Live Report - Various (Music) - Sweden Rock Festival 2012 - My Festival Diary
I have been visiting the Sweden Rock Festival since 2003, so this was my ten year anniversary and I was not going to pass that by without celebration. Not even if this looked to be the worst running order in the ten years I have attended the festival. I would not miss the return of King Diamond, nor the other ten bands I looked forward to seeing, but usually this number is in the twenties somewhere (in California). But the Sweden Rock festival is not only about the music. It's the unique atmosphere, meeting old friends, having a good time and possibly, and always unintentionally, getting roaring drunk in the process.
I got up way too early on Wednesday, said goodbye to the family and met up with Michael and Borg, who had borrowed a very blue van to drive us to the festival. This was fortunate since I had packed enough gear to fill a regular car by myself.
For the first time we had decided to book a spot at the Rosenlund camping instead of the regular festival camping. This was due to the past two years of incidents where drunken Sweedish teenagers had invaded our camp and trashed the place. This proved to be a good choice as Rosenlund Camping was much quieter but we could still have a party when we wanted. Only one thing worried me about that camping ground: I never, not even once in the four days there, showed my wristband to get into the camping ground. Security? Evidently not. Anyway, at Rosenlund we met up with Mads and set up camp together.
We were a bit late so there as not much time to relax and get in the mood before I had to run for the Sweden Stage to see Sabaton, who had gotten a 30 minute show to sing the Swedish national anthem and play a few songs of their own.
The national anthem was quickly done and while I didn't understand much of the Swedish that Joakim was talking to the crowd, I got the point when the band launched into "Ghost Division" as the first of their own songs. The band was clearly happy to be there and they played well. The new guys seem to be good fits. After that they played a new song From "Carolus Rex" which sounded ok, but I really wanted a best-of set with such short time, so I could sing a long, jump and go nuts on an air guitar. "Into the Fire" was next and it was not a personal live favorite. My wish to let of some steam was however met with "Primo Victoria" where everyone went bananas, but then the band played "Gott mit uns", Another song from "Carolus Rex" which I didn't know and that drained the energy from the show again. Then they finished the set with Metal Crüe, which was again, not exactly what I had hoped for. It was a party that never got started and I couldn't help leaving the show a little disappointed and unfulfilled.
I decided that a CD shopping spree would help with my mood and went through the cases of an entire shop until my neck hurt. That done I, along with a bag of 19 CD's, headed back to the camp for a beer before checking out the first half of H.E.A.T's show at the Zeppelin stage. The band opened with "Breaking the Silence" from their new album and stuck to their new album for the first part of the show, with "Better off Alone" and "Living on the Run". H.E.A.T played a very good first part of their show and I enjoyed it, but at this point I was restless and not in the mood to see the whole show, so instead I walked around and sucked in the festival atmosphere and watched a little bit of The Bourbon Boys. It was just great to be back at the festival and be able to wind down and suck in the atmosphere. I went to check out the press area, which had been moved this year. It was pretty good with a tent where you could work and get equipment recharged. I'd wish for some shared computers to be set up though. Other than that there was several smaller tents set up where people could meet and relax. The press bar was even bigger this year and so, I found out when I ordered my first Jack D and Coke, were the prices. 85 SEK for a tiny little drink is just outrageous but so were the rest of the prices at the festival, where the regular beer prices had also had a notch up (again).
I headed back to the camp to warm up properly for Edguy.
Edguy was definitely the concert of the day and a highlight of the festival. Edguy are usually very entertaining and tonight was not different. Tobias Sammet made plenty of jokes with an overshadowing amount of good ones. Denmark was mentioned when Tobias thought the crowd was too silent, apparently referring to a crowd at a Danish concert where no one cheered. Plenty of Manowar jokes were also made but they were made with a glint in the eye. Only the "Nickelback suck" comment was clearly meant as it was stated. No doubt about that.
I made my way to the show a bit early to get a good spot and found a place right in the third row at the left side of the stage. This was when I made my first encounter with a new, worrying and positively obnoxious trend: Photographers who invade the front rows of the crowd, only to get a good spot to get pictures and not to enjoy the concert in any way. These two big guys were standing side to side with their cameras ready and another guy to my right had his mobile phone out as well. When the music started I naturally began to sing along, headbang, play air guitar and jump up and down, as any normal fan would during an enjoyable concert. But these stupid fucks just stood there, looking disinterested and stared me down whenever I raised a hand or jumped in the air. What a waste of space. Behind me all I could see were mobile phones raised in the air videotaping the concert.
This was, by the way, the first year that Sweden Rock allowed all kinds of photography and video recording inside the festival area. This showed in a very unfortunate way and I hope they decide to reverse that decision next year.
When the band played "Tears of a Mandrake" as their third song, I decided that I had shown these photographers enough courtesy by holding back and proceeded to enjoy the concert in my own way with plenty of singing, jumping, headbanging and air guitar. A couple of minutes into the song this resulted in one of the guards stepping over the fence, pointing at me and showing me a gesture to tone it down. I was stumped and totally surprised. This was a heavy metal concert! It was not allowed to play air guitar? Come on! What the fuck was going on?
I quickly decided to move on and hopefully find some fans, who I could actually enjoy the concert with. I succeeded in this a little further to the center of the stage and here I proceeded to go nuts to the rest of the song with several other people, who fortunately showed no interest in documenting the concert with their camera or mobile phone.
"Land of the Miracle" was another highlight, which was sung together with my newfound friends at the front and center. This was followed by the live staples, "Lavatory Love Machine", which was ok and "Vain Glory Opera", which was pure bliss. "Robin Hood" from the new album proved to be a successful live song, even if it is kind of silly. A drum solo followed along with the Star Wars theme before "Ministry of Saints", "Save Me" and "Superheores" were a slightly less effective way to end the first part of the set. Fortunately the band came back for encores, the first of which was and old favorite of mine, "Babylon". Needless to say my energy level just rose with this song. It was followed by a snippet of "The Trooper" before "King of Fools" laid the festival grounds to waste by a following of jumping fans. It was around this time that Mads found me in the crowd. It was pretty cold this night and I had worn two jackets and a long sleeve shirt on top of my t-shirt prior to the concert. These had come off one by one during the show and Mads found me, sweating in my t-shirt during "King of Fools" and so we proceeded to sing this one as a duet before the show was over.
The only thing I missed were some of my favorites from Tinnitus Sanctus and of course Theater of Salvation, the song.
Around the time the show ended it was about two in the night and I headed back to my tent for some sleep.
I felt pretty bad when I woke up but it was nothing that a quick visit to the, sadly abysmal, toilet facility and a few whisky and cokes couldn't cure.
Today the whole festival area had been opened up and around lunch time, I quickly made my way to my favorite food vendor, the "Indian Mat" place, where they serve the best Tandoori chicken and homemade naan bread ever. When I arrived there was a great reunion, where I hailed everyone and shook their hands and told them to keep making their most excellent food. Mads happened to walk along and watch this incident, which he thought was immensely funny. Anyway, I got the Tandoori Chicken, which was devoured with intensity and much enjoyment.
Mads and I decided to head over to watch Little Angels who were actually very good, but we quickly decided to head back to the camp to warm up for Night Ranger with music and beer. This turned into an extended session of Pride of Lions songs sung with much heartfelt emotion and come the end of it, we were absolutely ready for Night Ranger. This was the band I had looked most forward to see today and they didn't disappoint.
Night Ranger were playing the large Festival stage and they looked like they absolutely loved being there. Jack Blades especially was on fire throughout the concert. The band's joy shone through in their performance, which was excellent throughout and scattered with a special guest and several songs from bands, which Jack Blades had participated in.
"Lay it on me" opened the show in a great way and by the second song, "Sing me Away", Mads and I were doing just that and mixing it up with several beers from the bar close by. Two Damn Yankees songs were aired today, first "Coming of Age" and later in the show, "High Enough". A cover of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" was also played, the connection being guitarist Brad Gillis. The highlights for me though were Night Ranger's own songs and the show peaked with the title track of their latest album, "Somewhere in California", followed by "The Secret of My Success" from the old Michael J. Fox movie from 1987.
When the band announced their second Damn Yankees cover Mads shouted for "Firefly" (Mental note: Check out if this song is as good as the TV show) but they went with the obvious, "High Enough". I ran for a beer refill half way through the song and just made it back as the band started on my personal favorite "When You Close Your Eyes". The show peaked again here and Mads and I were singing high enough to lure the band members out onto the big ramp that was part of the festival stage.
After this a special guest was announced and at that moment Twisted Sister frontman Dee snider entered the stage and sang along with Jack Blades on one of their defining tunes, "Rock in America".
"Sister Christian" was another highlight and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" ended a fantastic show.
After this hour and a half of melodic rock bliss I headed over to the Rock stage to check out Steel Panther who had put on the most hilarious performance at the festival two years earlier. That concert had been spot on and extremely funny. Unfortunately I was not as infatuated by their show this time and I left, maybe too quickly, to get some dinner. I was also extremely tired today and headed back to the camp for a beer but soon after I fell asleep in my tent and only woke up the next day, having missed a handful of bands.
I decided to make up for my lack of energy this day and get the most of it after about 10 hours of sleep. That must be a festival record.
I headed down to my favorite indian food place for breakfast at lunch time and sat down in the grass with my chicken, only to find that a band called Adrenaline Mob playing the Festival stage.
There was Russell Allen and there was Mike Portnoy on the stage and suddenly I remembered reading about their new band somewhere before. I was just stoked to have caught this band entirely by chance and I silently thanked the Indian food vendor again for his placement on the festival area.
I think I caught the band in the middle of their set and Russell was going through a band introduction, as I sat there and watched. Russell then gave a sincere speech about how glad they were to be at the festival and how they had only had 4 hours of sleep and were quite jetlagged. He then dedicated the next song to his daughter and then the band launched into "All On The Line", which was an amazingly beautiful song. I got up and just stood there, being amazed at the music and the lyrics and how incredibly tight the band was. Their performance was splendid and it is not often that a song being heard in a live situation for the first time makes that much impact.
The rest of the songs they played were in a different style, being more groove-based, more aggressive and packed with so much energy. It is clear that this band enjoyed their live situation. I decided right there that I had to check out this band further when I got home.
After this slight revelation I headed for the press bar to celebrate with an insanely expensive Jack D and Coke. There I got to talking with some friendly people and suddenly it was not just one drink and suddenly it was in the middle of Gamma Ray's set, so I had to run for the Sweden Stage to catch what I could of their show.
It was raining heavily today but a nice crowd had still turned out. I managed to get a good spot on the left side of the stage, just as the band finished off the last part of "Rebellion in Dreamland". Damn, if only I had been there 6 minutes earlier. "Dethrone Tyranny" got me completely into the show and it was great to hear that Kai Hansen still holds his raw voice in great shape. I was in a great mood and sang along as loud as I could. Next up was "To the Metal". Not exactly their best song ever and I wouldn't be sad if they didn't include it ever again. The old Helloween classic, "I Want Out" was played with ease and a very nice dual guitar solo, which had the audience ooo'ing along. The next song was introduced as "Somewhere out in Fucking Sweden" and naturally the real headbangers there went nuts, when they started on that one. It was excellent but as I feared the band pulled out one of their monumentally long sing-a-long interludes in the middle part of the song. It was, however, the perfect opportunity to get a beer from the bar so I wasn't too sad about it and I managed to make it back to the same spot just as the band returned from the interlude to finish the song. Gamma Ray band ended their show with "Send me a Sign".
I was just happy to have experienced some power metal among all the not quite so power metal bands, who were playing Sweden Rock this year. I celebrated back at the camp with Mads by getting absolutely blotto. Around four hours later, several silly phone calls to Tommy, many many duets and an unnumbered amount of drinks, Mads and I decided to head back to the festival site to catch some music, namely Motörhead and perhaps The Flower Kings. We had already been singing Manowar songs at the camp for about an hour, so we thought it only fitting to continue this tribute to the Kings of Metal by singing their songs as loud as we could, all the way to the festival entrance, then all the way through the big queue that had assembled (what else is there to do when you're standing in a queue than scream Manowar songs to your fellow man?), through the body search and all the way down to the Motörhead concert. Lemmy looked pissed as well, so we thought he might want to hear a few Manowar songs but that didn't really work out too well as far as I remember.
At one point we got the splendid idea to invade our favorite CD vendor at Sweden Rock and sing a tribute to his great stock of CD's by way of Manowar songs. I blanked out at this moment and don't remember if he liked it or not but eventually we marched on, to the Schwenk grill for a sausage and then we ended up at the Flower Kings concert, which was actually so excellent that we stopped singing for a while. And that is a major compliment.
The right thing to do at this point would have been to return with Mads to the camp to continue the party, but I just had to go to the press bar for a Jack D and Coke first. After several of those and several failed attempts to get the DJ to play Manowar, along with me deciding to do impromptu Manowar interviews with several guests in the backstage bar, I eventually realized that this was probably not the best place to party in my state, so I returned to our camp, only to find Mads asleep due to me being very late. I sat down in my garden chair, turned on the music on my small speakers and promptly fell asleep in the chair, woke up again, felt very sick and fell asleep in the tent.
Today I was feeling absolutely terrible and only managed to crawl out of my tent because the sun was out and it was so hot inside.
I laid down on the grass to die with a quiet "Argh…"
Some moments later I somehow managed to rise and stumble about a bit, trying to make some sense of it all.
I will not go into detail about what happened then, but I actually managed to make it to the festival area to see part of the Hell concert. Their concert worked as part theater, part concert but by the end it was too much. This was mostly due to the lead singer who is also a movie actor and while he puts on a great show his voice started to grind. It didn't help that I was completely wasted and had absolutely no energy to get into the concert.
After the Hell concert I headed back to the camp to get some more sleep to get ready for what I expected to be the highlight of the festival, King Diamond. I also wanted to check out Slaughter, Symphony X and Lynyrd Skynyrd so I decided I'd better try to revive as much energy as possible.
When I woke up an hour later, I headed back to the festival area and caught part of Bad Company's set, which was a nice surprise. Later I had to decide if I wanted to see Slaughter or Symphony X. Slaughter had the advantage since that might never happen again, so I got down to the Rock stage with a full box of salted popcorn to see what they were about. The band opened with a couple of great songs, including "Wild Life" and I just couldn't take my eyes of their drummer, who was absolutely amazing and did all kinds of stunts, constantly through the songs.
Still, after the first two songs, which did indeed sound very promising, I headed over to the Sweden Stage for Symphony X, because I just couldn't miss them. I'm happy that I did since they played an excellent concert with especially Russell Allen being in a great mood, cracking lots of jokes from the stage and Michael Romeo playing some scorching guitar. I quickly got back in the festival concert mood as the band was playing "Dehumanized" when I arrived. There was a good atmosphere at the stage and Russell was throwing bottles of water to the crowd throughout the show. After "Children of a Faceless God" Russell dedicated the next song to all their fans. The band then played "When All Is Lost" in an extremely beautiful version. There was some funny banter between the band members and you really had to be there to understand how funny it was, when Russell asked Romeo what he had for breakfast and replied Jack D himself and then moments later offered Romeo a cup of something that looked like Whisky. The look on Romeos face had to be seen.
That was just before they played "Inferno (Unleash the Fire)" and I went absolutely crazy on the air guitar. I was finally back in the mood and had sort of forgotten the massive hangover. The band had a great sound and were extremely heavy. "Sea of Lies" ended the main set of the show. Fortunately the band came back for three encores with "Set the World on Fire" finishing off the set. Even though I will probably never get the chance to see Slaughter again I was happy, since Symphony X delivered the goods and my hangover had receded.
After Symphony X I decided to head over to the main stage to warm up for King Diamond with Lynyrd Skynyrd and to get the chance to shout out "Play Free Bird". Lynyrd Skynyrd also delivered the goods and played an excellent show. When the band went on the stage, I was standing halfway through the queue to get the Tandoori chicken. Fortunately that was pretty close to the stage so I could see the large band enter the stage and start on their first song, "Working for MCA". They had a great sound through the concert and played several of my favorites. Highlights included "That Smell", "Simple Man", "Tuesday's Gone" and a three song medley. Especially "Tuesday's Gone" and "Simple Man" had a special ambience that was fantastic. I'd somehow lost my mobile charger the night before, or so I thought, so I ran to the press tent to check it out just as Lynyrd Skynyrd started playing "Gimme Three steps" and I returned without any luck when they were finishing off their set with "Sweet Home Alabama".
It was about forty minutes until King Diamond was to enter the Rock stage and I wanted to be in the first row to get the most from the concert so I headed straight for the stage. When I arrived there, Lynyrd Skynyrd came back for an encore and naturally it was… Free Bird. They did a superb version of this song, including an extended instrumental middle part. When they finished I turned my attention to the Rock Stage, which was being decorated for the upcoming show. A huge black curtain hang down to cover the main part of the stage, so we couldn't see what was behind there. But suddenly some crew guys came out and started setting up a fence in front of the curtain. I remembered this fence from back in 2000-something when King Diamond played in Aarhus.
I was unable to secure a place in the front row but got a pretty good spot in the third row, just to the right of the stage, or so I thought at the time.
Finally some crew guys came out and tore down the curtain as a guy behind the curtain introduced King Diamond. Suddenly the show was on and as the curtain was gone the stage appeared as a multi-level set with stairs, a glowing pentagram at the top, several lit candles and crosses hanging all around the stage. It was pretty impressive but the fence marred the overall impression since it actually blocked the view of most of the stage from where I stood.
King Diamond opened the show with "The Candle". I was very excited to hear if his voice still hold up after about 5 years of absence from the live scene. Amazingly, I don't think I have ever heard him sing better than he did tonight. He had an amazing tone and power in his voice and it felt like he was in total control. The stage show was hectic and there was lots of things happening. Unfortunately I couldn't see much due to the fence and often had to crane my neck around to look up at the video screen next to the stage, which felt kind of awkward.
Another thing that felt awkward were all the silent people standing around me, holding their mobile phones high in the air, taking pictures or video taping the concert. When King Diamond played Welcome Home as the second song I could only hear myself and another guy standing four people away singing along and weirdly there was no room to go nuts since everyone stood still around me trying to get the perfect video or photo. The only people who were doing anything crazy were drunken weirdos who tried to push and shove their way to the front. Several of those were, however, quickly stopped by the largest of the mobile phone fanatics, when they tried to push past them. One of the drunken guys seemed to be a fan and stayed around but when I looked at him two minutes later, he had fallen asleep, still standing. I must confess that I actually managed to fall asleep standing myself, to the Mercyful Fate concert at The Wacken Open Air Festival back in 1999 so I guess it can happen to the best of them, but seriously, not in the front row! There was nothing wrong with King Diamonds performance tonight but the ambience in the audience made it hard to enjoy the first part of the concert to the fullest. About half way through the concert I decided to head out of the front row crowd and further back to find some fans, who actually seemed to enjoy the concert.
But enough of dissing the crowd, back to the concert.
"Welcome Home" was the second song played and I let out a loud happy shout as King asked us to please welcome his grandma. She was rolled onto the stage in a wheelchair as he sang the opening line. I was even more amazed now as he nailed the high pitched wail of Grandmaaaa! The song was delivered in a perfect way. Lots of theatrics going on on stage and the perfect musical delivery. Wow! After a short drum solo the show continued with "Voodoo", the highlight of that song being the crazy theatrics going on the stage.
A personal favorite from Conspiracy came with "At The Graves" and again the band nailed the song. Andy La Rocque's guitar solos were especially fine and King amazingly nailed all the voices. Next the band moved onto The Graveyard with "Up From The Grave". A rather simple song, made much better by the excellent theatrics on the stage. The image of King Diamond digging up the grave on the stage will stay with me for a long time.
After this song, I decided to leave the life-sucking crowd at the front and move further back to try and find some like-minded fans, I could enjoy the concert with. I found that about 20 rows back just as the band introduced "Sleepless Nights". Yay!
A special highlight of the show came a little later as King started to introduce some special guests. Mercyful Fate guitarist Hank Shermann and Volbeat vocalist Michael Poulsen were invited on stage to play the Mercyful Fate classic "Come to The Sabbath"! This was a definite highlight and an amazing thing to witness. It worked really well.
The two special guests left the stage and the band continued with "Eye of the Witch" from the most excellent The Eye album. This was another highlight but after the song King Diamond suddenly said goodnight after only about an hour of playing time.
A little bit of time went by and fortunately the band came back and King started on the band introductions. When the got to Andy La Rocque he announced "The one and only: Andy La Rocque", who then started on the opening riff of "The Family Ghost". After this, another two special guests were invited on stage, namely drummer Mikkey Dee and guitarist Michael Denner. They joined the band and played the classic "Halloween" with great style. Another highlight was over before I knew it and the last song of the evening was "The Black Horsemen", crazy theatrics included.
King Diamond played a fantastic show, which musically and theatrically could not have been much better. Unfortunately I missed the red thread, which is usually evident at a normal King Diamond show. I understand this is nigh on impossible at a festival show with special guest appearances, but on a personal note I would have dreamed up another setlist, including some Puppet Master songs. Other unfortunate elements were the fence, which blocked the view for the first half of the concert and the crowd at the front of the stage, where I was unlucky enough to stand. Overall a special and highly enjoyable show but it didn't hit my bullseye.
After the show I walked around aimlessly for a bit because I wanted to see if Mötley Crüe were better than the last time at Sweden Rock, where I managed to stand two of their songs before moving on. They were not. Vince Neil's voice is seriously out of shape but fortunately he had some very nice backup singers. It looked like a cool show but I was just not in the mood at this point and headed back to camp and then home to Denmark.
One thing I noticed this year, which was very satisfying was that the Sweden Rock crew seem to have cleared up the usual sound problems, which have plagued so many concerts in the past. The sound at all the concerts I attended was between good and very good, so kudos to whoever brought in these improvements. This made my enjoyment of the concerts that much better since it was possible to actually hear the instruments instead of the usual muddy sound.
This was another great festival experience. Not my dream selection of participating bands but good enough for me. Here's to another ten years of Sweden Rock!
I don't know where the years have gone
Memories can only last so long
Like faded photographs, forgotten songs
And the things I never knew
When the skin is thin, the heart shows through
Please believe me what I tell you is true