Rock Carnival: Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister Halestorm + More [Photos + Recap]
The second annual Food Truck and Rock Carnival stormed (in every sense of the word) upon Lakewood, N.J. as September faded into October over the weekend. First Energy Park played home to headliners Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister (performing their final tri-state area show) and Halestorm, as well as numerous other acts, most with ties to the state or its surrounding area, giving a nice community feel to the rainy three-day fest.
Three stages were set up, housing over 40 bands in all, with two set inside the stadium and one on the outside as part of the free portion of the event. There were almost as many food trucks as bands, some cheeky styled wrestling that was impossible not to crack a smile at, pig racing, carnival rides and a crude, coughing dunk tank clown who got even wetter than the fest's attendees.
After weathering sloth-paced traffic on the ride down to New Jersey, it was time for the first night of Rock Carnival with the feature act, legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper. Backed with arguably the finest lineup he's had since the '70s, Cooper managed to wrangle a wide sonic net cast throughout his four decade career, taking on songs from across all eras like "Black Widow," "The World Needs Guts" and "Woman of Mass Distraction" and stitching them together with a unified and updated sound. Also of note were Nita Strauss' eruptive guitar solo and Glen Sobel's stick-twirling, maddening drum solo along with a rumbling bass line.
The next night was the highlight of the festival as Twisted Sister took the stage in the tri-state area for the final time after spending a decade packing bars and clubs throughout the '70s and into the '80s. Even at 61, Dee Snider was as youthful and spirited as he was at any point in the band's career, stalking the stage with complete ownership of the frenzied crowd. Twisted Sister ran through as many hits as any true SMF could wish for and even packed in a couple surprises!
Pulling out a deep cut, "Come Back," Snider noted it was the second song he ever wrote for the band and the diehards went ballistic. The frontman stopped the song at one part, admitting he messed it up, but quipped that the band is having fun before orchestrating which part to pick back up with. "Tear it Loose" was another one dug out of the treasure trove, a special treat for the local crowd that made the band's career ambitions possible in the first place. Twisted Sister never seemed willing to walk off the stage with Snider mentioning they have to abide by the curfew and for many, it was a bittersweet moment: high off the anthemic show and despondent that the group will never play in the area again.
On Sunday night, Halestorm headlined to an enthusiastic crowd as Lzzy Hale set the tone opening the set with a a forceful, likely half-minute wail that would sound in place on any Judas Priest record. Hale was nearly 30 and 40 years removed from the previous nights' headliners and still had to dial up a top flight performance to compete on the same level, which, of course, she did. Always an energetic bunch (just take a look at the photo of drummer Arejay Hale in the gallery above), Halestorm delivered with cuts like "Mz. Hyde" and "Amen."
Hale was the singer of the day, hitting the stage twice before Halestorm even stepped under the lights. First, Lzzy joined Jim Breuer and the Loud & Rowdy for the closing song of his set, a grin-inducing cover of AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill." Breuer struck a chord with the numerous parents in the crowd earlier in his set with his family-oriented set consisting of songs off his debut rock record, Songs From the Garage.
Later on, Hale joined Cinderella singer Tom Keifer during his set (which included hits like "Somebody Save Me" and "Night Songs" along with a cover of Prince's "Purple Rain") as she has many times before to sing "Nobody's Fool." The two have an obvious chemistry together onstage and received a roar from the crowd.
Notable Friday sets included Blue Oyster Cult, who performed in driving driving rain. Their rambunctious set proved these guys still know how to have fun onstage, all smiles throughout their performance that included the standard classics alongside cuts like "Lips in the Hills" and "Hot Rails to Hell." Clutch delivered a knockout show with their signature brand of groove-friendly, southern-tinged rock 'n' roll and due to inclement weather, Zakk Wylde's Black Sabbath tribute band, Zakk Sabbath, were forced to cancel.
On Saturday, Texas Hippie Coalition warmed up the early afternoon crowd, brandishing a rifle styled mic stand that was certainly eye-catching. Jackyl were another highlight with singer Jesse James Dupree's ageless wail. Their set climaxed with the infamous "The Lumberjack," as Dupree revved his chainsaw as an additional instrument before sawing a stool in half onstage, which was also set ablaze at one point.
Monster Magnet were up next followed by Fuel and then legendary KISS guitarist Ace Frehley. The Spaceman delivered a mix of solo tunes and KISS classics with his drummer hitting the Paul Stanley-led songs spot on. Daughtry kept the rock side of things going for the next hour and then it was time for local thrash heroes Overkill, who were a fitting act to perform directly before Twisted Sister.
The band played with drummer Eddy Garcia who stepped in for Ron Lipnicki, bringing a lights out set as one of thrash's most enduring and consistent acts both live and in the studio. Despite the muddy white plastic tracks laid down over the field, fans took the risk on the slippery floor and began unabashedly slamming into each other as Bobby Blitz commanded the stage.
By Sunday, the rain mostly held off, giving fans going on their third consecutive day a much-needed rest from the cold dampness. Citizen Zero were one of the earliest highlights as they tore into a thumping rendition of Ted Nugent's iconic "Stranglehold," imploring fans to leave the politics at the door and enjoy for the music for what it is.
Sebastian Bach exclaimed how proud he was to be home in New Jersey, busting out nothing but Skid Row classics save for the Rush cover of "Tom Sawyer." Always entertaining onstage, Bach furiously whipped his microphone around his head, giving at least 10 to 15 feet of lead on the cable as it spun.
Brooklyn natives Life of Agony had one of the most supportive crowds of the weekend as fans swung their arms and stomped around to hardcore grooves and loudly sang along to cuts like "River Runs Red" and "This Time." With the sun below the horizon, just a handful of acts remained, including the Used, who noted their sound was a bit out of place with the remainder of the fest, though they had a rather sizable and adoring crowd of their own.
Fans who didn't have a ticket inside the stadium still had plenty to watch on the Birch Hill stage which was positioned among the food truck alley and near the carnival rides. Glam rockers Trixter and Bullet Boys both performed, providing support for German metal goddess Doro, who closed out the night playing mostly Warlock covers, including "I Rule the Ruins" and "All We Are."
That's it for the 2016 Rock Carnival! Now it's time to take a look through the photos at the top of the page to see a piece of the action!
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