The past few days, I’ve encountered the same reaction from different people – for the exact same thing.
In the summer, the general conversation opener is: “So, when are you going on vacation?”
That usually implies a beach holiday or working on your house or something. And most of all, it usually means “taking time off all at once”.
I haven’t had a traditional vacation in years. It usually bores the hell out of me.
Instead, I use my vacation days, a total of 32 days here in Denmark, and I spread them out over the year, for CONCERTS.
I travel all over the world for gigs. It’s the essence of LIFE to me, I absolutely love it.
I’ve always traveled alone, because most people I’ve met in my life don’t share the same passion quite on the same level, but since late 2016 I’ve shared this passion with a kindred spirit, a guy from Brazil, living in Germany.
We’ve been all over the planet for gigs: Japan, Australia, South America, USA, Europe… Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Black Sabbath, Monsters of Rock Cruise, whatever tour was announced that sounded cool.
The memories from the trips, good and bad, are invaluable.
The wonderful places we’ve been to, the people we’ve met, the things we’ve learned – those are memories for LIFE – and I wouldn’t have it ANY other way.
Paul McCartney started announcing new European tour dates recently – and we immediately decided that we would try to do as many of those as possible.
I get excited like a little KID, it never gets old.
So, we decided to dedicate December for sir Paul.
I’ve loved The Beatles since I was a little girl. Back then it wasn’t cool to like some “old dudes” from the 60’s and my class mates thought I was weird for not being into any contemporary artists.
But my love for Beatles’ music was like being infatuated. It generated a kind of high that has lasted a lifetime.
I love Paul McCartney as much as I ever did. His music is the soundtrack of my life.
I mentioned my travel plans to a colleague one morning. She just sat there for a few seconds with her mouth wide open and rised eyebrows before she said:
– But… Doesn’t he play the SAME SONGS?
– Yeah, pretty much, I replied.
– But… Isn’t it enough to see that ONCE? Why would you want to see that over and over again??
Here we go again.
I’ve heard that before. Same reaction. Same question. Same facial expression. And I already know that there’s very little point trying to explain to someone who lives on a different planet than me, why I love it so much. She wouldn’t understand.
There is only one way to understand it – and that is to actually BE there.
The the indescribable feeling of being in a huge stadium somewhere in South America or Japan (or ANYWHERE), with thousands of like-minded friends I never met …. seeing thousands of lights from mobiles and lighters swinging back and forth to a deafening ‘na-na-na-na-na-na-naaa’ that’s sounding over the stadium from thousands of voices.
Voices of people who all feel love for the music and the artist, right into the deepest depths of their hearts. That’s powerful stuff.
Songs that bring out emotions and memories like nothing else can. There’s that one song that gets me every time. Whenever Paul plays “Here Today”, the song he wrote for John, I struggle not to cry. I always fail.
Nothing else in life does that for me. The roller-coaster of emotions is beyond anything. The greatness of the experience, the kicks, the smiles it generates, it’s just amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Different artists do different things. Going to a Megadeth-gig for instance, is liberating. There’s so much testosterone aggression there, so much anger and frustration, but at the same time it has a soul.
The loud, hard and heavy music – and the mayhem in the crowd, is like a cleanse of the soul. Whatever frustrations you might have had when you walked in – will be gone by the time you leave.
Going to a concert means leaving all your daily worries and troubles at the door.
And if you don’t have any, your already good life will feel even greater.
You simply can’t lose.
And then someone asks you “why would you want to see the same songs being performed over and over”…
If they only knew what they’re missing out on.
You waited all day, in all kinds of weather, your feet are killing you, your mouth is dry, you need to go to the bathroom and you’re starving. But it’s all worth it – BECAUSE YOU GOT THE FRONT ROW SPOT to see your favorite band!
And then, you just know it’s gonna happen… There is that guy who shows up ten minutes AFTER the show has begun, who kicks and shoves his way through the crowd like the asshole he is – and spots the little blonde chick there at the barricade. He thinks “Bingo!” and figures it’s his lucky day. It will be a piece of cake getting rid of that little blondie over there. Au contraire my dear, unsuspecting friend. You might just have made your biggest mistake today. :)
Me and my blonde, concert loving female friends, have been in situations like that many times, and they never ended well – for the dude. Or sometimes for some annoying chick. We know how to disarm them. So never underestimate that little innocent looking girlie there at the barricade, she’s done this before.
