Alright, so the madness really began in June. It kicked off with Sweden Rock Festival, which is my second home. I’ve been to every single festival since 1994, with the exception of 1996 when I lived in the States. Working for the magazine (Sweden Rock Magazine) has made it a natural place to be every summer, doing reviews and interviews.
This year there was ONE main assignment, and it was altogether in my own name, for this blog and for YouTube.
After a few months of contact, I asked Gus G for an interview. I didn’t think he would be able to do it when he was out with Ozzy. I know that time is rarely the musician’s own when he’s a part of a huge machinery like Ozzy’s. However, he assured me that he’d be happy to do the interview and after a few messages back and forth with his manager, it was settled.
THE GUS G EXCLUSIVE SWEDEN ROCK INTERVIEW
That day was crazy. Cellphones never work on the Sweden Rock premises, so when the manager texted me to ask where the cameraman and I were, I couldn’t get my message through to him.He wanted us to get to the backstage area – and I know what that means. That means breaking into FORT-fuckin’-KNOX…! Are you kidding me?!? All the way back to Ozzy’s own backstage area, without the very exclusive pass that allows you through all the guarded gates to “the holy grail”? Yeah, that would be interesting.
But I was not about to let that stop me. After a few stressful minutes, I finally got hold of someone who had the right credentials to escort us all the way back there, so even with the extremely tight time-schedule it could be done.
We set up the cameras and lights while they went to get Gus. The timing was perfect. JUST as I had said the last finishing phrases to wrap up the interview – Thin Lizzy hit the Rock Stage. Some things are just meant to happen. I was very pleased with the interview (eventhough some internet trolls who don’t like Gus (Zakk-fans?), have done their best to “dislike” the video – f**k them, lol!)
WHITESNAKE WITH SPECIAL GUESTS BERNIE MARSDEN & ADRIAN VANDENBERG
The festival was definitely memorable for many reasons. The exclusive Gus G-interview was one of the highlights. Another one was the historic, fantastic performance by Whitesnake (that for some reason did not impress the colleague who reviewed their show, as much as it impressed me).It was an extremely emotional experience for me. When Bernie Marsden walked up on stage joining David, I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing, could barely believe it was happening. And as if that wasn’t enough – there comes Adrian Vandenberg as well! FOUR Whitesnake-guitarists on stage together at the same time…! How many times will I ever get to see THAT again?!
I uploaded a shaky video of it on YouTube that night before I passed out on the couch, and it’s one of the most viewed videos on my channel with its almost 18.000 views. Here’s another, shorter clip of are guys taking a bow:
JUDAS PRIEST – THE PRESS CONFERENCE
My main purpose with attending the Judas Priest press conference this time, was to get a feel of the chemistry between the “older priests” and the “new kid on the block” – Richie Faulkner. I was in the press-tent long before anyone else got there, securing my front row chair. That’s where the Russian girl from Classic Rock Magazine, Vera, found me. She remembered me from a few years before when she had seen me in the exact same place – also waiting for Priest. :-) This year we became friends and she visited me in Malmö a few months later.
As for the press conference, I got a very positive impression of Richie and it helped me to shake that frustration of K.K being out of the band. And although I, quite honestly, wasn’t that impressed by Judas Priest’s show at Sweden Rock, Richie did a great job. I hadn’t expected that – but he turned out to be a valuable addition to Priest with his youthful energy.
SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL 2011
JOAN JETT: The press conference was one of the best not only this year, but the past few years. I always imagined Joan being this moody badass “whattafuck”-kind of chick. But she was very warm and intelligent, and most of all the had a refreshing self-distance and sense of humor.
Once she got onstage, she showed why she has been on the top since the 70’s. She’s genuine and 100% rock’n’roll, there’s no question about it. The lady is impressive in every single way, all I can say is…RESPECT!
LEE AARON: Couldn’t believe how great she looked and the energy she had after all these years. Maybe I didn’t expect the “poppy” outfit, but she still had her powerhouse-voice and she definitely worked the stage when she entered it around noon, the last day of the festival. The biggest disappointment was that I LOST the video of her press conference!! I asked her a few questions that she really took time to answer, and then something went wrong during the transfer from the SD-card to the computer and it just disappeared. :-(( Gah!
