Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day one of two exhausting days

So here was the original plan:

I would get the train from Bucharest to Berlin, leaving at 5 pm on Thursday (the day after the show) and arrive in Berlin at 10 pm on Friday night. It was a sleeper train from Bucharest to Budapest, arriving at 9am Friday morning and then a connecting train to Berlin at 9:40am, so i had 40 minutes to walk from one platform to another. That was the one and only “real” day train to Berlin, there was one that left at 11:10am but that didn't arrive until 1:30am on the Saturday morning! After that the next one was pm and that would mean another night on a sleeper train and arriving Saturday. The route i was taking was still 29 hours on two trains!

I went for a wander around by the hotel for a couple of hours in the morning, no idea where i was going or what I'd see but it was a nice sunny day and i had 7 hours to go before my train left. The train station was a 5 minute walk from my hotel so I’d no rush to be back and no taxi or bus rides to take to get there on time. I picked up a couple of Romanian croissant type pastry things at a local shop and a bottle of iced tea and had breakfast as  was walking around.

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As i walked past one street i saw a market type place so took a wander down. There was an old lady with chillies spread out on a piece of plastic and a bunch of grapes on a piece of cardboard!, a man selling two chickens that appeared dead on the floor until he picked them up by the neck, they hadn't much life in them at all but they were still alive, and of course what would a local market be without a woman selling chrome shower hoses in one hand and wife beater T shirts in the other!

It was obviously a place where locals sold and bought whatever they had. A bit further down was an indoor place with a few fruit and veg stalls and a cafe bar full of locals dinking beer. I sat down ordered a beer an just people watched for nearly 2 hours! Several locals tried to talk to me but not one of them spoke English, that didn't stop them talking Romanian to me and thinking that if they spoke a little slower or louder that I would understand what they were saying! I tried to explain to them that it doesn't work like that unfortunately but they just carried on so i nodded my head every so often.

My initial view of the street market               Cafe bar where i sat on the left                   One of the fruit and veg stalls

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I could have sat there all day and watched the world going on around me,it was kind of sad seeing some of the things. The old woman with the chillies, the guy with the chickens but i guess in a way they don't know any different do they ? Have to say it did make me realise just how lucky i am! especially when a woman came walking down the street with a child in the push chair and tried to sell me a pair of odd (one red and one green) flip flops! that's all she had to sell.

It was now gone 2pm and i headed back to the hotel and packed my case and took a shower before walking over to the train station. I stopped off at an outdoor cafe and ordered some lunch and a coke, i wasn't sure what type of restaurant was going to be on the train and i was going to be on it al night so thought i would get something to eat now. As i was sat there enjoying the peace and quiet, drinking my beer and taking in the surrounding area, i saw a your “lady” walking towards me on the other side of the railings that i was sat up against. As she got closer the grip on my laptop bag increased and i put my foot kind of around my suitcase, something just didn't look right. She came up to the railing where i was sat, lent over and in broken English she said “Cheap pussy, you want?” Now I’m guessing she didn't work at the local vets of the local  cattery or her cat hadn't just had kittens that she was trying to get rid of! i just looked up, shook my head and looked back down at the can of coke on the table, she mumbled something in what i presume was Romanian and went on her merry way! As i got up to head over to the train station which was just on the other side of the road, i turned the corner and saw the shop in the picture below, i wonder if it literally was a sex shop ? maybe my kitten selling friend had come from there

Where i was propositioned           Maybe she worked here ?

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The trains in Germany and fantastic, they run on time to the exact second, the in car restaurants are as good as ones you’d eat at at home and the service and cleanliness of the carriages is second to none. My months rail pass is first class, so I’m also able to log online while travelling on most of the German trains and also allowed to travel in any country in Europe on any train. The German train website even has the entire train timetable for you to download on your laptop or iPhone/blackberry so you can see pretty much plan any journey throughout Europe from wherever you are without having to be connected online! if you are connected online you even get real time train delays! The Romanian and Hungarian trains though i wasn't holding out too much hope as to what they were like! As i headed over to the station i took a picture before i went in and then saw a picture inside promoting how nice the strain station was.