This happened at a Pretty Maids concert at Hard Rock cafe in Copenhagen a few years ago: There was no barricade and my friend was in the very front, when this gorilla type showed up from out of nowhere and decided to HANG on her. He was twice her size and thought that gave him an advantage.
She had nowhere to go and nothing to grab or hold on to, to keep her standing straight. So she got an idea. She took a firm grip of his family jewels and TWISTED them around – 360 degrees. Not only did he stop his nonsense, I think he got a new career – singing Bee Gees songs….
That wasn’t the only time she made her point at a gig.
At Sweden Rock Festival, she had this girl next to her that was waving her arm in front of her face during the gig, so she couldn’t see what was going on on stage. After a few nice attempts to kindly ask the girl to stop doing that (and only getting a stupid grin in return) she quite simply BIT HER.
“What was I supposed to do? I just sunk my teeth in her arm when she started flapping it in my face again! But she stopped after that….”. No kidding.
Blonde rock chick number two – we were at a Jon Oliva’s Pain show in Copenhagen and this drunk guy was jumping around like a pinball. He was all over the place, stepping on her toes, on ours, just being a major pain in the behind. After a few “please stop thats” she finally got sick of him and grabbed the chain he had around his neck, and with a strong, firm grip just pulled him backwards.
He was so surprised that he never had a chance to prepare for it. He flew across the room and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the evening.
Then there was that drunk and high son of a b…. at a W.A.S.P concert in Lund, Sweden a few years ago. He was screaming, jumping, shoving, trying to literally CLIMB over us, cause he was so pissed off that we were in “his” front spot (where were YOU when we came in an hour ago, dude??).
After fifteen minutes of what felt like three rounds of WWF wrestling, my friend decided to make good use of her spikey high heel boots – so she STOMPED on his toes with those killing machines for all she was worth.
The dude stopped for two seconds, but was so high on god knows what, that he didn’t feel pain. He continued.
I was furious by the time he focused on me. So I used my head. Literally. I hit him in the face with the back of my head – full force. It even hurt ME and it scared me a little cause the guy stopped, finally. It was scary quiet though. I didn’t turn around to see if I had knocked all his teeth out, broken his nose or done any other kind of damage. But at least we got rid of him…
When you’re in a crowd, you do things you would never ever do in real life. Suddenly it’s the law of the jungle that applies. If you’re trying to ruin my concert experience, I’m not just gonna stand there and take it. I’ve never seen a veteran lady rocker be helpless in a concert situation. We become amazon women ready to kill.
So before you think that “the two blondes in the front row” are an easy target, think again. Rock’n’roll is about blood and sweat, and we’re all in!
As always, when there is TONS to write about, I never have TIME to write. Since my last post, I’ve been to the US for the Guitar Gods festival in Miami, the Monsters of Rock Cruise to the Bahamas, to Hamburg, Germany for Avantasia and right now I’m in Nashville relaxing for a change (although there will be a gig tonight).
So, I’m behind with the updates, but since I finally have lots of time and no stress (wow, I almost forgot THAT feeling…) I thought I’d try to go back to where I left off and see how much I can remember of this past month’s adventures!
Going back to my trip to Miami…
The Monsters of Rock Cruise was planned a year in advance, so I already had my flight tickets, hotel arrangements and everything taken care of. But then, about two weeks before departure, there was an announcement that there would be a Guitar Gods festival on Miami Beach, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Gus G, among others.
It sounded like an absolute DREAM! Three monster guitarists on stage together, I was super excited! So, like I mentioned in my last post, I had to buy a new flight ticket to make it to that show. The original ticket was non-refundable and couldn’t be changed, and I would never have made it if I had chosen that flight. But – I thought it would be worth it. Wouldn’t miss this for the world!
