Current destination: London & SONISPHERE

At my hotel in London, England. I’m beginning to lose my concept of borders somehow. When you travel around like this, in the end everything somehow seems the same. Only little differences here and there – such as language or like here in the UK where they’re driving “on the wrong side”.

This morning I was still in Thessaloniki, Greece, three hours later, I’m walking the streets of Kensington, London, digging in my wallet for pounds instead of euros.

I walked into an Irish bar/restaurant and ordered a sirloin steak with a side salad and fries – it must have been the BEST meal I’ve had in a very long time, in all its simplicity. That, while listening to a soothing Irish trubadour singing about his broken heart, looking out the window over the busy street outside. The world really IS all the same, people are still people. And I love it. This is how I want to live. :-)

Anyway.

I left the hotel early yesterday morning, to go check out the Kaftanzoglio stadium. The Greek guy who’s been my “helper” during my Thessaloniki-stay, told me that nobody goes anywhere before 2 pm, and that would be only the craziest maybe 25 Judas Priest-fans. As for everybody else, they were most likely going to show up much later.

But I had nothing better to do anyway, so I took the bus down to the stadium. Another “Split-flashback” – buses with wooden seats, just like in Croatia. :) At least this one did. When I got there, I saw that the guy was right. It was dead empty. Not a SOUL. And it was boiling HOT.

I walked around the whole stadium and looked at the Trans-Am and Beat The Street-buses that were parked outside, and roadies rolling in all the gear. But still no rockers as far as the eye could see. I figured I’d ask someone where I could pick up my ticket so I found a bunch of security guys but they had NO idea. They pointed here and there, mumbling something about how “maybe” it was there, but in essence, they had NO clue.

As the hours went by, a few people started showing up so I asked two girls in Judas Priest t-shirts, but they didn’t know where to get the tickets either. One thing is for sure, people are extremely kind and helpful, even if they don’t really know the answer to your questions. During the day I asked security guys at every door around the whole stadium about the tickets, and they were all shrugging their shoulders, pointing here and there but adding “I don’t know“. I could not BELIVE that not a SOUL would know a basic thing like that!

One guy said he would find out, and I saw how he approached at least ten people who all shook their heads with the same result. In the end, a british dude walked up to me and said it was “somewhere” down the main road. Another one said it opened at five. That was the only information I could get.

I FINALLY got my ticket and ran up to the gate where a whole bunch of sweaty but happy rockers were waiting. Luckily I know all the tricks by now, how to quickly get in among the first ones without pushing, shoving or pissing anyone off.

But once the gate opened it was total MAYHEM. I felt like a fucking pizza, cause I was stuck in this horde of metal maniacs. Once I was in, I ran for it. I didn’t come all the way to Greece to stand somewhere in the back! And sure enough, I got a front row spot. Wouldn’t have it any other way. 

But it was evident that they weren’t used to this sort of thing – music festivals. When there’s an outdoor festival in that HEAT, you have to make sure that the people in the front row get WATER. Never mind anything else, just have buckets of water and a bunch of cups and hand it out to whoever looks like he or she is gonna pass out.

But the security guys were drinking from their own cold water bottles right in front of us, pretending that they didn’t see or hear when someone asked for water. That sucks. By the end of the evening, they finally got the hang of it, probably because so many people had to be carried out by the paramedics, totally dehydrated.

And another stupid thing, which I noticed when I left my front row spot before Judas Priest went on because I was so thirsty that I couldn’t stand another minute without water – they sold drinks alright… BUT – instead of giving people the opportunity to buy at each individual stand, they had EVERYBODY standing in a LONG LINE to buy some sort of coupons that said “drink”, “water”, “soda” or whatever – THEN you went to the different stands and got your drink. WTF? It took forever and I was so thirsty I thought I was gonna faint.

But, back to the show…..

First band up was called something with “bitch”, just one of those cheezy, silly glam/sleaze names that always sound the same and have the same kind of logos. They didn’t sound all that bad though, maybe not my thing but a song or two was pretty good. But it was evident that they weren’t very experienced performers. They did their best but it felt a little like a school-show on a large stage.

