Monday, June 25, 2012

March 10th, 2012 - War in Warsaw - the musical kind.

Iron Curtain bound. They didn't call it
that for naught. Poland is living,
breathing, METAL!
When one journey's to Poland, the first thing the traveler should know is the amenities one has in the West are many, luxurious and plentiful. Not so when traveling behind the former Iron Curtain. While everyone means well, facilities and good availability are not the same. The buildings have some rough edges around them, especially the hotels. The people though make up for this by simple politeness, a genuine desire for you to see things, and a RESPECT  of the traveler that took the time to see their country. THE PEOPLE OF POLAND ROCK! It was kinda like the attitude we ran into in Budapest. So it was goodbye Berlin until the 12th.

Opener Crossholder couldn't make it.
The first thing I noticed as a traveler was the change in infrastructure. The trains were older, less maintained, food facilities poorer and washrooms cleaned less often. They looked like old DB rolling stock. No mind though, the people were friendly on the train and I had a great conversation with a Polish lady in my compartment that did NOT like Stephen Harper. So an enthusiastic discussion happened around my dislike for the man, though I stuck up for Canada when discussion crossed into the non-partisan and she was taking pot shots at Canadian Institutions. 

The 10th was a bleak cold day as I journeyed from Berlin to Warsaw. The feeling of, "How do you surpass this?" was running through my veins. But, each place offers their own qualities. What some may lack in preserved features and buildings make up for in other ways. Poland was one of those places that had really friendly people. For people that make the effort to go there, they are rewarded by the kindness of the Polish people, the passion with which they embrace the music, and the women, the WOMEN! Overall, they are beautiful, and fit. Every woman, I practically saw in Poland was in good shape and fit. I don't know if it is a genetic thing, or if everyone works out, but it does reflect in a different POV when compared to Walmart people pictures we receive in emails from our joker friends. I was later informed by a Pole that they are so used to being chased by the Polish men and invading foreign countries (in the past) that that is how they became so fit! That sense of humour, I love. The ability to not take oneself too seriously, even as a nation with a tragic history, brings a joyful mood to those I met from this most dynamic country.

No One Gets Out Alive!
The first stop was Warsaw, and the next would be Poznan. Poland is engaging to become a full member of the EU right now. EU funds are pouring into Warsaw with so much NEW construction of glass and steel in the downtown core. While looking at the Map, I realized I could get off at the Western Train station in Warsaw, a small rundown building smaller than the size of the Mont-Joli train station here in Quebec.

Realizing I desperately needed cash, I spoke with a nice girl who directed me to the nearest bank machine etc. I hopped a cab and he got me there and to the Hotel Tina (!) with the 1/2 hour. The taxi service was fast and efficient and things were very affordable. The taxi driver drove at 100km in 50 zones but I was unperturbed and felt safe with him. I dropped my bags and went over to the club early.

A lot of development money from the EU is flowing into Poland. As it vies for a place in EU membership, the cities of Warsaw and Poznan both were under major construction and development. In Warsaw, the club was set up in a neighbourhood with tenement buildings built during the Communist era. It is just funny that the trees are so evenly spaced out and the way they cover between the large monolithic presence of the former communist state buildings. Klub Progresja is a low-lying building with a great Pizzeria close by where I had dinner.

Fantime at this gig was sheer pandemonium (the good kind). The first guy I met at the club as I watched the band set up was Roderyk Cymler. A young, very good looking man with long flowing sandy-blond hair, he was the FIRST to arrive that day all the way from Krakow to photograph Astral Doors. He didn't have very much money, so I bought him the Jerusalem album from the merch stand, so he would have something to get signed. Polish people do not have a lot of money and the equivalent of €15 is a small fortune. 

The funny thing was as the afternoon went on and more people showed up, I forgot what he looked like and accidentally gave the CD to the house DJ! He was so honest that he ACTUALLY returned it to me and was having a little trouble with the language barrier. I thank the Polish fans, and this one small gesture speaks VOLUMES for your beautiful country.

A fan's from Krakow's signed CD.
Roderyk with his setlist which he lost and
I found and returned to the security gate.
Rod gets to meet all of Astral Doors!

50/50 Chicks and guys made for some eye candy!
Astral Doors owned this room!
The club was large, concrete and echoed. I was wondering if the show was going to sound okay. It did because as the place filled up the sound was deadened. This club was big and unfortunately, the concert was set up on the smaller of two stages because of poor advanced ticket sales. Still, 250 people showed up and rocked the house down. These people made so much noise!

The opener was Polish band, At the Lake, a symphonic metal band with a female lead and a girl violin player, as well as a female keyboarder. The Poles were very proud of this band. They sing in Polish. Here is another link to an article on the Within Temptation Forum.

Riotgod had there go after Lake giving an over the top performance, though this was one of the gigs where they weren't in top form. This was Astral Doors gig and they owned this venue, big time. This was like the last big gig of the tour because the headliner in Poznan would be Turbo. The set list tonight was:

  • Seventh Crusade
  • Child of RnR
  • Of the Son and The Father
  • Stranger's Eye
  • Evil Is Forever
  • New Revelation (For Werner)
  • Pearl Harbour
  • Power & The Glory
  • Babylon Rise
  • The Battle of Jacob's Ford
  • Time to Rock
  • Slay the Dragon
  • Black Rain
  • Cloudbreaker

Patrik belts out a chord.
And that's a wrap, Warsaw!
This tour had just up some serious needed steam with being back behind the Iron Curtain. While talking with Patrik at one point, he said how much the Former East had impressed him. He felt that it was a vital market to tap for Astral Doors. Judging by the response in Warsaw, he couldn't have been more right.

Fantime was pure "Fandemonium" here. The free giant tour posters were flying off the shelf to be signed by the band. I quickly asked Ward, the tour manager to save me one (which is now mounted and framed at home).  People were asking me constantly to take pictures with the band and I will ,include the best of these below.

The one thing about this gig that was so keenly felt by all was that Crossholder couldn't make it due to accident with their guitar player. I had been inducted into the Crossholder Army in Hungary and was hoping to see their smiling, welcoming faces and partake in their camaraderie again in Poland. I am with you always Guzu and Gang!

NJP Swarmed
Roderyk and Friends!

Best Fantime on the tour!

A member of the Sabaton FC

NPJ evil with fan shot

Tour Mgr Ward Segier sells overtime!

An exhausted Johan after show.

Ulf looks off into space but can't find any:)

NPJ with AD Fan Bart!

NPJ talks with fan while Mohican Joe talks to wall!

As you can see, Fantime here was sheer pandemonium. The tour was ending on a highnote, which was critical since attendance had been mediocre overall, at best, during this tour. Oh yah, and I forgot. During this gig, Nils Patrik Johansson wore a Klub Progresja T. The club owner was so blown away that he brought up a round of Vodka shooters (the first bought on this tour!) that Patrik cheersed the audience with.

Here is to us the fans everywhere!
In conclusion, sure attendance could have been better, but the band soldiered on and became better and better with each passing gig. The festival appearances in Sweden don't know what sort of a monster they have on their hands this summer.

Other bands are going to have to be excellent to reach the level that Astral Doors achieved musically on this tour.

Gigs were filmed during this tour. Hopefully, they will be able to buy the footage and complete the DVD.

I will say that I enjoyed myself thoroughly on this tour. Despite my physical problems with a torn up shoulder, I made it and met most of you fans that make it count. It is my honest wish that I meet all of you that love Astral Doors and make it happen. You all rock as much as the band. Yes the tour was winding down. Tired from battle, the Legion had one more gig before the end. One more gig, one more entry, one more fan, one more friend.

PS: The Friar Blog is for you the fan. This is about getting out there and giving it your all in terms of grass roots support. This attitude can be transferred to any band for whom an enthusiast has a passion for. This is about getting down in the trenches and not being afraid to travel, to rock, and not fearing life. This is about balls out dedication and grit determination to see things through to the end. This is about commitment.