Official Road Report Sommarfest, Svedala Sweden 11-July, 2014

Spoiler alert: If you’re one of those who prefers the cliff notes to the bound edition, here ya’ go: Sweden was absolutely mind-blowing! The quality that only comes from a show in Scandanavia—we’re talking boss sound and enough pyro to blow up a small city—everything about this show was flawless. A perfect show through and through. Twisted Sister: Kings of Sweden rock festivals!

Alright then. For the rest of you who want to suffer along with me….here is the full, unadulterated version of the only tour blog brave enough to bring you the inside scoop: without further ado (and late datelines), I hereby bring you the latest edition of the Armadillo Road Report: Sommarfest in Svedela, Sweden, 11-July, 2014. Sorry it’s so damn late…I needed a lot of recovery time because these shows kicked my ass!

My dear babies, when I last left you, I was leaving Barcelona, bound for Copenhagen for a day of glorious shut-eye. Also known as rest. Slumber. Sleep. Sawing wood. Zzzzzzzzzz. The amazing part of doing so many shows so close together is that not only does one lose all track of date and time, but honestly, after a few days—it’s impossible to put anything into chronological order. So I can honestly say that I have no idea whatsoever what time we left for Copenhagen out of Spain.

I do vaguely recall some hallucination in which I went to a biker festival in Barcelona with some of the band and crew—a nice band/crew dinner with the festival folks at the Hard Rock in Barcelona, and then the last memory I have was having a non-alcoholic brew at a very red-lit bar that had the uncanny smell of a sewer drain followed by a bleary-eyed trip back on the last metro out of town, and somehow, I landed in a hotel room only to awake a few short hours later, grab a much needed shower and head to the airport.

Copenhagen was a delightful change from what we had been through in Spain. The airport was open and airy—and while bustling—it had a sense of security, freshness and happiness. Relatives waited near the arrival gate waiving Danish and Swedish flags, and unlike our previous experience, a representative from Sommerfest was not only on time, he was easily identifiable and came bearing the most beautiful thing I’ve seen: an electric pallet jack with luggage trolley. This delightful young man not only volunteered for the festival, but he also worked for the airport, which meant he had access to the baggage areas and all the material handling equipment. Why beautiful, you ask? Because within minutes, all of our baggage, guitars and road cases were not only loaded on this wonderful contraption, but he “drove” it across the street, into the Copenhagen airport hotel where we all had rooms for the night. The band and crew don’t always stay at the same accommodations—and staying at the airport was a first for us. Not only were we by the airport—but we weren’t even staying in the country where the band would be playing!

Skeptical at first, I was immediately won over by the convenience. Each time another member of the crew or band arrived, I merely had to stroll across the street, grab a baggage trolley, and within minutes, I was walking them back across to their room. (This was significantly more enjoyable than spending hours camped out at the airport waiting for arrivals, hunting down their gear and transports, and then heading back for hours more!) The Copenhagen airport was quiet, clean and relaxing, and I suspect that before I had finished my first trip back to the arrival gates, most of the crew was asleep in their beds. The only negative I could think of was the lack of dining options nearby. I rarely visit the golden arches in the United States, so I wasn’t thrilled about such culinary horrors, however the absolutely beautiful young cashier with her two blonde braids made up for the $12 barely edible salad. (Social butterfly as I may be, I get terribly shy around beautiful women.)

Finally, with 4/5 of the band arrived (Jay Jay was still on holiday in Spain) and now a truly full ensemble of crew, we rested, ate, showered and had merriment. Within 24 hours, the residual crankiness of the previous gig was a distant memory, and clearly everyone felt physically and mentally better. The surgical skin I purchased at the Apotek/Pharmacia in Barcelona really did the trick—I felt like I was walking on my own two feet again, instead of a pair of bloody stumps. Normally, I love to go into town but even I decided to simply sink back into a lounge chair, enjoy a cold beverage and enjoy the absence of amplifier ringing. Domestic gnome that I am, I did some more hotel sink laundry and then joined some of the band and crew who opted to venture into Copenhagen proper for a dinner stroll—after which we headed back to the hotel where the crew was properly informed that this was possibly our last opportunity to sleep and shower for about 3 days.

