay It Down (Ratt song)



Queensryche – 9:30-10:45

There was chatter on the M3 social media pages leading up to the show on what kind of set Queensryche would play since they are out on their origins tour playing their EP and The Warning in their entirety. The fans seemed split on if they wanted to hear their hits or their current setlist. Personally, I think they would have held more fans’ attention by playing the hits at a festival like M3 and leaving the deeper cuts to those hardcore fans who wanted to go to see just that. But, with all that being said, I think they probably had one of the tightest sets of the day with Doro and Quiet Riot bringing up a close tie for second. These guys are always out on tour and working hard and it shows. Highlights from their set for me were “Queen of the Reich”, “The Warning”, “En Force”, and “Take Hold of the Flame”. For the last song, which they have been rotating it out each night, we got “Empire” which made everyone’s excitement go through the roof. The place was packed, and everyone was on their feet singing along and pumping their fists. What a way to end day one of this 15th anniversary of M3.


Queensryche is:

Todd LaTorre – Vocals

Michael Wilton – Lead guitar, backing vocals

Mike Stone – Rhythm guitar, backing vocals

Eddie Jackson – Bass, backing vocals

Casey Grillo – Drums




Queensryche EP

1. Queen of the Reich

2. Nightrider

3. Blinded

4. The Lady Wore Black

The Warning

5. Warning

6. En Force

7. Deliverance

8. No Sanctuary

9. NM 156

10. Take Hold of the Flame

11. Before the Storm

12. Child of Fire

13. Roads to Madness


14. Empire


The fans braved the cold and rainy weather and some even purchased the $25 blankets being sold at the merch booth. This was an awesome first day of the 15th anniversary of M3 Rock Festival in which all the bands were on their A-game and performed like it was the biggest show of their lives. The sound was awesome and the stage was always well-lit. The biggest surprise of the day was how good Stephen Pearcy sounded compared to recent years. Doro, Queensryche, and Quiet Riot were probably my personal favorite performances of the day. This is what a rock festival should be. Well put together, well run, and sounded great. Look for my coverage of day 2 coming out soon.






Follow Queensryche

Follow Stephen Pearcy

Follow Last in Line

Follow Quiet Riot

Follow Lynch Mob

Follow Doro

Follow Aldo Nova

Follow Child’s Play

Follow Fan Halen

Follow Kill The Darkness