MR BIG: I’ve always loved Mr Big. Call them whimpy or whatever, I don’t care. Paul Gilbert is a genious, Eric Martin is one of the most gifted singers in the business, Pat Torpey is a great but very underestimated drummer and Billy Sheehan – hey… There’s only one Bassplayer DeLuxe, and that’s Billy. Everybody knew their songs, they played like gods, and basically – my face ached afterwards cause I had been smiling way too much and too long!
Queensrÿche sounded terrible. I’ve never in my life heard them sounding so bad. Or maybe I should just say that Geoff Tate didn’t have a good day… Zakk Wylde left a very good impression at his press conference. He was cool, yet respectful and I think he handled the press very well. :-)
ROADTRIP TO OZZY – Germany & Luxembourg
After Sweden Rock Festival, I had a few days to prepare for my next trip – down to Munich in Germany to see Ozzy. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Munich, that I had a chance to drive around in, as I rented a car at the airport because I was going to continue down to Luxembourg as well two days later.
Anett (Jon Oliva’s European tour manager) and her husband Marcus, had invited me to come and stay with them on my way to Luxembourg, so after the Munich-gig I drove down there. It has its advantages to get a rental car, you get to see beautiful sceneries, so the drive to the little village was definitely worth the trip. :-)
After a really nice stay, catching up with Anett and Marcus (and meeting their rock’n’roll Dobermann-dog Slash! :-)) I continued on my way and drove down to Luxembourg. I stood in line outside Rockhal for several hours, cause I had nothing better to do, and when you travel like that to see a show, you don’t want to risk not seeing anything, so…
I stood there pretty much all day – then when the doors opened somebody told me that my “kind” of ticket had to be picked up somewhere else (WTF!!!) so I lost my place in line and was so pissed off, that people just moved out of my way when I walked back into the arena with black smoke coming out of my ears.
I made it all the way to the front row, much with the help of a really nice girl who let me have her spot, because she thought I “should” have it as I had travelled that far. That’s the kind of people you remember with thankfulness when you go on these road trips. :-)
Blogs from the Germany/Luxemburg roadtrips:
GRASPOP METAL MEETING in Belgium
The week after Munich and Luxembourg, I took off to Belgium with my friend Bianca, to my other favorite festival: GRASPOP Metal Meeting.
Bianca wanted to see Ozzy, because she’s never seen him before, and for me it would also mean a double-dose of Gus G because Firewind were also playing. Well… Ozzy got sick and the show was cancelled. As if that wasn’t enough, the rain was pissing down.
But… I got to see Firewind at least, and also discovered a freaking great band from Belgium, Channel Zero, that normally wouldn’t be the kind of band I’d listen to, but their energy was hard to miss…! Especially their front man Franky was impressive, his aggressive confidence fit the music perfectly and the crowd went wild!
THE CHANNEL ZERO BLOG HERE.
[This is what I tried to film during their set – as you can see, it was pretty wild, lol…!]
Dispite the mud and the very drunk rockers that we had to zig-zag to avoid stepping on, it was a great festival.
[Bianca and me being super-sexy in our blue rain ponchos, lol! ;P]
THESSALONIKI (GREECE) – Stop That Sound-festival
I went back to Sweden for a short break, before heading out on my next trip – all the way down to sunny Greece. Stop That Sound-festival in Thessaloniki, with headliners Judas Priest and Whitesnake, and of course home-boys Firewind. THAT story is way too long to even attempt summarizing, so I’ll just direct you straight to the blogs from that visit:
SONISPHERE FESTIVAL – England
Straight after that, I headed from Thessaloniki airport, to London – for the SONISPHERE festival.
Metallica headlined it, and I bet I must have been the only one who didn’t give a shit about Metallica. I never have, I never will. Never understood their greatness. However, I wanted to see Firewind and MEGADETH, most of all. I wasn’t disappointed by any of those bands. Megadeth always delivers. So did Anthrax by the way. :-)
JUDAS PRIEST in Manchester, UK and OZZY in Gdansk, Poland & Smukfest, Denmark
The weekend after Sonisphere, I took off back to England again. This time to Manchester to see Judas Priest. I loved the city, so much that I decided to choose Manchester in favor of London for concerts in the future. The show at Manchester Apollo was the best I’ve seen Priest do in a long time. Also met up with Ronnie, an internet friend that has been reading my diaries and blogs online since the very early days of Internet. Always nice to meet people in person too.
Next stop was Ozzy in Gdansk, Poland. I was really sick and should have been in bed, but there was no way I was going to cancel the trip. I slept everywhere I could. Spent the first day in bed at the super-cool designer hotel La-La-La, and most of the day of the show. It was raining anyway and of course I had forgotten to bring a rain-poncho, which I normally ALWAYS bring with me.
No matter how sick I was, it was worth it. Ozzy rules. And the Polish fans were definitely hardcore. I’m glad I went, eventhougI got lost and all that, but it goes with the territory. :-)
[OZZY played Ergo Arena in Sopot/Gdansk, Poland]
I only had one day to recover before I drove to Smukfest in Denmark to see the last Ozzy-show of the European tour. It was PISSING down all day, I had mud up to my knees! Crazy! The stage and the festival itself was kind of…different, and I suppose I expected something extraordinary because it was the last gig of the tour. But when Ozzy walks offstage – he’s done. So, no encores, no fireworks, no nothing. Yet, that was worth it too, I had fun!
[Ozzy finished his European tour on the left stage at Smukfest, Skanderborg, Denmark]
FIREWIND, FIREWIND AND MORE FIREWIND
Most of September was commited for Firewind. I spent most of that month on trains, buses, in taxis and on planes. Three gigs in England (and Scotland) – Manchester, Glasgow, Reading. Reading was Gus G’s birthday and he was celebrated with a cake onstage. Video was, of course, posted. This was also the tour where they had a “stand in”-singer, Mats Levén (who’s also fronted Yngwie’s band, almong others)
Then I took a break for a short while, before continuing down to the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany with yet another rental car (that I got at the airport – that roadtrip was described in the Firewind-blog, too much to tell for a short summary – check it out HERE).
You would have thought I would get sick of seeing the same band, travelling to some godforsaken places and sleeping in a car to save money, but no – I loved it! They are brilliant, I would do it all over again!
MEETING UP WITH CROATIAN TALENT – Vili Kovac in Split
The day after I came home from the Benelux/Germany-Firewind-tour, I only had time to re-pack my suitcase and head down to see my dad in Croatia for a REAL vacation. It was a vacation so much that I got restless, I’m not used to doing nothing.
But the vacation was saved by a meeting with a great, talented young Croatian singer, who I had first discovered the year before when I was on vacation, as he was competing in the Croatian version of American Idol. I thought he was great, one of those that stands out – not only with his voice but also with his personality.
He came to Split just for one day, so I got to meet the guy. Really nice dude, he played some of his own unreleased stuff for me and also some Croatian and Bosnian bands that I hadn’t heard before that were actually worth checking out.
Most of all I was a bit frustrated to learn that he might not be able to record something in English and reach a wider audience outside of Croatia – which I think he should. But – the modern world is shrinking so you never know. Maybe one day. Even on vacation I managed to squeeze in something music-related, thank god! :-)
[Ripper Owens and Vili Kovac]
And then when I came back to Sweden – there was reuniting with old friend SEBASTIAN BACH (video) and some other stuff… In part three which is coming up!
Megadeth possess an incredible raw power that just hits you over the head like a sledgehammer.
I can’t resist it, I never could. There’s something magical about Mustaines grumpy face and muttery, snarly vocals. It wouldn’t have had the same effect without all that, and most of all, he is the real deal. I like his sarcasm, I like his anger, and I most definitely like the sincerety he puts into the things he does. Basically, he’s got what it takes to keep people coming back year after year.
I remember when I was still a teenager, and a penpal sent me a cassette of “Peace sells…”.
It was something brand new back then. I never got into Metallica and I still haven’t. I’d choose Megadeth over Metallica anytime.
In all honesty, I didn’t get into that album right away. It had to grow on me. But once it did, I was stuck. Here I am, 25 years later (jesus, where did time go?!) still loving this band more than ever.
They can spellbind a crowd of thousands of demanding metalheads, and keep their attention for as long as they want. I love the energy, I love the power they generate, it just fills you – charges you to the maximum. This is what metal is all about.
Dave “Junior” Ellefson looks the same as he did way back, he plays better than ever, in fact, Megadeth has never been this brilliant.
There was a time when they weren’t much to see on a stage. Maybe because there were too many drugs involved or maybe because their minds were all over the place and not necessarily in the live performances. But that has changed- 100%…. I could go and see them play every day for a month and still want more.