Station from my eyes                                                              How it looks to the Romanian tourist boards

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The building was what you’d expect from some Eastern Europe country, big, busy and old. it looked fantastic inside though with old metal roof trusses and huge marble floored ticket offices and old fashioned timetable boards.

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I still had a while to go before the train which was actually 17:40 17:00 I sat down at a cafe in the station and again ordered a local bottle of beer, not even 1 euro!! An older guy pointed to the seat next to me at the table and asked in Romanian if the seat was taken, i said no and gestured for him to sit.

5 minutes later as I’m swigging my beer i hear,   “eins, zwei, drei……..” i look over and the old guys watching a video from last nights gig on his phone!! I look at him and say “you went to the show” pointing at his phone. he nodded and held his thumb up. i didn't have any blog cards in my laptop bag they were in my large suitcase so couldn't give him one but i did have my camera and showed him some pictures and video of the sound check, his eyes opened wide as he saw Roger walking on the stage, he pointed to his watch which i could tell meant what time was the sound check, i held up 4 fingers on one hand, he pointed to him self and held up six fingers, i guess he got there at 6pm!. He didn't speak a word of English but him and i had a 15 minute  “conversation” about the show  with gestures, hand signals and pictures!! he looked the most unlikely guy to have gone to the show but i guess that just shows what a diverse audience Rogers music has.

Romanian Roger fan!                    Local beer

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He finished his beer, shook my had and smiled as he pointed towards one of the platforms, i did the same and head over to see what platform my train would be on. 13, lucky (or not ! ) for me! I knew Marek from Prague was on the same train as me heading back home, he saw me on the platform and came over to say hi. Him and his friends were very hospitable to me, Kevin, Jens, Phil and a few others when we al visited Prague in 2011 and took us all to their local cafe for drinks and even gave us some great Floyd gifts! I hadn't seen him since then so it was good to catch up and chat. As the train pulled in (on time)  headed to my sleeper cabin and he headed to his seat.

There's sleepers for 2, 3 and 4 people on most trains and then couchettes which have 6 or sometimes even 8 beds in them. My train ticket doesn't cover the bed so I’d paid for a reservation for the sleeper at the train station in Saarlouis before I’d left Germany a few day ago. A single person sleeper was nearly 100 Euros so id opted for the 2 person one at just over 40,  you’ve no idea who will be sharing with you or if as sometimes is the case you an end up alone. I’d booked the lower bunk and put my case on the rack and plugged my laptop and phone in to charge.The sleeper cabins have a top bunk bed and a lower bed that also converts into seats and a table, you also have a small area with a sink  and an area for luggage up the top.

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Ten minutes after the train leaving, a young guy comes into the compartment, he had been backpacking around Europe and was on his way home for a week to Holland,a nice guy but quiet and didn't talk too much.

I love travelling on the trains, i love just looking out of the windows at places I’ve never been and seeing things i may never see again. The countryside was pretty barren with a lot of older dilapidated buildings, hundreds of corn fields and thousands, no, millions of of sunflowers in thousands of fields! most were dead and withering away but every so often there would be a field full of ones that were still in full bloom

Fields of sunflowers                                   Mostly dead and withering away                 Horse and cart and railroad crossing

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Few of the building i just took random shots of on the way.

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The trains here don't go fast at all, in fact to do the drive from Bucharest to Budapest is about 8 hours, the train takes going on 16 hours! apparently its to do with the tracks, most of the tracks are so old that its not safe to travel at speeds above 40 miles an hour on them!