The crowd was almost yawning during their gig. But I could tell that it would be VERY different when Firewind went on…. People started pushing and shoving like crazy even before the band even got onstage – and a whole bunch of people were wearing Firewind t-shirts. I didn’t understand the Greek conversations around me, but I did pick up the words “Gus”, “Apollo” and “Bob” – so I suppose they were eagerly waiting for the band to show up.

When they finally entered the stage, people went fucking INSANE! If I had ever wondered if Firewind were their hometown heroes, or if nobody would give a shit just because they were local, I could stop wondering. People worshipped them. It was like I “saw” them for the first time, honestly. When a band gets a crowd that fired up (hah! No pun intended) you are guaranteed a great concert experience.

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After a few songs I could barely even concentrate on the BAND, I was laughing at the maniacs around me! My god! Gus was doing his thing, running around, making all his rockstar guitar hero-poses, balancing on the monitors, headbanging, the whole hoopla. Bob was in a great shape as well, doing pretty much the same thing all with a happy smile on his face – and did the “towel-trick” from Graspop once again. That made me laugh, there’s a sense of humor behind everything these guys do, and what I love the most about them is that they enjoy playing together and it shows. THAT’s what you want to see and feel when you go to a show. A band that can project their love for what they do and have their enthusiasm rub off on the crowd.

I don’t regret for one second that I went to Thessaloniki to see Firewind play in front of their hometown fans. It was an experience I will not forget anytime soon.

Next up was Whitesnake. Nowadays it’s almost a “thing” to see how long it’s going to take before David spots me. Because he ALWAYS does. And he always lets me know it. This time it took about…two minutes. He walked over to “my” side of the stage and looked at people, and you can see the SECOND he recognizes me – he goes from that “general” smile to that “particular” smile where he just “lights up” and says “Hii!” with his eyes. :-)
He smiled, pointed at me and I pointed back to say hello right back. That makes every Whitesnake show feel so personal. It makes you a part of it because you get that face-to-face connection. Then again, David is the master of that. Others can do the same but it’s still not quite the same. He looks so genuinely happy to see me, and that’s a great feeling.

As for the show – well, it’s WHITESNAKE. I’ve got nothing new to add, I love this band. Always have, always will. Apart from Coverdale himself, what I enjoy the most about Whitesnake nowadays is the brilliant Brian Tichy. I love his drum solo, and he has just a very visual way of playing, it just gets you going, makes you feel the power of every beat. He rocks.

The guitar duo-solo I can do without though. I’m not a big fan of Reb Beach and I even get annoyed looking at his “solo faces”, well you know the grimaces guitarists always have. Most of them are just cool, goes with the territory, but HE just looks stupid, I can’t watch it. Gah.

After Whitesnake’s set I was trying to decide what to do. I was horribly, horribly thirsty. I had brought 2 bottles of water, but had drank it all. Not even my chewing-gum trick worked. My whole body was screaming for water and I could feel the crowd getting even worse as Judas Priest were about to hit the stage… I made a decision to leave my front row spot. What the hell, I’m going to see Priest in Manchester next week anyway, so no big deal.

I bought three big glasses of ice-water and drank it so fast that I got a stomach ache, but I didn’t care. It felt WONDERFUL to drink all that cold water. Angel-choirs and all that!

When Priest finally made their dramatic entrance, I could establish one thing – they haven’t had such an enthusiastic crowd in ages! Not anywhere in Europe where I’ve seen them anyway. Frankly, every show so far has pretty much sucked. Or maybe I’m just expecting too much because they have meant so much in my life. I’ve seen them so many times and I remember the times when they created pure MAGIC on stage.

I remember once when I went to Gothenburg to see them, I had a fever of 42 degrees Celsius and my head felt like a bowling ball. I should have been in bed, but wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from seeing them. And when they began to play, I literally forgot that I was sick! After a few songs, I had such an adrenaline-rush that I felt like a million bucks. THAT is the band that I expect to see every time. Unfortunately I haven’t – not in a few years.