In short – Megadeth is the best they have ever been, they DEMAND your attention and they get it. How could they not? It’s brutal, it’s heavy, it’s technically perfect and it’s damn honest. This tour has been a triumphal procession and it ain’t over yet!
I finally caught up on my sleep after the past week’s ordeals in Thessaloniki (Stop That Sound 2310 festival) and Sonisphere UK.
But Sonisphere was every visiting journalist’s dream. It is so well organized that you could almost hear angel choirs and harps…! I like Belgium’s Graspop for the good organization, and this year the kudos went to their security staff (check HERE to see the feedback from a member of the Graspop crew :-)).
First of all, for those of you who haven’t been to Sonisphere – it’s HUGE. It requires well informed staff, because otherwise your visit will be a nightmare as you’re trying to find your way around.
I’ve been to many festivals and usually, the staff-members know only what they’re assigned to know, so to speak. At Sonisphere, it didn’t matter who I asked, or what my question was, everybody was well informed and extremely helpful, which made my day there a walk in the park, litterally.
I couldn’t help comparing it to the festival in Greece where I spent hours in the boiling heat, asking maybe 20 people for something as simple as where to pick up my ticket, and nobody knew anything. Then again, the Greeks are new with this sort of thing, the Brits invented metal festivals! There’s a big difference there.
But let’s take this from the beginning, shall we? :)
Already at King’s Cross station, there was no question where everybody was going. It was extremely busy there that day – rockers of all kinds carrying backpacks, suitcases with Wacken-stickers or just their tattoos, everywhere you looked.
Their eyes were firmly staring at the departure information screens. The second it said something about “Stevenage” it was like a given signal, and like kattle, hordes of people dressed in black and denim, headed for the refered platform.
Nice and clean train, I was in Stevenage so quickly that I never even had time to register to use the free 15 minutes of internet time you get on the train. The good organization started already at Stevenage station. Signs for everything. There was just no way you could get lost. Taxis here, coaches there. Info about the last trains back to London that evening, people in yellow reflective vests everywhere that pointed you in the right direction, swiftly answering any questions….
I was ripped off by the cab driver and I knew that I was, because it was supposed to cost £10 at the most to get to the festival area, this one wanted twice as much.
It had started to rain and I just wasn’t up for any discussions or walking from one taxi to another trying to find one that wasn’t going to rip me off.
Whatever dude, here’s your £20 if you need them so bad – just take me to the damn press/guest-accreditation area….!
It was easy to realize that we had almost reached the festival because suddenly there were cars and more cars ahead in one long line as far as the eye could see.
Got there eventually and I was lucky because it was so early still, that there weren’t that many people at the accreditation booth. It only took me maybe ten minutes to get my wristband and I was on my way.
I knew that Sonisphere is an established, big festival and I visisted the Swedish version of it last year. But THAT was the worst disaster…. don’t even get me started. THIS was a completely different story. I never realized it was that huge either. I kept walking and walking until I finally reached the actual site.
What I didn’t know is that it would be even worse later that day. It’s a good thing I’m used to long walks.
It was still early, maybe around noon, one o’clock, so not much was happening. I had plenty of time to take a look around the area. Plenty of burger-stands and fish&chips. :-)
Another thing that separates the British festival visistors from the Belgian or the Swedes for instance is..:
a) They are polite, you rarely get pushed for no reason, and if you do, you usually get a quick “sorry” at least before they continue on their way.
b) They keep the area clean! Graspop in Belgium looked like world war 3, garbage everywhere. People didn’t care about the litter bins there. HERE there were big garbage containers everywhere that people actually used…. For the most part.
The toilets were fairly clean and you didn’t have to get claustrophobia in them either, but then again, I went to one at the guest-area, don’t know if they were the same for the crowds outside.
Checked out most bands that played in the Bohemia-tent. After seeing the first band I saw that the quality of the bands playing in there was high, regardless your taste, so it was worth the time checking out some new bands.
Anthrax were playing on the main stage, it was not easy getting anywhere near the stage, people everywhere! But like I said before – the brits know how to arrange a metal festival – they invented it! So there were, of course, huge screens not only on the sides of the stage, but also out here and there around the area. The enthusiastic yet laid back crowd were enjoying the show from wherever they happened to be standing.
Then I noticed something. The TWO bands I basically wanted to see the most – Firewind and Megadeth…. clashed! Both bands were playing at the EXACT same time! WTF?!?!
