The title says it all! Opinions expressed here are those of the authors. Personal tastes may vary, and we are cool with that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Losing My Metal Gig Virginity!

On Monday, the long-anticipated day came: Sabaton played in Vancouver.  This Swedish power metal band, which plays and sings about the both the futility and heroism of war (they are a “war metal” band), has long been on my bucket list of bands to see live, after watching tons of YouTube videos of them playing at places like Wacken, etc.  On Monday, they came through Canada’s west coast (as so few on my fave bands do) opening for Swedish power/prog metallers Evergrey.  When the dates were announced in March, I knew this was an opportunity I had to take advantage of, and living in the sticks at the time, I began to scheme about how to get from Boonieland to Vancouver for the gig.  A surprise gift from a good friend yielded tickets and someone to accompany me so I didn’t have to go alone and feel like a loser.

I had just moved to the coast on Friday, for crying out loud, and the move itself was incredibly taxing.  It was hard to look forward to this gig because I had so much going on and I was extremely stressed.  But on the day of, I felt better, my cat was in good hands for the night (my friend came from out of town for this gig and we were staying at a hotel in downtown Van, and I was able to relax and look forward to the evening.

The lineup included The Absense, whom I’d never heard of, and since I was short on time before the gig, I wasn’t able to research.  I figured it would be a better use of my time to go late to the gig and miss this band in favour of meeting up with my brother & SIL for a pre-show libation at a nearby bar.  I also wanted to miss Powerglove; video game metal is not up my alley at all.  I was mildly curious about Blackguard, a Montreal band whom I’d heard previously was excellent live, and whom I know to be a hard-working, hard-touring band worthy of checking out.  

The stage at The Venue.  The big face belongs to the Evergrey set-up.
My friend and I arrived at The Venue at 8pm and The Absence was just finishing up.  I heard enough to know I’d made a good call by showing up late.  The next to take stage was Blackguard, which irked me because I’d hoped Powerglove would be before them & I could bow out after getting my wrist stamped at the door (BTW, I was also IDed at the door, which made my day because I haven’t been IDed in nearly 17 years).  I got to see the sound mixing board up close & personal and get an idea of what The Venue was like.  It was dark.  It had 3 bars and sticky floors.  There was a cool colour-changing wall.

There was a considerable amount of debate on my part as to what to wear to this gig, and after consulting some of my co-writers at Black Wind Metal, I learned that it was kosher to wear another band’s shirt to a gig, as long as the genres weren’t terribly misaligned.   Because my Nightwish shirt was both long-sleeved and not necessarily in the same genre as anyone playing that night, I went instead with my Sonata Arctica t-shirt, purchased nearly a year ago in Calgary.  I saw a lot of other shirts that night: Behemoth, Amon Amarth, Iced Earth, Cannibal Corpse, AC/DC and others.  There was a lot of great people- watching there.  There were scene girls and girls with black tutus on, one chick with a big bow in her hair and a black and white flouncy skirt with a polka-dotted jacket, and a very straight-laced, serious-looking guy with tight jeans, a white v-neck sweater, big glasses - and a murse.  He looked very out of the place.

Anyway, here is my band-by-band run-down.

Blackguard: not my cup of tea musically because their vocals are all growly.  Live, I couldn’t understand a word that came out of the singer's mouth, but I was impressed by the synchronized windmill headbanging the singer & guitarists frequently broke into.  Their power and stage presence was excellent.  Their tiny female drummer totally rocked it.  But the vocals got lost in the overall sound of the band an that was disappointing.

Powerglove:  As they were doing their sound check, they also brought out some props, one included a large, life-sized cut-out of a green monster with gnashing teeth. As the band went onto stage in the dark, I could tell there was something coming on that was higher than the band with a bit of a wave to it.  A butterfly, perhaps? No, it was a pair of skull-capped pennants with the band’s name on them - attached to the drummer somehow.  It was very strange.  When the lights came on at the start of playing, I saw that the band members had all dressed up in costumes that reminded me of Klingon gear mixed with a bit of the caveman look (horns & shit, not to mention the scull-capped pennants) and with some WWF championship belts.  It took me a while to process this...There were a lot of Powerglove fans there - barely over the drinking age of 19, which is what you have to be in order to get to a gig like this.  During their set, out came the inflatable giant mallets and inflatable swords, which were dispersed to the crowd, who went crazy for them.  There might have been some beatdowns.  Bizarre!  They were mainly instrumental which was great, though the one guitarist looked like he was 12 and had no stage presence.  Mind you, he wore the most ridiculous costume of all: he had big tusky horns sticking out of his shoulders.  After they were done, off went the green monster & skull-capped pennants.  Their fans held fast to their inflatable props.  Oh yeah, and it was during Powerglove that the weed came out!

Joakim Broden of Sabaton
Sabaton:  Now we’re talking.  I had found a good place near the bar in a back corner, with seats, so one of us could always look after our stuff since there was no coat check.  But this was Sabaton and I wanted to get closer of course!  I took off while my friend looked after my things and got as far forward as I could without getting too close to the rowdy crowd up front.  Turned out I had a great vantage point for photographing Joakim Broden in action, as well as the fill-in bassis, Emile, I think his name was.  Before they came on stage, the place went dark and on came “The Final Countdown” by fellow Swedes, Europe.  That brought me back.  Then the lights came on, and there they were, pounding out “Ghost Division.”  Seeing them live was just such a great experience.  They are powerful, animated, and so energetic live.  Joakim is way hotter live, too.  He wore a muscle shirt, showing off ripped biceps that totally indicated this guy is a big-time weight lifter.  His thighs were huge.  It was impressive, I must say.  I used to weight lift and was married to a body builder, so big muscle-y men impress me.  His skin also quickly became covered in an attractive sheen of sweat.  I could barely keep my eyes off him.  I took about a bazillion pictures.

