Hellfest, Clisson France, 21-June, 2013 
Saturday, June 22, 2013, 06:10 PM
Bonjour mesdames and monsieurs! I'm going to make this easy--plain and simple--Twisted Sister absolutely destroyed Hellfest last night. It was a sixty-minute onslaught of pure metal acceleration, from the opening note until the last ring of the amplifier. There is nothing-NOTHING--that can compare to Twisted Sister playing a European festival. The fans will be talking about the onstage demolition for years to come.

Do you know what happens when you mix fine wine, good cheese, a small sleepy town in France… add some rain and tens of thousands of sick mutha fuckas from all over Europe? Hellfest, ladies and gentlemen, you get Hellfest. Clisson is a beautiful, quaint, medieval village that turns into a haven for thousands upon thousands of heavy metal fans for just three days of the year.

You know what's coming next, of course. Where there is cheese…there is cheesiness! It can only mean one thing--that its time. Time for the only tour blog that braves wind, snow, rain, hail and fried food to bring you all the concert details you're aching to know about... and plenty you don't! My babies, it is my true pleasure and honor to bring this special European edition of the Armadillo Road Report, the Official Twisted Sister tour blog, coming to you from Hellfest 2013 in Clisson, France.

The Twisted entourage of band and crew arrived the day before yesterday--unfortunately, I can't say the same for some of our baggage. Such are the risks and perils of air travel. Apparently the primary law of physics concerning the creation and destruction of matter does not apply to the airline industry--it seems that baggage CAN simply disappear into thin air.
After a brief (albeit soggy) stroll around the chateau de Clisson (a beautiful castle in the center of town) and a delicious ”plat du jour” of filet mignon, we settled into our hotel and prepared for the onslaught of metal heads who temporarily take over this quiet, rural paradise.

Group after group of happy headbangers [great name for a pub, don’t you think? “Oy, mate. We’re ‘eaded down to the ‘appy ‘eadbanger for a pint!”] made the mecca from bus and train stations into Hellfest, loaded down with camping gear and libations, destined for the fields a few miles away.

Visualize a huge open field, covered with straw, with rolling tree-covered hills in the background to one side- a lush farm crop of some sort of vegetable growing in the foreground. The festival grounds were created using large medieval circus-like tents for food concessions stage left, and a miniature city of vendors stage right, manufactured from transportation cargo containers stacked atop one another, two deep by three high, covered with corrugated metal, adorned with a rust patina in bubble patterns. (Again with the bubbles? Quoi de fuck?!) Two stages erected side by side, such that while one band played, the second band prepped. Gazing outward from backstage, the massive crowd seemed to extend as far back as the eye could see.

With the venue just minutes from the hotel, we arrived late morning to find out that there had been a change of events. Due to late cancellation of a headliner, the bill had to get shifted around and we were informed that Twisted Sister was now scheduled to play at 6:30 pm! This meant a few changes to band and crew logistics, and I have to confess, it just felt odd to being doing our setup knowing that our work would be done by the time our usual dinner hour rolled around. I don’t recall ever seeing Twisted play during daylight, with the exception of Norway, where the sun didn’t set.

Backstage was a pre-fabricated maze of bands, complemented by an ample bar for those with access, shower and restroom facilities, a dining room, a well-stocked snack and drink area for crew, plenty of art (it’s France, of course) and even a pool table. Walking back towards Twisted Sister’s dressing room, the names of bands posted on the outside of dressing rooms read like refrigerator magnetic poetry—I was particularly amused by the juxtaposition of 4 bands—I felt like the universe was making a commentary on my life—Sleep…..Terror….Neurosis….Sick of It All….

I made the extremely long (and sometimes treacherous) walk from dressing room to stage many, many times—each time I could hear lead singers and other artists vocalizing and doing warm up exercises. It was a never-ending dance: one artist about to take the stage, fresh and fired up---another coming off the stage, tired, sweaty but victorious. The backstage areas on both sides were filled entirely with mound upon mound of band equipment. The same dance ensued: as one artist played, the crew on deck prepared their gear, and the mad scramble once the on-stage artists said “Merci!” One drum riser exiting stage right….and another one coming on. One band’s colors being lowered while the next one sits ready to raise. Behind the stages, gear rolled up and down the ramps like a roadie case freeway. Truly…it was organized chaos.