I stood there wondering what to do with that. I LOVE Megadeth, been a fan of Mustaine for pretty much twenty years now. I took the day off to see them play in Aarhus, Denmark a few months ago. But in the end, it was precisely that fact that made me decide to go for Firewind this time. I’ve seen Megadeth lots of times the past years, mostly when Marty Friedman was playing with them, as he was the one who used to get me on the guest list back in those days.Marty and me back in the good old days. :)
The signing session for Megadeth was insane by the way. At 2 PM they were meeting the fans at the Metal Hammer-tent and I could not believe how many people there were!
Then, when Firewind did their signing-session, there were a bunch of people there too, but compared to that ridiculous line an hour before, it was quite a contrast. :)
Did a bit of filming in there as well, but it didn’t turn out well, just a bunch of asses. :-) I’ll spare you. However, I’ll give you two half-decent pics at least:
The Firewind– and Megadeth-gigs will be reviewed separately. Both were very explosive and powerful in their own two totally different kinds of ways.
For videos of the Firewind-gig, these are up on Youtube now (since this is one of the more modern bands that actually encourages the use of Youtube as a promoting tool):FIREWIND @ SONISPHERE:
And since the videos from the Thessaloniki-gig won’t fit anywhere else right now, why not list those here now as well:
FIREWIND IN THESSALONIKI (2310 festival)
I Am The Anger
Fire And The Fury + Till The End Of Time
Head Up High (part of song)
World On Fire
Ark Of Lies
So, reviews, that will be separate.
When I decided to leave the festival, it dawned on me how HUGE this place was. I had to walk for nearly 30 minutes to get to the exit/main entrace. Of all the festivals I’ve been to so far, this is the largest one by far, I thought I’d never see the end of it!
The cab-driver was a happy man from India who said he really enjoyed working during the festival, because although he first thought that the rockers who got into his car looked dangerous, he quickly realized that they were happy and friendly and just loved their music.
– I don’t have any problems with them! I wish everybody was like that, it’s been great working during this Knebworth festival! he said.
I beat the crowds, got to Stevenage, then King’s Cross, then Paddington station and took the Heathrow Express train to the airport…. I figured because my flight was early in the morning, around 6 am, I could just walk around the airport without stress and check out the stores and stuff… But they were not allowed to let me in until the next morning *sighhh*…….
What to do? Well. I found a power point and plugged in my laptop. Had to sit on the floor, because it’s interesting how the airports seem to figure that today, when people have all those laptops and cellphones that require constant charging, they won’t NEED a wall socket anywhere….?! It’s always a big issue with that. Welcome to 2011…??
I ended up sitting on the hard, cold floor all night, till 5 am…. Boots and everything closed at nine, so sometime after midnight, the place was completely deserted! Not a soul. It was like being in a horror movie or something. They even dimmed the lights. There was just me and my laptop.
The worst thing was I had to go to the “little ladies’ room” but didn’t want to leave my things. And you know at airports, they would probably have brought in a big,fat bomb squad or something if I left it for two seconds.
My Australian friend Clint who was on MSN Messenger, came up with a brilliant idea:
– Why don’t you turn on the webcam, point it in whichever direction you think someone would approach from, and leave the sound on as well. It I see anyone coming, I’ll call your cellphone so you can rush out from the loo! Or I’ll tell them not to touch the laptop, that you just had to go to the toilet!
OR – leave a note that says: “Not a bomb. Had to take a piss”.
Yeah – that would have worked! ;P
What a trip this has been….
First I had a friend from Sweden guiding me through the streets of Thessaloniki, Greece through GOOGLE MAPS – THEN I had a Greek guy guiding me through the dark streets of Thessaloniki when I couldn’t find the bus stop for the last bus – by cellphone…
And NOW there was a guy in AUSTRALIA on MSN that could keep an eye on my stuff while I went to the ladies room – in England!
WHAT did we ever do without all this information technology?! :-)
I’m finally home. Now a few days “normal life” before heading back to the UK on Saturday for more Judas Priest. As usual – more stuff will be added here as I go!
The plan was to give you guys a report from Sonisphere, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
I spent all night on a cold, hard floor at Heathrow, keeping myself awake with caffeine chewing gums (those saved me many times this summer on these rock’n’roll journeys) and friends on MSN who kept me company all night. :-)
WHY did I end up sitting on a floor at Heathrow all night, you ask…? Well, that’ll be in the next blog too…
Needless to say, my brain feels like mashed potatoes right now so the actual Sonisphere blog will hopefully be up some time tomorrow.
In the meantime, a few videos from Thessaloniki – better late than never (I’ll probably upload tons of stuff in November or something when things cool down a little bit and I have time to actually sit and organize all this material).
Rob Halford being attacked by a cuddly fan on stage. I couldn’t believe it when the guy just ran up there! Surprised that security were that quick to get him out of there though…
From one of their best performances in a while… Heading Out To The Highway in Greece…
There will be more. Soon. :)
And of course, Thessaloniki’s pride & joy FIREWIND:
At my hotel in London, England. I’m beginning to lose my concept of borders somehow. When you travel around like this, in the end everything somehow seems the same. Only little differences here and there – such as language or like here in the UK where they’re driving “on the wrong side”.
This morning I was still in Thessaloniki, Greece, three hours later, I’m walking the streets of Kensington, London, digging in my wallet for pounds instead of euros.I walked into an Irish bar/restaurant and ordered a sirloin steak with a side salad and fries – it must have been the BEST meal I’ve had in a very long time, in all its simplicity. That, while listening to a soothing Irish trubadour singing about his broken heart, looking out the window over the busy street outside. The world really IS all the same, people are still people. And I love it. This is how I want to live. :-)
I left the hotel early yesterday morning, to go check out the Kaftanzoglio stadium. The Greek guy who’s been my “helper” during my Thessaloniki-stay, told me that nobody goes anywhere before 2 pm, and that would be only the craziest maybe 25 Judas Priest-fans. As for everybody else, they were most likely going to show up much later.
But I had nothing better to do anyway, so I took the bus down to the stadium. Another “Split-flashback” – buses with wooden seats, just like in Croatia. :) At least this one did. When I got there, I saw that the guy was right. It was dead empty. Not a SOUL. And it was boiling HOT.I walked around the whole stadium and looked at the Trans-Am and Beat The Street-buses that were parked outside, and roadies rolling in all the gear. But still no rockers as far as the eye could see. I figured I’d ask someone where I could pick up my ticket so I found a bunch of security guys but they had NO idea. They pointed here and there, mumbling something about how “maybe” it was there, but in essence, they had NO clue.
As the hours went by, a few people started showing up so I asked two girls in Judas Priest t-shirts, but they didn’t know where to get the tickets either. One thing is for sure, people are extremely kind and helpful, even if they don’t really know the answer to your questions. During the day I asked security guys at every door around the whole stadium about the tickets, and they were all shrugging their shoulders, pointing here and there but adding “I don’t know“. I could not BELIVE that not a SOUL would know a basic thing like that!
One guy said he would find out, and I saw how he approached at least ten people who all shook their heads with the same result. In the end, a british dude walked up to me and said it was “somewhere” down the main road. Another one said it opened at five. That was the only information I could get.
I FINALLY got my ticket and ran up to the gate where a whole bunch of sweaty but happy rockers were waiting. Luckily I know all the tricks by now, how to quickly get in among the first ones without pushing, shoving or pissing anyone off.
But once the gate opened it was total MAYHEM. I felt like a fucking pizza, cause I was stuck in this horde of metal maniacs. Once I was in, I ran for it. I didn’t come all the way to Greece to stand somewhere in the back! And sure enough, I got a front row spot. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it was evident that they weren’t used to this sort of thing – music festivals. When there’s an outdoor festival in that HEAT, you have to make sure that the people in the front row get WATER. Never mind anything else, just have buckets of water and a bunch of cups and hand it out to whoever looks like he or she is gonna pass out.But the security guys were drinking from their own cold water bottles right in front of us, pretending that they didn’t see or hear when someone asked for water. That sucks. By the end of the evening, they finally got the hang of it, probably because so many people had to be carried out by the paramedics, totally dehydrated.
And another stupid thing, which I noticed when I left my front row spot before Judas Priest went on because I was so thirsty that I couldn’t stand another minute without water – they sold drinks alright… BUT – instead of giving people the opportunity to buy at each individual stand, they had EVERYBODY standing in a LONG LINE to buy some sort of coupons that said “drink”, “water”, “soda” or whatever – THEN you went to the different stands and got your drink. WTF? It took forever and I was so thirsty I thought I was gonna faint.
