FILM REVIEW: Godzilla (2014)

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124 minutes. Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olson, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and Bryan Cranston. Canada: Rated PG for Violence and Frightening Scenes.

WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS RIFE WITH SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE YET, PLEASE AVOID THIS REVIEW ENTIRELY UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN IT. DO NOT SAY I DID NOT WARN YOU!

Well. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a big review like this, and I don’t think any film is more deserving than Godzilla. There’s a number of reasons the hype around it has been monumental as of late; it’s the first American Godzilla movie since 1998′s failed attempt at giving Hollywood its own Godzilla; it’s the first Godzilla movie in ten years altogether since the rather disappointing 2004 film “Final Wars; and it’s being released on the 60th anniversary of Godzilla. And I must add, it’s the first truly impressive film of the summer; it starts the summer movie season off in fine style, and hopefully it’s the beginning of many more Godzilla movies to come. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but this Godzilla will for sure have lots of longevity, if I do say so myself.

The film is the closest to perfection any Godzilla movie has been since 1954. That’s a bold statement, but it’s the first film since the 1954 movie that’s been ever-so-close to total perfection. It’s everything you want in a Godzilla movie, and everything you don’t know you want, too. There is but a small gripe I have with the film that prevents it from being perfect, but I’ll explain that later. I’ve seen the movie twice as of writing, and I can tell you it’s stayed with me since.

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The film is already impressive off the bat with the opening titles. The opening titles are similar to the 1998 movie, with the titles being shown over footage of nuclear tests, but they’re done way better here. Whereas in 1998 we are treated to generic font over what looks like footage that was shot through a jar of urine, here we’re shown old newsreel footage, and every credit is shown in paragraphs, designed to look like they’re ripped straight from scientific reports. The non-credit parts are suddenly whited-out to show the “DIRECTED BY GARETH EDWARDS” type stuff. In addition, Alexandre Desplat’s score is just magnificent. It’s not the typical Hans Zimmer “BWOOOOONG” that seems dominant in tons of music scores today. In fact, the score is very nostalgic throughout, with some influence taken from classic blockbusters and even Bernard Herrman’s Hitchcock scores, with even a dash of Cliff Martinez.

The bulk of the film follows Ford Brody, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson. Much of the first half deals with his complicated relationship with his father Joe (Bryan Cranston)- in fact, near the beginning of the film, we see the tragedy that has estranged them both- they lived in Japan in 1999, when Ford was (I think- they never quite make it clear how old he is) 12 years old. At the Janjira power plant in Janjira, something of a large earthquake happens which causes a radiation burst, causing Joe to lose his wife (Juliette Binoche) in the disaster. Fifteen years later, Ford is an EOD in the American military, has a wife named Elle (Elizabeth Olson) and an adorable little boy named Sam. On the very night he arrives home from service, he gets a call from officials, telling him that Joe was arrested for trespassing in a quarantine area. So he heads to Japan to sort things out with his dad, who reveals that he was in the area where their house was, to get floppy discs containing data about the disaster. So they go to the house the next day only to find that there’s no radiation left, and they get the discs, only to be arrested- AGAIN, and taken to the Janjira plant.

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This is where we are introduced to the central conflict: the MUTO (massive unidentified terrestrial organism). There’s a large, nest-like object at the plant, and after some interrogation, the officials at the plant- in particular, a pair of researchers named Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivenne Graham (Sally Hawkins), who suddenly notice what he’s talking about and realize he is indeed correct. The nest looks about ready to hatch, and officials order the workers to kill it- but they fail, and we get our first glimpse of the MUTO. These things look like a cross between tarantulas and bats- they’re huge, and absolutely TERRIFYING. After an attack at the plant, the military is ordered to follow the MUTO wherever it goes.

Now I know what you’re thinking at this point. “What about Godzilla, that IS what the movie is called. Right?” Well, here it’s where they reveal Godzilla. In the military carrier named the USS Saratoga, Ford is brought into a room where they show him footage of supposed nuclear tests on 1954 that weren’t, in fact, tests. They were attempts to kill the creature they call, “Gojira”. It is revealed that Gojira is on the move too, but they don’t know where. And at this point, it’s an hour into the film, and we get our first glimpse of the beast here. In Hawaii, the MUTO from earlier in the movie and a wing-less MUTO attack. One has knocked a submarine into the rainforest and another is attacking the airport. At the airport is where we see the titular creature. After a tsunami, he appears, and stomps over to the airport in what might be one of the coolest reveals I’ve ever seen. A full pan up his body to his face revealing a horrifying sinister grin, before he lets out his infamous “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOONNNNNKKKKK!!!” roar that has made him such a household name.

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I’ll stop with the spoiling right there because the rest is too good. It’s true that Godzilla’s screentime is mostly limited to the final act, but the thing is, that is hardly a problem because the rest of the film surrounding his appearance is so fucking good. There’s tons of suspense and intrigue. One thing the film really does good is show how substantial the damage is- not by showing the attacks outright but showing the aftermath- the presence of the MUTO attacks is felt through those shots, which only makes the actual attack that much more horrifying. The film does a good job at making us care for the characters too, and you also really hope that Ford will make it home on time too.

The cinematography in the film is just magnificent. I fully recommend the IMAX experience- in fact, for the cinematography alone the price is worth it. The aerial shots of Japan, San Francisco, Hawaii, etc. in particular are just awesome. Gareth Edwards’ direction is magnificent and he has an eye for detail. Whereas most monster/disaster movies show the attacks and what not outright, he chooses to limit your perspective of the attacks and what not to small doses. This is incredibly effective so then you won’t feel tired of the film by the time the final battle swings around. One problem I have with the Transformers movies is that by the time the final battle swings around, I’ve sat through so much destruction and chaos that I’m ready for it to end, my arse becomes numb and there really is no reason for it to be as long as it is. That isn’t the case with Godzilla. It’s just a few minutes over two hours, and it goes by very quickly. Transformers feels like it’s ten hours long, but Godzilla makes such good use of its runtime that it goes by quickly, and if anything, you wouldn’t mind if it went on for longer because your attention is held firmly.

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And yes, I am indeed praising the rather limited Godzilla screentime. By the time Godzilla shows up for the final battle, you’ve gone for so long without him that you don’t even care he’s been out of the movie for so long, and that is because the scenes with the MUTOs are satisfying, the drama is satisfying, and the characters work. The final battle is spectacular. The battle starts when Big G and the MUTO arrive in San Francisco, and it does indeed cut away quite a bit, but not like it bothers me at all. We see a whole battle in full when the HALO Jump bit as seen in the trailers begins. The battle itself is just wicked, if you’re like me and you took great joy in watching a guy in a ridiculous rubber suit battling another guy in a rubber suit, the battle feels almost like an updated version of that. Garett’s attention to detail also shows here- when we finally see his atomic breath, his spines light up one by one, only making it more exciting. Godzilla is just brutal on the MUTO, but the MUTO also are pretty brutal, given the size. And yes, Godzilla is indeed seen as an anti-hero in the film. He has no quarrel with the humans and only intends on killing the MUTO and nobody else. He still leaves people dead in his wake, but it’s clear he doesn’t intend to and is happy to be away from civilization.

Oh, and the final minute of the movie is amazing too. I won’t give it away, but it’s chilling. Synced with Desplat’s score, it’s just beautiful.

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Overall, I give the film a 9/10. Not since The Avengers has the summer season started off so satisfyingly. If I had one gripe, it’s a small one at that, it’s that there is a bit too much MUTO screentime, but that doesn’t take away too much. I strongly advise you to see this film with the biggest screen possible- IMAX especially. I saw it in AVX and while it was satisfying there, IMAX was even better. I for sure look forward to seeing it a third time, and eventually owning the movie when it comes out on blu-ray- in fact, I can’t wait already to hear Big G’s roar shake my BOSE sound system!!!

***highly recommended!!!***

SCOTT’S MAIDEN VOYAGE 2013: MAIDEN ENGLAND- LITERALLY! PART 1: Scream for me, Donington!!!!

Most of you probably know by now that I am heading to England in July to catch the last gig of the tour in Stevenage, at Knebworth house. I’ll write a follow-up to this as well about Knebworth, which is why I’ve called this Maiden England- Literally! Part 1.

Alright, enough of the babbling bullshit.

After a quick power nap, I woke up at 3 in the AM in my Frankfurt hostel, and was sweaty mess. I had no time to shower, really, as I had to get to the airport. Usually I try to get to the airport 3 hours in advance so I guaranteed won’t miss my flight. But getting to the hauptbanhof at 3:15 and finding out my train doesn’t come until 4, I knew I was fucked unless I took a taxi, so I did, and to my surprise, the driver drove awful fast. So bloody fast, my heart was in my throat. To be fair there weren’t very many vehicles out on the road, but it was dark with just a glimpse of daylight in the very off distance. Nonetheless I made it to the Frankfurt airport, and after a long delay waiting for the folks at the airport to set up British Airways, I got checked in and logged onto facebook to see what was going on.

The plane was so small, I was under the impression I was on a business trip. Tons of men dressed sharply in white shirts, black ties, and even suits. The plane trip was thankfully only 90 minutes, and I arrived London city airport in good time. But after a rather unpleasant encounter with the nosy customs lady (I’m just going to leave it at that), I got through and was welcomed to London. And after having to deal with THAT, I needed a fucking coffee. Thankfully there was a Costa Coffee nearby, so I ordered a big cappuccino (so big you could eat cereal out of the cup), and some brownies for breakfast.

After a train ride to Kings Cross, there was one thing, and one thing on my mind only- Doctor Who stamps. Royal Mail issued a series of stamps as a celebratory 50th anniversary deal, and so I went to a Royal Mail location that was just near the train station (which itself wasn’t too far from The Shard- those of you who watch Doctor Who will hopefully know what I’m talking about) and purchased two sets- one for me and one for Dan back home. Then I made my way to the train station and promptly got on a train to Nottingham- which is where I was staying. The train was big, comfy even, and there even were some refreshments on the train!

Having gotten to Nottingham was when I got my first taste of how truly schizophrenic the weather in England could be. It was pissing, and I had quite a distance to travel to get to my hostel. I took a taxi and thankfully the ride was short- about 4 minutes if I’d say so myself. The hostel wast he first time I had truly gotten a “home away from home” feeling. The Igloo in Nottingham is more of a big house and was owned by a guy who himself is from Edmonton! We were both surprised and that right there meant we got along easily. I needed time to relax after what I had been through, so I went to the main room after dumping everything upstairs, and used my iPad, contacted family members back home.

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Your humble narrator

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And off to walk the streets of Nottingham city it was. I’m sure most of you reading this journal entry are aware of the reputation this city has of being the “scary city where people get shot and stabbed”. I don’t doubt this happens often, but truth is, it happens here where I live. I practically refuse to go downtown late at night because of it (unless there’s a party going on with one of my friends). Hell, try living on the north side of Edmonton. That being said, lucky for me, I didn’t get shot/stabbed. I actually found it to be such a relaxing change of pace from the busy and rushed pace that London gives off, and I found the sleepy atmosphere refreshing. The only downside was that I was hoping to head to a pub for dinner, but that was short-lived- they stop offering food after 6. So I went to a nice restaurant called Turtle Bay at the corner house for dinner- and ended up having Red Stripe Beer on tap. First time since Jamaica in 2010! It was a Jamaican restaurant, and I also had studded lamb, which, while nice, made me feel like my tongue was on fire. But it was worth every second of it!

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After that, I visited an Irish pub for some pints, and had a lovely chat with an Irishman who owned the place, and the Irish guy next to me. Guinnesses and Strongbows all around, and some open mic was taking place too, which was nice. After that, I went back to the hostel, and hung out with some of the folks there, a bunch of people who were there were going to be at Donington for the show too- people from Italy, Sweden, the list goes on and on. Not wanting to versleep, I hit the hay and showered pretty early.

