Twisted Christmas Benefit for Hurricane Sandy, The Emporium, Patchogue NY 12/16/12

Last night’s Twisted Christmas Benefit for Hurricane Sandy rocked Long Island. A packed house full of big-hearted fans and musicians rocked the roof off “The Emporium” while raising tens of thousands of dollars for the survivors of the storm that devastated the people of Staten and Long Island. Twisted Sister with special guests , Adrenalin Mob, Andrew W.K. and Bernie Williams, provided not only the backdrop for a night of generous giving, but the music was a much-needed heavy metal blood transfusion. With all of the tragedy surrounding us these past few weeks, nothing could lift the spirits like a solid rock n’ roll butt kicking! If anyone ever doubted the healing power of music, Twisted Sister put those doubts to rest.

That said…on to the frivolities!

My truck is running on fumes (and a broken heater) and I’m running on a power-nap and a belly full of Cracker Barrel. That can only mean one thing. It’s time.

Time for the only Twisted Sister concert review that gives you so much detail you can feel the rush of the crowd…feel the power of the speakers….smell the sweat! Time to get all the details you’re aching to hear about, and plenty ya don’t. If you couldn’t make it to the show…and were too damn technology deficient to figure out how to watch the webcast…this is for you! The one… the only….Official Armadillo Road Report and Twisted Sister concert review for The Long Island Emporium in Patchogue, NY, December 16, 2012: A special Twisted Christmas Benefit for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

This was a very personal benefit–not only did I have my own responsibilities for the local level emergency response to Hurricane Sandy, but the disaster team I serve dispatched half of our physicians, nurses and medics to aid in the response. As I watched the devastation in on the news, my immediate thoughts went to the band members, Twisted road crew, families and friends–all of whom reside in the storm’s path. It wasn’t until I heard from A.J., telling me that everyone was safe and accounted for, that I could finally breathe easy. But as he described the scene in his community, it made my heart absolutely ache.

And so, when Twisted Sister announced the only Christmas show (and probably last domestic show we’ll see for some time) was a benefit, I was thrilled to make the 6-hour drive from Baltimore. I could not help but tear up as I drove through Staten Island, past the shoreline that was clearly underwater just a few weeks ago. Storm debris and sand piled up along the highway served as an ever-present reminder of the reason for my trip. This was my first time in Patchoque, NY– a truly delightful small township in Long Island that I instantly fell in love with the moment I drove into town. While New York City is awe-inspiring for it’s size and energy, Patchogue inspires the soul–small towns are the hearts of America. Taking a drive down the sleepy main street of Patchoque, I enjoyed the freshly painted colonials, fresh garlands on the vintage-style lamp posts, all decked with beautiful Christmas lights lining the central avenue. I headed to the train station and picked up SMF Chris (slamboard handle “Captain Howdy”) and his teenage daughter, and off we went to check out “The Emporium.”

It was cold and raining by the time we got into line, but we could hear the final soundchecks inside–I won’t spoil it if you haven’t looked at the setlist yet–we got a sneak peak of the good stuff to come! The gracious and professional (not to mention well dressed!) security staff of The Emporium got us quickly through the door for a 6 pm opening. Cathy, Chris and I made our sprint to the front row….only to face what I can simply describe as “socks for Christmas.”

Imagine this: you’ve anticipated receiving the most awesome gift ever for weeks and weeks. You hold the beautifully wrapped present in your lap, so excited as you tear away the paper. You rip into the box, only to find out that what you’ve waited so patiently to receive…is actually a big bundle of socks.

And that, my babies, is what I felt when I sprinted to the front row of The Emporium. After ninety very cold and soggy minutes outside, we knew that our reward was the coveted front row spot–it makes enduring the elements all worthwhile. But to our disappointment, The Emporium’s design is not “front row friendly.” Instead of a front row barrier with a security pit/photographer area, fans are pressed up against what looked like a wood planked Berlin wall! Almost six feet high, with the monitors stacked in front, providing a literal eight foot barricade floor to top. As I stood there, baffled, realizing that the only view I’d have would be possibly of the gum on the bottom of Dee’s shoe, a welcome sight appeared above us: the always calm and collected Mr. Stanton, leaned over the stage and diplomatically suggested that someone of my (ahem) limited stature might prefer the balcony. (If you think I’m kidding…one photographer had to mount his camera on the end of a 4-foot pole!)

