Sweden Rockfest In Solvesborg

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, June 25, 2002 @ 10:38 AM

Watching Ted Nugent, Bruce Dic

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REVIEW BY: Eddieshead

I can’t say how long I have been looking forward to this festival. I’ve known about it since I first began checking out the KNAC website -- so that would be about six months. The reality is that I’ve been dying to go to a festival with a line-up like this one for nearly 20 years. If you like classic hard rock/metal from the 1980’s then you really can’t ask for anymore. The complete line-up went like this:

Sweden Stage = 1200-1300 Evergrey, 1500-1615 Five Fifteen, 1815-1945 Mannfred Mann, 2145-2315 Virgin Steele.

Rock Stage =1215-1315 Freedom Call, 1500-1615 Doro, 1815-1945 Gamma Ray, 2145-2315 Status Quo.

Festival Stage = 1330-1445 Doc Holliday, 1630-1800 John Kay & Steppenwolf, 2000-2130 Candlemass, 2330-0200 Halford.

Sweden Stage = 1200-1300 Meldrum, 1500-1615 Rage, 1830-1945 Freak Kitchen, 2145-2315 Michael Katon.

Rock Stage = 1215-1315 220 Volt, 1500-1615 Girlschool, 1815-1945 Motorhead, 2145-2315 Bruce Dickinson.

Festival Stage = 1330-1445 Hanoi Rocks, 1630-1800 Magnum, 2000-2130 Ted Nugent, 2330-0200 Saxon.

I have left out the schedule from the kick off day on Thursday, and also the fourth stage. These featured newer bands and/or Swedish bands that I was not familiar with.

One last thing before this travelogue begins with my hazy recollections of the weekend’s events, and that is -- if you are expecting set-lists, and an evaluation of technical ability and a song by song ‘blah, blah, blah’ critique for each of the bands I saw, then you’re in the wrong place. I am a fan of rock music -- the harder, and faster -- the better. And this is a rock fan’s perspective -- I was at this festival first and foremost to have a good time and this festival was making up for some lean years where I’d lived and travelled to some musically dead parts of the world…

And so the weekend begins…

1300 -- I return to work from lunch. Time to start acting sick. I’ve only been at this job since January, and I am not yet eligible for personal leave. First the coughing starts. The pretend itchy nose and watery eyes begins. The act is going well, and I leave work with the permission granted to stay home on Friday.

1830 -- I meet up with a friend from work who has also managed to clear his schedule, and we hop in the borrowed car and begin our journey from Copenhagen, Denmark to Solvesborg, Sweden. Through friends of friends, we’ve also been able to use a summer house in Sweden, located about an hour away from the festival site. The drive takes us over three hours and on the way I begin to get excited about all the bands that will be playing over the next two days. I’ve not been to a real festival since 1988 (Donnington -- Monsters of Rock) and shortly thereafter moved to the remote corners of the Pacific, and the Red Sea, to work in the Scuba Dive Industry. After almost ten years of that life, I am now in a modern city and trying to catch up on the music I’ve been missing out on. (As well as seeing if I can try a normal life!!)

1300 -- We’ve finally parked the car. We’ve made a couple of wrong turns and also got a late start because we had to watch the World Cup football match between Sweden and Nigeria. That, plus a few pit stops explains our late arrival. The weather is fantastic. Clear blue skies. Absolutely no chance at all of rain. (Always a big fear when it comes to European Festivals). We approach the festival site along the side of the road and pass numerous camping sites. I am already getting a good impression that this is a well-run festival. Everything seems to be taken care of. The first slip of the day comes at the front gate when we realise we’ve forgotten to remove our ‘leftover’ beers from the back-pack. Since we can’t bring our drinks in, we have to finish them just outside the main entrance. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are loads of distractions to keep us busy as we pound the beers. At least an acre of stalls set up selling everything from CD’s, LP’s (vinyl), t-shirts, patches and so on. Three cans of beer each later and we’re cruising through the front gate. We’ve traded in our two-day tickets for the two-day wrist-bands.
The site is pretty impressive. We enter and go straight down a slight hill. Dead ahead is a stage. This one is the fourth stage that the lesser known bands have been using. Half way down the hill we turn to our left and can see the way to the Sweden Stage. At the bottom of the hill we cross a small pathway and enter the main festival area. All the way down the right side there are various food tents. Behind them you can see the water. (Solvesborg is on the southeast coast of Sweden.) Over to the left is a big merchandise tent, and beyond that is the Rock Stage. We walk away towards the middle ground of the main area and down the end of our site-line is the Festival Stage. All the way to our far left is the road we had walked along earlier in order to get to the main entrance.
The only music we can hear is coming from the Festival Stage at the end of the field. That becomes our destination. A quick look at my watch and the program lets us know that we must be getting the tail end of Doc Holliday’s set.

