Thursday, May 3, 2012

Berlin, March 9th - Day Off: Astral Doors Do History

Astral Doors and the Friar set out for some
breakfast and hair of the dog!
So much time has elapsed between the this day and now as I write this blog. Not many people in the world have the chance to spend a day with their favourite band just having a good time and getting out to see the sights. This was THE most fucking metal day, period. Imagine, me, doing a guided tour for Astral Doors about history and Berlin! I am so friggin' blessed! Well, with that passage of time, it is nice to reflect and contextualize all that went down on this most eventful day.

This happened to be the day after the infamous Berlin pub crawl (see their March 9th entry) in which Ulf noticed something 'funny'. Earlier in the trip, you may have remembered that I thought the boys were being more than a little stoic. Well, this day proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are human, have emotions just like you and me, and each and every one of them is what MAKES Astral Doors so special.

At least Johan's GF couldn't smell
that track suit thru the phone!
By them honouring me with their presence during this most auspicious day, it goes to serve just what a great relationship they have with their fans. We, the Astral Doors fans are now the Legion of Rock and I can only hope that Tina will at some point incorporate this into the Fanpage on Facebook. However, it is understood by this blogger that "Astral Doors Fan Page' is accurate and to the point and adding 'Legion of Rock' may cloud the issue.

So I got up this day, unaware of their all-nighter the previous night, determined to make the guys live a little and get them out to see the sights and for a great photo op. I started to get that "Oh we're gonna sleep all day" thing after their all-nighter, but the Friar was NOT taking NO for an answer. Undaunted, and invited to drop by the tour bus to say hi anyway, I made my way to where the bus was parked in the courtyard at K-17.

The whole band were hungry anyway, so we headed down the road to Johan's favourite - the local purveyor of Donair-Kebabs. Everybody got something to eat and I yarded beers all round for everyone from the place's fridge. While everyone was getting organized and seated, I surreptitiously paid the bill and bought Astral Doors breakfast and beer! Perfect! It gave me so much pleasure to give back to these guys a little bit for all the great shows I had witnessed.

Patrik takes care of himself. During a tour, he will tend to isolate and be quiet. He takes care of his voice. Feeling a cold coming on, Patrik immediately had hoodies up all the time, towel wraps around his neck and head, etc.In other words, he did an amazing job of protecting that million dollar voice of his so you, the fan, could see and hear singing perfection every night of this tour. This day was no different. So Patrik, did gracefully come out for the breakfast and beer part. I mean, everybody has to have their beer! Yours truly included - except mine is 0.0! He then returned to the tour bus to rest and take care of that voice!

What is this stuff, Mummy? It burns:(
It was awesome camaraderie as we sat around our table. Humour turned to Johan's track suit which was getting bloody ripe seeing as we had all been on the road since February 24th. He had the good sense to at least not wear the pants and his cigarettes sure covered up a multitude of sins! The jokes were flying and everyone was having a grand old time. At one point, Patrik dared me to try his Swedish Smokeless Tobacco, or snuff as he called it. It was, in fact, in little pouches. This prompted a "What is this object?" mystery photo to Facebook!

Well, I did try it, despite the fact I had quit smoking September 19th, 2011 after 41 years. I found it stung on your gums, so it didn't last long, with me, anyway!

Beer on the subway! Yaugh!
The band were indeed appreciative of their day's start. After all was said and done, Patrik returned to the bus, and the musical end of Astral Doors and I set out on an outing that might have changed our lives forever. The mood was set with another quick beer and a mickey of Jaeger purchase. I still cannot believe that you can drink publicly in Berlin. At least, no one gives you any hassle about it!

While I did not mean to assume the role of tour guide, the boys asked me to since I had been to Berlin 3 times before. The next stop was the ATM, and then we were off!

First, let me say that this was the first time I heard that the whole musical end of Astral Doors all work at the local SSAB steel mill in Borlange. Now that is fucking Metal, all the way! Never in my life, did I see that one coming.

Ulf makes sure no patrons are following
him from the night before!
So, we boarded the U-Bahn and hit Friedrichstra├če in hopes of finding Checkpoint Charlie. Little did we know that Friedrichstra├če goes for kilometers and that it was far away. Some tour guide I am!

So we walked for bit and came upon the department store where you can buy supercars like the Bugatti Veyron and Bentley Coupe.

