Arriving the day before festival kick-off is the only way to go! A great way to acclimate yourself after a long transatlantic flight. And simply the best part…greeting your worldwide rockin’ pals. My favorite days of metal events such as the Monsters of Rock Cruise and Sweden Rock are the day before as all your friends arrive. The anticipation of another great life-changing rockin’ time on the horizon.
Checking into our hotel found us venturing out for some much needed, better than airline quality, sustenance while we awaited the arrival of The Swede. Upon his appearance later in the day, we ventured out to meet some of the worldwide rocker friends I mentioned. A great night filled with anticipation of the event saw Swiss, German, Canadian, American and Swedish rockers taking over a section of a nearby pub. Rockers of the world unite!
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 – Sweden Rock Festival 2017
Hotel breakfast was quickly disposed of and we were on our way for the 45-minute drive to meet Helix frontman Brian Vollmer for our planned interview. Barreling down the highway, Mikael at the wheel, two Canadians, an American and a Swede were ready to begin the 2017 Sweden Rock Festival. Meeting at Brian‘s hotel, he sat with us for a great interview conducted by Shawn and Mikael that Ron captured on video. You can view/listen through this link (Decibel Geek-Brian Vollmer) or at the bottom of this article as well.
Upon arrival at the Sweden Rock Festival grounds, we secured our parking for the whole event and completed our ticket trades. For those not in the know there, you trade in your paper ticket for your festival wristband at stands outside the main gate. Also outside the main festival grounds gates is like a gypsy town. Literally rows upon rows of vendors peddling everything from clothing to vinyl, to jewelry and more. Beyond that are the campgrounds. As expected Ron‘s eyes were wide at the scale of it all.
Rockin’ Ron Meets Sweden Rock Shop
After the ticket trades we happened upon our close friends from Switzerland and before long we had collected a massive group of friends new and old chatting excitedly in anticipation of this year’s event. Since we were standing in front of Sweden Rock Shop, it stood to reason that many of us clutched newly purchased swag. Big Ron, however, seemed to feel the need to show everyone from every country how to buy festival merchandise. He came away with no less than three brimming over shopping bags of merch, not to mention what he was wearing! I think he bought everything that Sweden Rock produce!
The group broke up nearing the time the gates officially opened and we avoided large lines by utilizing the VIP/Press entrance. Straight over to the main entrance once we got in, so Ron could rent a locker for his new wardrobe. A quick tour of the grounds to show Ron the lay of the land and we were ready for the initial act of Sweden Rock 2017.
EMMA VARG (4 Sound Stage 3:30PM)
Introduced by local radio guys (I think…the same “Satan’s people” guys every year), Emma Varg was a little heavier than what we’d heard on YouTube. Unfortunately, not to knock her talents, but some of us were against her. You see she was the winner of the annual band competition in which attendees voted her the spot. We had been wanting to see the excellent Swiss band Crystal Ball awarded the stage as we are huge fans. Opening with “Surrender”, Varg definitely had her fanbase in attendance. In all his glory, Shawn had his camera on the go and Ron capturing some live performance footage for the Decibel Geek YouTube. By the time she got through the second track of “Wake Me Up” and into “Dead Inside” I was personally beginning to lose interest in the melodic pop-rock, biased over the Crystal Ball loss. Her fourth song was “Unanswered Prayers”, a ballady composition that killed my attention and we collectively moved on.
The need for food dictated a stop by Mother Fucking Burgers, yes it is really called that! Try getting away with that in North America! Lunch finished, we headed to the VIP area. The VIP area, among housing the press tent is a great area consisting of tables and chairs (outdoor and cover by tent), washrooms, Jagermeister sponsored bar with more selections that regular areas and a DJ spinning rock tunes all day and night. Securing a roundtable to stand at, we procured some adult beverages and chatted in general. It was great to again see my Brasilian friends were here again and there were smiles all around as we greeted each other. It was also great to meet up with Shar Roxxon and Rowie Riot, the guitarists from Kings of the Sun. CD’s were purchased!
ART NATION (4 Sound Stage 5:30PM)
Art Nation was highly anticipated by Mikael and having heard a few things myself, I was happy to check them out. They began with what looked like a Scottish dancing intro before launching into “One Nation”. The sound seemed rather muted, but we were a little ways back and off to the left side, so the wind might be carrying it away. Let’s go more to the center, I separated from Mikael as he moved closer to the front. The sound improved as expected for the second song, “Alive”. I lost track a little during “The Real Me” as I ran into my Swiss mates. Passing “Need You to Understand”, and into “Kiss Up & Kick Down”. Around that halfway point my attention totally moved from Art Nation, sharing drinks, stories and laughs with my good friends. Afterwards, being a much bigger fan than I, Mikael reported that it was a great set. I’d agree with what I did catch, finding Art Nation to be in the Eclipse vein, just not as much earworm material.
The Decibel Geek four together again, we headed across the festival grounds to the Battlecry Records tent. Always a fun place with lots of great CD deals and love seeing the two CD releases sponsored by Decibel Geek on the shelves. Somewhere in the mix Ron disappeared, probably melding into the crowd at the nearby Sweden Stage for Black Ingvars. Seem to be a cover band changing the lyrics to Swedish. Not my thing.
Back in the VIP area, Ron resurfaced in total Jager heaven. He loves that stuff! A couple of “feisty” young ladies began openly staring for sometime before descending like vultures on our table. Already having departed in favor of the toilets, Ron was spared the “action”. I recognized trouble right away and broke at my first opportunity, leaving the two prowling cougars to feast on Shawn and Mikael.
HEAVY TIGER (Rockklassiker Stage 7:45PM)
One of my favorite thing about Sweden Rock Festival is the ability and proficiency in discovering awesome new acts. One such as Heavy Tiger. I had not been familiar with the group prior to my pre-festival due diligence in YouTube research of all bands playing the festival. The all-female trio from Stockholm sounded great and I purchased an album even ahead of my attendance. When the schedule was released I was gutted to find that Heavy Tiger conflicted with another band I really wanted to see, Grand Magus. Although this sort of thing rarely happens at Sweden Rock, with over 80 bands, it’s to be expected from time to time.
Arriving a bit late after my escape from the ravenous beasts, I missed most of the Heavy Tiger launching platform of AC/DC‘s “Riff Raff”. I worked my way up quite close to the stage as the ladies got underway with “Saigon Kiss”, a familiar cut having watched the official video. Glitter. That’s what struck me here. They were very glittery on stage in their costumes, although simple was quite the visual presentation. It all makes sense knowing their latest album is titled Glitter. Following up with “Feline Feeling”, the sound was great and I dreaded having to leave this set. I didn’t recognize the fourth song, but in the fifth spot came “I Go For the Cheap Ones”. Unfortunately, at this point, it was time to take my leave for Grand Magus.
GRAND MAGUS (4 Sound Stage 7:45PM)
Since reviewing Grand Magus‘ 2016 album Sword Songs for Decibel Geek (Grand Magus – Sword Songs (Album Review)) that served as my discovery, I’ve played it regularly. It was so close to entering my top ten albums of the year in fact. Rushing over there, I found the stage fronted by a packed crowd. But Heavy Tiger was also packed, and hampered my departure, resulting in missing about 10 minutes of Grand Magus. “Varangian” was nearing completion as I arrived and the Swedes ripped into “On Hooves of Gold” next. Thunderous unison crowd clapping launched “Steel Versus Steel” and I was lost totally enthralled in Grand Magus delivering everything I expected.
HELIX (Sweden Stage 9PM)
I personally have seen Helix before. A lot actually. Hard not to being from the same southern Ontario region as they are. That geographical placement did nothing to hamper my desire to see these guys live, and I made a point to catch them on Monsters of Rock Cruises and here at Sweden Rock as well. The Canadians, once dubbed “the hardest working band in Canada”, never fail in delivering a top-notch performance and Sweden Rock was in the best of the best register. Beginning with “Long Way To Heaven”, Helix ripped through all their classic hits. The crowd was pretty dense, great to see the band so popular here in Sweden.
Alongside concert staples and rock radio hits, Helix slipped in a few nice surprises, making a fresh show even for me. Early on we got “Get Up!” from the same EP. Some of my favorite Helix tunes, but rarely played since Vollmer was the only current member involved. They also played “Danger Zone” a B-side that only appears on the B-Sides collection. When Helix came to “Rock You”, Brian Vollmer was down at the barrier micing the crowd to sing along. The song ended with the band all forming a pyramid at center stage. Ripping through “Animal House” for an encore, another awesome Helix show in the books. Gimme an “R”!
GRAVE DIGGER (4 Sound Stage 10:30PM)
Our group was really looking forward Grave Digger. Myself and Shawn caught them when they opened for Blind Guardian in Toronto in 2015. (Concert Review) The Germans delivered a show-stealing set there including a wide variety of their massive catalog of songs. Shawn reviewed a couple of their recent releases for Decibel Geek. (Healed By Metal Review) and (Exhumation – The Early Years Review). Earlier in the day, once Shawn and Mikael were able to escape the clutches of the cougars, they had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Boltendahl (Audio Interview). By the time it neared Grave Digger time, the weather had turned sour. Not a heavy rain but a cool misty drizzle. The kind that chilled to the bone.
Grave Digger launched their late night set with “Healed By Metal” off the newest album. Up next was “Lawbreaker” followed by “Witch Hunter”. Our spirits dampened by the weather, we hung a little farther back. But, tons of concert-goers braved the drizzle in front of the stage. After “Killing Time” and “Ballad Of A Hangman” Mother Nature began to beat us. Not to mention the jet lag setting in for the North Americans. And hunger. An almost incurable hunger. We ventured away from the Grave Digger set.
The End of Day 1 Sweden Rock 2017
Looking for a heavy meal, I wanted a burger. Easier said than done. The Texas Burger stand was taking cards only at this time. Over at Motherfucking Burgers, they were sold out of stock. I settled for one of those smaller cheapo burgers. And then another one. We took shelter in the large tent while we ate. Everyone was growing more and more miserable by the minute. We made the decision to retire for the day. Although, by the time we made it to the main gates to collect Ron‘s Sweden Rock purchases we had lost Ron. He surfaced shortly after, having darted off to catch another live performance from another stage for Decibel Geek‘s YouTube channel.
Another excellent first day at Sweden Rock Festival. Everything I expected from the festival with great performances and top organization. And even better is spending it with close friends from around the world. Love seeing a first timer like Ron experience it.
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin’s Photo Galleries
Without a proper photo pass for Sweden Rock Festival, Shawn did his best to capture shots from the gigs that he could. Here are the links to those photo galleries from Day one that he was able to shoot. Emma Varg / Art Nation / Helix /