Rock AM Ring, Rock IM Park, Sweden Rock, Nova Rock, Donington Download. Those were just some of the massive festivals Disturbed conquered this past June when they first came through here on this record cycle and left thousands of excited fans in their wake. Now they're back and the intensity left over from the Summer has helped make these shows some of the most memorable in recent years. I always challenge myself to come up with the right words to describe how rabid the fans are over here, and I fail every time. Seriously, you need to come over here and see what a Disturbed crowd is like in Germany, Holland, the U.K., Austria, Etc... I don't know if it's the weather, the history, or something in the water, but it is definitely a palpable madness!
I joined the tour in Brussels on October 11th and was instantly impressed with the way the fans over here have learned all the new Indestructible songs. The Ancienne Belgique venue in Brussels is also one of the coolest places in Europe to see a band like Disturbed play because the place just oozes vibe. There are several different levels to watch the show from, making it really feel like a distant cousin to a "House of Blues". That, and the fact that they have my favorite beer in the world on tap in the lobby (Hoegaarden) just pushes this venue over the top for me. Another really cool aspect of this venue is it's location. It's right next to the enormous Brussels town square, where, after soundcheck, we got to see some of the coolest old buildings in Europe just a short walk out the backstage door.
Soon after the Brussels show, we boarded the buses and headed to a little town I like to call "Are you serious? You can do that here?", aka Amsterdam! If you've never been, do yourself a favor and book a flight now. Amsterdam is one of those cities that creates legendary tales on a tour. We still laugh about Amsterdam stories from past trips here. Every time we come here, there seems to be some new crazy story that happens to one of us that tops whatever happened the last time we did some "Amster-damage". On our day off, we ventured out to find a bar that was playing some American Football on TV (all due respect to European soccer fans, our game is the REAL football!). Fortunately for us, the bar we found happened to be attached to the world famous Bull Dog "coffee shop". And yes, it's totally legal here. You order weed right off a menu like you're ordering a sandwich. Also legal here are the "goods" you can purchase while window shopping in the red light district, which we managed to take a stroll through on our way back to the hotel. Amsterdam is pure fun, let's leave it at that.
The last time I was here with Disturbed, we played the Paradiso, an insanely cool, but tiny, downtown club. This time, due to the band's increasing popularity, we moved to the much larger, but still vibe-heavy Heineken Music Hall. I loved this venue because the room is designed for rock music and sounds incredible. It sort of reminds me of a larger version of the Astoria in London. I also loved the wide open floor where I could clearly see at least 3 non-stop pits swirling throughout the show. Way to represent Amsterdam, you guys threw down hard! It was also really cool to see Spoox at this show. She flew all the way from Alaska to come see the band and take some pics, which I'm sure she'll be posting soon as well. PS - Thanks Spoox for the shot glasses, they came in handy on the drive to Hamburg.
The 2 shows in Hamburg turned out to be the hottest yet, mostly due to the small club we were playing in. I think there was an option to play one massive show in a bigger venue nearby but the guys preferred to play 2 intimate club shows instead. Based on their reaction, I'm sure all the Hamburg fans were grateful for the decision. There is something special that happens when a band like Disturbed plays clubs. Everything feels that much more intense and focused. Huge arenas are always cool, but the Hamburg shows illustrate how having the band jamming together on a smaller stage, only a few feet from the fans, can just ratchet up the experience like nothing else.
After the first Hamburg show, we all headed over to a little bar on the other side of town to join Shinedown for their European CD release party. It was a great chance to unwind and get to know the guys in the other camp, and of course, it never hurts after a long day to have an "open bar" paid for by the label. Soon after we arrived, Dan and John were admiring a really cool fish-skeleton guitar on the wall above the bar, which you can in the pics from the night. We also got a good laugh out of the "Demolition Man" pinball machine by the exit. None of us could figure out why such a horrible movie ever got it's own pinball machine. I guess Germany has a taste for the bizarre when it comes to entertainment. How else can you explain David Hasselhof's popularity over here?