1430 -- Doc Holliday. I don’t know much about this band other than that they are a ‘southern’ rock band along the lines of Molly Hatchet or Lynyrd Skynyrd. I am able to weave my way through the crowd to get all the way up to the barrier between the stage and the spectators. The band plays an epic kind of song -- the chorus sounds like it’s “Lonesome Guitar” (take me home)…? Not bad stuff really. Perfect for getting into the festival mood. There is a long jam at the end (typical) and then they leave the stage. The Dixie flags wave and there is enough of a response for the band to come out and play a couple more tunes. All very likeable stuff if that southern boogie music grabs you.
1500 -- There is a very big gathering in front of the Rock Stage. I am in the back of the masses. Doro (Pesch) has just started, and she is very popular with those in attendance. I remember her being with the German band Warlock. She looked hot back then and hasn’t changed a bit. Long dirty blonde hair and all dressed up in black. She’s doing a great job getting the people going. I don’t know any of her stuff, but it’s fast and heavy, so I’m not complaining. Eventually she plays the Warlock song “All we are…all we are, we are…we are all… all you need.” I never was that big of a fan but I am enjoying it today. Then before I know it she’s done. Time flies I guess…

1630 -- I can’t believe it but I have decided to go check out John Kay and Steppenwolf over at the Festival Stage. Just like earlier during Doc Holliday, I was able to weave my way around everyone and get right up to the left of centre-stage. Like most people all I really know about Steppenwolf are the two songs, “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” However the chance to see the whole set from up close is worth it. John Kay looks like he still takes no shit, and with over thirty years prowling the stages he certainly knew what he was doing. The man was in his element and kept the crowd going with a blend of bluesy rock. I was surprised with the inclusion of the old Argent number “Hold Your Head Up.” Later on he let the band play a couple of numbers of their own before he came back out and took care of business with the two well known songs. Everyone had a blast with the extended “Born to be Wild.” The Swedes all chanted, “one more song,” and the band obliged with a song I think was called “The Pusher.”

1815 -- I am at the Rock Stage. There is an even bigger crowd here than there was for Doro. I try to get as close as I can but the bodies are packed in tight. I manage to get to the centre and have a good view, but not as close as I wanted. Gamma Ray are due up and I am about to get blown away. I know nothing by this band and every track they played increased my amazement. I was expecting an updated version of Helloween, or some sort of Euro-thrash. Instead I am subjected to a barrage of fast and furious solos, mixed with crunchy power chords. Every second that passes convinces me further that I need to investigate this band as soon as I am home. They let the crowd know that this is their first show of the year, but I can’t believe it. I almost feel unworthy being there and unfamiliar with their material. I will see this band again, and next time I will be prepared. With much regret I leave early and…

1915 -- I am on my way over to the Sweden Stage. I don’t know why but I’ve decided to catch the end of the Mannfred Mann set. Well, I really do know why. I have to see them play “Blinded by the Light.” Still a favorite of mine after all these years, I can’t explain why. I don’t really like music that emphasizes keyboards, but I would never go see this band on their own so, ‘….why not?’ I find my way to the left side of the stage and enjoy sitting in the sun before it slips behind the stage rigging. During quieter moments of this performance, I can hear the noise echoing over from the end of the Gamma Ray set. After approximately fifteen minutes, I get to hear the song I’ve come over for. The band uses it as their finale. It gets the extended treatment like “Born to be Wild” did over an hour ago. Mannfred Mann then leave the Sweden Stage, and so did I…

2000 -- I am in good position for the specially reformed Candlemass. Another band that I know nothing about. I was curious. Any band that gets compared to Black Sabbath is always going to make me curious. Candlemass are Swedish, they had a huge following at the festival, and were anticipated eagerly. I managed to endure over a half an hour of their stuff before deciding that it wasn’t my thing. Not today at least. I could hear a resemblance between the singer and Ozzy. Musically they were very heavy, but it was slow, grinding and pounding stuff. I guess if you are familiar with it then you know what to expect. I wasn’t, so I got the flock out of there. I needed a chance to eat.

2100 -- I don’t know what to expect, but I’ve just ordered a ‘moose burger!’ Okay, it was less a burger than it was shredded stir-fry moose. Not bad at all, but I was ravenous. Hungry enough to get a ‘wild boar kabob’ next. Pretty tasty, too.

2145 -- I am in good position to see Status Quo. Finally a band that I know a little bit about. Many years ago, I acquired a live recording of this band. No frills, straight ahead hard ‘boogie-style’ rock. A little AC/DC with a mix of Bad Company might be a way to describe them. After this show ‘absolute shit’ might be the way I would describe them. Poor sound put me off at first. I did recognise what they were trying to play, but maybe after having experienced some really heavy -- and loud, very loud -- performances earlier in the day, then this was a step back. Definitely a much different style. Perhaps it would have made a difference if they had turned the volume up. The band even admitted they might be a bit different to other bands who played earlier that day. I must have been in the minority though. All around me people were having a good time. So for me I decided to cut my losses. Not prepared to let this current version of a band I remember fondly taint one of my favorite live recordings; I set off to the Festival Stage.

2300 -- I am early, and so are tons of other people who either didn’t care about Status Quo, or very badly wanted to see Rob Halford. The masses are jostling for position. At one point I am dead centre in front of the stage, then the surge comes from my right and I find that I am halfway towards the far left side of the stage.

2330 -- I am able to get about three or four bodies away from the barrier. A little to the left of centre stage. (People climb up my back all show long but I managed to stay pretty much in this same area) Halford’s set has been posted on the KNAC news page. I just read it over to refresh my memory. I also remember him being pretty angry about some feedback. He came out on his own at the start. (Yeah, he was dressed up in the leather, metal studs and plates all over his outfit, almost blinding. I think he takes his role as ‘the Metal God’ very seriously!) He got the crowd going with a sing along “Repeat after me: oh - waa, oh - waa, oooooh” which segued into “Painkiller.” What a great way to start the set. It really set the tone. I hadn’t heard any of his stuff with Fight or the Halford stuff, but it fits in well. I was ecstatic to hear “Exciter.” The masses were crazy the entire time. Which reminds me that the security were top notch. Peeling the exhausted bodies out and pulling the people over the top. Some might have been surfing, but most were exhausted and couldn’t handle the crush of bodies from all directions. Once again, time flew by. The schedule said Halford was to play until 0200. But I was on my way back to the car by 0120. He said he had to call the band off the bus to come back out to play the last song. Not sure if I believe that, but ‘oh well,’ end of a great day.

1130 -- Still at the summer house. We did not get back from the previous night until 0330. Hence the slow start on Saturday. We have studied the map and think we’ve found a couple of short cuts. Hopefully this will prove to be a better way.

1230 -- After stopping for gas, and sun block (it was even hotter and brighter today) we’ve actually not saved much time at all. It is much more crowded today. If you look at the listed artists, then you know, it’s a real ‘who’s-who’ for the heavy music world. For the past month I’d been referring to this festival as the legends of Metal Festival.

1245 -- On the way in I was hoping that we could catch the end of the set by Meldrum. Although I know nothing about them, they have a picture in the program, which is kind of appealing -- four chicks who look like they take no shit. Unfortunately, they must have finished early because the audience is leaving the area in front of the Sweden Stage. A quick look at the program tells us that we should head to the Rock Stage.

1250 -- 220 Volt are hard at work. This is some pretty aggressive music. Not that much different from Gamma Ray, 20 hours ago. The sound is a little rougher around the edges. I believe 220 Volt are Swedish, and they seem pretty popular. I am content to stand at the back (enjoying my first moose stir fry of the day) and watch.

1330 -- Another band that are back in action after many years away -- Hanoi Rocks. This would be the first appearance at the festival for any music that could be categorized as ‘Glam Rock’.’ I vaguely remember reading about this band in the early 1980’s. Big things were projected for them. Unfortunately, their recognition for most people came from the incident concerning the death of their drummer in an accident with Vince Neil. Today the band look very colourful. Their music, however, seems to me to be a bit forced. I seem to recall really enjoying the moments when the band are able to let loose and jam. Unfortunately the songs themselves were not very memorable. The main highlights for me were when Michael Monroe broke out the saxophone and joined in with the rest of the band. Perhaps that was because it allowed Hanoi Rocks to be a bit different/unusual, or maybe you could make the interpretation that if they hadn’t done that then their music really is pretty ordinary.

1500 -- I’m over at the Rock Stage. I’ve managed to get all the way up to the barrier, and I am on the left side. I look around and can see the numbers are getting larger. Girlschool arrive on stage and I find that I am really looking forward to seeing them (and hearing their music). I used to play the album Hit and Run on a daily basis, so I am pleased that they have decided to include a lot of familiar songs from that album, especially their cover of the ZZ-Top classic “Tush.” We also get treated to “999 – Emergency,” and “Race with the Devil.” They looked happy to be there, they got a great response from the fans and played a really fun set.

1630 -- At the Festival Stage there is a big crowd getting ready for Magnum. This is another band from the 1980’s. I haven’t followed them in quite some time. I was afraid that their style of music wouldn’t really click with the majority of the people who were here today, but they went over quite well. I got the impression that they have a strong Scandinavian following, and must tour up here regularly. This band features the keyboards in most of their songs. Normally I don’t like that, but today it helps distinguish Magnum, and adds to the overall mood for the day. Whereas Status Quo were forgettable, and Hanoi Rocks different, Magnum actually were able to stand out, compared to the others on the day. It was also nice to rest after the Girlschool set, and sit on the grass while watching the music.

1750 -- I have left the area in front of the Festival Stage so I can get into position for Motorhead who are going to be playing on the Rock Stage. Magnum have been called out for another song back over at the Festival Stage, but I have a different agenda. Over here, there is already a small crowd. I want to get the best position possible, so I think to myself that Lemmy pretty much stays to the centre of the stage. Since most of the people are starting to gather in the middle and on the left, then the easiest place to be is just to the right of centre stage. This is where I end up. During the final sound check I’ve found that I am in a good position, just to the right of centre stage, exactly where I want to be. There is one person between the barrier and me. I am glad I’ve arrived early because after fifteen minutes there is a lot of pushing and shoving going on behind us. I have a quick look around and am amazed at how the numbers have increased. It is a real ‘sea’ of people. Fortunately the front three to five rows, where I am, are holding strong. The roadies are taking their time making final preparations. Eventually Lemmy and the boys come out and I think he says, “We are Motorhead, born to kick your ass!” Funnily enough, guess what the first song is? The frenzy at the stage was mad and the noise overwhelming -- at first. They rip through their set -- mixing in new stuff from Hammered as well as the older favorites – “Iron Fist” and “Ace of Spades,” -- two classics that have been personal favorites from the day I first got into this band.
The security for this show also deserve everybody’s respect. They were passing out water the entire time as well as helping out the poor individuals who couldn’t take it any more. As the bodies are being pulled over the barrier, Motorhead play on. It is non-stop, full speed ahead stuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything like this. Lemmy stops for a moment and makes a comment about a banner that he has spotted. He thinks it says Danzig, but corrects himself when he sees that it’s actually a Carlsberg banner. I was wishing for a Carlsberg, but was happy to take the water that came from the security guys. Lemmy halts the proceedings ands asks everyone what they think of Punk music. Before any kind of response can be determined they lead into “God Save the Queen.”
Later on the band gets introduced. Phil Campbell gets credit as the longest serving guitarist in the history of Motorhead, and Mickey Dee is recognised as the best drummer in Sweden. (He is Swedish, if you didn’t know.) Just when you think it can’t get any better, Lemmy brings the girls from Girlschool out to do “Bomber.” After that, they all leave. The masses call for more, and Lemmy brings Phil and Mickey out and they give us one last treat – “Overkill.” There is no word to describe the feeling after an experience like this. I remember hearing a comment as I was staggering off to the Festival Stage: “Just go home now, it doesn’t get any better than that!”

2000 -- I certainly wasn’t going home. I was getting re-hydrated and was fairly happy to find a place dead centre and about 30 feet from the stage to watch Ted Nugent. I remember the set starting with “Stranglehold” and I think “Stormtrooper” followed that. Ted was happy to be there, he even asked the Swedes if they missed him for being gone so long. Some other comments I remember, included him praising Lemmy and Motorhead, but only in a way that allowed him to brag about how great his own songs were. And they were. He got a huge response for “Cat Scratch Fever” and followed that with “Stranglehold.” He looked like he was enjoying himself, and I couldn’t believe it when he left the stage. The audience insisted he come back for ‘one more song.’ I was hoping for a few more than that, but none of the bands all weekend had played longer than ninety minutes, so one more song was what we got. Ted capped his set off with a demonstration of his hunting ability. A flaming arrow shot into the back of one of the guitars, which then set off a minor fireworks display.

2130 –- There is already a huge crowd in front of the Rock Stage. The roadies for Bruce Dickinson are taking their time. There are loads of Iron Maiden supporters all over the place, and I’m wondering if I can work my way through that pack of people to get a decent view of this up-coming set. In my mind I am not sure how I feel about a solo Bruce Dickinson performance. How will I feel when he plays some of the great Iron Maiden tracks? Will it be right to see and hear him and his voice, without Steve Harris and the rest of the band up there? I decide to let it drop, I didn’t mind Rob Halford doing the Judas Priest classics the day before so why should this bother me? In the end I find a good position over to the far right side of the stage. (KNAC have posted the set list on the news page.) Highlights for me did end up being the Iron Maiden songs. In particular, “Revelations” was well done. Bruce seemed to be in good form. He said he and the band were on the road to just have some fun, and not to promote anything. It looked like they were having fun. They let down at the end of the set when they start the Tom Jones song -- actually allowed me to leave early and get a good spot for…

2320 -- Saxon over at the Festival Stage. Possibly the one band that still exists that I have waited the longest to see, that I still actually want to see. Bruce is finishing up the Tom Jones song and I am not sure I can stand up much longer. I make my way to the barrier in front of the tower that houses the mixing desk and spotlights. Luckily there is still space so that I have something to lean back on. Getting here about ten minutes early allows me the chance to rest and reflect… I remember back to 8th grade, when I was living in California and thinking I knew something about music. One day I look over at the imports section of the music store I used to go to, and there is this guy wearing a denim jacket. The jacket had patches on it for bands I had never heard of -- Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Def Leppard and Saxon, along with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin who at the time were my two favorites. (I just knew that they were all going to become my new favorite bands.)

2330 -- Fast forward nearly twenty years and I finally am getting the chance to see Saxon. This is the version of the band lead by Biff Byford. The one that most purists would say is the real Saxon. They look to be tremendously popular here in Scandinavia, and Biff seems proud to be the final act of the weekend. I am enjoying myself as they run through classics such as “747 - Strangers in the Night,” and “Motorcycle Man.” They play a few newer ones that I wasn’t familiar with. It was starting to get a bit windy and I wonder if that was affecting Biff’s vocals. He had kept the overcoat on for a long time and (it may have been the lights, but from my perspective) it looked like his hair was totally grey! Biff is definitely a trooper -- I really enjoyed “Crusader” and “Princess of the Night” at the tail end of the set. I was physically and mentally shattered after that, and honestly can’t remember any more about Saxon other than that they did come out and play a couple more songs! Sorry but I think I had reached saturation point.

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