It’s taken a week to get rid of the jetlag, but the trip to Seoul, Korea was without a doubt one of the most memorable ones I’ve done. I had no idea what I could expect, as I don’t know anyone from Korea and I don’t even know anyone who’s ever BEEN there. Ozzy doing that one-off gig there was the perfect reason to go and I’m so glad that I did.
It took me 16 hours to get from Copenhagen to Seoul (with a landing in Dubai) but my favorite airline ever, Emirates, made those hours pass very quickly. Comfortable seats, good food and lots of movies and entertainment.
I landed in Seoul on Friday afternoon, around 5PM local time, and speeded through immigration like a flash. Very efficient and speedy process. When I got out, I was greeted by THIS! My cab driver, James (which he called himself, but his e-mail addy said his name was Kang :D) had placed the sign with my name on it RIGHT in front of the exit-doors, you just couldn’t miss it!
He was a happy, laughing man who was glad to show me the city and answer any questions I might have. The first thing he said was:
– This is the country where everybody’s got black hair and nobody speaks English, haha!
– Well, the country where I’m from everybody’s blond and everybody speaks English! :D
When we got to the guesthouse where I was staying, Sutome, I was greeted by a woman who said that she lived there. She showed me my room and explained how everything worked. I had no past experience at all of guest houses. Either it’s a hotel or a bed and breakfast. This was something inbetween.
I saw that everybody’s shoes were outside, so I took mine off as well. There was a hot/cold water dispenser outside my room which was perfect, cause there was this humid heat that was almost unbearable. The whole house had this wonderful scent of essential aromatic oils – there was Ylang-Ylang in the bathroom and lemongrass in the entrance room, all very fresh. Sutome was actually an art gallery but they also rented out rooms, and some people lived there permanently.
I asked the woman who had welcomed me, if it was difficult to get to the World Stadium or if she could maybe draw me a simple map or something. She smiled, asked me to put my shoes on, and she would show me.
So, we went for a walk! :) It was so easy to find, once we got to the nearest junction I could see the signs to World Cup stadium, and she pointed at something and I could even SEE it. No way to miss it. Then on our way back, she showed me a small alley that she said led to a little marketplace where I would be able to find good Korean food and do a bit of shopping. Unfortunately I never had time to go check it out during my very short stay….
When we came back, she showed me her tiny little garden, and she had watermelons growing there! I LOVE watermelons, thought it was so cool to be able to grow your own!
It was hotter than hell and I was tired after my trip, so I fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning, I was wondering when it was breakfast. Usually you are told that breakfast is served between 7 and 10 am and if you miss it, you’ve missed it, tough shit… I was to learn that that wasn’t how it worked at a guest house.
When I got up, there was a lady there who greeted me with a smile and asked if I had slept well. Her English was limited but perfectly sufficient for a simple conversation. She asked me when I would like to have my breakfast. I asked her when they usually HAD breakfast (figured that I didn’t need any special treatment, I would eat when everyone else ate). She said around 9.30. Perfect. 9.30 worked for me.
I wanted to take a few pics of the street outside, when I noticed a cat and a few kittens right outside the door. From what I could understand, they were stray kittens, but the lady fed them and had prepared a nice little “cat home” for them where they had their sanctuary.
A guest house not only for people, but also for homeless cats, it was beautiful, I loved it. :D Check out the little grey fellow – and his VERY relaxed style! :D Lol!
My room was very simple, but clean and perfect for a young person. A CD-player was hanging on the wall and two shelves right next to it, with CD:s lined up to choose from. Two single beds, AC that didn’t work (or I was just too stupid to figure out HOW it worked) and a little table that I used as my makeup table.
Took a shower before breakfast and got online – was there was free Wi-Fi in the whole house. Maybe not the fastest one in the world, but at least it worked (kind of…. on and off at least…).
The lady was in the kitchen, preparing something and she brought me a tray with a pitcher of milk, some cornflakes, toast, little dishes with two different types of jam, the coffeemaker was brewing… And then she brought out a plate with scrambled eggs that she had just made. Perfect way to start the day.