On the positive side, with such an early prep time, I was able to catch Hardcore Superstar and Saxon’s entire sets—a treat for me on both counts—they sounded fantastic—and the crowd seemed to be soaking up every minute of it. Unlike other festivals, you could hear both stages from one spot as they were mere yards from one another, but to get a visual, there was a bit of a shuffle from right to left, like a heavy metal Wimbledon match. It seemed as though most of the 80’s metal bands played on the main stage, with the hardcore and death metal bands playing the second one.

One of the things I found most interesting was the eclectic mix of people and bands. Normally, Agnostic Front and Black Breath would not share a bill with Whitesnake, Def Leppard and Twisted Sister. And if they did, you’d have half the crowd happy, half not so happy. But here at Hellfest, punk, death metal and heavy metal fans all mix together and get along, and the crowds are so giving, so enthusiastic—it’s impossible to really know which fans were there for which act.

Europe went on the main stage before Twisted—there was something really special about seeing Europe play in….well…Europe! I had always wanted to hear “The Final Countdown” live, and so I can cross that one off my list. The Twisted road crew made their last minute tweaks to the guitars and drums, surrounded by stacks and stacks of other gear. I just have to say—Def Leppard’s gear looked like a busload of supermodels were packing for a weeklong Maybelline convention in Vegas—I have never SEEN so much gear for one band before.

Every time I turned around, I was walking into another giant rolling wardrobe case, box or other stack. Many of the other bands as well seemed to have so much gear that I had to periodically check Twisted’s stack of guitars and bags to ensure they didn’t get lost in the backstage madness. It made me appreciate the clean, minimalist approach that Twisted Sister takes when they travel. And quite frankly, it’s proof that you can bring everything but the kitchen sink, and still sound so-so…..while Twisted Sister arrives with a load that fit in the back of a passenger van….and performed circles around those with ten times the gear.

As I stepped out onto the loading platform backstage, the heavens let loose again. It was clear that we were not in the United States. In the U.S., when it begins to rain cats and dogs, the crowd runs for cover as if they would melt. In Europe…no one budged! Instead, I watched in awe as tens of thousands of fans nonchalantly donned ponchos. I believe the expression is: “There is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices.”

After running few more errands, I locked up the dressing rooms just as the familiar opening notes of “Long Way to the Top” could be heard in the distance. And it was a Long Way to the Stage for me! I sprinted the hefty distance, making it just in time to hear the roar of the crowd as A.J. mounted his drum kit and the rest of Twisted took their positions on stage. It was very odd to make the usually dramatic entrance onstage in the daylight—to compensate for the lack of darkness, the local crew filled the stage with theatre fog—so thick at times I could barely see the other side of the stage.

I noticed immediately a different sound to the band—I don’t know if A.J. had a different type of kick-drum, but the sound was INDESCRIBABLE. You could feel in your nether regions! It was so deep…so rich..so loud! And unless he was playing completely differently than any of the previous shows I’ve heard, the kick bass line was faster and more stoccato---bababababababababa—unreal! I don’t know if he changed up the drum line or it was just differently balanced sound but it was as if I was hearing “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll” for the first time!

The rhythm section dominated again during “Shoot ‘em Down”—Animal’s relentless pounding with A.J.’s monster kick gave the song an extra boost. Judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd, they were enjoying as much as I was! Speaking of the crowd, what I absolutely LOVE the most about European festivals is that pretty much, ANYTHING goes. There were fans dressed like Dee…fans wearing feather boas….fans waving giant bananas (no, no….not THAT…actually inflatable bananas…sheesh!) cowboy hats, top hats, pirate hats…body paint and biker gear….and they all rock together like peas and carrots.