All ready to go at 2 PM the next day, I decided to use the majority of night 1 to familiarize myself with Donington. As per usual weather was schizophrenic. It was sunny in Nottingham then cloudy another minute, then halfway to Derby, it was pissing. Just outside Donington it was nice and sunny, inside Donington it was freezing, cloudy and rainy. Since I was staying in Nottingham, I took the Skylink bus from Friar Lane- which was only £8 for a return ticket, a steal if you ask me. So I knew to ready £8 for myself every day for transport. The journey was a good 40 minutes, and the stop was located conveniently not too far from the entrance, which was always a good thing.

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Otherwise known as the field of dreams.

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Immediately, I regretted not bringing boots. My white sneakers suffered the wrath of the awful English countryside weather, which does get often muddy. While I will say that mud-wise it was bone dry compared to pictures I had seen from the year before, it was still pretty muddy. Then I thought to myself, “maybe I shouldn’t fret… you’re a Maiden fan, and chances are that Donington mud, in addition to a Steve Harris wristband, will be the best souvenir you’ll take back to Canada this year.” Even Hayley had mentioned this later when we were chatting in Amsterdam, and she’s right!

I also made the smart move of buying an event shirt on that day. I knew that if I were to wait until Maiden day, they’d be all sold out. They looked like this:

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So there’s not a lot to say about day one. It was more of a “familiarize yourself with Donington” day, because I was mostly there for Maiden. But using the weekend pass, I figured I’d see as many bands as I could. As I arrived, Papa roach was in the middle of their set. First off, the site is HUGE. Essentially, it’s on a slope, with the second stage off to the far left halfway up the hill, with the main stage all the way at the bottom. Mini stages are to be found in the far left and right, and in tents situated around the park. The first band I really saw there was Korn. I know that is bound to get me some flak, but I will admit when I was a little kid, Korn was the real deal. Kids wanted their CDs, despite the lyrics being inappropriate for children, which extends far beyond the swearing- songs that deal with themes such as childhood sexual abuse and what not, but when we heard the hits, our full a Trenton was theirs. And reading up a bit of their history reveals their original guitarist had left some time ago and last year had rejoined the band, and was also there at Download. So their hour long set surprised me, to say the least. It was a satisfying nostalgia trip where classics such as Freak on a Leash and Shoots And Ladders were on the setlist. Thankfully only two songs from that “Path of Totality” shirt pile were on there, and they were the good songs (“Narcissistic Cannibal” and “Get Up!”). Freak closed the setlist, and vibes were good all around.

After Korn, I went to go get a steak sandwich,and had to suffer through ten. Infuse of Dragonfarce’s set to do so. Now, I knew they were shit live, as that infamous Graspop 2006 video reveals, but they were much worse in the flesh. I could not even make out what was going on, it sounded like some sort of semi-musical noise with an audience cheering. But afterward, there was Bullet For My Valentine on the main stage, and they surprised me too. I only know two songs of theirs- “Your Betrayal”, which is one of the P.A. songs on Maiden’s current tour, and Tears Don’t Fall”, which your grandmother probably has heard by now. And I did enjoy their set, actually. Tons of pyro was on their stage, including on the side and what not.

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Last of the night was the first headliner, Slipknot. I listened to them all the time in middle school, and though I don’t listen to them much anymore, I figured why not see their set. I heard that their live show is nothing short of stellar, and maybe indulge in a bit of being a teenager again. And so after “Get Behind Me Satan and Push” rang through the speakers, the band were on stage with a blast of pyro, and delivered a fun as hell set. There were two problems, however- three times throughout the concert, the fans got so rough that they caused the barrier to break. Fortunately, Corey Taylor gives a shit about his fans, stopped the band in their tracks and told everybody to take a step back and let the folks fix the barrier. Another problem I had was that I was rather disappointed that their setlist consisted mostly of a lot of their inferior new material- but when the classics came, I jumped up and down and screamed my lungs out- “Eyeless”, “Heretic Anthem”, “People = Shit”, “Wait and Bleed”, “Spit it Out”, “(sic)”, and “Before I Forget” were the real thrillers of the night, and in a sheer coincidence that was nothing short of spectacular, it begin raining when “Psychosocial” played- which is hilarious due to the line “and the rain will kill us all/if we throw ourselves against the wall”. Perfectly timed, much? In a touching move, the band had a backdrop with a giant “2″ on it, paying tribute to Paul “#2″ Gray, who died of a drug overdose in 2010.

Getting out of the venue could have, and maybe should have, been a problem- 90, 000 people trying to get out, which did lead me to leave during the last song “People = Shit”, and I found a bus stop outside the venue, and was back in Nottingham in an hour. And boy, it felt good to be inside and warm from all the cold. After staying up for 30 minutes to send an email or two and update Facebook, I was in my PJs and in bed.

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I had no plans the next day but Maiden.

This was it.

The big day. The creme de la creme of the tour.

MAIDEN AT MOTHERFUCKING DONINGTON. 5TH APPEARANCE. 25 YEARS IN THE MAKING. HEAVY METAL HISTORY IN THE MAKING.

All those thoughts floated through my head as I tried to sleep the previous night. But I couldn’t sleep, because excitement was all over inside. I was seeing Maiden at Donington.

I left for Donny the next day at roughly the same time, and arrived to hear Alice and Chains finish their set. The weather was a tad better that day, but would take a turn for the rainy later. I was smart this time and wore a leather jacket with a hoodie. As we were on the bus, a lady walked on before we departed from the Nottingham coach station (where the bus typically went before making its way to Derby) that the East Midlands Airport Parking Lot was filled with busses, and after the show, to go right there.

Anyways, back to Donny. Since I had familiarized myself with the park, I was bit more “free” that day. I got this picture:

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The sign was not too far from the mainstage, a bit more uphill. After that picture, I went for some dinner, got myself a big pork bun, and watched what may be the last Motörhead gig for a while. As you may or may not all know, Lemmy has a number if health issues that has caused them to have had to postpone their current tour. Nonetheless, it was hard to tell. He was in great spirits all night, and sounded and played great.

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Right after, it was Queens of the Stone Age time, and I’ll admit I didn’t listen to their music much, and after seeing their particularly droney and boring live set, I’m glad I don’t. What a bore. They played for an hour, but it felt like three hours. Perhaps if they were placed before Rammstein or perhaps earlier in the day. I’d have not been so harsh on them, but they seemed to do a good job at putting the audience to sleep. I saw the audience get excited to maybe one song of their whole live set, and that was about it. Ugh, I’m mad just thinking about it. Part of it was the less than desirable sound at Donington, but you’d think that for a band of their reputation they’d put some effort into it. I saw multiple people leave the crowd in droves, and that’s never a good sign. In fact, the minute they left the stage, a number of people seemed to be happy it was over. In fact, I spent the better part of their set waiting in line to go to the bathroom and standing in front of a man who had drank too much beer, wine and gin.

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The aforementioned drunk

Then this was it. After they finished their set, I RAN as fast as I could to get the best spot I could for Maiden. I landed a spot on the second row back from the second barrier. I would have went past the second barrier to be a bit closer to the main barrier, but given how muddy it was, and how good of a view I had, I figured it wasn’t worth giving up a good spot. Setup was an hour long, and to take the edge off waiting, security came through with styrofoam cups and offered us water. I had taken a big and long enough piss to not have to miss any of Maiden’s set, and had a good time talking to a man in front of me who went to both O2 shows in 2011.

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The wait begins…

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ARE YOU READY???

After quite a wait, there was five minutes to show time, and the park was quickly filling up. Before “Doctor Doctor” came, there was a big surprise. Bigger than any of us would have imagined. As we all looked forward, a guard on the stage silently pointed to the sky above us. We collectively looked behind us, we saw a speck of black in the sky, moving forward, getting bigger, the hum of an engine getting louder. As the speck came forth to light, it revealed itself to be an airplane. But not just any airplane. True, airplanes had flown over our heads all day due to the location of being near the East Midlands Airport, but this was an RAF spitfire. It lowered itself to being a reasonable height above the audience, flew over the stage, flew a few KM more, then turned around, flew over us in the other direction. The first few bars of “Doctor Doctor” sounded, and before we thought it was over, the plane came back for one more maneuver

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You should have heard us all. We all screamed with tons of delight, joy. What have you- the sound of 90, 000 people screaming in excitement was beautiful. As “Doctor Doctor” rolled though the speakers, collective singing and suspense was in the air.

Then it hit me.

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The lights went off, then blue. “Rising Mercury” blared over the heads of the metalheads at Donington Park, its pounding drums inciting claps as loud as an army march. As the piece of music neared its close, “Moonchild” sounded out of the speakers, and the anticipation level nearly made my head explode. With a burst of pyro, the band ran on, and I immediately began screaming so loud, I couldn’t process what was going on. This was it. 25 years in the making, the band was on stage, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their historic first appearance at Donington. The crowd lost their heads, there was singing and jumping abounds. “Can I Play With Madness”, “The Prisoner” and “2 Minutes to Midnight” had the crowd singing their hearts out and rocking our abounds.

Before “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, Bruce then explained, “We were here 21 years ago, and back then, there were many things you couldn’t do. And one of them was organize a Battle of Britain tribute, have a spitfire fly over the crowd”, or something to that effect. The band were aware of the historical value of the night, and was in all-out celebration mode. The band continued through their set with tons of gusto, including a rousing rendition of “The Trooper” that sealed the deal on the history that was being made that night, and at one point in “Number of the Beast”, which always works its magic on the crowd, Bruce teased, “I’m coming back! We might return.”

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During “The Phantom of the Opera”, which is always sheer magic live, and tonight was no exception, Bruce performed his usual pyro trick, and asked us what was dinner, including “Overdone Sunday roast”, and even joked that mum’s got a very burnt bun in the oven. The crowd jumped up and down and sang along in delight, and even during the instrumental section, I got emotional several times, singing along to the guitar riffs. “Run to the Hills” took care of itself, and hearing the 90, 000 people clap along to the thunderous “Wasted Years”, the lyrics rang true to this weary Canadian traveler- you’re far away from home, you’re here seeing Maiden at Donington, make every minute of it last, you’re living in the golden years. Which inspired some very heartfelt singing along to this thunderous anthem.

Hearing “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” only added to the surrealness of the night. The progressive metal classic was performed with the usual Maiden bombast, with the synth-drenched middle section casting a dream-like feel over the night. “fear of the Dark” and 90k English folks singing, Seventh Son Eddie holding his womb up to the huge crowd during “Iron Maiden”, the night was almost over, and hearing the crowd cheer and scream for Maiden was nothing short of chilling.

It was encore time, and as a means of bookending the theme, “Aces High” kicked off a rousing encore, with “The Evil That Men Do” making the crowd sing their hearts out, and at the grand finale, “Running Free” rounded off the night with two revelations: Bruce announced a show at the O2 in London to come a month and a half later, and to celebrate the history of the night, Bruce brought out a bottle of Trooper and toasted the crowd, tears clearly in his eyes. As the band vacated the stage, the big gig was over. As I made my way out of the park, and sang along to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, there was bliss all over. I just saw Maiden perform at Donington. This was the real deal. I couldn’t believe it. As I made my way to the bus, I was on such a high that I didn’t think anything in love, as a Maiden fan, would make my year greater.

After an hour long bus ride, I went on facebook spread the good news to all the folk, and was asleep in my usual post-Maiden bliss, sweet dreams to come.

