Official Road Report, Rocklahoma, Pryor OK May 24, 2014 
Saturday, May 31, 2014, 05:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
For my short-attention spanned members of the press: here is your 30-second synopsis—while Twisted Sister did not hold the headliner slot last Saturday night at Rocklahoma, they certainly held the title at the top, in Dee’s own words--turning Rocklahoma into “I Wanna Rocklahoma!” More than 60,000 at this year’s Rocklahoma in Pryor, Oklahoma gave Twisted Sister some respect as they were blown away by the greatest heavy metal live band, while the other acts had their proverbial rock n’ roll bums handed to them on a BBQ. (or as you may be more familiar, asses on a platter.)

Ah, my babies, please forgive the tardiness of this report but I assure you that *this* report will be one unlike any other. I have just orally inhaled a snickers bar, downed 20 ml of my finest stock of diet Dr. Pepper and I’m now prepared to bring you the details from the road in a way that can only be described as “Wanking the Words”….yes, the exercise in literary masturbation we have come to know and love (or hate)…the one…the only…Armadillo Road Report: Crew Edition! The Official Twisted Sister Tour Blog and concert review, brimming with all the hard to find details the die-hard fans are hardly dying to know (and plenty you wish you didn’t!) Dateline: May 24, 2014, Pryor, Oklahoma.

THE TRIP
Your faithful Road Reporter began this trek as he began all the others—entertaining my obsessive-compulsive disorder by packing and re-packing three times the night before, only to spend no less than 3 hours looking for something unessential but somehow remarkably necessary such that I refuse to sleep until I locate it. It’s a bizarre and neurotic ritual but one that I’ve come to perform. It’s harmless, albeit very annoying, and it almost always results in just a few hours sleep before my trip to the airport. With just two hours of pillow time, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. and headed out to catch the consecutive flights to Tulsa.

After a mid-air cat-nap and a nice landing in the very large Houston airport, I decided to bypass the restrooms and taco stands (two things that I will almost NEVER go past without visiting one or the other) and went straight to the gate to see if I could make the standby list for the next flight. I figured that even in the worse case scenario, I wouldn’t get a seat and could spend two hours conducting a taco taste test in the food court. I made it across the expansive facility to the gate where the next puddle-jumper to Tulsa was about to board—they cautioned me that boarding would be just minutes away, so I shouldn’t stray to far. I heeded their advice, and as I was leaving the restroom, I heard a commotion—and there, before my eyes, a passenger collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.

My babies, I’ve been an EMT with the fire service for almost 18 years now, and I’ve worked plenty of cardiac arrests. This one definitely did not look good, and I immediately began CPR along with another passenger (a physician)-- I ordered the pilot to retrieve the defibrillator. Remarkably, within 3 minutes, the patient experienced a phenomenon called “ROSC”—Return of Spontaneous Circulation. Highly rare—less than 5% of cardiac arrests see a patient survival, nevermind what we saw there that day. The longer story shortened here—by the time the Houston paramedics were on scene, the patient shook our hands and said “Thank you.” As we handed the patient over to the paramedics, the physician (Dr. Andersen, an endocrinologist out of Tulsa) and I were then called to fly standby, and moments later, we were in the air on our way to Tulsa. (Unfortunately for me, there were some bodily fluids involved, and so I spent an hour on a plane in pants soaked in someone else’s urine. Better than my own, I suppose. A small price to pay for an extraordinary moment. I’ll take a Code Blue over a Code Brown any day of the week.)

And so that’s how it began.

I landed in the quite quaint Tulsa airport—there’s something very Beatle-esque about coming down the stairs of a plane right onto the tarmac. I was impressed by the “Welcome Rocklahoma Fans!” floor adornments and banners, and met some delightful and helpful folks from the Pryor Chamber of Commerce who were there to greet Rocklahoma fans and get them the information they needed to head to the grounds. As for me, I hopped on a shuttle to the (where else?) Hard Rock Hotel, Casino & Resort in Tulsa, and planned for a long, restful afternoon lounging poolside with a tall Shirley Temple, extra maraschino.

Not exactly.

THE PRE-SHOW
I stopped to admire the original, Elvis white rhinestone jumpsuit, rotating behind glass by the elevators—and checked out my accommodations (after I picked my jaw up off the floor—this was a room worthy of rock n’ roll royalty!) The hotel has rock music continuously playing, both in the guest rooms and over the hotel sound system. There was something magical about hearing “I Wanna Rock” playing in my room as I hung up my clothes. I grabbed a quick breakfast in the diner, only to find our own Mark “Animal” Mendoza having a bite. Animal has a handshake that could crush coal into a diamond!

A call from the Twisted tour manager made me quickly realize that I was going to be doing a lot more than simply blogging and running for water this weekend. My first order of business was to retrieve the key to our own Snide one’s room, and make sure that he had a clear, unobstructed pathway to his room. I tell you this, my S.M.F. friends so that you have a glimpse into this behind-the-scene world—and so that all my babies understand the importance of giving the band space at certain times.

Imagine you’ve gotten up at an ungodly early hour, had a long drive to the airport, had multiple flights next to crying babies and drunken businessmen—when you get to your destination, you just want a few moments of peace and quiet to freshen up and decompress. (and probably take a nap.) So if you wanted an autograph at the exact moment when our boys in black and pink just stepped off the shuttle, I hope you can understand why that just wasn’t possible. They love their fans very much—but it’s all about personal space and timing.

The remainder of band and crew finally arrived later in the evening, and we shared a table at the casino diner, complete with stories, plenty of laughs and some business chat for the next day. I was presented by Mr. Mendoza, with the highly-coveted Twisted Sister road crew t-shirt, with the almost ominous instructions—“Now you have to go earn the right to wear it!” Gulp.

Usually, I travel over to the venue with the crew and A.J., who likes to do soundcheck, first thing in the a.m. My plan this time around, was to get more familiar with the stage layouts, the cables, microphone placements and other logistics. But after meeting the crew in the lobby at 6:30 a.m. to load the guitars and other equipment, it was soon apparent that I was going to be a busy critter. Today was the day that I was going to have to place faith in my power of observation. For the past 3 years, I have silently noticed all of the various nuances of our Twisted five. Things like: what time they eat before a show, what food they order, how are they loaded onto transport, what items do they usually need to have on hand—in a strange moment of synchronicity, it seemed as if there was now a cosmic reason as to why I had taken such an interest in even the most mundane of details about Twisted Sister.