As they launched into “Stay Hungry,” the rhythm section just let loose again, this time, with A.J. pounding so furiously that he had a cymbal fly off! The crowd simply fed off the energy, and the crowd surfing began….first with one…then another…and before long, I could see literally waves of human surfers, gently floating atop the crowd and then, miraculously cradled into the arms of hulking security men who plucked the surfers from the tops and righted them on foot, as if they were feather-weights. As one surfer made his way to the front and was escorted to the side—I could see that he made his long horizontal trek without ever removing his cigarette—Ooh la la—quel French! One crowd surfer did it in a kilt….now THAT takes balls. And he had them. Trust me. Hard to hide anything when you’re crowd surfing in a kilt.

“The Beast” followed “Stay Hungry”—one of things I love about European festival crowds—they don’t require a lot of prompting. One visual cue—like a single overhead clap—and soon the entire place is doing it unison. “The Beast” was played strong and tight—the riffs heavy and hard, just how we like it, and the audience was simply fists and hair as far as the eye could see.

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” always creates a crowd eruption—Hellfest no exception here—but for some reason, an enormously large inflatable bowling ball was released during the song, and it was a bit distracting as it steamrollered over photographers and fans alike. Speaking of photographers, there were so many at Hellfest that security had bring them up in groups of 30 or so at a time….I stopped counting after the fourth rotation! Great duet with Eddie and Jay Jay—proof that better crowds give even better performances. While the duet was excellent in Austin last week, this concert seemed to flow a lot easier. The band seemed relaxed, and yet at the same time, absolutely fueled by the amazing crowd.

One fan raised a large sign that read: “A.J. I want a drumstick please!” For the record, that same fan help up the same sign for every single previous act—just sayin’….. but in fairness to him or her, each sign *was* customized to the drummer.

Dee said thank you to mother nature, who graciously and uncharacteristically brought out the sun and did NOT hit us with hail, tornadoes and all the other weather that Twisted shows seem to spawn. Dee asked those in attendance if anyone “Parlez vous English?” [I believe that’s what you call, Franglais] and requested some translation assistance for those who didn’t. He complemented the fans on their good singing…but “Those fans over there….not so much! Who are they?” and then observed that a group of attendees seemed to be focusing their attention elsewhere…which is when Dee realized that this small group of fans were busying themselves for the band prepping the adjacent stage. I don’t know how well it translated, but Dee gave the disinterested bunch a heartfelt, “Suck it, bee-yutch! Wanna see what a real crowd sounds like?” Well, that crowd didn’t need any cues—the noise coming from the enormous throng of metal heads was absolutely deafening.

The crowd showed their appreciation with an impromptu a cappella of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” that was so loud, Jay Jay had to almost shout into his mic to be heard. At an afternoon press conference, Jay Jay was asked if he liked the French, to wit, he responded, “Je m’appelle Jay Jay FRENCH! What the fuck do you think? Love the French!”

Next on the bill--“The Price.” Dee belted this one with such heart—the song that means so much to so many—his voice was just filled with emotion. During the solo, he took a quick moment to steal a kiss from his wife, Suzette, standing in the wings. It was a very moving, touching moment—to see a heavy metal rocker that we all know is tough as steel, have such a tender side to him. Eddie’s solo was spot on—the sound was just perfectly balanced and every note just held itself suspended…just so! It was a perfect metal moment.

Being sunny outside, the red lights of “Burn In Hell” probably weren’t very apparent to the crowd—the stage was filled once more with fog to provide the lights an avenue—when Dee dropped to the ground, he emerged through the fog like something out of a horror script. This dramatic moment was somewhat of a contrast to the fan in a pink leotard…complete with pink tutu…who managed to surf his entire way to the front. Vive la difference! (and they were worried that *I* wear too much pink—don’t worry, crew…I’m not ordering a tutu!) Another crowd surfing fan sported a set of Twisted Sister shoulder pads that I have to say, looked quite close to the originals. And then...there was the fan wearing a traffic cone on his head. I don't know. That....and the inflatable bananas...what I can I say? It's Europe!

Dee had some hilarious Dee-isms as well—including one about his observation of all the “Dee Snider” wigs in the audience. “It’s my real fucking hair! It’s not a wig, see?” and he held his locks out to prove it, “See? So far, so good….” Followed by a comment that it would certainly suck to have a to wear a bandana. Hey…wait a second…..it’s not SO bad…. Well…actually…..yes it is…..

[hey….still reading? Well, hang in there…I’m almost done…four notepad pages to go…]

“I Wanna Rock” is by far, the one song that just makes anyone left at concessions, drop their crepes and come running. Hellfest was rocking out as far as the eye could see—and it was EVERYONE—the security, the photographers, fans, concessions, medics….everyone with their fist in the air, screaming rock. I don’t know about you, but if I was a band playing next, I’d be crapping my pants in the dressing room, going, “holy shit…I have to play following THAT?” yeah. I’ll send the headliners a sympathy card and some flowers.

Best Dee-ism of the night: while egging the crowd on to scream “Rock!”, he would yell out “I wanna rock!’ in various poses and tempos….and at one point, straddles his legs, and screams it at the crowd from between his legs, followed by: “Hey! Stop looking at my ass!”
He then introduced the closing number as a “very old song” and that “the people who wrote it are almost dead *cough* rollingstones *cough*… and they ended the show with an earth-shattering club version of “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll” that you could see how much the band was enjoying themselves playing it.

In the middle of it….Dee asked….”Why are you sitting? Are you in a wheelchair?.....You are? Well….oh. okay. Well, thanks for rolling here today!” and then addressed some non-wheeled fans who were not standing, and again, with minimal prompting, tens of thousands of fans began chanting, in flawless English, “Stand the fuck up! Stand the fuck up!” He asked everyone to end the song by screaming “I love it!” on cue, in response to “It’s Only Rock and Roll….” while throwing their fists in the air and jumping as high as they could.
It was awe inspiring.

Dee: “Turn the lights on the audience!” [sun comes out] “Thank you, God!” and with that, the band stopped playing and gave the audience a well-deserved round of applause. That’s how it’s done, babies. The gauntlet has now been thrown down for Graspop!

I had to make a quick dash back to the dressing room while the final notes were being played, so that the room would be opened, fresh towels and water at the ready…. And within minutes, an exhausted but exhilarated band returned from the stage, triumphant in their thorough ass-kicking that they delivered on-stage.

Twisted Sister proved last night why so many bands will not take the stage after them—and any band that plays after Twisted once…will likely not make that mistake again. The boys in black and pink absolutely destroyed Hellfest. In sixty minutes, they delivered a fist-throwing, ass-kicking, bass pounding, guitar dualing, crowd surfing in tutus performance that will leave fans screaming for more for months to come! Merci beaucoup Clisson!

And with that, my babies, I crossed off a few more items from the bucket list…including “Have a crepe in France” and “Meet Suzette Snider” [I’m a HUGE Suzette fan…As an artist I have always admired her tremendous talent for costumes, makeup and of course, she gave us the perfectly designed bones logo!] The crepe was delicious, and Suzette was absolutely lovely. [Hold the Crepe Suzette jokes, please] She is even more beautiful in person, and was so personable, gracious and kind. I just adore the entire Twisted family—and I’m so grateful to have the privilege to serve this amazing Twisted organization.

I grabbed some quick dinner on the town with Animal and Mr. French as we took a stroll around the castle... can I just say this ONE more time? If you had told me, when I was just a 13 year old awe-struck fan...that in thirty years from now, you will be sitting in a cafe in France, swapping tales with members of Twisted Sister after helping them onstage at one of the largest European festivals....well, I would have said, "oh yeah--that's a great dream! too bad it will never come true." My friends--my wildest dreams have come true--never stop dreaming, my babies. The universe holds magic for each of us.

This is Armadillo…signing off and heading to Paris for a few days of sight-seeing and all the cheese I can eat before I bring you the next installation of the Armadillo Road Report, from Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel, Belgium! Au revoir, my babies!

Cem1983 
Cem1983 

Comments

Add Comment

Fill out the form below to add your own comments.









Insert Special: