Alcatraz Festival, Kortruk, Belgium 9-August, 2014

Belgium, babies. Hard to believe but it was just a few hours before that the band, road crew and your faithful road reporter left the stage in the Faroe Islands, packed our gear just two hours later, and found ourselves in the airport on our way to Brussels.

I’ve covered Twisted shows in Belgium twice before as Graspop, but this was my first time at the Alcatraz Festival in Kortruk, Belgium. In spite of some last minute technical difficulties, Twisted Sister delivered an incredible performance that delighted the fans, and gave even the road crew some special surprises!

Let’s begin.

We began with an early load-in at the festival site—I first thought we were in the wrong place—we turned into a large industrial park, next to a school complex, but the large scaffolding of a stage and the tents in the distance told me this was the place. A very kind and friendly (but clearly tired) local road crew greeted us, wearing tee shirts that read: “49% badass. 51% insane. 100% dedicated.” Outstanding. I think my personal ratio is closer to 25/75/100 but that’s alright. What’s a little insanity between friends.

It had poured the night before, so the first order of business was to squeegee all of the water off of the stage, as well as sweep the mounds of debris left from the previous acts. Then time to chalk the stage and set all of the marks for the Twisted Sister set before doors open.

Instead of sitting back and grabbing a few precious and much needed hours of sleep, the Twisted road crew instead jumped in early to help out the first act of the day, Four By Fate (F X F). Four-by-Fate consists of Tod Howarth (Frehley’s Comet/Cheap Trick/Ted Nugent), John Regan (Frehley’s Comet/Peter Frampton/John Waite & many other big names!), Sean Kelly (Nelly Furtado/Crash Kelly) and Stet Howland (W.A.S.P.). Truly a nice bunch of guys, very laid back and they made the trek across the pond to open up the Alcatraz Festival.

Do you know how you can tell a good band? When you start with an empty grassy field….play one minute into your opening song….and see fans come literally running to the front of the stage. Within minutes, a very nice throng of fans filled the area in front to hear this hard-rocking quartet blow them away first thing in the morning.

We had a little bit of everything….W.A.S.P….Cheap Trick…Frehley’s Comet…even some Beatles! And you know what? This crowd was really digging it! I counted at least 30 rows of bobbin’ heads…ya know, rocking out. They even had a little pyro, and a drum solo in which the drummer plays BARE HANDED—no sticks! He also does a pretty nifty trick with empty beer bottles, but one of the crew who shall remain nameless (NOT ME!) removed the bottles from the riser, thinking they were trash. Alas. Cleanliness 1. Drum Solo. 0.
Anyhow, I strongly recommend if you’re lucky enough to have these guys play a gig near you to check them out. Good, solid rock n’ roll!

I ventured into the crowd briefly to chat with Slamboard S.M.F.s Funtazia Dave and S.M.F. Kristhof Two good chaps who made the trek—happy to see familiar faces in the crowd! On my way back, I passed one fan dressed in a panda suit and two dressed in full power rangers body suits. Gotta love Europe. Spent some down time backstage watching photographer Tim Tronckoe work—be sure to check out his handiwork on facebook and his website: Armadillo shout out to Lexje and Vero who were a pleasure to hang out and dine with pre-show.

Let me just say this. In my very limited experience thus far, many times when technical difficulties arise, they occur because of local equipment failures or local crew issues. The Twisted crew worked mercilessly to get this show rolling on time, and while I won’t go into the causes (way over my technical head!) I can tell you that the sound engineer & production manager George earned his wings in Belgium. I think I lost a few years off my life in stress—and put a few extra miles on the boots that evening—but honestly, it’s all worth it when I hear the opening notes.

I’ll put the setlist up under separate cover—I again must confess to missing the first three songs. The dressing rooms, while a moderate distance away, were located down the stairs and a hallway, but I’ve gotten a good system down now and within three to four trips, I had the van loaded and ready, and had a driver named Uncle Mario, staging at the foot of the stairs.

