Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion: Sandy Benefit, 5/11/13, Freehold NJ 
Monday, May 13, 2013, 01:24 AM
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[this New Jersey edition of the Armadillo Road Report is dedicated in loving memory to Pat "Godfather" Egan, a.k.a. SMF Saber. We love and miss you, brother Saber!]

Did you feel it, my babies?

I felt it. We all felt it.

Last night, the Encore Event Center in Freehold, New Jersey just plain made the earth move with seven hours of hard rocking heavy metal--all for a very important cause--the ongoing recovery of the New Jersey and New York residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Twisted Sister absolutely dominated last night, delivering 40-minutes, 8-songs of thunderous, mind-blowing club rocking heavy metal goodness, all the while raising money that will go directly into Home Depot gift cards destined for residents who desperately need the help.

That's right, my babies. It's time.
Time to tell you all about what happened last night in Jersey. There were bands delivering thrills...rockers taking spills.....raffles and rain....Raven and Rods....double-takes and metal cakes! Time for the most verbose blog in rock n' roll. That's right, it's....

The Armadillo Road Report--the Official Twisted Sister Concert Review for the Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion, Benefit for Hurricane Sandy at the Encore Event Center, Freehold, New Jersey, May 11, 2013. It was a LONG night and this is gonna be a LONG report. So get yourself a cold beverage and a snack.

And so the day began with a late morning rainy drive from Baltimore, up 95 North and the New Jersey Turnpike. I was so excited to get to the show that I didn't even stop at the 4 Cracker Barrels on the way (this is a big deal, trust me. I will gladly drive an hour to get hash brown casserole) and made my way into lovely, quaint Freehold, New Jersey. The Main Street has that small-town feel--complete with a beautiful little fire station, town hall, family-owned restaurants and pubs (Shout out to Sweet Lew's Cafe! Damn good eats!) and a beautiful, top notch suite at the American Hotel.

As a birthday present to myself (and an excuse to raise some money for charity) I purchased a VIP ticket, which was promoted to provide a VIP "lounge," early entry, meet n' greet, souvenir laminate, t-shirt and they even provided some free event posters to those who didn't have anything available to be signed. There was a slight snafu--the event facebook page indicated that VIP holders were being granted admission at 4:30 PM....which was off by about 90 minutes. That's not awful, except that while congregating in line outside, the heavens opened up and as they say, "apres moi, le deluge!" We learned what V.I.P actually stands for..... "Vell....It's Pouring!"

The venue felt sorry for the soggy lot standing outside and let us in an hour early, and so after drying off at 5:30pm, I opted to go straight to the front row to stake my claim in some prime real estate while my SMF counterparts from the slamboard made their way through the orderly line of the meet n' greet, emerging victorious with wide smiles and posters filled with autographs. Our hardy traveler from Australia, SMF Mark, once again braved the 20-hour flight and proved that SMFs will stop at nothing to rock out. He even came bearing gifts--
I'm now the proud owner of an authentic kangaroo scrotum. Nothing says love and friendship like marsupial balls. (Thanks again, mate! Truly an honor to have you with us.)

The Encore Event Center is just that--a large venue with huge, open ball rooms with a modestly small stage just about the right size for...oh, a bar mitzvah band...maybe a wedding singer. Two nice screens stage right and left, two ample bars on both sides of the ball room, a huge backstage area (too huge, really. they need some seg-ways or something), coat check and a concentrated but powerful light rigging. The screens showed images from "back in the day" all night--we saw some incredible old photos of Dee, Metallica, Dave Mustaine--many, many more who paved the way.

The slamboard Twisted family was there en force... SMF Cyndi, MetalNY, Aussie Mark, SMF Big Mike, original front row gal SMF Kathy, Metal Mad Lady, SMFforever Mitch, Amuz3D2deth, and hundreds upon hundreds of excited music fans and the ever talented Twisted crew was in the house-- I could not think of a better group of people to celebrate my birthday with!

It was a celebratory reunion of many of the Old Bridge Metal Militia folks-- people who have supported the playing of heavy metal music since it's inception. This event brought together reunions of the Rods, Raven, TT Quick, Anvil with appearances my Lords of Mercy and of course, our boys in black and pink. And what could say reunion better than.... cake! That's right, babies...we had a cake. A spectacular Twisted Sister cake celebrating 30 years of "You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll"--courtesy of Rocky Candy Cakes (Ramona, you are a GENIUS!)
So let's get to the music, shall we?

Lords of Mercy took the stage first--and I'll just mention here, that they, like ALL the bands and crew last night--donated their time. No one was paid to play--it was all about raising money for charity. One of the challenges of being in the front row--you have to sometimes sacrifice good sound for a good view. I didn't have much of either for the LOM set. There were so many photographers in the pit that I had to strain to see anything happening onstage--and there were some sound issues in the front. I can't speak for the back/sound board, but for LOM, we had almost ALL rhythm section, and hardly anything else. I could see the lead singer's lips moving, but it was all bass and kick, all the time. They did give us a good closer number--"Walkin' a Thin Line" and we had a twenty-minute pounding set.