This was my first time to earn my shirt.

My new role: handle all of the logistics for the band (and in a few cases, crew) from this moment forward until the moment they were all back on the planes at the airport. Fortunately for me, my career is in Emergency Planning & Logistics—I figure if I can coordinate 150 people performing 10,000 vaccinations, I can handle getting five guys fed and put on a shuttle, right? Wrong. Ever seen “The Devil Wears Prada?” This was sort of like that, only there was no Prada but five Meryl Streeps.

There were calls down to the head of kitchen catering to ensure that the special menu was prepared accordingly, and delivered to the various rooms at very specific times. Security details had to be arranged. Shuttle drivers had to be given special instructions—going to one location to load some baggage, and a second location to load band members. There was a missing bag to be retrieved from the Tulsa airport, special items to be acquired, toiletries left behind that needed replacing, return arrangements to be made.

Between my room phone and cell, at one point, I had a phone on each ear, plus call-waiting…plus texts coming in. And before I had time to breathe, a call came in to move up the entire time frame—it seems that a band the previous night learned a hard lesson—the 40-minute ride from the hotel to the venue took them almost 2 hours in festival traffic the day before. So that, of course, meant re-doing all of the plans, re-contacting the shuttle drivers, the security details, the catering and the guy picking up the lost luggage at the airport.

I ran from floor to floor, room to room, ensuring that everyone had dinner delivered on time and correctly—and made sure that any last minute needs were addressed. The driver was staged, security details were in place, and now, the most difficult part of the operation: getting everyone simultaneously downstairs and loaded. My pedometer clocked a total of more than 20,000 steps--that's 10 miles--no wonder my dogs were screaming the next day.
I kid you not, “Long Way to the Top” came over the hotel speakers as I began to head up to the rooms to bring everyone down—I could actually feel my adrenalin kicking in. That song is forever imprinted into my memory to be equated with: “It’s GO-Time!”

I can now cross this item off my bucket list—but I escorted our very own Mr. Snider from his hotel room to the shuttle. It included a subtle but rather hilarious moment. The elevator arrives and yours truly, our security detail, and Dee board the elevator—however a lovely elderly Midwestern couple remained on board to go into the casino for a night of slots. Dee is decked out in his denim best—the famous Twisted Sister denim colors—his hair fully down—shades on….toothpick in mouth. I had a total 1984 flashback, and took a moment to appreciate what an intimidating image he struck. Dee normally has a strong presence—but when you add in 4” heel boots to his 6”1” frame and all of his Twisted regalia, it was downright BADASS.

This sweet little elderly couple, who I swear, came up to his belt buckle, looked up at Dee and said, “Did you know? There’s a big concert today… Rocklahoma, is it? Are you going to go hear some rock n’ roll music?”

Dee turned to them, and gently said back, “Yeah. I heard about that. You know, I think we might.” He looked over at me, and gave me that famous Snider smirk. One of those perfect moments.

I realized, of course, that the band went entirely too easy on me—knowing how nervous I was to have it all go smoothly as planned, the band was downstairs in seconds flat and everyone was on the road in no time at all. What a special and thoughtful gift—thank you Gentlemen! (and for those of you who play the stock market, I highly recommend purchasing some shares of Tums Antacids. I’m going to probably need a lot more of them in the future, I suspect.)

THE VENUE
Once we arrived at Rocklahoma, it certainly became a lot more familiar. The crew had already begun tuning guitars, preparing cables and marking the stage. Tonight’s adventure was what we refer to as a “throw-and-go,” meaning the changeover times between bands was only 30 minutes. It gives the crew just the minimum amount of time to set up the equipment, tape everything down, and a rapid, bare-bones sound check before show-time. While they certainly make it look easy, throw-and-go scenarios are extremely challenging, especially since you have local crews handling monitors and other stage issues. These same crews have been working all day in the sun for the past two days, and they have to handle set ups for more than 20 bands.

The venue was what we’ve come to expect from Rocklahoma. It boasts an impressively large field with a permanent concrete slab upon which the stage is built. A second, smaller stage is off about 100 yards, stage right. A comfortable array of trailer dressing rooms, VIP tents, catering and other amenities fill the backstage area, complete with an army of tour buses, venue ATVs & golf carts and plenty of friendly staff. Two jumbotron screens--stage right and left--and a very odd configuration in the crowd: in the middle of the crowd was a concrete entry ramp (almost like a tunnel) surround by chain-link, and a swing gate in the middle. Fans entered up one side of this enormous cattle chute--security swung open the gate, allowing about 30 fans a view in the front (well, sort of front--it was behind the VIP section) and then after 5 minutes, they herded them down the second ramp, re-opened the gate, and allowed 30 more fans another 5 minutes. It was combination cattle chute/heavy metal meat grinder. Never quite seen anything like it.

I usually venture out into the crowd to check out the merch (lots of great merch at this show) and the local gastronomy—one of our extended Twisted family found what could possibly be the most bizarre festival food ever: the Moink-balls. Meatballs, wrapped in bacon, grilled or smoked, served on a stick. Second only to…. Armadillo Eggs! Jalapeno peppers (de-seeded and split open), stuffed with cheese and then wrapped in sausage. Hot damn.

I had a few quick errands to run to ensure the dressing rooms were satisfactory, and then the band went into what we call “Lockdown.” Lockdown is a critical period for our Twisted ones. During lockdown, the band gets dressed in their stage clothes, do some last minute rehearsing and get mentally prepared. Each band member has their own rituals that they perform—as many of you have read in Dee’s memoirs, he performs vocalizing (throat exercises to warm up the voice), physical warm-up/exercises and he goes into isolation to prepare himself mentally. My orders were simple: No one goes into the dressing room during lockdown—not even crew.

