Wednesday, June 6 - Arrival
It was finally time for the Sweden Rock Festival again! After working hard for the past year, I was more than ready. After the success at Keep It True, I'd decided to drive up to the festival and sleep in my car.
Arriving at the Festival site on Wednesday, in good time, turned into a slight nightmare, as a massively slow queue started a few kilometres out. An hour and a half later, I rolled into Rosenlund Camping. I'd booked a camp site for a tent and a car, but since I wanted to sleep in the car, I had to upgrade to a motor home, meaning that I was sent to the place, where all the caravans were located. I thought that was right next to the entrance, so that was perfect, except that area was already filled to the max and closed off, so instead, I was sent all the way down to a place behind the camping ground and the regular parking lot. There, an official, who was telling the caravans where to park, took one look at my car, shook his head in a kind of "What are you doing here???"-kinda-way and told me "Just drive all the way to the back and park there". It was the most remote place ever, but I drove down to the end of the field and parked there, near a fence to some kind of industrial area.
So, I got the car parked, pulled out my chair, speaker, a beer and sat down. From my vantage point, I could see the other caravans slowly filling up the field, and right across from me, I could see a nice row of eight portaloos. Fortunately, I was still some way from them, and I just hoped the wind would blow in the right direction, away from me.
While I sat there watching the caravans moving in, one by one, I quickly realized that there wouldn't be room for everybody, and sure enough, when a caravan parked right next to my car, the driver of the next one got out and started arguing with the camping officials. A few moments later an official came to me and asked if I woudn't mind moving my car, because now I was taking up the space for the caravans. I said allright, if we could find a good spot.
He had just the place in mind, so I went with him as he walked over to the portaloos and pointed to an empty spot right next to them. My car would have fitted here, but it would mean that I would have to back right up to this row of, though fine looking portaloos, knowing how the festival would unfold, I was sure that my car would be mistaken for one at some point or other. So I refused, but noticed a huge rock behind the portaloos and behind that, there was some space as well, so we agreed that I could park there. At that point I didn't think about the fact, that a big rock next to a portaloo is just an open invitation for all males to stand around and pee on it (myself included).
Anyway, A bit of moving later, I settled down in my new spot, all alone on the field, just me, a huge rock and a row of portaloos. This was without a doubt, my least glamorous entrance to a festival ever, and sitting there, drinking my first beer, already feeling a strange smell lingering in the warm air, I desperately hoped that the wind would pick up soon. Oh well, I was only going to sleep there, but still... This was not good.
I was quickly onto my second beer before deciding to head to the festival area to get my wristband and hunt for some records and of course, to catch Nocturnal Rites, who would play at 19:00.
Nocturnal Rites and The Quireboys were the two bands, I would be seeing on this first day, so it was a nice slow day to suck in the atmosphere and walk around. Checking the camping grounds on the way, I was unable to spot the Scottish flag, which would mark the location of Sean and Dodge, my Scottish companions from years' past, who I had failed to meet and party with last year. I had brought my tent along, so I could set it up somewhere in case of an emergency, but with no Scottish flag in sight, I moved on and texted Sean and Dodge about it.
Walking all the way to the festival entrance (1.4km) is always an experience, and it was clear right away that Sweden Rock still has the same great atmosphere, as I've come to love. The first thing I did, was check out if my favorite place, "Indisk Mat" was still there, and fortunately it was. One Tandoori chicken with home made naan bread later, I walked over to get my wrist band and entered the festival area. Unexpectedly, I received a photoshirt as well.
It was about six o'clock at this point, so I had an hour to hunt for albums. I found a few vinyl gems, which I left at the vendor (Battle Cry Records - Hi Andi!) to pick up later. Then I moved over to the 4Sound stage to check out Nocturnal Rites. I was happy to discover that they had reunited last year and found their new album to be excellent, so I expected the festival to start off on a high. I secured a good spot near the front and waited for the band to enter. They did a few moments later and opened with "Before We Waste Away" from the new album.
