Rammstein @ Stadion, Stockholm

Concert day, final big event of the Summer, not final concert though. Rammstein again after quite a few years since I last saw them. It was a bit of a struggle to get a ticket because initially the show sold out in a matter of minutes and I had to pay extra attention to possible ticket releases – which I did. And for the first time I was going to see them perform with the full pyro gear.

I was excited to finally attend an event on Stockholm Olympic Stadium which opened in 1912, I’ve only seen the venue as a tourist. But I guess I was more excited to see Rammstein. I will always remember the first time I saw them and I have to say that I recognised some of their stage performance acts. I can’t wait to see them again as soon as I have the chance to do that. This time I knew it was going to be special but I didn’t know in what direction that special would lead.

The organisation of the concert was quite smooth and it was easy to get in, buy a drink and listen to the opening act Duo Jatekok play piano covers of Rammstein from the Klavier album. The break between the opening act and Rammstein was quite short and at 20:30 the band went on stage but not before a plea to enjoy the concert and not film it. I listened to that advice, took some snaps here and there and in other moments I just left my phone in my pocket. This show was to be seen with my own eyes, not through a telephone screen.

The set-up of the stage was imposing, big turbine-like-decorations, industrial towers, plenty of loudspeakers. Interesting and scary to watch. Well, imagine that the moment the concert started and the lights went on, all impressions and perceptions increased incredibly much. It was going to be a mind-blowing performance and an one-of-a-kind experience and you didn’t need too much to realise it. Rammstein are loud. And besides their music being loud their shows are visual, from the way they enter the stage and scrutinise the audience to literally going out with a bang. The atmosphere they created was industrial, a bit apocalyptical even, given the clouds of black smoke that their pyro equipment was shooting to the sky. The August Stockholm sky helped too, as the filtered light of the sunset met some really dark clouds somewhere above us all. The dark setting was several times replaced with light, just to go back to a frightening hazy frame on the screen on top of the stage. Close-ups with the members of the band in their stage costumes made me feel like we were being watched, the band’s logo was ruling on top of the stage as a coat of arms. But there were no brainwashed zombies watching the screens and pledging their legions. There were a lot of people with smiles on their faces, dancing, head banging, singing along, raising their fist and jumping off their seats whenever a favourite song started (though I cannot imagine how people actually sit at a Rammstein concert, I think I annoyed at least a few of those sitting behind me because at a certain moment I just got up). And if you think that there was only anger around think again: at their sing-along piano version of Engel featuring Duo Jatekok we actually grabbed each other by the shoulders and started swaying to the music. That changed soon though because right after a few moments the encore started and that was even louder. It is really hard to put in words how I got to live that concert. It was not just about the music. If I listen to Rammstein, even some of their live recordings, the experience of that is not even half of the one of seeing them live. Their gigs are not for the faint-hearted. The ones who want to have a full-on-ride through Rammstein-land or just put themselves in an amazingly cool circumstance a concert with the full pyro gear is the thing to see/be at/watch/listen/breathe. You’d understand what I mean by that when you see the flames go up to the beat of Du Hast.

The crowd got crazy when hearing the hits included in the encore and Ich Will was a fiery closing of an already intense performance: from loud sounds, black smoke, cauldrons, the Flake-Till tandem, an electro remix of Deutschland with 4 of the guys dancing in glow-in-the-dark costumes to the band kneeling in front of the audience and taking the elevator up to the burning wings on top of the stage, waving to us from up there and disappearing in a loud explosion just so everything could fade away on the piano version of Sonne. Every single moment, every single detail were perfectly planned for an ultimate experience. A different king of concert, a different kind of performance and one of the best and coolest things I’ve ever seen.

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Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters @ Gröna Lund

One foggy Summer evening that reminded me more of London than of Stockholm, under a very light but constant drizzle I found myself standing, again, in Gröna Lund. This time I was there to see Robert Plant. I find the next thing I am going to say completely unnecessary but I will say it anyway: he’s the singer of Led Zeppelin. I got to the concert site quite late, so late that I was a bit nervous about actually being able to go in but once there I found that there were so few people in that I could comfortably chose the perfect spot to watch the show. By the time the concert started the park got pretty full but not full enough when you think who was about to play. I guess the drizzle scared a lot of the people who would have been there otherwise. Either that or the thunderstorm that unleashed itself over the city earlier in the day. The people around me were of all ages, from the ones that danced their youth on Led Zeppelin chords, to the ones that got acquainted with Plant & his former band through their parents, to the little baby, just a few months old, who probably just saw her first concert from atop her daddy’s shoulders. And what a concert it was! By their side stood the man’s teenage daughter. A few meters in front of me was another teenage kid who was singing his heart out with his little brother on his shoulders. Some happy lads had too much to drink and were desperately looking for a way out of the crowd mid-show. A few ladies made me think of what I’ll be like in about 30 years, if still around. I wonder if years from now I might get the chance to see live artists that marked my teenage years still rocking it on the stage as Robert Plant did last evening together with The Sensational Space Shifters. I honestly doubt it.

