My babies, I’ve brought these road reports from the rooftops pools, hotel lobbies and airport waiting rooms….but this one is a first: I’m typing this in an electricity deprived house, reading my notes by headlamp and typing by lantern-light. The power company does not anticipate that I’ll have power before the end of the week, so it’s going to be a long, dark cleanup for me.
And speaking of long and dark…..you know what that means….yes, my babies, it’s time for the Official Armadillo Road Report for Grand Jam 2011, Grand Junction Colorado, August 27, 2011. With all the details you want to know….and this time, even MORE details you don’t!
Before I even delve into this weekend’s festivities, I must again express my best hopes that all of the band, road crew and management find their way home, safe…sound…and domiciles intact. I flew back east (by mere coincidence) with Sebastian Bach and members of his band, and please remember that not only was Twisted affected, but many of the bands away at Rock Jam and other venues on the road.
As distressing as it is for a family to be evacuated from home during a disaster, it is far more emotionally difficult to be thousands of miles away. The feeling of helplessness and frustration are beyond words–I spoke to my parents last night before it made landfall and haven’t reached them since they lost power. (I’ll have to ask my 10-year old nephew to teach them how to text). It was hard to tear myself away from the news report, weather “porn,” and dopplar screens, and allow a moment or two to enjoy Rock Jam 2011.
That said, I am quite certain that any band and crew would have much rather been with their families, homes and pets, so please give an extra loud round of “thank-you’s” to Twisted and all of the rock families that made the decision to go west, in spite of the impending hurricane. They could have canceled….and other bands may have done so…. but just another case of how much these gents care about their fans and delivering a top notch performance. If the news back east weighed on their minds, they hid it well. The show last night was high energy, beautifully delivered and demonstrated the professionalism we’ve come to expect.
There wasn’t much to do or see by the cluster of hotels where everyone stayed, but if you followed the trail of loud pipes, you’d eventually find yourself at Harley Davidson of Grand Junction, equally out in the middle of an industrial park. There I met Lynda and all of the lovely ladies–a delightful group of bikers AND, of course, Twisted Sister fans! Really, bikers and Twisted Sister go together like beer and pretzels, and it wasn’t shocking in the least to see a few members of the band checking out their wares. Motorcyles have always been a passion of mine–alas, a Harley is not destined for my future–they really are not designed for those of my, ahem, stature. Let’s just say you’ve gotta be this tall to ride that ride….and it ain’t gonna happen for me. Thanks Lynda and ladies for being such
gracious ambassadors for Grand Junction!
In fact, overall, the folks in Grand Junction were wonderful–polite, laid-back and very friendly–we received excellent customer service whereever we went, and the beauty of the mesas and rolling hills provided the perfect backdrop for some rock and roll.
After downing some breakfast, the crew loaded up and headed over the venue. We approached a giant open field fenced in with cow gates. Your visual? Mesas to the left. Mountains straight ahead. Rolling high desert hills to the rear. Horse corrals to the right. Not really Spinal Tap, but certainly a far cry from the metropolitan gigs. Like most outdoor festivals, we found a large open air stage with simple scaffolding and a jumbotron stage right, and large inflatable Jack Daniels bottle stage left. In an interesting twist, there were two small 20′ platforms containing risers on each side of the stage called “the Sky Boxes,” where VIP fans could get an unusual look at the artist of their choice.
There was at least a covered sound and light board on a small concrete platform, but it was a considerable hike to get there! Security was provided by the young men and women of Job Corps, based out of Collburn, Colorado. Most were younger than the patches on my vest but many of them were twisted fans alike, and they did a great job–especially considering that they get a stipend for the summer–which means they essentially were sweltering all day in the heat without an hourly wage. Go kids!
The seating area was a bit bizarre–the first fifty feet, stage end to stage end, was a sea of mismatched plastic lawn chairs that looked like an end-of-summer sale in the garden section of Wal-Mart. It was divided in three areas each surrounded by chain link fence–all seats assigned and reserved for VIP guests of varying degrees, with a third reserved section far over to stage right which looked to remain empty most of the day. Then a large section of lawn….er…dirt seats. Quite frankly, these VIP seats were expensive–over $300 for the best seats at the festival–and while it included food and beverages–it did not include the one thing that we all wanted the most: SHADE. The sun was absolutely scorching, and the heat index well into the 90’s, possibly over a hundred.
Regretfully, I wasn’t able to get to the previous day’s concerts–I wanted to see Skillet live, so I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for a live show near me. The first group to take the stage on Saturday was Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a young group (seriously–the guitarist is a talented 17-year old from Syracuse!) but chock full of energy and did an exceptional job of rocking their hearts out in spite of an angry sun and an almost silent, non-existent crowd.
Fuel was up next and I was again deeply shocked and dismayed that almost the entire VIP section was completely empty. That would be the equivalent of the first twenty rows across the entire field–and this was in no way reflective of the band–it was simply the heat. As storms approached on three sides of us, we caught an appreciative glimpse of a large dust devil swirling about 300 yards away. It easily rivaled the oppressive heat of Oklahoma!
In between songs, we could hear the MC engaging the crowd in an auction–we weren’t sure at first what was being auctioned off…a farm? a cow? a pig? No–it was a Fuel autographed guitar (and a pig. I think.) Some lucky fan made off with a nice piece of rock memorabilia, that’s for sure!
The band members began arriving, and I was able to cross off bucket list item #65: roadie for Dee Snider, and I happily carried his bag into the dressing room. It’s sometimes the simplest things that can bring a man joy. A.J. and Mark conducted a quick pre-show check of their equipment–AJ sporting a very dapper hat– and it was going to one of those times when the road crew would shine. With so many bands and so little time, instead of a sound-check, it would be a quick check of the mics and a sprint to the finish, with the techie equivalent of improvisation based upon whatever equipment and challenges they might face.
I enjoyed watching Sebastian Bach perform from the shaded rear of the stage with a fine gent named Dio (no relation to the late Ronnie James) and his young nephew, James. Sebastian Bach has not only aged well and kept his body in peak condition, but his chops as well. Sebastian and group were fantastic–they truly rocked the house in spite of terribly hot conditions! How many times have we seen 80’s rockers attempt a nostaglic reunion only to crash and burn–wait, don’t answer that. Too many. It was such a delight to hear Sebastian belt out the crowd favorites such as “Eighteen and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild” and “I Remember You” with the same fervor and vocal precision worthy of a rock icon. Plain and simple–they “brought it” last night. An excellent performance–I’d definitely recommend seeing Sebastian Bach, you won’t be disappointed.
The crowd in the VIP section did fill in nicely–especially after they played a radio hit–but I was again disappointed that most were sitting down through the entire set. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt–they may have been physically melted into their seats. The biggest standing ovation came for Sebastian’s guitarist, Nick. Not only is he an extremely gifted guitarist, but at only 21 years of age, he is certainly destined for great things. And he gave us the best surprise ever–his 96 year old great-grandmother joined him onstage and she actually thanked the fans for supporting her great grandson. Don’t you roll your eyes at me–is your great grandma rocking on stage with you? No, I thought not. It really was THAT cute!
I was waning a bit nostalgic, after all, this was the last show of the 2011 World Tour, and I pondered where to go to get the best spot. I decided not to go down front–those folks paid a huge sum of money to be there, and even though I spent more than double on my flight and hotel, it just didn’t feel right to saunter up front and block their view. So I opted for the sky box seating. I figured it would give me a perspective that I haven’t had to date, and since the boxes had not been filled all day, I wouldn’t be crowding anyone. I’m not sure if “sky box” was the appropriate nomenclature as there was no air conditioning, h’ors d’oevres or posh chairs, but it certainly beat baking in the Colorado rays.
Right before Twisted took the stage, Dee gave an interview in a tent backstage, which was broadcast on the Jumbotron screen. One of the questions he was asked, was how the band managed to look so good….and stay in such good shape all these years. Dee replies, as you can guess, that even at the age of 56, what he credits is his very “non-rock and roll lifestyle” of not drinking or doing drugs.
I’m going to work backwards here and give you the punchline first–the Colorado show absolutely rocked! Great performance by the pink and black–the boys sounded fantastic, tightly played and one of the funniest Dee raps I’ve ever heard. And in the end, the crowd was won over, but unfortunately, it look about 10 songs to get there. Seriously–it was just damn scorching out there!
As I’ve shared before, one of my favorite moments of any Twisted show is when “Long Way to the Top” blasts out of the speakers, beckoning our Twisted five to take the stage. Maybe it was more obvious, more accenctuated by the fact that it was still daylight, but to see fans sitting in their plastic lawn chair, legs crossed, arms folded—I thought I was going to stroke out! I started jumping up and down in the skybox, arms pumping furiously, screaming “Get up! Get up!” I looked like a Jack Russell terrier going after a piece of bacon held over it’s head…”Get up! Get up!” To no avail.
“What You Don’t Know” was the opener and it was thunderous. Even though my seat was quite likely one of the worst in the house for sound (high and stage left) It had excellent balance and they came out guitars pounding. I swear, the crowd was in a coma. I don’t know how you can’t go absolutely crazy hearing that song played at that volume, and there a few hundred hardcore SMFs there who were rocking out from the start.
The guitars were well synchronized with tightly played solos and bass that probably caused more aftershocks than the earthquake Colorado had last week. “Shoot ’em Down” was furiously delivered–Jay Jay’s solo was blistering– I don’t know how those folks could stay in their chairs, because I thought it was going to knock me clean off the scaffolding. I did notice….that the small group of young fans in their Godsmack tee-shirts were still sitting….but they moved about ten seats closer to the front of the stage. (we’ll come back to them again later) Mark’s bass line was over the top–I swear, If I HAD hair, it would have been blown back. If I wore a toupee, it would have blown clean off and landed in some dude ranch south of Durango.
“Stay Hungry” was met with applause and it occurred to me that this was one of those typical festival crowds that knew one or two Twisted songs, but anything other than that was grounds for hitting the beer stand– clearly, this young crowd was mostly a “video generation” group, and I was hoping that when “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll” began, the place would go nuts. Alas… not so. Subdued appreciation–but those kids in the front now were rocking along. Their asses were still implanted in the seats, but they were at least into the show and not texting. Dee explained that he “was in a real bad mood.” The hurricane was bearing down on New York and here he was away from his family… but he was here rocking with the band, “just for you!” That’s right Colorado….you’d better start to bring it on!
“Burn In Hell” is almost always a crowd pleaser, and it was starting to get the fans into it–vocally Dee sounded fantastic, as did Eddie’s guitar work. There were a few moments of guitar dueling that were pure bliss–very tight and beautifully balanced. The lighting was tough–the sun was still setting–not enough for the stage to be fully dark, so the effect of the spooky red lighting was a bit lost here, but as the Colorado hell was cooling off, Burn In Hell was warming things back up. Due to the 75 minute time limit, the drum solo was cut. This was very disappointing to me, as I love hearing AJ’s solo, but that’s the breaks when you aren’t the headline act. We still had 75 minutes of absolute heavy metal bliss.
“Captain Howdy” absolutely kicked ass, and even though there were easily several thousand in attendance, there were only hundreds who were singing the refrain, even though Dee had essentially fed them the lines. I don’t know if it was frustration or not, but Dee mule-kicked his micstand to the ground, as if to say hey we’re rocking our balls off…you need to be rocking yours off too! By this point in time, Dee had fully taken in the crowd…..and was surveying the situation.
He thanked and re-introduced Sebastian Bach to the crowd–Sebastian is a good friend to Twisted, and as Dee put it “he’s on the side of the stage, rockin’ out with his cock out!” (figuratively speaking, of course) and Sebastian came onstage to get some accoloades from the finally warming up crowd.
Well, we all knew Dee just HAD to say something, and he did. First, he asked about all the empty white plastic seats….who were they? We told him “V.I.P.”
“OOOhhh, got it. VIP. Very Important Penises”
He then gave us his best Dee’ism of the night….paraphrased, Dee noted how these are typically the rock fans who know only one or two songs that they play, and despite the fact that Twisted Sister was onstage kicking ass, these folks will likely only show up when they hear “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. And rather than getting angry about it, Dee said:
“When they do show up, I’ll say to them ‘how ya doin’?’ but what I’m REALLY thinking is ‘they’re sucking my dick’ so you know when I SAY: ‘How ya doin?’ what I’m really saying is ‘suck my dick,’ okay? But don’t tell them…it’s just between us!”
That seemed to get the crowd more interested, and when they launched into “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll,” the bored kids in the front were now rocking’ kids, on their feet. They were like, my rock n’ roll litmus test–the kids were on their feet, and the crowd was now on their feet. And by the end of an absolutely monster delivery that damn near shook the snow off the rockies, people started flooding into the empty seats, prompting a “How ya’ doin?” from Dee….and absolute appreciation from the crowd.
Jay Jay delivered his almost obligatory “American Idol” rant, and this time, when he spoke of the melodraatic weepy idol singers that make us want to puncture our ear drums with knitting needles, thanking their fans for a whopping 15 weeks of support, his gave us a idol imitation in a falsetto that sounded….well, kinda painful actually. (a little bit like Marge Simpson on helium) The crowd definitely got into the rap, and I could see even them “youts” in the front, voicing their approval.
The band then launched into “The Fire Still Burns,” and this is one of my favorite tracks off of “Come Out and Play,” and it did not disappoint me at all. Eddie’s solo was smoking hot–there is just something about that song played live–it reminds me a lot of “Knife In the Back”–it just pounds away at you until you think you’re going to break apart. Can we talk bass for a minute? Mark destroys that bass….he just smashes it. There must be a titanium rod implanted in the neck of that thing, because we what he does to that bass is probably illegal in all 50 states…or it should be.
I admit, that I was secretly hoping to hear “Knife in the Back” again….that song just couldn’t have pleased me more, I was just so ecstatic to hear it played in Quebec, that the band could have played on fucking kazoos and I would have lost my mind. But alas, this was just not the right night for it.
Fortunately, the next song was exactly what they wanted to hear. When AJ launded the opener of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the crowd was on their feet, from the front row of plastic lawn chairs to the fans all the way on the dirt warning track by the fried-dough stand. The place just erupted–it was exactly the kind of energy that the crowd needs to give back! The Eddie and Jay Jay duet was just fantastic–I had to hold onto the scaffold railing because those there were some powerful guitars, my babies.
There was one pure little artistic moment–Dee tore the mic off the stand, knocking it over, and without missing a note–Mark caught the stand mid-air, with the reflexes of a ninja! Hey, these are the little details that I just love. After WNGTI, Dee surveyed the crowd once more… gave an appreciative “fuck!” to the crowd, followed by a:
“Hey….look at all the people who came around….. (waving) How ya’ doin?”
then…to the rest of us “You know what I’m talking about…. and it feels SOOOO good….”
Dee addressed the crowd once more, stating that the last time Twisted played Colorado, it was either 1984 or 85, and the place went absolutely crazy…because unlike tonight, “Last time, you motherfuckers were a LOT louder!”
“Look… I understand…it’s been a long hot day….you’ve been imbibing alcoholic beverages… you’re feeling rundown….I DON’T GIVE A SHIT!” and challenged everyone to get on their feet, because “all Twisted Sister wants is some real loud fucking singing!” It was truly here that I sense that the crowd was now won–and I saw everyone getting off their asses, unstuck from the hot chairs, and their fists raised. Even our youthful angst-filled teenagers in the front, were on their feet and ready to rock some more.
and so…. the gauntlet was thrown down.
Dee then did a very quick and funny rant, apologizing to the parents in the audience for all of the “f-bombs” and references to fellatio, and so he made sure to yell “earmuffs” before he dropped another one.
Before “The Price,” Dee dedicated it to a woman in the front row who had just lost her father. In spite of her grief, she was there, just letting go and rocking it all out to Twisted. Condolences to this anonymous SMF–their delivery of “The Price” was absolutely spot-on.
It was the only time I didn’t hear the crowd sing the opening line before Dee could, but let me tell you, when that crowd filled up with a sea of lighters and cell phones and swayed to the beat, it was a thing of absolute beauty, and one of those moments that I want to store in the memory banks for a long, long time. Colorado, you redeemed yourself! Spectacular.
Dee then interrupted the music, because he said “I just gotta have a conversation with this guy up front,” and he literally plunked down on the end of the stage in front of this guy. HOOO boy…you just KNEW this was gonna be good. This guy was wearing a racoon hat (think: Davy Crockett) and was just sitting there like a bump on a log. Dee explained to him:
“Dude, if you’re gonna wear a hat like that….you gotta be a real man to wear that….and you ain’t got it…. I mean dude, you’ve got to OWN that shit! My advice to you….is to start drinking heavily! Either loosen the fuck up, or take the fucking hat off. Somebody get him a drink!
“Now the next song requires a lot of high energy…something you’re obviously lacking…. now I believe in you….[to the crowd] Do you believe in him? See? They believe in you, too. Let’s see you go crazy….and first thing I’m going to do at the airport is buy one of those hats!”
With that, they launched into “I Wanna Rock!” and Colorado delivered the goods. The crowd was rocking, the security guards were rocking, the lawn seats were rocking….the vendors…well, you get the picture. I can officially say that the crowd was won over. They may not have arrived Twisted Sister fans….but I can assure they LEFT as Twisted Sister fans. As hot and tired as those fans were, they dug deep and found a little something left in the tank.
Dee did conclude his “Twisted Sister World Tour Poll” and it was unanimous and conclusive: fans do want to fuck more than they want to rock, and the set unded on an upbeat, thunderous note!
For the encores, “Come Out and Play” had some nice lighting–stage bathed in blue, with giant searchlights scanning over the crowd from behind–very dramatic–and a nice touch. I really do love “Come Out and Play” as an encore–makes an nice opener too, but completely appropriate as an effective first encore, and those opening chords just resonate deep inside.
As Dee introduced the band and said a final end-of-world-tour thanks to the road crew and management– he noticed a guy eating a hot dog….. I mean, really? I love hot dogs. I do. And all the jumping around I do at a Twisted Sister show, I get terribly hungry afterwards….but downing a dog during the encore? Dee just HAD to call him out on it!
S.M.F. was the closer, and I tried not to get too misty-eyed about it. In fact, Animal told me that if I say the words “Last show” one more time, he’s going to tear my arms off like ripping the wings off a fly….. so, ulp! uh, I just didn’t think about how long I may have to wait to hear those riffs again.
When the show ended, I thanked Dee and all of the members of the band and crew simply for showing up. I know that their hearts were really with their families and friends over a thousand miles away, and this again demonstrates the level of commitment and professionalism that the band and crew bring to each and every show. Colorado was a fantastic performance for some of the nicest, most down to earth fans I’ve ever met. The crowd was entirely too hot and tired to misbehave, and so my “Douchebag of the Day” award goes to the bitch named “Irene,” who filled our basements with water, killed our electricity and rained literally and figuratively on our parade.
We returned to the hotel–and even though it was considerably early compared to so many other shows on the tour–we were all spent, physically and mentally. The heat, the concerns for family and homes, and the knowledge that the airports were all closed.
I came down early to the lobby to say goodbye to our Twisted entourage–the plan was to fly to Cincinnati (their airline didn’t fly them direct into Baltimore as mine did) and drive the rest of the way home. Here’s hoping everyone arrived safely with their loved ones and properties dry and safe.
As so, my babies, in the interest of keeping my limbs attached….I will not wax poetic about this potentially being the end of the road. As I sit here in the darkness, I hope that Christmas will afford me the chance to be with you all once more.
This is Armadillo, your faithful road reporter….typing by the light of my battery lantern, wishing everyone a return to normal operations.