Around 10pm, i pulled the seats around to make up the bed and tried to get some sleep, me being 6ft 22 and the bed being 5ft 5” doesn't work real well and after an hour of trying to sleep i gave up, sat up and watched the latest episodes of Breaking Bad and Dexter on my laptop, i tried again to sleep about 2am but the banging a clattering and the train going so slow and moving all over the place meant i got probably no more than 2 hours sleep before i was up again at am when the Hungarian boarder patrol board the train and knock on the compartment doors asking for passports. Minutes later the Hector comes around with a plastic shopping bag with “breakfast” in. A bottle of water, bottle of peach ices tea, a packet of cookies and a small plastic tub of marmalade! No… marmalade:)  i HATE peaches! lol, had he bottle of waters an washed a few of the bone dry cookies down with some and then had a wash in the sin using both of the freshen up wipes that were supplied in a little “welcome” packet on the inside of the sink door. Both the freshen up packets looked the same from the front but after using them both and then turning them over i read what was written on them!!

Breakfast!                                                                         No…… Marmalade                      Well at least i had a shiny face!!

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It was now 7am, we were due into Budapest in a couple of hours time (or so i thought!) i headed out to use the bathroom and saw the hector (train guard) and asked if we were on time for Budapest, “no, we are one hour late” he said. UGH that means i missed my connection for the 9:30 day train and would have to get the 11:10 train and wouldn't arrive into Berlin until 1:30am the next day! that was another 14 hours on a train plus 1 1/2 hours wait in Budapest.

To be continued…….

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bucharest show…

So after getting back to the hotel last night i crashed out the second my head hit the pillow and didn't wake till gone 9am. As i looked out of the hotel window i was a little worried about the weather, it was blowing gusty winds and raining. A couple of online weather sites said it was going to clear up.

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I headed out of the hotel around 11am initially planning to come back later on before the show, however i took everything i needed with me just in case i didn't make it back.The walk to the venue took about an hour, having never been to Romania before i was amazed how stunning some of the building were. Not just the official building but also some of the houses too.

I’d seen a picture of a promotional “brick” on Matt’s website and wanted to go take a few picture of it first. it was a mile or so in the opposite direction to the venue but just as i was looking on the map to figure out which was to go i spotted another one in the middle of the road! As i got near the area where the gig was i could tell something was happening, even at noon there were guards and security everywhere, there were even people lining up outside the venue gate to get in! There were half a dozen press there too at the side of the street.

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I was fortunate to be able to go into the venue today to watch the stage build up and the sound check, i had nowhere to be and no one to meet really so could sped some time relaxing and watching everything get put together.Well that's a lie, i did have a couple of friends who were coming to the show, Thomas from Austria and Marek from Prague. I’d arranged to meet up with Thomas at a restaurant close by at 4pm but i let him know earlier i may be a little late.

I was stunned when i walked in and saw the setting for the show, as big as the wall was it was dwarfed in comparison to what was around it! The buildings around the stage were in a crescent shape and towered up above the wall and the stage. Then directly opposite the stage as you looked across was the heaviest building in the world,

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The area around the stage and between the fence at the back was immense too. There was a section of about 1500 seats directly in front of the stage, then an area that would be the golden circle, then a standing area, a raised seating area with about 4500 seats and then a huge lawn area.Then at the back of the lawn area was THE biggest building I've ever seen and one that's the heaviest in the world, and second biggest (only to the Pentagon in DC)  the Palace of Parliament

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It took me a few minutes to take in everything that was around me, it was simply a stunning setting to have a show and the wall just sat right in there, probably the best “venue” I've ever been too.

I took a wander around and went from corner to corner of the place. I got to see a lot of things that most people don't get to see and had my camera with me so was able to snap picture anywhere and everywhere. The “fixed” section of the wall was already built but due to the wind they hadn't built any of the loose brick sections yet. The seats were all set up but there were fences still to be added, the stage ha all the equipment on but the pyros were still to be done, again due to the weather, it was still a little cloudy but the sun was breaking through and it looked like another hour and it would be clear skies.

