On the ground in Helsinki 
Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 10:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
Ah my babies, I've landed in Helsinki, and the striking beauty and tranquility of this city has made my travel woes a distant memory. From the moment one arrives in the Helsinki Airport, he or she realizes that this is a unique city like no other. The airport is open, airy, full of natural sunlight--and remarkably quiet and devoid of noise....and people. I felt more like I was in a library than an airport.

I hopped a local bus into the center of the city (and unknowingly got off at the train station at the advice of locals--little did I know that the bus stops behind my hotel. Alas, the 3K walk to the hotel gave me a chance to get familiar with the city. Finding lots of Twisted Sister fans and plenty of metal heads about town. My sources have told me that ticket sales have been up, so I anticipate a nice, packed house Friday night.

Helsinki is VERY clean, environmentally conscious and relaxed. The people here are quite friendly and helpful--the only way I can describe it is a complete lack of xenophobia. I strolled around the lake across from the hotel, and saw lots of folks having picnics, bike riding, jogging--it's hard to explain it but the people I've met here seem very happy and content. Their conversations very direct and to the point--but they have a genuineness that is refreshing. (Baltimore is such an angry, paranoid city!)

I dined this evening on reindeer steak--my apologies if your Christmas presents are late this year as a result, but it was simply delicious. I walked into a local grocer to try out my Finnish--to my delight, I was able to say good evening, purchase a water, say thanks and bye...and she never spoke English to me once. A good sign.

I don't believe the band and crew have landed here yet--I could be wrong but I have no "band sightings" to report, and I don't feel that stirring in "The Force" that tells me that they are in the building.

Tomorrow will be a day of sighting in Helsinki, and then bus or train to Kotka on the 29th. I'm particularly excited to hear "Hardcore Superstar"--another band who employs our own Johnny, the Twisted Sister lighting technician. Hard to believe that the Village People and Katy Perry are playing the night after Twisted Sister--another Spinal Tap moment, perhaps.

Can't wait to see y'all in Kotka

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Armadillo is on the Road! 
Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 03:10 PM
Posted by Administrator
Greetings my babies and welcome to my first live entry to the official blog from JFK Airport. The day began with my 7:00 AM drive to Baltimore-Washington International Airport--a trek I've made so many times now I no longer feel the tremendous anxiety when I hit the road.

The morning did have a slight hiccup--the ticket agent at Delta was absolutely determined to cheez my doodles and insisted that my carry-on bag was too big to fly. I demonstrated the compression strap features, and how my bag neatly fit into that ridiculous box that everyone ignored as they wheeled their monstrosities past me....including a guy with an acoustic guitar... He insisted that my netbook pouch (out of the bag for security) was constituting a 3rd bag, and it took three attempts at convincing him I was legit. In desperation, I grabbed another ticket agent to act as a neutral 3rd party, who said "What? he's fine! it fits...." and the trip has just begun, and already, ladies and gentlemen, we have our DOTD (Douchebag of the day--need you ask?)

In 2 hours I'll be Finland bound--I've already starting googling key Finnish phrases and I can now announce "I have a hovercraft full of eels." Just waiting for that conversational opportunity.

I'll be posting again from Helsinki....get ready my babies, because Kotka is just around the corner!

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Prinicipal Club Theatre, Thessaloniki Greece 7/13/11 
Wednesday, July 13, 2011, 11:09 PM
Posted by Administrator

Here now....to fulfill your appetite for useless details, trivial knowledge, descriptive nonsense and excessive use of elipses.....it can only be one thing:

Settle in with your Nescafe and baklava, it's time for the Armadillo Road Report: the official UNOfficial Twisted Sister concert review, Thessonaliki, Greece, July 13, 2011. Some big news to begin with. The Road Report is about to become the OFFICIAL Twisted Sister road report, and the new Armadillo Road Report archive will appear shortly right here on www.twistedsister.com Many thanks to Don the webmaster and Jay Jay for making this possible. As soon as I get back home, I will begin testing it and downloading the previous reports so that once the tour is over, some of the reunion shows can be archived on the website blog.

As many of you who follow current events know, headlines from Athens and Thessonaliki are headline world news, filled with disconcerting images of riot police, tear gas and violent protestors. For weeks leading up to this trip, I feared the band would cancel as a result and anxiously watched the news, biting my nails right up until the night before. Kudos to the promoters and management for keeping the show on the road.

That said, I'm typing this the morning after Thessonaliki....I'm back in Athens at the hotel where all of us stayed....and there is a riot police bus parked immediately outside the hotel, with a policeman sporting a rather menacing machine gun and riot gear. Of course, I'm such an SMF, my first thought was: DAMN! Animal would have LOVED to see this! There's a chemical mask, smoke goggles and directions to the U.S. Embassy packed in my luggage upstairs, so if need be.....I'm good to go. It will take more than tear gas to keep me from Twisted Sister.

There's an old cliche that says, loosely paraphrased, "life is not the destination but the journey itself." If that's the case, my life sucked pretty badly in Thessonaliki, While some of my travels go smooth as silk, yesterday was a complete clusterfuck. You know, one more contribution that the Greeks made to our society: the Greek tragedy, and my logistics in Thessaloniki were a tragedy of itself, a real comedy of errors.