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On the last day in England, I decided to go for a lovely Sunday roast, and before I was about to leave, the pub, called The British Rose, had just gotten tons of Trooper Beer in- on tap. I knew I wasn’t leaving without drinking some Trooper on tap, so I had a couple pints, and left on a full stomach. A bus ride to Donny later, I arrived to the sound of metalcore act Parkway Drive thrilling them all. And then I got to witness Corey Taylor play a second set at Download, this time in the form of Stone-Sour. I was only familiar with a few songs, but I managed to enjoy their set, and my respect for Corey had only gone up that day. He was a. Fan of metal, and wore it loud and proud. He paid tribute to Black Sabbath, and sang his praises to the English crowd, joy clearly in his eyes.

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While waiting for Rammstein, I went and got some dinner, and then noticed a most unusual sight near the second stage:

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I went in and confessed to something, but nobody could hear due to Airbourne. Nonetheless, it was fun to do. This confessional booth was a gimmick they took on tour with them last year, and broadcast the confessions live to to the whole world. After a chat with some nearby folks, I walked the park a bit and stretched my legs, and then decided to go get a good spot near the stage for Rammstein. This came with a price: suffering through 30 Seconds to Mars. And honestly, I felt bad for these guys. Poor organization led to them being right before Rammstein, and in the wake of a very poorly received fourth disc, they went out like a fart in the wind. I especially felt bad, because they even had gimmicks such as big multicoloured balls thrown into the audience and animal inflatables, but I was not a fan of their live sound at all. Jared Leto seemed cocky and stopped the set twice to get people to cheer for them. Near the end of the thing, a group of people sat down, began booing them for wasting their time and began shouting RAMMSTEIN over and over, and honestly, I can’t blame them. I will always love Leto as an actor but his music will leave much to be desired for years to come. This is, of course, despite the fact that I love their first album. Space-rock with some industrial here and there.

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Now, I was excited for Rammstein, because I had gotten into them a year before, and saw live videos. Words cannot describe how good their live sets are, but one thing nearly ruined the buzz- a big bottle fight. That’s right. Bottles of piss and hay flying through the air, and Rammstein’s road crew even seemed unimpressed. Luckily it died down sometime before Rammstein’s set.

And then it began. Everything onstage went silent, everything in the crowd began exploding. And speaking of explosions, as the first few powerchords of “Ich Tu Dir Weh” began sounding, sparks flew into the air. A drumroll later, the curtain dropped, and the German industrial metalheads were on stage, working their magic on the crowd. Till entered standing on a sparking RAMM-cross, before he got the crowd singing in German. The band blasted through an entire back catalogue worth of classics- “Feuer Frei” displayed the band wearing fire masks, “Mein Teil” had Till torching a big pot that situated the keyboard player, Flake. “Buck Dich” involved an act with a fake dildo and firehose style ejaculation, in addition to a simulated sex act. “Du Hast” and “Du Reischt so Gut” and “Benzin” were also in the set, and the encore consisted of “Mein Herz Brennt” being performed on the piano, which gave everyone in the audience chills. “Sonne”, the penultimate song, got the crowd singing, with a burning Rammstein logo for good measure, and ending the concert was “Pussy”, where Till manned a big penis-shaped can in which sprayed foam into the audience, and as the band finished their set and Till, in a gentle voice, declared that we were fucking amazing, the band took a bow, vacated the stage, and let the lights rise as a piano version of “Ohne Dich” rang out of the speakers. And I think it’s safe to say, this was AWESOME. Words don’t do it justice, and that says something.

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And as we all walked, in a trance for the magic that the crazy German metalheads had put us in, all we could do was revel in the magic. It was a set that left people taking, even on the bus back to Nottingham. Another year was over at Download, and this marked the end of a successful weekend in England, which will never be forgotten.

In my next journal entry, which I promise will be shorter, I’ll be discussing a tale of two German cities. With two Maiden gigs. In addition to tales of German drunkenness, the Berlin Wall, metal bars, barbecues before shows, and what happens when a Scot, a Canadian, an Aussie and two Brits enter a train.

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I’ll drink to that!

SCOTT’S MAIDEN VOYAGE 2013: Frankfurt 2013 (a.k.a. “Schiesse: the world’s most important word”)

Well, I had quite the adventure to Frankfurt. I was up at 4 in the AM, left the hostel and walked halfway to the train station- but as time was wasting, I caught a taxi, bought a train ticket and was on the train to the airport to in seconds flat. I had to run to catch the train, and despite having not had coffee, I ran with enough gusto and before ya know it, I was on the train. Checked in for my flight and grabbed some orange juice once I was past security; I was then on my AirBerlin flight to Berlin shortly. I had booked with AirBerlin and was connecting in Berlin to Frankie- a 40 minute plane ride.

Getting on my connecting flight, I saw a few who were wearing Maiden shirts, knowing that I was in the company of some metalheads. When we landed, I ran into a Norwegian girl from the fan club who I met in Paris earlier, and we’d bump into each other quite a few times more later. We went and looked for the shuttle bus into downtown, but then realized that we could get a train into downtown for much cheaper. So we went down to the trains, and while the trains weren’t as impossible to figure out as Italy, we still had some trouble with the machines. But, we managed to get tickets and rode on the train, and had a nice chat about the upcoming gigs, Rammstein and a few other topics.

When we arrived downtown, we went our separate ways, and I went to the information center to find directions to the United Hostel. First off, this is one gorgeous city. There were a few fountains everywhere, some traditional German style buildings, and even a few skyscrapers. It turned out that my hostel was literally a few minutes walk away- if I had to guess, an easy 11 minutes. So take a wild guess as to whether or not I hailed a cab! I took in the sights and had a lovely stroll through Frankfurt- after all, this was my chance to stretch my legs!

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When I arrived, I had a bit of trouble as a result of my own clumsiness. When I booked back in April, I had accidentally booked for the weekend after- which was when I was to be in Graz. The guy informed me there were no rooms left, and is was almost in a glut of despair… Until at the last second, he found a room with one bed left. So I went to their computers, canceled the reservation, was refunded and then used said refunded money to book the room they had for me.

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View from the room… and for some reason, it felt like the late 90s again!

The hostel was pretty fancy, even for a hostel. It looked like a glorified hotel; the beds were very comfy and there were tap-key cards. We even had our own shower, and best of all- I was sharing a room with Matt, my Virginian buddy I met in Paris! Which was great, we had some nice chats. If there was a downside to the hostel, it was that you had to pay a €20 deposit for power in your room- which ended up being this useless book light. If you returned the light, you’d get your €20 back, so I guess it wasn’t all hopeless. Luckily I didn’t need it yet, so after dropping my things off in my room and having a quick shower, I went downstairs to the computers and asked on Facebook where everything was taking place tonight- to which Ian responded O’Reilleys. And I must say I lucked out with this hostel big time- for one, it was not too far from the venue, or the pub. In fact, it was literally a 5 minute walk from the pub, and a 10 minute walk from the venue- talk about conveniently placed. So I made my commute to O’Reilleys, and immediately spotted Banffie, joining him for a drink… which quickly became ten, with a steak sandwich thrown in there to boot.

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The Hauptbanhof

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Banffie in all his glory.

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This beautiful Norwegian right here.

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Bond girls

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Going back to my roots, if I do say so myself!

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With Tim and Brian

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The soon-to-be-Usual suspects

Hell, the night itself deserves its own journal entry, but I’m not one to pad out for no reason, so I’ll try to blow through it as quickly as possible. Ran into Tim and Brian again, who were on their way out for the evening, got a picture with them. We were then joined by Karl, a Norwegian who was there for quite a while- after all some of the Killer Krew were there too. We had a nice chat and apparently he won some things in a contest- including 007 cologne and a German coffee table book that had Bond girls in it, which lead to some nice discussion about the spy himself. Next to join were two Swedes and a Canuck, Johan and Niclas, and Hayley. They’d become regulars I’d bump into as well, and they had just gotten to the pub from a football match Steve played- where they met Steve Harris! I was pretty drunk and referred to Niclas’ grin as a “hipster smile”, which did not go over well at all with him (but it later became something they’d use against me, and something of an inside joke between Johan and I [at least]). Alright, not quite drunk. A bit tipsy. But more fans, like Craig from Scotland, and some Argentines, including Pablo and Rochi joined, and that was when we were informed Janick Gers was in our presence. Of course I didn’t bother him… yet. As you guys probably know about me, I am white the dedicated Maiden fanboy. I went to the bathroom and was then surrounded by Justin Garrick, Jan’s guitar tech, and set carpenter Spider- Spider was CLEARLY drunk. But they were awesome and funny guys nonetheless!

I then got back to the table… only to find out Steve Harris was there too, and after about 5 minutes, my inner fanboy finally decided I had enough of waiting and approached Steve for a picture. Of course, I was smart and didn’t rush up to him like a paparazzo, in fact I asked him nicely, shook his hand, had a few words with him and got a nice picture. Karl asked me to get one of him and Steve too, but sadly his camera decided to not work and no pictures were taken… not gonna lie I felt bad for the guy. But, at least he got to be in Steve’s presence yet again! After being in line to get a beer, one of the two video guys bumped into me and accused me of farting- or at least asked, “THAT WASNT YOU, WAS IT?” I then responded “oh, god no!” Having a killer enough periphery to notice Janick was right across the table from me, I diverted the fart joke to Janick, asking him if he did it, to which he responded with a hilarious “I didn’t do it!” face and said “Oh, no, I would NEVER!”. After paying for my beer in a hurry, I made my way over to Jan and had a nice chat with the guy. He is super nice, and you can tell he loves the attention. I got a picture with him too, and being able to meet two of my idols in one night made me speechless- so much in fact, after meeting Steve, I could not even speak at all.

It just so happened that Sean Brady, Adrian Smith’s guitar tech was in the area, and noticed my Tom Baker shirt. He immediately commented on it, and we got into a long discussion about Doctor Who! I was chuffed at the thought of this, as Maiden and DW are the two things I love the most (Rush being in third place for that). This even led to some crazy conspiracy theories flying around our end of the table as to which member was a Time Lord. I did mention that I thought it would most likely be Steve, but he seemed to think Janick was a more realistic choice. We’ll never know, I guess, but I can swear for the longest time that there is a Time Lord conspiracy that Maiden aren’t telling us about! After another beer and some nice chats, I was back off to the hostel to send an email, let the whole world know that I met two of my idols, and journeyed back to the hostel for a good night sleep, still buzzing with bliss as to what happened earlier.

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NIGHT 1
The big day dawned on me. I woke up on my top bunk at about 9 AM- earlier than usual, because it was going to be quite a day for me. I went for some breakfast- only to catch up with Craig again, had a nice chat with the guy over some coffee and breakfast. The next thing I did was immediately take to the streets to find a new voltage converter, both because my iPad need charging (and to a lesser extent, so did my camera battery). Amazingly, I found one for €10 not far from the hostel- a steal! I then went back and checked Facebook and answered to some emails, then went immediately to scout out where the Festhalle was. It was a ten minute walk, and not very hard to find- in fact, it was all a matter of “follow the signs”. After familiarizing myself with all the entrances, I went back to the hostel, grabbed my ticket, and went for some beef stew and beer at O’Reilleys. As I made my way back, I noticed that there was a protest of sorts going on- if I had to guess, it was a protest regarding fair labour practice. My German is quite limited, so that’s at least what I made of the writing on the folks’ flags.

