The much anticipated Guitar Universe tour 2014 with Gus G and Marty Friedman finally hit the roads of Europe, and so did I!
My journey started at Malmö central station where I took the train to Stockholm on the 30th of April. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to travel, especially in the spring where you can truly enjoy the scenery. When the train crossed a few little lakes, it felt like we were “walking on water”. Beautiful.
I arrived at a busy Stockholm central, and used my smartphone’s GPS to find Hard Rock Cafe where I was meeting up with a friend later that day. I enjoy walking, and it’s especially enjoyable to take a walk in the sun. :)
Hours went by, I spent some time in the Hard Rock Cafe bar playing drink inspector. I love colorful, sweet drinks…! My friend Tina finally showed up and we could catch up a little. Haven’t seen her in years.
It started getting darker and that was my cue to get going so I could find my airport hotel before it got dark. Airport transportation is usually pretty expensive, but by reading tips from other travellers online, I found a way to get there pretty cheap by rail and bus.
I fell asleep pretty early (for my standards) cause sleeping is luxury when you’re out on these gig-trips. You try to get as much sleep as you possible can.
When I woke up early next morning, around 5 AM, I could barely believe my eyes. May 1st in Sweden – and there was SNOW outside?! It was freezing cold, and I didn’t’ have winter clothes, cause when I left Malmo it was spring! Oh brother….this was going to be interesting.
[The first thing I saw when I looked out the window in Stockholm, May 1st, 2014!]
The airport transfer bus was jam-packed. Got to Arlanda airport, my next destination was Tampere, Finland.
There were maybe 10 people on that tiny little SAS-flight and I could only laugh and shake my head at the fact that the plane was 55 minutes late because it needed de-icing…in MAY!
The captain went: “Well, we’apologize for the delay, but the de-icing station is slightly understaffed. We usually don’t need their services this time of year...”. :)
[Flying into Tampere, Finland…]
Tampere airport was like a ghost airport. Very small and absolutely nothing to see or do. I took a cab to Omena hotel which I thought was going to be my temporary home in Tampere. But when I got there, it dawned on me what kind of “hotel” it was. No reception, no staff, no nothing.
You got a key-code to access the premises and your room. And that didn’t work. The code/key would be “activated” at 4 PM. So there I was, at 10 AM, freezing my ass off, still tired, hungry and just needing a place to put my bags, change and relax before heading off to find the venue.
A McDonald’s was right around the corner and as much shit as you can shove on McDonald’s for various reasons, it has been my saviour many times when I’ve been out on these trips. It provides cheap food, free WiFi and bathroom. It’s the small things that count when you’re out travelling on your own.
I tried to get in touch with the Omena staff by e-mail, explaining the situation, asking if there was any possibility to get the access code to work a bit EARLIER than 4 in the afternoon, that’s extremely LATE. Nothing. To this day they still haven’t replied in any way, shape or form.
So, I thought… fuck it. I looked up another hotel nearby on my booking.com app and just walked in, asking if they had anything available for 1 person, 1 night. That was Scandic Hotel Tampere Station. The best thing I could have done! Sometimes, shit happens so that it can turn into something good.
The guy at the reception was super nice, I got a good discount, he asked what kind if room I would like, tub or shower, explained the details and was just helpful without being “in your face”-nice. When I opened the door to my room, I almost heard angel choirs and harps…! Wow.
It was modern, cool, had everything you needed and then some! It’s, hands down, the second best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. The best is still hotel Avalon in Gothenburg. But this is a worthy competitor. Normally I would have praised this place in booking.com’s review section but since I just walked in off the street, I’ll just mention a few things here in case other travellers to Tampere are looking for a great place to stay. It wasn’t that expensive either.
Sound proof – I couldn’t hear a thing from the rails, the street or other guests. Wonderful silence…!
Warm floors. Even in bathroom.
Usually hotels are focused on male travellers but this one had thought about the female ones as well. There was plenty of space to put my makeup in the bathroom, a huge mirror and good lighting.
The soap was organic and smelled great.
Another thought-through detail was the “night light” in the bathroom – a small, tiny light that lit up the commode so you don’t have to turn the big, bright lights on when you get up in the morning and need to go to the bathroom. THAT was probably my favorite feature. Again, it’s the small things that count. :)
And the BED…! I could have slept there all day, so comfortable. I felt like a queen.
But the best thing of all: It was right across the street from the venue, Klubi!
I walked down there to check out the premises, looked like a typical rock club. No activity going on though, so I went to get some dinner.
When I came back, I heard drums – actually, you could hear those thundering, wild drums all the way up to the railway tracks…!
