So I made it to Ioannina, Greece – finally. God knows it wasn’t easy getting here. For whatever reason, there are no direct flights from Copenhagen to any of these places that Mats and Gus have been playing on this acoustic tour. It took all day to get to a place in Europe, which would have taken maybe 3 hours tops if there had been a direct flight.
I had to change flights 3 times and finally made it to what mostly resembled a parking lot – Ioannina airport. I’m not kidding, the tiny plane could barely move on that piece of “airport”. ;)
But – as always, these adventures are worth the trouble. :) I’m sitting at the rock club Irida right now, after having listened to the very stripped down sound check. And I have to say, there is no way something like this can go wrong!
Mats Levén has such a strong, powerful and steady voice, he doesn’t miss a note – it’s just pure joy listening to him sing. THAT, accompanied by Gus G, whose guitar is an extension of himself – he and his guitar are as ONE. Whatever he plays is always perfect. Those two together is like squeezing out the essence of what is great and presenting it in its most pure shape and form.
After the sound check, the gentlemen went back to the hotel to get some rest (or their beauty sleep!) but I’m not one to sleep NOW, or I’ll just get drowsy later. So here I am. Me and my dear laptop. Show in about 3 hours. This place is just way cooler than my boring hotel, so I’m hanging out here watching metal videos! Live-report soon!
So,,, I ended up in Thessaloniki, Greece last weekend – a last minute spontaneous decision, just because I was lucky enough to come across a cheap ticket and couldn’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t go. :) As I keep telling people – it beats sitting in front of the TV anytime!
Spiritual Beggars is quite honestly a band that I would never have listened to if it hadn’t been for Apollo, whose voice I absolutely love.
[From Saturday’s show…. How could anyone not love that voice? :)]
Thessaloniki almost feels like home now, I love the city and the people. I know my way around the city center now too, so it’s great. A taxi driver, sent by the hotel, picked me up at the airport, holding a sign with my name on it, taking me through the busy streets of “Thessaloniki by night” – which was very busy even at that late hour. I landed at eleven in the evening and there were people, cars and music everywhere!
The happy driver explained that the people of Greece love to go out and meet friends in cafes and bars. No doubt. :)
Hotel Astoria was great the last time I stayed there for the Firewind 10th Anniversary shows in December, but THIS time….not as much.
THIS time it was only slightly better than a park bench.
It probably would have been more quiet in a PARK. My room was facing a dirty back yard where a night-club’s loud “oomphhh-oompphh“-music was keeping me awake till 6 in the morning. Then when they closed and it finally got quiet, the cleaning ladies started making a lot of noise outside, banging with the doors, brooms, vacuum-cleaners and yelling to eachother across the hall! So much for a good nights sleep.
Oh yeah, and there were mosquitos everywhere too, buzzing in my ear, making sure I would get no sleep whatsoever that night. No extra pillows, no extra towels, no soap in the dispenser, the fan in the bathroom sounded like an airplane at takeoff, no air conditioning (only heating, which was definitely NOT needed) and barely any power outlets for my laptop and cellphones. It’s safe to say that it was the worst room I’ve had in Greece, ever (except that place in Athens that had PLASTIC sheets, lol!).
They are usually very high standard, even at budget hotels. But at least the staff was super nice and very kind and friendly, so no complaints there. I guess I could have asked for a different room, but I had already made myself at home, hung my clothes in the closet and all that, I just didn’t feel like packing again and moving to another room so…. Whatever. It was close to the venue, that’s the most important thing.
Went for a stroll downtown on Saturday morning, sunny beautiful day – it’s such a beautiful city, I love the vibe. This is my 4th time there in two years, I’m beginning to feel right at home. ;) Ended up at Starbucks for the sole reason that there’s Wi-Fi there…
When I got back to the hotel, I met Elias, who’s a Greek promotor that I met when I did the video interview with Gus G last summer. Nice to see a familiar face, just greeted him and continued on my way.
About two hours before the Beggars were due on stage that evening, I met Apollo outside the 8Ball Club. The band was going to get some dinner. I was invited to join but declined. Food – that’s “band time“. :)
Doors opened shortly after that and I told the guy at the door that I was supposed to be on the guest list, He just gave me a look and without a word kind of waved as a sign that I guess meant “yeah whatever, get in“. Then as I had passed him, he went: “Daniela – yes?!”
Well… yes. :)
The opening band wasn’t bad at all, no idea who they were, but they sounded good. A female singer with a very powerful and strong voice.