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After finding where First to the Barrier was to take place- conveniently in front of the venue and near an entrance close to the hall, I met up with Schubi- Martin Schubert as his real name was- and get in line. Schubi’s a great guy, and his parents were nice too, though their English was quite limited. To be fair, Schubi’s English is quite limited too, but it was good enough for him and I to communicate. Now this FTTB experience was almost as annoying as Paris- but mostly because people seemed to go out of their way to piss Alex (the FTTB guy) off. I was getting Matt in again (after all, I owed him for Paris), and so he especially seemed to not be happy with what was going on- in fact, everything seemed to be happening that would make baby Jesus cry. The biggest problem was that nobody was getting in line- and I forgot my fucking number! I had to borrow Schubi’s phone to check my PM and see what my number was- but as soon as I told Alex, he have me the wristband and moved on. Also, people had tickets for the seats and parking passes- not even tickets- who won, and that flew in the face of what could have been an orderly handling of FTTB. I did not even wanna talk to Alex after it was done because he seemed so pissed and I was worried that I’d piss him off even further. To be fair, Alex had every right to be as frustrated as he was.

Let me highlight something from the FTTB confirmation PM you get:
“You must have standing tickets for you and your guest. No tickets – no entry.”

Hearing Alex describe it the next day was pretty hilarious I’ll admit,but I’ll get to that later in this journal.

It is at this point where I’ll mention Schubi bought me a beer! And not just any beer…

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This handsome fellow right here!

Now, a quick word about the Festhalle. Upon getting let in, I was stunned at the sheer beauty of it. Not many music halls can have the fortune of calling themselves over a century old. But it was gorgeous- gothic domes about, lights, giant windows, dimmed lighting, and what not. I felt like I was about to see the London philharmonic orchestra! In addition, there was a specific spot where Adolf Hitler gave his speeches, and seeing that was just surreal- Festhalle has a long history, and there is something exciting about seeing a big chunk of history in front of your eyes, even if it’s a horrible piece of history like Nazi occupation of Germany. Nonetheless, on a more upbeat note, seeing Maiden at a historical place adds something special to it that is beyond words. Also, apparently Cirque Du Soleil’s magnificent Quidam show was there in a week or two- imagine being there to see it.

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Schubi and I

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Sold out!

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So we were all let in, and Schubi had to piss. So I told him to run and go to the bathroom fast- luckily I managed to save him a spot. Of course Schubi is pretty tall and skinny, and he kept turning around to see if Sven was behind him (a friend of his, who I’d later end up becoming pretty good friends with!), which only made the space for him smaller! I’d told him, but he is a great big bundle of energy and honestly, who can blame him. After an impressive set from Voodoo Six, and buzzes with anticipation, before you know it, Doctor Doctor rang out of the speakers, and the whole place sang along- isn’t it funny to hear tons of excited people sing about being left by a girl to get themselves excited? Nonetheless, it’s an exciting and integral part of the Maiden show.

So, Rising Mercury plays at 8:45 PM, the place comes off the roof. Except this was my first taste of the German crowd- and what a crowd! Hearing every single note of every song be sung by the crowd was special, and they were the best crowd I’d ever heard.

After a burst of pyro, Maiden hit the stage with their usual gusto, though some sound problems did persist throughout Moonchild. Nonetheless, that was fixed in a few minutes time. And Maiden nailed it from the beginning to the fucking end. Though Bruce struggled near the end of “The Prisoner”, everything else was a go- the band wiped the place up leaving no prisoner left behind. Add to that some pyro, some magnificent audience participation and catching Janick’s pick near the end of the show, which I damn well held onto- when the lights went up, and everyone sang the Monty Python classic “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, another Maiden gig was over, and it was beer o’clock.

Back to O’Reilley’s it was. Ordered some beer for Ian and another friend, caught up with Justin, then back to the hostel in my usual post-Maiden bliss.

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This is thirsty work, making holy smoooooooke, yeah…

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NIGHT 2
The next day, gig número dos, was a bit of a special day. I went to O’Reilleys, caught up with Greg- a great French lad who only was doing the first Frankfurt gig, but we had a nice chat- he even was a fan of Doctor Who! We also bumped into Helga (Dee), got a picture together, and then off to the Fanclub lunch it was! ian and I took a cab- I paid, and was rewarded with a beer from his mini-fridge. For the first time I got to meet Martin and Sanja, a lovely couple who have a beautiful little girl named Elea together. She’s adorable, even! We also met some lovely people there, from Canada and other places in the world. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but we all had a great time together. I did have to head to the venue quite early, as I didn’t win FTTB, but an Austrian guy named Heimo who did win was looking for someone to get in, and unsure if he got my response, I walked from the restaurant to the venue. I was waiting quite a while for him, but he got there- I easily spotted him, because he advertised himself as a guy wearing TFF shirt with the Austrian flag. So I immediately approached him, and before you know it, I was his guest.

So thankfully, FTTB went smoother this time. Met some friends in line, and even chatted it up with much of the German FC. Alex and I were talking about how rough FTTB was the day before, and his descriptions were hilarious. This time, I got the same spot- well, roughly just a bit more to the left. I ended up on the barrier with Ian, and that was nice. Matt was right behind me, and so a bunch if us all in one place was a nice thing.

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The gig was yet again, a blinder! Though many of the people there were also there the night before, the crowd were yet again firing from all cylinders. Same setlist, and despite a hilarious incident during The Prisoner where Arry played the wrong notes in the second verse- and also Bruce missing the usual “SCREAM FOR ME FRANKFURT!!” Before the third verse in 23:58- the band were on fire all night, and played with undisputed gusto. From the pyro blast at the beginning, to Bruce making us all get on our knees and jump up during Running Free, we all had a blast and were sad the gig was over. Oh, and I caught ARRY’s WRISTBAND. I was crying from happiness!!

So, beer time was next. Had some beers with a few friends, met up with Alex yet again and boasted the wristband I caught. Then, it was off back to the hostel, first stopping for late dinner at McDonalds and then the hostel for some shut-eye.

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In my next journal, I sum up the whole Donington experience, and just how surreal it was to be on more historical ground. Spitfires, German pyromanics, Trooper Beer on tap- the list goes on and on.

SCOTT’S MAIDEN VOYAGE: Milan 2013 (a.k.a. “Preggo!”)

Well, I took a great sigh of relief after my check-in at the Barcelona international airport, because it was my (hopefully) last ever flight with Vueling. In case it wasn’t obvious enough from my last post, I can’t fucking stand that shitty excuse for an airline. Let me count the reasons why: the planes are old and custy as fuck, the legroom is minimal at best, and they pay the same fucking songs OVER AND FUCKING OVER. I lost count of the amount of times I heard “Somebody That I Used To Know”, and on this flight, it even played as we were taking off. I kinda had to chortle. If I didn’t have that Big Mac at 5 in the AM for breakfast, I’d have been miserable as fuck.

But, when landing in Milan, all was gone with regards to the bad. Actually, the first sentence of that paragraph is a lie, I landed at the Malpensa airport, which is an hour away from Milan. Thankfully they have a train service, because I wasn’t about to take a damned taxi for an hour ride and have at least €300 wasted. Ouch. The train was luckily only €8 for a ride, and I was lucky enough to catch one right the minute I got down the stairs, as it took off. The trains themselves are huge.

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I’m still unsure what that mist was supposed to be.

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It’s big. Yes, I’m referring to a train.

I really tried hard not to fall asleep, because despite having no sleep before the flight, I needed as much focus as possible for Maiden. I wasnt going to nap when I got to the hostel, because I wanted to get my train route to and from the nearest metro station all figured out. Problem with Milan is that they charge for the outside urban area, which I’ll explain later. After I arrived t the main train station, I needed wi-fi if I was going to get the metro route all figured out, so I stopped at a cafe across the street that’s as big as your grandmother’s retirement home suite. I had some Dolci, as I was feeling quite hungry and drained of energy (which I somewhat got back later). Basically all I needed was to get to a train station that had a stop that included “Rhofiera” on the line. All that and I was good.

I took a taxi to the hostel, called Minas hostel. It’s pretty much the top room of an Italian apartment complex; multiple rooms and no keys to lock the doors, which I guess wasn’t too much to worry about, as the owner had one of those doors installed, where to lock it is operated by a dial. Kind of like a safe, almost. But the owner would flip his shit if I tried to take a key to lock the door. Honestly, what if someone went berserk and went all Anthony Perkins in Psycho on me? Anyways, before heading to Rho Fiera, I seeked out a store that sold shampoo, because I ran out of my travel pack shampoo. I got a not too expensive bottle for €3, took it back to the hostel (only just around the corner, conveniently), and headed for the train station.

The trains themselves are as huge as the airport trains. They were even double deckers on some cars. I believe the ride was 15 minutes, and only a few stops. Luckily I paid the extra for a day pass that includes the outer urban area surcharge, smart move on my part. I’m surprised I could navigate worth shit, because very few of the machines have an English option and it’s frankly all “boobity boppity” to me, where as I can understand some Spanish and French. Italian I was walking on eggshells to find an English option.

Anyways, the Rhofiera looks like it used to be an industrial complex. The outside of it looks like it belongs to a factory and the Sonisphere festival was held in what was essentially a courtyard and parking lot. Predictably, as it’s a festival, the lineup was long as I arrived, and after a mishap regarding my paper ticket sheet I got in an email, I was told by the guards to go back to the box office and to exchange it for a ticket. Which was great, because I got an actual ticket, and not just that- it said “Iron Maiden” instead of simply “Sonisphere Festival”. Magic!

I’ll take a moment to note that I was getting good vibes the moment I began approaching the ticket line. In a few words, this shit was the GOODS! I wasn’t even inside the festival site yet, and I was excited, running on strong Italian coffee and no sleep. You look around, and notice bootleg traders, sellers of metal records, hot dog huts, beer salesmen, the list goes on and on. Hey, I’m a trooper, I figured I got past the hard stuff and deserved a beer, so I ordered a beer, and sipped away as I walked to the ticket gate. As I approached the site, the mood was more and more exciting, as I could hear Voodoo Six just finishing their set, and Ghost beginning their ghoulish set. And as I walked into the site, I heard “Per Aspera Ad Infini” ring out from the speakers.

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Gigging we go, only Metal on our side…

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With regards to one of the claims made above, this…

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…became this.

The site is bleedin’ HUGE. This is what every metal fan wants. This is what they pay good money for; a huge festival site, excellent sound, food hits, beer huts, etc. the list goes on and on…

Ghost were pretty good, but much to the bafflement of some of the fans, they didn’t play “Secular Haze”, but did play “Year Zero” (which is a bigger hit than the former). Nonetheless they played a good selection of some stuff from the new album and “Ritual”. They encouraged crowd participation when they closed out with “Monstrance Clock”. And left the crowd in some good vines, I must add. From there on, Mastodon was next, but I had 2 bands to go before Maiden. Well, I was also interested in Megadeth. So I went to what was a Red Bull van with a band on top. And to my surprise, the singer was Cristina Scabbia. Which I found odd, because Lacuna Coil wasn’t on the bill, but this was an impromptu jam session with Rezophonic, an Italian Alternative Rock band. They played mostly covers, including a ripping rendition of “Highway to Hell”. Knowing that at this point, Lacuna Coil are popular enough to headline big arenas, it was cool to be right at her feet pretty much. And hearing her speak Italian was pretty sexy, I won’t lie.

I’ll be honest here, Mastodon wasn’t my thing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find them impressive as musicians, because they really are, but an hour of pure wankery live is just boring to me. In fact, I met up with a member of the Greek FC, and he shared the same opinion as me. But next was Megadeth, who I couldn’t miss, and as predicted, Megadeth were nothing short of fantastic. They played a ripping set from beginning to end, thankfully keeping Super Collider stuff to a minimum. They began with “Trust” and ended with “Holy Wars”. They actually ended up playing a full 80 minutes, and that inc,used an encore. Thankfully Mr. Dave Mustaine had the decency to keep his mouth shut, as a few nights before, he was reported to have made some homophobic remarks, and according to my cousin Mike, ranted for 5 minutes about the US government on the “Countdown to Extinction Anniversary” tour. And whole I’ve always been against “A Tout le Monde” being a duet, it was done well with Cristina Scabbia. And before you know it, the funniest sight had occurred: Ashley Groom came out and sat to the side of the stage like a lug watching their set. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! He looked very clearly like the traveling was finally getting to him too.

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The award for “most photogenic Metalhead” goes to… the man behind me!

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It’s panini time, bitches!

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Anyways, 30 minutes of waiting, the lights finally dim, “Rising Mercury” blares, and the place erupts like a fucking volcano. It’s still light out, which did kind of kill the mood- a tour like this is definitely best in a closed top coliseum. But nonetheless I was still excited, and I had very little voice left, literally. And that didn’t matter when the pyros went off and Maiden came running onstage. They went on through “Moonchild” and “Can I Play With Madness” with the gusto of soldiers not letting invaders take their land, and the crowd ate every particle of it up. I was already getting a Latin American vibe from the crowd, as they sang to every instrumental part. I was forgetting that I could barely even speak and was all energized despite no sleep and screaming my fucking lungs out at Muse the night earlier.

Before “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, Bruce even noticed somebody in the crowd who was a tad too used to him wearing a beanie hat on the tour, who had a sign that read, “Bruce, please give me your cap!”. Bruce responded by pointing at his head and saying, “I’m not wearing one!”. Too hilarious! And here’s a photo of that sign:

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Afraid to Shoot Strangers” was even more beautiful this time around, and brought some tears to me eye. To hear the crowd sing along to every second of it made me realize one thing- Europe is my home away from home, especially when it comes to gigs. While Edmonton has some amazing crowds, they’re nothing compared to this. “The Trooper” and “Number of the Beast” took care of themselves, and a real rousing rendition of “Phantom of the Opera”, which showed just how passionate the band are about their craft. The song is always a complete ripper live, especially with Bruce’s pyro demonstration and food puns, and the musicianship that is as powerful as a thunderbolt to the face. “Run to the Hills” was as amazing as it always is, even with Custer Eddie and sparkling pyro. “Seventh Son” was as hypnotic as ever, with the synth-drenched interludes and theatrics involving gigantic candlesticks and fog, “The Clairvoyant” was as powerful as always, and when you hear the crowd sing to “Fear of the Dark” and the Eddie comes up during “Iron Maiden”, there is nothing but smiles and cheers.

And then, a moment came which showed just how total troopers (pardon the pun) Maiden are. After the snare hit that signaled “Aces High”, the band ran on stage, but Nicko hit his snare too hard, thus breaking the skin. Instead of stopping the song and waiting to get a new snare, Nicko continued to play the snare parts on his lower toms until an engineer brought a new snare in its place. What a player! Any band would halt the performance, but Nicko isn’t one to prevent the crowd from witnessing “Aces High”, a song with tons of power and energy. Bruce still hit the high notes, the solos were as ripping as ever, and lead nicely to “The Evil That Men Do”, where Bruce said: “The evil that men do lives on, but the good is often turned with their bones… and so is the snare drum”. That and “Running Free” helped round out another successful gig on a happy and high note, which even beat the Paris gig, something I didn’t think was possible. Hearing the frenzied soccer crowd cheer Maiden on with the “Ole, ole ole ole, Maiden, Maiden!” chant was just beautiful. It was then where it hit me: Europe is a continent where its citizens are taught to love music like you would your favourite soccer team. If only North Americans could learn a thing or two from Europeans.

Getting out of the Rho wasn’t as much of a problem as I’d imagined. Despite 40, 000 Maiden fans to get ahead of, I was in good spirits all along, and even managed to make a last-minute catch-up with Dee and Tom Svartsyn before making my way to the train station.

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He really loves climbing that thing!

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Another thing hit me when I got on the train: I was tired. I fell asleep on the train, but I was lucky: I ended up at the centre of town, which wasn’t too far from the hostel (a good 5 minute drive), and a guy woke me up telling me to get off, as lines were now closed. So I took a taxi and arrived safely at the hostel, and to my surprise, when I arrived in the room, I had a roommate. He was another Canadian, an Asian guy who had been in Europe for a month already. He and I had a nice chat and I could get used to him, as he seemed cool and we hit it off real nice.

The next day, I woke up at 12:17 PM, a real change. I needed a good sleep after being sleep deprived and it showed. So I took a shower, and gave myself an hour to use Facebook and my email. I took a walk through Milan and explored, looked at the city, saw the sights, etc. I went to this one particular avenue that had shops, restaurants, bars, etc. I decided to stop at one restaurant for a glass of wine and to chill for a bit, and with it, I got some chips and bruschetta. Now, there’s where it occurred to me: I work in an Italian restaurant that’s part of a big trans-national chain. And here I am eating real, authentic Italian food and drinking Italian wine. After all that hard work and saving, and traveling too with little time to relax, I was living the high life.

I explored some more, looked in shops, and saw some architecture, when it began to rain. Well, not as bad as what came later, but I ran for cover under a huge arch, and when it calmed, bought a €5 umbrella from a salesman which, predictably, broke. Well, I guess I shouldn’t expect much from an €5 umbrella.

I went for dinner at a place on said avenue, had some more wine, and had Norwegian lobster on the grill. This was some of the yummiest stuff I’ve had all year. Anyone who knows me really well knows I’m a huge lobster enthusiast, and paired with the yummy Cabernet Franc, all went down together nicely. This was it, there was no way I could get a better Italian cuisine experience. Authentic Italian food and wine, in the country itself, it was, in a word, “magnifico!”

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Italy in touch with its Inner Ninja, Classified would be proud.

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I got back on the train back to the station nearest the hostel. When I got off, it began raining, and I mean POURING. Worse yet, this city was confusing as fuck to navigate, and I eventually got tired of walking around wet, so I hailed a taxi.

Now, here’s a lesson in linguistics, folks. Half of Italian is the word, “preggo”. It has a million different meanings, and Italians even have a hard time understanding each other because of it. And while thankfully none of this involved that word, it did involve pronunciation issues. I told him the address clearly: “Via Pietra Calvi, 18″. Well, he clearly didn’t listen and rove me halfway across town because of it. I told him, “I think you may have taken the long way, man.” Then, he tried to convince me I told him a location that didn’t exist. Even more insultingly, he had a GPS. I had him stop the car on the side of the road and very clearly said, “VIA PIETRA CALVI, 18. DIECIOCHO.” I didn’t yell, but I did say it firmly and clearly, and finally got some sense and used the GPS.

Having been drenched and soaked, I got back to the hostel and showered, changed into my PJs, used my iPad for a bit, then hit the hay early. I got up at 4 AM , showered and changed again, headed for the train station and caught the first train out to Malpensa, where a change of airlines and cities, not to mention a new country with a different kind if language was to take place. Two Maiden concerts, both sold out, in one city, and where epic events were due to go down. I’m talking about Frankfurt, baby. The city that I’m positive will take me forever to write about.

In the next installment of my Maiden journey, I discuss drunkenness, hipster smiles, band members in pubs, German fans, free merchandise, Trooper beers, First to the Barrier, event shirts, and a lot more. Auf Wiedersein!!! Or as the Italians say, “Preggo!”

SCOTT’S MAIDEN VOYAGE: An Uprising in Barcelona

So after me nearly missing my flight, it was off to Barcelona at last on a shitty little airplane courtesy of Vueling Airlines. And I devoted most of that 90 minute flight to having a good nap, but a nasty air pressure headache struck me as we were beginning to land. Nonetheless, despite both situations at hand, the plane stayed in the air and as we touched down, it was nice to be in Barcelona at last.

My journey to the hostel involved a super long train ride and a subsequent changeover to a metro station. The metro ride was pretty long too, and I believe I arrived to a space nearest my hostel that was an easy walk, but I didn’t know it at the time. When I got above ground from the metro station, I was in a tiny little backstreet space that had some nice bars, some shops and restaurants, and a building which had a “Caixa” kiosk. This was how I was supposed to get my Muse ticket, as I apparently couldn’t have it delivered to my house when I ordered I from Live Nation Spain in February, the weekend I saw Muse in Edmonton. A little confusion with the machine led to me having to ask a lady nearby how to use it, and voila, I had my ticket at last.

Anyways, my bus stop to the hostel was in front of a cinema, and it was a 5 minute bus ride to Feetup Mellow Eco Hostel, a quaint little place to stay that was run almost entirely on solar power and had was already a hothouse by the time I got there. I checked in, and having had almost no sleep from a flight before, I took it upon myself to shower and nap.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

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My ticket

I do believe it was close to 6 when I woke up, and after checking my email and Facebook, I ventured out into the streets to explore and grab a quick bite to eat. I went into one of those “cafeteria” places, with more laid back food and beer. Not many people knew English, but I had some steak and eggs, and for the first time ever, tried a beer popular in Spain called Estrella. Upon the first taste, I was blown away at how sweet and malty it was. It had kind of a scotchy taste to it too, and I’d end up having either that beer of San Miguel when in Barcelona. Though I ended up with San Miguel being more my drug of choice at the Muse concert. So after some dinner, I walked around and explored the streets of Barcelona, and at one point, finally saw a poster for the Muse concert. I hadn’t been aware of who was supporting before, but two bands were- both Spanish bands named L.A. and You Don’t Know Me.

So not much happened that first day. I went back and facebooked some more at 10 PM and during almost the entire thing, was “treated” to four guys who are very clearly shit at planning discussing travel plans, as they were going on and on about their worst case scenario travel plans and some of these sounded like what NOT do when traveling abroad in Europe. They got so loud at one point, that the guy manning the desk yelled at them to shut up, true story. I nearly pissed myself laughing.

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This…

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…and this, together, can take the edge off a day of travel.

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This saved me some bus fare. Well, it also added train fare.

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Yeah I heard about this Muse band, they seem like a bunch of cool lads…

The next day, I woke up at 9 AM, showered, threw on my Muse shirt and some shorts, immediately made for the stadium, but it wasnt before I asked the clerk at the desk where to go for the Olympic Stadium. I stopped for a beer and some brunch, and then got on the train and got off where the woman told me, but things only got more confusing from there. Having no idea where to go, I ran into a tobacco store, where a woman who spoke semi-decent English told me to get on the wrong bus. After THAT, I ran into the coffee shop that was around the corner from the Spanish Hauptbanhof, only to get semi-clearer directions, and this guy spoke no English at all. So, I ordered some coffee and asked “donde est al estadio olimpico?” And in Spanish, he gave me the right directions to go, but didn’t give me a proper transit number (argh). I was amazed I even could understand any of what he was saying, as I only speak some Latin American Spanish and not a word of Catalan. The difference between both dialects is that Catalan resembles Italian a bit more and sounds a bit upper class, where as Latin American sounds a bit more laid back and easy. Oh, and I must add, the coffee was FUCKING amazing.

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Normal breakfast is boring.

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Gratuitous scenery porn

So from there I took a taxi to the stadium, and it was a 10 minute ride. The driver noticed how excited I was and asked, “concierto?” To which I responded , “Si! Muse!” The driver clearly didn’t have an idea who Muse were, but then again, he looked to be older, in his mid fifties at least. And when I got to the stadium, I was blown away to see plenty of people already line up. I do be,I’ve it was about 1 PM when I got there, and so I immediately took 20 minutes to buy a shirt, use the washroom, have a beer and then explore the stadium site. The shirts were mainly leftovers from the arena tour, which as a tad disappointing, but one shirt I couldn’t resist was the Follow Me shirt. Which was absolutely AMAZING. And it’s also worth noting that while waiting in line, I noticed someone who wore a shirt from the War Child charity show that Muse did at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire back in February, and had a nice chat with her. Little did I know I’d get mentioned in a post on the Muse forum some time later:

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She is right about the queue, I must add. Despite being up in the heavens with regards to sears, and I’ll try to keep queue chat to a minimum: that stadium is clearly not designed for concerts, but anyways, I was in line for 6 hours and waiting directly under the sun was completely energy draining, and I even heard some vomit. Could they not have had multiple entrances open? There were plenty of entrances at the Olympic stadium and they had only one fucking door open. What a fucking joke.

