…and so it has come to an end once again. Tragic, it really is. My fourth consecutive adventure to Scandinavian Sweden for what I hold high as the greatest Rock festival in the world is over for another year. And I’ve been to a lot for comparison’s sake. Upon reflection as I sit here in the Copenhagen airport (closest to the festival grounds) awaiting my “tin can in the sky” chariot to carry me back to Toronto, it’s hard to believe.
Many people feel that I’m blessed. Or they wish they could have the life that I have. Well, you certainly can! Just prepare yourself to sacrifice things (like driver’s licences in my case). And find something you love. For me, it’s hard rock/heavy metal music. Not only traveling the world to see events but also catching as many as I can right here at home. I quelled my passion for years. Mostly because of ridicule and lack of understanding by everyone I knew. But now it has awakened once again. I’ve found friends that understand and share my passions and distanced myself from those ridiculers. I will never compromise, or hide who I am and what it means to me again!
In many ways, it’s hard to fathom. Just four years earlier I had made that trepidatious first voyage to Sweden Rock. In danger of losing my employment because of it even. I was alone. Totally alone. There was little to no support back home and I didn’t know anyone or really anything about Sweden. Admittedly, I felt a bit scared. Before long I realised that most everyone speaks excellent English. And the Swedish people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met on the whole.
The nervousness began to evaporate. I felt completely safe in the festival grounds with thousands of my brethren. All here for the love of hard music. Not only was I able to see old favorites, but some bands that will probably never grace North American soil. Let alone Toronto. The opportunity to discover many new addictions was prevalent as well. There was no question that I would return and I will continue to return each year.
This year was a completely different affair. I now know many folks from around the World (Sweden, Switzerland, U.K., Brasil, Canada) attending the event. It was a pleasure to play guide for Decibel Geek‘s Shawn “Animalize” Irwin in his first foray to the event.
We stayed at a hotel in the nearby town of Karlshamn (Carlshamn). A far cry from the first two years of camping alone. There are festival buses running on a regular schedule to shuttle concert-goers to and from the hotel and grounds. Other surrounding towns and hotels have this same service. Fortunately, Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson elected to abstain from alcohol and drive us to and from the festival each day. Thanks, Mikael! We were fortunate with mostly good weather, a few little rain showers appearing periodically on the Friday. I was again shocked how Sweden can be so hot during the day and so cold once the sun drops. Which granted is quite a bit later in the day than we are used to in North America.
A landmark year, 2016 marked the 25th anniversary for Sweden Rock Festival. An event that organizers were told “would never work. The bands and the fans are too old”. A video presentation shown at the conclusion of Friday night’s headline act of Twisted Sister provided this information. The festival has changed names and moved locations throughout the years. Expanding from a single day to the massive four-day extravaganza that we experience currently. Inside the Rockklassiker tent along one wall featured the poster banners of each and every year’s lineup. It was interesting looking at the different bands that have been a part of this throughout the years.
I once again, something that I marvelled at in my first and every year since, found that the level of organisation for this massive event cannot be touched. The festival area grounds are immense. But not too overwhelming once you get the lay of the land so to speak. With over 30,000 in attendance, the festival layout still provides ample space to move about. Never feeling too jammed in as at some other events that I’ve attended. You can even get fairly close to the main stages. If you want and are patient for a few songs to get there without pushing your way through (I hate those people).
There are 5 stages featuring a total of 82 bands this year. Lots of vendors (including Battle Cry Records who issued two Decibel Geek sponsored CDs a few months ago). Readily available food stands and no shortage of bars are abundant as well. There are ample restrooms (even though it seems that one bank of facilities by the 4-Sound Stage were removed this year) with a fairly high level of cleanliness. I never waited long to return my Swedish beer. Interestingly and oddly enough, the Port-a-potty company was even selling their own t-shirts! At a higher price than a Sweden Rock Festival event shirt! Yes, I did see a couple of people buying them even…what a head shaker!
The VIP/Media area features another bar with some different selections. Along with another set of restrooms, food stands, and the Press tent among other things. It is a great, less packed area for a beverage, meeting place and to conduct an interview. Usually, Sweden Rock Festival is filled with folks adorned in a variety of colourful and questioning costumes. Especially on Swedish National Day (on which the festival did not fall this year), but there seemed to be less of that during this go around.
Once again there were many fabulous artists on this year’s roster. But I must admit that it seemed a little deflated comparing to previous events. We witnessed some fantastic performances by headline artists, bucket list bands and newcomers. There is almost always something to suit every taste.
Decibel Geek had Mikael “The Lionsheart” Svensson, Shawn “Animalize” Irwin, Rich “The Meister” Dillon and a Decibel Geek newcomer (literally joining the team the day before the festival) on hand in 2016 to bring our most extensive coverage of Sweden Rock Festival to date. Aside from this sort of wrap-up overview, we will be issuing Spotlight reviews over the next week or so. These will feature an in-depth review of an artist’s performance that one or more of us found especially captivating.
In addition to our written articles, Shawn was equipped with his camera and will be releasing photo galleries (after he returns from his Scandinavian cruise that left the day following Sweden Rock), but also keep an eye on the Decibel Geek YouTube channel for live concert videos and interviews with bands such as symphonic metal act Eleine, melodic rockers 220 Volt and the mighty Sabaton. Some of the forthcoming Spotlight reviews will concern festival headliners Sabaton and Twisted Sister along with Dirkschneider, Avantasia, King Kobra, Demon and lesser known acts Niterain and Eleine.
Overall, jam-packed with memorable lifetime experiences, Sweden Rock Festival delivered a successful event in 2016. Aside from the live acts, there was quality time with friends new and old. Advance listening to the forthcoming Sabaton album The Last Stand. And meeting some awesome musicians like members of Eleine, Niterain, 220 Volt and Sabaton!
Thank you, Sweden Rock Festival for making dreams come true! See you next year, if you’ll have me back ;)!
While it certainly won’t do justice, check out the short video below. Hopefully, it will provide an overview of the 2016 extravaganza. The best way is, of course, to experience it for yourself!