The Vegas Rocks! Hair Metal Awards took place at the Eastside Cannery on May 15, 2016.
Love them or hate them, Sally Steele and Vegas Rocks! Magazine have been pillars of the Las Vegas music scene for over a decade, filling the void left by the folding of publisher Chris Vener’s decade long running Las Vegas Music Scene Magazine ( referred to simply as LVMS) and its short lived spin off Vegas SoundZ.
A few years back, the Vegas Rocks! enterprise expanded into awards shows, gathering some of the biggest talent from across numerous rock and roll genres, past and present, from local to international. Regardless of your opinion towards the magazine, its founder, or the awards/award shows themselves, one must give credit on some level for getting so many legendary musicians under one roof.
The awards shows apparently stopped following the 2014 event at the Palms hotel/casino, but were unexpectedly resurrected this year in the form of the Vegas Rocks Hair Metal Awards; this was given the “first annual” branding, implying that this could become a regular thing in the future. It is unclear as to why exactly the “Hair Metal” branding was necessary; this could easily have just been called the latest installment of the Vegas Rocks! Awards. But more on that later.
For those who do not know, I was actually with Vegas Rocks! prior to my involvement with ZRock’R, writing for the magazine for roughly two and a half years, primarily doing concert reviews. It was during this time I attended two of the prior awards shows, getting an idea of what was going on. Again, while I found myself at odds with a number of the awards/winners/etc., I will not deny being impressed by how much talent had been gathered in one place; the performances from the musicians were usually quite solid, regardless of everything else at hand. Even now, I will still grab a copy of each magazine, primarily for the photographs and cover artwork.
And now, a look at the Vegas Rocks! Hair Metal Awards….
Let me start this review by saying that my presence at this show almost did not even happen. We had put in a request to cover the show quite far in advance…. and never heard back from anyone whatsoever. These shows are infamous for being disorganized, and the fact that no one from the event could even take the time to get back to us regarding this is deplorable. Even a rejection notice is better than nothing. When you do not take the time to get back to the people that actually want to cover the show and give you publicity, you are not hurting anyone but yourself. I broke down and bought my own ticket a few hours prior.
Security presence at the show was extremely disappointing. Before the end of the evening, our photographer, who spent much of the show having to tell other people what musicians were who, while helping less experienced approved photographers learn how to use their equipment, was asked to leave the venue. Yet they seemed to have no problem with annoying, drunken groupie women stalking Marq Torien. Hecklers during emotional, meaningful speeches were not silenced or escorted out of the venue.
The disorganization of things was painfully bad. Will call passes were mixed in with those for the VIPs. The staff clearly did not know who the musicians were or what they looked like. Hell, at least one staff member did not even know that Geoff Tate is no longer with Queensryche! The fact that the red carpet back drop was left up with fans rushing it and taking photos in front of it (rather than it being dismantled following the bands concluding their trip through) sort of undermined the fact that so many people paid $75for VIP admissions and treatment. During the red carpet and the show itself, it was clear the staff were having difficulty keeping track of everyone and where they were.
Speaking more from a personal perspective for a moment here, I understand that, despite the years I have spent on the music scene covering shows and events and writing an assortment of articles with various publications (again, including Vegas Rocks! for several years), I will not get approved to review every single show or event, despite having paid my dues and then some. That is the nature of the beast and the way that things go down sometimes. Such is life. But if you cannot even take the time to respond to let our team know whether or not we are approved to attend the event, something is clearly wrong. Again, a rejection notice is better than nothing whatsoever. It is sad when the people who WANT to help, and are actually putting forth an effort to make the music scene a better place, are more or less ignored and cast aside.
Back to an earlier point; the rebranding of the awards show from “Vegas Rocks! Awards” to “Vegas Rocks! Hair Metal Awards.” In many ways, this was the kiss of death for the evening, and the change in name should be done away with if there are future awards ceremonies of a similar nature. Many awards/nominees/tributes/etc. had nothing whatsoever to do with hair metal. Tributes to Dio and Motorhead are much deserved, but really stand to reason that rebranding this event the “Hair Metal Awards” was a misstep. Even though “Hair Metal” could justifiably describe the good majority of the talent present at this and prior awards shows, the fact of the matter is that Mr. Dio and Mr. Kilmister, if they were truly looking down on the show and seeing that a “Hair Metal” show was doing tribute to them, they would be looking at each other with very confused glances, and more than a few unfavorable words (many of Lemmy’s would likely be bleeped out). A tribute band award in the show also had no connection whatsoever to the hair band branding, but again, more on that later.
The overall format of the evening was comprised of performances from artists and mixtures of musicians from the various bands, award presentations, and brief musical performances from Chaotic Resemblance, the house band for the evening, when and where needed. There were video clips played where applicable, but the fact that every single Vegas Rocks! Awards show has used the very same clips as an intro has become tiresome. Why not mix it up a little? Surely there is more content that can be shown for this purpose.
In addition to Chaotic Resemblance serving as the house band, the show featured performances including Pretty Boy Floyd, Bulletboys, Stephen Pearcy, Twisted Sister, as well as all-star jams in tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy Kilmister (which included members of Testament) as well as big finale with many of the attendees.
Awards were given to a number of artists, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Brian Tichy, Rudy Sarzo, Marq Torien, the Arms of America U2 tribute band, Kip Winger and Reb Beach, Stephen Pearcy, Frankie Banali, Doro Pesch, Scorpions, and Twisted Sister.
Guests at the show, some of which were presenters of awards, included (but were not limited to) Criss Angel, Robert Sarzo, Ron Jeremy, Blas Elias, Oz Fox, Stacey Blades, Zowie Bowie, Lark Williams, Nadir D’Priest, Jizzy Pearl, Scotty Griffin, Eddie Trunk, and Jeff Young. The Raiding the Rock Vault cast also made a brief appearance during the red carpet.
It is also worth mentioning that a number of potential attendees did not appear at the event (the programs for the evening specifically said the card was subject to change). Those who did not appear but were advertised include Mark Kendall, Danny “The Count” Koker, Don Dokken, and “Horny” Mike Henry. Also, James Kottak was not present with Scorpions; Motorhead’s Mikkey Dee was filling his spot, as he is doing at the Hard Rock residency dates.
Despite the "Hair Band" label, a number of major musicians from this scene that reside in Vegas did not appear at the event, including Brent Muscat (Faster Pussycat, Sin City Sinners), Eric Stacy (Faster Pussycat), Chris Van Dahl (LA Guns), Phil Lewis (LA Guns), and members of the current version of Ratt that reside in Las Vegas, namely Doc Ellis, Joshua Alan, and Blaze. It is unclear if they were not invited or had other commitments. Another surprising omission was Kelly Garni, founding bassist of Quiet Riot, who resided in the Vegas Valley for years and was best friends with Randy Rhoads growing up; his presence would have been great for the Quiet Riot award.
How did the performances fare? For the most part, everything was fantastic. We got an all-star set of musicians giving it their best. Pretty Boy Floyd and Bulletboys gave us a pair of tracks each, not surprisingly comprised of mostly their most popular cuts. In the latter band in particular, Marq Torien definitely deserves credit for being an underrated as hell, energetic frontman on the stage.
Stephen Pearcy definitely gets my pick for “most improved performance.” The last time I saw him, I was disappointed; he was more or less speaking lyrics. What I saw here was a major improvement; he showed energy and enthusiasm performing two of Ratt’s biggest hits. It is not the best
performance from Pearcy I have ever seen, but a step in the right direction in all ways. Credit is also due to his backing band, which includes former Mickey Ratt and Rough Cutt members Chris Hager and Matt Thorr/Thorne, former White Lion drummer Greg D’Angelo, and guitarist Erik Ferentinos.
The major highlight of the night for me was the Twisted Sister performance, featuring the complete classic lineup sans the late, great AJ Pero, who we lost last year. In has place behind the drum kit was none other than Quiet Riot’s Frankie Banali! This was an energetic performance with the always-
entertaining Dee Snider giving his all throughout. The quintet served up the band’s two biggest hits, and in fine form too.
The two major “non hair band” performances definitely did not fit the theme of the night (all the more reason they should have just stuck to calling it the “Vegas Rocks! Awards” without that "hair band" name attached) but certainly had the crowd excited. The Motorhead tribute, with members of Testament teaming up with other musicians in attendance to play “Ace of Spades” was a bad-ass moment.
The tribute to Ronnie James Dio did not fare as well.
With an all-star band that included former Dio bassist Rudy Sarzo (former bassist for basically every band ever, and one of my personal favorites) and the beautiful Doro Pesch behind the microphone, the audience was ready to be rocked. I love Doro. She is gorgeous and a total sweetie, with one hell of a voice.
I just wish she had actually, I don’t know….. LEARNED THE SONG.
