Republic of Texas Biker Rally, Austin Texas, June 15, 2013 
Sunday, June 16, 2013, 02:46 AM
Posted by Administrator
Here we go, my babies! Get your motor running and head out on the highway...coming to you from the live music capital of the world and the Great Republic of Texas' Guiness Book of World Records Holder for the largest motorcycle parade...the Austin Texas ROT motorcycle rally! Thirty years after their first show in Austin (which by the way, was also their first United States tour date) Twisted Sister absolutely tore it loose, rocking the crowd with a fantastic full set of blistering metal, paying tribute to the 30th anniversary of “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll” and ending the show with an encore worthy of the thousands of denim and leather clad S.M.F.s who joined the party! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for only heavy metal concert reviewer brave enough to face 15,000 while wearing pink...the one and only Official Armadillo Road Report, dateline June 15, 2013, Austin Texas! Yee-fuckin’-haw!

Your faithful road reporter would have normally felt right at home amongst the armadillos...except for the fact that the local breed are apparently on a northern migration…go figure. Regretfully, I arrived on a late flight Friday evening, missing the crew dinner at a local BBQ joint the night before but from the photos I've seen of our own Mr. French gnawing on some ribs, I missed some fine good eats. Friday also found our Twisted entourage riding in the parade, and served as parade grand marshals to an endless sea of chrome and leather. And yes—they did in fact set the Guiness Book of World Records for longest motorcycle parade.

The morning began bright and early for the road crew as we made our way out to the expo grounds. The concert area gave me a few flashbacks of the ill-fate Wichita show—a large, sloped open field with a simple stage construction, lighting truss but *unlike* Kansas, we had a tarped roof overhead AND someone paying close attention to the weather. Twisted seems to have a history of producing nasty weather, and so when dark clouds began to circle, I prayed that Ted Nugent and his raindance headdress was nowhere within 100 miles.
The field was cordoned off with what looked like giant chunks of concrete remnants, and a security pit so large we nicknamed it “the moat.”

We could see an arrangement of concession stands off in the rear, including one advertising foot long corn dogs—I’m brave….I’m not THAT brave....and of course, there were beer tents, biker merchandise, beer tents, food concession, beer tents, biker displays, beer tents....and a very large jumbotron bussed in on a trailer. And more beer tents. The expo center where much of the biker wares were displayed, was adjacent to biker ramps (for jumping over a bus!), obstacle courses and even a little pond, where I suspect more than one intoxicated attendee ended up before the night was over. In the middle of the field, a “goat pen” with folding chairs, which I suspect was some attempt at a “VIP” section.
A very warm and accommodating local crew met us and tended to all of our needs, showing us that kind Texas hospitality--certainly enough to put Austin at the top of my “friendliest cities” list.

The local saying is “Keep Austin Weird,” a commentary on the impending gentrification efforts by big business. I can certainly tell you that while we didn’t encounter a lot of weirdness, Austin did have its quirks. The least of which --the live music and carnival atmosphere extended well beyond the 2 a.m. hour. A bit too enthusiastic perhaps, but I learned that it *IS* possible to wear too much pink. Bikers are a warm, patriotic and fun crowd…but to prevent any misunderstandings, it was suggested to tone down the pink and black a bit. And for the record, I was not wearing a pink thong.

So after de-pinkifying, I joined the road crew for load-in and sound check—this time we had an impromptu version of “My Sherona” and we were off to an excellent start, a quick version of “Tom Sawyer” followed by “Shoot ‘em Down”. It sounded good and we even finished early. As the morning moved along, the humidity grew and before long, both road crew and stage were drenched in sweat. Our own “Sound of Thunder” was in the house—A. J. joined the a.m. sound check wearing his aptly descriptive “weapons of mass percussion” shirt—his kick drum boom drowned out on occasion by the roaring and revving of motorcycles, making the place sound more like a drag race than a biker rally at times. There seemed to be three types of biker sounds—the “butter butter butter” rumble of V-twins, the high-pitched whine and rev of street racers, and the “ringgggggg ding ding ding” of dirt bikes. Yes, folks, there was something for everyone here! We had a brief luxury—an hour or two to go back to the hotel for a quick shower, lunch and a power nap—and then on to the show!

I was delighted to see the merch tent, located immediately in the front fence line—a nice change from back by the beer tents—and oh, my babies, did we have merch! Best merch ever! We had the bones bandannas, Chick-Skull TS tee, UTB tees, We’re Not Gonna Take It/Bones tee, the new and beautiful 30th anniversary of “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll” tee, there was a retro-style but very tasteful “cursive” tee and yes, ladies and gents—the ever popular, often talk about but seldom modeled “Twisted thong!” Ladies thong, I might add—no banana hammocks.