After being treated to a wonderful breakfast with the crew and band (thank you Danny! it was Dee-lish!) I headed off to the Athens airport, bid the road crew a short fairwell, and headed off to check-in for my first hiccup of the trip. Now mind you, I've used the same toiletry configuration for more than 15 airports...and yet Athens determined that my small travel articles were not acceptable and my deodorant and toothpaste gel were subsquently and unceremoniusly confiscated. So my apologies to those who stood downwind of me.

Urosh and his friends graciously came to the airport to pick me up--however, due to a plane delay....my arrival was at the A concourse. Urosh was at B, apparently....and with my cell phone misbehaving....we missed one another.
Then came travel error #2....I completely forgot to change my hotel reservation when the band moved the venue. I figure--port city....how big can it be? The new club venue was by the airport. My hotel was so far away I thought I'd have to cross another border to get there. So a very cranky, fragrant Armadillo, almost 30 Euros lighter, finally arrives at the hotel which is when it occurred to me that I should have just gone straight to the club from the airport--because I was now going to have to cab it back from where I just came from.

A quick nap and a bowl of mushy pasta bolognese later, I give up on my attempt to locate the free shuttle from the center of Thessaloniki. Unlike Athens where the signage and most services were in English and Greek, Thessalonki was predominantly all in Greek. I get into a cab, and show the driver the location and printout from the Principal Club Theater. The rapid fire Greek told me that we were in trouble. I motion to the driver to stop and go into the hotel lobby to get directions. He did speak one word of English: "America?" he asks me....and my wariness alarms go up. "Canada" I tell him. I figure the Canadians haven't managed to piss off as many countries lately, and off we go on the 30 minute trek to the venue.

We drive the highway, and then he gets on his radio in the cab, presumably to get directions from his dispatcher--I heard the word "Principalis"--suddenly, the cab veers off an exit and we are on a country dirt road in the middle of nowhere, huge 5-foot weeds on both sides of the cab. We drive past what looked like a scrapyard and it dawns on me that I'm about to get rolled.
You might think that in what I perceived as my possible last moments on earth, I'd be thinking about my parents....or my cats....or see my life flashing before my eyes. Instead--I kid you not--my first thought: I can't die here now....I have five Twisted shows left!

I literally unbuckle my seat belt and place my hand on the doorhandle of the cab, looking for a good spot to bail, tuck and roll should the driver pull over and brandish a weapon. Then, just as I'm ready to hurl myself from the moving cab, we come to a clearing and there stands the Principal Club Theater. I must have audibly exhaled, because the driver patted my shoulder as I paid the fare, as if to say, "silly Canadian. I only kill the American tourists."

Urosh and his friends made the three hour trek across the border--they greeted me as I exited the cab and it felt like I was being welcomed by old friends! There was a pleasant breeze outside, so we stood near the club doors before the show.
The Principal Club Theatre is quite literally, in the middle of a field full of sharp weeds. It has a contemporary stucco alcove, connected to a wooden round barn-like structure that I kid you not, resembled a large sweat lodge. And in truth, that is EXACTLY what this place was--a giant sweat lodge. I was waiting for someone to pass the peyote. I am absolutely baffled how a place that hosts concerts in Greece would not have air-conditioning. Inside, the general admission area was not stepped (unfortunately) and had balconies with cocktail tables almost completely surrounding the stage. A very small stage with almost no barrier, and a security pit only about two feet deep.

I surveyed the crowd early on to get the vibe....and I told Urosh, I had a feeling it was going to be very intense. With the backstage area so small the road crew could barely fit, I had to find a spot where I would be safe. My Buenos Aires experience taught me to avoid the security pit, so I decided that what I really wanted tonight was to get the best listening experience possible, rather than spend my evening entrenched in someone's armpit in the front row, and so I opted to stand next to the sound board, all the way in the back. Terrible view--excellent sound. A trade-off.

The opening act--what to say, what to say. Oh boy. Well, it goes like this. While grabbing some fresh air with Danny and crew in the parking lot, I hear a perfectly played Whitesnake cover. I mean, it was SPOT ON. Then...a Deep Purple cover of "Perfect Strangers" that had me looking around for Ritchie Blackmore. Then Eleanor Rigby. (also my favorite Beatles song) Then a Pink Floyd cover. I had to get a closer look, so I crept onto the side of the stage, just in time to hear a cover of Dokken's "In My Dreams"--one of my favorites.

To my amazement--the opening band performed a vocal act so extraordinary, it rivaled the Gregorian Chanting monks, who can vibrate their cords to achieve a resonance in which they hit multiple notes simultaneously. Obviously, our opening act must have studied this art. Why, you ask? There was ONE microphone....and yet.....four part harmony. One guitar miraculously did the work of two. Divine miracle? HMMMMMMMmmmmmm. Only the mixing board knows for sure....... Entertaining? Yes. Crowd pleaser? Definitely. Impressed me? Not so much.

By the time the opening act was done, the venue was so remarkably packed full and the temperature was beyond sweltering. The club played some "Twisted Sister" over the speakers between the acts--a practice that I always considered to be bad mojo--in fact, I remember as a teenager, the rule was you could blast the past albums of the band you were going to see, but not the current tour album, as this was bad luck. George (soundman extraordinare) pulled the cord on that one, and put on some Ojeda/Dio instead.

I opted to go without ear plugs tonight, given I wasn't standing against the speakers like I usually do--and was amazed how remarkably noisy the crowd was. I mean, we're talking L-O-U-D. At 10:05 pm, the signal was given, and George popped in the "Long Way to the Top" CD, and what happened after that was nothing short of astonishing.