With the rest of the crew off to grab dinner at catering during this last quiet hour before the show, I exited the dressing room and sat on a picnic bench outside the dressing room door, enjoying a warm Dr. Pepper. A very soft-spoken and polite fellow walked up—I swear to you, folks, he looked like your typical Oklahoman in blue jeans, tee shirt, baseball cap and belt with big buckle. He asked me if could stop in to say hello to Dee. I very politely explained that the band is on lockdown—no one is allowed inside. He told me was a personal friend—that Dee wouldn’t mind—and so I asked him his name: Aaron Lewis. I quickly checked with management to see if the band was still on lockdown—which they were—and apologized, “I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis. The band is on lockdown—I can’t allow anyone inside at this time.”

Little did I know…. Mr. Lewis….Aaron Lewis…the polite man I had just turned away…is the lead singer of Staind! The headlining act! OH THE HUMANITY! Next time, I assure you that I will not only learn the names of all of the headlining artists, but I’ll be sure to check out their photos as well! The crew tormented me for a good, solid hour about this, including informing me that we’ll be having our after-show meal at…THE DINER! [The Diner is Twisted code for….”you’re sacked!”]

And as if we didn’t have enough excitement for one day, one of our favorite road crew members, Duane, dropped a heavy piece of equipment on his foot and had to taken by ambulance to the closest hospital. {OUCH!} Now we were down a road crew member and about to hit the stage, so we had to huddle fast and divvy up the responsibilities to everyone. Turns out, he broke a toe or two, but devoted as always, he was back on stage in a boot-cast an hour later, to help make sure the show went on.

The band all assembled for a quick meet n’ greet, photo sessions with the lucky fans and VIP pass holders, and then came the words that makes my heart beat faster: “Roll tape!” My cue to bring the band over to the stage just in time for “Long Way to the Top” to begin playing.

Watching Twisted Sister in the moments just before they take the stage is truly a special time for me. It’s a rare glimpse into their psyche—I often feel as though I’m witnessing Olympians about to enter the arena…athlete’s about to dash out of the tunnel…gladiators ready for battle. Dee’s prepares himself like a prize fighter—my only job is to stay out of his way, and make sure that no crew or guests backstage unknowingly step into this path as he paces back and forth, shadow boxing and getting himself ready to rock. I illuminate his path—mindful of anything that could be a trip hazard, and I feel a surge of emotion as he blasts onto the stage as the opening chords of “Stay Hungry” fill the field.

THE SHOW
For the first time in eleven years, my babies. I have no notes. Not one note scrawled down. I did so much running back and forth between the stage and the dressing room during this show that I didn’t have time to take notes, and barely had time to catch a song in it’s entirety. In fact, I’ve spent the bulk of this week reviewing footage of Rocklahoma to get a feel for the show from the fan perspective.

One thing I will note—the crews and staff of Rocklahoma were wonderful! With only one exception. The monitor guy. The local crew has someone assigned to monitors—also called “wedges”—these are those small, angled cabinets you see on the stage right in front, and often the bigger wedge-like speakers hanging above, pointed at the stage. These devices allow the band, on stage, to hear a special mix. While you, the fans, get to hear the mixed version as skillfully delivered and mastered by our sound engineer, positioned back at the sound board, the band members often need or request a certain mix so they can hear how they sound with a dose of other components.

The monitor guy had problems. Not just with Twisted Sister, mind you, I saw a LOT of other bands the next night, complaining about the monitor problems onstage. It’s very hard to play a solo when you can barely hear yourself over the other instruments. So I can’t really say how Twisted Sister sounded—the reviews I read and YouTube videos all indicated that it sounded great out in the crowds, and that’s what really counts. When you can see fans all the way at the back fence putting their fists in the air, you know that the music is getting across.

It was a short setlist but the fans absolutely loved it—a very loud and appreciative crowd from the first notes. They opened with a rocking “Stay Hungry,” in tribute to the 30th Anniversary of the album of the same name—and delivered a blistering setlist, with songs from the first four albums. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was sung loud and proud—of course, every time I hear cowbell in this context, I look around to see if any bovine fans come moo-ing on over.

I’ll just add—that it was incredibly hot, dusty and humid. There were times where I could barely see out of either eye because of the dusty conditions—and the humid rivaled anything I’ve encountered in Baltimore or the deep south. Eddie told me later that it was so humid, his fingers were sticking to the strings! WOW. That’s humid. And yet, they managed to all deliver the rock and roll that fans were screaming for.

Dee expressed his feelings about heavy metal and acoustic sets in only the way that Dee can—and it involved the complete destruction of an acoustic guitar! Good thing there aren’t any acoustic sets out there using a tuba! Although I’d be willing to bet, if anyone could destroy a tuba, it would be Twisted Sister.

“I Wanna Rock” was delivered with absolute ferocity—kicked off with a Dee-ism, of course….he took a quick dig that Twisted Sister was playing as a special guest, and not a headliner, this year which elicited some audible boo-ing—truth is, it sucks for anyone who has to play after Twisted—but even with a shortened set, the fans were clearly enjoying every minute of it.

We had some excitement in the roadie world—Dee took off stage left.—and knocked down the stand, tossing the mic into the audience, who kindly returned it. The bass technician got tangled in the wires and almost took a header. I’m serious, folks—you think it’s easy—but even the simplest of things on stage are remarkably challenging and can be dangerous! Truth be told, I was just glad it wasn’t me falling over the monitors. After the whole Aaron Lewis debaucle….well…you know…..

Twisted Sister ended the show with a very moving tribute to Lemmy Kilmeister from Motorhead. Motorhead was supposed to be on the bill this year, but due to some health issues, they had to cancel. Twisted Sister performed an INCREDIBLE version of “Born To Raise Hell” in his honor, and taped it so that Lemmy will see and hear just how many of us are thinking of him and wishing him well.

It seemed like the entire set was played at lightning speed (which fits with the atmosphere—we certainly had a lot of lightning around us) and before long, I was loading the band into the transport and heading back to the hotel. We did, actually, have our post-show meal at the diner. But I wasn’t fired—overall, given the circumstances, I didn’t too bad a job at all.