The Emporium is a large, impressive night club with an attractive, attentive, friendly and fashionable staff. There were two ample and well-stocked bars in the raised areas in the rear, along with (here’s a first!) a set of bleacher seats, where concert goers could get an unobstructed view from the rear of the club. Kind of ironic, given the terrible view afforded those in general admission, but still a nice afterthought. Eight steps downstairs from the bars, brought you to the wooden floor for general admission that resembled a fish bowl, as the balcony areas on both sides of the club could watch the crowd below. Speaking of fishbowls, I couldn’t help but mention the enormous Absolut tank stage left, which contained several baby black-tipped sharks. (How cool is that?) Above the floor was an unusual round lighting truss–but more on that later. Cathy, Chris, Charlie, Jen and I retreated to the balcony to take it all in.
Now! Onto to the show!

We began to get a little worried when we saw a sole keyboard standing stage center–this hasn’t boded well in shows past–but out came Andrew W.K. to kick off the evening’s festivities. As the silent auction went underway, the stage was filled with local schoolkids from the Island Park School District music program–all of whom lost their instruments in Hurricane Sandy’s wake. We think the original plan was that the kids would all dance while Andrew played…the kids were a mix between petrified and fascinated with the onstage experience…they all stood motionless during the performance–it was our Spinal Tap moment of the night, but we love ya, kids! Plenty of sports and rock memorabilia auctioned off to help those great kids get some new instruments. And let’s face it, they may be 10 years old now, but a decade from now, some kid is gonna impress the hell out of his girlfriend when he tells her he was onstage “opening” for Twisted Sister at The Emporium back in 2012!

At 8:25pm, Adrenalin Mob took the stage with tremendous force (and f-bombs a plenty)! There were quite a few Mob fans in attendance, and they were not disappointed in the least. Adrenalin Mob plays fast, loud and heavy and unlike many opening acts that have trouble getting the crowd engaged, the Mob captured the audience from the start. They closed with an earth-shaking rendition of “Mob Rules,” and a nice touch–they shook hands with fans in the front row after taking their bows. By the time they left the stage after a blistering 30-minute set, the crowd was fired up and hungry for more. Drummer Mike Portnoy got into the giving spirit–he donated his sweaty tee-shirt (uh. eww.) to the live auction–another great fundraising effort.

The star of the evening, by the way–SMF Mark from Australia and his lively lady. SMF Mark not only made the incredibly long trek from the land down under for Twisted Christmas for the 2nd time, but he purchased two Diamond packages and was the very generous winning bidder on…..oh, get this!….Dee’s ORIGINAL gold records from Atlantic Records. You know ’em–you’ve caught a glimpse of them hanging in Dee’s man-cave during those reality shows–the real deal. Dee very generously donated them–and Mark made the highest bid. Fantastic–all for a charity to help the citizens of New York–thank you SMF Mark! Job well done, Mate!

Twisted took the stage promptly at 10:00 pm–the small stage adorned with pink and red taped amps, Christmas lights on the drum set and speakers and a tasteful Twisted Christmas banner above A.J.’s setup. Having an unusual view (for us, anyway) we could see our boys lining up backstage to make their entrance–Mark’s huge silhouette filled the entire doorway, followed by Jay Jay and Eddie. Dee dashed onstage as they opened with “What You Don’t Know” sporting some new duds–black lace-up jeans emblazened with “METAL” and various skulls and leather a’plenty. Jay Jay wore his leather pants as well–overall, at first glance, you might not even know it was a Twisted Christmas set! A.J. also working a new look–a full beard–just in time for winter–(and there was even a rather dapper looking Mr. Gerber in the crowd!) No roadie elves, however.

Eddie played his newest guitar–an absolutely stunning black-on-black bullseye guitar that looked almost silvery when the light caught it right. We were treated to solos on it during the opener followed by “The Kids Are Back”, and it sounded as great as it looked. Dee dropped to the stage as he’s been known to do this past tour, his blond locks hanging off the edge of the platform, only this time, instead of a photographer below, he reached down and grabbed the hair of a fan crushed against the giant wall.

“Stay Hungry” was batting third–Jay Jay solo’ed on his Christmas Wreath-painted (menorah on the reverse side) custom guitar–great solo and it was obvious that Jay Jay was having a great time up there! During “Stay Hungry,” the strange round lighting truss would shoot this bizarre fog-steam blasts onto the crowd below–at one point, we thought maybe it was the Mother Ship preparing to blast off. It obviously wasn’t too enjoyable for the fans directly underneath–geez, first the Great Wall….now a giant schvitz….hey, wait…one might call it: a Twisted Schvitzer! That one’s on me, Jay Jay. Free free to run with it. (I’ll take 5% royalties if it really takes off, please.)

Dee reminded us all the real reason why we were there–to support the people of Staten and Long Islands (and surrounding areas) who continue to struggle to get back to some semblance of normalcy. He thanked everyone for attending–as well as the bands, crew and club who were all working for FREE! That’s right–100% of the proceeds went to charity! Dee mentioned that 30 years ago, if you had told him that one day, he would be doing a Christmas album….or a carpet cleaner commercial, he would have “punched you in the face!” But then looked around and conceded…”I’m a whore…” then added, “but not a cheap whore.”

We did get our obligatory Twisted Christmas music–“White Christmas” sounded festive and well-played–it was fun to see the band members singing along–I’m always entertained by the fans at Christmas shows. The SMFs know all the words to the TS songs….but the rest of the fans smoke us with those Christmas Carols!

Twisted really hit their stride last night by the time they played “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll”–it was fast, furious and raw–as Dee put it, “played at speed.” One of the stronger renditions I’ve heard in the states, and kudos to the SMFs of Long Island. The crowd was extremely warmed up (thank you, Adrenalin Mob!) and there were fists in the air–I think I saw one of those sharks giving the horns, er…fins…whatever. Anyway, the place was rocking!

The bawdy version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (and other lascivious activities) was a real hit–Eddie and Jay Jay did a nice duet, Jay Jay playing a gorgeous tobacco-burst colored… Les Paul, perhaps? Each song off Twisted Christmas was played in the spirit of a specific heavy metal band–“I Saw Mommy…” was played (and arranged) with the flavor of Judas Priest–outstanding!

At this point, we had one of those special moments that can never really be repeated–webcam can’t capture it–you truly had to be there, but I’ll try to do it justice. Dee explained that “Shoot ‘Em Down” was on the setlist for the evening, but in light of the horrific tragedy that befell the nearby community of Newtown, CT (Sandy Hook Elementary School), in Dee’s words, “the grieving is too fresh…the hurt too strong.” He asked for everyone present to take a moment to reflect on the lives lost, and those trying to heal, in a moment of silence.

At first, I couldn’t imagine how a jam-packed, festive and drinking crowd would quiet down. But as Dee and all of the band bowed their heads and closed their eyes, a hush came over the crowd and as a few drunks called out and whistled, you heard the stern fans around them telling them to be quiet. Within seconds, the entire club was motionless and quiet. The only way I can think of to describe it:

It was the loudest moment of silence I’ve ever heard.

The band. The crew. The bartenders. The fans. The staff. No one moved. No one talked. It was a moment that was so silent and heavy–the silence was palpable. The only sound you could hear was the buzzing hum of the amplifiers. So poignant. So powerful. So moving. It is a Twisted Sister moment that I will remember forever.

To bring us back to a good place, out came NY Yankee Bernie Williams, guitar in hand, and we had a club shaking rendition of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and no–there were no coffee-makers in sight– three guitars gave it an extra heavy sound. Unfortunately, Dee was plagued with wireless mic issues and as it went dead in his hand, he snatched the mic off Jay Jay’s stand and “went old school” with it. Eddie switched back to his new black bullseye and for the first time that I can recall, we had a nice shot of all four guitars in a row–Bernie, Jay Jay, Eddie and Mark!

Before the next song, Dee stopped at a fan in the front row who was frantically waving a copy of “Stay Hungry” in front of him. Asked Dee, in a very Mae West style: “Did you bring a marker?” The fan replied he had, prompting Dee to yell, “Well, Gimme the fuckin’ marker!” and he signed the album right there–WHO DOES THAT?!!?? I’ll tell you who…Twisted Fucking Sister, that’s who! There’s a reason why Twisted has the BEST fans in the world–we follow a band who loves and appreciates us as much as we love them.