Roberg stunned by the big city!
We were all thinking that Patrik must have been dreaming about this car and that it was a lot faster than the tour bus! Unfortunately, cargo capacity was a concern, as well as price! So after getting some directions, we were on our way to ACTUALLY see Checkpoint Charlie:)

Patrik is dreaming about
this at the hotel

1.7 Million Euros!
Now Ulf and Joachim
are taken aback!

Pedal to the Metal, Metal!
Patrik's driving the bus!

Track suit being childish:)
So we had to grab the U-Bahn again to hit Checkpoint Charlie. Johan, not to be outdone, was determined to make bad words out of the subway signs. Naughty boy. If I didn't have it in my capacity to be 53 going on 18, then I wouldn't have been having fun, which I was immensely!

So we arrived at the Checkpoint Charlie area. There is the cabin in the center of the street, a museum, and one of the remaining pieces of the wall where people can take pictures. Astral Doors are used to be around history all the time since they live in Europe. But, this day was making them stop and take notice. Berlin is easily the most moving city in the history of Europe. History was all around us. It is just about taking the time to notice and appreciate it.

Ulf against the wall!
Horns vs. Communism
Astral(Doors + Friar)=Colossal!

Hold your horses!
The Checkpoint.
Politcal Prisoners!

The Friar with 'Priv. O'Neil'
who had a german accent:)
Freedom of thought - left behind.
Ghosts of East Berlin past.

So after the Checkpoint, it was off on the U-Bahn again to the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). Coming out of the U-Bahn, we crossed the secure area of the British Embassy like it was nothing. The street beside it is blocked off to vehicular traffic with Barber Shop Poles that come out of the ground, but pedestrian traffic seems to be no problem. Anyway, the security cams were everywhere and I am sure the British security had other things on their minds than a bunch of Swedes and a Canuck that were just out for a good time.

We did a whole shitload of pictures here which you can see are quite funny. It was our collective imagination that made us think that Alexander the Great's chariot atop the Tor was being driven by Patrik, since he is the conquering hero of Astral Doors anyway.

Surreal Axe!
Mohican Joe living large!
Little Big Man feeling tiny
in front of the Tor!

The Russians are coming!
My back is fucked! But Patrik
is watching over me!

A well earned break over a beer!
You would think in a city the size of Berlin that it would be EASY to find a beer around this area, but it wasn't. After asking directions from a German Police Officer, he directed us to a Chinese food place that was useless, so we ended up at a Curry House (!) to have a draught before heading back to the barn. After the beer, we exited the place and walked back to the U-Bahn via the British Embassy again. Little did I know that every camera was trained on me but that they really didn't give a shit.

When we finally got back to the last transfer point at Ostkreuz, nature was calling for some of the drinkers (basically everyone save for me since I don't drink). A couple took off to find a lawn or washroom or something. I collapsed in a heap from a panic attack that was setting in. I couldn't even read my map anymore. The boys know why, I know why. This is why it can't be printed here, but suffice to say that I was having an involuntary overreaction about basically nothing, but that certainly made me question my observation skills.

The U-Bahn got rocked!
This was by far one of the most privileged days any fan could have with their favourite band. I don't care who they are. THIS WAS SPECIAL. It goes to show that Astral Doors are:
  • indeed, great with their fans.
  • giving of themselves freely.
  • a hell of a great bunch of guys.

I, for one, was and am completely blown away. This was also a stark contrast to the environment during the last day off in Geiselwind. My God, what a hole that was - rain and no fun and sickness and all.

Berlin again blew me away. This was becoming one of the best documented tours in the history of rock, next to say something Scott McFadyen and Sam Dunn would have done, judging by the sheer number of pictures I had taken - my dubious qualities as a photographer aside. I am a fan and Astral Doors is my favourite band. Any band is NOTHING without their fans. They are are the ones that buy the albums, songs, merch, and concert tickets. Astral Doors realize this in spades. One only has to look at them and the way they have embraced social media. They are one of the most accessible bands on the planet. They are to be commended.

Patrik the Conqueror watches over us all!
My day with them left me fulfilled, and moreover, wondering how these 4 simple working class guys from Borlange, Sweden could embrace not just me, but all their fans in such a humble, down to earth way. It is this kind of dynamic in their band environment that earns my dedication.

We were stunned by Berlin - the beauty, the history, the magic. Next up were the final gigs behind the former Iron Curtain in Poland. I had changed my ticket because at the time the tour was set up the Polish dates hadn't been negotiated. Now I was going to be there for the whole ball of wax. This country had fanatical fans (and gorgeous women everywhere) just waiting for us. Solidarity had, indeed, been lived between this fan and his favourite band this day!

D'oh! Where are my pants?!