Excellent opener, but unfortunately, as soon as Jonny Lindkvist started singing, it was clear that their sound sucked big time. I was unable to hear the vocals at all, as they were drowned out by the loud, booming drums. Fortunately, the other fans in the front row also knew the songs, so we happily proceeded to shout them back to the stage. The band looked like they had a good time and this sound problem was probaly only evident in the first rows, as other people I spoke to, who stood farther back said the sound was better there. At that moment, I had no idea and proceeded to be annoyed with the sound but happy to finally see the band.
The sound got slightly better through the show, and it was the only problem in an otherwise excellent show. "Shadowland" was the third song of the evening, and a highlight from the first part of the show, where everyone around me jumped along, and it was great to hear this old classic.
Other favorite moments included "Afterlife", where everyone around me went crazy and later "A Heart As Black As Coal" from the latest album, where I went crazy. It was clear that there were more fans of the older albums than the new one, in the front rows. I had hoped for more songs from the latest album, but I think both groups of fans got their wish.
The bad sound took away some of my enjoyment of the show, but it was still an enjoyable show, just not the amazing revelation, I had hoped for.
After the show was over, I ran for the Sweden stage, where The Quireboys were set to play 15 minutes later.
I’ve seen The Quireboys numerous times by now, and they always deliver. I went to the photopit to get some shots. This unexpected development with me getting a photo shirt, resulted in some funny moments, where the other photographers looked at my tiny camera, giving me a nod and a smile.
The Quireboys delivered a solid show with a good mix of old and newer songs, though with empasis on the older stuff. A highlight was Spike’s banter between the songs.
When we exited the photo shoot, Spike said that we should take some photos of the audience instead of them, as they were much more interesting. Several photographers complied and suddenly there was a big queue to get out of the photo pit.
Back in the audience, we got great versions of "Mona Lisa Smiled", "Tramps and Thieves" and "There she goes again", with Spike throwing a rose from the stage to a lucky audience member. The show also included a tribute to Taj Mahal. Also Spike was not in total control of the set list, as he wanted to play the ballad, "I Don't Love You Anymore" a bit too early. He also made a little fun of Sweden, referencing the time they recorded a song there, in a town, which was sadly closed. I seem to remember hearing that one before.
The band ended the show on a party note and I left tired but satisfied. A good show, but not quite up there with their best.
I went back to my row of toilets to sleep and get ready for the big Thursday.
I woke up after a nice sleep in the car and went through the mind numbing procedure of visiting the portaloos, finding new clothes, putting on sunscreen, washing and an hour later, I was totally ready for another day.
Unfortunately, the wind had not quite picked up yet, so I was getting a slight smell of old toilet. It did not help that a big truck appeared and started emptying those portaloos.
I got the speaker out, ate some breakfast, turned up the music and opened the first beer of the day and everything was better.
Crazy Lixx, Battle Beast and Avatarium
My concert day kicked off with Crazy Lixx at 11:30. I'd first seen them play the Sweden Radio stage back in 2007 and never forgot about their impressive display of energy and spirit, even if I have failed to properly check out their albums since. They still have that same energy and party attitude and just before noon, they blew the roof the festival with a truly fantastic show, which made me want to go and party on the rest of the day. The whole band was on fire. They had a natural edge to them and just played really well together. The sound at the 4Sound stage was excellent today and I had lunch, while watching the band deliver a fantastic show. I once again made a mental note to get hold of their albums, and while writing this back home, Ruff Justice is playing in the background. Excellent album.
Compared to Crazy Lixx, Battle Beast was a step down, both in sound, energy and vibe. Their sound was strangely flat and coming right from Crazy Lixx's natural sound, this sounded strangely compressed and digital. It was the stupidest mistake of the day that I left Crazy Lixx 15 minutes early to see the whole of Battle Beast's set. I'd never seen Battle Beast before, heard good things, and wanted to check them out. The band delivered a good show, but I was distracted by the strange sound and even though they play high speed heavy metal, they failed to quite capture that same energy level as Crazy Lixx had just delivered. If Crazy Lixx was a massive kick in the balls, then Battle Beast was a polite smack on the ass.
