By Mark Gromen
"Devastating", "Destroyed", words bantered about in the metal community, not only as variations of band monikers, but used to describe the music and live performances. On this night, they meant so much more. Some old facades were no match for the destructive East Coast hurricane that has left tens of thousands homeless, more than six months after coming ashore. Not just talking physical structures either, but the faces of stoic victims in attendance, their caring metallic neighbors and the participating artists. Witness the metal bands/fans who came together in NJ, spurred by a Rock N Roll Heaven / Old Bridge Metal Militia reunion, to celebrate the past and raise money to help so many still reeling from the after effects of the October 2012 storm. TWISTED SISTER, RAVEN, ANVIL, THE RODS and TT QUICK (featuring current ACCEPT frontman Mark Tornillo) provided the onstage entertainment.
This evening was more than just a charitable endeavor. It was also a de facto scene reunion. Throughout the night, fans and bands alike name checking the long dead clubs of their youth. Ironically, the Old Bridge Metal Militia (a gathering of friends who helped jumpstart the metal scene, thanks to John & Marsha Zazula's enterprises, first the record store, then the label Megaforce) are old. Aren't we all? The beer is more expensive and the hair is less, by choice (not due to male pattern baldness), but I felt transported back to my days as a college DJ. THE RODS, the first of three onstage trios, began, fittingly with 'Hurricane', guitarist/singer David "Rock" Feinstein (cousin of the late Ronnie James Dio) was dwarfed by the mountainous Carl Canedy, behind the kit.'Born To Rock' and 'Violation' had the crowd singing along to the titular chorus. Speaking of sing-alongs, following a short drum solo, bassist Gary Bordonaro took over on the mic, for 'Buried By Love'. During 'Rock falls to his knees, bends backwards, yet keeps playing his flame emblazoned guitar. Fine start to the old school procession that followed.
The Gallagher brothers (no, not the bickering Oasis lot), aka RAVEN were up next, introduced by MC for the evening Eddie Trunk, who admitted it was back in the heyday since he'd last seen the band. They played Trenton several years back and were in neighboring PA just a week or two earlier... As always, John and Mark criss-crossed the stage, purposefully bouncing off one another and wreaking havoc on their instruments. John still wears the single bar microphone/headband, allowing for his brand of athletic rock, while plucking away on his eight string bass. 'Take Control' was a crowd pleasing opener, quickly shifting to an 80s flashback, with 'Live At The Inferno' and 'All For One', the audience virtually singing every word. Taking a cue from a certain Canuck trio (not the one present), the music was accompanied by a blinding light show, with a sniper's aim, spotlights were trained on the photopit/audience. At the half dozen or more RAVEN shows witnessed in the last decade, it's virtually guaranteed they'll pull out an unexpected number or two and the band will probably have to be pulled from the stage. Bingo! 'Breaking You Down', 'Fire Power' and 'Don't Need Your Money' (the first/only time crowd participation failed). They mentioned a DVD (entitled Rock Until You Drop) is scheduled for release in June, then launched into that signature tune. John's yelping introduced 'Speed Of The Reflex', which deteriorated into a jam, before bringing it around to a punk fueled 'Mind Over Metal'. Mark shouted "You guys ready to rock," but before we could answer, they were informed (much to their surprise) that their time was up. Thankfully, some things never change!
Talk about hurricane/tornado/cyclone of activity, wow! TWISTED SISTER, were smoking, like the club band that had an attitude no one could match. In rapid fire succession, one after the other, without interruption, came 'What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)', 'The Kids Are Back' and 'Can't Stop Rock N Roll'. Frontman Dee Snider and bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (for a time, during the band's break-up, bitter enemies), could be hugging each other prior to going on and once onstage, giving the crowd everything that had. By contrast, guitarist/founder Jay Jay French seemed disinterested. Often one to chat with the crowd, he left the only rant of the evening (towards American Idol contestants versus a band like TWISTED SISTER, who've kept paying fans for more than three decades). As he spoke, the frontman silently offered his view, reprising his crude, overemphasized gesture. Snider also made a few comical comments, describing his band as someone who "Lived, breathed and fucked in New Jersey." He also acknowledged the oddity of going on so early (around 10:30 and not being the final act), saying it was akin to "rabbit at the (dog) racetrack." During the between band intermissions, they'd repeatedly aired 'Rock N Roll Saviors' TWISTED's anti-disco anthem of the 70s. While this was a Jersey show, for a Jersey cause (undoubtedly some of Sandy's victims having seen the band, back in the pre-MTV days) there were hopes that the Sisters might dust off something similar, from the club days, but alas. However, the big single 'We're Not Gonna Take It' was fourth in the running order. 'Destroyer' saw fans clapping their hands overhead, as instructed. Even joining the synchronized stage movements, Snake Sabo (SKID ROW, local boy) added a third guitar to a proto-thrash version of 'Under The Blade'. When not punishing his bass Mendoza thrust both of his mighty fists skyward, in unison. As the stage was bathed in purple/pink/red, it was directly into 'Burn In Hell', with Snider spotlight from below in deep reds, as he gets the crowd to sing the chorus. Finally, from his knees, Dee began 'I Wanna Rock' finale. Just under an hour, shot by in a blur.
Quite honestly, everything that followed was anti-climatic. Apparently a lot of folks felt the same way, as there was suddenly a noticeable amount of comfortable space in the once sold-out room. The fact Encore Banquet & Event Center (a facility in a strip mall, part of iPlay America: an indoor go-karts, arcade, family party venture) ran out of beer (five bars, all non-light varieties sold out!) might have had something to do with the exodus too. First time they've housed a concert, with seasoned drinking clientele, to boot. At $5 a pop, cost them thousands in lost revenue. As headliners, ANVIL took the stage before midnight (still early by the standards this crowd has endured). While they know the history behind the event, the Canucks having made pilgrimages to NYC early in their career and spearheading coverage in East Coast's premier 80s zine: Kick Ass Monthly, Lips & Rob opted not to embrace it. Opening with 'March Of The Crabs' into '666' was a good start, the stringy haired, toothy Cheshire Cat of a frontman none too dissimilar from the one displayed in old photographs flashed onscreen throughout the night. 'On Fire' and 'Swing Thing' bookend 'Winged Assassins', the later, leading into a drum solo, before ending with 'Metal On Metal'. Although Hope In Hell is still unreleased, the boys decided to premier a pair of newbies: the slower/heavy title cut, lit in a rainbow of day-glo colors and 'a shredding 'Eat Your Words'. While both have been floating around the internet, this was a show that was 30 years in the making. No 'Mothra', nor 'Forged In Fire'? Opportunity lost.
In front of a New Jersey audience, reunited (for one night, at least) with TT QUICK, Mark Tornillo (currently fronting ACCEPT) is a veritable chatterbox, compared to his role with the German metallers, where he says almost nothing. A staple of the late 80s New Jersey club scene, the band never made the jump to the next level, despite some killer early material (like 'Metal Of Honor' and 'Go For The Throat' presented this evening) and the helping hand of a then burgeoning Megaforce. A Dave DiPetro guitar run kicks off 'Victims' and after a few songs, Tornillo returns without a shirt.They gave the people, who were left, what they'd stuck around to hear, playing almost their entire '84 eponymous Ep and a heavy dose of the full-length follow-up. There was an All-Star jam scheduled to close the night, but I opted to continue the party elsewhere.
Since the people involved, the Zazulas and Old Bridge crew, were instrumental (pun intended) in the careers of many and the needs for Hurricane Sandy relief will be ongoing, here's hope they'll do this again.
More photos can be seen here
Check out fan-filmed video of the show on YouTube here
If you didn't make the show, but are still interested in making a donation please make checks payable to:
Under My Skin For Life
73 Memorial Parkway
Atlantic Highlands, NJ