The Stuka was still on the ground in the flight box and i know they usually do a test run around 3pm for it so i thought id hang around the rest of the day and get to see that happen. The lower part all along the bottom of the wall still had to have the black cloth attached, this was a great time to take a few pictures of something that's not usually seen. Even though the scaffolding behind the end parts of the wall is metal and heavy, when you add all the facade of the brick on it become a real wind trap and need the whole construction holding down firmly to the ground. This is done by using large plastic square containers that are filled with water. the are placed on then floor section of the scaffolding to hold it all in place and prevent any movement at all. This system is also used on the projection towers, these have to be rock solid and as you can imagine, half an inch of movement at the projection tower become 6” of movement for the projections projected on a wall a few hundred feet away! As you can see on the pictures below, they even use pallets filled with bricks to ensure the whole thing isn't going to move at all!

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The guys who look after the Stuka unpacked it out of the box and assembled it on the floor in front of the wall, its amazing to see how much work it takes to set the line up, make sure its taught enough, then lower the line down, mount the plane, pull it along on the ground as far as it’ll go with a rope, then get a rope fed down from the guys in the cherry picker up by the top of the crane and then they pull it up the rest of the way, they do all this twice as they do a text run first which is timed and then do it all over again to get it back up ready for show time.They also build the wall up enough for the plane to know down a few bricks when it goes through on the test run.

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The sun was out by now and the skies were clear and blue, didn't look like there's was going to be any worries about the weather tonight at all. I headed around the back of the stage to look at the Pyros.At the outdoor shows there are usually a lot more pyros than the indoor venues. As your watching the show you’ll pyros shooting up from what looks like the roof. These are actually all shot up from the floor behind the actual stage. they are set up in a curve shape around the back with barriers to stop people going anywhere near. The pig is also inflated well in advance and parked up around the back of the stage.

Pyros ready at the rear of the stage

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On the right side end of the wall at a few of the shows there's been a large mural painted as like an end stop for the wall, tonight was one of those nights and there was a guy on a hydraulic lift with spray cans doing his stuff.

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You don't realise how much more has to be done for the outdoor shows than the indoor ones, a simple thing like providing power for the show show is a huge ordeal and its not so simple as running power lines like in an indoor venue, you have to have huge generators to provide it! There were seven of the huge generator trailed around the back of the stage for this show.

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I took a walk out of the venue at the back just to take the few shots below to get the stage and the building in the same picture.

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As i came back into the venue, Roger and the band arrived. They weren't staying in Bucharest but had been staying in Budapest and flew straight in fro there for the sound check and were then heading out to stay in Sofia straight after the show. The band usually stay in one place as long as they can, if the venue is close enough to fly in and fly back then they will base themselves in one place for as long as they can and only move on when travelling to the next show becomes a little too far.

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They usually always do the same sound check too, a bit of In The Flesh, Run Like Hell, Mother and Goodbye Blue Sky.They then practice Another Brick with the kids, Roger and Kip and John who look after the kids and teach tem the moves and what they should be doing. The kids don't get a rehearsal until the day of the show and the sound check, they have however before hand seen a video that John’s made explaining what they should be doing and when.  Earlier in the day they had been playing the airplane sound effects that they use at the end of In The Flesh, they had really cranked it up though and it was totally deafening to hear. The video clip below doesn't do it justice at all, it sounded incredible.

 

 

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After the sound check i headed up to the restaurant to meet up with Thomas and his girlfriend Carolyn, he had flown down for three days and the same as me, had never been to Romania before and really liked it. It was his and Carolyn anniversary of being together for one year today and he had bought MMMMM tickets for valentines day. She had only seen the show once before and enjoyed it and was looking forward to seeing the outdoor show. By this time i realised i wouldn't be going back to the hotel so we sat for an hour and a half chatting and having drinks. I’d had a message from Marek that he was going to try come to meet us but later heard he had a problem finding the place.