A guy who was obviously from the club, approached me and started talking Finnish, so I told him I didn’t understand a word he just said.
– Oooh, sorry. I’m looking for a woman, but I don’t know what she looks like, he said.
OK, well. Hard to help you there my friend. :) A bit later on, I was picked up by a kind and familiar face and brought into the nice and warm club. At that point I felt like an ice-lolly or something, man it was cold!
But when you’re out on these things, there’s really nothing better to do than hang around the venue – as crazy as it sounds. There’s only so much you can do at the hotel or a restaurant, and even that gets old. Anyway, I caught a few minutes of the sound check, which was great.
It was nice to see all the familiar people and hear a little bit of Marty’s stuff as well. Mats came down to say hi when they were done, and Jo kept me company for a little while, as always, before heading off to grab a bite somewhere before the show. It’s always great to see him, I was really glad he was announced as the drummer on this tour.
That’s what I enjoy the most I think, the super sweet guys in the band and crew. In a way I share a lot of their memories cause we’ve been to the same places, all over the planet, pretty much. :) Europe. the US, Australia…
Doors opened and people started coming in. I noticed a slightly different type of crowd than you would find at a Firewind gig. Many “geeky” guys who were clearly guitarists and were there mainly to check out the fretboard techniques of Gus and Marty…
And then it was finally time to kick off this tour with some brand new music from the young guitar virtuoso Gus G and his rock-tight band. It’s always a ballsy thing to do, to go on the road with a brand new album, presenting a brand new concept. I’d say that most of the crowd didn’t know the material yet, as “I Am The Fire” came out only about two months ago.
The crowd wasn’t the drunk Beavis & Butthead type of crowd, but I watched some of them, trying to “scan” the reactions of people, and noticed the approving nods and the very concentrated looks on their faces. If you were a mind-reader you would probably hear them go “damn, this guy is SICK…!“.
There are different ways to show appreciation and this crowd was most approving indeed, but in their own, silent kind of way (to start with at least, they got into it soon enough!)
As for me, seeing THIS constellation for the first time too, I’d say it was as tight as a frog’s ass. I was there when drummer Jo Nunez was brand new in Firewind and I’ve seen him grow with the band since then. He was brilliant back then as well, but now he’s a confident showman too and really fun to watch.
I received a message from a fan who had seen the videos from Tampere who said that he wouldn’t mind just watching a “Jo-cam” cause he’s entertaining. Thumbs up for that, it’s awesome.
Both Jo and bassist Or Lubianiker are working double shifts on this tour. Or, as Or put it on his Facebook-page: “Me and Jo (one hell of a drummer) held it down nice and tight for Marty, Gus and Takayoshi to pour some guitar awesomeness on top.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)
Mats is the born frontman, he is just a natural talent in every aspect. He looks and sounds the part – and he’s working his butt off. So is Gus, and he always delivers. I wouldn’t be out here for the third year in a row, if he didn’t.
It’s a shame though, that Gus tends to gets stuck in different “boxes” that limits the type of crowd he could and should be drawing.
His solo album is not a “guitar album” – you do get great guitar work if that’s what you’re looking for, but most of all, it contains a bunch of great, classic style hard rock songs.
So now, it’s a “guitar-crowd” when it should be a regular hard rock crowd as well. It’s definitely not an easy business to be in. :)
[For the guitar-enthusiasts:]
I’d say it was a good evening with a crowd that started out as slightly reserved but ended up rockin’ like a real metal crowd once they got a little loosened up! :)
I haven’t seen Marty Friedman since his days with Megadeth, so I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasently surprised. Eventhough I didn’t know the material and it was 100% instrumental, I found myself getting closer and closer to the stage cause he has an interesting way of mesmerising a crowd.
It’s not just his playing. there’s no point “reviewing” guys like Gus or Marty – anyone with ANY knowledge or music, knows what they can do and what level of musicianship they’re on.
But Marty exudes such joy, enthusiasm and pure passion on stage. You can see every single emotion that he goes through in any given moment, by just watching his face. He’s like an open book and I think that really appeals to people. You don’t have to be a guitar geek to be fascinated by this guy. Anything that is genuine will ALWAYS get the attention of people.
I heard a girl saying after his show in Stockholm, “I don’t really like this kind of music, but I stayed throughout the whole show, I didn’t want to leave”. I rest my case. :)
And then…. as icing on the cake – the evening was concluded with this. See the video footage below. I was right in the middle of the warmed up crowd and it was awesome. :)
I left straight after the show to get some sleep. Had an early wakeup call the next morning.
Next destination: Helsinki
[Watch for the next tour blog in a few hours…]