Rock USA Festival, Osh Kosh WI 07/18/13 
Friday, July 26, 2013, 01:20 AM
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No longer will Oshkosh be known as a town that gave us children's overalls! Oshkosh from this point forward will be known as the place where Twisted Sister it tore up and kicked some serious dairyland ass! Twisted Sister’s performance at the Rock USA Festival was, in this road reporter's humble opinion, the best domestic show of the entire 2013 tour season. A packed festival crowd endured insane heat and humidity, an angry sun and more cheese than anyone’s colon should ever handle, and they still had plenty left in the tank to rock out until the very last note.

Well, my babies. Here we are.

There's a Snickers chocolate bar stage left, a snoring maine coon stage right, an unpacked backpack sitting in the corner, taunting me…and I’ve got the worst case of “concert drop” that I’ve ever experienced. So that can only mean one thing...and you know what that one thing is: It is TIME!

Time to share with you the trials and tributes of travel. Time to give you your fill of the thrills, frills and occasional spills of rock n' roll. Here now, for your reading enjoyment, it is bittersweet to bring the late but better than never, final 2013 edition of the Armadillo Road Report, the Official Twisted Sister concert review, with all the details you're dying to know....and plenty ya' don't. That's right, my babies, one can only rack up so many credit cards and the airfares to Sweden were just too darn expensive for an overnighter, and as I sit here, my band of brothers…and brothers in the band….are on their way to the final show of the 2013 tour.

Melancholy aside, I’m now almost 6 days overdue here so let’s get right down to brass tacks. Oshkosh is the place that is often affiliated with Osh Kosh B’Gosh, a line of children’s clothing, and has an airstrip that becomes the busiest airport in the world for one day out of the year when 10,000 small planes descend upon the little airport for a national air festival. It’s even home town to the guitarist of rock band, Tuff. But these all pale in comparison to the 30,000 fans who came to Oshkosh for the Rock USA 2013 festival.

My journey began from BWI where I had an unfortunate interaction with a McDonald’s line supervisor all over a diet coke. It was all worthwhile—I learned that when you call the 1-800 number on the side of the cup/bag, you actually get a live customer service agent who is truly interested in your fine dining experience. After giving the agent enough adjectives to fill a road report, I hopped on my plane and found myself in the enchanting Milwaukee airport where I met some of the friendliest strangers.

The airport has a pingpong table in the waiting area, and so I enjoyed watching a fierce pickup game of table tennis while I waited for the band and crew. (Forest Gump eat your heart out!) I had a delightful conversation with a grandmother sitting at the gate next to me—when trying to explain Twisted Sister to her, I was able to connect, “Are you familiar with Bette White’s ‘Off Their Rockers?’ Yes? Well, the opening theme song (I sang a few bars) is Twisted Sister!.” To which she replied, “Oh, how lovely. That’s very nice. Yah. You betcha.” I LOVE this place! See that? Twisted Sister has something to offer everyone.

Band and crew arrived safely and we piled into our transport vehicles to head up scenic highway 41. We made our way through the beautiful Winnebago County-- picturesque countryside, across Highway Z, with farm houses dotting the rolling hills, lush green corn fields, plenty of horses and cows…and an adult SuperStore. (To be fair, it *was* affiliated with a truck stop, which made it a little less random.) The hotel graciously kept the restaurant open for us, and the band and crew shared a mellow, late dinner together. [Thank you everyone… It was an honor to dine with you!]

In the morning, we headed to the venue for stage and soundcheck with those in my transport graciously willing to wish a happy birthday to my mother, hereby known as “Mamadillo,” giving her a special birthday thrill. We passed the “Welcome to Osh Vegas” sign and blew by an enormous Rock USA campground. As we turned down the dirt road, we noticed several large communications vehicles (portable repeaters and cell boosters) and entered in the now empty festival grounds.

The backstage was remarkably uncluttered—which appealed to my sense of rock festival feng shui—the stage itself was a simple scaffolding construction but mercifully covered (no Wichita flashbacks!). A nicely arranged group of air conditioned trailers provided an ample oasis for band and crew, who periodically ducked into the dressing rooms to get out of the absolutely oppressive heat and humidity. Two extremely large jumbo- tron screen trailers framed the stage and simple scrims with festival endorsements.

The section in front of the stage was an enormous field of thousands upon thousands of white lattice plastic lawn chairs. Absolutely surreal. Kinda looked like country club meets quilting convention turned rock show. A giant covered picnic area for VIPs stage right, and then behind a chain link barricade…..more plastic lawn chairs…another barricade…and then an open field leading back to the festival areas.

The grounds were your traditional mud and straw field with the usual suspects in the distance—vendor trailers of corn dogs, funnel cakes, gyros, beer and Jagermeister. There was a self-described “Bad Ass Custard Stand” that I regret I didn’t get a chance to sample….and a very menacing carnival ride that despite Twisted manager Mr. Stanton’s insistence, I refused to try. Let’s review this one more time—heavy metal math: Corn dog + funnel cake + beer + jag shots + 110 heat index + carnival ride = Really, really bad idea. Seriously. Who thinks up these things?