Special shout out here to a new SMF in the crowd--Daniel--(if his mom emails me permission, I'll print his last name) an up and coming rock star perhaps in the making--just 15 years old and a talented drummer-- he is already touring with some top names in the industry (Cheap Trick members, just to name one) with the full support of his family. (Go Mom! Rock on!) He plays with two bands...Tres Hombres and Suicide Playground...which he described to me as playing "Beatles to Rage Against The Machine." Hmmmm. Well....we've seen how hard "Eleanor Rigby" can rock. I'm game. And another Twisted first? This young, confident fellow made me a job offer-- whaddya know! My first roadie job offer. We didn't discuss salary, health benefits, retirement, pension so I didn't exactly give notice at work yet, but hey....every rock star had to start somewhere right? Who knows. I may change careers.

[Speaking of moms, happy mother's day here in the States! Or in this case...happy MUTHAS day....or shall I say, Happy SickMUTHAs day! ]

The Rods were up next, and once again, I couldn't give a fair review because the bass almost killed us...and not in the good way. Animal once told me that there are certain low frequencies that when played at high volume, can induce cardiac arrythmias and bowel evacuation. In layman's terms-- too much bass can give you a heart attack and make you shit your pants. I think I had an atrial flutter--we had so much bass coming at us that it was like CPR with 200 chest compressions per minute.

In any case, The Rods were a hard-rocking trio, that cranked out some tunes that inspired me to scrawl into my notebook "bassline reminds me of Dio." Turns out, that's no accident--one of The Rods is the late Ronnie James Dio's first cousin. The bass player was rocking out hard--and it's great to see rockers this age (believe me, they aren't spring chickens) jumping around and doing guitar spins--until the bass player tripped over a mic and landed flat on his ass! A true professional--he didn't miss a single note--bounced back up (thankfully not hurt!) and mouthed the words "I'm old!" to his road crew. I feel ya, bro.

Members of the original Old Bridge Metal Militia took the stage and asked those present to remember all of the musicians, crew, producers and supporters--they read the names of many of our metal brothers and sisters who have left us too soon. A lot of hard working folks made it all happen in an area rich in heavy metal tradition--thank to everyone of the Old Bridge Metal Militia!

Next on the bill was the much anticipated return of Raven. I've seen bands easily half their age who didn't come close to their level of energy! Another trio, decked heavy in leather and armored shin guards--take note, kids: Old farts can still rock hard. Once again, our front row spot denied us good sound, and we took in entirely too much bass and kick drum, but after a few songs, they smoothed out the kinks and we were able to hear some decent shredding and vocals.

They did this kinda weird guitar solo thing...it looked like two guitars doing a mating ritual...I don't what that gives us (ukuleles? baby banjos?) They announced their new DVD out in June called "Rock Until You Drop" and we were treated to a song of that same name that absolutely rocked the house. (and any more bass, and I swear, I'm gonna need a cork...) I didn't care for the lighting--the LED rotating cans shone right in our eyes--it was distracting as hell, but when I caught a glance on the side screens, the color choices worked well.

The crowd was singing loud and showing some well-deserved love to this bad-ass trio. The real shame? They began their last song and had the plug unceremoniously pulled by the event manager. The crowd was screaming for an encore, they had already played the opening riff and boom. Show stops. Off they go. Seriously? The crowd responded with some serious "boo's" and chanted "RAVEN" long after they had hit the dressing room.

THEN....FINALLY! About 10:30 PM....."Long Way to the Top" blared through the speakers. Tonight, the words of "Long Way.." seemed to just be so appropriate. When you look at the all of the rockers playing this evening, the history of Old Bridge Metal Militia, and the Twisted Sister story, every line of that song just rings true to the heart.

You've seen the setlist--and I'll mention here that the sound was OUTSTANDING. Perfectly balanced...just the right amount of everything with the perfect vocal level. And while I'm at it, the lighting job was flawless. ( and unlike the previous sets, we didn't get blinded by back spots) They opened with a ballbusting rendition of "What You Don't Know" (old school opener!) you would have never imagined that this was just a 40-minute charity set. They played with the intensity as if they were headlining Graspop.

"The Kids Are Back" gave us some bass--but not the CPR-can't-feel-my-intestine-emptying-bass--it was an absolutely exquisite, fancy little bass tag line--we're talking heavy metal jazz here. Check it out on youtube and pay really close attention to the closing bass work--just phenomenal. Dee zipped by and did a microphone grab at 100 mph--on a stage so small I'm just relieved he was able to stop on a dime, stage-right--otherwise, he might have ended up on the coat room....or the bar mitzvah next door.

"You Can't Stop Rock N' Roll" now celebrating it's 30-year anniversary--the crowd screamed out the refrain, fueling a fantastic Jay Jay solo as he leaned up against Dee, back to back. Dee kept the raps to a minimum, given the very short set. He gave due respect to those Jersey Strong...and as only Dee could put it, "Twisted Sister lived in Jersey, played in Jersey, fucked in Jersey..... We gotta give back, y'know?" He reminded us all that while the media has focuses elsewhere, there are still thousands of people still struggling to cope with the aftermath, who need our help.

In tribute to the Old School SMFs, they launched into "Destroyer." and Dee didn't need to tell us to use our hands--we brought 'em together for a thunderous version complete with bass that blew us away, Dee banging his head in the background, and a blistering Jay Jay solo. [is he wearing a paisley scarf? tres chic!]

Even those who don't know Twisted music were excited to hear that familiar cowbell on "We're Not Gonna Take It"--the crowd responded in kind, with a blast of energy. You know, it's not easy up at the front row--any of those front row gals from 'back in the day" will tell you. You have to stand your ground, defend your spot that latecomers attempt to squeeze you out of, you endure pushing and prodding, crushing and shoving. And if you're short? It means a lot of elbows to the back of the head and the occasion blow to the face. Yeah. I came home with quite a few lumps and bruises from last night, but it's all in the name of rock n' roll, my babies. No hard feelings there.

Even Jay Jay kept it brief--reminding us that tonight was an "old school night"...that "tonight is the night...this is what the history of Twisted Sister in Jersey is all about." And to celebrate that...one of Jersey's native metal sons, Snake Sabo from Sebastian Bach's band--joined Twisted onstage to play the next song. In spite of some health issues, he still made the trek to the venue tonight in the name of charity. Let me tell you, if you think "Under the Blade" is heavy with 3 guitars--holy crap, you should hear it with four! It was smashmouth heavy metal, the way it's supposed to be played. Your front row slamboard folks obliged with our UTB heavy metal "wave"--you know that moment where Jay Jay, Dee, Eddie and Mark all rock at the same time? Well, the front row rocks right along with them in unison--it's a beautiful thing.

"Burn In Hell" just tore it up--we had drum sticks flying, an occasional crowd surfer and a strong trio of Eddie, Jay Jay and Animal, all lined up, rocking hard for the people of the Jersey shore. At one point, it seemed as if the whole ballroom was glowing in red light, and the temperature inside the room with that packed crowd was true to the title.
With only one song left, we knew that Twisted had to play the song that so many came to hear--"I Wanna Rock" just elicits the most incredible reaction from crowds. Even those who don't know a single Twisted Sister song will go bananas when Dee screams those three little words.

When it was all over, I could see on the face of our 15-year old drummer and his mom--both at their first Twisted show--that he had a Twisted Sister experience. No, Daniel, I'm not hard on other bands because I'm picky...I'm hard on other bands because Twisted Sister is the best live band out there. No one comes close. No one.

I was able to catch Anvil's mammoth set to follow from the VIP "lounge"--what a heavy set! This crowd loves Anvil, and I was really pleased to see that folks didn't just leave after TS--they were there to enjoy all of the bands on the bill, even the late night midnight set by TT Quick!

I stayed for the raffle results--amazing raffle--congrats to the lucky winners and thanks to all who bought tickets! Autographed guitars galore--including one signed by Slayer--drum heads, prints, guitars--incredible contributions. Thanks to everyone who made that possible and to the artists who donated. And by the way..we had MERCH! Glorious, glorious merch. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of "You Can't Stop Rock n' Roll", for sale was a commemorative t-shirt, listing all of the 2013 stops of the tour. (except for Brazil, which made their own version) I happily dished out the dollars for that one, along with a new replacement TS bandanna-- all I can say is, "MORE MERCH PLEASE!" We need some Twisted bling, okay? How about some necklaces? Belt buckles? Earrings?

The band, crew and many of the SMFs headed back to their homes. I grabbed a birthday waffle with SMF Kathy at a local diner and then ran some Twisted Sister errands until late into the a.m. hours. My head hit the pillow finally at 3:30 am. I dropped our Aussie SMF off at the bus station (safe travels, mate!) and had a LONG 4-hour drive home in heavy traffic.
An incredible show for a great cause. Twisted Sister absolutely brought down the house with a performance that fans will be talking about for years to come. New York's Iron Men of Rock n' Roll showed that Jersey Strong is more than a catch phrase--the heavy metal community reunited for six hours of some of the most pounding rock music in the tri-state area. Well done, gentlemen! Many thanks to all of the artists and crew who donated goods, time, travel and performances. The people of New Jersey thank you!

And so, this concludes this lengthy edition of the Road Report. I'm off to pack for Austin, Texas, but until then....keeping rockin' my babies. This is Armadillo....trotting off to google some good BBQ....

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