Our marching orders were as follows: pack our bags tonight, shower, and be downstairs for an early breakfast and lobby call. [“Lobby Call” for my newer readers, is when the road crew reports to the hotel lobby to load the equipment into the cargo vans and then board a transport to the show/airport. There is no such thing as being late for lobby call. “Late” means you missed the transport and you’re on your own. So…. Lateness is never an option. A 6:00 A.M. lobby call means my skinny butt is downstairs by 5:30 A.M. and all hands need to be on the guitar cases no later than 5:45 A.M.] I’m sure some opted for the extra 30 minutes of sleep in lieu of a shower, but I’m big on hygiene, so packed my bags and hit the pillow for six long uninterrupted hours and then took a long, hot shower.

Our transports were right on time, and we did the dance we have done so many times before—load the vans, grab a cup of coffee and pile into the transports. Usually these rides are jovial and animated, but clearly not everyone was as caffeinated as I, and the sounds of snoring filled our bus. We drove across the world’s longest bridge, over the border into Sweden, and I instantly felt a wave of contentment. There are not enough ways to say it: I LOVE SWEDEN. Unlike the humidity and dreary drizzle we left behind, Svedala was warm, sunny and had a refreshing breeze.

The grounds of the Sommerfest were small by comparison to many of the other European shows, but the main stage was a decent size and to my delight, the dressing rooms, catering and hospitality were housed inside an adjacent school. I happily overlooked the fact that I would be climbing the 2 flights of stairs at least 20-30 times because the accommodations were climate controlled, light-filled, clean, quiet and beautifully arranged. Festival posters covered the walls and hallway windows to give the band maximum privacy, an exercise mat for the Snide One—three well-stocked fridges with water, sports drinks and soda—and for the crew….candy. Lots and lots of candy. Including one that looked exactly like a cat turd. Not sure what that was all about but it’s Sweden, so I even ate the cat turd candy. (boy, I really HOPE it was candy. I didn’t see any cats around.) Even the Twisted toilets were decadent. The catering hall was tastefully decorated with red, pink and white tablecloths—and hosted an attentive staff that fed us a delicious lunch fit for kings. Oh, Sweden, how I love thee.

Unlike the chaos we’ve seen at other festivals over the past decade (not naming names here), the crew at Sweden was the epitome of order. Hundreds of cheerful staff, all easily labeled and identified via color-coded tee-shirt—it was an OCD dream come true. I took a stroll around the grounds and spied the third stage sporting the logo of the local charity for which the festival was supporting: FUCK CANCER, the logo, of course, being the middle finger salute. That’s right. FUCK CANCER! It’s okay, you can say it with me: FUCK CANCER! I’ve lost enough beautiful friends and family to this horrible disease, I gladly saluted my own finger in the air—I hope they raise a ton of money.

Across from the hospitality building was a stage covered by a half-dome, leading out to a large field and a beer garden full of picnic tables. It fed into a stretch of port-a-potties and then led the crowd into another open field where the main stage was located. Onstage was the largest assortment of recycling bins I’ve ever seen: Plastic, Paper, Metal Cans, Batteries, Miscellaneous Junk/Drummer Vomit…..wait. Really? They recycle drummer vomit? Remind me NOT to buy any recycled clothing in Sweden. To the flank and rear, the aforementioned FUCK CANCER tent and don’t ask me why, but there was an inflatable bouncy house back there too. I took a gander at the day’s lineup: I didn’t know a single band: let’s see…we had…”Bad Barber”….hmmm…if that’s a hair metal band….well, insert your own joke here….the DiamantOrkestern which, in my best guess, meant “Diamond Orchestra”…and then…there was Vici och Doggy. Ummm. What? Doggy? Did I miss a dog act? Now I was getting nervous—this did not look like a metal crowd—how were they going to react to Twisted Sister?

By 9:00 P.M. the place was absolutely packed solid. The sun barely starting to set, we did our preparations to move everything into place. The Swedish crew, moving like a precision team, ensured earlier that we had plenty of time for a proper sound check (and, OH, did it sound good!) and more than an hour for the changeover of sets, allowing your faithful road crew to ensure that everything was in it’s place. There was even a special meet and greet for a local family who donated to the Twisted Sister film and won a photo shoot, one-on-one time with the entire band and lots of other extras.

The opening riff of “Stay Hungry” began with a boom—no literally. A BOOM. I damn forgot about the pyrotechnics and almost crapped my pants when that thing went off. With the show underway, I quickly hoofed back to the dressing rooms and loaded up the band transport with baggage, water and other necessities. I could hear them playing a perfect rendition of “Shoot ‘em Down” as I hauled everything down the stairs, and made it back to the stage to enjoy a sea of appreciative fans, banging their heads to “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll” under a spectacular full moon. As Jay Jay ripped off the final chord, he turned to me as he passed his guitar to his technician and said, “Now THAT’S how it’s done!”