POST-SHOW
The second day, I made sure that our crew and band were back on their way home, gear loaded and en route to the airport. I had a very special moment with our own Dee Snider, who indulged me in conversation as he packed his bags. The conversation is private—between us—but it was one of those extraordinary moments for me. Dee can be remarkably humble, prolific, caring and insightful. Ten minutes of my life that I will remember and treasure for a lifetime. I breathed a sigh of relief once he was safety aboard his transport, and thought I would be able to get a full hour of uninterrupted sleep. Wrong again. The phone rang once more—it was Twisted Sister’s tour manager, Danny Stanton. He gave me the opportunity to shadow him for the day, learning the in’s and out’s of tour management. It’s a fascinating, fast-paced world—one in which you don’t sleep obviously—and I could not have possibly been more impressed! Thank you Danny—pleasure to watch you work…and work…and work….. and work some more!

I did get a chance to check out Tom Keifer (formerly of Cinderella) GREAT set and fantastic chops! There were plenty of other bands on the bill—including Black Label Society—but the monitors were SO BAD, and I mean it—REALLY AWFUL—that when backstage, you couldn’t hear music or vocals. All you could hear was distorted bass kick drum and bass. It was actually painful and annoying. I caught about 4 songs from the Kid Rock set—very entertaining and he looks great. I must confess I was jealous of his transport vehicles, tricked out with strobe lights and blackout windows.

Many thanks to all of the folks at AEG Live and the producers, promoters, staff and volunteers at Rocklahoma! The good people at The Hard Rock in Tulsa (especially big hugs to Nikki for helping me locate the lost luggage) our drivers and the security officers. You made my job a lot easier.

Above the Hard Rock Hotel entrance are the words “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You!” We salute you, Oklahoma.

Twisted Sister kicked some serious ass at Rocklahoma—we hope that y’all come back real soon, y’hear?

With that, my babies, I nibble on the last of my little chocolate guitars that they left on my pillow, and I prepare myself for the kickoff of the 2014 European Tour .

This is Armadillo….trotting off to wash my crew shirt and pack for the next round. See you on the road, babies!

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Rocklahoma Road Report Coming Soon! 
Sunday, May 25, 2014, 11:10 AM
Posted by Administrator
Watch this space-- I have a road report coming soon that you're not gonna believe!
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Rocklahoma Setlist, Pryor OK May 24, 2014 
Sunday, May 25, 2014, 11:05 AM
Posted by Administrator
And here's last night"s sweltering setlist...

1. Stay Hungry
2. Shoot 'em Down
3. You Can't Stop Rock n' Roll
4. The Kids Are Back
5. I Believe in Rock n' Roll
6. We"re Not Gonna Take It
7. The Fire Still Burns
8. The Price
9. Burn in Hell
10. I Wanna Rock
encore
11. Born To Raise Hell
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Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ 05/17/14 
Sunday, May 18, 2014, 09:33 PM
Posted by Administrator
Hooray! Hooray! The blog is back! Thank you Webbie for fixing the blog after it was spammed into oblivion!

Welcome back, my babies! Here we are once again for the 2014 Twisted Sister tour season and we’re already off to a fantastic start. Superstorm Sandy may have flooded the place, but Twisted Sister blew the lid off last night. It was absolute, heavy metal annihilation as our boys in black and pink celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the release of Stay Hungry, rocking out with special guests Stephen Pearcy (formerly of Ratt) and Killcode. There were plenty of surprises in store—including [spoiler alert] all five original members playing—yes, that means A.J. Pero on the drums (more on that later) and a special cover of Motorhead’s “Born To Raise Hell.” If that’s not enough, there were two awesome, totally surprising concert announcements—Fox News All American Concert Series on July 25th (7:00 A.M.) and the Best Buy Theatre NYC on September 5, 2014.

Oh, but there’s more. So much, much more to tell you all, and I believe you all know that can mean that it’s time to bring you what can only be described as the first blog longer than a Shakespearian insult….the tour blog that gives you all the details that true fans lust after…and make the rest of them youtube it just to see if it’s true….the one….the only…Armadillo Road Report: The Official Twisted Sister tour blog and concert review of the Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, New Jersey, May 17, 2014. This special edition brought to in high-definition 3D—please don your special glasses…NOW!

As many of you already know, this was supposed to be the second date of the 2014 Tour, but the Starland Ballroom show was hailed as the “warm-up” to the European Tour—and more importantly, this first gig was a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the release of the original “Stay Hungry” vinyl. Now depending upon whom you ask, “Stay Hungry” was either the beginning of the end for Twisted, or it was the introduction of the Sisters to an entirely new generation. That essentially threw down the gauntlet at this show—clearly the second generation of Twisted fans were going to be ecstatic. But given the location of the venue, it was bound to attract scores of Old School S.M.F.’s who wanted to hear ANYTHING and EVERYTHING pressed and delivered prior to 1984. Tough task, indeed, how to please us all.

But first, a taste of the road. [for those of you new to this blog, I’m about to embark on my usual literary masturbation which likely involves gastronomy and travel details. If such drudgery bores you, just keep tabing down and eventually, there will be music described.]

This is not my first trek to the Starland, but nevertheless, I had a bit of trepidation. My last adventure there involved a quick detour into the New Brunswick to pick up Da’ Mayor, SMF DCT, and somehow the two of us managed to get remarkably lost, in spite of many people telling us to turn left at the Dunkin Donuts. We eventually did arrive—12 right-handed u-turns and six Dunkin Donuts later. Seriously….who the hell designed a state in which you can’t make a left turn, and Dunkin Donuts dot the landscape more than traffic lights. It’s maddeningly obscene. So thanks to google maps, I did manage to find a new way there that only involved two left turns from the right lane (and yes, sonofabitch but one of them was at a Dunkin Donuts)—of course, true to form like last time, getting back to the hotel was an adventure because not only are left turns impossible, but apparently you can only go South on Route 18 to Sayreville. I hope the planner for New Jersey highways has his own special circle in Dante’s Inferno.

In any case, this drive found me quite nostalgic because it meant I drove past the exit for Six Flags—the place where the Armadillo Road Reports first began. It was July 5, 2003—and it was the first time I had ever driven more than an hour by myself—and certainly my first time driving on the turnpike. My knuckles were white the entire drive—petrified almost covers it—I stopped at every single rest stop. What can I say? Nervous bladder. That first reunion show for me was life changing. I managed to overcome terrible fear—my completely irrational (sometimes) fear of travel—in order to see the band I never stopped loving. It was my first time in the front row, and I was absolutely hooked from that point forward. I couldn’t believe I was seeing Twisted Sister again—and more importantly, I couldn’t believe how incredible they played after all those years.

If you had told me then, that in eleven years, I would not only be making the drive once more without batting an eyelash, but that I would be helping load in the equipment and light the pathway for the band to take the stage, well…. You know the rest. Seeing them in 2003 was a dream come true then, and every show now just exceeds my wildest dreams, over and over again.

I rolled into Sayreville close to noon and after a few of those dreaded left turns, pulled into the lot of the Starland Ballroom. The Starland took a terrible hit during Superstorm Sandy, completely flooded out from the storm surge. Today’s Starland looks just beautiful. The layout is the same—but completely renovated. New paint, three beautiful new subway tiled bars that rose up from the floor like giant hot-tubs—and just like airplane exits…one in the back, one in the front on each side above the wings. Pizza concession stands still there (I recall that was definitely a plus for me back then) and an ample amount of friendly staff, ready to help park, pour and protect.

This was my first time loading into a small venue like this—it was truly exciting for me, as I pictured that this may have been what it was like, night after night, hauling guitars, Marshall cabinets and reels of cables into a dark, intimate club. Many hands make light work, and it seemed to take just seconds for the big black boxes in the back of a truck to be transformed into the backline. The stage was small by festival standards, but ample for a club this size. An impressive soundboard and lighting beach in the back—and an even more impressive sound coming from the deafeningly loud speakers. A special Armadillo thank-you to the lovely ladies of catering, who prepared a delicious Italian meal that made me long to fall in love with an Italian. It may be the first time I've ever said to anyone, "Oh these balls are delicious--I'm going to get two more..." (Yeah, Kinda regretted it as soon as those words slipped out. Poor turn of a phrase but great meatballs nevertheless)

This evening provided some extra treats—not one, but two soundchecks. The first soundcheck performed by the road crew. I found myself fascinated watching the monitor board sliders, which seemed to move magically as if a ghost were at the controls. Early on, even with the guitar tuning and drum mic’ing still underway, the sound was fantastic. I thought it couldn’t get better until the second treat—all five band members strolled in to do the second check. Only once have I ever seen them do their own sound check—and that one time was a part of a VIP Christmas package—Dee explained, at the time, that he didn’t normally like to have people in the room when he did a sound check. So when the Snide One took the stage for soundcheck, I tried to make myself as invisible and non-descript as possible. They played their standard “Shoot ‘Em Down” for the check, but then did a quick rehearsal of a few other songs to ensure the transitions were down smoothly.
When they broke into a song that I didn’t immediately recognize—it took me a few seconds to realize that they were playing….MOTORHEAD. My second favorite band! (Metallica would have been if they hadn’t gotten so new-agey after the Justice album, but I digress….) “Born to Raise Hell” sounded absolutely amazing during the soundcheck, and by this point, I was so excited for doors to open, I could barely contain myself.

The doors opened early for the Meet N’ Greet---held in one of the little “corrals” by the rear bar, stage left. All five band members spent an ample amount of time with the lucky fans who had VIP passes, signing plenty of goodies and taking lots and lots of photos that now grace the walls of facebook all over the mid-atlantic. Once general doors opened, the club quickly filled. Unlike some of the past shows, this one was packed from the moment the show began.

I was glad to see such a full house—the only thing harder than being a Twisted Sister opening act playing to an empty house is to play to a packed Twisted Sister crowd. Killcode (www.killcode.net and you can also find them on Facebook) had a tough job ahead of them, and they pulled it off well. This was my introduction to Killcode—a relatively new band from NYC—formed in 2008 but clearly, they are serious about rocking hard and gave an all-around solid performance. Well-polished and well-practiced, they let the music speak for itself instead of trying to pull off some gimmick or cliché. Overall, good original metal tunes with a ballad thrown in for good measure—I can usually judge the success of an opener when the audience is still doing the head bobs after the third song instead of looking antsy or bored, which let’s face it, does happen quite a bit with some the cookie-monster metal acts we’ve seen. Killcode delivered what the fans wanted—strong vocals, hard guitars and no-fluff—just some good ol’ heavy metal. Well done, lads.

Next up was special guest, Stephen Pearcy. (formerly of RATT) I must confess—I wasn’t able to catch all of his set, but I heard the fans rocking out to quite a few songs (formerly played by RATT) such as “Way Cool Junior” “Wanted Man” and “Round and Round.” He even gave us a Judas Priest cover—“Headed to the Highway”. I’m not sure that was the best song choice--Pearcy almost took a header himself at one point—but thankfully caught himself so that he didn’t fall headfirst into the monitors! There were quite a few RATT fans in the house…(or, perhaps, fans formerly of the band RATT, now Stephen Pearcy fans) and Mr. Pearcy gave props to Twisted Sister—the two bands really do go way back, sharing many a bill back in the day. Someone Stage Right in the front will have to tell me, but I swore I saw a pair of panties go sailing past Pearcy. True? If so…those were some MIGHTY big panties. You go, fat-bottomed girls! Rock on! Pearcy’s bass player won my award for the first annual Jay Jay look-alike contest. I mean it—from a profile, it was uncanny: the hair, the glasses, the black shirt…he even had that backward lean into his solo….just so….

Speaking of “back in the day” and fans in the house—I am so pleased and proud of all my Slamboard brothers and sisters last night. There were so many Slamboarders there—I don’t want to risk leaving anyone out—but you were all there in the front row (most of ya!) and showing how it’s done. There’s nothing worse than those folks who muscle their way to the front row, but then stand there trying to look cool, only to be humiliated by Dee later. Saturday night—Dee didn’t have to single anyone out because that crowd was PUMPED! Hair…fists…teeth (wait, those may have been mine…) all flying through the air.

And we also had some serious S.M.F. royalty in the house last night. I mean it. Donna from CT (DCT) was there with the original front row gals…including Mary La Fleur and Karen Kryme! If you don’t know who Karen is, just wait for the movie, “We Are Twisted Fucking Sister” to come out—or you can visit the “Twisted Sister In the Clubs-1976-1983 (unofficial) facebook page (run by SMF Peter from the Slamboard) where you will so many amazing bits of Twistory from the club days, many from Kryme’s personal collection. Great stuff.