I thought the Buenos Aires crowd was the sickest I'd ever seen--but when the crowd singing the refrain of "Long Way" shook the fricken' rafters, I knew right then that I had made a wise choice of locations. A.J. Pero's silhouette appeared, his arms raised triumphantly, and the crowd noise now a growing crescendo of screaming. When Twisted hit the stage with the opening riffs of "What You Don't Know," the place went.....how do you say it? Ape shit? Unlike the previous night in Athens, tonight's playing was much more cohesive and tighter. Jay Jay just ripped it up on the opening number, his arms strumming furiously as Mark came out pounding his bass.

Dee had a wee difficulty pronouncing "Thessanoliki".... but the crowd certainly didn't care. He bellows "How the fuck are ya?!!!" and I swear to you, the entire place, almost in sing-song unison, "FIIII-INE". You've seen the setlist posted--It was identical to last night. They played 90 minutes in Athens--Thessaloniki set was a bit shorter, and "Shoot 'em Down" was cut from the set. "Captain Howdy" brought it on as well--that bass vibration was so strong, I could see my shirt moving each time he pounded on it.

After the opening riff of "You Can't Stop Rock n' Roll," the crowd surfing became so fast and furious, that all I could see at certain points in the show were all of these legs and sneakers flailing above the crowd. There were bottles flying... shirts and other articles of clothing being tossed into the air.... half-naked bodies (men.... and women....yes, topless rockin' women....oh how I love Greece...) and just a mass of sweating, flailing, screaming humanity.

Jay Jay spoke a little Greek to the crowd which was met with resounding cheers (obviously, his pronunciation must be a lot better than mine. I try to ask for a subway map in Greek and the guy looks at me like I've just asked him if his mother fornicates with goats) We get another French rant about American Idol, and this time, as he explains his beef with the idols, who obviously have not earned it to the top the long way:

"Oh, [imagine melodramatic woe-is-me-hand-to-forehead] I have been performing for 15 long weeks....oh my fans have been so supportive..." Jay Jay added such drama to it--perhaps a tribute to the ancient Greek theatre? Unlike the American crowds, who I find are often rude when Jay Jay and Dee are addressing them, this crowd hung onto every word.

By the time the boys launched into "We're Not Gonna Take It," Dee's hair was drenched in sweat, and not even the stage side fans could provide relief. The crowd was pulsating-- A strange analogy I know--but it reminded me of cardiac cells. If you take live heart muscle cells and view them under a microscope, you can actually see each cell beating independently of one another, each beating to its own rhythm. If you join the cells together, they will synchronize, and beat as one. Last night's crowd... beat as one. It was as though the crowd was this giant, organism--I'm sure the youtube videos must be up by now--you've got to see it to believe it. Eddie's solo--exquisite! And the trio of Jay, Eddie and Mark all aligned--they played as tight as I've ever heard them. Completely made up for last night's shortcomings in Athens. (consistent with what I've seen--the second show is almost always a bit better)

After it ended...Dee exclaimed, "Holy Fuck! You know, we played in Athens last night...." To my surprise, this remark provoked the loudest booing of the night, until Dee finished his sentence.... "But Thessaloniki is louder!" Then something caught Dee's attention, and he exclaimed "Hello ladies..." and I realized that we had some serious boobage down in front. Dammit. Why universe why? I spent hours in the front row stuck in someone's sweaty armpit, surrounded by sausage, and the ONE TIME I opt to go to the back with the sound board..... oh the Greek tragedy! Dee stopped at one point to say:
"Are you holding your top on or are you protecting your titties from being crushed? Yes? Gotta protect those titties!"

Even though the music stopped, the audience continued to sing "We're Not Gonna Take It' a cappella, prompting a "Fuck Yeah!" response from Jay. As so many of you on the slamboard have shared, it was Mark "Animal" Mendoza's birthday the night of the show, and Dee dedicated tonight's performance of "The Price" to Mark. Unlike the US audiences where cells phones and blackberries are more prominent, the venue filled with lighter flames. The smell of butane took me right back to 1986! Very nice, Thessaloniki, very nice.

During "Under the Blade" the mosh pit became a complete swirl of body parts and long hair. I later learned the concerned road crew, unaware that I was safe and sound with George, periodically looked into the pit, expecting to see me trampled in the sea of humanity, pleading like a drowning man clawing for a life preserver. The guitar work on "Under the Blade" was just scorching!

The crowd erupted into unison, staccato sing-song cheers of:
Ole Ole Ole
Ole Ole Ole
Ole Ole Ole
Twee-sted Seee-ster
I'm sure there's footage out there of this. Dee got the crowd to change the cheer from "Twisted Sister" to "Mark Men-doz-a" in honor of the birthday of the "heaviest fucking bionic bass player ever!" Dee dedicated "Burn In Hell" to Mark, and the crowd became so frenzied that the motion of those sick mutha fuckas moshing back and forth, I swear, it looked like the waves of the Aegean sea! I felt like I was on "Deadliest Catch"--watching actual waves of human movement--it was dizzying and mesmerizing at the same time.

During A.J.'s drum solo--there were strobes in each side of the kit. As he hit the different drums, the strobes on that side of the kit flashed--alternating right--left--right--left. Beautiful lighting work! It was as though the "sounds of thunder" were accompanying by lightning--the kit became a thunderhead ready to unleash the fury. As in South America, AJ included a little drum medley from popular metal riffs: anyone out there want to take a gander on youtube and try to name them? Makes for some fun trivia--I have the "answer" key....