He stepped on stage together with his band mates, he was wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt, his once wild golden locks all gray and tamed. He talked to the audience, shared memories and made fun of the people screaming in rollercoasters throughout the show. But the moment he started singing everything was mind-blowing. The guy’s voice is still there, years after. I was born too late and in a place too far away from where Led Zeppelin wildly sung and partied, I missed Robert Plant’s concert from Bucharest in 2007, I missed his show in Stockholm in 2015 but I didn’t miss it now. I like music, going to concerts, I can make some sense of it all, I appreciate a good show but it’s been so long since I could say that I’ve listened to such beautiful music. Blues, rock, folk, new songs, old songs, Led Zeppelin anthems, “Going to California” and a “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” that drove the crowd wild. It was a dream. I really don’t know what more I could say.

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Bon Jovi @ Tele2 Arena

29 years and counting. 29 years since I’ve started this passion for Bon Jovi. 8 years since i last saw them in Bucharest. The band itself is just one year older than me but everything seems like it’s been lasting since forever.

Last evening I saw them live for the second time in my life. I’ve bought the ticket months ago and I’ve been waiting for their concert like crazy. If anybody ever asks what my favourite band ever is I would answer without any doubt: Bon Jovi. Their album “New Jersey” marked my childhood, I’ve learnt their songs by heart even before I could speak proper English, I followed them closely throughout the years. The sticker with the band that we had at home on the bedroom bookshelf is a photo that I will never forget. 29 years later its colours faded but it is still there. It is surprising how they managed to make an impact on so many generations.

Last evening’s concert was a huge desire to hear those songs again, to dance and sing along, to jump and clap. Their latest album “This House Is Not for Sale” toned down their rock’n’roll style and their live performance was toned down as well. Jon’s voice is far from what it used to be, though certain songs still bring it back. However, his abilities of being an extraordinary frontman to one of the greatest bands ever are still there. And so is his amazing smile. They didn’t play “(You Want to) Make a Memory”, again! But the setlist included so many songs that are dear to me, four of which come from the “New Jersey” album. Each song reminds me of a certain period in my life, from being 6 and trying to make a sense of “Born to Be My Baby” to being 9 and watching “Keep the Faith” on MTV to being 16 and rocking to “It’s My Life” at high school parties to current years when “This House Is Not for Sale”, “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning” and “Labour of Love” are fairly new additions to my Spotify playlists. They didn’t play the last two songs yesterday but even so, was it worth it? Yes! Do I want to see them again? Yes, please!

I liked the people around me, from dear friends to complete strangers of all ages, to a dad that came to the show with his two sons, the youngest being somewhere around 10 and holding his fist in a tight grip on his chest during “Wanted Dead or Alive”. The organisers managed the long queues in an efficient way and they provided water points, cups included, inside the arena. And when I finally managed to get my brain out of my critical-view-on-concerts approach everything turned to pure joy. Hearing “Bed of Roses” and seeing all the lights lit around the venue during it was blissful. Getting to hear my favourite Bon Jovi song ever at the encore was incredible, just when I thought the setlist couldn’t get any better. Watch it below! Singing along to “Living on A Prayer” was heartbreaking because I knew that the concert was seconds from being over. And I just glued myself to the concert hall’s floor to the last moment when the band joined up on stage and bowed goodbye. I wish they never said goodbye but maybe after almost two hours and a half it was about time they did.

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Nine Muses Festival – Happy International Women’s Day!

A few weeks ago I came across a very interesting post on LinkedIn about something called Nine Muses Festival. A quick read between the lines was enough to convince me to book a spot and save March 8th for an event dedicated to women working in the creative arts. I took a course in the creative industries so the interest was not just personal but also professional. The event was co-founded by Spotify which was also a significant reason behind my decision. The people who know me and my passion for music will totally understand why. I saw this as a great opportunity to interact with them beyond their streaming service that I am heavily using and that I recommend to all music lovers out there. As days passed they started announcing their speakers on their social media profiles and my excitement grew stronger and stronger. I am not going to go through their programme or fully present their guests, this is nicely done on their website that I linked to a few rows above. The speakers I got to listen to are described as broadcasters, business women, media personalities, managers, performers, authors both from Sweden and from abroad.  But I am going to give my view on how I lived this day.

Pannel discussion: Michelle Zauner, Jenny Hermansson, Grace Ladoja, Michelle Kadir. Host: Gemma Cairney

So here I was in the morning with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, trying to ignore my annoying allergy burst and irritating back pain, and listening to what became one of the most inspirational events I’ve ever attended. One after the other, amazing women shared their stories, knowledge and experience with us, offered advice and presented facts. I did not expect to get a recipe for everything but I do like it when I am given something to think about and this is what happened today. Besides hearing great stories, taking part in a storytelling workshop with The Moth, I felt somehow challenged by what I heard and did. There were things that made me nod with approval, there were things I didn’t agree with but tried to understand why they would be useful and important for others, stories I could relate to and ideas that were new to me. Girl power comes in so many shapes and sizes, and the diversity of the speakers and their dissimilarity were even more inspirational. It showed that we can be persevering, we can dream, be weird, dare, be kind and positive, smile, be professional and confident, it showed that we work in different ways and that all this is OK. It presented empowering ideas but also ones that hurt, like the constant pressure on some women to prove something to somebody in order to gain credibility while most of the times men don’t have to do that. This was not presented as a universal truth, but the idea was touched upon, just like the one of the payment gap between different-gendered professionals. And even though everything was centered around women, men were not left out of the discussion, nor was their role in creating a more equal and better world for everybody involved. I also watched a pannel about the music industry where it was so nicely mentioned that music can transmit something, that I was instinctively sent back to my master’s thesis and my argument that music is not just noise, not just a mass product, it can also be used as a mean of communication, not just entertainment. And those two can be combined and work amazingly together. Besides the speakers I also got to mingle and talk to other members of the audience and hear some of their stories too. It occasionally got very personal and emotional from all sides involved, and it clearly showed just how much passion these persons put in what they are doing. All in all, Nine Muses Festival brought together a really interesting crowd.

I did expect the event to be more political, I wanted it to start a bigger debate, challenge more ideas and ideologies in a creative way. But this is just my approach on things because I used and still use music and popular culture/the creative arts in general to make sense of the world. But this was just the first edition of the festival, I can’t wait to attend the next ones!

Nightstand material: Gemma Cairney – Open Your Heart

The event as a whole was very well organised, top grade to everybody involved! I have some experience with making things tick in such situations and I know what great work hides behind something that at first sight seems fun and calm, but as the song says, still waters run deep, and the depths hide a lot of hard work and long hours.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the concert of the evening with Zohra, Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra, but I did get o hear their story during the morning session. I learnt that the members of the orchestra put their lives at risk in order to play their music. That was a kind reminder not to take things for granted, music in this case. Instead I came home and I started working on this post, and it wasn’t that easy to put down in words everything that has happened today, especially that now I am really paying the price of my ignorance of my allergy and back pain. I replaced wine and music with hot tea, antihistamins and painkillers.

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Happy 2019!

I watched the last sunrise of 2018 from far above the clouds aboard a plane heading to Stockholm. And I spent the last day of the year half asleep thinking back at the year that’s been and trying to make sense of it.

2018 has been good to me. It felt a bit like riding a motorcycle on the highway for the first time. I am also sure that it tried to teach me some lessons but can’t really put my finger on it now and figure out what they were. It will hit me one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe years from now. I am grateful for them no matter when I make sense of things. I am grateful for many other things I learned, people that crossed my path, memories I made, tennis matches I watched, concerts I attended and the list can go on.

2019 is scaring me but I am in the position where all I can say is “bring it on!”. I do not fall for the over-romanticized New Years Eve and New Year resolutions are not my thing, life’s exciting enough without them. In the end this is just a night and January 1st is a tomorrow. For the lucky ones among us almost every today brings a tomorrow and if we really want a change in our lives we do not need the change of the calendar on the wall to actually make things happen. Or at least that’s how I see things. Yet, this is no reason to skip the parties, dinners and drinks. Hope your celebration sparked fireworks and fun, I wish you all peace, love, health and happiness. The rest can be worked on. Happy New Year!

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