Oh? What’s that, you say? What movie? “We Are Twisted Fucking Sister!—The Movie” a rockumentary by Director and Producer Andrew Horn, who incidentally, was ALSO in the house Saturday night after a long flight from Germany. (bop on over to his facebook page—just look for “Twisted Sister—The Movie” and you’ll get a sneak peak at some photos and interviews that will have you salivating for this movie to come out soon. And no, I don’t know when you’re getting your fucking tee-shirt. They’re coming for crissake. I swear they are.]

Oh wait, there’s more! (and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the music yet!) Also in the house was Mr. Mark “Weiss-Guy” Weiss snapping shots next to our own Don “Webbie” the Twisted Webmaster….and…..wait for it….wait for it….CHARLIE “Sixth Sister” BARRECCA! I couldn’t believe I got to finally shake hands with a true legend—a man I have admired for so, so long. I was so upset that I wasn’t able to go to Charlie’s benefit back in 2005—I remember longing to meet “the sixth sister” since I saw his name on the liner notes the first time I turned that vinyl over in my hands. Charlie is Twisted’s former Soundman—a man with tremendous talent and a huge heart to boot. Every now and then, you can meet someone, and before they even open their mouth, you can sense a certain aura—a glow about them. Charlie has that glow. He radiates it. It was insanely loud and so I didn’t get to chat, but was so thrilled to shake his hand. It was great to see him in his element, and I can honestly say, that he had a smile on his face the entire show. I loved looking over my shoulder and seeing Charlie singing along and rocking out to a great sounding show. Mr. Barrecca—I salute you!

Onto to the show.
Sorry to make you wait so long but I’ve had a lot of pent up…..penmanship since the South of the Border fiasco.

Here is your Sayreville Starland Stay Hungry Setlist:

1. Stay Hungry
2. The Kids Are Back
3. Shoot ‘em Down
4. The Beast
5. You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll
6. Don’t Let Me Down
7. I Believe in Rock n’ Roll
8. We’re Not Gonna Take It
9. Captain Howdy
10. Street Justice
11. The Price
12. Burn In Hell
Drum solo
13. I Wanna Rock
* encores *
14. Born To Raise Hell
15. Under The Blade
16. S.M.F.

That’s right…every single track off “Stay Hungry” plus a few extra goodies thrown in for good measure. I have a bet with Jay Jay that this is NOT the first time they’ve played the entire Stay Hungry album in the U.S. The blog has been down so I haven’t been able to check my archives.

Twisted took the stage about twenty past ten o’clock—the place was absolutely mobbed and packed in tight, “nut to butt” as I call it. Jersey and NY fans—you are primo! The place just went crazy, Jersey style, from the opening chord. It was actually kinda nice to hear “Stay Hungry” as an opener—a nice change of pace from the “What You Don’t Know” they usually play at festivals. Dee took the stage by force, decked out in a “Shits Happening” shirt, sporting new ink and the kind of six-pack abs you see on late night television by someone hawking protein shakes and Insanity video tapes. Dee was on a special workout and nutritional program, and he looks FANTASTIC. Just rippling with muscles—I can’t ever remember seeing him looking this ripped. And a grandfather at that! Boy, do I feel like a lazy, slob now.

Twisted played in front of a bones logo/pink chain-link backdrop—and I’ll say it again—the sound was incredible! Not just loud, but beautifully balanced, clean sounding and even. Usually, if you want great sound, you have to hang back by the sound board. The front row (and worse, the sides/back of the stage) tend to have the worst sound. But fans could hear each guitar, plenty of drums and bass (but not too much…yes, you can have too much bass. Please no one tell Animal I said that….I really treasure my limbs] and best of all, Dee’s vocals.

I was pleased as punch (as were many of the Old Schoolers present) to hear older cuts like “The Kids Are Back” and “Shoot ‘em Down” interspersed with 1984 gems. This was different from the 25th Anniversary setlists, and I found the transition between songs to be very cohesive and thoughtful. In fact, the majority of the evening’s performance was very tight. I don’t mean to sound surprised by this—but I have noted that sometimes, the first show of the tour can sometimes be slightly off-kilter if the band hasn’t played together in a while. Not at all true for this Starland show. It was a solid performance from start to finish.

Eddie gave us a great solo on “The Beast”—offset by Mark’s pounding on the bass—and this audience needed no prodding whatsoever. They had hands…and they used them! I particularly enjoy hearing “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll” live, mainly because this song played at concert speed is twice as fast as a 78rpm. There were plenty of hands raised up in the praise…because you really can’t stop rock and roll. [Unless, of course, you’re the Mexican Federal Government. In which case, apparently…you can. Sorry. I’m still sore about that.]

Jay Jay thanked the fans who have stuck with Twisted for 30 years and beyond [bloggers note here: I really think the song “30” would have been totally appropriate!] but they rolled into “Don’t Let Me Down.” It’s interesting-but this song was my least favorite on the recorded album, but has become my favorite Stay Hungry track to hear live. I can’t explain it, but played live, this song really comes to life. There is a richness to the guitar lines and some rhythm section pieces that get lost on the studio tracks but played live, they seem to find a whole new groove. Another real gem to hearing it live was the almost transition in the next song, “I Believe In Rock N’ Roll.”

It only took a few seconds of quite possibly, of THE most recognizable drum intro in rock n’ roll to barrel into “We’re Not Gonna Take It,”—during which a very impressively regalia-clad Dee-impersonator clawed his way to the front, prompting some appreciation from Dee himself. The Mark/Eddie/Jay Jay trio was not only conducted by Dee (standing on the drum riser) but he gave us a little “air violin” as well. Such culture we have at Twisted shows! And the crowd sing-a-long? Definitely as it should be—loud and proud! Dee recalled out everybody loves singing WNGTI—all over the world—it’s the song that everybody likes to sing and won’t stop singing it—his Dee-ism, “It’s so fucking beautiful”—I thought he got a little choked up there. (there’s a Yiddish word for it—verklempt—it’s word. Google it.)