"Whole Lotta Rosie" was a whole lotta better tonight--tighter, stronger and really brought the house down. Prompting a "That fucking rocked!" from Animal. Dee asked Jay: "Have we ever been here before?" Replied Jay Jay: "Never." Prompting from Dee: "WHY?!!! These mutha fuckas ROCK!"

Dee's mic stand was constantly hitting the stage floor, and the roadies were bolting back and forth like Wimbledon ball boys. (Oops--I think I may have just given roadie Wayne a new nickname.) I don't know whether it was the AC/DC or the heat, but the bras started flying again. [Damn you, height gods, damn you.] Dee then asked the crowd, the very Shakespearean:
"What do you want to do? To rock or to fuck?" I think you know what the answer was. Dee turned to the band, "See? People want to fuck more than they want to rock! Me too!" leading us to a very fast and funny rap a la "hey Dee, do ya wanna go to the show or fuck? Uhhhh,...fuck...go ahead and I'll meet ya there later...." and so we were treated to a rendition of "I Wanna Fuck."

Dee instructed the crowd that he wanted them to jump when they screamed "rock/fuck," and then looked towards the now topless ladies and those clinging to their tops, near the front and said, "Uh oh, that's gonna be a problem....."
The place absolutely ERUPTED. I could feel the floor shake....the sound board shake....the walls.....I prayed that the roof stayed up! As the band briefly paused before the encores, the crowd again began to chant rounds of Ole and the Warrior-taunting "come out and play....."

Eddie sounded particularly good on "Come Out and Play," and I realize it may be due, in part, to the special Brian May guitar. Dee actually paused, and pleaded with the crowd to calm down just a bit because the women up front were getting absolutely crushed, and he gave props to the Security guys. I've never seen this before--the security guards were not only decked in Twisted Sister regalia, they were leading the crowd cheers and rocking out! They not only took great care to make sure the surfers/stage divers didn't hurt themselves on the edge of the stage, but they tossed them back into the crowd with equal fervor.

Dee did the usual band member intros--with Mark playing "Shave and a haircut" on the bass. Every year that they've been on the reunion tour, Animal ends up playing on his birthday, and to quote M.A.M. he "wouldn't have it any other way!" Eddie gave a little "Animal" theme music and encouraged the crowd cheers of "An-ni-mal! An-ni-mal!"
Eddie's introduction was unfortunately, for him, downwind of Dee's unceremonious Souvlaki burp...but M.A.M.s "Eddie" theme music made up for it! Well, I say that from the back. Eddie looked like he was turning a bit green--that must have been some Souvlaki!

Jay introduced Mark, and gave him a big hug as the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Animal, and after an incredibly frenzied version of S.M.F. the house lights came on, and the half-naked, sweat covered crowd slowly dispersed. I'm sorry Buenos Aires, but I think you've been bested! That show was one for the history books!

I later retreated for some birthday cake and a special (and very touching) toast to Mark. We sat out on the patio and it was a night/early morning full of jokes, stories and reminscence. Jay Jay asked me: "So what are you going to do when this all ends?" Other than work on the book I've started, I truly don't know. While it may feel like a well-earned retirement for the band, I anticipate that I will experience a true sense of loss. These men are family to me--I feel closer to them than I do to any of my estranged relatives.

The Greek experience did not disappoint--tip of the hat to Urosh (Macedonian SMF on the board) and his very kind friends. Hoping you all made it across the border and home safely.

Thank you again to everyone in the band for your special tribute--and especially Danny Stanton--and Keith, Dwayne, George, Mehtis, Jonnie, Marty, Rikk, Steve--the hardest working men in rock and roll who help deliver the goods for the hardest playing band in rock and roll. I salute you all...and thank you for your generosity, hospitality and making me feel like a part of your crew.

A side note to AJ--I returned back to the hotel in Athens this morning, and was greeted with "Welcome back Mr. Pero!" That's twice now that's happened. Perhaps we ARE brothers from different mothers.....

And that, my sick babies....concludes this edition of the Armadillo Road Report. Keep tuned to the website--the new Armadillo Road Report blog is coming soon!

This is Armadillo....trotting off to finally sleep for more than two hours...and then brush up on some Finnish....
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Above & Beyond; Athens Greece 7/12/11 
Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 11:06 PM
Posted by Administrator
Oh my babies....
It is that special time once again for the incoherent babble you know in your deepest desires you secretly long to read...it can only be: the often replicated, always dedicated and occasionally constipated...yes...it's The Armadillo Road Report: The Official UNOfficial Twisted Sister concert review, Athens Greece.

Allow me to first indulge myself: I have finally, at long last, invested in a netbook so that I can bring these reports to you faster and more efficiently. The added benefit I've learned, is that I can type this by candlelighted lantern while sitting next to a rooftop pool, sipping on some of the richest coffee, The Partenon illuminated at night in it's glory, a bright moon just off to the side. There is a spectacular rosy glow of a now past sunset behind the mountains to my right, and Twisted Sister & crew dining to my left. Let's just say that the bar has been raised quite high for Finland now.

Even a Jew-turned-Agnostic like myself cannot deny that to see the Acropolis glowing on the plateau high above the city fills one with a sense of spiritual wonder, and somehow I can picture the Greek gods in their flowing white robes atop Mount Olympus, watching the ancient people below. It is a sight beyond spectacular.