But, back to the show…..
First band up was called something with “bitch”, just one of those cheezy, silly glam/sleaze names that always sound the same and have the same kind of logos. They didn’t sound all that bad though, maybe not my thing but a song or two was pretty good. But it was evident that they weren’t very experienced performers. They did their best but it felt a little like a school-show on a large stage.
The crowd was almost yawning during their gig. But I could tell that it would be VERY different when Firewind went on…. People started pushing and shoving like crazy even before the band even got onstage – and a whole bunch of people were wearing Firewind t-shirts. I didn’t understand the Greek conversations around me, but I did pick up the words “Gus”, “Apollo” and “Bob” – so I suppose they were eagerly waiting for the band to show up.
When they finally entered the stage, people went fucking INSANE! If I had ever wondered if Firewind were their hometown heroes, or if nobody would give a shit just because they were local, I could stop wondering. People worshipped them. It was like I “saw” them for the first time, honestly. When a band gets a crowd that fired up (hah! No pun intended) you are guaranteed a great concert experience.
After a few songs I could barely even concentrate on the BAND, I was laughing at the maniacs around me! My god! Gus was doing his thing, running around, making all his rockstar guitar hero-poses, balancing on the monitors, headbanging, the whole hoopla. Bob was in a great shape as well, doing pretty much the same thing all with a happy smile on his face – and did the “towel-trick” from Graspop once again. That made me laugh, there’s a sense of humor behind everything these guys do, and what I love the most about them is that they enjoy playing together and it shows. THAT’s what you want to see and feel when you go to a show. A band that can project their love for what they do and have their enthusiasm rub off on the crowd.
I don’t regret for one second that I went to Thessaloniki to see Firewind play in front of their hometown fans. It was an experience I will not forget anytime soon.
Next up was Whitesnake. Nowadays it’s almost a “thing” to see how long it’s going to take before David spots me. Because he ALWAYS does. And he always lets me know it. This time it took about…two minutes. He walked over to “my” side of the stage and looked at people, and you can see the SECOND he recognizes me – he goes from that “general” smile to that “particular” smile where he just “lights up” and says “Hii!” with his eyes. :-)
He smiled, pointed at me and I pointed back to say hello right back. That makes every Whitesnake show feel so personal. It makes you a part of it because you get that face-to-face connection. Then again, David is the master of that. Others can do the same but it’s still not quite the same. He looks so genuinely happy to see me, and that’s a great feeling.
As for the show – well, it’s WHITESNAKE. I’ve got nothing new to add, I love this band. Always have, always will. Apart from Coverdale himself, what I enjoy the most about Whitesnake nowadays is the brilliant Brian Tichy. I love his drum solo, and he has just a very visual way of playing, it just gets you going, makes you feel the power of every beat. He rocks.
The guitar duo-solo I can do without though. I’m not a big fan of Reb Beach and I even get annoyed looking at his “solo faces”, well you know the grimaces guitarists always have. Most of them are just cool, goes with the territory, but HE just looks stupid, I can’t watch it. Gah.
After Whitesnake’s set I was trying to decide what to do. I was horribly, horribly thirsty. I had brought 2 bottles of water, but had drank it all. Not even my chewing-gum trick worked. My whole body was screaming for water and I could feel the crowd getting even worse as Judas Priest were about to hit the stage… I made a decision to leave my front row spot. What the hell, I’m going to see Priest in Manchester next week anyway, so no big deal.
I bought three big glasses of ice-water and drank it so fast that I got a stomach ache, but I didn’t care. It felt WONDERFUL to drink all that cold water. Angel-choirs and all that!
When Priest finally made their dramatic entrance, I could establish one thing – they haven’t had such an enthusiastic crowd in ages! Not anywhere in Europe where I’ve seen them anyway. Frankly, every show so far has pretty much sucked. Or maybe I’m just expecting too much because they have meant so much in my life. I’ve seen them so many times and I remember the times when they created pure MAGIC on stage.
I remember once when I went to Gothenburg to see them, I had a fever of 42 degrees Celsius and my head felt like a bowling ball. I should have been in bed, but wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from seeing them. And when they began to play, I literally forgot that I was sick! After a few songs, I had such an adrenaline-rush that I felt like a million bucks. THAT is the band that I expect to see every time. Unfortunately I haven’t – not in a few years.
