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!
After a whole day in the frying sun, no food, barely any water and a nightmare(ish) before and after the actual festival, I need more sleep, so there will be a “real” blog if I’m lucky enough to have an internet connection in London (which is my next destination).
However. One thing. IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE!!! Firewind had the craziest crowd ever – no wonder, it’s their hometown. But it could go either way when you’re “homeboys”. Either people don’t give a shit or they worship you. In this case, it was the latter. :)
It was like I “saw” them for the first time, cause the energy between the crowd and the band was… unbelievable!
Then came Whitesnake. Funny enough, but I thought it would be tough for them to go onstage after Firewind’s performance… Coverdale should never be doubted though.
And Judas Priest. The MAGIC was back. They have sucked the past few shows I’ve seen them, but I guess a band is never better than its crowd. And Thessaloniki went absolutely nuts for their leather-heroes! People were “raining” from the crowd across the barricades like lemmings off a cliff! Security had a very busy time to say the least. I’ve got videos of all this stuff, but the connection here at the hotel is way too slow so I’ll have to get back with all that and you’ll know I’m not exaggerating. :)
Thessaloniki is the place to go if you want to see a show with a passionate crowd. It was great! I almost forgot the horrible organization where I walked around for hours asking security guys about where to pick up ordered tickets. I must have asked at least ten of them, and they all went “It’s not here” (duh!) and pointed in any direction as long as it was “away” from wherever we were standing when I asked. So, according to them, tickets were in every direction you could think of.
AFTER the show, I thought there would be a bus back to where I came from, but no. I had to go somewhere else to get to a night bus – and a Greek guy I met online guided me over the phone through the dark streets of Thessaloniki, spoke to some paramedics that were still there and could tell him where I was and how I could get back to my hotel…. Because TAXIS were, of course, on STRIKE yesterday. So if I had missed the last bus back, I would have had to WALK all night to get back to my hotel – and not knowing how to find my way around that didn’t seem like a good option… So, there was a bit of a nightmare there.
But more about that when I get to London. Or back home. Pics and videos and all that will be up then too.
Once we landed in Budapest, I ran like I had rocket fuel up my ass and made it JUST in the nick of time. [Flying into Thessaloniki] Thessaloniki airport was busy, people everywhere, I could barely see where I was going. Also noted that my choice of clothes wasn’t overly smart. BLACK when it was 31 degrees Celsius out there?! I might want to rethink that next time… I knew I was supposed to take bus 78 to a bus stop called Kolomvou, so I got a 0,80 euro ticket from the bus ticket-booth and waited for the bus in the humid Greek heat. A smiling man in his 60’s was waving to me, pointing with a “yes – you“. He said I would have to keep a very close eye on my bag because there were professional pickpockets everywhere. He was very friendly and talkative, asked where I was going, if I knew how to get there and stuff, kept talking about how he had a cousin in Sweden and he had been in Sweden – online. :-)
I told him I was only in Thessaloniki for a few days to see a concert, he smiled, shook his head and went: “You don’t come to Thessaloniki for a day. You stay a LIFETIME.”
After he had reached his destination, I was left alone and kept a very close eye on the information-light-sign-thingie that informed about the next stop. Everything was in Greek, until a few seconds before each stop when it actually said where we were in English as well. :)
I should have known something was wrong after an hour, because the ride to the hotel was only supposed to take 20 minutes. When we pulled up to the Makedonia International Airport (!) I knew that we had just been the whole round and back again. And no “Kolomvou”-stop anywhere.
So I went back to my seat and figured if I only stayed on the bus long enough, I would get to that bus stop sooner or later, maybe I just missed it. Asked some other people on the bus, either they didn’t speak English or they were tourists themselves, so no help there. I spent TWO HOURS on that bus, seeing the airport THREE TIMES… I bet I know Thessaloniki by bus better than anyone else. I texted my friend Mari who called the hotel and then texted me back “Man! They spoke Greeklish, English words in Greek if you know what I mean, I didn’t understand a thing! But I DID understand that you’re supposed to get off the bus somewhere and then walk for 10 minutes….”
Yeah. Somewhere. Interesting concept. :) I got off the bus in an area that looked “touristy” because of all the typical international stores that are there for tourists to spend some extra dough – Sephora and all that. Aristoteles Square. Then I had Mari guiding me by phone, from Sweden, her computer and GOOGLE MAPS! Like my very personal GPS, if you will.
“Are you on the square now? There should be a big street up ahead. Turn right and then….”
I finally found my hotel. I think I’m gonna send the hotel the REAL directions when I get home. Nobody would ever have found it with their description on the website. Gah. [My hotel… That I found after just 2 hours]
I waited til the sun started to set, because it’s a lot more pleasent taking a stroll when you’re not being fried by the sun. When I got out there it was like a Deja Vú experience. I had a hunch it would be like that after having seen pictures of the city online. It looked very much like my second home town, Split in Croatia. As it turned out, it really was like a COPY of it!! Everything was pretty much the same, to the point where it was almost scary.
The square had all these glossy white/grey streetstones, surrounded by cafés and restaurants and people selling kitsch-junk everywhere. The sea right in front, which you walk alongside so to speak. I mean, it was all the same – the location of some houses and the harbor/industries or whatever…. Even the scent of the sea was the same.