After a comfortable flight with Austrian Airlines, I landed in Miami at 3.30 PM and breezed my way through customs and immigration. I even got a laugh when the immigration officer asked the standard question: “So, what brings you to the United States?” and I said that I was there for the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
“Monsters of Rock Cruise? I believe that is the cruise where last year they ran out of beer! Why would you want to go on THAT?” He laughed, gave me my passport and wished me a good stay.
I had a reserved cab that was waiting for me to take me to my hotel. On the way there, I saw the venue and people standing in line outside.
Got to my hotel, I checked in and just threw in all my stuff in a pile on the bed, quickly put on some extra lipstick and ran out the door.
There was a long line of people alright, but not nearly as long as I had expected. And what the heck was going on, why were they late? The doors were supposed to open at 5 I think, but it took more than an hour before they started letting people in, no explanation or apology, no nothing. Well okay…
Once I got in, it looked like some weird sort of cabaret/family fair with clowns and unicycle acrobats or whatever… Just not at all what I would expect to see at a rock event.
The cause was great, I liked that it was to benefit the April Malmsteen Foundation, a foundation that works to protect endangered species and their habitats around the globe. I’m all for that, anyone who actively works for animal rights is in my good books. But quite frankly – my impression of this event as a whole was… “WTF?”
It was a pretty small outside venue, the stage looked like someone had just thrown everything they had off the truck, on stage without any thought whatsoever. The visual impression was anything but impressive. It looked like the work of total amateurs, like there was some sort of local talent show for the neighborhood, not something that was going to feature some of the most amazing musicians on the planet!
Seriously, it was embarrassing.
There WAS a talent show. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Not the contestants, they were all pretty good actually, but the organization of it was nonexistent.
People were running around on the stage like headless chickens, nobody seemed to be in charge of anything. It was as if they didn’t even know who was doing the presentation of the players – or when.
The backing tracks that the contestants brought on their iPhones or tablets, was the source of major confusion. It took several minutes between every contestant, to figure out the technical issues (=how to plug in an iPhone to get the sound through the PA… Very advanced stuff apparently).
And the worst part was when the poor guy who WON, was handed over the microphone by the host so he could say a few words – but next thing he knew, the host was gone. Just wandered off the stage and the guy just stood there with the microphone after he was done, wondering wtf to do with it. Nobody there to grab the mic and go: “Thank you, let’s hear it for xxxx and congratulations!”. The winner was left alone on stage with a microphone. Lovely.
You get the picture. A total freaking disaster.
But the disaster wasn’t over.
Now it was time for the actual GUITAR GODS. First one was Gus G, one of my favorite guitarists. He walked out on stage and played flawlessly, like he always does. I heard people behind me and beside me talking, they were hoping he would come back and play more, cause he only did one song.
I was waiting for the JAM! The one I’d been looking forward to since the damn thing was announced. The JAM that made me buy another flight ticket, cause I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Yngwie, Steve and Gus, what a treat! But… I’ll get to that.
Next up was Steve Vai. I think that guy can play in a shed somewhere and still be brilliant, make people forget about the circumstances, and he almost did just that. Steve Vai is pure CLASS.
Last up, the “god” himself, Yngwie Malmsteen. Anyone who knows me or is reading this blog, knows that I’m a huge Malmsteen fan. I always have been. Last year I saw him at the Monsters of Rock in Brazil, then I travelled to Bucharest, Romania to see him, and years before that I saw him in New York City at the Gramercy and now this, I just try to see him anywhere I can, since he’s decided not to play in Sweden for whatever reason (I’ve heard a few explanations but it’s all just rumors).
But seeing him run out on that “kid’s dress rehearsal for their school play for their parents“-stage was a bit sad.
He’s supposed to be larger than life, a guitar god. The setting was for anything BUT.
Again – embarrassing. The crowd was…not huge, and that’s an understatement. I had expected this to be the event of the year, kind of. Instead, it was… THIS.
All that aside – I love his playing, I love his old-school rock star antics, his posing, his music…. I enjoyed THAT, and tried not to think too much about everything else. I will always be touched by his music, there’s no getting around that.
I was STILL waiting for that Yngwie/Steve/Gus jam though.
Then FINALLY, after all the mess inbetween songs and artists, it looked like it was time for THE JAM. That was going to be worth the flight ticket, the time, the money, the badly organized event, everything. So I was bracing myself for that, woo-hooo!