I spent another day trodding about town, devouring all of the delicacies I could stuff in my spanokopita pie hole. Today's travel took me back through the ancient markets of Plaka and yet a second look at ancient Angora, where an adjacent and excruciatingly patient crew of archeologists dig for hours on end, unearthing a wall that dates back thousands of years.

The Greek people have been gracious and very accommodating, especially as I struggle with the basic pleasantries of their wonderful language--today I managed to order my gyro, get a cup of coffee with milk, and find the loo--so overall, I've got the basics I need to survive. One trend that I've noticed is the sense not only of national pride--but a pride in the crucial history that thrives here. The locals are eager to share with me what is "really Greek"--which I've learned, is when you ask them for what's the best place to go, tastiest food to order, etc. the answer is always--"Go there...eat this...it's Greek!" They have yet to steer me wrong. While I did not find the incredible religious fervor that Brazil had for heavy metal, there is definitely a strong undercurrent of headbangers here in Athens, and I've found quite a few shops that could easily be a portal into the 1985 time machine.

There were a few stressful moments not knowing exactly where Twisted was playing--Iera Odos is an incredibly long street filled with nightclubs--so without an exact address, I would have never found the non-descript but surprisingly classy "Above & Beyond" nightclub. Iera Odos, I have since learned, was/is an ancient street in Athens that translates roughly to mean "Divine Street." It's safe to say the street is no longer divine--given I was offered some divinity for just 20 Euros by a local prostitute, (I decline, of course.) but the front doors of the club provided another spectacular sun-drenched view of the Parthenon, so as least we could see divinity from where we stood.

I joined our illustrious road crew for libations and was treated to yet another hidden talent of Mr. French--sideshow magic! Even after he revealed his card secrets, it was still an impressive party trick. We may have to wait awhile for the famous "saw-a-roadie-in-half-trick" but I'm sure once he perfects it, we'll no longer need a warm-up band.

SMF Marty and his family arrived, only to have a few troubles with a rental car, preventing us from breaking bread together. With the first show now less than 24 hrs away, the SMFs were starting to come out all over town as the local television station continued to run Twisted commercials every hour on the hour. Given the local economic situation in Greece and the competition from Roger Waters "The Wall" on the same night, I salute all of the Greek SMFs who braved the heat to attend.

Show day arrived, and after three hours of sleep and a quick breakfast at a local cafe , it was off the venue with the road crew. I continue to be impressed with the management talents our of own Danny Stanton, who manages to stay cool and collected regardless of what's happening (or not happening) around him. The band travels light, which means that they never really know exactly what equipment they'll be working with...and subsequently dealing with later...until game day. And once again--All hail the road crew! Most of them have been awake for days already, sleep deprived from the 9 hour mininum flight and yet the moment they step into the club, it's all business.

It reminded me of how my fellow first responders handle an emergency scene-- true teamwork, each with a job to do. A quick greeting hello, a handshake, followed by a rapid briefing and then they each paired off with their Greek counterpart to see what equipment they'll be using, what the club capabilities are, etc. It was a real treat for me to watch the first sound check--especially to see the road crew perform "Shoot "Em Down" with Danny singing lead vocals. I found myself nodding off a few times throughout the afternoon (admittedly, as I am now....) but I was so enthralled with the beehive of activity, I desperately wanted to stay awake and take it all in.

At the same time, the club staff were busy polishing the floors, scrubbing the bathrooms, neatly stacking perfectly symmetrical rows of beer and prepping the box office. The club reminded me of Via Funchal in Sao Paolo. Medium sized club--not too cramped but just small enough to give the back row "butts-to-the-wall" seats a decent and intimate view. A large reception area with a hallway tastefully backlit in a pink glow, the restrooms were also lit--blue for boys, pink for girls--although I always consider a Twisted Sister show to be like it's St. Patty's Day--today... we're all pink. [Side travel note: one of those little quirky things I've noticed about international travel--toilets vary greatly country to country. And although I appreciated the marble floors and glass (yes, glass) doors on the stalls, each had it's own light with motion detector, on a 5 second timer. I had to keep waving my arms above my head like I was bringing in an aircraft just to keep the light on above me!}

Ah. I digress. The club: Simple interior with "stepped" general admission areas, with a large balcony, the front of which contained "cocktail tables" and chairs for the VIP seating. This was a bit unfortunate--those who paid for a VIP ticket at the older location did so in order to be in the front section. To then place them a considerable distance away from the stage didn't seem right. Thus, the majority of the VIP cocktail seating remained empty almost the entire night. A nice bar to left with the popular Mythos beer on tap and two comfy very European- looking black leather high-backed couches to the right. Just little working A/C on the floor itself.

The numerous soundchecks were fascinating to listen and observe--the band and crew are perfectionists, and they continuously and tirelessly worked on the sound until they were all pleased. I never realized how complicated the process is--certainly not as simple as plug in and play. Each member of the road crew must know their instruments and devices inside and out, and I was struck by the care with which they handled the guitars . Additionally, the entire setup is done methodically and with the utmost of diligence. Even the assembly of the infamous pink microphone stand took time to properly fasten and tape. As fans, we often take these details for granted--that the stand will always be in one piece, the mics will work, the band won't trip on the rugs, etc. Danny gave the order to "Pink it up!" and to my delight, I was invited to assist the road crew in decorating the amps with hot pink gaffer tape--it really gave the set a polished but beautiful simplicity, and call me a cheap date, but I was just delighted and giddy to assist!

