Rock The Bayou Festival Closes With Bret Michaels And Twisted Sister


September 2, 2008

Joey Guerra of HandStamp has written the following report on Day 3 of the Rock The Bayou festival. Photos of Day 4 can be found at

Bret Michaels and a dose of reality

Bret Michaels seems like a nice guy. He’s surprisingly charming making groupies endure ridiculous challenges on Rock of Love. He’s equally at home crooning flashy glam anthems or country-fried ballads. He’s survived and earned his place in pop culture.

It was disappointing, then, that his headlining set on the final night of Houston’s inaugural Rock the Bayou festival left me wanting more. He wasn’t bad, but something just didn’t fully click.

Maybe Twisted Sister, who put on a ferociously entertaining performance, should have taken the closing slot. The crowd was considerably thinner during Michael’s set, and he seemed to be trying really hard to keep things exciting. But his energy felt a bit reined in, and he often seemed to be shouting instead of singing.

Michaels also wanted the crowd to believe he was flying by the seat of his tight jeans, making things up as he went along and putting together the playlist on the spot. But this is a guy who has gone from rock star to bonafide TV personality. There’s a sense of control in there somewhere.

To his credit, Michael kicked off with full thunder, launching into Poison hit Talk Dirty to Me. It was a rousing opener and provided a much-needed boost of energy. He sported his standard cowboy hat and sleeveless T-shirt, a look now emulated by countless bands and fans.

The Poison tunes were balanced with well-worn covers (Sweet Home Alabama, That’s What I Like About You, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door) and one so-so solo song. A pair of girls in bikinis gyrated onstage during unofficial stripper anthem Unskinny Bop for an extra shot of sexy.

Less sexy? Michael playing maracas during the song.

Michaels said he wrote signature tune Every Rose Has Its Thorn in a Dallas laundromat. He strummed and sang serviceably. A few girls swooned.

But truth be told, I think I’ve stopped seeing him as a rock star. It’s more fun these days to watch him deal with tears, hangovers and catfights on VH1.

Twisted Sister rocks old-school style

Twisted Sister was — with apologies to other, solid acts — the best reason to sit through four days of Rock the Bayou bands.

Dee Snider and the original Sister lineup tore through the darkening Monday sky with liberal doses of grit and glam. And yes, he was decked out in the signature costume and makeup: blood-red lips, blue eye shadow, a mane of curled yellow hair and shredded stage wear. It was indeed a site to behold.

Snider is a menacing, maniacal showman. He bounced furiously onstage and whipped his mane into a frenzy. He chided other bands who didn’t boast original lineups and took a swipe at old enemy Tipper Gore.

It drove the crowd, the biggest of the event, absolutely wild. But Snider also has — thank goodness — a sense of humor about what he’s doing.

“I happen to know that God is a headbanger,” he bellowed in reference to the tempestuous weather. “The sky will stay blue — sort of. The rain will not fall down — please.”

It was a smart move to let fans collected in the outer grass (cheap seats) into the reserved seating area. So many people singing along so close together gave the set an urgent, electric energy.

All the showmanship, however, wouldn’t matter if the music wasn’t strong. But the songs — You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll, Stay Hungry, Shoot ’em Down, Under the Blade — packed a ferocious punch. They were loud, obnoxious, anthemic and undeniably entertaining.

We’re Not Gonna Take It, the group’s biggest hit, came early in the set, and Snider offered an explanation.

“We know there are people out there who only came out to hear We’re Not Gonna Take It. We play it early so you can get the (expletive) out,” Snider barked.

“Those aren’t fans of the band. Those are fans of a song.”

Fair enough. And with that, he led the crowd through a chant — “Get the (expletive) out!” — as a few cowering souls made their way to the exits.

Snider was clearly, despite his lipsticked snarl, having a ton of fun. That, friends, is the mark of a great rock show.

Twisted talk with Dee Snider

Dee Snider isn’t a fan of today’s rock music. (And when he talks, it’s best to listen. Have you seen the size of this guy?)

“Bands are whining too much. There’s too much complaining,” he said. “The grunge era — whining, complaining. The punk era — whining, complaining.

“The ’80s were all about sticking your middle finger in the air and having a good time. What ever happened to saying, ‘F you?’ Get pissed off, people! There are some pretty sucky things out there in the world.”

But the Twisted Sister singer isn’t stuck in the past. His current iPod playlist includes the likes of My Chemical Romance, Wolfmother, Avenged Sevenfold and Death Before Dishonor.

The band takes the RTB mainstage in about an hour, and Snider is proud to be fronting the full original lineup. And they’re doing it old-school style — glam hair, costumes and makeup.

“You’ve got bands rolling in with one member, and it’s the damn drummer, for God’s sake. That’s like Ringo going out as the Beatles,” he said. “That’s not a reunion. It’s a payday.

“You’ve gotta give people the band they remember — not the band that you want them to think you are now.”

Kix brings the krazy

Kix singer Steve Whiteman is a strange, strange man. He slid and slithered his rail-thin frame around the stage throughout the band’s energetic set, giving off an androgynous, Steven Tyler-esque vibe.

Whiteman addressed a healthy gathering of fans with a high-pitched lisp, touching on the requisite rock themes: no-good women, booze and sex. He reached inside his dangerously low hip-huggers late in the set and pulled out a banana.

“Has that been there the whole time?” he asked. Probably.

Odd, but it all made for one of the day’s most enthusiastic crowds, who pumped along with much of the band’s retro catalog. Can’t argue with that, and the overall package does pack a punch.

It was a nasty, bluesy, messy sound — typified by signature hit Blow My Fuse.

Out of Reach reps H-town rock

It’s always great to catch a Houston band between bigger acts. It’s even better when they’re as good as Out of Reach, one of the nicest surprises to come out of my RTB stint.

The band has a wiry, alt-rock sound that’s not too hard but still edgy enough for this crowd. The songs were fully formed and made me want to hear more.

Frontman Juan has a big, booming voice, and Edward Chavez’s guitar work is tight and showy. But I was most impressed with tiny drummer Christian Chavez, who looks to be between 10-12 years old. He pounded his kit with relentless fury.

Pretty Boy Floyd and nice weather

On this fourth and final day of Rock (the Bayou), things are off to a solid start.

The heat has subsided a bit and the winds are constant, likely thanks to Hurricane Gustav. The crowd is healthy, and Bret Michaels’ arrival is imminent. (I’m on the lookout for more Rock of Love girls.)

Early main-stagers Pretty Boy Floyd revved up the crowd with anthemic tunes I Wanna Be With You, Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaws and Only the Young. Musically, they’re like a mix of Twisted Sister and Poison — minus the theatrics.

The sound isn’t tremendous, but singer Steve Summer has fun with the crowd. Kid Rock would be right at home in this band of rock cowboys.

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