She smiled once again, told me to enjoy breakfast and then disappeared. I understood that there was no “breakfast time”, you just got your breakfast when you could/wanted it, and she would make it from scratch. :)
After breakfast I packed my “concert bag” (all the usual – camera, batteries, memory cards, earplugs, mealbars, bottle of water, wallet, headache pills, nosespray, sunglasses…) and went to find the stadium. I wasn’t sure about the times or how it was all going to be organized, so it just felt safer to be there early.
One thing I noticed during my stroll, was how CLEAN everything was. There was no litter on the streets. Not as much as a chewing gum anywhere! I was impressed by how well the Seoul-residents kept their city tidy.
The stadium was huge. It took me almost fifteen minutes to try figure out where the entrance was! There was a big mall integrated with the stadium, and also a spa and what I think was a fitness facility.
I saw people with music t-shirts and decided to just walk in their direction. Sure enough, it led me straight to where I needed to go.
I had to pick up my ticket and luckily, there were signs in English that directed me to where to get my ticket. The funny thing though, was that once you collected your “paper ticket”, you had to walk over to the OTHER side, right across from this booth, and exchange your ticket to a wristband instead. Oh boy. Why not do both at the same time?
So I got in THAT line. And suddenly I became aware of the fact that I stood out in the crowd, quite a bit. I was the ONLY European-looking person there and most DEFINITELY the only BLONDE there. Not even as much as a fake blonde anywhere.
It was pretty cool, because you got your wristband and a kind of “pass-holder” that you could wear around your neck with the schedule and all kinds of good-to-know info.
I decided to take a look around the premises. The security check and everything else, went so smooth. In Western countries we are so unorganized because we are selfish and eager to accomodate ourselves, which usually leads to the exact opposite – longer lines and crammed entrances and exits. Here, people are used to co-existing in a different way somehow. It simply works. I was very impressed.
There were a number of different stages where you could check out various types of bands/music, food and sales of souvenirs and stuff. I forgot to get myself a t-shirt at least, would have been cool to have one.
Once I had checked out the area and I knew where to get in and out, and the different stages and stuff, I decided to go back to Sutome. It was way too hot for me, I just wanted to get indoors, in the shade for an hour or so (and drink lots of cold water).
I was still jetlagged to I ended up taking a nap for a half hour.
Went back to the stadium a little later to pick up a pass that was hopefully there, somewhere, I just didn’t know where or when. So I tried to find someone who spoke English. They directed me to this girl who said she spoke English. I tried to explain, as slowly and as uncomplicated as possible, that I just needed to know where I could pick up my pass. She nodded and asked me for my ticket…. I couldn’t see what the ticket had to do with anything, but I gave it to her and she pointed in the direction of the entrance.
Okay, this wasn’t gonna be a walk in the park, apparently. *phew*
I said that I knew where the festival entrance was, but I wanted to know where to pick up my pass. The word “pass” seemed new to her. She looked at me like I was from outer space. So I tried once again to explain that a pass was used to get in backstage… as in “behind the stage”… as in where the artists usually are.
She looked at me with a totally horrified, shocked expression and went: “You can’t go meet the band!”
Yes, I can, but I need my pass, so where do I collect it?!
It was as if she figured I was some random fan from the crowd who was trying to talk her way into the “holy area” or something. My god, that was quite a challenge. In the end, I just gave up, said that it’s okay, I would find somebody else to help me out.
I eventually found the lady who was in charge of promoter tickets and VIP passes, and she spoke English. Thank god. I had to wait, she said. So I just sat on a bench nearby and played Tetris for a while. ;) She finally came out, said that my name just came in, and put it around my wrist. I asked if she knew where the backstage area WAS, and she couldn’t quite explain it, so she told me to ask once I got inside the stadium.
Great. Whoever was on stage at that point had made the crowd go absolutely hysterical, mega-crazy, I mean, I have NEVER in my LIFE heard that kind of noise from a crowd EVER! I’m not kidding, it was what I imagine that Beatlemania must have sounded like – aliens must have heard it!
Turns out that it was PSY, the Gangnam style guy. I didn’t know that when I was trying to get from point A to point B in that crowd, though. Dispite the noise, I tried to find somebody who was in charge of security, and finally found one. He told me that the backstage was “out there and around to the left“. That road led to nowhere…. So I asked at least five or six people who all shrug their shoulders and had absolutely no clue where that backstage thing was or how to get there.
I ended up outside the arena somehow and went looking for the guys in dark blue t-shirts and walkie-talkies as I figured they should know more than the regular security people. Maybe they did, but the language barrier made it all take a long time. Suddenly, a girl walked up to me and said in loud and clear American: “Do you need help?”
Her parents were Korean, but she was from California, but had moved to Korea when she married a musician that was in a band (that was playing on the Music stage when all of this was going down).
Once she realized that I had come “all the way from Sweden” to Seoul for the Ozzy show, she was determined to fix this. So, she stopped a bunch of people with Security t-shirts, said something in Korean, pointed left and right and was bossy in the most polite sort of way, then walked over to me and said: “They’re gonna figure it out, just hang in there…”.
A few phonecalls, a few people in charge that were called in to see what the problem was, they all showed up on those segway thingies….
[Pic from Wikipedia]
After another ten minutes or so, I was told to “follow them”, one segway guy in front and one behind me as my “escort”. The California-girl waved to me, smiled and yelled “Good luck!!”
I was led into this big elevator with metal doors, escorted by these two security guys, then powerwalked (I had to try keep up with those rolling damn things that they were transporting themselves on!) for what seemed like forever and like a hundred miles, until we got to a door where we were met by two other security people and I was shown to a section where I was supposed to wait until I got picked up by someone. Then they all left.
I was listening to the “oomph-oomph“-music coming from the stage, when suddenly I saw Gus, a familiar friendly face in this “far away land”, that I was very happy to see. Him and Blasko were going to see Psy do his thing so we all went downstairs to the side of the stage to check it out. Never in a million years did I think that I would be in Korea of all places, checking out their “National hero” performing his biggest hit, with two dudes from Ozzy’s band, haha! It was just slightly… bizarre! :)
Before Ozzy’s show, I found a good spot in front of the stage, and felt very grateful that I didn’t have to be squashed in the crowd this time. I was excited and full of anticipation but at the same time, I was still struggling a bit with the jetlag.
Nobody bothered me, nobody had a problem with my presence there at all. In Europe and even in the States, there’s always some security guy with an attitude problem who wants to be a pain in the ass just for the sake of it. But here, it was just so easy and so uncomplicated, it was pure heaven.
The show…….. How do I even describe it? Ozzy was in FANTASTIC shape. He sang like I haven’t heard him sing in a long time, solo or with Sabbath. He was just at the top of his game in every possible way and I’m so glad that I decided to come “all that way” to see it. It was worth every single travelled mile, every single annoying kids’ scream on the plane back, every minute of jetlag and whatever else. It was just simply WORTH IT – ten times over!
There was an amazing atmoshpere over that whole show. The crowd was fantastic, I haven’t experienced anything quite like it before. Enthusiastic but still civilized. At shows this size in Europe, you’ll get dozens of people being pulled over the barricades during the show. HERE, there wasn’t as single soul causing trouble and the security had pretty much nothing to do. That must be the easiest job in the world – being a security guy at a gig in Korea!
I LOVE this Ozzy lineup. These guys work together so well, with all their different personalities, they are the perfect stage combo, and the very best at what they do. Gus G is the guitar hero who’s never ceased to amaze me with his impeccable playing. Whatever it is he does, it’s magic enough for me to want to see and hear more of it, anywhere on the planet.
Once again, he did all those classic Ozzy and Sabbath-songs justice, the perfect guy to interpret all his predecessors. He does it respectfully, classy and with great passion. Just the way it should be.
Tommy Clufetos burns with a fire behind his drums, and he’s kicking the living daylights out of them. He’s a great entertainer as well. As is Blasko, who adds that raw badass attitude to the stew. :) He just is that tough, bad motherf***er that every dude in the crowd wants to be. Adam Wakeman is the multi-talented keyboardist/guitarist and probably one of the funniest guys in rock. ;) Unfortunately he’s “the Invisible Man” on stage. Does his job but doesn’t take up a lot of space or spotlight from the others.
Ozzy himself was absolutely adorable. He looked like he was exactly where he wanted to be. He was enjoying himself and his frequent big, sincere smiles, magnified on the huge screens, were the unmistakeable evidence of that. Also, like I mentioned before, he sang better than ever. I saw him with Sabbath a couple of times the past year and although I’ve always loved his stage persona, he didn’t sing as well as he did at the Citybreak festival in Seoul.
So, I am praying to all the gods of metal, that the whole moneymaking Sabbath-business takes a break for a while and he does THIS for at least a little while. I had the best time ever – Oz and his boys were really at the very top of their game!
That evening at the World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Korea – was MAGIC. Just pure, amazing magic.
Another thing that was magic was how wast the stadium cleared out! In Europe, it takes HOURS to get thousands of people out of a stadium. In KOREA, the place was empty in a matter of MINUTES!
A man with a whistle was walking around blowing the whistle, showing those who were still lingering, the nearest exit which they should use. I’ve never seen such efficiency in my LIFE!
I left the stadium feeling great. Can’t explain it, it wasn’t a “gig high” or anything like that, just a very different kind of feeling that I actually had for days after the show.
If there were only more shows like this around the corner.
The next day, at breakfast at Sutome, I met three girls who were also staying there and were going to the festival. One of the girls was very curious, because she loved music as well and wanted to write about music. She hadn’t been to that many concerts yet but mentioned one where she initially went to see Muse but ended up seeing Metallica as well who played that same night, and was totally blown away.
I told her to start blogging, it’s a great way to start out, and if she wants to contact a music magazine down the line, she will have enough material to show. It’s just great to meet people all around the world with the same dreams and the same passion for music. It’s our most universal language!
The only thing I got to see in Seoul before going home, was the IFC Mall, right next to the luxurious Conrad Hilton Hotel. And one thing that I could establish, is that the world looks pretty much the same everywhere you go. There are a few small differences of course, but the mall could have been anywhere in the States. All the same type of stores, right down to the Starbucks and McDonald’s!
I suppose they were trying to appeal to the tourists, but to me it’s just like being at home, pretty much. I didn’t buy anything at all in Korea. Just a mini-fan that you could hang around your neck and it would cool your face. Pretty neat little thing that cost like a buck or two. Other than that – nothing. Only because we import all this stuff from Korea, Japan, China, all those countries, so I can easily find most of those things at home as well.
I did visit the World cup mall too, which was mostly an outlet mall. And the electronics department there just made it clear that when it comes to electronics, we are still a bit behind in the West. Some of those things that I saw, I even wondered what the heck it WAS!
When my cab was supposed to pick me up, it started raining…. and I mean RAINING, as in a total crazy monsoon! It was pissing down like it was the end of the world, and I thought I that maybe my flight would be cancelled or something. But just as we were approaching the airport area, the rain stopped, and I saw the most amazing thing…. I tried to take a photo but it didn’t work… The sky was almost black and was like this giant fluffy carpet above us… except for a little hole in the sky, from which bright sunrays came out and besides that – formed a “one legged” rainbow!
It was just such an amazing sight, I’ll never forget that.
The flight back home was a nightmare. Screaming kids all over the cabin, I sat there for over 16 hours listening to whining, crying, screaming, yelling… I would give ANYTHING to be able to travel long distances without hearing a single SOUND from those little devils. I even contacted a custom hearing protection manufacturer, but I guess they didn’t take me seriously when I said that I was looking for something that could filter out whatever frequency kid screams were usually on….
So I’m back in Sweden again, it took a week to get back on track. It was fantastic, the people, the country, the show – I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. :)
FOR PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW – GO TO www.facebook.com/intherearviewmirror
And a “PS”…. :
Strangely enough, this showed up on Facebook this morning. The weather phenomenon that I mentioned I had seen on my way to the airport, even had a name. It’s called “sky punch”, and I found a pic of it as well, since I didn’t manage to get a decent pic of it myself: