SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL – MEMORIES

Only a few days before the madness begins again: Sweden Rock Festival.
Sweden Rock is HOME to me. I’ve been there every single year for the past 17 years.

I remember the first festival I went to, that was in 1994. Back then, it was a small event in the city of Karlshamn and it was only a weekend-festival. But it was nice because we didn’t really have any other hard rock festivals in Sweden back in those days.

[My pass from 1995, can’t find the one from 1994…Note that the festival used to be called “Karlshamn Rock Festival”]P1020487.jpg

Things have changed since then. They have REALLY changed. In 1994 there was no Sweden Rock Magazine and the festival was called Karlshamn Rock Festival. As far as I remember, it wasn’t a big deal to anyone back then – not like today when you have people from all over the world showing up at the camping days before the festival begins.

In 1995 I was there to talk to Black Sabbath, and had a great talk with Cozy Powell and Tony Martin at the hotel in Karlshamn (the audio file from that interview has already been published in this blog). Cozy was great, he was joking all the time and when I think about Cozy I just see a man with a big smile.

[Just my luck! The ONE photo I’ve got of Cozy and me, and of course I had to blink!]

Had dinner with Tony Martin in the hotel restaurant as fans were interrupting every five minutes. I was a huge Martin-fan, and I was really glad that he took time to talk for a while that day. It’s different asking questions for a magazine and asking questions as a fan, he took time for both and I was really grateful for that.
There was always a good vibe at the hotel those first few years. All the artists were staying there and fans usually knew about it, but it was still a relaxed and fun atmosphere.

[Tony Martin (Black Sabbath) in hotel lobby 1995]

Well, years went by and the festival just grew. I have great memories from every single year, I could probably write a book – but this is as close as it gets to being a book. :)

It went from being over just a weekend to being 3 days…to 4 days… Of course it moved from Karlshamn to “the middle of nowhere” a field in Norje Boke – Solvesborg, Blekinge, Sweden.

Nowadays it’s the biggest festival (or one of them) in Sweden, bands from all over the world know about it, fans from all over the world are coming to attend the 4 days of metal madness.

And me, well… it feels like coming home. I love Sweden Rock Festival, it’s just everything that I love:
I get to see my favorite bands over a few days, I meet friends, bands, colleagues – people I don’t usually see unless it’s Sweden Rock (photographers, record company people, management people, people working for the festival…). It’s metal in its most compact form, everything in one place. Music 24/7 – I’m in heaven.

Sure, you get tired, your feet are aching, you don’t get enough sleep, food is freaking expensive, and there are drunk assholes every here and there… but even with all that, it’s still worth it. :)

P1020482.jpg

Partying with Dio’s band at Karlshamn hotel…. not sure what year it was, but they were truly having a good time!

P1020485.jpg

I could probably pick at least one band or artist from every year 1994-2010 that I have some kind of memories from. So, there would be a lot.

One of the first things that comes to mind was the year when Rob Halford and his own band Halford headlined the festival. I had been at the hotel hanging with the band the night before. Well, I had actually been hanging in the bar alone, thinking that I couldn’t/wouldn’t disturb the guys who were sitting at a table pretty much right behind me.

But one of them recognized me from a few months back when I had been at a meet-and-greet thing and invited me to come and sit at their table. They were wild, the manager left his credit card and asked them to pay for his drink because he needed to get some sleep. Needless to say, that credit card ended up being used for more than just ONE drink…! :)

In the morning, I saw said manager in the lobby, upset because he had missed the shuttle that drives artists and crew to the festival site. The next shuttle was due in about an hour and he needed to get to the festival area asap. I just told him that I was driving down there anyway so he was welcome to join me if he didn’t mind riding in the small Renault that I had back then. He had no problem with that, so off we went. 

Man, that man could TALK! He went on and on about everything that had to do with Rob and I thought to myself that if I had been one of those sensation-seeking journalists, that would have been perfect! However, what’s off the record IS off the record as far as I’m concerned. I guess my morals won’t get me far in this business. Others are willing to cash in on anything, as long as they are exposing others.

[Rob Halford, backstage about an hour before he hit the stage with HALFORD, 2002]

 When we got to the festival, he wanted me to take him all the way to Rob’s dressing-room. I told him I couldn’t go there because I didn’t have a car pass. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of this!” he said.

Sure enough, when we got to the first gate, the security guy stopped the car and I opened the window. Halford’s manager leaned over me and looked at the guy going: “Do you know who I am? I am Rob Halford’s manager. She is taking me to the dressing rooms, okay?”

The guy didn’t question anything – he just nodded and opened the gate. It was like Open Sesame all the way through, and next thing I know, I’m parked right outside Rob’s dressing room…

Manager walks off, comes back with a laminate that he gives me. I was welcome to walk around freely. When I checked, I saw that he gave me the best pass you can get – the artist pass. Works everywhere. I could have walked up on stage if I wanted to.

Then there was the year that Sebastian Bach was supposed to play. Those of you who know me, also know that Sebastian is an old friend. That year, I had Kevin from Jon Oliva’s Pain visiting me and since he and Baz are both from Canada, pretty much from around the same area, I figured they would probably hit it off. Either they would become great friends or they would hate eachother’s guts. I wasn’t sure which, but we drove to the festival early that morning to make it on time.

While we were still on the motorway I get a text from my friend at the production office, who informed me that Sebastian had cancelled. He was stuck at the airport, wouldn’t make it on time. So… this is a pass for a meeting that never happened. I had met Baz a few years before when he played Sweden Rock, but this was such a bummer…. another “classic” Sweden Rock memory.

I guess I could go on and on…. there is a lot more... I’m sure there will be more stories here whenever I take a walk down Memory Lane again.
But for now, all I can say is that I can’t wait to see all those great bands – and meet new and old friends for a Rock’n’roll Extravaganza de Luxe!

2 comments

  1. Ronnie Soo

    Some crackin’ stuff there… have a blast at Sweden Rock (wanna come to it myself one year!)Shame about Sebastian Bach in ’08 – don’t suppose it’s any consolation but he made it to Finland on the Saturday for Sauna Open Air in Tampere. I’ve got friends over there and so I got to see him play, for the first time in almost 20 years! I’ve looked up Tapio’s Dio pages for when they played Sweden Rock and I reckon that pic is from either 1999 or 2000 (they played again in 2005) Is that Simon Wright in the middle? (judging by the signature – I wouldn’t recognise him there!) Recognised Scott Warren immediately, but he has much shorter hair there!

  2. Daniela

    Most likely 1999 in that case. And the thing about Sebastian – I think he was more pissed off about the situation than anybody. But I guess you will hear different stories on what actually happened that day depending on who you ask… For me it wasn’t a huge deal to miss him at Sweden Rock considering I’ve seen him live a thousand times, but I wanted him and Kevin to meet because I think it would have been an interesting meeting between them two. I saw Baz last year though, he still kicks ass live. One of the few people who was born to rock! Oh and by the way – yes, that’s Simon Wright in the middle. :)

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