After Battle Beast, I moved back to the 4Sound stage to check Avatarium, who proved to be a nice breather. Really atmospheric, heavy and inviting. Lead singer Jennie-Ann Smith has a fantastic voice and it came alive today, even if she was sometimes a little low in the mix. Moonhorse was a favorite moment, which mixed heaviness and angelic vocals into something special, but the whole show had a special air to it. It served as a unique side dish on my schedule of bands. Avatarium really stood out among the crowd.
After Avatarium, I went to Battle Cry Records and picked up and paid for my records and then went back to the car with them. I had a beer and then it was already time to head back, so I could get a good spot for the band, I was looking most forward to seeing, The Dark Element. Being a huge fan of Jani Liimatainen's work, I was looking forward to hear his music live, though I still dream of a Cain's Offering concert at some point.
While drinking my beer in my one-man camp, I got a text som Sean saying that their flag had blown away or something, so I should look for the Viking tent instead. On the way to the stages, I discovered the Viking tent and said Hi to Dodge, but I moved on quickly, as I wanted to be sure that I got a good spot for The Dark Element. I found myself standing in front of the Sweden stage half an hour early, in the front row, which was perfect. I talked with some of the other guys there and got ready for the show.
The Dark Element
Finally the band entered the stage with big smiles and began their show with the title track of their debut. This was the band's first live show ever, and I was excited to see if they could live up to their superb album. Fortunately, they delivered a convincing performance and nailed several moments to perfection. I enjoyed the concert fully and often went completely bananas in the front row, singing and jumping along, sometimes with cow hat on, and sometimes with cow hat off.
I found that The Dark Element stood out among all the other bands by being very personal and carrying with them a feeling of happiness and togetherness. I absolutely loved their show.
Anette sang with boh vigor and feeling, and though she sounded a little out of breath on ocassion, she delivered a fine performance. Everyone looked like they had a great time, and based on the fact that this was their first live show, they seemed surprisingly relaxed.
The band played every song from their debut, except for Heaven in your Heart, though in a different order, and it worked brilliantly. Of course I love all the songs, so that is easy for me to say.
The absolute highlight of the show for me, was "The Only One Who Knows Me", already being a favorite from the album, I was hoping they would play it live and they did! They delivered a superb version of the song and completely captured the mood and atmosphere of the song. Anette also nailed the ballad, "Someone You Used To Know".
I'd promised to send a video of the show to my daughter, who is also a big fan of the band, so against all my instincts, I pulled forward my phone and recorded three small clips to send home. I just hate it when people in the front rows stand there, completely still, recording every song and look annoyed when I get too close, but for a few moments, I was in that same boat.
Between songs, Jani was constantly heading to his side of the stage to suck on a beer. Anette tried to introduce him at one point but gave up, saying that he was a bit shy.
The band ended the show with "My Sweet Mystery" and I left happy and fulfilled.
Press bar gathering
After this magnificent show, I celebrated at the press bar with a drink. Heading back out to the music, I ran into Pasi, the guy I had met last year, lead singer of Freternia and Cromonic, and who I had bonded with over the magnificence of Manowar's Achilles. It was a big reunion moment and I was introduced to some of his friends, including his crazy brother.
Spirits were running high and we had a great time, drinking beer, singing Manowar ("I Hear the silent voices..."), quoting Monty Python and talking music. Pasi asked if I wanted to join them for Helloween and I immediately obliged. It was great to have someone to see a concert with for a change.
It was a cool unexpected moment to meet them, and just one of those moments that happen at Sweden Rock and then evolve.
With Pasi in the lead, we managed to secure a spot, pretty close to the front, even though we, only minutes away from the beginning of the concert, realized we were late, and ran from the press bar. What transpired, I will not truly be able to summarize in mere words, as it was a concert of both incredible power and deep feeling.
Three singers, Kai Hansen, Michael Kiske and Andi Deris, recounting the history of Helloween in the most magnificent way.
The band opened with Halloween, a short part of it anyway, and I could really feel the excitement in the crowd and already, the hairs on my neck began to stand up. Kiske was able to hit the high notes, seemingly without any problems what so ever!
Dr. Stein was next and Kiske and Deris traded lines. It was such a fantastic feeling to hear these old classics again, and the band really brought them justice in every way.
I just went crazy during the show, jumping and singing along with the other guys, and only got a few pictures, but the memories, wow. Moments like the heavy opening section of I'm Alive, Kai Hansen's entire medley of "Starlight", "Ride the Sky", "Judas" and "Heavy Metal (Is the Law)", the whole of "Power", actually hearing "Eagle Fly Free" with Kiske nailing it, the sweeping chorus of "The Keeper Of The Seven Keys" and "Future World", ending with a big bang, as it segued directly into "I Want Out" and huge Helloween balloons came flying off the stage, all those moments were unforgetable.
It may sound as if songs like "A Little Time", "Dr. Stein" and "How Many Tears" were only sidenotes in a fantastic concert, but truth is, they were highlights as well. Oh, and we also got "If I Could Fly" and "Waiting For The Thunder". The brilliant dual guitar solos are another thing to remember and overall, Helloween delivered a historic show, I will not forget anytime soon.
After the magnificence that was Helloween Re-united, I hailed Pasi and the guys and went off to get pictures of the mighty Iron Maiden, who were set to play 20 minutes later. Unfortunately, upon reaching the front of the festival stage, I found that I had fought my way to the wrong side of the stage, as I was told that photographers had to enter On the other side (Ray Wilson). Then I ran all the way through the big crowd, to the other side of the stage, Several audience members were none too happy about letting me through, but I made it just in time. As it turned out, Maiden photographers had to silver-approved, and I’d never heard of that, so obviously, the photo pit was a no go.
I might as well have stayed with the Pasi party, so I was a bit annoyed. Instead, I went back into the crowd to experience the show. I found that I was totally starved, having eaten absolutely nothing since noon, so I ran off to find something to eat, before Maiden started. I found a German sausage vendor, where I loaded up on Curry Wurst and Grill Wurst. I ended up quite a bit away from the stage, but with a good view of the whole thing.
I watched Maiden from afar. They opened with Aces High, as a big plane flew on the stage, and they delivered a fine show with a good emphasis on old classics. Bruce was in top shape. With me being exhausted from a long day, I only lasted about halfway through the show before I headed back to get some sleep.
When I got back to my car, I noticed that a caravan had parked right next to it. It was probably the last spot available.
I woke up pretty fresh and went to get a bath, getting some pointers from my new neighbourghs. A bath was most necessary after two days of Sweden Rock dust. When I got back all my new neighbourghs had awoken. They turned out to be really cool guys from Sweden, who, as I, loved both music and specialty beers. We ended up listening to my mixed jukebox all morning, while sharing one beer after another and talking about music. It was the perfect morning, though not exactly what I had prepared, since I had planned to be really serious and write down my thoughts of yesterday's shows on my iPad, while I could remember everything. That plan went down the portaloo so to speak.
There really was no contest, so here I am, in the press tent, middle of the afternoon, roaring drunk, trying to write down notes on what the hell happened yesterday. On the way here, I met Pasi and his brother, when I went to get a water at the bar, so I naturally went to say hi to them, and a drink or two and a few loud Manowar songs (All Men Play On 10 and Return Of The Warlord) later, I made it here.
In between the madness, I also caught Pretty Maids, who played just after noon. They were, as always, superb. I went to get photos and then was able to secure a spot afterwards, right at the front, in the second row. From there I witnessed a great concert, not their best, but still totally excellent.
It was here in the press tent, after taking some pretty slim notes on Pretty Maids, that I gave up on writing down notes on yesterday, since they made no sense. I had a bit of texting going on with Michael, and we finally managed to meet. On the way to meeting with him, I made a pitstop at the most excellent addition to the Sweden Rock Festival, the Brooklyn Brewery bar, where you could get their specialty beers on tap.
After meeting Michael, I got ready for todays headliner, Ozzy Osbourne. When evening set in, I went back to the camp to get some warm clothes and was amazingly starting to get slightly sobered up. The Scottish camp was still empty and I never managed to time it just right, to meet and party with Sean and Dodge.
Again, for Ozzy, I got a spot pretty far from the stage. Here the sound was absolutely fabulous, and as soon as the show started, it was clear that here, the musicians were the highlight, and they were able to lift what was mediocre vocals into something really enjoyable. Zakk Wylde's guitar sound was enormous, and the drum sound was perfectly balanced. Everything sounded brilliant until Ozzy started singing. He tried his best, but was unable to hit those noters properly. I gave him credit for trying, but I was really not impressed by his antics.
I left the show halfway through again, and as I headed down the road to Rosenlund Camping, immediately regretted my decision, but I was just too tired and I didn't want another incident like the one, where I fell asleep standing up, at a Mercyful Fate show, at Wacken Open Air a long long time ago.
I was on water all day, since I had planned to start driving home right after Judas Priest. I did not want to get caught between those hundreds of caravans, right at the end of the queue, when everyone wanted to get home tomorrow morning. So with that plan in place, a morning bath done, and reflecting on the past day with my new Swedish friends, I headed for the stages with my camping chair. My schedule was completely packed today, with just 15 minutes between most of the bands on my list.
CrashDïet opened the day at the Sweden stage and I was looking forward to hearing if their new singer was up to the task. After a spoken intro and an acoustic segment, it was all guns blazing, with one hard rocking song after another, only slowing down for "Miracle". The band delivered a good show and the new singer carried himself nicely. Highlights for me were "Riot in Everyone "and "Queen Obscene", two of my favorite songs from the debut, but the other songs they played held up nicely as well.
Right after CrashDïet finished I moved to the Rockklassiker tent to see Circus Maximus. They delivered a fine performance and even if I didn't know their songs by heart, I stayed for the whole concert and was entertained by their technical prog metal.
After Circus Maximus, it was back to the Sweden stage for Slade. They were fun but not able to keep my interest, so I went to get something to eat halfway through.
I had the tough choice between Steelheart and Girlschool. Beforehand, I had leaned towards Steelheart, but in the end, I chose Girlschool and ended up sitting down in the shade of a nice tree, near the top of the hill going down to the 4Sound stage. From here, I was actually able to see the big screen on the Festival stage, where Steelheart was playing, so between songs, I got a quick shot of Steelheart. I never regretted my decision, as Girlschool were great fun and delivered a show with lots of energy and fast songs.
Then it was back to the Sweden stage for Stratovarius, who also delivered a fine show. They had a good mix of older and newer songs and were a highlight of the day.
Another, even bigger highlight, was Yes Featuring ARW, who were playing the big Festival stage, and I wanted to check them out as well, having never really heard their music. It was definitely the most unique experience of the festival. The guys in the band just seemed to enjoy themselves and their music fully, and they delivered a truly atmospheric show, with great songs and harmonies to die for. It was an interesting atmosphere to experience in this summer heat. Even though the turnout was not so big, the band shone with happiness for playing, delivering their songs with a ton of affection, and it was clear that they played extremely well together. Rick Wakeman especially stood out, with his fluttering wizard robes.
After the fairyland trip that was Yes, Tarja was playing the Rock stage and I was looking forward to hear what she would come up with. Having delivered several solo albums since leaving Nightwish, most of her songs were from her solo era, but the highlight of the show was without doubt, the Nightwish medley of "Tutankhamen/Ever Dream/The Riddler/Slaying the Dreamer". It was great to hear these segments in this setting. Several of her own songs stood out as well, and Tarja delivered a fine show. Her voice still holds up quite nicely and she had a great attitude.
With only 15 minutes to Judas Priest, I gave up on going to the photo pit and went to get a good spot in the front part of the main stage.
As the band opened their show, it was immediately clear that Rob Halford still has it. Now here is another older guy who, as opposed to Ozzy, can still hit those same notes live, as he can on the records, and I was mightily impressed.
Halfway through the show (Yes, it may sound weird, only seeing half of each headliner show this year, but I was primarily here for the other bands), I bid Sweden Rock goodbye and headed back to my car, where I headed for the highway. Around 1:30am, I found a parking spot, crawled in the back and slept.
I woke up to the sound of far away Moo'ing. I thought I was dreaming still, but the sound continued and I discovered that I had parked next to a meadow with a whole bunch of cows. This was the perfect morning awakening for me, and after sending a mighty Moo! to the cows, I headed for home. Another great festival was over, and the only question remains: Will I be back next year, or is it time to try something new?
Written By Steen
Online: Friday, October 19, 2018