The “Stay Hungry” fans then got a real treat—the very seldom played “Captain Howdy”—which Dee said has only been played 4 times live, including once at a 1984 Bangor Maine show—and the song was performed as a tribute to Stephen King. (Slamboard’s SMF Chris a.k.a Capt Howdy was actually in the house Saturday night having flown in from Chicago—and can actually attest to having been at that show in Maine in 1984—way cool!) I could have sworn I’ve heard it more than four times live…but that’s another trip to the archives for me. It’s a creepy song to be sure….especially once you hear the lyrics. Even creepier? Dee sang part of it to the little girl next to me near the pit, taking in her first TS show. CREEEEEEPY! Gave me the heebie jeebies, but then again, that’s what that song is all about.

Even better, the even LESS played “Street Justice.” It’s a perfect transition from “Captain Howdy” into “Street Justice” and I love how they managed the bridge from one song to the next. These two songs really do play well together, and in my opinion, they should always play them as a set. Of course, I feel the same way about “Ride to Live” and “Knife In the Back” and I’ve yet to hear them back to back. A boy can dream. Getting back to “Street Justice,” for a song seldom played these days, it was tight, cohesive and nicely solo’d by Eddie—the cadence brought us back to Captain Howdy, a very nice touch that I think would have worked even better on the studio version.

This evening was really jam packed full of music with not as many raps as usual—Dee and Jay Jay did take a moment to acknowledge that while “Stay Hungry” was their most successful studio album in the 80’s, today the band is headlining festivals all over the world—and some of the BIGGEST rock festivals in the world—and what’s more, they are blowing away bands half their age! (Uhhhh…actually, some of these bands are a third their age, just sayin’…..) Our boys in black and pink paid homage to the original S.M.F.s—many of whom were in the house tonight—one of my favorite (and poignant) Dee-isms of the night, “We owe you our success….we owe you our lives.” And I can only say, that many of us feel the same way towards Twisted Sister.

“Burn In Hell”—always a crowd pleaser—and tonight, the best moment was A.J. Pero’s mammoth drum solo. For those unaware, A.J. has been drumming with Adrenalin Mob and was originally scheduled to play in Canada the same night of this Starland show. Just days ago, the van carrying the band, crew and gear suffered a terrible wreck on the highway. Banged up and bruised, the band including our own A.J. emerged alive but the gear destroyed and the tour on hold. In spite of clearly being in pain, A.J. delivered a fantastic show—drumming as hard as always, and like an Olympian, he just powered through the pain. Speaking on behalf of fans all over the world, we are collectively breathing a sigh of relief—so grateful that A.J., his son (who was also on tour earlier with The Mob) and all of the band and crew are alive and well. We love you, A.J. Glad your guardian angels worked overtime last week!

“I Wanna Rock” pretty much brings down the house every time, and I’m almost running out of ways to describe it. Dee made sure I had something to talk about. He spoke from the heart about how the first time he wrote this song down, how important the words were to him, how important the words are to the fans….[even the Soviet Union where it’s very popular!] He told the crowd: “You inspired us!”—as we came to the point in the song where Dee typically decrescendo’s…. letting the crowd escalate the tempo…he forgot! Then quickly recovered as the band reminded him, “We need the music softer! Good Idea!” followed by favorite Dee-ism ever: “Of All the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” You know, that would make a bitchin’ tee shirt.

For encores, we had some real treats. The Motorhead cover of “Born To Raise Hell” played for the crowd. I love seeing the surprise on the faces—as they heard the first few notes, and you could see folks mouthing to their friends “What is that song??? Is that….Motorhead???” Oh yeah, babies. MOTORHEAD. I was in heaven.

We had two closer encores—“Under The Blade” played lighting fast…complete with lightning by the way. When they played the line “a glint of steel/a flash of light” lighting engineer Marty (Slamboard name Soullites) gave us a special little effect—a perfectly timed flash of light. And FYI.. it was Marty’s birthday that evening. Dee wished him a happy birthday from the stage (adding, it only gets worse from here. Oh, so not true!) So once more, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Marty.

The show rounded off with S.M.F. (and a destroyed animal mic stand) all dedicated to the Sick Mutha Fuckas out there, many of whom were in attendance this fine Saturday night. A very special thank you to Killcode, Stephen Pearcy, the staff of the Starland and all of the slamboard faithful and old school rockers who made Saturday night extra special. And again, I just have to give props to my personal heroes--Charlie "Sixth Sister" Barrecca and Mark "Weiss Guy" Weiss and all of the rock and roll royalty. Extra special thanks to the hardest working road crew in rock n' roll and the most awesome fans in the world.

I could not think of a better way to kick off the 2014 tour, and if Saturday’s performance was any indication of what’s to come…watch out Europe! Twisted Sister did what they always do best—destroyed the Starland with the best damn live heavy metal out there!

Watch out, babies. Twisted Sister is back in form and ready to kick some serious ass! See you in Oklahoma next Saturday, babies!

This is Armadillo, trotting off to find some cowboy boots and sunscreen….

Let’s roll, babies!
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Heaven and Hellfest, Mexico City March 15, 2014 
Sunday, March 16, 2014, 08:46 PM
Posted by Administrator
The band and road crew were all set to go. Jay Jay went down early to have a little bit of tourism time, but the rest of us were here in the states, passport and plane tickets in hand. I had purchased my ticket awhile back, and in order to prevent some of the issues that happened on my last trip to South America, I made sure that I was on the same flight as the rest of the road crew/band to avoid any transportation glitches. So for me, that meant taking a 3 hour trip to New York via train (it's actually enjoyable--not too bad) in order to meet the boys at the airport and help carry equipment.

The Friday before the show, I received a notification that there were some serious problems running amok in Mexico. Sure enough, in spite of months and months of arduous planning, the promoters were told by the federal government of Mexico that the festival was cancelled. Not "we have concerns you need to address" type of message--simply--"we're shutting you down." They cited a variety of safety reasons, ranging from fire code violations, crowd control concerns, evacuation plans lacking and firework permit issues. (blame that one on KISS) The concert promoters AND the mayor of the town of Texacoco responded quickly--they testified to what I believe may have been their version of Congress--stating that all permits were in order, all plans were solid, the venue is home to an annual "Festival of the Horse" that brings bands and 200,000 people--this was a case of discrimination and retaliation against the promoters and mayor. The team had met with govt officials at least 8 times previously to ensure that all codes and permits were met. The cancellation announcement was made on the day that local Mexican crews were scheduled to begin building the stage, tents, etc.

