For many, the Hair Nation Festival on September 17th at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater was the perfect final curtain call for a venue nearing its closure. For 35 years, fans have swarmed to watch their favorite bands perform here, and that night left a bittersweet sense of nostalgia and represented the true end of an era. That Metal Show’s Eddie Trunk and XM Sirius Radio put together an astronomical juxtaposition of Hair Metal bands and artists for the first ever Hair Nation Festival reuniting old and new fans for nine hours of rock n’ roll. With 15 bands on the main stage and 7 on the festival stage, the classic times of 1980’s Sunset Boulevard came back to life in a monumental way.
As people began to arrive, last month’s Battle Of The Bands winners, The Aviators made their debut and kicked things off with their psychedelic, classic rock infused set and wowed the crowd with songs like Wolfman which has been receiving extensive radio airplay. As The Aviators slowly disappeared on the revolving stage, Tuff was ready to take the stage and despite the early time slot, their magnified energy set the pace for the long day ahead. Playing crowd favorites like All New Generation and ending with American Hair Band, they didn’t let the lack of people in the audience influence their dedication to the fans that were there cheering them on. Spinning like a roulette wheel, the stage rotated bringing a steady dose of rock n’ roll from Vain, Britny Fox, Junkyard and Enuff Z’ Enuff. With each spin, the level of virility continued to increase as devoted fans began to fill the seats of the amphitheater.
Shortly before 5:00 pm, it was time for the BulletBoys to come out and like an explosion, they held nothing back with a stellar performance. Marq Torien’s voice sounded even more powerful as it resonated throughout the venue . While every moment of their set was a highlight, Smooth Up In Ya, For The Love Of Money and The Bitch Is Back (Elton John cover) which featured a horn section brought an electrifying element to an already impressive and longtime fan favorite band. The BulletBoys always bring out all the stops whenever they perform. The only complaint was that they would have been better suited for a later slot, they have earned it.
Afterwards, we sat down with lead vocalist Marq Torien about their last album Elefante and their upcoming endeavors. The BulletBoys have recently signed a two album deal with Frontiers Music according frontman Marq Torien. “We are very blessed and we are planning to release new music February of next year.” As they are preparing to tour Europe, Torien tells us that they are only planning to do a few shows because of all the writing they are doing for the new album in preparation for going back into the studio this coming November. They are heading first to the East Coast followed by Canada–which Torien said he is really looking forward to–and from there they will do three shows in Guam.
When asked about tour life, Torien expressed how fortunate he is and blessed to be able to do what he loves for a living. “I am very fortunate to be able to continue to do music and create music and play for packed houses. Our fans and friends and family are so important to us and we are incredibly grateful to them for all of these years and as long as they keep coming out, we will keep putting out new music and playing shows.” Musicians are like soldiers in the sense they spend an extensive amount of time away from their loved ones and it can be wearing on them. “That is the hardest part” Torien confesses. “One thing I try to do is have our families on the road with us for some of the time. People don’t realize how tough it really is. They see the glamour and glory of it all but it’s extremely hard work and you don’t get a lot of sleep and it is difficult to eat well. Traveling 6-7 hours to a gig, it can really take its’ toll.” When playing a show, musicians have to give 150% regardless of how tired they are and even perform through an illness. For singers like Torien, it is key to take as best care of himself as possible. Torien credits God for blessing him with the gift of music. Having to sing night after night, he has learned that taking care of himself is the most imperative part about being a vocalist. “Exercise and staying in shape helps me a lot and I have been sober for many years and it most certainly makes a difference. Alcohol can really damage your vocal cords and decrease your energy and as others are getting older and slowing down, I am going in the opposite direction.”
The BulletBoys have been around since 1986 and have played with so many other bands and artists over the years but Torien is really impressed with the flood of new artists lately and their musical creativity. “Rock n’ roll is an important part of our country and it is special and I challenge the newer cats out there to just do it. Go into your garage with your buddies, just get going. We need to keep rock n’ roll music alive.”
Faster Pussycat came out ready to shred and put out an extraordinary performance. While many people were still down at the festival stage, they had drawn in a lot more fans to the main stage than there had been all day. After seeing these guys perform so many times, one thing is they never disappoint. Ace Von Johnson, lead guitarist played through each song effortlessly playing up to the crowd along with frontman Taime Downe. Bathroom Wall, House Of Pain and Babylon were just a few of the high octane songs they performed and it was a truly thrilling set.
Lita Ford has still got it! Being one of the most prominent women in rock history, took to the stage in a red leather one piece and she proved just ageless she really is. Ford’s sex appeal just oozes as she played her guitar and sang. Joining in on vocals for Close Your Eyes Forever was guitarist Patrick Kennison in place of Ozzy Osbourne who sang on the original recording. Cherry Bomb and Kiss Me Deadly were flawless and fans went wild.
For those who had never heard of Yngwie Malmsteen, it was an electric dose of magic across the board. The sun was down and the band was shining like a star as he jackhammered each note way through. The most memorable part of the set was when Malmsteen played the Star Spangled Banner and brought every single person to their feet. It was heartwarming with all of the controversy looming lately.
Kix, who are also featured in this issue of Screamer Magazine were yet another example of how rock n’ roll has remained timeless over the years. Songs like Wheels In Motion, Blow My Fuse and Don’t Close Your Eyes which remains one of Kix’s most successful tracks ignited passion from the stage to the fans.
Bret Michaels was the most prominent part of the evening. From the start, he brought a certain sentimental value to his set which included his support for our troops and veterans as well as a strong sense of pride for our country. Michaels made it clear from the moment he was on stage that he was going to miss performing at Irvine Meadows and reminisced about the first show Poison ever played there 30 years ago. The crowd was attentive to every note, every word and Michaels proved that he continues to be one of the most energetic, talented and true musicians to come out of the 80’s hair band era. Starting with Talk Dirty To Me, people were immediately rushing the stage to get a closer look. He followed with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama and announced the performance was being recorded for troops overseas. Michaels brought out his harmonica for the 1988 classic Poison remake of Your Mama Don’t Dance. Of course, the performance would not have been complete without Michaels singing Poison’s famous ballad Every Rose Has Its Thorn and asking everyone to hold up their cell phone, lighter, a beer, whatever they could get their hands on. As everyone lit the venue up, swaying back and forth, singing along, this was an incredibly intimate moment and even brought tears to one’s eyes. The energy, passion, honesty and personal connection he brings to fans during his shows is a prime example why he is one star who’s light will never stop shining.
Finally, it was time for Vince Neil to come out and close the place down. Neil mentioned that he was going to play mostly Motley Crue songs because he wanted to keep the nostalgia going and of course, that is what the crowd would want. As everyone began to cheer, he opened with the classically sexy Dr. Feelgood followed by Looks That Kill and doing his own homage to our military veterans, Home Sweet Home. Hit after hit, everyone was singing along and dancing at their seats. His cover of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love along with Kickstart My Heart, Girls Girls Girls and closing out with Wild Side were an ongoing nostalgia that we had been feeling since 2pm when the Hair Nation Festival began. While having the final spot in a festival can seem like a blessing, unfortunately, people began leaving halfway through his set perhaps in an attempt to avoid the chaos of having to leave at the very end. Despite this, Neil kept going and he shut down the place in a colossal way and left everyone ready for the next Hair Nation Festival.
All in all, Eddie Trunk and Sirius XM Radio put together one hell of a lineup and we can only hope they will do this again next year and for many years to come.
CLICK HERE to view more pics from the show.