Dee stopped at this point to address the crowd, expressing how happy Twisted Sister was to be playing to Sweden on this night—under a beautiful moon—acknowledging that Twisted Sister is “different from the other bands at the festival….but not as pretty….” He also stressed that all five original band members were playing—and one of many Dee-isms of the night—“Nobody died. Yet. So….catch us while you can.”

They launched into Captain Howdy/Street Justice, with Dee sprawled across the monitor wedge like a pinup model. A demented psychopathic pinup model, that is. But the sound was fantastic—perfectly balanced onstage and off—and Eddie delivered one of several incredible solos. A.J.’s drumming during Street Justice was spot on—I don’t know if it was the kit or he was just extra-on his game, but I could really feel the “kick” in the kick drum. Street Justice is about vigilantism, and he really gave the impression of a street fight—it was a pounding, punching sound. Really brought the song to life as did a blisteringly fast solo by Jay Jay. There was just so much energy on stage—all five artists going full throttle—Eddie even leaned in gave a little English on the pick as he tossed it into the crowd.

The familiar cowbell could only mean one song: “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” And the crowd went dead…..Nah, I’m kidding….of course, not. The place went absolutely insane. I couldn’t believe this was the same crowd that had been listening to folk music and Elvis tributes all day. More fantastic solos, thunderous drums and the crowd just loved it. At one point, Eddie played his solo, flanked by Jay Jay and Mark—it was tight, cohesive and flawless. (and damn good photo op!) The crowd sang it loud and proud, prompting a “NICE!” from Dee, followed by, “And LOUD. That was fucking loud!” (true.) Dee took a look out at the crowd, and commented that he was particularly glad to see so many original TS fans out there, but also noticed that many of them brought their children who are “as fucked up as you are!…and my god, GRANDKIDS TOO!” {don’t worry, that’s a compliment.} “So, “Dee continued, “to continue the old school heavy metal education and since we’re next to a school…” The crowd found this particularly amusing—even Dee commented—“Don’t know why that’s funny…but oh well…” “We’re gonna sing it again with the spotlight on you…the audience!” And sing they did, my babies, Sweden loud! Dee finished it with a “Now drop and give me 20!” [You know, every time he says that, I feel the urge to do just that!]

Jay Jay took a photo of the audience (see the Twisted Sister main page) and commented how it can take bands years to finally make it—and Sweden has always been a huge supporter of Twisted Sister—he gave one of his now famous American Idol rants. I’m not sure if young fans truly understand the many years and thousands of shows that Twisted Sister (and other bands of their generation) played in small clubs in order to build a following of loyal fans before getting a record deal. It exposes these hideous American Idol and The Voice contests as the vapid, bubble-gum pre-packaged industry made-for-television nonsense that they are. 15 Weeks doesn’t make loyal fans…20…30….40 years of playing—that’s what makes fans loyal. Jay Jay encouraged fans to tweet out #TSLive #twistedsister and threw in a few special hashtags for the American Idol contestants #successfulfor15weeks and #I’llbeworkinginMcDonaldswhenthisisover

More music? Hell, yeah we had more music. The band rolled into “The Kids Are Back” and Dee Snider was about to be back, and prepared to slide into his front stage dive where he sings the verse while lying on his back, head hanging backwards over the edge of the stage…. But as he ran past his cue, he realized that he forgot to take the mic out of its stand. The look on his face was priceless! Can’t blame this one on the crew….Dee gave a sheepish smile, sort of a, “whoops! My bad!” and without missing a single beat, he quickly snatched the microphone and delivered the lyrics right on the mark.

“The Kids Are Back” launched directly into “I Believe in Rock n’ Roll.” Animal delivered an incredible bass line that I could feel right down to the core. When the song ended, Dee announced, “Welcome to the Church of Twisted Sister! We only worship one thing…Rock and Fucking Roll!” A slight pause….and then the Dee-ism, “And tonight, your kids will learn to curse in English, too!” Dee merely had to point at the crowd, who screamed the refrain, “I Believe in Rock n’ Roll!” Dee stopped to appreciate this, “That’s a fucking beautiful thing.” What? It was. It was beautiful. Just fucking beautiful.

