SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL 2010
Sölvesborg, Sweden, June 9-12
by TK Smith

Wednesday, June 9th: U.D.O., Sator, Alestorm, Steelwing, Warrior Soul, Michael Monroe, Quireboys

Thursday, June 10th: AEROSMITH, Damn Delicious, Stone Sour, Dundertåget, Trumclinic, Nazareth, Treat, Mothers Finest, Y&T, Evergrey, Death Angel, Pretty Maids, Blackberry Smoke, Pendragon, Sabaton, Johan Edlund, Slayer, Mama Kin, Amon Düül II, Quireboys, Danzig, Jorn, Mayhem

Friday, June 11th: GARY MOORE, Grave Digger, Bigelf, The Itch, Michael Schenker Group, Screaming Lords, D-A-D, High On Fire, Conny Bloom, Rick Springfield, Praying Mantis, Magnum, Steel Panther, Chicken Shack, Pugh Rogefeldt, Cinderella, Billy Idol, Mustasch, Suicidal Tendencies, Bonafide, Behemoth

Saturday, June 12th: GUNS N’ ROSES, Cathedral, Dream Evil, Fates Warning, Skyclad, Unisonic, Epica, Winger, Point Blank, Opeth, Saga, Raven, Nitzinger, Bachman & Turner, W.A.S.P., Watain, Anvil, Dan Reed, Stratovarius

European music festivals are an endurance test to say the least. For hardcore punters it’s the 3:00am late nights and the 9:00am early mornings to get a decent parking space. This year was especially hectic as we added AC/DC, Hardcore Superstar, Abramis Brama, Bloodlights, KISS and Mustasch to our itinerary. The secret to a successful festival experience is good shoes. Between the 15 hours of standing (a day) and the miles walked between merchandise booths, food vendors and several stages, it can be exhausting. This year was cooler than past so we dressed in layers and prepared for the endless, smelly, painful queue at the lue. However, if there is only one festival you can attend, we highly recommend the Sweden Rock Festival (SRF), located just outside Sölvesborg, Sweden in the shire of Norjeboke (Norje), an ancient town surrounded by sandy beaches. Not only is it four days of world class bands, but the staff and crew are polite, educated and friendly. Water is easy to find and rain gear is cheap and effective.

The real bang behind SRF is their ability to get unique retro bands to reunite (Mother’s Finest, Bachman & Turner), attract a wide range of musical genres (proggers Amon Düül II to black metal Watain) and spice it up with good ‘ol Southern Rock (Point Blank, Nitzinger, Blackberry Smoke). The impressive list of 100 bands are scattered over five stages including Sweden, Rock, Festival, Dio (dedicated to the man himself) and Rockklassiker (acoustic). They are fiercely loyal to Scandinavian bands featuring a stage just for promoting national talent called the Nemis stage. Not surprising, the bands are just a loyal to them. This year there were three big cancellations Aldo Nova, Ratt and Mastodon. In each case Scandinavian superstars Pretty Maids (Denmark), Mustach (Sweden) and Opeth (Sweden) stepped in at the eleventh hour to save the day.

DAY 1 & 2

WEDNESDAY JUNE 9th

In a festival atmosphere, there’s no way you’ll be able to see all the bands you want to, so pick your top favorites and make those a priority. Sometimes you’ll need to cut a set short to make it on time to the next band at a stage a quarter mile away. Accept it – that’s the festival way. Our journey began June 9th mid-afternoon. The weather in Sweden had been picture perfect prior to the festival, but just as the first bands took the stage the clouds started rolling in. After sorting out a reasonable parking spot in a farmers’ field, we caught the tail end of the melodic Sator (featuring famed record producer Chips Kiesbye on guitar) and Scottish folk/power metal band Alestorm, the latter living up to its pirate-themed reputation. Steelwing, an Iron Maiden-meets-Judas Priest upstart put the pedal-to-the-metal and screamed through an hours’ worth of originals leading us up to the first attractive headliner, Michael Monroe.

Michael Monroe, the ex-Hanoi Rocks fin is current pumping up his new band which includes Hanoi bassist Sami Yaffa, guitarists Ginger (Wildhearts) and Steve Conte (Company of Wolves, New York Dolls) with drummer Karl Rosqvist (Danzig). Having just seen these guys twice at SXSW, it was very cool to watch them whip a large crowd into a frenzy. Monroe is a stunning front man, full of energy and over-the-top personality. Often compared to David Lee Roth, he pulls out all the stops with glam, punk and rock. He covered some old Hanoi songs, Demolition 23 and solo works. The band even featured four new tunes including the killer “Motorhead’s For a Fall” before leaving us exhausted.

Warrior Soul was doing an acoustic set. I was skeptical how they were going to pull off their angry aggression unplugged, but was pleasantly surprised how powerful they were as an acoustic four-piece. Whiskey-voice Kory Clarke raged as the guitars countered with stunning melody. It was chilling.