Minutes before Spiritual Beggars went onstage, Panagiotis walked in – the guy who runs Metalpaths and who was my “stand-in camera guy” for the Gus G interview at Mylos. He’s a huge fan of SB so he looked very excited and full of anticipation. Nice to see another familiar face!
And one of Firewind’s techs was there as well, he came over with a happy face to say hello. I asked if he was a Spiritual Beggars fan, but much like me, he was just there because of Apollo.
See, this is one of the reasons I love to travel – anywhere I go in the world, I will probably meet somebody I know, it’s a great feeling.
Very high energy, ballsy, in your face rock’n’roll, it’s labeled “stoner rock” – call it whatever you want, it’s just good old back to the roots rock!
Seeing Apollo with this new outfit is very cool. Now he’s the guy in denim and the “Jesus Christ Superstar“-screams that resembles Ian Gillan more than Tony Martin on stage. This just fits him to a T, I thoroughly enjoy watching him do his thing with Spiritual Beggars.
Michael Amott is the cool guitar hero, you instantly see people gravitating towards his side of the stage with their mobile cameras and fists up in the air.
This whole “all star band” is simply impressive. It’s on a high musical level, yet it’s not about showing off by bombarding the crowd with a shitload of solos every two minutes, it’s enough that people already know what these guys are capable of. They’ve seen and heard them do it with all their other bands and projects.
After the show, I went outside to get some fresh air (they still SMOKE indoors in Greece, it’s a bit of a shock to a Swede where it’s not allowed to smoke in public places) and was talking with Panagiotis. A guy walked over and said:
– Excuse me, I have to ask – are you from Sweden?
– Yes, I am.
– And you’re a journalist, right…? Is your name Daniela?
– I know who you are. You have a great voice, I’ve heard your song on YouTube. Very good!
He smiled, shook my hand, said it was nice to meet me and left. It was explained to me later, that he was from a band called Redrum. I got a link to their video and hey – this wasn’t bad either! :) Check it out:
Panagiotis had to leave. I stayed out in the fresh air, Apollo would be out soon. He came out eventually and we all went to the hotel to hang in the lobby for a little while, with his very sweet cousin and her husband/boyfriend/friend (shame on me who didn’t pick up on the relationship, but very nice people! :D).
While the other guys in the band went back to the club to have a few free “band-drinks”, Apollo decided to just chill and hang out instead, they had an early wakeup call the next morning.
I think we were all pretty beat, I was for sure after not having slept at all the night before, so I couldn’t wait to get some sleep. Called it a night maybe around 1 am or something, was nice to see Apollo, meet some friendly people and just chat for a bit.
The next day I went to the airport WAY too early and ended up absolutely hating Istanbul airport where I had a stopover for a few hours. What a drag.
But – in the end, I’d do it all over again! :)
NEXT adventure……FIREWIND IN AUSTRALIA!
Spiritual Beggars playing two gigs in Greece this week. I wasn’t gonna go.
I did check flights last month just to see if I could make it a weekend-getaway maybe, cause I haven’t been anywhere since my dad passed away, and it’s time to do something soon.
Australia is coming up, but, I figured maybe something smaller and closer.
Unfortunately the routes were hopeless – three stops, long waits, sometimes up to 28 hours (!), absolutely stupid flights going to Stockholm, Riga (in the OPPOSITE direction of Thessaloniki!) then to Istanbul in Turkey before finally reaching Thessaloniki. No way. And silly expensive. I could go to the STATES for those prices. Forget it.
I was sitting on the bus this morning, tired and bored, on my way to work – and just decided to check those flights again, out of habit. I wasn’t on a mission, just killing time.
And there it was – the PERFECT flight! Only ONE stop and 50% cheaper! I got so excited, forgot about how tired I was, immediately texted my boss to check if I could leave work a little earlier on Friday, got a “yes of course” and went to book that flight. Then the f**** cell just freezes…! It NEVER does that – but of COURSE it had to do that right then…! F***k.
Got to the office – RAN up the stairs, 4 floors, turned on my PC – went online…. and THAT ticket, for that price, was – of course – gone…. Only those expensive tickets left. Oh well.
I had to check just ONE more time about an hour later. Just out of curiosity.
And THERE IT WAS!! The cheap and short flight! I grabbed it as quickly as I could and it was all mine!
I was so excited, so glad, haven’t felt that way since my dad passed.
Eventhough I’ve been trying to continue living life as normal, I haven’t been 100% the same since dad had to leave this world for the next.
The most important person in my life, who’s always been there for me, is missing and it takes time to get over that – at least “get over” it enough to focus on what I’ve got instead of mourning what I don’t have.
Travelling, planning a journey, the atmosphere at airports, the takeoffs, watching the clouds from a round little window and getting to new destinations, meeting new people, entering a new hotel room – I LOVE all that, it truly gives me my greatest kicks in life.
That – and music. So, combining those two is the best way of living life. At least for me it is. :-)
I was walking around like a ray of sunshine all day! Just because I haven’t been out anywhere for several months – which is a bit unusual for me. I’ve missed it.
So it feels like life is getting back to some sort of normality again, back to what I’m supposed to do before it’s my time to “move on” so to speak. Hopefully it’s not quite yet – but I’m going to do my best to live each day as if it really was my last.
I love Thessaloniki – it’s such a beautiful city, love the vibe and the nice, friendly people there. That and a cool gig – and October just got a whole lot brighter! :)
[Spiritual Beggars in Hamburg, Germany, back in April]
I went to Thessaloniki, Greece a few weeks ago to see Firewind and get a chat with guitarwiz Gus G. As it happens, it was the 25th time in 1,5 years that I saw mr G live onstage with either Ozzy or Firewind.
Oddly enough, it’s not because I’m the world’s greatest or craziest Firewind-fan, but because they are out touring all the time which is perfect for someone like me who needs a good excuse to get on the first flight to… anywhere…!
During 2011 I established that Firewind is the perfect live-band. Not ONCE have I seen them suck, not once have they had a “bad day”, they always deliver. So, I keep coming back.
So yeah – here I was again, in Thessaloniki, trying to endure the crazy heat.
The interview had originally been vaguely scheduled for “around 2-ish”, as the band was supposed to have an early sound check. But when Panagotis (a colleague from Greek site Metalpaths.com) and I arrived at two o’clock, the place was dead. We found Elias, the guy who’s handling Firewind’s business in Greece, who had us know that the band wouldn’t show up until around 6 at the earliest.
That left us with 4 hours to kill. I was MELTING in that Greek heat, so Panagotis and his friend Alexander took me to some nice cafes nearby where we spent the afternoon talking about music.
Once we got back to Mylos, the venue, I was beginning to think that the interview was unofficially off. Elias was busy, was running back and forth, didn’t look like there would be time for an interview. Panagotis laughed and informed me that this was “the Greek way” – plans were subject for improvisation.
Turns out he was right. :) Suddenly Elias waved to us to come in, and shortly thereafter we were joined by the Guitar hero with a capital G.
Instead of focusing only on the new album – which a majority of interviewers already do (if they’re not asking about his playing and gear, of course) I chose to focus on something that I’ve often thought would be interesting to know: How touring artists cope with different things that have to do with the actual TRAVELING.
Gus has seen “the road” from both sides – he’s been enjoying the comfort of private jets and luxurious hotels as well as squeezed himself into a tight bunk on a bus. The perfect guy to ask about The Art of Traveling. So – here you go…GUS G:
My trips to Greece continue to be unpredictable, impossible to plan yet always somehow leave lasting good memories. This time was no exception. It was fun and full of surprises – and I love surprises!
My last visit to Thessaloniki was almost exactly a year ago, when Firewind played at Kaftanzoglio Stadium (July 6, 2011) with Whitesnake and Judas Priest. That was a mix between nightmare and excitement. I quickly realized one thing though, and that’s that Greek people are kind, open and helpful – whether or not they speak English. :)
Back then I was “saved” by Derekenaris, a guy I got to know shortly before visiting the city. When I was stuck in the middle of the night at the staduim, last bus had left and there was a taxi-strike that particular day, he helped me out.
This time I met up with Panagotis from the Greek metal site Metalpaths, which he founded a few years ago. We’ve been in touch since the Firewind-gig in Athens back in January and I’ve written a few pieces for Metalpaths since then as well.
He and two friends of his, picked me up at my hotel around noon and I spent the whole day with them. Had a great time, super nice guys.
After exploring the cafés and food of Thessaloniki (well, at least a a few of them) we went to Mylos in the afternoon. The heat was almost unbearable – especially for me who’s one of those people who always tends to wear black.
Mylos was an interesting and cool concept – it was in an industrial area which reminded me a bit of Rockhal in Luxemburg. You walk through a gate and there’s an outdoor bar, a club, a nightclub, an exhibition hall and an outdoor concert stage (which was one of the most unique ones I’ve seen!)