Yngwie started introducing his guests. Steve Vai, his “brother”, Rudy Sarzo, the one and only, Nicko McBrain on drums yeyyy and…. no Gus. Okay, well, maybe he’ll make an appearance in another song or something.
The jam session included Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love by Van Halen, played by Steve and Yngwie. It was actually so bad that Steve Vai had my YouTube account locked down till August for sharing the video.
Quite frankly, I had a feeling that somebody would get the hickups when they saw that, but I hadn’t expected it to be Steve. He did just great. In fact, he was the only person NOT slaughtering that song. I don’t blame him for panicking and wanting that video off YouTube right away.
The reason why I shared it was because of the unique mix of artists playing a VH song, at this last-minute event. It was newsworthy, I always think in those terms. Even bad PR is good PR sometimes.
Blabbermouth had already shared it – like they do with all my videos – so thousands of people had already seen it and reacted in the usual Blabbermouth troll-manner…
Sorry Steve, and Yngwie for that matter, I love you both, but I suppose that was proof that even “gods” fuck up sometimes. Probably made a whole lot of aspiring guitarists out there feel better about themselves for about five minutes, before the clip was removed. ;)
Gus G however, had nothing to be ashamed of though, so I’ll just share his performance instead:
Speaking of Gus, I was STILL waiting for him to get on stage with the others. He never did. I’m not the only one who was pissed off about that. I heard people in the crowd talking as well, where is Gus? Why isn’t he up there?
One of the main reasons why I even wanted to see this gig was cause I’d get to see a cool jam with these THREE guitar gods. Instead, there were only TWO.
Frankly? I think it’s the most unclassy thing I’ve ever seen or heard of. If you’re organizing a festival event, and you invite guests, then the crowd will EXPECT ALL of those guest musicians to be on stage for a final jam.
Excluding someone is something that only an asshole would do. I don’t know who that asshole was, so I’ll leave that unsaid, but someone was responsible and I hope that that person realizes how unprofessional it was to do something like that.
On the other hand, the jam was so bad that not even Steve himself could stand it, so Gus was probably lucky for not having to be associated with it.
The guy who won the guitar contest was really good though, and I hope he does well in the future. :)
And the “custom made” pizza that I got at the venue after the show was good. So, it was not a complete disaster. I hope next time they’ll hire professionals who know what they’re doing.
First “gig trip” in a loong while. It’s a strange situation for me, as I’m used to being out there on a regular basis checking out bands all over the planet. This year, however, I’ve had to restrict it for financial reasons, as I’ve chosen to go on the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2016, which is a bit more costly than my usual trips.
So anyhow, Gus G is in Scandinavia. He’s playing Oslo, Norway tonight and then continues on to Stockholm the day after. Oh yeah – the headliners are Kamelot, and the other guest act is Kobra and the Lotus. But you know me – I’ve been following Gus G’s work for several years now, so it’s not like I’m giving up on that anytime soon.
First stop was in Rodovre, Denmark, at the venue “Viften”.
I heard that there was a sound check in progress, and it was a pretty nice day so I just decided to hang outside for a while until I saw a familiar face. People were walking in and out of the stage door so it probably wouldn’t be long until someone would show. I could have texted, but there’s no point doing that when it’s obvious that everybody’s busy.
A guy on a motorbike drove up to me and said hello in such a friendly way that I asked him if we knew eachother. “No, but I recognize you. You’ve been to all the Gus-shows I’ve been to, at Rockmässan and [some other place I don’t remember]”.
Apparently I’m becoming a familiar face to Gus-fans, I can’t imagine how that happened. ;)
He was an Ozzy-collector and had bought a guitar lesson with Gus.
– I don’t actually play guitar. But I thought maybe he can inspire me to start!
That was the best motivation ever.
The guy drove off, said he had to take a shower so that he was nice and fresh for the lesson, haha! I went to the parking lot behind the venue, was trying to pick up a better WiFi signal, when I saw a familiar character all dressed in black, with sunglasses and everything. There was Gus, on his way to do a few errands. Talk about perfect timing.
After the quick errand-round, back to the venue and the sound check. It was really nice to see everbody again, although I think I suffer from tunnel-vision sometimes. Almost tripped over bassist “Strutter” and didn’t see it was him until he said “Hello Daniela!”
On the stage there was Jo (Nunez, drums), Markus (tech, merch) and Henning (Basse, vocals). Jo came down to have a quick chat, and also introduced me to his old Nightrage-buddy Bill Hudson, who is on this tour playing guitar with Kobra and the Lotus. You might also have seen him with Circle II Circle, TSO, JOP…)
I do know who he is very well though. Being in that whole Savatage-family, you tend to recognize people, even if you haven’t actually talked to them before. But what I remember the most about Bill, has nothing to do with his playing.
It’s something from the MySpace days, where he wrote this very intense diary/journal thing (this was before the word “blog” was used) about a transformation in his life, where he decided to make a big change, from something very negative and destructive, to something positive and more fulfilling.
It was so well written and so straight from the heart that I still remember it all these years later.
I was just sitting there watching the preparations and the sound check of Gus and Kobra and the Lotus, when I felt the smell of food. Catering-time for the bands. That’s usually my personal signal to get the hell out. If I’m not on the payroll, I have no business there when the bands are getting their dinner of the day. I rarely stick around for that – I did on the last tour, but then I was actually a part of the crew in a sense.
So I went outside. And I didn’t get back in until the doors opened for the public.
Kobra and the Lotus were first out. A very competent band, they know their craft, all the guys individually and collectively – and Kobra herself is a powerful front-woman. In all honesty, their music isn’t my cup of tea and it’s not what I personally would be listening to at home, but I did enjoy their performance and I think she is a genuine and charismatic band leader. Respect.
After a quick changeover, it was time for Gus G. It was cool to see that there had been some pretty big changes made in the setlist, which is awesome cause after seeing a zillion Gus-shows I know most of the little details and when they occur in the show. I couldn’t forsee anything this time and I loved it.
And the Belgian powerhouse Jo Nunez behind the drums has always impressed me, but the interesting thing is that he gets better every time. I remember when he first joined, he was a great drummer from the very beginning, but he was a talented boy who was pretty invisible behind his drumset. NOW – he’s this wild dude with the mohawk, SLAYING those drums with extreme, Swiss clockwork-precision! He’s absolutely amazing. :)
Gus himself has always impressed me. Watching his fingers during a solo can be almost hypnotic sometimes. I admire and have the highest respect for people who have practiced and sacrificed so much to become absolute wizards at what they do. Some of the stuff was new to me, haven’t heard it live before, so it was a treat to get to hear it “in action”.
After his show, I went outside again, and just sat in the cafe, they had pretty comfy fake-leather chairs. I was tired as f**k, had been up since 4 that morning and there was some personal crap going on that just made me feel a bit “off”. I met a few familiar faces, Maj-Louise and photographer John, but all in all I felt like I was in my own little “bubble” and not quite in a “party rock’n’roll” type of mood.
However, figured I’d stick around till Gus had finished his signing-session at the merch, take a few pics of that and then head back home to get some sleep before driving to Gothenburg the next day.
Gus came out, posed with some fans, signed some stuff and all that. I told him that I was leaving, said bye to Jo, and drove back home. Didn’t even say hello or anything to Markus in the merch, felt like a total ass, don’t know where my head was at.
And no, I didn’t see Kamelot – I heard them from outside. Never been my thing at all. They are a visually impressive live band to watch and everything is very professional and well executed, but it’s not my “thang”.
Got a few hours of sleep – then drove off with destination GOTHENBURG (Göteborg) the next morning.
I love driving, it’s the most relaxing thing there is (well… if you don’t count my roadrage outbursts…)
You get to listen to either good music REALLY loud without bothering anyone, you can sing your heart out, you can just let your mind wander – and you just see a road, heading to your destination. Always loved driving.
When I got to Gothenburg, it was around 1.30 PM, a beautiful, sunny day. There are only about 5 parking spaces right in front of the venue, so getting there early is the key. I got the BEST spot. :)
Took a little walk around the beautiful garden in the back.
