Day 2 of Väsby Rock Festival.
After having a good night’s sleep at the hotel thanks to one of my friends who drove me the 5 km straight back to the hotel after the Danger Danger show. That enabled me to get in bed by 2.30 am. I learn that other guys want to see new hot Swedish band Adrenaline Rush that will start the second day at noon. That means getting up in time! Breakfast was an extra 100 SEK ($13) which I found a bit expensive so I skipped that. Instead, we got to the festival area well in time so I jump off at Burger King to have a large meal as brunch. Now I was ready to rock and roll again! When we enter the festival area Dalton is sound checking at the Väsby Rock Stage. I stop by in front of the stage and listen to the guys talking about the sound and playing “Go For It”. It sounds good and I get a little teaser of what soon will come……
Before Adrenaline Rush enter the stage I decide to head off to the toilet and I run into Kieran Dargan once again. I decide to talk to him a little more in depth this time. I ask him what band´s he would really like to see and he says he wants to see Dalton, Work of Art of course (a band often praised by Kieran and brought to Firefest on more than one occasion). Jaded Heart as well but he seems to be more of a fan of the old stuff with Michael Bormann (which is fantastic – I agree). He also mentions Magnum which he has seen many times, but it’s a couple of years ago now. I also ask him which bands he regrets never getting to Firefest. He mentions being insanely close to bringing the original line up of House of Lords over to the festival. The hardest man to talk into doing that was Mr Gregg Giuffria who since a long time has left the music business and made a fortune in the hotel business. Unfortunately, just ten days before the show his new hotel complex was flattened in Atlanta by Hurricane Catrina and that was it really. He also worked hard on getting one of his favourite bands, Frontline, on the bill, but one member just did not want to do it. Icon had been on the bucket list for a long time, but the band just did not feel it worthwhile to fly over to Europe for just one show. Not being able to arrange more gigs in Europe the proposed deal fell apart. Kieran then gets an SMS and I leave him to taking care of his business and wish him a great festival.
There are not many people there this early and soon it´s time to head over to the Zamora Stage to listen to Adrenaline Rush; Ludvik Turner‘s (Reach, Väsby Rock Allstars) other band fronted by his fiancé Tave Wanning. Having listened to the album in the car stereo on the drive down to Väsby, it sounded like a decent melodic hard rock record to me. In this live setting, the band has a very blurry sound and the band lacks a bit of edge and attitude in my opinion. So I leave the stage not being impressed or inclined to find out more on the band. Just in time for the gig a decent crowd of a couple of hundred people had shown up. At this very early hour that is sort of impressing.
I hurry across the field to get near the stage for one of the most anticipated shows of the day. I was surprised they put Dalton so early on the bill and in my mind they are a bigger and more popular band than bands like Days of Jupiter and Nubian Rose who are to follow suit later on. A bit of a strange decision which also goes for Jaded Heart who follow Dalton on the Zamora Stage. Dalton put on a great performance playing through great songs like “Go For It”, “Injection” and the Bon Jovi/Sambora/Child penned hit single “You´re Not My Lover (But You Were Last Night)”. “TGIF ” is an odd pick from the new album and not one of the stronger songs on the album. Bosse Lindmark introduces the song by saying this should have been played yesterday (Friday). It is a disappointment not to hear the great ballad “Follow Your Dreams” from the new excellent album Pitstop. It all ends in a bit of a car crash with Chris Laney once again entering the stage and singing “Lick It Up” with the band. I would definitely have preferred to hear another Dalton original (see above)! Well, no time to spare! All you can do is hurry off to the Zamora Stage where Mr Dargan is already introducing Jaded Heart which is a band started long ago by brothers Dirk and Michael Bormann way back in 1990. A lot of years have gone by and left is only Michael “Mülli” Müller on bass from the original band. The style of the music has also slowly shifted from Melodic Hard Rock into Melodic Metal (with slices of Power Metal throughout). Being a fan of both versions of the band, I am happy to find they actually play an old tune from the second album which I thought would never happen. At the same time, I would very much have preferred to hear “Live and Let Die” from IV instead which is my all-time favourite track by the band. Still, Jaded Heart put on a great performance and never rest to do “crowd singing” too much and stick to their own material which I will give them much credit for. After Jaded Heart finished with “Schizophrenic” I head off to the VIP area to see if there are any interesting artists in the lounge. Days of Jupiter is a Swedish band that now enters the Väsby Rock Festival Stage. They sound a bit heavier but not interesting enough to make me want to head off to that stage. There are not many people there in the VIP area at this early hour, but I spot Mr Tony Martin and a couple of others. While I am sitting there watching my signed CD’s Mr Mårtensson and Mr Bäck of Eclipse arrive at the scene and are immediately overwhelmed by fans that want to say hello and take a picture.
Swedish band Nubian Rose enter the stage and from afar I can hear a performance that do not impress me. Female lead vocalist Sofia Lilja Åkerlund sounds terrible when she is trying to hit the high notes and the music is too anonymous for my taste. I concentrate on speaking to the Dalton guys. Lead vocalist Bosse Lindmark reveals they are having a great time together and love doing shows. Unfortunately, they do ot play that often and the guys all have other jobs to support them. They do the Dalton gigs mostly for fun. I get all three records signed and when I arrived at the tent I could read that the Jaded Heart signing session that was to follow had been postponed for an hour (at this time I did not know why) and that it was going to collide with the Magnum signing session. The Jaded Heart session was therefore moved to the merch table and I realize I have to try to do both in a very short amount of time. Therefore, I decide to start with the most important one – Jaded Heart. They rarely play in Sweden although Peter Östros (guitar) and Johan Fahlberg (lead vocals) both are Swedish nationals and live in Sweden. Magnum plays regularly in Sweden and I have a lot of stuff signed already so I do not dare to miss out on Jaded Heart. In the meantime, I sit and wait for the silver ink to dry out on the Dalton CD’s which it seemingly never does. I spot Tony Mills (Shy, TNT) having a beer at the table next to mine and talking to some friends. He looks very relaxed and I spot him on numerous occasions in the VIP area.
After about half an hour, I decide to head off to the merch stand and buy a Jaded Heart T-shirt but first I watch Work of Art from a distance. It´s a band that I have seen a couple of times at Firefest. They sound good and have a couple of great tunes, but they have always been a little too much “West coast” and poppy AOR for my taste. I very much prefer Robert Sälls work with W.E.T. In a live setting, they sound a little bit heavier, however, and I enjoy what I hear. I walk slowly down to the merchandise stand to get my Jaded Heart T-shirt. They are almost out of T-shirts so I have to settle for a size L while I usually sport XL´s. When I arrive the Jaded Heart band is already there and I start talking to singer Johan Fahlberg. I am 185cm tall and usually have to look down on people. Johan is a rare example on where I have to look up to the people I am talking to. He also turns out to be a really nice guy and says it is always hard to choose which songs to play, but they, of course, put focus on trying to promote their latest album Fight The System which I have reviewed earlier for Decibel Geek. A lot of people want to hear the old songs but Johan was not even in the band when those songs were written and it feels natural to him to focus on the new material. He says it´s been too long since they played Sweden (Sweden Rock Festival in 2006, and Debaser club in Stockholm in 2007). They are good friends with the guys in Eclipse and have been talking to them about putting a touring package together, but things have never worked out trying to adjust both band’s busy schedule. Johan says he wishes to play more in Sweden but as it is now Jaded Heart mostly play in Germany and the Mediterranean countries like Italy, France and Spain. I thank Johan for a great gig and get my CD’s signed by the proper members on each CD before rushing off to pull out my Magnum CD’s and line up beside the signing tent close to the Zamora Stage.
I arrive at the signing tent and there is still a queue lining up so I get in line. That is what Swedes are known for (among other things), standing patiently in line waiting for your turn! So I do just that and I get the three post reunion CD’s signed that were still unsigned. Bob Catley borrows my silver permanent marker and I have to make sure to get it back – waiting for him to hand it over to me. There are more signings up ahead and I am not ready to give up my pen just yet – not even to Bob Catley! I am very satisfied with the nice autographs written with the silver pen, but the setback is you have to wait forever for the ink to dry out! Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to wait for that which I will discover later when some of the autographs get a bit smeared. I need to hurry to the Zamora Stage to see the legendary NWOBHM band Tygers of Pan Tang. One of the most anticipated performances of the weekend in my book and a band that hardly ever plays in Sweden. Lead vocalist Jacopo Meille later informs us that it is only the second time in Sweden during their whole career. This band is probably most known for being the band where John Sykes got his career going and his work with the Tygers gave him the gig with Thin Lizzy from there he went on to Whitesnake and later Blue Murder. The Tygers most known albums would be the first three; Wild Cat, Spellbound and Crazy Nights while my favourite album from the early period is the fourth album The Cage which is slightly more melodic. What many hard rock fans, unfortunately, do not know is that there is a fresh and hard rocking “new” album called Ambush released in 2012 and it gets two songs aired during this gig (“She” and “Keeping Me Alive“). I agree that their career has had its ups and downs and not all the albums are great (Noises From the Cathouse for example). Somehow the band has given into the fact that the old songs are the most popular and recently they released an album worth of re-recorded songs from the first two albums. I am able to get very close to the stage without having to force my way forward, but it is still a decent crowd in front of the Zamora Stage. Given that they hardly ever play over here, they are a fairly unknown band with mostly a cult following. The gig is really great and with a great vocalist in Jacopo Meille and a tight-knit band where newcomer Micky Crystal and only remaining original member Rob Weir trade solos nicely. Most songs are picked from the first three albums with two from Ambush and one from 2008´s Animal House. My fist comes up in the air like an urge you cannot resist and the head starts banging. After the gig, my friends and me look at it each other nodding “This was really great”! One of the biggest surprises and top performances of the festival!
By the time the Tygers finish their set I am starving but there is just no time to eat!! I just cross the field to the Väsby Rock Stage and get ready for Eclipse. Mr Dargan sounds ecstatic when he introduces a band he loves and brought to Firefest on a regular basis. They play a great set with the major bulk of songs lifted from new and critically acclaimed CD Armageddonize. A couple of songs are picked from Bleed and Scream and one or two from Are You Ready To Rock released 2008. The first two albums are not surprisingly left untouched like they have been on every occasion I have been to an Eclipse gig. There are a couple of songs on them that could have made the set in my opinion, but I know the guys in the band do not like them. It´s a solid performance as ever, but it is very clear that there is extensive use of backing tracks including keyboards and the acoustic guitar on “The Storm”. Keyboard player Johan Berlin is no longer with the band and I guess this was the best option although I personally would have preferred a session player stepping in. I´m not a big fan of backing tracks so it might be just me. The Tygers of Pan Tang signing session starts a quarter before the Eclipse gig finishes which is unfortunate but I am able to stay for the whole Eclipse show just keeping an eye on the signing queue so that it does not run out and the guys would leave.
Eclipse finish five minutes early (!!) although Erik is pointing at his watch (There would have been time for a song from the first two albums guys!). I head over to the signing tent beside the Zamora Stage. I am a bit proud that I had prepared thoroughly for this by printing a large picture from the band’s Facebook page to get something for everyone to sign (given that guitarist Micky Chrystal is not on any album). When I enter the signing Jacopo tells me they a bit unhappy with the picture in the official Väsby programme being an old one with Dean Robinson and not Micky Chrystal in the picture. He grabs my picture – shows it to everyone and says they should have used this. This is the proper picture! Just ahead of me is an Italian guy and Jacopo and the guy starts a conversation in Italian which I do not understand except for the usual phrases saying hallo and so on. When it is drummer Craig Ellis turn to sign he is impressed with the fact that I brought the new CD’s (in fact only the last three albums) and he seems honestly happy that I bought them. He also says they play to seldom over in Sweden and to build a solid fan base you probably would need to play at least two times a year. I am told by the offical that we can take pictures after everybody has signed and finally having a little time (Heaven & Earth is not my favorutite outfit) so I stay to take a picture with these really nice lads. There is a little commotion going on when more people arrive late to get stuff signed and bass man Gav continues to sign but finally I get a picture taken. This time the guys used a black permanent marker so no drying activites are needed. Still not enough space to eat because Eclipse will soon start signing as well so I decide to rest my legs sitting down at the stand beside the pitch and lazily listen to Heaven & Earth belting out their version of blues soaked hard rock. The faster, driving songs actually sound good but the more mellow and slow songs make me think of syrup or something else really sticky. Not my cup of tea at all!