The opening acts – 4 bands, were playing indoors. Firewind arrived around 6.30 PM for their sound check. Smart solution, to keep the crowd entertained while waiting for the main act, without having to listen to the usual “one-two-CHECK!“. Liked the setup of the show, with the splitting of opening acts/headliner indoors/outdoors, yet still in the same place.
Panagotis and I were hanging at the main stage doors, Bob (Katsionis) walked over for a chat when he was done with his part of the sound check. Had a chat with Gus as well, but more about that in another blog, later on.
This particular show was about to stick out from most of the Firewind-gigs I’ve seen in the past.
The band was receiving a gold record award from Sweden Rock Magazine for the song “Wall of Sound” and guess who was supposed to present it to them…?
I was freaking out at first when I was asked to present the award. I’m not the one standing on stage every night for a living. But I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, it’s only a matter of facing and defeating your fears.
I got all the help and support I needed from Gus and Elias before walking up there on Firewind’s stage that evening. Right before it was time (right after they wrapped up “SKG”) Gus was standing behind the stacks laughing at my (probably) terrified face going: “It’s time now!”
My only comment to that was “Shut uppp!” Lol! I was trying to stay cool about the whole deal. Holy lord..!
So I walked out there thinking that nobody cares in a hundred years anyway, even if I do fuck up…! :)
It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been on a stage – I used to sing in bands and solo back in the day. But I haven’ done it in a long time and most of all, not in front of a major crowd…! But it was a total kick, I’ll admit that. People started cheering before I had even finished my first sentence, there is a good reason why touring musicians get addicted to this stuff!
I survived, it was just bizarre in sooo many ways..! :-)
Looking back, I’m just very honored to have been given the opportunity to turn people’s attention to these guys with the award.
I’ve seen the band a number of times, yet I never get tired of seeing the instrumental acrobatics that they perform. Each and every one in the band is a wizard of his instrument, and when they get together and do their thing – it’s magic.
The place was almost empty ten minutes after the show, people had already left, only a few still lingering, talking, maybe waiting for their rides back home. Talked for a few minutes with Derekenaris, eventhough it was very brief – he had to work the next day, so he left.
Panagotis was cool with the idea to head down to the afterparty. As we were passing through the gates I heard someone shouting: “Goodbye, Daniela!”
I turned around and there was a young boy with a Firewind t-shirt, waving goodbye.
I guess I got my five minutes of fame in Thessaloniki, I suppose that as one of the very few blonde people there, I was easy to recognize and remember. Either way, it was nice.
The afterparty took place at a rock bar called Dizzy Dolls, which I was told has been Gus hangout for years. My guide Panagotis knew where it was, so we drove there straight after the show.
I liked the place, good music, typical dark rock bar and fairly cheap drinks (compared to Swedish standards at least). The band arrived after a while and were stuck down in the corner surrounded by people – basically it was extremely crowded, you could barely get to the bar.
Drummer Jo got tired of the crowd and wanted to go outside to get some fresh air so I joined him. Sometimes it can get “too much”, so getting five minutes of peace and quiet was a relief.
Apollo joined us, feeling the same way about the crowds inside.
Personally, this is the way I want to communicate with people – in a relaxed environment. I don’t like hanging around tour buses after gigs or pushing and squashing in bars – I like the human interaction so the escape from the bar suited me well. Gus was of course stuck in there, schmoozing, goes with the territory. :)
Panagotis and his friends had to leave, offering me to drop me off at my hotel but I decided to stay for a little while. The outdoor temperature had finally dropped a little so it was more bearable. Apollo grabbed a few chairs so we just sat out there talking about past gigs and coming ones.
Jo and Apollo left to go get something, said they’d be back in just a few. Stayed a few more minutes out there with the tour manager, a nice “british lad” before I felt that maybe it was time to call it a night.
I went back inside, just to let Gus know I was about to split. I got a quick deja vú flashback when I saw the guy surrounded by people – fans, friends, whoever, it was like back in the day when you walked into a room and needed to find Sebastian Bach. All you had to do was look for the CROWD and you’d find the guy in the middle of it all. And sure enough, Gus was in there,somewhere. :-) Managed to work my way in to say I was leaving, a conversation would have been impossible anyway.
I left Thessaloniki with some great memories. I love the people, the food, the city – Greece is definitely a place you want to go back to. If for no other reason, they’ve got some pretty kickass musicians that the country can be proud of!
I will be back.