Vince Neil took to the stage first—as a co-headliner he was also afforded a full set—and definitely a popular set with the crowd. (I never realized just how many “motorcycle” themed songs there are!) The crew and I took a moment to enjoy his show from the wings—I was mesmerized watching his drummer, whose drumming style can be described as one part heavy metal drumming, one part epileptic seizure. At one point, he used a loose crash cymbal…to play his crash cymbals! Interesting to watch, if not a bit distracting after awhile. After a set full of Motley hits, the sun began to set and we prepped to rock Austin.

The local military color guard took the stage to some very well-deserved cheers—in fact, it was one of the loudest applause I’ve ever heard a color guard get—and then something I didn’t expect—those in attendance recited the pledge of allegiance. A crowd of thousands all screaming out the pledge to our flag absolutely gave me chills—one of those special little moments you really have to stop and appreciate. The producers brought the festival founders onstage—along with a special entourage of vets from all American conflicts, including WWII. One lucky vet went home with a raffled off custom chopper from Count Custom Cycles. (We really felt bad for the guy who’s name got picked but wasn’t there to claim it! His loss…made someone else a happy fellow!)

With the sun down, it wasn’t before long that “Long Way” blared out and our bad boys of rock and roll made their way to the stage. I had a chance to see Dee getting himself fired up as he prepared to storm the stage—he reminded me of a prize fighter about to take the ring-- jumping side to side, fists pumping, ready to annihilate any opponent. He stormed the stage, opening with “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll”—homage to its 30-year old roots—an exhilarating opening number, and rapidly becoming one of my favorite openers. (Animal helped it along by pounding a few extra notes on Eddie’s guitar)

I was pleasantly surprised to see “Shoot ‘em Down” next on the setlist—I wasn’t sure at first if the crowd was ready for this monster song, but as Mark launched his bass assault—that spot in the song when he alternates between smacking the neck and the body of the bass as he does with such fervor—the crowd just erupted with cheers. It’s nice to be appreciated.

After a cleanly played version of “Stay Hungry,” Dee stopped to chat with the audience for a spell. Perhaps the crowd had enjoyed a bit too much….sun. Or maybe it was the beer tents. But either way, Dee needed just a bit more! He observed that at 3 a.m. last night “You motherfuckers were louder than that!” (so true. really. Austin partied until at least past 4!) And as he introduced the band as “Twisted Fucking Sister”…he followed with a grateful tongue-in-cheek curtsy, and launched into a rant on Bret Michaels that while I’m NOT going to repeat here, is totally worth a trip to YouTube!

The audience gave a solid response to “The Beast”—thousands of hands and fists, including one clutching one of those foot-long corn dogs—at one point, Dee put Jay Jay in a headlock as he played—and then straddled atop an amp, nearly giving one of the crew a heart attack as he belted out the stop from his perch. He repeated this on a larger scale during “The Kids Are Back”—now standing atop the monitor—I couldn’t unclench myself until he was safely back on the stage! Animal snuck in a few grabs at the cymbals, boy, he seems to be playing everyone’s instruments tonight.

Jay Jay reminded those in attendance that not only was it 30 years ago that “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll” was pressed into vinyl, but that it was in Austin, Texas, 30 years ago, that Twisted Sister played the first date of their first U.S. tour!
Dee was just getting warmed up with the rants. We had so many Dee-isms that night there’s no way I could catch them all…but he mentioned that with the following day being Sunday, the day “all the good little bikers go to church,” he is an ordained minister, and welcomed all to the “Church of Twisted Sister” and asked those to “repeat after Dee…Reverend Dee…” to testify…“I Believe in Rock n’ Roll!”

Per Dee: “That kinda sucked! Now come to the church!” I don’t know if the crowd was too hot from the day, too drunk from the beer, or just too cool for school….but they just didn’t want to sing. But if there is one man who can work a crowd into a frenzy, it’s The Snide One. The crowd warmed up a bit more during “I Believe….” Kudos to the one lucky S.M.F. in the front row who made a success diving catch for Eddie’s pick. {give that fan a contract as we say at in Baltimore baseball!)

“We’re Not Gonna Take It”, easily the most recognizable song on the setlist, always manages to get the crowd full engaged. An excellent lighting intro by the way—nice synchronized white LED can lights perfectly matched A.J.’s intro. I was taking in the whole aesthetic—the bikers, the boobies, the Bad Boys of Rock and Roll, the bubbles--- Wait a second…bubbles? Am I really seeing bubbles? I took my pink off for these bikers and there’s BUBBLES blowing in the front row!!?? Now that’s just wrong, I tell ya.

Dee then went into one of his raps, explaining about the universal appeal of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” being used for everything from Betty White to Extended Suite America to fighting vaginal dryness. Uh…pardon me? Says Dee: “Oh THAT got your attention!” Why, as a matter of fact..

“Not too many bands talk about vaginal dryness onstage…” [Well, yes, Dee. I think there’s a reason for that...] and he then went on to deliver one of the funniest onstage raps I’ve heard in a long, long time. I don’t think I’ve heard the words “vaginal dryness” uttered so many times….in fact, I wrote down “vaginal dryness” every time he said it, just so I’d have a reason to type “vaginal dryness” at least five or six times in said road report. Who am to argue with Dee: “We’re fighting vaginal dryness…we’re doing God’s work here!” He even took a poll—“Let me see your hands—who isn’t against vaginal dryness?” Apparently there was just one. Dee even took at dig at the one band who isn’t standing up against vaginal dryness…Judas Priest! (love ya, Rob Halford. It’s all in good fun.)

And while we’re at it, Dee did acknowledge the bubbles that continued to float up from the first row—and reminded everyone that “bubbles are not metal!” (I TOLD you, dammit) Musically, Twisted played a really good set. It was just frustrating to see fans who were not engaged at the “appropriate” level.

A.J. did some great drumming on “Fire Still Burns,” including some rather fancy handwork, twirling and catching the sticks—and although I’m not sure the transition was entirely seemless, “We’re Gonna Make It” is a phenomenal song, and it really lends itself to being played live. Even though Twisted doesn’t add this to the setlist often, it was played tightly and beautifully.

Now I just have to interject here—as I mentioned in a previous report, Twisted Sister has a beautiful, new, hot pink powder coated mic stand. It’s incredibly heavy, and is designed to not only be rugged, but functional as well. It RARELY falls now. Instead, it bobbles back and forth like a “weeble wobble,” perpetually psyching me out. Every time it wobbles, I have to “tighten up back there” until I can see it isn’t falling over. And although I only one mic stand retrieval, I had to make at least 2 trips across the stage to pick up thrown mardi gras beads--hey--those things are slippery...and have you seen the heels on Dee's boots? One wrong step on those beads and he'd go flying! I wrote in the South America blog entries about some of the perils onstage--there was one danger I forget to mention--A.J. has made something of a sport of beaning roadies with sticks--and he is remarkably accurate, I might add. I took two for the team. (and no, I don't get to keep the sticks!)

“Under The Blade” gave us some Dee high-kicks a la rockettes—we had some A.J. high-flying stick catches, and even Jay Jay got in on the act with some behind the head playing. I mean, seriously, these guys were really working hard, bringing their A-game—I hope the fans out there in Austin appreciated the efforts.

We had some fantastic lighting work on “The Price” with Dee bathed in a soft pink glow…very nice….and an Eddie solo filled with emotion. “The Price” means something different to each fan—it’s a very personal song—and more than once I’ve seen Eddie close his eyes during this solo.

Speaking of lights, there were some little light tricks tonight in “Burn in Hell”—at the moment when Dee gives the introductory “Just 5 words to say…as you go down…down….down…..” red spots that were beamed outward, slowly drew inward towards the stage, perfectly mirroring the remaining band members. Flawlessly done—I hope that bit stays!
We had a bit of Twisted silliness as well—you’ve heard the term “picking a fight?” Well, I’m not sure what spawned it, but Eddie and Jay Jay seemed to be having some sort of “pick fight,” with a volley of pics being flicked at one another. (it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!)

“I Wanna Rock” usually knocks the crowd on it’s ass….and then brings them to their feet. After the first refrain, Dee admonished those present with “That sucked!” Even the now famous “fuck or rock” poll failed the get the reaction Dee was looking for—this crowd was just older, drunker and more tired than usual, I suppose. Although those in attendance *DID* want to fuck more than rock, and it took a few tries, in the end, Dee was satisfied that the crowd was finally giving back what he gave them. He gave props to the ROT founder who joined him momentarily on-stage until Dee gently directed him to the side, whispering,

“Yeah, you’d better get outta my way…cuz…I wanna rock…”
The best part of the night came at the closing encore. After a quick pow-wow on stage and some short work with a sharpie, the set list was changed and we were all treated to the biker national anthem, also know as “Born To Be Wild.” Those of you familiar with the Twisted Sister story know that this song saved the band more than once, when not-so-friendly motorcycle clubs came to the shows but this music soothed the hot tempers. Fantastic cover—it was my first time hearing it live and it really gave me a feel for the club days.

So let’s review, shall we?
There were bazillions of bikers, beer, babes and boobs, Born To Be Wild and the Bad Boys of Rock and Roll brought it all! A killer show in the lone star state, delivered the only way that Twisted Sister knows how—fast and furious.

And with that…I made my way back to Baltimore, somewhat dazed from little slip but a fantastic heavy metal hangover. Knowing full well, of course, that barely 72 hours after returning home, I’d be boarding a plane for Europe to tour once more!

This is Armadillo, your faithful reporter, signing off. See you in Europe, my babies!

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