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!”
Trip to the States, Detroit for Rob Zombie and Madam X, then back to Sweden and literally straight to the office from the airport and 10 hours of travel – then one day at home to repack my bags to get to the NEXT destination, Greece and Gus G/Mats Levén acoustic gig…
I just got back from that – and I’m exhausted, but in a good sort of way.
Hey, you know me – I’m definitely a fan of Gus G, so there is nothing new there, I loved the acoustic show. It was back to the roots, showing what music is supposed to be like when it’s stripped of all its props (pretty much).
Two guys with unplugged guitars and a powerful voice. It doesn’t take a whole lot more than that, when you get the pleasure to watch two top notch musicians doing their thing.
It’s even more interesting maybe for someone from Sweden, cause I remember Mats from WAY back, when I first met him at the rock club KB in Malmö back in 1989, doing an interview with his band Swedish Erotica. He was young and the girls were going all ga-ga over him.
A few years later I was out touring with female rockers Modesty Blaise and the band Seventeen (featuring Chris Laney, who’s a well known producer and songwriter today) and Mats’ cover band was a part of the touring package.
We were all kids with dreams. It’s just wonderful to see how all the bits and pieces of a puzzle have ended up fitting exactly where they’re supposed to. Mats is where he deserves to be, he’s worked hard for many many years to become the respected vocalist he is today.
Both these guys are hard workers, so it’s simply great to see what they do, in all its simplicity. Music is in their blood and no gig is too small – not even a rock bar in the town of Ioannina, Greece. :)
My own pics didn’t turn out that well, but this guy got some pretty decent pics:
It was almost totally dark in there, so it was nearly impossible to get good footage. This was as good as it got. It’s enough to hear the music at least.
And speaking of which – I was incredibly impressed by the guys who opened for Gus and Mats. I have no idea who they were. I read somewhere that they are music teachers, and that would explain it, but the guy had a fantastic voice. I had to Tweet the video to David Coverdale, I hope he took the time to listen to it. ;)
I only wish that people would have the decency to shut the f**k up when going to an acoustic show. When someone is putting his heart and soul into his performance and you hear someone just yapping loud and laughing like it’s a private party, I just get pissed off. I’m sorry, I do. Show some damn respect. And some of us actually want to HEAR the MUSIC and not drunk people and their blah-blah-blah. :-/
Here are the anonymous guys – that VOICE is AMAZING!
Now it’s cool for a few days, before Ian Hunter visits Malmo.
Now THERE’S a legend I’m looking forward to seeing live in a small club. Check him out with David Bowie:
I’m dead tired, but it doesn’t matter. I can sleep when I’m dead. I just love this life and I want to enjoy every minute of it. :) Never waste a drop of it, cause you can’t put it back in the bottle…
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:
I took a short little roadtrip from Malmo up to Halmstad yesterday (approximately 1,5-2 hours) to see an All Star-band featuring ex-Firewind and current Spiritual Beggars-vocalist Apollo Papathanasio. One of my favorite singers, without a doubt – a Swedish version of Tony Martin. Can’t go wrong with that!
When he was with Firewind, I would catch a whole bunch of shows each year, but after he left, the gigs have become a lot more infrequent. Just one-off shows here and there that you really need to keep track of 100% not to miss them..!
But we call eachother here and there and that’s when I get a little update on the “latest news”. The last time we spoke, he mentioned these two shows, a very unpretentious event at a local rock bar. Well, hallelujah! Like I had to think long and hard about that (not!!). I went! When I arrived it was really hot in Halmstad and lots of people on the streets.
It didn’t look like there would be a lot of people in the club at first, but that’s pretty common for summer indoor-gigs. There aren’t many people at those. Most people I know are out of the country in vacation now. But, as it started getting closer to showtime, the place was almost full. Not only full, but full of enthusiastic people. :) At some point when Apollo was looking at the crowd, he just laughed and went: “I think I know every single person in here!” I bet he does!
From what I heard, these guys never had much time to rehearse as they’re busy doing other things, so if you consider that, it was awesome. And for me it was like Christmas! It’s not every day you get to hear one of your favorite singers, sing songs by OTHER bands that I like (and SONGS that I love)! JUDAS PRIEST! WHITESNAKE!
The setlist was as follows:
And it was a cool lineup too – dudes that know their business:
Apollo Papathanasio – vocals (Spiritual Beggars, Firewind)
Chris Amott – guitar (Arch Enemy)
Ludwig Witt – drums (Spiritual Beggars, Grand Magus)
Pär Wallmark – bass (Last Tribe)
I loved the whole concept of it – small show, not widely advertised maybe, the guys in the band and the choice of songs. BINGO!
After the show, I just hung out for a bit, talked a little with Apollos wife. Not easy to have a conversation in all that noise but what can you do. :)
I had to get going, it was getting late and I had a bit of a drive ahead of me, so she went to get him for me. I’ve left gigs before without saying bye to an artist I know, but because the guest list was super duper mega exclusive (so few people on it, it was ridiculous) and I was on it, I at least wanted to wave and say bye-bye before leaving.
Anyhoo, Apollo came out from the backstage area and said he wanted to introduce me to “the guys”. The only person left by the time we got there, was Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, Spiritual Beggars) who wasn’t in the band, but was talking to someone. Instead, we ended up checking out some photos from Thessaloniki, Greece on Apollo’s cellphone that I was in, and didn’t know about. :)
“Have you said hi to the guys yet?” he asked. I said that I hadn’t seen anyone, and it was okay, they don’t know who I am anyway, haha!
“That’s exactly why I want you to meet them”, he laughed. Well, I guess there’s some logic in that! ;)
Chris Amott and Per Wiberg (keyboards, Spiritual Beggars) were outside talking, so I was introduced to them. Didn’t stay long there though, driving in the middle of the night after having been up since 4 am, is usually not a good idea.
So – I took off. The whole show is on video by the way. Will be up here later, but here’s just a little preview! There will be one more show on the 19th – so guess where I’ll be THAT day? :D