The lineup for the day’s Rock USA 2013 was downright impressive: Slaughter, Great White, Queensryche, Anthrax and of course, Twisted Sister. Not a bad set in the whole lot—you can’t go wrong with that! Well…actually…you could…but we’ll get to that. I really wanted to hear every band on the docket—especially Queensryche, one of my favorites….but duty calls! There was plenty of work and errands to be done, and so unfortunately…that means that we missed the bulk of the music. [Kind of ironic, isn’t it?]

We did get a few brief moments to catch some of the Anthrax set—a killer set—they opened with “Caught In a Mosh”, “Efilnikcufecin (nice fuckin’ life)” “Indians” and “Time”, along with a thunderous rendition of AC/DC’s “TNT.” But honestly, it was just so damn hot! We were drenched in sweat after only being outside for a few minutes! The local crews did a fantastic job of breaking down the previous set and moving in the next band—but there was one logistical item that could not be ignored—there was a LOT of down time between bands. Great for crew, lousy for the crowd. And my biggest beef of the night: they only gave our boys in black and pink 60 minutes onstage, and would not allow them to take the stage early to squeeze a few more songs in.

Twisted took the stage at 11:15 pm exactly, and opened with the song that has been the focal celebration this year: “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll.” I was a bit nervous…given the hot temperatures and omnipresence of all of those lawn chairs…but I was pleasantly surprised to see the majority of the fans on their feet. This song is always played faster when played live—it was fast and furious. What Armadillo Road Report would be complete without the French Fashion Minute? Jay Jay was sporting all black leather tonight, which was no easy feat in that kind of humidity! I think I lost weight just thinking about it.

“Shoot ‘Em Down” treated us to a nice, fast & loose Jay Jay solo joined by Mark “Animal” Mendoza back on bass! Two words for you: HOLY CRAP. Two more words: “HE’S BAAAAA-AAACCCK!” Oh boy, is Animal back! Nothing is gonna keep this man down—he pounded that bass twice as hard as usual, as if to remind us who he is. (not that we needed reminding!) Ladies and Gentlemen…..Animal is back to kick your ass!

After “Stay Hungry,” (Which turns 35 next year if I’m not mistaken) Dee got a good look at the crowd. For a crowd that had been sweltering in the sun all day…this festival was packed! There was not an empty chair or cheese plate to be seen. I mean it, these folks really dig the cheese. Can I say it again? Nicest people ever AND they’re into cheese. I LOVE THIS PLACE! Yanno….Wisconsin is downright….wholesome! And yet….they rock out hard and they turn out for the hard rock. Dee did a quick check “Am I allowed to curse? Yes? Hey Wisconsin…How the fuck are ya?” Dee was in a very empathetic mood: “We know it’s hot…..it’s toasty….you’re tired….” But then Dee recalled that “We’ve partied here before with you mutha fuckas before!.....so release the energy you’ve been saving up all day!”

“The Beast” gave us some hard core cowbell, along with a new addition to the A.J. percussion set—a special bell called an “ice bell.” Think heavy metal meets zen temple—really quite extraordinary. This one was a real bass pounder as well, and Eddie delivered a fantastic and tight solo, with one leg up. Literally. He did the solo on one leg—that’s some darn good rockin, you betcha!

When the band launched into “The Kids Are Back,” you could really tell that they had hit their groove. The sound was beautifully balanced, even from the stage. Animal was up to his old tricks—savvy SMFs who have been watching the shows may have noted the ongoing stage battle between Mark and Eddie as they duel guitars—the song ended with a flourish as A.J. tossed (and caught) a stick high in the air.

Jay Jay thanked the other bands, in particular Queensryche and Anthrax, who have shared the stage with Twisted Sister many times. He also expressed the band’s appreciation to all of the fans who have stood behind not only Twisted Sister all of these years….but supported all of the other heavy metal artists out there.

Dee welcomed those in attendance to join, as millions of fans across the world have, the Church of Twisted Sister. (now THAT’S a reason to get up on Sunday mornings!) “I Believe in Rock n’ Roll” was absolutely screaming but it took a bit of effort on Dee’s part to get everyone to feel the spirit. He asked the audience to “repeat after Dee…” but after an attempt at the refrain, Dee declared it was “Un-Wisconsin-like!” Best Dee-ism of the night: “We’ve seen your open spaces…and where there’s open spaces…there’s people partying!” So he asked them to give it to ‘em Wisconsin! Put down the cheesy fries (I actually saw a guy wearing an ‘I Love Poutine!’ shirt.) and give it all you’ve got. This crowd was fired up!

