Friday, June 7, 2013

A Canadian Decibel Geek In Sweden....first and second days


Well fellow "geekers", it looks like I made it safe and sound to my destination in Stockholm.  I departed Toronto at about 9:20pm on Monday June 3rd on a rather lengthy flight (a little under 7 hours) in which I busied and amused myself with a nice balance of movie watching, reading a novel, sleep, listening to music and writing for Decibel Geek.  I have decided to present my Swedish adventure with time stamps throughout the day, starting with my travels and first day in Stockholm.

Tuesday June 4th, 2013

6:30pm-I arrived at Toronto International airport in good time for my flight.  I was excited and nervous, hard to believe that this all came together in the end on such short notice I hadn’t had any time to give it any thought until now.  I found my check in counter for British Airways and joined the short line formed there.  I was struck by how fitting it was as I heard a song from Saxon’s latest release, Sacrifice, ebb through my headphones, Standing in a Que as I waited to approach the ticket counter.

7:15pm-Once you’re at the airport the trip has begun in my world, so after the security checks, the off with the shoes-on with the shoes routine including a rather cool chemical screen testing procedure that I’d never seen before.  I located my escape hatch (departure gate) and settled in for the wait to board, starting off with a beer and a burger and fries…..the diet is officially off for the next 6 days!

8pm-In the lounge killing time for the boarding procedures and a piece of the drop ceiling fell down, landing next to a young boy.  Luckily no-one was hurt by the mishap.

10am-I’m now on British time (I calculate it to be 5am EST back home about now) as I’ve just landed at Heathrow for a two hour stopover before continuing on to Stockholm.  Well, I’d better get some breakfast….and since they’re serving a beer as well.....  I chose a Greenwich Meantime Lager to go with my bacon and eggs, a weird combo I know, but I was living dangerously.  One things for certain and I’m glad I’m a seasoned traveler as it’s a lot easier to bring some local currency even for airport stopovers as the conversion is easier to do and I wisely spent most of my Great British Pounds in the airport.

2:30pm-Swedish time, so one hour ahead of Britain and 6 ahead of Toronto now) The flight was uneventful as I enjoyed “The Grand Siesta” for the duration, having the ability to stretch out across the empty seats in my row.  I awoke and saw that a nice view was provided as I looked out the window while we passed over Alberg, Denmark.

4pm-On my disembarkation from the aircraft I couldn't help the stereotype of Ikea that popped into my head as I passed through the airport’s lime green stairways.  Absolutely fly through customs in Stockholm and make my way to the Arlanda Express, the high speed train connecting Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport with the city center.  I could have taken a bus or commuter train for a cheaper price, but I thought with the limited time I had that it was better to spend the 260SEK (approx. $41CDN) and get into the city faster.  Of course the machine doesn't take cash, I can’t remember my credit card PIN# (tried several times, resulting in the card being frozen!) and it says that there’s a chip error with my debit card!  Some directions and assistance from an Arlanda employee led me back to a ticket counter for cash purchases and we were once again on the way.

I'm sure that doesn't mean what I think it does!
6pm-I've found the hostel and checked in, pausing to freshen up a bit and then it’s back to the train station to search out a payphone to collect call the bank and sort out my card issues.  I wandered that station for quite some time, asking many people for directions and assistance to no avail looking for a pay phone.  I guess since mostly everyone has a cell phone now, pay phones are a thing of the past, but after some time I succeeded in my mission!

7pm-I strolled through the streets of Stockholm around the Central Train Station.  The city seemed to be an even mix of modern and classic (old) mixed together with parks spread throughout.  I noticed that many intersections would highly confuse the North American as they are a basic clusterf**k of lights and lanes for bikes, cars, pedestrians. One in particular had about 8 different lights on one corner.

7:45pm-With not much good sleep and the time differences I was beginning to wear down, so I stopped at the Bishop’s Arms Pub for dinner and of course a beer.  This time I had Landsort Lager, a traditional Swedish Lager it says on the bottle and I’m told a local beer.  After the heart attack of seeing the price (even after the conversion rate) it was definitely time for sleeping and I made my way back to the hostel to prepare for an early rise tomorrow to catch the train to Solvesborg.

Wednesday June 5th, 2013

3:30am-the birds are chirping extremely loudly already, I guess my worry over waking up to an alarm on my watch is a thing of the past!  I’m not too sure how light it was then as I didn't bother to remove my melon from its rather comfortable place nestled under the covers.  But I do know that when I peeked out finally at 4am it was obvious why the birds were chirping as it was light as day outside.  Obviously very short nights here in Sweden and I recall hearing that at points of the year there is no night at all!