“Rainbow in the Dark” is Dio’s biggest hit ever. If there is one Dio song to know to pay tribute to this fallen metal titan, this is the one. It started promising, but before long it became clear she did not know the lyrics and more or less sang lines and parts of lines interchangeably. In fact, I could have sworn she sang it as “Rainbow in the NIGHT” a few times! I like the gesture of Doro paying tribute to Mr. Dio, but someone else who knew the lyrics should have been behind the microphone. Why not have Doro sing one of her own hits instead, like "All We Are" from her Warlock days?
Oh, and you might have noticed that I did not describe the performances from Angel and Scorpions.
Scorpions and Angel DID NOT PERFORM. AT ALL.
Are you kidding? We were all geared up for the big Angel reunion; it was more or less one of the major draws of the evening! And they ended up only being present to accept the award. With Punky Meadows’ solo album release right around the corner, and a kick-ass solo record from Frank DiMino that was “Album of the Year” for me, this felt like a major wasted opportunity. I for one wanted to see the mighty Gregg Giuffria back where he belongs – behind the keyboards.
A brief footnote: Promotions for the show were wrong; this was NOT the original Angel lineup; original bassist Mickie Jones passed in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. This Angel lineup was the White Hot lineup that stood from 1978-1980, featuring Jones' replacement Felix Robinson.
And seriously, no Scorpions performance? Again one of the biggest disappointments of the night. These guys still sound great, and even put out a new album last year. They are one of the world’s greatest bands, well, EVER. It was cool to see them accept an award (which they DID deserve) but a total wasted opportunity to not hear them rocking the audience (like a hurricane, perhaps?) They most likely left right after getting the award.
As for the awards themselves, I have considerably less to say, though for the most part I mean that in a good way. These awards were all deserved and their recipients more than deserving of them. It was great to hear speeches from the reunited Angel members, hearing Frankie Banali recount tales of his Quiet Riot days, and seeing a post-AJ Pero Twisted Sister accepting an award on his behalf; Dee Snider even invited Pero’s kids on stage, which was a classy gesture.
There was one award with multiple nominees for “Best Tribute Band,” though this, like a number of other portions of the night, had nothing to do with the hair band branding. The winner of the award was the Arms of America U2 tribute. I could turn this into a rant about how I was rooting for Sin City KISS, but I will not do that; this fan is glad to see there was SOME recognition for local tributes, even if it did not fit the theme of the evening at all. Earlier awards shows had more of these nomination-style awards for
various groups, and hopefully we will see this return at a future ceremony.
With so many other great bands that play on the Vegas scene, including bands like Cyanide that keep a retro Sunset Strip-style sound alive, it is disappointing to see that they were not present or recognized. I am not going to go through and name every single band on the scene that should have been here, but believe me when I say that there are plenty.
The other complaint here in regards to the awards is that they only recognized musicians; no one else in the industry was even considered or nominated for anything of the like; even the artists gave thanks to the production crews and the management teams that gave them a shot. Seriously, Eddie Trunk was in attendance…. why the hell was he not given an award? This guy has done far more to keep rock and roll alive in recent years than, well, just about anyone. And what about other journalists, producers, managers, photographers, and so forth? Hell, with the tribute to Ronnie James Dio, it would seem fitting to give an award to former Dio sound engineer Angelo Arcuri, who actually lives out here in Vegas. Or Mike Varney, who has discovered and produced countless artists (not the least of whom is Yngwie Malmsteen), and is basically a regular at Vamp’d despite living out of state. There were just too many missed opportunities here.
And back to musicians that deserved awards, why was the mighty SLAUGHTER not honored here? Blas Elias, their classic drummer, is a Vegas resident and regular player out here with the Sin City Sinners. They were legendary in this scene and hailed from Vegas, so it seemed like a no brainer. But no such luck for recognizing them with an award on this evening.
I did not attend the VIP after party, as it required a $75 upgrade I was not willing to pay, although one of our other writers did. Upon arrival, she told me that it was just band members sitting around, not being social at all, and fans stalking their obviously tired rock star heroes (admittedly, I myself did ask people for a few autographs, but also knew when to back off as well). It apparently was more of an awkward meet and greet than an actual party, and apparently I did not miss much by not attending.
It is not likely that a number of us would have ever thought there would be another Vegas Rocks! Awards show, and the questionable rebranding aside, it did happen. There were great performances, deserving award recipients, and plenty going on. Unfortunately, the event still suffered from the horrible disorganization and chaotic atmosphere of recent years, as well as many of the snubs that plagued recent awards ceremonies. With better organization and credit where credit is due, particularly amongst non-musician personalities in the field that deserve recognition, next year’s event (if it happens) could be more promising. Only time will tell.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos ©2016 ZRock'R Entertainment/ ZRock'R Magazine- All Rights Reserved