I rejoined Twisted onstage about halfway into “Captain Howdy,” and was astonished to see the intense and tightly packed crowd that filled the field and stretched all the way back. The onstage sound was quite good, and judging from what I heard off-stage, the sound in the crowd areas was nicely balanced as well. By the time “Street Justice” rumbled in (with very nice purple lighting), the crowd was surging, pulsing and moving. Bodies started coming towards the barricade, and it seemed like an endless stream of surfing rockers. Eddie and Jay Jay really hit this one out of the park.

“Is it that time already?” Yes, it was. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, the most opening drummer riff of all time, sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Dee hurdled over the monitors like an Olympic athlete– this crowd never stopped once.
Dee actually admitted, “I’m trying to be all metal…..then you make me so happy…I’m smiling like a dick up here….” Oh, can I relate to that! It’s hard to be metal when you’re filled with elation. What a great crowd, complete with foam finger horns. [where do you guys get this shit?]

Jay Jay spoke briefly to the crowd, explaining that Twisted Sister and the crew had just flown in from the stage at the Faroe Islands and came straight to the stage in Belgium, and that we would then leave the stage tonight and fly directly to the stage in Montreal. He challenged those younger bands to try doing that….and put on the same caliber of show that Twisted Sister does! Note to other bands: don’t try this. You’ll be sorry. Verrrrry sorry. Twisted Sister is known as the best live band for a reason!

After a brief visit to the “Church of Twisted Sister” with “I Believe In Rock n’ Roll”….Dee polled the audience to confirm his suspicions that no one in attendance actually goes to church, but the Church of Twisted Sister requires that everyone rise….and remain standing….and rock hard!

A little addition to the setlist from the previous night—“Under The Blade,” which for some reason, prompted someone in the audience to light a sparkler. I’m not sure if that was metal…or not. It was a little weird, and I think I saw it taken out by a body flying by. We had a lot of bodies flying during this song, and maybe it was my imagination, but A.J. gave us a little more cowbell than usual. You can’t have too much cowbell.

We were supposed to have more pyro during “The Fire Still Burns”—do you know how metal TS is? Yeah, they’re so metal…they used up all the fire!

“The Price” gave us some beautiful pink mood lighting—and the crowd responded with a beautiful sway in unison that was truly a sight to behold. (foam fingers included) and a brought us into a rousing red rendition of “Burn In Hell” complete with monster drum solo by A.J.

Our last song of the nice (before encores) was of course, “I Wanna Rock,” and like every city, the place went absolutely bezerk. Dee fired up the audience further—admonishing them for screaming “rock” like girls, saying, “This is metal…put some grrrrrrrr….into it! RrrrrrrrrrROCK!” Dee then introduced what he called, the band’s new single, “I Wanna FUCK!” The audience happily obliged in singing the refrain, prompting Dee to say, “I’m telling ya, it’s a fuckin’ hit! The whole world will be singing the new single, ‘I Wanna Fuck’” At one point, he had the whole band laughing, as he told Eddie, “turn on the tape recorder, I want a sample…” He then caught himself laughing, saying “Okay…no smiling in metal…”

He stopped to acknowledge an Australian flag in the front—saying, “Is that an Australia flag?’ followed by a barrage of “that’s not a knife and crikey” jokes. Apparently, the road crew weren’t the only ones punchy from lack of sleep! Crikey.
And then, a special treat. As the band members were introduced to the audience, road crew member Rikk, the Twisted Sister Security and Risk Management Specialist , was called out to the stage, where 35,000+ fans sang Happy Birthday to him. Happy Birthday Rikk—he always does a fantastic job keeping the band and crew safe!

But the surprises weren’t over, babies. Twisted Sister brought all of the road crew out on stage to say thank you, and if that wasn’t enough, they invited us to sing an encore of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” onstage with them. That was never on my bucket list, but damn, I’m gonna add it now just to cross it off. What an absolute honor and a thrill.

The closed the show with a rousing version of S.M.F. a metal TS logo raised up behind the drum riser and concluded the show with a hail of explosions, sparks showering down on the stage below as the logo then burst into flames.

An absolutely fantastic show for a wonderful, energetic and appreciative crowd!

But no time, no time, my babies. We loaded out as fast as possible, my pizza in one hand and gear case in the other, and before long, we were en route to the hotel to shower, pack and head directly to the stage in Montreal!

More to come, my babies, more to come….


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