I didn’t feel like a tourist at all. I felt like I was home. [Pics I took last night on my walk down the seaside in the heart of Thessaloniki]
The palmtrees are the same, little short, chubby ones. :)
And the flowerbush that I haven’t seen anywhere else but in Croatia until now, the oleander. They are beautiful, pink, yellow, white….
It’s so pretty and it’s a shame I came here alone this time. It’s a city to be experienced in someone’s company. I took a walk towards the White Tower as the sun was setting. Took some pics of that, then ended up being very much a tourist when I walked into Starbucks because I was REALLY craving a mocha frappucino. I should have went to a real Greek coffeehouse instead, but I will later today.
I just sat there, overlooking the sea as the sun went down, hearing the people and the typical sounds of nightlife down the street. That is just like Split as well. Doesn’t matter what weekday it is. It’s like a festival, lots of people, music, laughing, just a city that is very much ALIVE. I loved the atmosphere. And there were Judas Priest/Whitesnake/Firewind posters all over town. From what I understand, there are not that many outdoor rock concerts here, so I guess that every rocker in Greece will make his/her way to Athens or Thessaloniki today and tomorrow. :)
I got a very useful map for my “tourist day” here from a guy I got in touch with because he had uploaded a video of Marty Friedman and Gus G jamming in Thessaloniki about a month ago. I asked what camera he had used because the audio was really good, and then somehow started talking a bit. So he sent me this last night: A map of Metalloniki. :-) That, and a short description:
I also send you a map you have to see. It is useful. Includes the places every rock-visitor must see.METALLONIKI MAP !!! :)))
Place 1: Your Hotel (El Greco) I
Place 2: Tha stadium (Kaftatzoglio)
Place 3: Ladadika (many bars and some of them Rock & Metal)
Place 4: Valaoritou Street (the new hot joint in the city – some good rock places and many people everywhere).
Place 5: Aristotelous Square. The most famous square in Thessaloniki.
Many places for coffee and beers. Some of them with good music.
Place 6: Navarino Square. The “punk” spot of the city. Some good bars an many places to eat before and afrer a drinking night. There are also lot of other places but these are the basics.
Hope to find you and meet you in person.
Have a good night and get rest.
All those places are near to you and you can go by feet.
Even the stadium is not that far from you. It is almost 3,5 km from your hotel.
Like I said, very kind and helpful people around here. :) I’ll try to check out as much as possible, if I don’t get lost again! Before I went to bed, I checked my Facebook and saw that Firewind had sent out a bulletin that there was supposed to be an interview with Bob and Gus at midnight (a rerun) and for the first time I’d actually be able to see that. So, although I was tired, I decided to check it out. What the hell, I’m here, would be stupid to miss it.
So far, I really like this place. I’m sure that tomorrow, after having seen three bands I really love, I’ll like it even more!
And yes, you guessed it. I’ll be back.
[Went to Starbucks for my beloved Mocha Frappucino]
My suitcase is still open on the bedroom floor since Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium, because there just is no point putting it away. Monday morning it’s time for the next destination: Thessaloniki, Greece.
Music has given me good reasons to go to places where I would probably never have gone otherwise. I get to see so much stuff, just because I’ve planned my journeys around some kind of music event. :-)) In this case, it’s the STOP THAT SOUND 2310 festival, featuring JUDAS PRIEST, WHITESNAKE & FIREWIND.
“This is big news: The first-ever music festival in Thessaloniki… hosted in Thessaloniki’s largest stadium, the Kaftanzoglio!
There was the U2 gig at the harbour in 1997 with at 50.000 crowd and that was it. OK, there have been gigs of Deep Purple, The Prodigy, Iron Maiden, Scorpions – but all these were in rather small venues (Theatro Ghis and PAOK Arena). This time it is big – at the Kaftanzoglio, Thessaloniki’s largest stadium with a capacity of about 35.000! And the city feels ready for it!”
Too bad in a way that I’m going on my own, seems like a city that would be fun to explore with a friend at least. But when you are out there travelling on your own, you get to meet people that you probably wouldn’t even have talked to if you had been travelling with someone, and sometimes you make new friendships. It’s all good, I’m used to it.
Two days I’ll be in Thessaloniki just touristing, and I don’t even know exactly where I want to go or what I want to do. I usually improvise because, if you make too many plans you only get disappointed if things don’t turn out the way you planned.Being in a new city means that everything you see is new and exciting, simply because you haven’t seen it before! Even going to a grocery store in a different country is an experience, because there’s all this stuff that you don’t know what it is. :)
The day after the festival in Thessaloniki, I’m going straight to the airport to fly to the next destination – London, UK. Spending one night there before taking the train to the Stevenage and the Sonisphere Festival. Got my accreditation papers last week. Only attending a few hours to see Firewind and Megadeth first and foremost, then taking the last train back to London and then from there somehow back to Heathrow to get on the first early flight home to Copenhagen – Malmo.
It will be exhausting and I just realized that I’ll be walking around with my luggage at the festival because I won’t have a hotel to keep it in that particular day, haha! Holy shit, this is going to be VERY interesting!
So yeah… all of this requires a lot of pre-planning just for the….uh….logistics. At this point, with everything going on down in Greece, I’m happy to just get there and get home without too much trouble. I have a feeling it will be alright. :-)
[Pic: Stole this one from Gus G’s page]