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Bigelf Progressive Nation European Tour Report: Back to the Grind

Ace Mark from Bigelf is currently on the road with the Progressive Nation 2009 European tour with Dream Theater, Opeth and Unexpect. He hates people who write about themselves in the third person.

Brussels, Belgium
After our own little club tour, it was back to playing venues on the Progressive Nation Tour again. Unexpect had had a few days off in Brussels, half of Dream Theater had flown home to the U.S. to their families, and Opeth had done shows on their own in Ireland. They had the misfortune of being in car accident as well. Some car had hit their bus in Belgium, thank God everybody in the band was OK. Their second driver had some severe scars from broken glass and had to take a sick leave. Everybody else was physically healthy, but understandably still shaken by the incident. As Mikael introduced the band at the show: “Good evening. We’re Opeth and we just almost got killed.” Like the true professionals they are, they played an amazing set as always.

Our show went fine as well, despite of the not-so-rare technical problems. After getting the Hammond fixed in London, a new problem with the volume pedal presented itself. Duffy’s bass amp was making weird noises as well. And top of everything, Froth’s kick mic dropped inside the kick drum, and the kick pedal got totally loose in the middle of the set. Miraculously, the guitar gear was working just fine when everything else was falling apart. I thought we played well though. Despite of some frustrated Elves backstage, I don’t think too many people in the audience noticed anything being wrong. After the show it was time for a happy reunion with Unexpect at the buses, both bands had been missing our nightly parties during the break.

Frankfurt, Germany
The Jahhrhunderthalle is a really cool venue, where bands like Led Zeppelin made some rock ‘n’ roll history in their day. The audience was awesome, definitely the best German show so far. We played well, and once again Portnoy made his appearance on ‘Blackball,’ which made the whole venue go ape s—. After the show we did an interview for Metal Hammer and — you guessed it — a quick signing session at the merch desk and bus party with Unexpect. Just another day at the office, but that’s the way we like it.

Ludwigsburg, Germany
After trying to find a laundry machine for hours, I washed my shirts in the sink at the venue. Then it was time to go out on a shopping spree to buy some necessities for the road, such as cigarettes, beer and Jägermeister. The show went fine, and afterwards we started making our way to Portugal, or as Mike would say, Portnoytugal.

Porto, Portugal
After a two-day-long, drive we finally got to Porto, which is an amazingly beautiful city. The venue was located by the river and surrounded by a park and little garden with fountains and statues. The show went well, the Portugese crowd was just loving it, cheering and chanting from start to finish. After the show we went out trying to find a bar, but everything within reasonable distance was closed. Nevertheless, Portnoytugal rocks!

Madrid
La Cubierta turned out to be a huge bull fighting arena, an amphitheater-looking place with a round ring in the middle, with sand on the floor. I have to say it was the first time I ever played one. I went around the arena and took pictures of the bull pits, pretty gnarly. The arena was really reverby, they actually measured the reverb was more than a second. Thankfully a healthy bunch of people showed up, and that made the room sound a lot better. After the show, it was back to the buses with Unexpect as usual.

Barcelona, Spain
The arena in Barcelona was a really nice one. Unfortunately the dressing rooms left a lot to be desired, air conditioning among other things. They were on the bottom floor, so there were no windows either. Extremely hot and humid. The stage was even warmer, and the air had barely any oxygen. Portnoy came out to play ‘Blackball,’ but I couldn’t really enjoy it too much since I was doing my best not to pass out. My flu was getting better, but now it was Froth who was spitting his guts out while we were playing. Anyway, the crowd was really great and seemed to be into it. Bigelf chants filled the hall long after we had finished our set. What a great city, and a great country

Milan, Italy
After a day off in Nice hanging out with Unexpect, we found ourselves in one the biggest fashion capitals of the world. Hours before the show, we saw an endless line of stands selling bootleg concert tees outside the arena. Welcome to the home of bootleg and mafia! Those guys must have had every Dream Theater and Opeth merch item ever made, some of them good, some of them horrible crap. Froth just had to get one Prog Nation shirts for himself, with the names ‘BIGHELF’ and ‘UNESPECT’ on the back. Well, at least they got Opeth and Dream Theater right … The show went great. We played to 9,000 people, and they were all going crazy. Bigelf chants echoed in the hall, and when Portnoy came onstage to play with us they totally lost it. One of the best shows and best crowds on the tour by far. After our set, I went to watch Opeth and was totally floored. After a crazy meet and greet session, the Opeth guys joined the nightly bus party with everybody. All in all, a really great show and a really great night.

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