It’s not any exaggeration when I say that I’ve been literally waiting all my life to see this band. Say what you will about the band, the music, and frontman Dee Snider. But Twisted Sister has been a part of me for a very long time.
Back in a time when we were all searching to belong, developing who we are (even subconsciously). Looking for acceptance. After my parents had separated, causing drastic (but not necessarily bad) changes to my young world, I moved with my mother to a new town. A new town, a new school, and no friends. The kid across the road and I became friendly, who knows how those things start. He was a big fan of an album called Stay Hungry from a band called Twisted Sister. Prior to that, the only thing I knew about Twisted Sister came from a line in a Disney movie called Flight of the Navigator watched with my parents.
I quickly took to the aforementioned Stay Hungry album, purchasing my own vinyl copy from somewhere (probably a garage sale). I even removed the black vinyl disc and thumbtacked the back cover of the album up on my wall. Loved that photo with them all seated around a table and the single light bulb hanging on a wire. I did then and still do now.
I did what I could to acquire their catalog. All on vinyl even as a member of Columbia House Records and Tapes back in the day. I have been a vinyl lover since an early age, probably mostly to do with the album art. I eagerly checked the mailbox daily waiting for classics like You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll, Under the Blade and Come Out and Play to arrive and join their brethren on my shelf.
Then Twisted Sister released Love is For Suckers. I first purchased it on cassette so I could right away listen in my big yellow Sony Sport Walkman. Remember those? It quickly rose to be my favorite of the lot. The Love is For Suckers cassette received hours of play. The cassette then long gone, the vinyl collecting dust as the world and I as well moved to CDs. I was ecstatic that years and years later I would have the one and only frontman Dee Snider autograph each and every one of my vinyl. Including Love is for Suckers. I met Dee during the Toronto run of his Christmas-themed stage play Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale.
The only thing missing; a Twisted Sister live show. I will freely admit how scared I was. Scared that they would not hold up to more than 30 years of wanting to see them. Scared that Dee‘s voice would be shot. Like many of my old heroes, a price when getting older that can’t always be helped. Scared that the band would be Motley Crue sloppy. I couldn’t handle the disappointment. Didn’t want to give voice to all those that call my music “has-beens” and “never-wases”. We worked our way into the milling throng at The Festival Stage. I separated from Shawn, wanting a vantage closer to the stage, Mikael lost some hours ago. Closer I became, in fact no more than four people back from the barrier on the right side of the stage!
Twisted Sister at Sweden Rock Festival 2016
“What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” led the charge of Twisted Sister. And here’s what I know….fuck yeah were they ever sounding great right out of the gates!! That was followed by “The Kids Are Back”. One of my two favorite songs from the You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll record. I used to come home from school every day for lunch after my parents’ separation. I would have just enough time to watch The Flintstones rerun at noon while eating lunch. Probably consisting of peanut butter and toast much to Mom‘s chagrin. And before heading back, there was just enough time to cue up and spin the first two tracks on YCSRNR. Just enough to power me through the rest of the afternoon in awkward public school hell.
“Burn in Hell” was next in line featuring some explosive flame thrower pyro. One of Mom‘s faves when I used to play my records on Saturdays. I’m sure if it wasn’t a tenuous situation due to the recent separation she would have melted all my Twisted Sisted vinyl devil music in the oven. “Destroyer” and “Like a Knife in the Back” followed suit as I drank in, literally absorbed every single second of it all.
Frontman Dee Snider was a veritable ball of energy. Constantly jumping around the stage (still keeping in tune and on cue with his vocals). The rest of the band, Jay Jay French (guitar), Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda and Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, looked rather unemotional and bored even. With Mendoza‘s waistline having grown noticeably over the years. Behind the kit we find Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre/Winery Dogs) sitting in for the tragically passed AJ Pero.
Guitarist Jay Jay took control of the mike for a few seconds after “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll”. He talked about how Sweden saved Twisted Sister as their 2003 reunion show here at this festival showed them that, yes, the people do want them back. He also touched on Pero. Asking; “Why continue on like Pero and Lemmy who basically took his last breath on stage”? Because “The Fire Still Burns”! The self-affirming “I Am, I’m Me” followed by “I Wanna Rock” completely electrified the Sweden Rock Festival crowd. As if they needed any more encouragement. According to Snider, AJ Pero had personally chosen Mike Portnoy as a replacement should something happen. Like he gets sick or something. So “Mike‘s the guy and he’s doing a helluva job”. Agreed sir!
Snider then called for the stage lights off and for everyone to hold up their lighters or cell phones. A kind of a candlelight vigil for those we’ve all lost. A prelude to dedicating “The Price” to AJ Pero. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that I’ve been teary eyed at shows before. Full on tears as I see that band I love take stage and win fans in the crowd. Usually a smaller band like Diemonds and Lady Beast as examples. Today was another of those moments. My eyes began leaking uncontrollably while singing along in all my tone deaf glory!
“I Believe in Ro0ck and Roll” and “Under the Blade” both took us to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. I was shocked that this would not be the last song, surely their most popular/well-known? Wait, it can’t be over already can it? Thankfully it wasn’t. Dee Snider then was incredibly humorous with a Fika coffee break and jokes surrounding that. Most of which passed over my head. But I can assume that he perhaps did some Swedish television commercials for a coffee company? The most important thing he says he learned about Sweden…Fika!
A cover of The Rolling Stones classic “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” came next. They prefaced the song by a story of what it meant to them fighting their way up through the club scene. I would have much rather heard another Twisted Sister cut, personally. Especially since my all-time fave record has so far been ignored. Normally I don’t go for the “all the crowd cheer” game, time wasting business. But Snider‘s banter had me captivated like the lemming I am. Cheering, shouting and even jumping on command, thoroughly loving it all.
Now it was encore time, but Snider shut down the whole “leave the stage, cheer, return thing”. The Twisted Sister band ripped into “Come Out and Play” behind the recorded Twisted Sister call. It took me back to spinning the record at my friend’s house after school. Comical band intros came after “Tear It Loose”. Especially the heckler that yelled out “Ojeda” before Snider even got that far.
I won’t lie at all, Dee Snider did a lot, I mean a fuck of a lot of talking. Especially at this late stage of the game and I usually find this behavior annoying in a live show. However, I found that the momentum here was lost one iota. That said, I wish he would have clammed up a little more and slipped in “Wake Up the Sleeping Giant”. A classic from our youth, “S.M.F.”, closed out the set. We didn’t know for sure but always speculated at the acronym, regularly blasting this one after a particularly hard day at school.
I have no idea what ever became of that friend across the road that we basically spent the summer with that year. Although I did hear a rumor that he had passed on years ago. But, I’m sure he would have enjoyed the Twisted Sister set. I can’t help but wish that the guy that I started the journey with was here at the end. Even though we had really only hung out for one summer a lifetime ago. My only regret was not purchasing a Twisted Sister concert t-shirt from the Official Band Merch Stand earlier in the weekend. My fears told me to see the performance first. Right after the set I rushed over to get one and they were already packed away.
Finally, a lifelong dream come true, thank-you Twisted sister and Sweden Rock Festival……..I’m an S.M.F.
CRAPPY CONCERT PHOTOS BY: The Meister