The Full Report On Old Bridge Metal Militia Reunion Benefit Show With Twisted Sister, Anvil, Raven, The Rods & TT Quick
Band Photo: Twisted Sister (?)
The Old Bridge Metal Militia, credited with jump starting the metal community of New Jersey by opening their hearts and doors to the bands we old timers loved in our youth, held one of the most brilliant concerts to directly benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm which ripped through the Jersey shore last year. Many people still suffer from that devastating storm, but to have the metal community be credited with assisting those in need was an honor to be part. Shortly after the event, it was revealed that through ticket sales and raffle sales, the event raised over $40,000 for the cause - a staggering number for the sold out event that housed 1,500 people.
I sprung for the VIP experience, for the opportunity to meet and talk with some of my idols like Dee Snider, John & Mark Gallagher, Joe Hasselvander, Mark Tornillo, Robb Reiner, David Rock Feinstein, Carl Canedy, AJ Pero, Eddie Ojeda was just too hard to pass up. The 2.5 hour drive from my safe zone in Connecticut was filled with a playlist featuring such classics as “Under the Blade,” “Take Control,” “Let Them Eat Metal” and “Metal On Metal,” and as good fortune would have it, I heard them all live.
You can raise all the stereotypical Jersey jokes you want, but just as I passed into New Jersey on the George Washington Bridge….a curtain of black paralleled the Garden State’s line shrouded by lightning bolts and torrential downpours (a staple in the Jersey summer weather patterns). Suddenly, the metal emanating from the main cabin of my silver Sonata was replaced by “irony,” as on my way to benefit victims of a storm, I was almost a victim…of a storm. Arriving safely, but shaken, I entered the great halls of Encore, which was one of the most hardened metal fortresses the world has ever seen: a strip mall with a kid friendly indoor theme park….?
The wedding hall – cleared of white linen capped tables – was enshrined with a gorgeous stage with two matching video screens and adorned with the giant banner of the event. As irony would have it, the wooden dance floor – no doubt the subject of line dancing to disco hits of the 70’s - was where I stood at the rail stage left as the loud speakers blasted the Twisted Sister anthem “Rock ‘N’ Roll Saviors” with Dee belting the line “We’re goin’ to fight…with all of our might….’til disco is dead.”
The VIP process was a very nice gesture, even better if you were the first twenty people in line. An email received days before the event said “take all the pictures with the band you want”…and invitation that was undoubtedly spoiled from the start as it caused the middle to back end of the line to be hurried through as staff members screamed “keep the line moving – move along.” I was barely able to get a quick hello with each band member as they signed my printed poster with the golden Sharpie I offered (prompting the old school assembly line of Raven, Anvil, TT Quick, Twisted Sister and The Rods to shout in classic grapevine style “make sure you use the gold…he wants the gold”).
Once the rail was secured, as I learned in my first ProgPower USA experience, you give it up only when you are done or death forces you. Twelve hours later, it was like Jesus searching for water after 40 days in the desert. Lords of Mercy started the night off – the hometown heroes. The hard rock act set the tone for a very special night. Vocalist Brandon Sweeny is a fantastic frontman – engaging the crowd from all sides (including right over my head). Later in the night, he came through the crowd to my position at the rail (the only time I moved over) – exchanging bro hugs. You just knew this night was one to remember.
The Rods stepped up next. Now I’ve been a fan of this classic act for many years – “Let Them Eat Metal” and “Heavier Than Thou” are staples in the 80’s metal fan’s cereal bowl – but this was the first live experience. Ignoring for the moment that David Rock Feinstein is Ronnie James Dio’s cousin, my first impression was “holy shit….these guys are tiny – suddenly Udo is a tower.” But big things come in small packages as these guys rocked the house with an array of classics. The theme of this night was “if you are old….you rock WAY better than people a third your age.” The stage seemed enormous as Feinstein and bassist/vocalist Gary Bordonaro crossed back and forth trading power slides and tore up the crowd with classics like “Born to Rock” and “Violation.”
Now two weeks prior, I had the honor of seeing Raven for the first time in Brooklyn. A lifelong fan, Raven has always been underrated and underappreciated by the “metal elite,” yet I dare you to find a band that is more fun, has more classics and rocks harder than any band you will ever see live. Also, the band is so adept at its own back catalog that the set list is meaningless – expect to hear anything at any time. Now, I am not a big fan of live albums – but “Live at the Inferno” is in my top 2 (along with Maiden’s “Live After Death”). The live renditions of “Hell Patrol” and “Take Control” from that release are so engrained in my head that I prefer them over the comparatively “bland” studio renditions. The little speeches and vocal inflections/screams that bassist/vocalist John Gallagher did on that album are etched in my mind. Though years may have passed between listens….put it on and it’s just like yesterday.
As Raven hit the stage, the crowd whipped into a fever that only Twisted Sister would outdo this evening. Energy, sweat and some of the most hilarious facial expressions from Mark Gallagher made this the absolute winning performance of the night. With Raven, the first of a series of microphone snafus had ensued, prompting Mark to throw down his mic stand in disgust. Still the band powered through “Speed of the Reflex” “All for One,” “Rock Until You Drop” and my all-time favorite “Mind Over Metal.” The band and crowd together were having way too much fun….when suddenly, just Mark as started in on another song, the stage manager rushed out to inform John that they were done. As they were ripped from the stage, this prompted loud chorus of boos as the crowd engaged in “you suck” chants towards the frazzled manager – and rightfully so. This crowd would have been quite satisfied seeing another hour or two of Raven.
In an odd circumstance, the highlight of the night – Twisted Sister – came on next. With no disrespect to any other band on the bill, having Twisted there was a total victory. Expecting them to headline was only natural, but – as I have come to find out – the night was originally intended to showcase the TT Quick reunion, the classic Jersey act featuring current Accept frontman Mark Tornillo and Ex-Nuclear Assault guitarist Dave Dipietro. In any event, Dee Snider’s presence meant that the world’s greatest frontman was in the house and this band of “old timers” would rock just as hard as if it was bar circa-1979. By the time Twisted Sister came into my life, “Stay Hungry” was released, so I missed out on those days of “closer proximity.” Though it was 2013, it felt like the days of yore…those days of missed opportunities avenged. Witnessing the band this close, in this intimate of a setting, was one of the highlights of my metal life.
Now you recall the aforementioned “series of microphone snafus,” huh? What is a live show without its little flaws….right? Having a spot stage left meant that the imposing presence of bassist Mark Mendoza was feet from my face. Mark is not a man to be trifled with…so when the bassist’s microphone cut out as the band hit the stage with the usual “What You Don’t Know,” it set Mr. Mendoza on an enraged tirade…knocking over his mic stand and putting the verbal smackdown on a defenseless stage hand. In a matter of minutes, the stand was resurrected.
With time constraints, Dee Snider’s classic comedic crowd interactions were a cut in half, but that didn’t dampen the energy of his performance as the band played directly to the old school crowd with “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “The Kids Are Back,” "Burn In Hell" and personal – and crowd – favorite “Destroyer.” As a special treat, the band invited Dave “Snake” Sabo on stage, who had made a special request to jam with the band for “Under the Blade.” Though the set was devoid of anything from the highly underrated “Come Out and Play” – who was I to complain? The crowd was amazing, the band was amazing – this whole night was a time warp.
In near anti-climactic fashion, Anvil had to follow this performance, as the crowd’s energy seemed spent. However, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and crew were as great as ever. They started off with “March of the Crabs” as Lips flashed his comical/cartoonish ear to ear grin at each section of the crowd in rhythm with the beat as he played his brand new custom guitar. You can still see the fire in Anvil’s heart as the joy of live performances oozed out of every pour of the three-piece. Of course, this was another “bucket list” item scratched off my list – a lifelong fan at a first time performance. “666,” “Winged Assassins,” “Metal on Metal”….it was all perfect. The band even debuted the title track of the new album (expected later this month) “Hope in Hell.” The studio version of the track is streaming online and truly harkens back to those first three classic records and its inclusion fit perfectly into the live set.
Those who have seen Anvil’s moving documentary and fantastic book will know how anal drummer Robb Reiner is about his drumset and his performances. The house kit that was modified for every other band on the bill was entirely removed in favor of Reiner’s larger more detailed kit, which caused a slight delay in set up. However, in true fashion, Reiner’s dazzled the crowd with his solo in the middle of the instrumental “Swing Thing.”
Though the crowd thinned a bunch – partly due to Twisted’s early performance and partly due to the venue oddly running out of alcohol (damn first timer venues…don’t they know about metal shows!) – the spirit of the “reunion” portion of this night belonged to TT Quick. I remember “Metal of Honor” when it was released on Island Records way back in 1986, spawning instant classics like “Front Burner,” “Asleep At the Wheel” (talk about irony on my drive home), “Child of Sin” and the title track. Who would have foreseen that Mark Tornillo would end up fronting one of the most legendary acts in metal today?
As the lights hit and Tornillo hit the stage…the mic gremlins struck again! Forced to take bassist Walt Fortune’s microphone as the lead now cut out, Tornillo glanced an angry gaze at the side of the stage – throwing the useless mic back at the drumset. Shortly after, a wireless surfaced and all seemed right again as the band performed the material from the self-titled 1984 EP with “Victims,” “Metal Man” and “Go for the Throat” as well as the 1986 “Metal of Honor.” There was even a newer classic from the now 13 year old “Ink” album.
All in all, the night was so special. Despite the mic issues, the sound was overall spectacular as were the performances of these bands, each with a catalog of timeless classics. They all brought it full throttle to a crowd expecting nothing less. It was truly a “night to remember” as the posters/banners suggested – one that I will never forget. Years from now, people will speak of this night remembering in detail how it all went down on the Jersey shore.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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