The town has some political views that are more progressive and liberal than some of the larger, more conservative governors. It is one of the reasons why the festival was being planned there apparently. Many governors and mayors didn't want anything to do with the festival, describing heavy metal as "Devil's music" and categorized the fans as "gangs" who would gather to commit various acts of violence. Many of our Mexican SMFs were quick to point out that there is plenty of horrific gang violence being sponsored by the very thugs who shut down the festival, and the bands who played the various large festivals (including the Horse Festival) often had acts who glorified cartel violence in their lyrics and politics. There were plenty of other rumors and dialogues about the politics between the promoters and local govt--I won't get into that here. But this should set the stage for you. It was all over the associated press--I'm surprised more folks didn't hear about it.

The festival organizers and mayor defiantly announced that the festival will go on--and the 80,000 plus fans who bought tickets, bus packages, camping permits etc. would not be denied. In response, 300 heavily armed federal police in riot gear were dispatched to the location, surrounded the grounds and locked the gates to prevent the local crews from setting up the festival. Students protested in the streets along with many of the Mexican fans who had endured difficult journeys to make their way into the City. The promoters assured the fans (and bands) that a new location would be secured--there were private, secret meetings happening between the promoters and some political figures in nearby towns, who were happy to have throngs of fans eager to spend money in their hotels, restaurants, concessions, etc. But the fear was that if the federal government knew where....the police would come and shut it down. Through social media sites, fans spread the word that a new location was coming, and that once it was announced, fans needed to get there quickly so that if another 300 riot police arrived, they would be no match for a crowd of over 80K and the festival would still go on.

But then...the heartbreak began. Through radio stations--official and underground--and twitter and facebook pages set up specifically for concert announcements--each hour another teaser. They would announce that the new location would be disclosed in 2 hours: only to be told...no. not now. please wait. be patient. A new location had been identified and was being mobilized. This happened hour after hour, day after day. I checked in with my peeps--I was told that all systems were go--be at the airport at the designated time--but that conditions in Mexico were still very unstable and that things could change any minute. The social media sites from Mexico (I spent hours and hours using google translators and the kind services of S.M.F. April (smooch!) from Argentina) were just heartbreaking. They told tales of fans making their way to town, planning to camp at the site, and being turned into the city with nowhere to go. Fans who had saved money for months for this--some had waited their entire lives to see Twisted Sister, KISS, Guns n' Roses--this was a HUGE event. The Mexican fans are as passionate about metal as their European and South American counterparts--you could truly feel the desperation and heartache. Dee posted several videos via the facebook pages to keep the fans encouraged--saying, Twisted Sister is coming! And he even sang a few bars of "We're Not Gonna Take It" in Spanish.

It was Thursday, March 13th--the day that my train was scheduled to leave for the airport--my marching orders were to stage at a hotel outside of the airport that evening and meet the crew in the wee hours of Friday. I was nervous but ready, my babies. My bag was packed with only the bare essentials. I had read up on Aduana (Mexican Immigration/Customs) protocols and regulations, studied some basic Spanish phrases (including: I need to speak with the American Embassy now please), registered my travel with the Dept of State/Mexican Embassy and had my immigration paperwork all in order. And to be honest, I updated my emergency documents a few days prior, so that if something dreadful had transpired, my family had an emergency plan in place to take care of my affairs. I had been following the twitter and facebook sites until the early a.m. hours, and fans were reporting that tour companies who had arranged package deals were canceling and there were dreaded rumors that the federal government was planning to stop any incoming bands and crews at the airport--if they couldn't stop the show on the ground, they would keep the bands from arriving. I never did get this piece confirmed--but it was a rumor that made me very uneasy.

I prepared to leave the house--gave the cats a big hug, my bag was sitting by the front door. Twisted Sister laminate and passport in my pouch tucked safely away against my chest. Just an hour before departing for the train, I get the notification. The entire festival is cancelled. So I scrambled to cancel my hotel, train and air ticket as quickly as possible. The financial sting from the cancellation fees couldn't hold a candle to the pain I felt inside, Not only was it the disappointment of the festival being cancelled, but I felt the pain and anguish of all of these fans who may never get to see any of their bands in their lifetime. While I have the precious luxury of being able to travel, for the SMFs in Mexico, that is not likely the case. And personally, Twisted Sister and the Road Crew are my family. The love I feel for them is deeper than I feel for many people who claim to be my relatives. I get to see my Twisted family, on average, 8 to 10 times a year, and so now...this meant once less time to see my family.

That day, I did the walk of shame into work. While my co-workers normally enjoy teasing me, giving me a hard time--not so on this day. News spread that I was in the office--the concert had fallen through--and I had a stream of folks, trying to console me. Still clinging to some remote possibility, I streamed the press conference live at my office computer, only to hear the words that the festival was cancelled. officially.

These types of things do happen--and have happened before to Twisted Sister--but I have NEVER in all my years seen anything like this. I'm still a bit shocked--my bag hasn't moved--it's still packed, sitting by the door. Crew credentials and passport neatly stacked on top, along with the birthday card I had planned to slip to Dee today. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. today--it was almost as if my body was still in "tour mode" and my brain still believed we were going to have our 6 a.m. lobby call for sound check.

My heart goes out to all of the beautiful, loyal and passionate fans of Mexico who wanted nothing more than two days of glorious heavy metal brotherhood with their favorite bands.

And so my babies, this evening, instead of celebrating the 2014 Tour kickoff and Dee's birthday with my brethren of the band and crew, it will be a quiet one instead. The chocolate bar I now bring with me in order to battle "concert drop" in the airport for the return flight home--shall be my midnight treat tonight. Let us never take for granted the freedoms that many of us enjoy in our respective countries.

You can stop a festival, but YOU CAN'T STOP ROCK N' ROLL! AND YOU CAN'T STOP TWISTED SISTER EITHER!!!

See you in May, my babies, when Twisted Sister returns to the Tri-state area for a fantastic night of music at The Starland Ballroom. Until then...
Stay Twisted
Armadillo

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