The three of us headed down to the venue around 7pm, Thomas was in the golden circle and i was in the seats in front of the stage tonight, 16th row dead centre,,,,, yup you guessed it, right on the aisle:)

The gates had been opened while we were having a drink and the place had filled up a lot, there were people up on the balconies at the palace behind us and some braves souls up on the rooftops of the building at either side!

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The seats in front of the stage were the equivalent of around $300 each, the golden circle about $150, the standing $100 and the lawn about $60, this is Romania, its cheap and poverty stricken, the whole of the lawn area sells out first, then the standing then the golden circle. Its a very limited market for the $300 seats here and its usually not the “real” fans that buy these. All of the areas were packed out, ticket sales were reported to be 40,000 but were confirmed to be 50,000 in the press the next day.

I was surprised by how dark it was at 8:30 when the show started, however we were a lot further south than we had been for Sweden so the projections looked great, very bright and visible even with just the projected white bricks before the show.

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The crowd roared at the opening to In The Flesh, the projections looking as bright and clear as ever and the added effect of the searchlights from the stage projecting onto the facade of the Palace! At the end of In The Flesh It took maybe 20 seconds for the clapping and cheering of the crowd at the rear on the lawn to reach us at the front. This was really noticeable as Roger tried to do his speech for Mother, he started to speak and then the cheering was heard as he was a couple of lines into it and he had to stop and thanked the crowd. Can anyone decipher what the word is below in black writing that's over the letter C in Capitalism ? if so please let me know.

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The sound was incredibly clear and loud, not as loud as it had been when they were sound checking the airplane effects earlier in day but it was certainly loud enough to be heard at the Palace! Roger was blown away by the crowd,a couple of times thanking them both in English and Romania, also commenting to them how he had never been and played in Romania and what a fantastic welcome they had given them. I've meant to post before about the video footage right on the end of either side the wall during Spare Bricks, the video of the rabbits is still there as are all the other things but watch the very left side for two guys doing underwater boxing! and the very right side for the guy mounted on a horse that dives into a huge tank of water, funny stuff.

As i said earlier, the crowd in the front seats were not your usual crowd and this was evident by most of the shouting and cheering coming from the golden circle and beyond. Everyone in the seats stay seated for the show and even for the intermission! no one really got that it was a chance to go pea and get food and drink and everyone remained in their seats. I remember this happening in Lodz, Poland in 2011. I’m not sure if the translation of the word “intermission” doesn't come across or they just think its all part of the show,but they al just stay seated and don't move but it was strange.

Pictures below of the crowd at intermission.

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Second half of the show was probably one of the best I’ve heard music wise, i didn't hear a single fault or glitch the whole time. Dave totally nailed Comfy Numb as always and if there was any criticism at all then I'd says Robbie's vocals seemed off a little tonight, just didn't seem like he was hitting the notes with as much ease as normal, he seemed to be struggling a little.

 

Shadow Dave on the Palace         Shadow Robbie on the Palace

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The wall came down great, one huge fall but with a large piece of it left hanging at one side for a good 30 seconds before the mechanical hammers that run up inside the bricks were raised up again and knocked the bricks forward. Due to there being a pretty large gap between the front row and the stage and it coming down in one huge piece, most of the bricks ended up on the floor between the stage and the barrier and not ON the stage.Again, Roger thanked the Romanian crowd for been such a fantastic audience and this was met was another huge cheer that took several seconds to come from the back of the venue.

This was such a unique show, just for the venue alone, out of the three shows i was planning to do in Easter Europe and the one that i actually ended up doing i couldn't be happier, id have sacrificed a few more shows just to have seen this one alone! the funny thing is, until i got to the venue i just thought it was a regular outdoor show, i had no idea what sort of setting this was and in a way that made it so much more special. Its certainly a show that I'll never forget and one that i wish we had arranged for a lot of us to come and see and get together at. Stuart, you could have been drunk every night for 7 Euros!!

Few show pictures, click pictures below for full album below:

Sound check pictures, click pictures below for full album: