October 17, 2016 The Rock Carnival Triumphs On Day 2 Lakewood, NJ 10-1-16
Following a rainy opening day of Lakewood, New Jersey’s Rock Carnival, Day 2, Saturday, October 1st, seemed to have everything going for it. On paper, it was a must see event boldly highlighted by the very last Tri-state area performance of the legendary Twisted Sister. That reason alone, it came as no surprise to anyone that FirstEnergy Park was bursting at the seams with fans from across the United States. Quickly filling the carnival area upon the day’s opening, Mother Nature was at it again, though the day’s events would not see all the closures and cancellations it had the night prior, and all four stages up were up in full swing.
SIMO would have the honors of kicking off the day on the WRAT stage at around 2 PM. No stranger to the festival environment, the Nashville based band performed at 2013’s Mountain Jam and Bonnaroo. Together since 2010, led by Guitarist/Vocalist JD Simo, he is joined by Adam Abrashoff on drums and Elad Shapiro on bass, the trio has attracted attention with their Blues based, Psychedelic infused, modern Rock styling. Currently supporting their debut full-length album, January 2016’s Let Love Show the Way, the effort builds on everything they released prior, but ramping it up a notch. That in mind, Simo’s guitar capabilities were on full display as the band took to the stage. Sounding tight and energetic, the band delighted the baseball field that was filling up quickly with inquisitive concert goers. Taking their sound abroad, SIMO now head to Europe for a fall tour.
Texas Hippie Coalition
The party was just getting under way as attention turned to the WDHA Stage for Texas Hippie Coalition at 2:30 PM. Building on the success of their 2012 Peacemaker album, their 2014 Ride On peaked at #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and now in 2016, they return with their fifth album, Dark Side of Black. Self-described as Red Dirt Metal, the band combines outlaw style Country music with Classic Rock while turning everything up to eleven. With Big Dad Ritch leading the way on vocals, John Exall on bass, Cord Pool on guitar, Nevada Romo on guitar, and Timmy Braun on drums, they kicked off a set with such songs as “Hands Up,” “Turn It Up,” and “Pissed Off and Mad About It.” Quick, loud, and in everyone’s face, Texas Hippie Coalition was a spark plug early on. After their appearance at The Rock Carnival, the band was right back at it, rejoining Shaman’s Harvest and Failure Anthem, continuing on their nationwide tour together.
While the two main stages played host to a litany of bands, the GameLoud stage had some tricks up their sleeve as well. With a few up-and-coming bands playing the stage with some GCW Wrestling between, the stage hosting Retrofeelya attracted a fair share of attention at approximately 2:45 PM. Out of Poughkeepsie, New York, the band’s fast, upward trend is hard to miss with catchy tracks over two albums, including their most recent EP, Non Stop. Led by Eric Dalton (vocals), Tommy Leak Jr. (guitar), Mike Wunderlich (guitar), Steve Albea (bass), and James Fabio (drums) attracted attention with their catchy cover of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” amidst original cuts.
Turning attention back to the main stage area, Shaman’s Harvest were the next band to take their talents to the WRAT stage at approximately 3:10 PM. With roots deeply ingrained in Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City, Shaman’s Harvest has been a labor of love and passion since 1999. With tracks like “Blood in the Water” and “Country as Fuck” pumping up the crowd, more people made their way over to the main stage to check out Vocalist Nathan Hunt, Guitarist Josh Hamler, Bassist Matt Fisher, Guitarist Derrick Shipp, and Drummer Adam Zemanek. Sadly, sound issues would plague the set before the band was forced to leave the stage, handing out drum sticks and guitar picks to fans as a consolation. Not to be defeated, Hunt rejoined the crowd, acoustic guitar in hand, treating everyone to a heart-stopping rendition of “In Chains” off their latest album, 2014’s Smokin’ Hearts & Broken Guns. Guaranteed to get fans on their feet and moving along, Shaman’s Harvest were a perfect no BS Rock band to help The Rock Carnival build up steam.
Back on the WDHA stage, it was time for Punky Meadows to begin around 3:50 PM. After a long hiatus the former Angel member has come out of retirement, releasing a new solo album in May of this year, entitled Fallen Angel. Backed by Danny Farrow (rhythm guitar), Keith Roth (bass), Chandler Mogel (vocals), Bob Pantella (drums), and Charlie Calv (keyboard), the Glam Metal star rocked out a set that featured tracks off of the new album along with some of Angel’s fan-favorites including “Wild & Hot,” “Can You Feel It,” and “Tower.” A master of his craft, Meadows fully commanded the stage with guitar solos galore from start to finish. Reemerging to many’s surprise, if this is a sign of things to come, expect big things from the rejuvenated Punky Meadows and his band.
With the day warming up, back at the WRAT stage around 4:30 PM, Jackyl was next. A fixture in Hard Rock and Metal, out of Georgia since 1991, the 2015 edition of the band features Jesse James Dupree (vocals, guitar), original members Jeff Worley (guitar) and Chris Worley (drums), along with new generation member, Roman Glick (bass). Supporting their new album, 2016’s Rowyco, Jackyl was ready to offer up some heavy Southern style Rock.
Providing the festival with perhaps its most interesting instrument solo of the night, Dupree used his signature chainsaw to cut through the air for the band’s hit track “The Lumberjack.” That said, the rest of their set was just as notable as they offered “Down on Me” and “When Will It Rain, ” just to name a few. One hell of a band to see live, they have tour dates sporadically posted throughout the new year, so check them out.
Marking the halfway point of the day, Monster Magnet answered the call over at the WDHA stage at around 5:20 PM. Together, Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar), Phil Caivano (rhythm guitar), Garrett Sweeny (guitar), Chris Kosnik (bass), and Bob Pantella (drums) form one of the most respected names in the Stoner Rock community. Hailing from the very nearby Red Bank, New Jersey, Monster Magnet has been in the game for nearly three decades, and while their biggest commercial breakthrough came with 1998’s Powertrip, they have consistently maintained a dedicated following through the years. Last releasing an album in 2013 with Last Patrol, Monster Magnet continue to tour regularly.
Opening with the trio of “Crop Circle,” “Powertrip,” and “Melt,” they invited the audience on a trip of their old as well as newer tracks. After hitting all the right notes, they closed out with the fan-favorite “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” to a mass of cheers. Though Monster Magnet have no other tour dates posted at the moment, it will more than likely not be long before the band hits the road again.
While the two main stages were rocking FirstEnergy Park, The Birchhill stage had its fair share of great acts, and a very noteworthy one was New York City’s Killcode at 5:50 PM. With much of Twisted Sister’s final shows including Killcode as support, many gathered to support the local area modern Hard Rock heroes. Always full of life, Tom Morrissey (vocals), Chas (guitar), D.C. Gonzales (guitar), Erric Bonesmith (bass), and Rob Noxious (drums) brought on tracks off their newest album, The Answer, along with some of their other live set mainstays. Garnering a lot of respect locally in the Tri-state area, it is just a matter of time before the code spreads like a wildfire across the USA.
Back to the WRAT stage, Fuel was primed and ready to entertain just after 6 PM. After being known as Reel Too Real and Small the Joy, Fuel finally caught on under their current moniker in 1994 and, within a few years, made a big impact with 1998’s Sunburn album. Going on to release highly successful 2000 album Something Like Human, Fuel became Hard Rock darlings for years to come. Seeing some changes over the years, including four year period where Lead Vocalist Brett Scallions was not fronting the band, the monster he assisted in creating brought him back where he belonged in 2010. Going strong, Scallions is joined by a veteran team of Drummer Shannon Boone, Bassist Phil Buckman, and Guitarist Kemble Walters as they tour and prepare for a new album in 2017.
Their set included all the songs that helped them sell nearly four million records including “Shimmer,” “Hemorrhage (In My Hands),” and “Bad Day,” fitting as Scallions cursed the rainy forecast. Very tight and enjoying their time together on stage, reports are Fuel’s new album is due out sometime in the spring. The Rock Carnival marked the end of their current touring, so now the guys get to go home to be with their families, but keep a lookout for new Fuel material very soon.
Hitting the 7 O’clock hour, things were really heating up leading to Ace Frehley’s appearance on the WDHA stage. After playing a big part of KISS’ original lineup, Frehley proved he could find just as much success independently. In fact, his 1987 self-titled solo album went platinum and his career has been extremely consistent since. Currently on the road supporting his latest album, 2016’s Origins, Vol. 1, after enjoying a sellout the night prior at Poughkeepsie, New York’s The Chance alongside Killcode, Frehley and company looked towards an even bigger, louder crowd at The Rock Carnival.
With plenty of custom made guitars at his disposal, the legendary Frehley and former The Cult Bassist Chris Wyse, former Brides of Destruction Drummer Scot Coogan, and the “Emperor of Rock n’ Roll,” Guitarist Richie Scarlet, joined on stage to a loud ovation. With a setlist including originals like “Rip It Out” and “Rock Soldiers” sprinkled around KISS masterpieces such as “Love Gun,” “Shock Me,” and “Detroit Rock City,” everyone was enthralled, despite the worsening weather. Closing out with “Deuce,” Space Ace packed a ton of KISS’s best work while showing there is new and exciting material to be heard from himself and his all-star band.
As Frehley concluded his set, moments later, at around 8 PM, Daughtry was set to go on the WRAT stage. Early on associated with his appearance on 2006’s season 5 of American Idol, Chris Daughtry quickly used the experience as a building block. Rising quickly with his self-titled album release later that year, it has since gone four times Platinum while topping the Billboard Charts in multiple categories. Since, Daughtry and his band have been extremely successful with regular touring with the likes of Goo Goo Dolls, 3 Doors Down, as well as others, building a respected name in the Alternative Rock world.
Joined by the regular lineup of Guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, Bassist Josh Paul, Keyboardist Elvio Fernandes, and newer Drummer Brandon Maclin, Daughtry’s set included all the fan-favorites that propelled the band to a prominent music career including “September” and “Over You.” Mixing in newer songs such as “Waiting For Superman,” the vocalist even came off stage to be closer to the fans who had spent all day in the pouring rain to see the set. Closing off the set with “Home,” many could be heard singing along throughout the ballpark as the band wrapped up a delightful set. Daughtry’s touring continues through the rest of the year with plenty of stops along the way. Looking forward, Daughtry is set to return with a new album sometime in the foreseeable future.
Showing the festival’s diversity, headlining the WHDA Stage at 9 PM, was the heaviest band of the day, New Jersey’s own Overkill. One of the original American Thrash Metal bands alongside Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth, Overkill are warriors of the genre, showing no signs of fatigue through the years. With seventeen albums under their belt, the band is always hard at work, supplying fans with a steady stream of Metal while touring heavier than anyone. With Bobby Blitz (vocals) and D.D. Verni (bass) there from the very beginning, Dave Linsk (lead guitar), Derek “The Skull” Tailer (rhythm guitar), as well as Ron Lipnicki (drums) join them to bring breakneck pace and kick-ass tracks each and every night.
Coming out with a bang, “Armorist” grabbed everyone by the throat as “Rotten to the Core” was followed by Blitz screaming “Looks like we have a Heavy fucking Metal show!” After, Blitz was quick to stir up the crowd again, letting them know that he makes the rules tonight, and with that, they blasted out Overkill signatures such as “Hello From the Gutter,” “Hammerhead,” “Feel the Fire,” and “Elimination.” While a large portion of the crowd raised their Metal horns into the air, Blitz offered his a-typical comedic stylings in between each song and summed up Overkill’s rebellious attitude with their unmistakable “Fuck You.” While most in the audience knew exactly who Overkill was, Blitz was sure to welcome newcomers, proudly telling them that they have been banging heads for over three decades before closing out with a cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” Always an adrenaline-pumping show, November will have Overkill thrashing through Europe, and 2017 sees them setting their sights on album number eighteen with Grinding Wheel.
In the end, there was only one, and it was Twisted Sister headlining the WRAT stage at 10 PM. One of the hardest working Rock-n-Roll bands over the past forty plus years, Twisted Sister are a self-made band. With strong roots in New Jersey, playing local clubs for years and building a name, their live shows could not be denied and soon they were given the credit they were due with a record deal. From sold out arenas to topping the Billboards, Twisted Sister is damn good at rocking and apologetically self-proclaim they are one of the best live bands in the world, and they are not wrong. Now, four decades later, minus a hiatus in between, Lead Vocalist Dee Snider, Guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda, along with Bassist Mark “The Animal” Mendoza find themselves closing out one hell of a journey. One may think the end approached after the passing of Drummer A.J. Piero in 2015, but the fact is Twisted Sister had their sights on the band’s finale prior to the tragic loss of their friend. Inviting veteran Drummer Mike Portnoy on tour to bid fans farewell, history was in the making as fans anxiously awaited at The Rock Carnival.
Two days of amazing music and stormy weather before them did nothing to sap the energy from the crowd, and the atmosphere was electric as AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” blasted through the air. As the band took to the stage for “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You),” the party was officially under way. The fun continued on with tracks spanning their entire career including “Burn in Hell” and “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” before the band turned to “I Wanna Rock” with fans being led to sing along with the hit song. The entire time, Snider was a whirlwind of energy, determined to pump up the crowd even further with each passing moment.
While the first half of the set showed off the band’s great tracks, including “Under The Blade” and “I Am (I’m Me),” it was the second half where their personalities shined through. As the band played “Come Back” for the first time in a long time, Snider cut off the band. As the band stopped, confused, Snider exclaimed, “I fucked up,” to which the fans cheered with laughed. Snider joked, “See, this is why it’s a farewell tour!” Recovering without a hiccup, they started back up with “Shoot ‘Em Down” before Snider stopped them again, joking, “I don’t know that song either. This is why we’re fucking retiring!” Enjoying the authenticity of the night, fans laughed and appreciated the banter, but Snider, being the true professional he is, quickly made it right.
Returning to well-known tracks, the band moved to “We’re Not Gonna Take It” as Snider completely dominated the ballpark. After the song concluded, Snider fessed up to another mistake, an omission in the setlist that needed to be fixed. Asking for the lights to all be turned off, Snider asked fans to light up the arena with their cell phones and lighters. Leading into a tearful tribute to Pero, Twisted Sister played “The Price” from a dark stage to an arena lit by the audience. With the music subsiding, the band and fans took a moment to shift emotions. After telling fans the last two tracks would be for those who had been there since the beginning, Snider asked, “Seriously, what kind of farewell tour has a curfew?” to which he received a loud “Fuck the curfew!” chant. Nonetheless, the curfew stood and the final two songs would be “Tear it Loose” before Twisted Sister fan anthem, “S.M.F.”
Sadly, it was the end, and it was evident Twisted Sister did not want to leave the stage, hugging, passing out guitar picks, and setlists to their followers. This final local area Twisted Sister performance was more than a concert, it was a celebration of everything the band had achieved. Throughout the set, the group invited major names on stage who had helped the band in huge ways along the way. While some might argue this is where it should have ended, the 40 and Fuck It! Tour still has a few dates left before Twisted Sister say goodbye forever. With that said, the Heavy Metal community express a big thank you to Twisted Sister for always staying true to who they are over the years and keeping the spirit of Rock-n-Roll alive.
As the lights went up, it was bitter-sweet knowing fans had just witnessed one of the last Twisted Sister performances ever. As for The Rock Carnival, one day remained, and everyone headed home, curious to see if Sunday’s finale could top this historic event.