Then Danny gave me a quick tour of the place--including the "fan forbidden zone"--the dressing rooms. Quite tastefully minimal, which appealed to my zen sensibilities with the exception of the hideous green shag that adorned Dee's dressing room. With 3:00 PM rolling around and the crew still at work, I plopped into one of the leather couches, thinking I coudl catch a few moments of sleep. Until they tuned Animal's bass, which vibrated my seat so much I thought I was going to have to put a quarter in the side when it stopped. Finally, a quick dinner for band and entourage, and then immediately back out the door. We returned to the club where I finally had the opportunity to meet SMF Patrick from Austria and SMF Marty (Scotland), along with his wife and kids. A true delight in every case--I only wish I had more time to spend to chat.

The single opener was a band called "Out Loud" which featured vocalist Chandler Mogel (Talon), Bob Katsionis (Firewind) on guitars and keyboards, Mark Cross (Firewind, Helloween, Kingdom Come) on drums, Tony Kash on guitars and Jason Mercury on bass. (thanks to Leah's Rock Report blog for the info). Check out their website at: myspace.com/outloudtheband

They were very good--entertaining and musically solid. Unfortunately, there was hardly ANYONE in the club to hear them. Where was everyone? Operating on island time? Pity. They missed out on a decent band--we even had a rare treat for an opener--a bass solo. Check them out!

The lead singer was a bit seemingly goofy for a front man, but modest, and he gets my award for Mr. Congeniality for the quote: "You guys are the music, we're just the band."

Twisted took the stage at 9:35 PM. The place had finally filled up with fans, and that's when I realized that the American personal space guidelines do not translate in Europe. Not only were we packed into the front like sardines, but after one number, fans were throwing their arms around me, jumping on me, making sure I was enjoying every moment. It took a song or two to get over it and relax, and it made a hot, sweaty room even more hot and sweaty, but then again.... I had a lot of Moussaka to burn off.

You've seen the setlist by now--Jay Jay played a smoke colored Les Paul--Eddie was playing an iridescent purple bullseye--I beleve it was a Fender. Even though I was front-row between Eddie and Jay Jay, the photographers were like British paparazzi. One blocked our view just as Jay went to play the solo--I gave the unsuspecting photo journalist "bunny ears"--I figure Jay Jay was entertaining us, the least I could do was entertain Jay Jay. I was equally amused by the t-shirt he sported: I REALLY don't LIKE YOUR shitty BAND. [The words "don't" and "shitty" in very small print....sorry...doesn't seem to translate as well... it's a visual gag]

Let's talk about the music for just a moment. I'm going to give a disclaimer here--I LOVED the Athens show. I had a great time and thought it really kicked ass--but musically and visually, it was simply not their best performance. Did the crowd love it? You betcha. It was the happiest (and sweatiest) crowd I've ever seen, and they did not go home disappointed. The fans absolutely enjoyed every single moment. I won't recap what the shortcomings were, but the music itself got a little bit sloppy at times.

Captain Howdy was a crowd pleaser--Eddie switched to his signature bullseye--Jay Jay played his tobacco starbust Les Paul. Jay Jay addressed the crowd on his American Idol views--punctuated with "THIS is what 35 years of support looks ike, muthafucka!"

"You Can't Stop Rock and Roll" was one of my favorites of the night--filled with intensity, and I was surprised but pleased to hear "The Fire Still Burns" again. The fire was definitely burning in the club, because it must have been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit inside at this point. I swear, the bass was so thunderous, I think it cleared up a kidney stone. "Under The Blade" had a certain raw edge (intentional or not) that was reminiscent of the original release.

And then....something completely unexpected.
Dee and the band gave me a very unexpected (and public) special moment--and like the big marshmallow I am, I cried the entire way through "The Price." It was just over the top, and I can't say enough times how much I love this band, the crew, the management...and everything they do for me. It was almost too much--and it made the whole trip worthwhile.

"We're Not Gonna Take It" drove the already frenzied crowd wild--Dee even gave the security guard a high five. And this crowd, like so many of the overseas counterparts, loved to sing the guitar solo. It was an appreciated gesture, but the only problem? It drowns out the ACTUAL guitar solo so I don't get to hear the "heavy metal jazz" that makes live shows so unique.

The crowd was so into it, that Dee had them sing "We're Not Gonna Take It" a cappella...followed by the Snider attempt at Greek dancing. It was almost as good as my command of the Greek language....followed by Dee's remark: "How do those old fuckers do this and keep from falling down???"

"Shoot 'Em Down" was another crowd fave. I swear to you, I don't know what they make those basses out of, but I always think it's going to just snap in half from the force that Animal exerts on it, pounding on the neck and strings.
"Burn In Hell" gave me my second favorite moment of the night--Eddie and Animal dueling guitars. Not just solos. I mean, dueling guitars. Literally. Nothing personally, Eddie, but my money is on Animal on this one. By this time in the evening, the club was so hot and humid I was starting to think we WERE burning in hell. Although, if this were hell, it seemed like heaven to me and the thousand or so sweltering fans would likely agree with me.

"Whole Lotta Rosie" had a whole lotta woes'ies, but you know what? The crowd ate it up and absolutely loved it. Regardless, I love hearing Twisted do covers, so the more the merrier! Dee provided his commentary.... in the form of a rather baritone belch...which he promptly blamed on the souvlaki.

And what road report would be complete without our "Douchebag of the Night" award? There was only one....shit, isn't there always ONE? He threw a beer that narrowly missed Jay Jay and landed just behind Dee. The second beer soaked Marty pretty good--we were grateful it was at least beer, and not the by-products of such.

Next we rounded the corner towards the end of the show with "I Wanna Rock." As SMF Funtazia Dave reported on the UK shows, the words were changed to "I Wanna Fuck!" and I swear as I live and breathe....panties went flying! Interestingly enough, they were not to be found AFTER the show so someone went home with free souvenirs. [For the record, they aren't in my luggage.]

Eddie then sported a custom two-of-a-kind in existence, beautiful black Brian May guitar. It sounded very good--but tomorrow I'm going to play closer attention in Thessaloniki so that I can hear the true difference.

The crowd starting chanting, in a truly charming Greek accent, for Twisted Sister to Come Out and Play, and when they did....the place went insane. For the last number "S.M.F"., Mark demonstrated his knot tying skills with the microphone stand. [uh, Mr. Mendoza? You know that was a rental, right? Just charge it my room number.] The crowd noise was deafening, and in an instant, the lights went up and it was the oh-too-familiar "Day of the Rocker" shuffle as fans scoured the floor for picks. The place was absolute concert carnage, but the fans all left with smiles.

Many thanks to the warm, friendly and passionate people of Athens--with only 15 tour dates this year, Athens proved why they were worthy to have one of them.

Then afterward....another post-show poolside pow-wow....as yours truly sits here under the moonlight listening to road stories that I can't ever repeat. This night was extraordinary for me--and I feel so blessed to be with my Twisted family. There is nowhere else I would rather be right now.

And with that, it's time to catch an hour or two of rest before I catch my plane to Thessaloniki...
this is Armadillo....trotting off to dream of baklava and boarding passes...

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Pinkburst Auction 5/1/11 
Sunday, May 1, 2011, 11:12 PM
Posted by Administrator
And now for Pinkburst Project Part II....The Auction itself, Boston MA, May 1, 2011.

I learned of the Pinkburst Project (and brought it to you first!) in a hotel bar in Buenos Aires--oh gawd, that sounds so internationally sophisticated--for those who don't know me at all, just know that flying to South America alone for me was the fear factor equivalent of eating a giant spider sandwich while public speaking naked in front of a stadium full of circus clowns ten thousand feet in the air. [oh please no clowns....I fucking hate clowns....]

I digress.

When Jay Jay first mesmerized me with the story of each guitar....and then each amp....how he relentlessly pursued the guitar makers, and then managed to get them to fall like dominoes, one after the other....and with each story, he produced a photo on his iPhone. I knew by the third guitar, that this event was going to be significant and extraordinary, and I told him, right then and there--just say when, and I'm booking a ticket! I had no idea how personal this event would be, and how truly emotional it would get.

The morning after the NYC show, Dave (Funtazia) and I wolfed down the cheesecake for breakfast--truly a decadent rock-star inspired act--grabbed a cup of coffee at Penn station, and boarded the train bound for Boston. The four hour train ride was quite scenic at parts, and I did get a bit reminiscent as we rode past Providence, my old college stomping grounds. Dave and I managed to fill four hours of conversation leisurely, and I truly do find the train to be one of the more enjoyable ways to see the country.

We arrived in Boston on time around 2:00pm, and headed out on foot n' wheels to the hotel, which was approximately a mile or less away through Boston's Chinatown. We were about to unknowingly pass by one of my biggest weaknesses--dim sum--and Dave willingly indulged me in a quick stop for some plates of steamed dumplings. We stayed at the Boston Park Plaza, which delightfully, was literally across the street from the Skinner Auctioneers headquarters. Compared to the cramped and aging quarters at the Herald in NYC, the historic hotel at Boston Park was elegantly restored and fully wheelchair accessible. They offered us a wheelchair accessible room upon check-in (I wasn't able to procure one online) and the accommodations were lavishly enjoyable.

Dave suggested we attend the auction viewing--it was only open for another hour--so we strolled and rolled twenty paces to the Skinner front door and were amazed as we entered the second floor where the auction items were all on display. The first room was quite non-descript-- simply an open room with a few plain tables, displaying violins, bows and classical guitars. (including a Les Paul from the 60's). We walked into the second room, and I swear to you, we both let out an audible gasp. To see all 13 guitars and amps--the guitars all displayed in a row, with beautiful, thoughtful museum spotlighting--it was nothing short of art. It almost seemed as though the guitars themselves were emanating a glow from within, and we both simply stood before this spectacle. I could feel my eyes welling.

As if it couldn't get any more surreal, I turn around only to be greeted by David Bonsey, Skinner's Musical Instrument expert--if any of you have ever watched Antiques Roadshow, then you know that David Bonsey is an expert's expert when it comes to music and musical accoutrement. My first instinct was that we were about to unceremoniously be asked to leave--and instead, he extended a warm welcome and took time to chat with us about the auction and the instruments. We both thanked him for Skinner's involvement and shared with him stories of our journey and our connection to Pinkburst. He extended an invitation to us to return later that evening for a private reception as his guests, and we both nervously accepted.