Anyways, highlights of waiting in line included several tour busses full of people driving by and waving at us, noticing a guy who had a fan designed Muse shirt with all their artwork on it and him handing me the business card of the designer who did it, being offered beer by a few Spaniards, having a few people below me when we got to the steps sing along to their Muse songs they were playing, and getting pissed off at security for the rather concentration camp-type way they let people in. Plenty were pissed off at security and I heard plenty of discussions that included heavy usage of the word “mierda”. Oh, and I noticed plenty of “security” goofing off when they could be letting people in. Just when Paris FTTB looks heavenly by comparison.

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the fountains

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A cell phone antenna tower. I wonder if Matt has any crazy conspiracy theories about it…

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Did I mention yet how poorly managed this line was?

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Let’s do this!

Anyways, all the bad stopped there. We were let in at last and off to the stands it was for our concert. The first band on was “You Don’t Know Me,” and I nearly fell asleep. They were fucking BORING. They were especially a Spanish Coldplay clone. L.A. Were next, and they were alright. They were pretty cool in some parts and they were Spanish but sung in English, which was impressive as their English was excellent. They played a tad longer than necessary, but they were a good band.

So now, as for the Muse show, SO many highlights.

Firstly, the setlist:

INTRO: The 2nd Law: Unsustainable (First verse dialogue only)
Supremacy (Extended intro)
Supermassive Black Hole
Panic Station
Bliss
Interlude
Hysteria (AC/DC’s Back in Black outro)
Animals
Knights of Cydonia (Ennio Morricone’s Man with a Harmonica intro)
Dracula Mountain (Lightning Bolt cover) (Drum and bass jam)
United States of Eurasia
Map of the Problematique (Who Knows Who outro)
Monty Jam (Drum and bass jam)
Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley cover)
Follow Me
Liquid State
Madness
Time Is Running Out (House of the Rising Sun intro)
Stockholm Syndrome (Rage Against the Machine’s Freedom outro)

ENCORE 1:
Unintended
Blackout (with a ballerina, carried by … more)
Guiding Light
Undisclosed Desires

ENCORE 2:
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Plug In Baby
Survival

ENCORE 3:
The 2nd Law: Isolated System (alternate newscast)
Uprising (Extended outro)
Starlight

So many highlights. So the intro began with the first verse of “Unsustainable”. The minute the robot finished “UN-SUSTAINABLE”, a bomb went off in the middle of the B-stage, which led to “Supremacy” 8 full bars of more pinch harmonics. The song was bold ended by pyro chimneys which went off at the appropriate times, and hearing the Catalan people clearly having a good time was chilling. Then to “Supermassive Black Hole”, which took care of itself, and “Panic Station”, which featured video footage of politicians dancing on he screen in the back. The song we got next, as it varies from city to city, was “Bliss”, which had an extended outro, and led right into “Hysteria”, with the Back in Black outro. Usually they jump right into the bridge riff, but Matt played the intro riff for a few bars before playing the bridge riff. And to hear thousands of Spaniards sing along to the instrumentals and even the guitar solos was AWESOME!

Their first real “effects” tune was “Animals”, which sounded amazing as it usually does, and near the middle of the song, a businessman ran on stage, throwing money into the crowd, before the light towers exploded with Musos- money confetti with Muse on it. Then came “Knights of Cydonia”, which had the usual “Man With the Harmonica” intro, but this time, Matt didn’t play with the speaker. The song took care of itself, and also had different video projections with a video game style spaghetti western chase scene. After “Dracula Mountain” jam, the piano came up in the middle of the stage, for another song that varies by city- this time we got “United States of Eurasia”. Matt played on his white piano instead of the silver Kawai, and near the end, instead of “United staaaaaaaates…”, he sang “Barcelonaaaaaaaa!” In a high pitch falsetto. After “Map”, the much maligned “Feeling Good” came, with another theatre feature. A businesswoman sat at a desk and walked down the stage with a cell phone before drinking petrol gas and dying. Too funny! And most of you hopefully know of the “fucking fucking fucking!” Incident that got Muse banned from Spanish TV. I sang “FUCKING FUCKING FUCKING FUCKING YOU FUCKING FUCKING, YOU FUCKING FUCKING LOTTLE FUCKER, YEAH!” at the megaphone bit, which made a bunch of people laugh around me. I’m guessing they got the reference

“Follow Me” was a stunner, despite not having any lasers, mostly because the crowd clapped throughout the whole song, beginning with the baby heartbeat. Dom even dedicated it to “those with babies”.

As for the encores: encore one began with a stripped down “Unintended”, which was just gorgeous. “Blackout” returned to the set, which was the highlight of the night for me- the usual acrobat returned, this time hanging from an inflatable lightbulb. “Guiding Light” and “Undisclosed Desires” followed after, with the actors visible from earlier, this time in caskets under the B-Stage. And Matt missed the first line of “Undisclosed” because a rabid Spanish fan attack hugged him- too funny! Encore two began with “Unsustainable”, where similar to Iron Maiden’s tradition of a walk-on Eddie, Charles the Robot walked out onstage to “sing” the song, and a killer pyro presentation was shown too! “Plug In Baby” was almost like a sensory earthquake to hear so many Spaniards singing to literally every note and word. “Survival” finished off the second encore, with a killer pyro display to finish things off. Encore three began with “Isolated System” and the usual video, with Dom coming onstage to finish the song off. Then next came “Uprising” and “Starlight”, which left the crowd in good spirits and “feeling good” walking home, if you pardon the pun.

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So afterward, I walked out of the stadium, happier than a pig in shit seeing my first ever Muse concert at a stadium. I went back and Facebooked for a while, all the while listening to some drunk and high girls at 2 in the AM trying to persuade a bar owner to take them out to a club. Meanwhile, I tried to opt for a shuttle to the airport for 3 AM, which I couldn’t, so it had to be 3:30 AM. The shuttle cost €8, which is pretty good considering. And all this was done using Google Translate with the guy who ran the hostel, who didn’t speak English, very little Spanish but plenty of Italian.

That’s right. I’m ending this blog post on a cliffhanger, to hint at my next location I was off to: Milan. For my fifth ever Maiden gig, and a festival that is enough to whet any Metalhead’s appetite!

SCOTT’S MAIDEN VOYAGE: Paris 2013 (a.k.a. “metal as phoque”)

Well, it seems like it is awful late for me to be writing about a holiday that happened two months ago, but I guess it’s better late than never, right? I’m sure you guys have seen the many photos I’ve posted on Facebook and what not, but photos only tell part of the story, so it’s time I told the story in my own words. So lets start where it all started: Paris, 2013.

Getting there wasn’t much of a problem; in fact both flights went along smoothly. I flew to Montreal and that took 4 hours; there was a 2 hour layover at the airport, which wasnt much of a problem. So I went to a local lounge and had some beers; and got a nice look at the monster of a plane I’d be flying on:

And a monster it was. I jokingly remarked, “is this a plane or a spaceship?” As I walked on.

When I finally got to Paris, it was about 8:38 in the AM. After a long flight, I needed a coffee and some breakfast, so I stopped a at a nice stand in the airport for some food. My plan of getting to the hostel from the airport was by train, and that was a clusterfuck in and of itself. It wasnt difficult getting downtown, but the downside of a city like Paris with many metro lines is figuring out where to go from the big train station. Having already been in Paris before, I took the train to Chatelet, as it was the closest Paris had to a “Hauptbanhof”. After wandering around trying to get wifi to find out the address of my location, I took a taxi to Le Montclair Montmarte, which is the hostel I stayed at.

Basically, I couldn’t check in for a few hours, as it was still 10 AM when I got there, so first thing I did was go and explore. I asked Rafi, who was staying there, if there was an electronics store, and he told me about Fnac. S the first thing I did was take to Champs D’Elysees, which is a long street with tons of stops. L’Arc de Triomphe is at the end, and so I figured that the first thing to do was to buy a memory card, as I was foolish enough to not take one with me.

And voila, I could take pictures!

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Basically, I went and explored the River Siene, and chilled in the Louvre courtyards. The Louvre was closed that day, so I couldn’t go explore, which was marginally disappointing. But after being out on my feet for a few hours, I was wiped as fuck. So after the Louvre, I took the train back to the station nearest Montmarte, which is just a minutes walk around the corner, and took a nap. I believe it was 1 PM.

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Widdly widdle. Shred shred shreeeeeeed.

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At about 5:30, I woke up, and freshened up a bit; and took to the station to find out the Bercy. I went to the Chatelet station and asked if there was a way to get to the Bercy village from the train station. Which there was, and surprisingly, it was a VERY short ride on the blue line, if I were correct, about 3 stops.

Bercy is a village that is well out of the urban/metropolitan Paris area. Whereas the popular Paris downtown is very busy and rushed, not very many tourists check out the Bercy village, which is nice. Is quiet and is almost like a utopia. Every time I went there, I got a sort of surreal feeling. It’s like a nice little private village for people tired of big city life where everything is “all systems go” all the time. There’s a few shops and a mini-village where tons of pubs and restaurants are to be found, but more on that later. I also got my first look at the Palais Omnisport de Bercy. The Palais Omisports was where the gig was being held (who knows, maybe they might play Stade de France next tour. I’d kill to see a concert there). It’s a very cool building, with grass on the side. It’s a little hard to describe with words, so here’s a few pictures:

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After that, it was a 10 minute walk to the village where The Frog was. And I’ll admit I was plenty nervous. I’m VERY shy and even though I’ve spoken with these folks on the forum, speaking to them in person is another thing. But hey, this was only the beginning. When I get past the hard part, it’s all downhill from there, right?

And correct I was with that very assumption. When I got there, the FC was noticeable right away; the biggest beacon is the Maiden shirts, and they were there in plain sight. The first one I spoke to was David Harris, who I’ve known for a long time, and finally after 6 years, we got to meet each tie her! From there on, the beers went back, and I saw plenty of folks from the forum. I’ll as it that many of them were nicer than they seemed on the forum; and really, that could be said for all of them. I can’t remember having a bad experience with any particular IMOCer; they all were nice and incredibly fun to socialize with.

So after some drinks, some chicken wings and all, I didn’t want to stay too late because, well, 1) I had to be up at 7ish the next morning if I wanted to get a good amount of Paris exploration in before the photo meetup, and 2) I was staying in Montmarte, and to get to Montmarte was a train ride back to Chatelet and another train ride back to a train station a 5 minute walk away from the hostel. So I was careful enough to not drink too much and got back to the hostel with no problem.

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They were yummy!

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Ian (left) and Rick (right)

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Ian, me, Rick and David

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Me, Adam and Zoe

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Me, Graeme, Adam and Matt

The next day, I woke up with my two roommates still sleeping, and I was tiptoeing to and from the bedroom to the bathroom, as I didn’t want to wake them up. As I have breathtaking OCD when it comes to this stuff, I got my change of clothes ready the night before and put them under the bed. So showering and changing took only a few minutes, and I went downstairs for some breakfast and to check my Facebook and emails. As soon as I was done, I locked my iPad in the safe and took to the streets for some adventuring!