But Dee, never satisfied, observed, that there were some in the crowd who were not singing along. He pointed them out, “If you don’t believe in rock and roll, you’re in the wrong place. I’m sure there’s some place with an accordion playing……GO THERE. This place is for rockers!” Continuing in the tradition they’ve had this summer, they played a rousing rendition of Motorhead’s “Born To Raise Hell” in honor of Lemmy—if that doesn’t get Lemmy back up on his feet, I don’t know what will! Eddie and Jay Jay delivered some outstanding guitar work and Dee gave us the best Dee-ism of the night, in reference to the way the lighting technician had the yellow/orange spotlights on the crowd; “Turn the lights off these people….they aren’t french fries!”

Next on the docket was “The Fire Still Burns.” And we had fire. LOTS of fire. Lots and lots of fire. You know how I always say that Twisted Sister doesn’t need fancy pyro to put on a good show? Well, they don’t. But hot damn if fire doesn’t make a good show great. FIRE…. GOOOOOOOD. Each time Dee and the boys sang the word “Fire!” we had a wall of flames shoot up from the front. Our own Johnny the Swedish Lighting Technician really outdid himself on this one too—the audience was bathed in red, orange and yellow lights, fluctuating and strobing—giving the effect of flames out into the audience. Very nice touch.

It was also a treat to hear “The Price”—a song that had been unfortunately cut from the setlist in Spain but here, delivered sweet and slow, the fans donning lighters, cell phone lights, and cell phone lighter apps. A thousand points of light, swaying to The Price under a dark blue sky, filled with stars and a full moon. Absolute metal magic, I tell you.

But the pace picked back up—and they barreled into “Burn in Hell”—with A.J. delivering a drum solo that was harder, louder and faster than I’ve heard him play in a while. More amazingly, was that he never missed a single beat as he puked into the “Drummer’s Vomit” recycling bin. [Apparently, he gave himself some nasal spray to clear the passages before playing, and the post-nasal drip started going down his throat] Local stagehands asked me: “Does he always vomit when he plays?” I responded “No, but he’s playing so exceptional tonight….maybe he should!” Hey, at least he used the proper receptacle. “Burn In Hell” ended with a sonic boom of pyro that nearly caused me to empty my bowels. I’m serious…when you’re standing up there and those cannons go off when you aren’t expecting it—you’d better clench it up!

Before the next song, Dee admitted to the audience what I had been wondering myself. He said, “I gotta be honest….when I saw the opener was Katie and her Dog—and then saw some guy in a plaid jacket…..I thought, ‘oh dude, this is gonna suck…’ Nothing against the other bands….” But then as Twisted Sister started playing, and he saw and heard the audience reaction, he said, “This doesn’t suck….THIS IS AMAZING!” And with that, he delivered a perfect “I Wanna Rock!” that had the entire place on their feet, fists in the air, screaming every word.

We had a brief pause for band introductions and even a rousing “Happy Birthday” sung to Animal, who had a birthday on July 13th. He celebrated by chasing and attempting to bite one of the road crew. There were two wonderful encores—“Come Out and Play,” which personally, I think would make a great OPENER, but I’m just the blogger, so hey, encore it is. They finished up with S.M.F. as I prepared the transport to roll out. I snapped a quick photo as a giant flaming TS logo was raised up above the drum riser, with the band in the front of stage, taking their bows.

As I safely loaded our bad boys of rock and roll into their transport and helped A.J. back to the dressing room, we were treated to a fireworks display. A.J. and I stood on the hill by the dressing room, watching the colorful explosions—we missed out on July 4th fireworks since we were stuck in the Newark Airport due to the storms—so this display was extra sweet.

Now after midnight, we packed up the equipment, put away the guitars and loaded up the transports just after 1:00 a.m. to head back to the Copenhagen hotel. We arrived at the hotel just after 2:00 a.m.—lobby call was just 90 minutes away. So I opted for a shower, laid out a pair of fresh unmentionables—and set my alarm clock for 1 hour.

The Sweden show was one of those shows that just left you feeling good inside. The lighting, sound, monitors, guitars, drums, vocal, audience—everything was just perfect! As a crew, it felt like we finally found our “battle rhythm”—a term used by the military and in government work to mean, that you’ve achieved a daily routine in which all tactical operations are smoothly synchronized and all “actors” are performing at the peak of efficiency.

We needed this. Thank you, Sweden. Tack tack!

With that, my babies, to be continued….as we headed directly to the airport for the flight to Germany….and then directly to the stage for the next show…On to Bang Your Head!


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