Neither Dave or myself had ever counted on such fortune, and the two of us both packed as minimalists do--we hardly had attire appropriate for a cocktail reception. Nevertheless, Dave calmed my nerves, and we both donned our Pinkburst Project matching tee-shirts, and returned later that evening to meet Jay Jay and his potential bidders. A fascinating mix of guest (rock industry and otherwise), and I was delighted to see our own Don the Webmaster there. He cleans up quite well--and I didn't recognize him--in my defense, every time I see Don, I'm looking at the back of his head as he takes photos. Jay Jay was wearing shoes embroidered with pinkburst guitars, that I swear, if he markets those suckers, he'll make enough to fund research for the next decade--they were the hit of the night.

Dr. Foster, Jay Jay and Samantha each said a few words to the assembled--Dr. Foster in particular, shared his thoughts on his very first heavy metal concert experience-- describing the "prancing and posturing" which amused us to no end! I had a chance to share with Dr. Foster that not only does my grandmother have Uveitis, but my employee that I recently hired does as well--and I got a fascinating look into the history of Uveitis treatment, and what my own grandmother must have endured. He in turn, shared with me, that he was impressed with Twisted Sister, and that Dee Snider must surely be the best frontman in the business. 9 out of 10 doctors agree, what else can I say?

It was hard to leave the reception, knowing that this would be the last time any of us would ever see all of these magical, glorious pieces in the same room at the same time. We took in one last took--snapped plenty of photos--grabbed a late night snack--and collapsed while dreaming of pink guitars jumping over a pastoral fence. In true form, we arrived the next morning early, and watched the staff setup for the auction. It was hard to believe that they were handling violins hundreds of years old with the ease and comfort as you and I would move an ordinary object. The Skinner Auctioneers were a smooth and oiled precision operation, and the auction began almost to the second.

Unfortunately, I did not read the fine print ahead of time. Silly me--I assumed that auction houses that get tens of thousands of dollars for an item will accept a credit card. It was actually the only form of currency they would not accept. They did, however, allow me to bid under the premise that I would wire directly the funds from my bank, on Monday morning. Knowing my paycheck was deposited already, I had a very clear amount that I knew to stay within, but with 6% sales tax and an 18% house fee, I knew that my chances of coming home with a guitar were limited. I was outbid every time. Alas. Not in the stars for me.

Jay Jay, complete with Salmon dinner jacket, said a few words to those assembled--explaining the project's significance and the charity that will receive the profits. Personally, Dave and I found Jay Jay's remarks incredibly amusing and sharp....however....this was not a "rock" crowd. They were a bit, well, crusty and sour, with a lack of humor and a love of violins. Jay Jay's tongue-in-cheek remarks about "every month there's a 400 year old violin available for you to bid on--these guitars are a one time opportunity only!" Well....let's just say that it was the auction equivalent of a fart in church. Matched only by Jay Jay's "Buy these guitars or I'll go home and shoot my dog!" We heard a few of them grumbling about how they had to "sit through" what they deemed a distraction and time waster--time waster? It was for CHARITY for chrissake! lighten up! sheesh. I mean, really? How can you NOT laugh at comments like "we're middle-aged transvestites working 15 days a year..."

I swear, had I the means, I would have bought the whole lot for that comment alone.

I will list below what each item went for--my wish would have been for each guitar to fetch about $10K a piece, so it was hard to see these beautiful works of art go out the door for less---especially when said violin sold at approximately $86,000. Couldn't that cranky fellow have just bid $10K and given it as a Christmas gift? Surely he must know a rock fan somewhere!

The winning bids:
1. Gibson Les Paul $7,000
2. Gibson, S.G. $2,800
3. Gibson, ES-335 $3,000
4. Gibson, Bozeman $1,900
5. Fender Strat. $2,900
6. Fender, Telecast. $3,750
7. Fender, Jazz Bass $2,500
8. Gretsch $5,500 (sigh. this one was SO lovely!)
9. Epiphone, Les Paul $2,900 Jay Jay's true baby--his actual tour guitar.
10. Thunderbird Bass $1,900
11. Paul Reed Smith $5,600
12. Ruokongas $4,000 (must admit--this one shocked me!)
13. CF Martin Nazareth $4,100
14. Marshall 1/2 stack $3,750
15. Marshall JCM 800 $4,750
16. Marshall Bluesbreaker $4,500
17. Orange $3,000
18. Fender, Twin Reverb $2,000
19. Fender, Dlx Reverb $2,000
20. Fender-Bassman $800
21. Mesa. Dual $2,000
22. Vox AC-30 $2,000
23. Vox AC-15 $1,000
24. Diamond $1,300
25. Hartke $850

And with that...it ended as quickly as it began. Dave and I both exhaled. It was over, and we watched the thrilled bidders collect their guitars after a photo op and signing with Jay Jay--and the guitars were off to the various corners of the country. Three and half years in the making, and it was done in an hour.
In the end, more than $100,000 was raised over two nights for Dr. Foster's foundation for Uveitis and Ocular Immunology Research, and that is what it was truly all about. Jay Jay and Samantha should be commended for all of their tireless efforts and proof that one person can truly make a difference.

Dave and I finished our afternoon with some vietnamese food....I stopped at the Chinese bakery on my walk to the underground busline to the airport, and a few hours later I was on a plane headed back to Baltimore, trying to process all of the sights and sounds of the weekend.

To all of the bidders and donors and all those who did the actual work--thank you for the support of this special project. I'm sure this is just the beginning, and not an end in the very least.

And with that, I conclude...and shall see you all in Greece, my babies!
trotting off, this your faithful road reporter

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