By the time we had cowbell, the crowd was absolutely on their feet. Jay Jay and Eddie gave us a spot-on flawless duet—they were like…peas n’ carrots….cheese n’ fries….and they had everybody singing. At one point, Mark came over to the side of the stage and yelled at all the folks standing in the wings, “Were you singing?! You’d better be singing!” Believe me, when Animal tells you to sing, you’d better start singing! Dee had the crowd sing one more time—he brought all of the house lights up, and asked for all the horns in the air….which we saw…plus one white lattice lawn chair…

There was one serious, poignant moment—Dee dedicated “The Price” to Jeff and Jack, two local folks who recently died in a plane crash. [I didn’t catch all of the details—so any local folks—if there’s a correction or additional information needed here…please contact me and I’ll update it]

And similar to those of you who caught the Austin, TX performance—Dee commented that many of his esteemed colleagues seemed to be obsessed with the “unplugged” phenomenon, playing acoustic sets these days. Dee pronounced acoustic sets to be “the death of metal,” punctuated by his absolute annihilation of an acoustic guitar on-stage, Pete Townsend style.
“The Price” was beautifully played—Eddie delivered another great solo--the crowd really feeling it. We had a sea of waving arms—Wisconsin, you done good! Truly, this was the best festival crowd in the U.S. that we saw all tour.

But we were far from done! “Burn in Hell” gave us a little something extra—maybe it was the heat….maybe it was the half-naked crowd…maybe it was the fact that Dee is looking quite toned these days…but Dee came out bare-chested, a black leather armband on each arm, white jeans laced up with black leather on the sides and black boots--illuminated all in red. It was quite a spectacle—I found myself taking a moment to fully appreciate Dee’s physique. (Not that there’s anything WRONG with that!) May I just remind you all that Dee is a grandfather? My grandfather, may he rest in peace, did NOT look like that! I’m just sayin’….. Dee is lookin’ good these days!

Dee took a moment to clarify that “Burn In Hell” is an uplifting song….the good Christian message “Don’t Be An Asshole!” And let us say…..amen! He gave props to the peeps all the way in the back, “We see you rocking out!”

And Dee shared with the crowd his thoughts…which I happen to share too….which is that Rock USA Festival is a great festival with fantastic artists, awesome fans and a wonderful staff….but the schedule and timetable is “weird.” Which is a nice way of saying…..fucked. Many fans were not happy that the headliner was only given 60 minutes…and there was a LOT of down time in between. Dee mentioned that if every band shaved just 5 minutes off (OR they shaved 5 minutes off the set change times) then Twisted Sister would have had a full 90 minute set instead of the 60! “Just sayin’….” Said Dee….and I’m right there with ya. This was a poor decision made by the festival. Feel free to visit their facebook and tell them that they need to give Twisted Sister a full 90-minute set for pete’s sake!

When Dee launched into “I Wanna Rock” and while we were expecting the crowd to go nuts, Dee unleashed a string of Dee-isms including; “This time, when you say ‘rock!’, throw your fist in the air…and no hiding behind the fat guy…that’s cheating!” He gave the “I Wanna Rock” vs “I Wanna Fuck” survey, but I don’t think the crowd fully understood when Dee say to only say ‘rock’ if you wanna rock more than you wanna fuck, and say ‘fuck’ if you wanna fuck more than you wanna rock. When Dee yelled “I Wanna Rock!” there were an awful lot of folks screaming “rock!” Dee whispers into his mic, “You gotta listen guys….” Finally, the crowd understood and Dee agreed to “fuck later let’s rock now!”

Dee complimented a lovely gal in the front row on her buxom bosom, commenting, “It must be all the cheese!” Unbelievable. Dee mentions rock….crowd? meh. Dee mentions fucking….crowd? meh. Dee mentions boobs….crowd? meh. Dee mentions dairy…..and the crowd goes wild! Welcome to Wisconsin….I LOVE THIS PLACE! The last verse was absolutely thunderous….that’s some serious cheese.

Sadly….only one encore tonight: S.M.F. But it was a performance worthy of a show closer—the self-proclaimed cheeseheads’ asses were officially kicked!

So let’s review, shall we? Twisted Sister headlined Rock USA 2013 to deliver 60-minutes of mind-blowing, cheese-melting, hardcore heavy metal that had a crowd of 30,000 fans on their feet, fists in the air, rocking hard after a long, tough day in the heat. Seriously—for me, this was the best U.S./Domestic show of the 2013 tour—thank you Wisconsin for an amazing show with some of the nicest local crews, hotel staff, hospitality and fans!

And so my babies, it is with great sadness that I now put away my colors, hang up my laminate, and bid you all farewell until the next tour. If you want Twisted Sister to play near you, remember to call your local rock station and ask them to play some TS… tell your local concert promoters that you want Twisted Sister to headline! Keep metal alive!
My infinite love to the entire Twisted road crew—Danny, Joe, George, Johnny, Rikk, Mehtis, Keith, A.J. Jr, Dwayne, Marty—and of course, nothing but love to the bad boys of rock n’ roll--Dee, A.J., Jay Jay, Eddie and Mark. You are my Twisted family.

This is Armadillo….trotting off….until the next tour, my babies! Thank you everyone for all the support!
A happy belated birthday to Mr. Mendoza and Mr. French!
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