The first thing I did was head to Notre Dame, which is a top tourist attraction for obvious reasons. For many who don’t know, it rests on an island on the river Siene, and has a tower as well, which many people can have access to for €7 a person. I was kind of hoping to explore the tower, but given how pressed I was for time, and how long the lineup was, I figured I’d keep it to the cathedral only. This was my second time visiting the Notre Dame, and every time you go, it’s really something special. It wasn’t as busy inside the cathedral this time as it was in 2011, and I also got to see more, as there wasn’t anything special going on inside- well apparently there was going to be, but obviously later as it was 9 in the morning.

I took to the Louvre pyramids for a bit too and relaxed there, and at one point went for lunch at the McDonalds there, as I wanted to officially say I’ve had a “Royale with Cheese” (correction: it’s actually called “Royal Cheese”), and I wouldn’t be eating for a long time after, as I didn’t want to be affected by the food negatively in the First to the Barrier line and at the barrier, as to miss the barrier in Paris would be a real piss off.

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Murders in the rue morgue, someone call the gendarmes…

So there began my 40 minute walk from the Louvre to the Trocadero, where the pics were being taken, when suddenly, the food got to me, and whole I was fine for a while, it got worse as I was getting close to the Trocadero (the dizzying sights of just how high the Eiffel Tower is didn’t help matters either). So I ran into a restaurant to use the restroom, and while I won’t tell you exactly what I had to do because I’m not gross, I will share a bit of a “hilarious in hindsight” moment: it was a pay toilet. For those of you who don’t know me outside the IMOC and IMOC trip, I was in theatre all through high school, and my last musical I did was “Urinetown”, a musical about a dystopian future where a drought puts a ban on personal toilets, and one toilet in the centre of the city can only be used, which you had to pay for. If you’re caught “doing your business” elsewhere, you’re brutalized by the cops and sent to “Urinetown” (spoiler alert: there is no Urinetown, you get thrown off a building). The toilet was 50 cents to use, and I wouldn’t encounter one of these later in my trip until Amsterdam (a rather hilarious example there, which I’ll explain in the Amsterdam article).

Back on topic, I got to the Trocadero in the nick of time. And though I got there at 11:58 (not a reference to a certain Maiden song), there were maybe 10 people there in total. But it would grow over the next few minutes there, and in comes Ian, also known as ScotlandBanff on the forum, who is completely hungover. He apparently drank 20 beers the night before and spent all night by the toilet. Never thought I’d hear that from Banffie, as he’s usually pretty chill!

I met plenty of new people there, and also met up with Rafi, who I met in Edmonton the previous year but didn’t properly hang out with as I and to catch the last train home. But I not only got to hang out with him this year, but two others I hadn’t previously known before: K-Man Donaghey and Don Wilson! They’re Scottish, and were every hit as crazy as you’d expect Scots to be when it comes to concerts. I’d spend most of the day with them, but more on that later. As for the picture: it was windy that day, and I had problems keeping the flag from going crazy in the wind! Another funny thing was our cue word was, “MAIDEN!” And when we shouted that, a bunch of little kids shouted, “MAIDEN!!!” back. We all laughed so hard! Those cute little kids.

After the pic, I joined Rafi and K-Man, and they got some ice cream while I got a Fanta. We then made for the Eiffel Tower, but seeing as K-Man was in a wheelchair, and knowing how BAD I am at pushing those things (more on that later), I let Don do most of the pushing, particularly down the stairs.

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K-Man and Don in all their glory, they’re here to kick ass and eat ice cream.

When we got to the Eiffel Tower, we encountered a bit of a dilemma: the lineups. The lineups were as long as the wall of China, and even more hilariously, Rafi allowed himself to be guilt-tripped by those charity scammers. “I don’t have the conscience for that kind of shite,” K-Man admitted. To be fair, do any of us, really? When Rafi came back, I told him, “Next time ask for their charity license!” So anyways, we knew the lineups would take until well into the wait time outside the venue, so I figured I’d try to go up, and we got a picture before they departed for the train station. And in an ironic twist of fate, I ended up not going up myself… because them phoque-ers didn’t allow flags! What a piece of merde!

To be honest, I really wasn’t upset, because I had already been up once. I mean, after all, when you’ve been up once, you been up all times, right? So I made for the train station, and voila, miraculously K-Man, Don and Rafi were still there. So we got on the train to Bercy- which was much longer than Chatelet, and some interesting things, such as Rafi pole-dancing happened. I shit you not!

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“And we still didn’t get up the fuckin’ tower!” – K-Man Donaghey

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I think the guy in the background is turned on.

It was already a real beehive of activity when we got to Bercy. Fans were queueing already and I didn’t need to, as I had FTTB and was Matt (IrritatedTrout)’s guest. I’d end up repaying him in Frankfurt. One thing we did need, however, was to get our event shirts. And it was 1:30 PM, when we got to Bercy village, so we went to the vendor and got our event shirts- I’m amazed we got any, really. Don went and bought some cigarettes while Rafi and and K-Man and I stayed in line; when it was our turn to buy shirts, they only had X-Larges and Mediums left. Tim “TP” Phillips and Brian had gotten theirs before us (I think) and when he got his there were still Larges left, but seeing as quite a few people were ahead of us, it was bound to happen. The France event shirt is probably my favourite out of all the event shirts- it shows Eddie sitting by a campfire, somewhere on the way between Paris and Amneville, roasting frogs and snails. If you look closely at his Beetle, the license plate reads “Ed666ie”, and a Seventh Son Eddie is seen in the clouds. Another interesting note is so,e gothic tree branches cover the first few letters of the Iron Maiden logo.

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Anyways, off it was to the Frog. And I’m amazed K. even survived my disastrous chair pushing! Anyways, I had a couple pints there, met some familiar faces again last night AND finally met lovely Plina Json, the Swedish Steve Harris stalker known as “Queen of Hearts” on the forum (“Queenie” on the free forum). She was really nice and really funny! We had a nice little chat and after a few beers, it was off to the Bercy to queue for FTTB lineup. I followed Tim and Brian there and we asked quite a few people where FTTB was- admittedly I’m not as good a direction follower and it took us a bit to find the entrance as a result. But we got there, it was essentially at the very back of the venue where guests usually aren’t allowed in. So I waited maybe 10 minutes for Matt, and he shows up finally- and so I saved a spot for him in line while he and his girlfriend went to search out a shirt. His girlfriend wasn’t going to see the show, in fact she was in Paris for the Paris part only. So whole waiting for him, it was pretty cool as plenty of people were chatting and having some beers- one of the French guys in front of me handed me a Heineken, and we had a few beers and chatted for a while.

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Catching some Zs before the gig with Jarno and Ian

One thing I didn’t like was how we weren’t let in until later than stated- I’ll admit, it was mostly because the jet lag from the previous day was finally hitting me- but when we were let in, in typical fashion, the fans decided not to listen to the staff, and run, which led to aggression (and rightfully so) from the staff. They’d yell “STOP!” and people wouldn’t listen, so I’d chime in with, “ARRET!!!!!”. When people finally got a fucking clue and listened to the staff, we were let in at last, and I got a spot at the barrier in front of Dave and H’s side. And what do you know, K-Man comes walking over and asks to be on the barrier, and I of course let him on! I wonder how he eve got there in so little time, yet even that early, and he tells me that he left the Frog not long after I did. Don joined us a few minutes later and got us beers. We all chatted and had a fun time. Then Rafi would come up to us, ANNIHILATED drunk. Oh boy, drunk Rafi is fun Rafi as I had read from other Maiden fan travel blogs (particularly Katatoniq’s) and he sure lives up to that claim.

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Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the show! Opening was Voodoo Six, who I’ll admit I actually really like. Similar to Lauren Harris, Joe Lazarus (the drummer) is related to Steve, and really, take V6 what they are: fun, guilt free hard rock with a blues edge, even some Stoner rock in aspects. They have some catchy songs, and unsurpringly, their song “Sink and Swim” has already become a meme amongst the IMOC, particularly “CAUSE THEN THE SHIP GOES DOWN!”.

Then Maiden hit the stage at 10 to 9, and the moment “Rising Mercury” blared out of the speakers, the place came off the roof. “Moonchild” came on, and the bombs went off, Maiden run out and the crowd loses their minds! The band was in full force, pedal floored, machine guns set to full auto all night. The setlist was exactly the same as it was last year, and every song was full of energy and fire throughout. “The Prisoner” had the crazy Parisians jumping up and down, singing along from start to finish; “2 Minutes to Midnight” took care of itself. Then Bruce made his speech to the crowd, in fluent French too. Bruce’s French is excellent and he has a great excellent, and another thing worth noting is that it was Nicko’s birthday, and Bruce led the crowd in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” sung to Nicko. Then, Bruce, in French, noted that the next song wasn’t part of the Seventh Son era, and introduced it as song about a man going to war, and debating if he is right to pull the trigger. Which lead into “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, and that was epic and emotional as it usually was. Then came rousing renditions of the usual classics such as “Number of the Beast” which had the usual pyro display, “Phantom of the Opera” where Bruce took full command of the pyro, “Run to the Hills” with the first “Eddie” appearance, where he was dressed as general Custer. “Wasted Years” took care of itself, and then the highlight of all the gigs, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, with the scribe Eddie and spark explosions. One thing about the Paris gig was that Eddie’s head didn’t light on fire during “Iron Maiden”, but it would at later gigs.

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After a rousing encore which included “Aces High”, “The Evil That Men Do” and “Running Free”, another Maiden gig was over, and it was beer o’clock. Don spent much of the show at the second barrier, so we met up with him after the show, and we spent the walk there talking about the gig, and apparently Don got in a bit of a kerfuffle with a tosspot who was shouting at him in French for something he didn’t know (or “BOOPITY BOPPITY!!!” In Don’s own words). Anyways, long story short: beers, Maiden on the speakers, nachos, socializing with the fanclub and such later, it was a fantastic close to a great night, and on the way to the Chatelet station, I met a fan from the Middle East, who flew all the way to see Maiden, and right there, it hit me how amazingly crazy fans of Maiden are, they’ll fly to the moon to see Maiden if need be. He lived in Dubai, where very few Metal concerts go. Go figure, eh? And good on him for traveling to the city of love, the most beautiful city to see Maiden in. He was a dedicated fan, evidently. This is why it’s great to be a Maidenhead!

In my next journal entry, there’ll be a change of pace… and bands too: a three piece progressive rock band from Devonshire who go by the name of Muse. At a stadium in Barcelona.

Calgary Expo- FULL REPORT!

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I remember stating in a previous post that I’d post a report of each day from the expo, but really, there’s too many highlights for even TWO blog posts. This and my upcoming Europe trip were my two most anticipated events of the year, but the Calgary Expo is special because it’s a place where everyone comes together as one. I mean, it’s not every day we can go out in public as our favourite characters and cause some chaos, and CCEE is ultimately the greatest time to do so. The two days I were there were nothing short of fun, and let’s just say I am already making plans to go back for next year (as well as Edmonton Expo). But, obviously the short paragraph I just typed doesn’t do justice. So, time for a LOOOOOOONG time period condensed to as few paragraphs as possible.

Friday is a day that people typically never rush to get there, but this year, some were- the Parade of Wonders began at 11 and I didn’t join, sadly. But I will next year. That being said, it did give me a chance to sleep in a bit, and get my costume all fancied up. On Friday, I went as the Eleventh Doctor, and knowing the sheer amount of fangirls that the Eleventh Doctor has, I knew I’d be asked for a few pics, but one thing I DIDN’T expect was a girl asking me for a picture on a train! This even made it into one of my tweets:

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A brief stop at Market Mall for Mike to get his World of Warcraft game later, we were on our way to the train station when I became distracted by the British store. Went inside to buy some Jelly Babies, because it would be great to walk around asking folks, “would you like a jelly baby?”. Yes, I know the fourth doctor is the one who claimed that catchphrase, but how many times have we seen Eleven copy from other doctors? Therefore, the correct response would be “Eleven, your four is showing!”. I did go around asking people said question at the expo, and one even lit up because she apparently never had them. Which, you can’t blame her, because they aren’t that well known around Canada. So I know that I’m definitely going to buy TWO bags of Jelly Babies for the Edmonton Expo!