But this summer evening in Thessaloniki, they were given their magic powers back. I think the love from the crowd gave it to them. Like I said before, a band is never better than its crowd. This crowd was so totally MENTAL over Priest that I was actually glad I had left my front row spot. They kept falling over the barriers like freaking lemmings, one after another, they poured out all their energy over the band, it was a fantastic thing to witness.

It’s as if Priest felt like they had to step up and deliver, so that they could keep up with the crowd. I think Maiden said that once – it can be a pressure to be standing in front of a demanding yet loving audience because you have to be as good as them – at least.

My childhood heroes were back, they ROCKED the place, dammit, they showed how it should be done, and I’m so proud of being a Priest-fan again. I hope they can keep this up until next week when I see them again.

After the show I texted the Greek guy, told him where he could find me, and he came over to say hi. I was almost panicking to catch the last bus so I started following the crowd, somehow taking for granted that he and his friend would be right behind me. But I realize that sometimes my tempo can be hard to keep up with. :-/ I lost the guy.

Then it turned out that the last bus had left. He texted me and said I should go to street so-and-so and take another bus from there, “below the university”. Where was that? I had no idea, it was dark, no people, no buses… And NO taxis. They were – of course – on fucking STRIKE that particular day.

So I had ONE chance to find that bus stop where the last night bus would leave. He had to guide me over the phone… Funny though whe he asked “Where are you now?” and I can’t tell him because everything is in Greek and I wouldn’t know what it says anyway. Oh man.

In the end, a guy who was standing at a bus stop with a woman and another man, all of them paramedics that had been at the show, heard me walking the streets speaking English with someone looking very lost. “Do you need help?” he asked. I gave him the phone so that he and the Greek dude could talk and maybe somehow get me back to my hotel.

They said there was a night bus leaving in 15 minutes, and it stopped right outside my hotel. HALLELUJAH!

So the young, and pretty cute paramedic, although he had short hair (I’m just a hair-person, what can I say) asked where I was from. I said Sweden and answered his other question, that I came over here to see the three bands that had just played. He looked at me with a sceptic face and went: “ALONE? You came here alone??” I said yeah… I always go alone. Pretty much. He couldn’t believe it and said something about “Oh my god“. Then he asked when I was going home. I said I wasn’t, I was taking the early flight to London to go to Sonisphere, another festival. His eyes were as big as PLATES when he once again wondered if I was going alone on that too. Well – yeah?!

He was shocked. The woman explained to him: “It’s a woman thing. We can be independent and do things on our own. It’s you guys who always need pampering!” Haha, that was funny. In many cases I guess she’s right too. :)

The bus was so full that I barely got on it, but I HAD to get on the damn thing! Being lost in Thessaloniki in the middle of the night with a taxi-strike going on was not a hit.

I slept like a baby for a few hours, then took a cab (yes, they were back from the strike) to the airport. Didn’t feel like going on a sightseeing trip again like when I got there. The cab driver was an older man and he loved to talk. He was telling me about the problems the country had and felt that blood had to be spilled in order to make a change. Changes only happened after bloody revolutions. I hope he is wrong.

I said that people seemed so happy and friendly, so I haven’t seen much of the problems being a tourist (except for the strike…) He replied that people are friendly but they are not happy. So sad. They’ve got such a wonderful, beautiful country which I’d be glad to visit again but then bring someone – they should be proud. But I understand what he’s saying.

We were talking about traveling and he asked if I had a family. I said I didn’t, which is why I’m free to do this, travel around the world. Nobody stopping me, nobody waiting for me, it’s the only way. When he dropped me off he smiled and said, with a surprised voice kind of, “You are a very nice person! I liked talking to you!” That was the sweetest thing. :) It’s nice when that’s the last thing you hear when leaving a country.

When I got to London it was PISSING DOWN. I thought that “Sonisphere” must be another name for soaker. Same thing happened last year, one of those things that those who were there will NEVER forget!

So, I went from tropical Greek HEAT, to british fucking RAIN in just a few hours. Luckily enough, by the time I got to Earl’s Court, the sun was shining again, so I took a walk and that’s when I had that great Irish steak.

NOW, all I want to do is relax and sleep so that I can survive Sonisphere tomorrow. Cause I have a feeling that the “adventures” are far from over…..!

 

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