We were treated to more Twisted tracks–“The Price” and “Under The Blade”–making me go tsk-tsk to all those who stayed away because they didn’t want to hear Christmas songs. I don’t know about you, but nothing says Christmas like old school heavy metal! Dee ended up two-fisted microphoning it and the place was full of holiday fist-pumping goodness! Dee didn’t have to harass a single fan–no one was sitting down and everyone was rocking out.

Dee dedicated “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” to all of those who are still without a place to call home after the storm, as well those protecting our country overseas. I never get tired of hearing Eddie and A.J. do vocal solos–and from Eddie’s guitar solo on his traditional pink bullseye, they launched right into crowd favorite “Burn In Hell.”

A.J. gave a monster solo–he always brings it all–but this time, he gave a brilliant drum performance that just rumbled and shook the whole theatre. We saw him physically wince after it was over–he must have nailed his hand on the kit–but true professional that he is, he never missed a beat..literally…as they launched into “Silver Bells.”

You know, it just ain’t Christmas until I hear Animal’s bass solo on “Silver Bells.” If you haven’t heard this yet, don’t waste time with YouTube–go buy the Twisted Christmas DVD! His bass solo is so remarkable, so phenomenal–I just stand there in awe. All hail Animal! Even Jay Jay gave a resounding “FUCK YEAH!” when he finished the solo–it was just that damn good.

Another Twisted Christmas tradition–SANTA! Mick Foley…uh, that is, Santa Claus who sounded an awful lot like Mike Foley….arrived in time to hear what the boys want for Christmas. [I’m happy to report that for the first time in years, Twisted Christmas Santa was wearing PANTS! A Christmas miracle!] Santa announced that also for the first time in 30 years, Mark and Jay Jay made the “good boys list.”

Santa gave Eddie a new hip for Christmas (such the practical gift giver!) Eddie was so shocked he wasn’t on the “naughty” list that he couldn’t even think of what he truly wanted. Jay Jay just wanted to know “How did Donald Trump keep his hair on during the hurricane?” There are some secrets that even Santa doesn’t know… A.J.’s still holding out for Tiger Wood’s little black book, and Animal, well, he gave us a glimpse of the Mark we know and love. Sure, the man is a beast on the bass who destroys mic stands and skinny roadies, but he has a huge heart.

Mark said it best: This concert is [his] Christmas wish come true.

Santa shared that Brian Hopkins [someone correct me if I ‘ve got the name wrong!] the little boy that Dee visited in the hospital so many years ago was in the audience tonight-adding to the list of wishes that came true.
And we all know what Dee wants for the holidays, “I Wanna Rock” just took the place to eleven.

We had two encores this evening–the first was quite special–local news station Channel 12 provided footage from the storm response on two screens behind the stage as the band played “Heroes Are Hard to Find” Dee reminded us all that “heroes are regular people who step and do the right thing”–I was struck by one of the photographs of a house that had a sign outside, “have power–feel free to charge your cells phone here.” Heroes come in all sizes.

The people of Strong Island (and Staten, and NYC, and Jersey) demonstrated their tremendous spirit and willingness to help their neighbors. Props as well to Animal, who also serves a role with the New York State Police, and worked tirelessly during the storm to help his fellow New Yorkers.

We had some quick band intros–the most important item of note–we still enjoy all five original members, as opposed to say…..Foreigner…who is not touring with ANY original band members. (WTF?) They closed with “Heavy Metal Christmas”–sans props or cue cards–which clearly were needed as Jay Jay frantically tried to remember what exactly his true love gave to him on the sixth day of Christmas.

To recap”
It was a tremendous night–Twisted Sister played favorites from old school to old yule–a fantastic crowd who gave their energy to the band and their wallets to the cause. The Twisted Christmas Benefit for the Hurricane Sandy survivors was full of festive moments along with a few of thoughtful reflection. A true showcase of the best live heavy metal band in the world who cared enough to donate their time to help their fellow New Yorkers.

Special thanks to everyone in the band, Danny Stanton of Coallier Entertainment (management) and all of the crew and staff who donated their time and to the Long Island Emporium. Thank you to all of my fellow fans and all the slamboard SMFs who braved the rainy, foggy weather and another special thanks to SMF Mark from Australia for his generosity to the people of Staten Island.

Happy holidays to all of our SMF brothers and sisters–wishing you all a healthy, happy and very Twisted new year ahead!

This is Armadillo, trotting off to dream of sugar plums…
See you on the road, my babies!


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