Went back to see if there was anyone outside the buses that were parked on the side, but didn’t see anyone. A guy asked me if I could take a photo of him and Linnéa, the female voice in Kamelot. So I talked a bit with him. He was on sick leave and was in what they call “work training” here in Sweden. His income per month was a little over 1000 Swedish krona. I thought he was just bullshitting me, this is Sweden, you can’t live off of that. That’s not even enough for a month’s worth of food?
He said he has been living on pasta – without anything on it, gruel and crispbread. His friends and parents have helped him with money. Crazy, I didn’t think that was possible. He so wanted to see the show, he was a big Kamelot-fan and collector, but since it cost more than he could afford to even get to Gothenburg from where he lived, he couldn’t buy a ticket. I was so pleased to see that he got in anyway. Somebody must have put him on the guest list.
I offered him a Gus G poster cause I still had a few left from the last tour in the car. He asked if I had a few to spare for his friends, so I gave him a bunch and he was a happy camper when he got it all signed by the whole band. :)
Once again Gus showed up – on the parking lot (here we go again…!) and recognized my car. He’s been driven around Malmo in that very car when he was at Rockmässan a while ago. :D
So we went inside, another sound check thing going on.
I said I was perfectly fine hanging out somewhere where I could make myself invisible, while watching the preparations. And that’s the thing, I think that’s relaxing in a weird sort of way – watching the building of a stage, everbody running back and forth with amps, cables, a snare here, a cymbal there – lights, rolls of gaffer tape, backdrops… Just all the bits and pieces that need to be put together before a show can even take place.
I love that shit. Call me crazy but I’m perfectly content just watching that, like some people enjoy watching an ant-heap. I’m sure some were wondering who the hell “that chick over there” was or what my business was there in the first place. I just figure, if someone wants to know, they will ask. If not, it’s not my problem what anyone thinks. :)
While I was sitting there, one of the guys, in a red baseball cap and glasses, who was working with Kamelot, walks up to me and goes: “What, are we not friends anymore??”
I hadn’t even seen his face under that cap, so I said “I should know you, shouldn’t I?” because he kinda reminded me of a guy who used to work with Jon Oliva. I wasn’t sure though, cause it’s been a while, so I was waiting for him to say something, give me a hint.
He said something I didn’t hear and took off, then never came back. So, I’m still wondering if I either offended the guy or if he thought I was somebody else. :) When you see people outside of their original context, it sometimes takes a few moments to remember, and I’ve always sucked at it.
Also, being in your own corner works best for me. I’m not in anyone’s way. After all, it’s a workplace. If anyone has a few minutes to spare, they will come over and talk, but I’m not chasing anyone around in that environment.
Stage was done, sound check was done when doors opened. The first one I saw running towards the stage to get his front row spot, was the Kamelot fan that I had met outside earlier. I smiled to myself, I thought he deserved to get in, he was such a passionate fan. People like that should be treated well. :)
Shows commenced, like the evening before – same comments from me there. The crowds were great in Denmark and Sweden, ten points for that!
After Kamelot’s gig, everybody gathered at the merch stand again so I just hung out for a little while, feeling bummed that it was over ALREADY. I’m not used to just going home after one or two shows, I’m usually the one who has a whole TOUR planned ahead! So, getting in the car, driving back home after just 2 shows sucks. Was invited to come hang on the bus for a while before they left, but I had a long drive home in the middle of the night, so I left early. There will be other, better opportunities.
That was that. Well – things will look different next year. :)
QUOTES HEARD AFTER THE SHOW IN GOTHENBURG:
Fan to Gus G: “Man, you played GREAT!”
Gus: “Thanks. I’ve been practicing”
Fan to Henning Basse: “OMG! It’s you! Metalium! [does the Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy“-bow]
Henning [after a few seconds of being speechless]: “That’s embarrassing!”
Was “on the road” with the Gus G dates in Sweden last week. Still out traveling at the moment, but will be home for at least another few weeks before heading back to the States to check out Madam X and their gig in Detroit on April 17th!
There will be a proper blog about the Gus G Sweden-dates, but for now, head on over to my travel-blog and check out the latest entry. We all went by train this time, and it wasn’t too shabby! :)