I can’t remember the entire set list.  “Primo Victoria” was one song, and they wrapped their set up with “Metalizer.”  The crowd was amazing.  I didn’t think there would be too many Sabaton fans there, but they by far had the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd of the evening, and Joakim remarked several times at how impressed they were that they were in a new country and a new city and they were receiving such a warm welcome.

One exchange stood out, and why wouldn’t it?  Before the second to last song, Joakim said, “And now we have some very serious business to discuss: my penis.”  This elicited a bit of a roar from the crowd (which was mostly male).  When he heard that he said, “Well, I didn’t say it was big business!”  I was like, where did that come from???  It was funny, but odd!

During “Metalizer,” someone got out a big beach ball and threw it up into the crowd and everyone batted it around.  One girl behind me headbanged so hard she was nearly whipping me with her hair.  For this song, Joakim took off his ever-present sunglasses - at last!  And - there was a wall of death!  It was a very small one, and it looked completely absurd, but it was there!  

Sabaton’s time on stage was too short.  I think it was 7 - 8 songs.  But the crowd was so into it and I was so into it I just wanted it to go on and on...

And the whole time I was up there, fist pumping and horns-upping, I was so grateful that I had this opportunity.  It made the hassle of my move completely worth it.

And then I got to meet some of them!  They were at their merch table in the lobby after their set!   I hesitated about going back there because of my shyness and nerves.  But I had to take this I went.  I left my stuff with my friend and I went back to the merch table.  Immediately, Daniel Mÿhr was right at the door as I walked in.  He’s the keyboardist.  We had a chat!  He noted my Sonata Arctica t-shirt after I told him this was my first metal gig.  He was surprised and when I said Sabaton was on my bucket list, he said, “But you’re wearing a Sonata Arctica shirt!”  I said, “Yeah, well it was a choice between this and a longsleeved Nightwish shirt.”  He nodded and said he understood.  I asked him some questions about touring and the set list and mentioned to him that my fave Sabaton song is “Union (Slopes of St. Benedict)” and he said that they haven’t played that one live in 3 years.

And then I spotted Joakim...Immediately I became very nervous and I could feel my heart in my throat.  For me, this was like meeting a big celebrity.  I waited very patiently as he was surrounded by a crowd of different people, but eventually I stepped forward and offered my hand for him to shake.  He was shorter than I’d expected.  I said nice to meet you and thank you for the great performance, and then it got very awkward...Yep, I was tongue-tied.  Instead of mentioning the Van Canto video, I mentioned that this was my first metal gig and he seemed very surprised and asked me how I came to this one.  I gave him a garbled answer I can’t even repeat, saying something about living in the boonies and being far away from Vancouver, where not many of my favourite bands come anyway, but I don’t know if he understood me because he kind of gave me an odd look and then got distracted with other fangirls and people wanting autographs etc. and I just stood there a moment longer before realizing my time was up, so I just thanked him again and left.  I went away feeling stupid and embarrassed, but also, as a reporter and writer for a paper, I’m used to people wanting to talk to me, dammit!  He wouldn’t have known that, though.  Anyway...not an ideal interaction and the space was so crowded I was having a hard time coping with the noise, so I just went back to my place where my friend was waiting, patting myself on the back that yeah, I did go up to the guy and shake his hand, which for me took some guts (since I don’t have many), and reassured myself that he probably wouldn’t remember me or the awkward exchange anyway.  

Tom Englund of Evergrey.

Everygrey: This band I wasn’t particularly familiar with.  I listened once to their most recent album, Glorious Collision and I did enjoy it.  They were really good live, but we wound up not staying for their full performance because their lighting was driving me up the wall and making my friend dizzy.  That was disappointing because I thought they had a lot of soul and emotion on stage.  Sabaton had pretty straightforward lighting, but Evergrey had a bunch of effects with their lighting that really annoyed me.  My friend and I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, so we left about halfway through.  I felt really guilty about this because after Sabaton, the crowd thinned considerably and was decidedly less enthusiastic.

Summary: Fantastic experience.  Good call with getting ear plugs; my ears would have been bleeding after Blackguard if I hadn’t worn any. I am so glad I went and so grateful that my friend was there with me.  It wasn’t her cup of tea at all, but she was a total trooper.  If you’re a Sabaton fan, I totally recommend seeing them live because they are pure power to watch and experience, and I was so happy I had this opportunity.  And I look forward to more opportunities like this in the future now that I’m down on the coast.  In fact, I plan on attending the Arkona gig in December, where they open for Korpiklaani (whom I’m not really into).  That might even involve an interview for Sonic Cathedral’s web zine.

You can see all my photos of the gig here.

1 comment:

Eric James said...

Wow! What a post! This is great! I have seen Blackguard live. Nice guys really, not the greatest band, but they are very kind people. I wish I could have seen Sabaton when they came around my town, but I was too damn busy unfortunately. Sounds like you had a great time! Congrats on losing your " metal virginity"! LOL!