5:30am-finding both McDonald’s and Burger King closed (neither opening until 7 according to the posted hours), I purchased what I think are 2 chicken Caesar wraps at a 7-Eleven to start the day and sustain me on the train ride as well.

6am-I’m obviously on the right train as there are several apparent Swedish Rock goers aboard, two attractive young ladies were struggling with a weak looking two wheel dolly cart loaded with at least 5 cases of beer cans!  Ahhhhh, I must be in the right place!

10am-I arose from an uneasy slumber, at first fearing that I may have missed my transfer point, but soon realized that the train was delayed.  All announcements were of course in Swedish, but once again as a seasoned traveler, I had printed out the train route before leaving Toronto and could tell where we were by the stops we were passing by.  That and I just followed the lead of the other obvious Sweden Rockers who did not seem panicked to still be on the train!
12pm-Wow!  I thought I got lost on the ship my first time on Monsters of Rock, but that was nothing compared to the spread that covered the grounds here for Sweden Rock Festival.  Immense is just not a big enough word!  I checked in at the Accreditation booth with no issues and after some (OK, a lot of walking and asking) I finally discerned where my campground was.
1:30pm-Camp Decibel Geek is built and ready to go!
2-3:30pm-were spent wandering the massive expanse of the festival, browsing the many vendors and stalls and the stages.
Even The Meister can figure this one out!

The Last Band (Sweden)

3:30pm-The festival kicked off with the first band, ironically named The Last Band on the 4Sound Stage.  The drummer approached center stage with his drum sticks clutched above his head in one hand and sporting a yellow Power Rangers costume.  The rest of the band joined him and they were all in the Power Rangers outfits, so if you’re dressed as such I guess what better way to open your set than with The Power Rangers Theme?  The sound seemed to be good which was contrary to some internet reviews that I’d seen on last year’s festival.  The Last Band pounded through their set of original songs, removing the masks into the third song.  I met a photographer friend and he provided me with the following very truthful quote for the day, "the girls are amazing"!  I didn't stay for the whole set and I was heading away as they ripped into a version of Blondie’s Call Me that sounded quite good. 

Stacie Collins (US)

4:20pm-Stacie Collins started her 40 minute performance on the Sweden Rock Stage and had drawn more of a crowd than I expected that she would after hearing some of her country flavored music before trekking out from Toronto.  She definitely did not sound as country playing here live and I now see her fitting in quite well with the festival.  Again, the sound was great and she had everyone in the crowd from all ages and walks of life tapping their feet along with her.  I noticed that many of the festival goers were also dressed in costumes of sorts with different wigs and hats and one brave or odd gentleman also wearing what appeared to be pink ladies underwear and nothing else!

The Scams (Sweden)

5:15pm-It was back to the 4Sound Stage now for one of my "Treasured Swedish Trio" with The Scams.  This show was one that I had highly anticipated, loving their Bombs Away CD since I`d purchased it upon reading a brief internet review.  They opened with the song Bombs Away and pounded through Heavy Load and Get Up And Move Along.  All three were awesome through and through and I was so glad that I`d been able to make the trip for this festival and catch these guys live.  At one point I had asked lead vocalist Tobias Ander for an email or phone interview, but we have been unable to correlate it as of yet.  I decided today by the third song of their set that I will pursue that a little bit harder.  The bass player took over the center stage microphone next for my favorite Scams song and also the theme of the festival for me in Thrill Is On with Pour Me One More following close on the heels.  Tobias was back handling vocal duties for a track that I didn't recognize and I assume is from one of their earlier recordings that I have as yet been unsuccessful in finding for purchase.  I`m Not Alone thundered next followed by what Tobias announced was called Black Widow, another track I was unfamiliar with.  It was hard to understand the announcements of songs as everything that Tobias was saying was of course in his native Swedish language except for "Black Widow", so could be an old song or maybe a new one, in either case I have to redouble
 my efforts to find their other music for purchase.  Die Tonight preceded what was called Fuck Like A Priest and I would be intrigued to see the lyrics to the latter, but I did catch the line of something about "down on your knees", so I think I can figure out the general gist!  They finished up with Killer Machine and left me wanting more as I made a note to pass by the merchandise booth (of which there is only one for official band merchandise and it`s not as big as the one for Sweden Rock Festival merchandise……this is an oversight I think! 

6pm-After The Scams I headed to the urination area and opted for a stall in the trailer as opposed to the aluminum trough this time.  As I was voiding my bladder I could hear the quiet and soft but none the less unmistakable sounds of two people getting it on in the next stall!  Now that`s a rock festival…lol!

6:15pm-it`s a quick jaunt back to camp for a chapeau as my bald melon is getting a bit crisp!  On my way back to re-enter the festival I can hear the group of seven nine year old kids covering KISS' Heaven's On Fire.  The name of the group eludes me, but I recall seeing something about them before I left Toronto.  There are seven of them, all nine years old and they play in a rock cover band, very cool kids I think!  Also on my way back I passed by a young lady who looked rather familiar and after some time later I realized it was the very same girl that I saw doing the famous "walk of shame" the morning after The Rockerz Gone Wild Pool Party in Florida before the Monsters of Rock Cruise. 

Threshold (UK)

6:30pm-Threshold was to take the Sweden Stage at 6:30pm, but there were some technical difficulties and the lead singer came out to talk to the crowd for a minute, promising to see us in a few.  After being introduced (in Swedish again as were most of the intros) they began the first song, stopping after a few bars for more technical issues.  The singer kept the crowd entertained, talking while they frantically worked to solve the problems.  They got underway again and I'm not sure what the original problem was, but now there was only bass, drums and vocals that I could hear from the left side of the stage.  From two guitar players I could not even hear a note!  The problem was steadily corrected during the song and by the end seemed much better.  I moved on after the first two songs in search of the backstage press-VIP area.

7:10pm-The backstage VIP bar and lounge area is rather cool, quite obviously sponsored by Jagermeister as their logo and name were plastered everywhere.  There were pinball machines, a couple of black jack tables, ping pong tables and lounge couches and chairs as well as food stands and the press tent area.

7:30pm-while waiting for Sister Sin to storm the Rockklassiker Stage for the second of my greatly anticipated "Treasured Swedish Trio" I had to make use of the "street urinal".  I saw these a fair bit on my travels through Europe and it`s basically the size of an outhouse, but at each of the four corners it`s a urinal, with your back open to the public I might add!

Sister Sin (Sweden)

7:45pm-Sister Sin stormed the stage opening with Judgement Day and Liv had a little platform at center stage so she could be elevated.  They sounded amazing and there was a really good crowd for them, several, like myself sporting Sister Sin shirts.  Liv herself looked amazing as well and she even seemed to have a certain glint in her eyes showing her happiness to be on stage.  Fight Song came next as the band ramped it up bringing a hard energy and looking possessed with the crowd singing along, fists in the air.  Hearts Of Cold (which I didn't get to hear live in Toronto) showed me exactly what it was all about.  The crowd and the band seemed to understand each other here in their homeland and this is definitely the place to see Sister Sin perform as this is a strong audience for them.  Dave Sundberg looked happy to be behind the kit, feeling the music (as told by the expressions on his face) and could be seen mouthing along with the words.  Liv paused for a few brief moments which entailed her taking a photo of the audience before they bashed through into One Out Of Ten.  Bassist Strandh could be seen throughout the set smiling and pointing from time to time at audience members and they charged full steam ahead into The Chosen Few.  The intensity and concentration could be seen on the guitarist (whose name eludes me at this point) and Liv`s venom and piss and vinegar attitude oozing from the stage as she enticed the crowd into chanting "Hey" as the lead in to Outrage.  I would certainly support this band and buy more merchandise except that I already have the t-shirt and anything else available is mostly girlie related and I really can`t use a pair of Sister Sin panties!  U.D.O.`s 24/7 was next and I still say that Sister Sin takes the original and tops it all the way, sorry Mr. Dirkschneider.  Next was a
 bit of a treat as I hadn't heard it in Toronto with Beat `Em Down followed by On Parole from the first CD Switchblade Serenades.  Another treat in Love/Hate came next and Liv`s hair was whipping all around as she was a head banging frenzy on stage.  For Sound Of The Underground Liv was hoisting her mike stand high in the air over her head and all three were bouncing in unison.  Better Than Them finished the set and they left the stage, Liv blowing kisses to the crowd as they went.  After about five minutes they returned for a final bow, Liv blowing kisses once again and even passing the set list to a fan down in front of the stage.  Liv had told me in our interview that she preferred performing on the big festival stages and I see that now.  What a show, what a band!

Sweet (UK)

9:05pm-had to make a trip back to Decibel Geek HQ to obtain a sweater and on my way back into the grounds I could hear Sweet starting their first song, New York Groove.  While it sounded great, I much prefer Ace Frehley's version from his 1978 KISS Solo album, but then I am a huge KISS fan, so maybe I'm biased!  KISS play tomorrow night and I`m looking forward to that for sure!  Hellraiser was next, followed by Turn It Down and they sounded much heavier live and were obviously happy to be back on stage.  Sixteens was next as I decided to move along and see what other trouble I could get into.  Holy crap it's getting crowded as I try to move on, Sweet has a large draw, but they're just not my flavor.

9:30pm-as I entered the VIP Backstage bar once again, I saw Liv and Dave from Sister Sin exiting the other side and I'm too old and they're too far away for me to chase them down to say "hi".  They brought it tonight all the way, but maybe I'll get to see them later on.  A few people are around at the VIP bar, but no one that I recognize and I'm extremely tired and beat up from being in the hard sun all day as well.  Beers have been kept to a minimum overall , surprisingly, probably due to the cost, so anyways I think I’ll catch Bullet and call it a night.  I've checked the press tent a couple of times now and there are no open charging stations, I’ll have to try a new plan of attack and go with “the early bird gets the worm” play or my camera will never last through the day!  While having the last Sofiero beer of the night  at the VIP lounge area I noticed that while it was really hot in the heat and sun of the day, it's down right chilly out now.  It’s gonna be a cold night at Decibel Geek HQ tonight!

Bullet (Sweden)

10:30pm-on the way to Bullet's performance I just remembered that earlier today I saw some idiot (a 40 year old man) in a Justin Bieber concert shirt walking around here….probably a good way to cause harm to yourself sir!  Bullet took the stage under a lighted sign displaying the band name at promptly 10:30pm.  One thing's for sure and that's that they seem to keep pretty good to time here as everything has been on schedule so far barring the technical difficulties at Threshold.  Bullet opened with Midnight Oil and I could already tell that I would not be disappointed with the final act of my "Treasure Swedish Trio".  Lead vocalist, Dag “Hell” Hoffer is a big guy so there’s not much jumping around from him as he belted out the lyrics with his powerful voice dressed in a regal looking Full Pull  album cover cape.  They ripped into Turn It Up Loud for the next track in this straight ahead, balls out rock barrage.  They use fire pots and flash pods, flames and fireworks to accent their set, the first of the likes I've seen here so far today.   The title track from the newest CD Full Pull was next and the crowd were jumping almost in unison.  The area is rather packed and I couldn't (didn't feel like) fighting my way any closer to the stage .  Dag paused during the songs, looking out at the audience expecting and listening to us sing the choruses of the tracks while the rest of the band was quite ramped up.  As the music suggests (even recorded) the high energy vibe was seething through the air on the wisps of the smoke from the smoke machines.  Rolling Home took us to a recorded intro during which the band left the stage for a few moments prior to Highway Pirates.  Dag then addressed the crowd, in Swedish of course, so I could understand nothing, except the two English words that he spoke during the Swedish monologue which were "Stay soft!"  Not sure where he was going and in retrospect maybe better that I didn't comprehend it!  They then launched into Stay Wild (a favorite Bullet
 track of mine) followed by Dusk Till Dawn.   Dag almost prances around the stage as if he’s holding some kind of court in his stately Full Pull robes as they charged through Ramblin’ Man next and his good strong voice took us into We’re Back after that.  Bite The Bullet aptly closed the assault and at the end all three guitarists lined up, holding their instruments over their heads and flipped them around revealing that each had a word clearly printed on the back.  They spelled Bite The Bullet and if I recall that was the title of an early in my career bio article that I did on Bullet in my novice days at Decibel Geek.

11:45pm-I made my way to the exit gates and it looks like I was not the only one as a lot of folks seemed to be leaving the concert area, maybe Candlemass is not a huge draw, but more likely there are just so many people here that it doesn't make a difference!

*****All photography (except the banner at the top of the page) taken by The Meister on location in Sweden, June 4th and 5th, 2013.*****

Cheers From Solvesborg, Sweden
The Meister


Magnus Petersson said...

Hope you enjoy this great festival! I live in Solvesborg (or Sölvesborg as its actually spelled, if you have umlauts on the keyboard), a wonderful city. Even though Sweden is not an English speaking country, about 89% speaks English fluently. A must see in Solvesborg is the castle ruins and the museum. The church was built in the 13th century.

The Meister said...

I am back home now in Toronto tonight and yes, I loved the festival, already planning my return next year. Unfortunately I do not have the capabilities on my keyboard, so often any umluats and accents do not appear. Next year I will plan to stay longer so that I may travel a little as well and see things such as the castle, which would be right up my alley

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