Some time later we made it to the BMO Centre (but it wasn’t without my cousin and I getting off the train at the wrong stop and having to catch the next train! Hahaha). It wasn’t TOO terribly busy when we got there. I mean, it was busy enough, but it didn’t get super busy until close to 6, which is when we left. In the meantime, first thing we did was head to the Big Four building to get out passes and wristbands. This didn’t take long, and we waited a total of 5 minutes in line, however, one thing that did sort of strike me as odd was that since we were exchanging both our tickets, we need to wear BOTH wristbands. Which is odd, as when I met up with Dan later the next day, the staff evidently weren’t as forceful about both wristbands being worn, as Dan was only wearing one of them. But that being said, I had one on each wrist, and what also struck me as funny was that the guy told us that “if it looks like it was taken off at one point, you won’t be let in”. Um, to that specific guy: ever been to an all-inclusive resort? You know those bracelets they snap on and how you practically cannot take them off without cutting them off? Yeah, you get the deal.

That aside, we immediately made for the BMO centre, and entered Halls A-C. Mike and I then parted ways, and went to explore on our own. Immediately off the bat, I was asked for a few pictures by some of the more zealous Doctor Who fans and cosplayers. This was expected, of course- DW is a huge phenomenon worldwide. The A-C halls are huge and the place is like a carnival in terms of atmosphere. There’s vendors from comic stores, artists on display, people like me walking around in costume, and even some music setups and what not. I spent a good 40 minutes in that space alone, and then made my way for D-E halls, where the autographs were. But, it didn’t stop at just the Autographs. Immediately off the bat, I was greeted with the sight of a DeLorean, made famous by the popular “Back to the Future” franchise. So, a Ten cosplayer, a River cosplayer, and I spent the money and landed ourselves a couple spots in front of the DeLorean for a lovely picture:

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Also at the autograph hall was a WETA display. For those of you who regard movie-speak as if I’m speaking some foreign language that you wouldn’t understand if I spoke to you, WETA is the rivaling company against ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), the two biggest special effects companies. In fact, they’re most well known for their work on the film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth saga. They even had a modular Gollum on display.

The only autograph I got that weekend was from John Carpenter, the master of Horror. I chatted with him for a good five minutes, and he’s a really nice old guy too. This guy is a true gentleman! However, also in the autographspace I met was Ajay Fry, the host of INNERSPACE. INNERSPACE is a show where three people gather daily to discuss all things sci-fi, and it’s always a fun time, mainly due to Fry’s enthusiasm. Well that enthusiasm showed when I met him, and he dug my costume. I asked to get a picture with him, and he agreed, under one condition: he held the Sonic Screwdriver. Which I let him! And boy does he look happy in the picture, but I did have to show him how to use it!

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Some time later, I headed to the Big Four building for my first photo op- Wil Wheaton. I was stoked, beside myself, starstruck, and any other euphemism possible. I chatted with a lot of the folks in line, and they did indeed have to extend the op- there were LOTS of people. So essentially it was “walk in, say hi, get a pic” and so forth. He was a nice but rather quiet guy- hey, it’s Wl Wheaton though! He could have said nothing to ke and I’d still live totell the tale of meeting Wil Wheaton!

Next up was Sylvester McCoy. I didn’t purchase an op before hand but immediately after, I went and plunked the money down for Mr. McCoy. Hey, he was a doctor on the classic show, how could I not want to meet him? And back to the same line it was, for the photo op. Right behind me was a Fourth Doctor cosplayer, and for obvious reasons, there were plenty of those there! We chatted with an old school Doctor Who fan for a while as we were waiting to be let in for our photo op. We had lots of fun discussing the series and why we loved it so much, as well as our favourite moments from the show so far. When I finally got to step across the black tape, I greeted Sir McCoy with “DOCTA!!!” to which he responded “ELLO THERE, DOCTA!” we chatted for a few seconds before it was picture time, and our cue word was “Radagast”, but knowing him, his way of saying it was “RrrrrrrrrrrADAGAST!!!” and so we got an awesome picture together, and soon one of my goals in life were completed: meeting a doctor from the classic series!

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Then came a moment that I didn’t expect- large Time Lord group photo. After the Sylvester McCoy photo op, I noticed that the doctors were gathering in one corner of the B4 basement for a photo. So I joined…

and more joined…

and more joined…

And it got to the point where our thumbs were all sore from Sonicing the cameras. Making things worse was the fact that we had at least 20 cameras taking pics of us; and a lady our faces in every direction for each camera! It was a great photo but man we were glad it was over!

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Not long after that, Mike and I left the stampede grounds and searched for a nearby pub; we settled for Bear & Kilt on Stephen Avenue. It’s a Scottish pub in the basement of a building block; it legit has a nice Scottish vibe and is a nice little place to unwind, especially after a long day of geeky fun. I had a steak sandwich with fries; Mike had deep fried pickles. Later, Mike got a text from one of his buddies attending the expo that they were joining us soon; four people joined us 45 minutes later and from there on we lounged a bit, had some pints and just shot the shit, really. I hadn’t met them before but they seem like very nice people and we got along nicely. At about 10 we headed back for Cochrane, and I stayed up for a few minutes, had some pizza and a beer, instagrammed, facebooked, then headed to bed, as the next day would be an early day.

Saturday was really something else (in a good way, of course). I cosplayed as Tenth Doctor, minus the coat and glasses, but plus the frazzled converse and dingy tie he usually wears. We got there at 9:30 that day and broke off on our own, as Matt was with us this time and needed his wristband and badge. So I headed for the line, which, was HUGE. Here’s how it looked like at 9:30 in the AM:

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At 10 we were let into the entrance nearest BMO halls D and E. That’s where the autographs were held, so the celebrity stalking immediately began:

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12 PM, I headed to the Torchwood panel. I’m not a fan of Torchwood, I mean I like Captain Jack on Doctor Who a LOT but they made me not like him on the spinoff, which is as far away from Doctor Who as can be and is more like British X-Files meets CSI. With gore and tits. Yet, I was there to hear John Barrowman speak. He is one of my favourite actors and I wasn’t going to miss a second of his panel. And needless to say, I LOVED the whole panel! Barrowman, Myles, and Lloyd are all three very lovable personalities and are all very fun to listen to hear them share stories. John talked about working with actors to evoke emotions from them, the reaction to Jack killing his own son, and many more. Myles was the non-Barrowman show thief by sharing with us how big a crush she had on Barrowman. She apparently was convinced that Barrowman was in love with her! Yet it wasn’t such, as he’s gay in real life and has been married to his husband, Scott Gill, since 2006 (they met in 1993). Barrowman was his usual hyperactive self; he jumped around the stage, even mooned the crowd (underwear of course, there are kids at these things!). Barrowman was asked all sorts of odd questions, such as whether or not Jack has been to the transexual Transylvania planet of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. The first thing that he said was, “is this a fanfic question???”. In addition, Myles did her little “Plastic Hip Pamela” thing she would do to keep the crowd entertained by singing a song from Grease. The whole arena just nearly died of laughter.

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After that, I went back to the halls for more Cosplay awesomeness:

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As the clock struck 1:15, I headed to the Boyce theatre for Starship Troopers, and that’s when Dan and I met up! One of the first things he says to me when he sees me is “Christ, you’re tall”. He himself is pretty tall, in fact, if you note the picture below, tenth and eleventh doctor back to back, he’s slightly taller, though maybe that’s the Matt smith hair of his! He was with his girlfriend Amrita who was dressed as Oswin, his sister Jasmine (dressed as a blond Kissogram Amy Pond), and his mother. I hadn’t seen the film in a long time, but Dan used to watch it every day! One of the funny things he says is “please don’t be old! Please don’t be old!”. Of course, he’s referring to Casper Van Dien, who admittedly looks older now. Well, Casper is still a good looking dude, but yes he does indeed look remarkably older.

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Which brings me to the panel! Dina came out and greeted the audience, but Casper had been hiding somewhere. Turns out he was chatting it up with the crowd; Dina yelled at him to get back on stage, and the first thing they said to the crowd was, “so, now we’ll take questions about the shower scene.” I always imagined Casper Van Dien as being a funny man, as he’s proven so time and time again in the past, but I never pictured Dina Meyer being a total comedian! For one, she still looks incredible and hasn’t aged a day, and she was energetic throughout. She had some of the funniest jokes, and one of the highlights/running gags was when Meyer and Dien constantly harassed a man in a bumblebee suit. At one point, Meyer began singing “No Rain” in his direction!

They were also very informative, and shared some insights, as the rough and rigourous training they went through; how Dizzy Flores was a male in the book whereas in the film a female; what it was like working with director Paul Verhoeven, recycled footage, and at one point, even simulated a stage fight! After the panel, Dan and I got an awesome picture together. The tenth and the eleventh meet face to face, who knew! And from there on, we parted ways, as I had my most anticipated photo op to get to: John Barrowman!

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So after stopping at the Corral for some food and drink, I headed back to the Big Four building to meet Sara and Derek. We chatted it up for a bit, that came to a stop when Mr. Barrowman and his sir Scott Gill walked down! They posed for a few pictures for the fans, and I shouted at Scott, “MY NAME IS SCOTT TOO!” he responded, with a surprised facial expression too, “Really?”. A few minutes later, photo ops were off the ground, but Jihn broke one of the cameras. I shit you not, he broke it! So he poked hisnhead through the curtain where we were standing, to inform us allnof the situation. Man, it was surreal having him up that close! Sara tried really hard not to touch his hair. As soon as it was our turn, Sara was beside herself. She got to touch him, and it was what she was most looking forward to whole time! So we got a cool action shot, and I greeted him with one last handshake before we parted ways.

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Lastly, some bad news struck- Saw panel was canceled. But, Mike and I met up for the Hart foundation panel. Bret and Mike Hart, Canada’s most well known wrestlers from the 1980s, was a full capacity, and was lots of fun. They have a great sense of humour, and are very intelligent guys; it was fun to hear them share their stories each. The question i asked them was with regards to the action figures and how they felt about them. Bret told me that there’s simply nothing cooler than being immortalized in a ten inch mobile action figure, knowing that you’ll have left a legacy behind for further generations and how you have inspired many does indeed have a testament. As expected, they’re also very old fashioned- they had been touring since the eighties and they did make no effort to hide their dissapoijntment kn the “raunchier and naughtier” style WWF veered off to in the 2000s. But, really, wrestling has indeed changed a lot in the past years and now it’s often associated with UFC and MMA. So where people nowadays pass that off as wrestling, it’s refreshing to have some old fashioned wisdom from the folks who helped popularize it in Canada some years ago.

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Overall, I had a KILLER weekend. I’m certain going back; as have done cons in the past before, but none really stuck out as much as CCEE. Here, nerd culture of all walks of life was alive and well. I’ve been a nerd since childhood and love all art forms of nerd culture- film, shows, games, comics, etc. I’m a sci-fi enthusiast and a comic book reader since childhood, and walking around with people in costume and wearing superhero shirts in one large hall, where nerd culture was the aim of the event, made me feel proud to be a nerd. While it obviously isn’t as huge as San Diego Comic Con or Anaheim Wondercon, if we, fellow nerds of Alberta keep supporting the business; we’ll reach that level, trust me. And now, Edmonton Expo has bloomed, and seems to be on its way to Calgary’s level- slowly, but surely.

Well, fellow readers, that covers my time at the insanity that is Calgary Comic Expo. Until Edmonton Expo, see ya folks later!