When Eclipse start signing there is definitely the longest queue thus far during the whole festival (even beating H.E.A.T) so I decide to wait for it to become shorter. The problem is, I figure out after a while; more people keep showing up all the time so I decide to place myself in line. These tactics lead to me getting somewhat in a shortage of time before Magnum start their set and am one of the last two to get my stuff signed. First up is Erik Mårtensson who I duly introduce myself to and shake his hand. We start talking about the first two albums which I have brought and when it comes to the debut album “The Truth and A Little More” (2001) he asks me” Where did you get it?” and “How much did you pay for it?”. I tell him that and say that it might be time to reissue the albums for the fans to get without paying a fortune. Erik says they will never do that because they are “sooo bad” and that they “suck”. Erik says he is worried that they get fans that like the new albums but when they look up the first two they will find that they do not sound the same and that they are not good. That could hypothetically turn them off the band. After a while he moderates it to “Well it might have been good at the time but now it is not”. And he also tries to persuade me not agreeing why it should not be re-released by saying that the collectors will lose value of their product if they did reissue the album (I guess implying me being a collector – which is in fact right). After Robban Bäck has signed the albums he plays on (“Are You Ready To Rock?” I did not bring) I put the debut album forward and say to guitarist Magnus Henriksson that I had to search like hell to get it. The same questions again from Magnus: “Where did you get it? How much did you pay for it?” He says it’s now selling for 1200 SEK on Ebay which might be around $150. The same answer to why it should not be released. “It is not any good”,” It will not be reissued”. Just like the Tygers guys they all seem like a bunch of friendly guys.
Well after this treat I catch up with my friends resting our feet again and doing some ink drying yet again. Time is short and when only ten minutes remain before Magnum enters the Väsby Rock Stage I head off to get some food. Being starving and extremely hungry I settle for the 300 grams Big Boy Burger at Texas Longhorn. Choosing menu when you are starving is never good! I try in a hurry to digest this massive burger and only miss out on half of the first song of the Magnum performance. I´m impressed by myself but the stomach starts complaining. Magnum is a solid band as always, but I sense that Catley‘s voice is not in perfect condition on this night. It’s a bit rougher than I remember from last year’s gigs. The set is predictable with no surprises but very professional and there is a large audience in front of the Väsby Rock Stage for the Magnum set. The largest of the whole second day in my opinion and it is evident that they are a popular band. It is always special to see them perform live. I sing along to the tunes and laugh at Al Barrow´s small tricks and facial expressions during the set. They sure know what they are doing and they know how to do it!
Feeling like I shouldn´t have had that extra large burger I find out that I need to charge my phone and head off to the press tent after catching the first three songs of Michael Schenker´s Temple of Rock with Doogie White on lead vocals. They play a mixture of Scorpions songs, UFO songs and a couple of new songs. To me, they sound more like a cover band and I soon lose interest in songs like “Holiday”, Black Out”, “Lights Out” and even “Rock You Like a Hurricane”. I take refuge in the press area for a little more than half an hour and then head back to the stand to sit down and wait for headliners W.A.S.P. to start their set. It is getting awfully cold (even for being Sweden) which affects the overall experience and all three of us are freezing. Just before W.A.S.P. enter the stage Bosse “Zinny Zan” Stagman announces the dates for next years festival (21-22nd of July 2016) and the first three acts to play that festival which are: Dare, Battle Beast and Hardcore Superstar.
Beforehand I had an extensive conversation with a couple of friends whether the band was to perform at all due to drummer Mike Dupkes resignation just two weeks prior to the festival. Well here they are and they start off by playing three tracks in a row from the debut album. What annoys me is that they never play the songs in their entirety and cut them short and sometimes forge them to a medley of sorts. “Sleeping (In The Fire)” ends with the closing part of “Forever Free” which is kind of weird and does not make sense. The band is tight and Blackie‘s voice is in fine condition. There is an even greater emphasis on the first two albums than usual, but it takes a lot of joy out of the show when the songs are strangely cut short. The guitar solo is also too long and somewhere there they lose my attention. The time available had been set to two hours and they say goodbye after playing for just one hour. They come back after quite some time by which time some people had left having given into the cold. They play three more songs making it a 1 hour and 20-minute set – a lot shorter than the Danger Danger show yesterday. All this added together makes me a bit disappointed and they do not reach the levels of previous years performance at Sweden Rock Festival. I already knew Blackie is sort of a “born again” Christian and refuses to play some songs that should have been part of the set. You all know which ones…. Still they were outplayed and outgunned by Danger Danger this time around.
A lot of great gigs this weekend by bands like 220 Volt, Dalton, Danger Danger, Jaded Heart, Eclipse, H.E.A.T and Magnum. The biggest surprises to me were Tygers of Pan Tang and Ammunition! I leave the festival with an intense feeling of satisfaction and I know I will be back for more next year…. Who will be joining me?