A Finnish Beginning to Summer

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb. Follow him on Twitter @Duff64.
Late spring in Europe and the U.K. means only one thing for the music lover over here: FESTIVAL SEASON! Of course, these festivals are good for both the fans AND the bands that play in front of them, as festivals will usually put an act in front of more people than they could otherwise garner by simply doing a club tour. This season for Loaded has thus far been, well, . . . colorful, let's say.

It's always great to mix some club or theater gigs into your tour schedule if you are out doing the festivals. The beginning of June can be (and usually is) cold and wet in northern Europe. For whatever reason, whether with Velvet Revolver or Loaded, we've started the season more often up north, instead of, say, Spain. Loaded took it to the extreme this past week by starting things off in Finland, with two club shows in Helsinki and Oulu and an outdoor festival in Tampere.

Geographically, Tampere, Finland, sits at about the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. If you know anything about Alaska, you know that it is not shocking to find freezing rain or even snow at the beginning of June. These were the conditions we found ourselves in as we hit the stage at this outdoor rock festival. Fuck, it was cold! For us in bands, it is only semi-miserable, as we will at least be warm later at night in our bus whilst rolling off to some other destination. But for most attending the weekend-long rock and pop festivals over here in Europe and the UK, the night will end in a soggy, freezing tent. Drunk, wet, cold, and muddy . . . nothing goes better with "rock" (except maybe the beginnings of the infection that sets in on that not-too-thought-out tattoo or piercing you got at the festival . . . after waiting in line for five hours. But I digress).

I have said before that it is often during festival season that I actually get to see bands play for the first time. Soundtrack of Our Lives is a band from Sweden that I'd heard about for a long time but had never seen. We played with them at both the Rock am Ring AND Rock am Park festivals in Germany. It's always a pleasure to share a stage with a band that you like. It is even better when a group of musicians inspires you. Soundtrack of Our Lives are MY find of the season so far. Another band I really liked is called Biffy Clyro, which has been big in the UK for a while, for good reason . . . a really cool and inventive band.

Somehow, Loaded seems to fit somewhere in between when it comes to actually labeling what we are, genre-wise. For this reason, we may be put on an "alternative" stage at one festival, and a "metal" or "rock" stage at another. We will also be doing six gigs over here in direct support of Mötley Crüe, which should be a blast for sure. As I write this, I am sitting in a club in Lucerne, Switzerland, getting ready to do one of our own shows. Lucerne is surrounded by beautiful mountains, and reminds me of someplace just east of our very own Cascades.

Today is Wednesday in Port au Crans, Switzerland. We play the Caribana Festival with ZZ Top right on Lake Geneva. I really feel like a writer right now: sitting next to a beautiful shore and sipping espresso with some locals. The language here is a soft and gentle Français, and a welcome relief. The Latin-based languages are somehow easier for me to grasp, and I enjoy learning new words and phrases in French or Spanish. The show tonight is sold out, and the weather is warm with a gentle and fresh breeze from the lake. Mont Blanc is right across the lake from where I sit.

Two days ago in Zurich, I took a train into the center of town with Mike and Geoff Reading. We strolled around and looked at some guitars, bought toiletries, etc. We noticed a high bluff that promised a good vantage point from which to view Zurich and its amazing architecture, and we huffed our way up to it. Because of the hectic touring schedule we keep, none of us had quite gotten over our jet lag, and this high viewpoint also offered a wide bulkhead that we all laid down upon for an hour or so. Once we got up to leave and walk back down the hill, I noticed a public toilet and told the fellas that I had to pee. Now, in a men's bathroom, there is a sort of protocol that usually goes unnoticed--when a man uses a urinal, he doesn't look up and around at every new person who comes into the public restroom. When I entered this one, all three men looked up at me. When they saw I was there to actually USE the bathroom and not "cruise," there seemed to be a collective disappointment that I wasn't on "the team." Sorry, fellas, I am spoken for.

My family comes to Europe tomorrow, and I am more than excited to see them. Tomorrow in London, Squires and I will play live on the radio to something like eight million listeners. No pressure. Later that day, I will present an award to the Manic Street Preachers at the MOJO Awards (a big British awards show). On Friday, Loaded plays the Download Festival, probably the pinnacle of any rock band's career. I have played it with GN'R, and twice with VR. Next week? We start our European tour with Mötley Crüe. Oh, the stories I could tell . . .

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