After hanging with Shinedown, we headed over to play some foosball at another bar that we knew from our last visit over here. Someone obviously forgot to tell the locals to take it easy on Danny and Disturbed's manager, because they got schooled a couple times by what can only be described as foosball wizards. Something tells me that you should enjoy the one pic I have of the experience because pride will get in the way of you guys ever getting to see the footage I shot.
We finally rolled into Berlin for a much needed day off on the 16th. Berlin is one of those cities where it should be a crime to not go out and see the history all around you. I went with David and Danny for a long walk around the city, stopping several times to admire the beauty, and cringe at the horror, of some of the many sites that have made this one of the most incredibly sobering places on Earth. We happened to be there on a day when a massive street protest was taking place with thousands of farmers marching through the streets bringing attention to their cause, We think it had something to do with government price controls on dairy costs, but we never found out for sure. You can see from the pics too that Dan tends to be the navigator on these treks, always with the map at the ready. At one point, we ran into Brent (Shinedown) and we stopped to take a picture in front of the gigantic rows of stone that make up the memorial to the European Jews killed in The War. My favorite memory of the day was when we grabbed broke for Starbucks at the infamous Brandenburg Gate. While sitting outside to admire the surrounding buildings, JLowe almost got plowed several times by the dive-bombing birds that seemed to dominate the area. It got to be so funny that David almost did a "spit take" with his coffee when JLowe had just finished saying "These birds are freaking me out" and a bird flew within a couple inches of his nose. I'm still waiting for the payment from Jason to erase that footage!
Before I write about the Berlin gig, there's something you need to know about Danny, if you didn't already. When it comes to being on time for bus call, he is a hard ass. Big time. So when John happened to be running a couple minutes late when we were leaving the hotel for the show, Dan made sure to bust his balls. He was trying to get Jason to "oil spot" him (ie - leave him behind to take a cab to the venue). Fortunately for John, he arrived just as we were about to pull away.
When it came time for the show, the restless energy of the fans waiting inside the Columbiahalle gave way to madness as they quickly discovered this wasn't going to be your average rock show. The guys had a look in their eyes in the dressing room that night and you could just tell they wanted to come out blazing. I think they are growing weary of playing the medium sized clubs here and want Berliners to experience Disturbed in one of the larger arenas the next time we visit. Whatever it was, it paid off big time because the band was so tight and powerful throughout the set. Again, it was a welcome sight to see so many non-English speaking fans passionately singing the new songs back to the band and having such a blast tearing it up in the pits. I know the guys can't wait to come back to Berlin!
After Berlin, we headed to Dusseldorf for another show day. When David and I arrived in catering for lunch, we noticed that someone had left a backgammon board on the table so we decided it was time to show off our skills. Unfortunately for me, David happens to be the luckiest dice roller on the planet and he destroyed me! I mean, who rolls double 6’s 4 times in a row? The man is blessed! The promoter also took note of our enthusiasm for the game and generously gave us 2 new backgammon boards, which we were very grateful for because the games will help pass the time on the long bus rides ahead. After soundcheck and a few more heated backgammon matches, we had the runner drop us off in downtown Dusseldorf for a few hours so we could go site-seeing. We were impressed to see plenty of Disturbed posters up around the town and were approached several times by fans that recognized the band. It was nice to finally see Dusseldorf too, especially the beautiful river Rhine that runs through the city.
We arrived back at the venue just in time for the meet & greet with a handful of US military personnel, stationed at nearby Spangdahlem Air Base. Those same lucky troops then got to hang with the guys for a few drinks after the show, a couple of them even getting their Jagermeister bottles autographed while watching the "Making of Indestructible" DVD with Dan and John. It turned out that those few drinks inside the venue then led to a flood of many more once we got back to the crew bus. Our bus call wasn't for a couple hours so the band and crew took the opportunity to devour several bottle of Jager. My favorite nights on a tour are often when the tour is going really well and the band hangs out with the crew on their bus. It feels like a big alcohol-fueled circus and we bring the clowns!