But this summer evening in Thessaloniki, they were given their magic powers back. I think the love from the crowd gave it to them. Like I said before, a band is never better than its crowd. This crowd was so totally MENTAL over Priest that I was actually glad I had left my front row spot. They kept falling over the barriers like freaking lemmings, one after another, they poured out all their energy over the band, it was a fantastic thing to witness.
It’s as if Priest felt like they had to step up and deliver, so that they could keep up with the crowd. I think Maiden said that once – it can be a pressure to be standing in front of a demanding yet loving audience because you have to be as good as them – at least.
My childhood heroes were back, they ROCKED the place, dammit, they showed how it should be done, and I’m so proud of being a Priest-fan again. I hope they can keep this up until next week when I see them again.
After the show I texted the Greek guy, told him where he could find me, and he came over to say hi. I was almost panicking to catch the last bus so I started following the crowd, somehow taking for granted that he and his friend would be right behind me. But I realize that sometimes my tempo can be hard to keep up with. :-/ I lost the guy.
Then it turned out that the last bus had left. He texted me and said I should go to street so-and-so and take another bus from there, “below the university”. Where was that? I had no idea, it was dark, no people, no buses… And NO taxis. They were – of course – on fucking STRIKE that particular day.
So I had ONE chance to find that bus stop where the last night bus would leave. He had to guide me over the phone… Funny though whe he asked “Where are you now?” and I can’t tell him because everything is in Greek and I wouldn’t know what it says anyway. Oh man.
In the end, a guy who was standing at a bus stop with a woman and another man, all of them paramedics that had been at the show, heard me walking the streets speaking English with someone looking very lost. “Do you need help?” he asked. I gave him the phone so that he and the Greek dude could talk and maybe somehow get me back to my hotel.
They said there was a night bus leaving in 15 minutes, and it stopped right outside my hotel. HALLELUJAH!
So the young, and pretty cute paramedic, although he had short hair (I’m just a hair-person, what can I say) asked where I was from. I said Sweden and answered his other question, that I came over here to see the three bands that had just played. He looked at me with a sceptic face and went: “ALONE? You came here alone??” I said yeah… I always go alone. Pretty much. He couldn’t believe it and said something about “Oh my god“. Then he asked when I was going home. I said I wasn’t, I was taking the early flight to London to go to Sonisphere, another festival. His eyes were as big as PLATES when he once again wondered if I was going alone on that too. Well – yeah?!
He was shocked. The woman explained to him: “It’s a woman thing. We can be independent and do things on our own. It’s you guys who always need pampering!” Haha, that was funny. In many cases I guess she’s right too. :)
The bus was so full that I barely got on it, but I HAD to get on the damn thing! Being lost in Thessaloniki in the middle of the night with a taxi-strike going on was not a hit.
I slept like a baby for a few hours, then took a cab (yes, they were back from the strike) to the airport. Didn’t feel like going on a sightseeing trip again like when I got there. The cab driver was an older man and he loved to talk. He was telling me about the problems the country had and felt that blood had to be spilled in order to make a change. Changes only happened after bloody revolutions. I hope he is wrong.
I said that people seemed so happy and friendly, so I haven’t seen much of the problems being a tourist (except for the strike…) He replied that people are friendly but they are not happy. So sad. They’ve got such a wonderful, beautiful country which I’d be glad to visit again but then bring someone – they should be proud. But I understand what he’s saying.
We were talking about traveling and he asked if I had a family. I said I didn’t, which is why I’m free to do this, travel around the world. Nobody stopping me, nobody waiting for me, it’s the only way. When he dropped me off he smiled and said, with a surprised voice kind of, “You are a very nice person! I liked talking to you!” That was the sweetest thing. :) It’s nice when that’s the last thing you hear when leaving a country.
When I got to London it was PISSING DOWN. I thought that “Sonisphere” must be another name for soaker. Same thing happened last year, one of those things that those who were there will NEVER forget!
So, I went from tropical Greek HEAT, to british fucking RAIN in just a few hours. Luckily enough, by the time I got to Earl’s Court, the sun was shining again, so I took a walk and that’s when I had that great Irish steak.
NOW, all I want to do is relax and sleep so that I can survive Sonisphere tomorrow. Cause I have a feeling that the “adventures” are far from over…..!