The Bigelf Progressive Nation European Tour Report: Mellotron, Crowns and Casualties of the Road
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.
The Ice Hall in Helsinki is a very special venue for me. This is where I've seen so many shows that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Although I do have a confession to make: I absolutely hate hometown shows. Knowing that your friends and family are there in the audience is not good for the nerves. Thankfully, we had time for a long sound check.
For some reason the mellotron was acting up, and on top of that the guitar amp blew all of a sudden. Our excellent techs got it fixed in no time, but the mellotron was still sounding weird. The show had some technical problems, but went well otherwise. After the show it was bar time with some friends. The bus was leaving early in the morning, so I slept on the bus instead of going home.
After a day on the boat to Sweden, we were back in Stockholm, where we used to play a lot a few years ago. It was good to be back and see some old friends. Before the show, our trusty mellotron doctor, Markus Resch, worked his magic on Damon's M-400. The show went relatively well, considering it was the second one on the tour. My pedal board had some problems once again, this time it was the Big Muff. Oh well, the show must go on as they say.
Having never been to Norway before, I was excited to finally get to play in Oslo. The Spektrum is located in a really cool part of town, with lots of small stores and bars to go to. Too bad the country is amazingly expensive, $12 for a pint of beer is not my idea of fun. On the other hand, none of us had any Norwegian crowns anyway since we got our per diems paid in Euros. Before the show, Froth did a great job fixing my pedals, God bless that geezer.
The crowd was rocking and excited about the band, and the show went great. After the technical difficulties at the first couple of shows, the 'Elf was finally back in full force. Phew! After the show, we were partying outside the buses with Opeth and Unexpect, really nice fellas in both bands. No attitudes, no egos, just mutual respect, love for music and good times Especially Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt seems to be a total prog geek, his knowledge in music is truly amazing. Seems like our sound engineer Ian has finally met his match, ha!
The backstage areas on this tour have been a trip: ice hockey/high school-style dressing lockers and public showers with no doors. The show was pretty good, almost as great as Oslo. Mike Portnoy joined us onstage to play 'Blackball,' and people just went nuts. Afterwards we were hanging at the buses with the other bands again, no one had any Danish crowns. Oh well, at least we couldn't blow our money at once like we usually do.
After a fun day of shopping, sightseeing, restaurants and partying it was time for work again. Thankfully we were finally in an EMU country, so euros were good. We stayed at the East Side Hotel, which is located right next to the remains of the Berlin wall. In fact I was told that the hotel is built on exactly the same spot where the Death Strip used to be during World War II. Some dark history there, but we do love Germany. The show was good, and a lot of CDs and posters were signed. Right before the bus was going to leave we met Randy from Primal Fear, who used to play in the same band with our old tour manager Al Vermue back in the day in Canada. A small world indeed!
Nobody really knew what to expect, having never been to Poland before. The venue was really cool, looked like they spared no expenses. Before our set I went to check out Unexpect, who played a very intense set. Really cool mix of metal, thrash, industrial, folk music and classical, do yourself a favor and go see them. Anyway, the nicest surprise was the audience, they rocking from the start to the very end.
By far the best show yet. At the signing session there was an absolute chaos, and we were loving every second of it. After the show we had our usual bus party with Unexpect, good times. Fredrik the guitar player and our drum tech Pete went out to the fans and played some nasty licks on an Epiphone Firebird electric mandolin though a Fender Mini-Twin amp. I am afraid alcohol had something to do with the incident. In the end of the night, we got our first casualty of the road: Our tour chef Paul cut a piece off his finger with a kitchen knife. Nevertheless: Poland rocks, Bydgoszcz shakes!
Before the show, our techs were fixing the Leslie speaker and the mellotron, with awesome results. Also, my pedal board seemed to be back in the game, halleluja! Good show, and a very cool crowd. After the show, we met John Petrucci, who had done a guitar clinic at a music store earlier. The 'Elves and the bearded shredder had a long beard talk, with Jordan Rudess filming. In the end, we decided to start doing beard clinics at barber shops from now on. Look out Leon Russell, look out! More casualties of the road: T.J., the Progressive Nation tour manager, severely hurt his ankle while loading out.
Before the show, we did some interviews for German guitar and keyboard magazines and had a couple of really cool photo sessions. The show was fine, except -- you guessed it -- there were some technical problems once again. The mellotron was out of the game, but Damon carried on just playing the Hammond. Despite of all the hassle the crowd response was good and it was an OK show actually.