Once Dan, Mike, and John got back to our bus, we all got a lesson in microwave oven safety from Dan as he laughed off our warnings about metal in the oven and heated up his after-show food in a foil container. We all got a good drunken laugh from this dangerous display. Dan then laughed at us for showing concern in the first place, like we were a bunch of wimps for doubting him. He's a risk taker, that Dan Donegan. He even confessed to running around the house with scissors and drinking expired milk. Yup, sure is a wild man!
Needless to say, we were looking forward to a nice day off in Munich to nurse our collective hangovers and all that stood in our way was a long, boring bus ride. Thankfully, our bus has a sweet hard-drive based movie system with about a hundred movies on it. Not that we'd know really because John has hijacked the thing to only play one... "Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny". Don't get me wrong, we love the movie, but John has every line memorized at this point and let's us know it throughout the day. J/K. It's not just John, we've all been driving ourselves crazy with hourly "Pick of Destiny" references. Such is life in the monotonous world of rock n' roll.
Now we were off to Munich, or Munchen as the locals call it. Munich is such a spectacular city, filled with tons of historical sites and amazing architecture. Unfortunately, until this tour, we've never really gotten a chance to explore it much. Now with 3 days on our side, we all decided to indulge in some real site-seeing. Let me clarify: Everyone but Mike did site-seeing. Mike pretty much stayed at the hotel while we took turns busting his chops for not being with us. At one point, Dan suggested we grab Mike and his bed out of his room and push him around town on it so he could enjoy some of the sites we were exploring.
Munich must have seen it’s share of naval manufacturing during the war because we found a giant propeller statue on our way back to the hotel. As you can see in the picture, it’s so huge that it dwarfs Dan, David, and John. There was also a gigantic cathedral of some sort right near our hotel that had hundreds of ornate sections to it. John also noticed that the building must function as a kind of enormous cuckoo clock because it had several mechanical characters that looked like they came to life on a track when the clock struck a certain time. Of course, our favorite part was a large sculpture of a dragon scaling one of the corners of the structure.
Later that night, we attempted once again to find an NFL game to watch on our Sunday night off. We found a local pub where the beer was cold, the wings were hot, and everything seemed set, or so we thought. We were stuck watching the Carolina Panthers game because, unfortunately for the band, the Bears Vs. Vikings game was not televised over here. We had to hear about the wild finish in the Bears game on Sportscenter later that night. Lame.
Oh well, at least we had the show to look forward to. Of course it helped that the Munich crowd was as nutty as anticipated, proudly representing themselves as some of Germany's loudest Disturbed fans. We quickly remembered just how crazy these Munich fans were when we realized this was where we kicked off our European tour a couple years ago. The band was delighted to see all of their ferocious energy on display when fans lined up several times in the pit for the “wall of death”! It was awesome to watch from the stage. The venue is so perfect for big metal shows too. It’s so industrial looking and there are iron beams everywhere. They also did a great job of getting the fans fired up by selling beer to the people waiting in line before the doors even opened! Venues should start doing this in the States. Write your Congressman! Tangents aside, my final memory of this place is also another unique part of it’s design. When the band left the stage, they had to walk the length of the main room up in a catwalk to the dressing rooms, in full view of the appreciative fans below. The guys definitely enjoyed this loud and spontaneous show of respect. Thanks Munich for an incredible night!
The following day off was originally supposed to be a show day in Leipzig, but it was unexpectedly cancelled. Though the guys were disappointed by the cancellation, David and Mike at least took advantage of the extra day off by heading to the BMW museum in Munich before our late night drive to Vienna, Austria. Here’s a bit of advice to designers of other theme museums: please visit the BMW museum first and take notes! It’s amazing. As you would expect, the place is a marvel of industrial design and very impressive. Everywhere you look, BMW cars, motorcycles, and aircraft engines are immaculately presented in very unique ways. Oh, and for all you “Halo” players out there, I must admit I found myself daydreaming of using the wide-open spaces and multi-tiered levels of the place as a real life “Halo” level. A geek can dream right? I’ll be posting some footage of our trip to the museum soon so you can see it for yourself, as well as part 2 of this European tour blog. In the meantime, enjoy the new pics and have a happy Halloween!