mROCKfest, Poland, 31 July 2009

I’ve been meaning to write a few words about our long trip into the heart of Poland, where we played mROCKfest on 31 July. Unfortunately one thing or another always seemed more important and now it’s been ages since it actually happened! However, I’d still quite like to share a few photos and anecdotes with you…

The trip from Karlsruhe – home of Lutz and Mathilda – to the Polish border past Berlin was relatively uneventful, the real adventure started once we’d passed the German-Polish border. The roads themselves weren’t as bad as we had been made to believe but the traffic was worse. We took the main road that goes from Germany through Warsaw to Russia, which just has a single lane in each direction and is packed with lorry after lorry. There was, however, a fairly generous hard shoulder for the slower vehicles, like ourselves, so the centre of the road could be used for some rather dangerous overtaking maneuvers by both lanes.

Even major roads seemed to go through a town every few miles which meant constantly braking and speeding up, lots of traffic lights and traffic jams, a constant stop and go. Mathilda, our trusty 36 year old tourbus, didn’t like it. Not one bit. She soon decided that she’d had enough and refused to go any further. Standing by the roadside with only 300km to go – which on Polish roads would take us about 10 hours – we were seriously worried… Luckily, after much finger-crossing, a thorough examination and some TLC from Lutz and the Polish equivalent of the AA Mathilda could be persuaded to have another go. Phew!

We spent the night parked up at a petrol station and headed off to Ostroda fairly early the next morning, where it turned out that none of the organisers were at the venue despite the fact that it was load-in time. When finally someone turned up they couldn’t speak any English so we just obediently parked up where we were shown and waited for further instructions.

Load-in started 2 hours later and since by this time neither the PA nor lights were set up we kind of figured out that everything was running late. Our soundcheck time came and went, the PA and lights were still not set up. The doors opened and we still hadn’t soundchecked. However, we were assured by the promoter that “you know what it’s like, festivals always run late”, so there obviously was no need to worry, was there? Hmmm…

Well, we used to the time to enjoy the sunshine, check emails, enjoy the gorgeous dinner the promoter had organised, buy insect repellent (an interesting game of charades with a pharmacist who did not speak anything other than Polish) and, in my case, do vocal warm-ups. Around 8pm I think we finally soundchecked, a mere 6 hours late, and about 2 hours after the doors opened. The crowd was incredibly appreciative and we got a huge round of applause at the end of our soundcheck – which was very odd!

None of the organisers seemed to be worried about the delays and so none of the bands were asked to shorten their soundcheck or set. Although I really enjoyed the melancholy Slavic lament of Negradonna and the Emilie Autumn-esque Vic Anselmo we got more and more worried that people wouldn’t stay to wait for us to go on.

When around 2 am we finally went on stage, we were positively surprised and ended up playing to an amazing crowd that was up for partying all night! Playing in such a great location and to such an enthusiastic audience made up for all the waiting around and we had an absolute blast on stage. We played several songs from the new album for the very first time, including “Sick and Tired” and “Burn”, which are definitely amongst my new live favourites. It was great to see how well they went down!

By the time we got off stage the promoter had already gone home as had anybody else who knew the address to where our tourbus was parked up! With a very small Polish vocabulary and no address it was a bit tricky to make our way there… However, the lovely Kris, who works behind the bar there, sorted it all out for us and around 4.30am we and our equipment were finally safely back at our overnight spot. What a night, but despite being incredibly tired we had to have a celebratory drink or two ourselves before going to sleep!

The next day we took it easy, explored the city and practised our newly emerging Polish language skills. In the evening we headed over to the castle again for the second day of mROCKfest. We met Thomas Rainer of L’Ame Immortelle who despite our best intentions decided to ply us and several of his band and crew with cocktails all night. He seemed to have had a similarly exciting journey to get to Ostroda – but that’s his story to tell…

On the way back we took the slow route along the coast – the first few days off I’ve had all year – before starting the long way back to Karlsruhe to unload and carry on the studio work on our new album Defiance… So have I learnt anything from the whole experience? Probably not as I would do it all over again :)

Thanks to the promoters for inviting us to come and play our first Polish and festival headline show ever and for everyone who came to the show and partied with us! Hope to see you again at some point!!

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