The Quireboys stole the night with a massive reception. Playing a big stage only magnified their pub rock presentation. They are good-time rock and roll at its finest and with singer Spike leading the charge, guitarists Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin unleashed their twin guitar boogie. Keith Weir alternated between piano and electric organ adding buckets to the band’s classic sound while drummer Phil Martini and bassist Damon Williams held the whole thing together. This is the 20th year anniversary of the band’s debut A Bit of What You Fancy, so we got ten cuts off the disc with newer tracks “Mona Lisa Smiled” and “I love This Dirty Town.”

Closing the first night of the festival was German band U.D.O. led by ex-Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. As the clock struck midnight, the group were at their metallic best with crushing versions of “Thunderball,” “Man and Machine,” and new track “Dominator.”  Several old Accept numbers filled the set including “Metal Heart,” a punishing “Balls to the Wall” and classic “Princess of the Dawn.” A brilliant way to kick off the festival!

THURSDAY JUNE 10th

An early morning start guaranteed a good parking place in the same farmer’s field as the day before. I arrived just as Sweden-natives Dundertåget stepped out on stage amidst wind and drizzling rain. The four-piece, led by ex-Hellacopter guitarist Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist, delivered an hour-long set of high-energy, revved-up punk and roll. They not only kept a fevered pitch through songs like “Full Kalabalik,” the piano-tinged “Förvånad, Hånad Och Kränkt” and blistering “Här Har Vi Allt Som Du Behöver,” but created a wave of tears in the emotional ballad “Vingars Brus.” The highlight of the show was the closing jam when the three guitarists lined up near the front and, after taking aim over the crowd, lifted their instruments high in the air as the feedback resonated a good five minutes after they left the stage.

It was a quick dash over to the Nemis stage to catch Mama Kin, local heroes that mix the incredible catchy hooks of Tyketto with Kiss-like muscle. Their single “Too Much” was not only worth standing in the rain for, but kept us around for “Higher & Higher,” “Mrs. Operator” and “Badge and a Gun,” a song Paul Stanley would be proud of.

After lunch with the Quireboys and interviews with “Strings,” Jorn and Udo Dirkschneider, it was off to see Nazareth on the huge Festival stage. The Scotsmen have really toughened up their show; easily playing the heaviest set I’ve seen them do yet. They not only included classic “Hair of the Dog,” “Love Hurts” and “Razamanaz” but “Liar” and “Mean Streets” from their new disc Newz (2008). Talking with 64 year old singer Dan McCafferty backstage about the band’s current metal edge, his remark was, “Wait ‘till you hear our next record!”

Half way through an excellent Y&T’s set, the rain really came down. Luckily, there was a vendor selling ponchos by the Rock stage where Mother’s Finest were making a comeback. I’m not too familiar with Atlanta-based funk rockers but, “Truth’ll Set You Free” was a monster as was their blazing version of “Train Kept A Rollin”.  Joyce Kennedy still looks amazing in spandex.

It was a race to get over to the Dio stage for Death Angel’s ultimate thrash experience. Most of their set was pulled from their ‘80s records like “The Ultra-Violence” and “Kill as One,” but they did play “River of Rapture” from their forthcoming album Relentless Retribution – absolutely brutal.

One of the fortunate misfortunes of the SRF was the cancellation of Ratt on the Festival stage. So it was with a moment of pure joy to see the Pretty Maids banner descend in their place. The Danish band is one I’ve wanted to see for years and though brought in at the last minute. they did a spectacular job. The set was a dream list moving from “Wake Up to the Real World,” and “Scream” to “Rodeo” and power ballad “Please Don’t Leave Me.” It may have been the unexpected shock of seeing them ‘live’ and on stage, but for me it went down as something very special.

Blackberry Smoke absolutely stunned the crowd with a set so tight, it rung out all the rain in the air. These guys are a must-see, bringing back good ol’ southern rock in all its glory. Big hooks, great lyrics and plenty of chanting endeared them to the growing masses. Having just seen Slayer in the States, we ended up watching legendary German Krautrock band Amon Düül II with Damon Fox of Bigelf. It was bizarre in a hard rock kinda way.

Our pick for the band that ruled the day was Jorn. The Norse god of Vegabond, The Snakes and Masterplan was at his strongest with a voice that cracked the sky and a band equally up for the task. Drummer Willy Bendiksen set the pace with fierce thundering in “Road of the Cross” while guitarist Tore Moren and Tor Erik Myhre blazed away in “We Brought The Angels Down” and “Blacksong.” Then it was bassist Sid Ringsby that kicked it into overdrive with the Thin Lizzy cover “Are You Ready?” An emotional Jorn closed the night with the encore, “War of the World/Man on the Silver Mountain” dedicated to Ronnie James Dio.

The final band of the day was Aerosmith who went on around 11:30 PM. There was nothing really wrong with their show, it was made for TV Aerosmith – slick, polished, great lighting. Yet it lacked reality. All day we’d seen bands giving it their all – blood, sweat and tears. Aerosmith has been doing this so long; they do it in their sleep. They lacked pizazz, or any real connection with the crowd. This same lethargic approach to their audience seemed to plague the next two night headliners as well. In my opinion, “Back in the Saddle,” “Draw the Line,” the Fleetwood Mac cover “Stop Messin’ Around,” and “Toys in the Attic” were the only songs worth watching.

DAY 3 & 4

Website: Sweden Rock Festival