Artmania - live report

 •  Posted in: Kogaionon Articles

Well, the second edition of Artmania it's gone! And it was the most successful and bombastic festival in the last years in Romania! To see about 8.000 rockers gathered in a Romanian plaza, all buying tickets at the right price, that's a great thing indeed!

I do not know about the feedback so far, but I tend to believe that there can only be superlative appreciations regarding MY DYING BRIDE and ANATHEMA! As usual, I will tell you my side of the story...or, as a friend of mine would say, I'll give you an atypical comment, exclusively focused on outer Metal bands, subjective and centered on certain lights and shades uninteresting for the majority...well, I only try to convince myself that my fingers touch the keyboard willingly now and not under the hypnosis induced by Aaron's music! I left to Sibiu on Friday afternoon, less armored with the common metal accessories for festivals of this kind and without the black T-shirts full of coloured marks proudly posted on the vaunted chests...not even the darker T-shits, smelling of anger and dominated by the black and white contrast haven't been my choice. Well, a maximum two hours journey took me four hours this time, as the road was under construction, saturated in lots of unexpected traffic lights killing in the end even my last drop of hope! Sibiu equals a nightmare! Entering the city means waiting in traffic for at least one hour due to the lack of a ring road obligatory in an European town...not to mention the cultural capital of the year... Luckily for me, some friends guided me towards the Cisnadie road, a less exposed access way to the city of Sibiu, and so it was indeed. Heading towards the Large Square I was amazed by the dense crowd both on the side terraces and the avenues, lots of people everywhere, all kinds of people, all ages together! Clearly, Sibiu is a living town! I left the hotel sad, as one of the two bands which determined me to be present at the festival won't perform: HAGGARD! That's also the reason for which I've chosen to dilate my time in order to get there just for ANATHEMA, as the other bands weren't my focus for that very evening. It doesn't mean that I disregard ALTAR, CARGO or CELELALTE CUVINTE's activity, but I simply cannot spot the conceptual connection or the common dimensions between the completely different groups of fans...maybe solely the element of nostalgia. It may all have sense in the marketing balance, yet it remains for me just a Rock/Metal farrago. Moreover, there are plenty of those writing about the fore mentioned bands, so I would turn hypocrite if I would believe that they might need my feeble underground promotion. But, who would pay 55 RON on the ticket just to see Romanian bands? Well, ANATHEMA and HAGGARD can gather 4.000 ticket buyers at any time...And that's exactly what happened at Artmania. Furthermore, it would have been far more logical if the three festival evenings were conceived as dedicated to certain musical styles, so that in one particular evening (or maybe even two) solely Metal bands would perform! That way, whoever wanted to listen to Vita de Vie could have done so, but not along other bands. Or, in order to enjoy ANATHEMA to have to listen to Kempes's recital... Nevermind, my opinion wouldn't have counted anyway as I've heard that the opening bands were quite appreciated. Finally, let's get to concrete stuff...

The second big unpleasant surprise for me (aside HAGGARD's absence) was that I found myself in the impossibility to buy a ticket for that Friday evening after 9.50 pm. I came accompanied by my family and I had to leave them on a terrace in order to get to enjoy ANATHEMA. I won't recount you as at every entrance to the Large Square, someone polite was always prompt into recommending me to try another entering point as I may be lucky to find a ticket there. After approximately half an hour of walking round the Large Square, then the Small Square, I understood that there is no way for me to enter along my family (so I've entered alone, thanks to my accreditation). Sure, it would have been wiser to buy a ticket long before (as I was inspired enough with my hotel reservation) but I didn't know that I'll come in my complete family formula, plus I didn't thought that the Large Sibiu Square would have turn full. And on Friday night it was just half full. I have no idea what happened, maybe the tickets were all sold out before and many people were still on their way to the festival, yes this might explain my problem into finding a ticket at the last moment, yet it is none of my business. The important thing is that I was impeded into entering alongside my family and I really couldn't enjoy ANATHEMA at their most as meanwhile I also had to change SMS and find out that my son felt asleep as a true Metalhead on a bench, somewhere there, 200 m behind me. Well, I've learned my lesson and I suggest you to do the same: buy your ticket in good time if you don't want to hazard yourselves into psychological discomfort! For the second evening I was able to buy a ticket right away. But there's another thing regarding the organizing: access within the festival area was forbidden without a ticket, all the way from the beginning to the end of it, and that's quite salutary and appreciative! I've seen a couple of hordes though, sitting and propping up the walls of the nearby buildings, outside the festival perimeter marked by civilized fences and they haven't moved not even when ANATHEMA started their performance, nor at least when MY DYING BRIDE exploded on the scene! Clearly, those heaps solely came to a Rock happening without the slightest intention to respect the festival and hoping that, at a certain moment the entry will be for free. As that hope of theirs was in vain, they've chosen to convert the potential ticket into some Golden Brau beer recipes. Well, this also is a way to experience the festivals!

10.30 pm, Friday the 15th of June, ANATHEMA enters the scene. You could see spirited lights, dominated by red-yellow, quality sound and ecstatic fans. A show identical to the one recorded on the DVD released by Metal Minds Productions, the same playlist, probably the same order of the tracks too. Lee, the drummer's sister, proved her value as a vocalist by elegantly interpreting "A Natural Disaster", singing certain sequences that reminded me a bit about Dyanne/IN THE WOODS... she also sang a new track "Angels Walk Among Us" that will soon appear on their new album. Duncan Patterson's presence on the scene alongside his old pals brought a beauty of its own, while "Sleepless" has been the master track of the concert. "Comfortably Numb" was the farewell song, making the approximately 4.000 fans (the number was announced by the organizers, yet it seemed bigger to me) to scream for long minutes the name of their favourite band, hoping for a return on the scene, at least for another single song. Would I be wrong to presume that the 4.000 people were also PINK FLOYD admirers? The cover-version sounded good indeed. Obviously, there was no bis, the show ended accordingly to the program. Vincent seemed as jester and communicative as he did back in 1994, even inviting his audience in Liverpool next year, as it will be the new European Capital. Moreover, in order to keep the fans aroused, he periodically threw beer and water recipes to the public and they highly appreciated the gesture. I was truly amazed to see the eagerness of all those ANATHEMA fans, the way they've devoured every word, every single accord, each and every move! They were singing, crying, hugging each other, entering a state of trance... all fascinated, ecstatic...completed! The show was accordingly the expectations, the tracks sounded fine, the atmosphere was pleasant. It was a combination between the nostalgiacs that also experienced the show back fourteen years ago (they could now observe the instrumental evolution of the Britishers, even though they've missed some notes this time too giving a hard time to the bassist into trying to fast his laugh...well, the fans perceived all that as delight towards the public) and the younger fans of the band that is highly appreciated in Romania, maybe partly due to the fact that it was one of the first that performed here after 1989. For me though, ANATHEMA ended with Darren White's departure and "Pentecost III" album, as the current music is far too melancholic, Pop/Alternative/Rock, without anger and contrasts... it lacks something...not to mention that they turned annoying by harping on cover-versions! Maybe they should start singing The Beatles' repertoire as they are from Liverpool too, and success would be guaranteed for the next twenty years! ANATHEMA exists throughout the history built around their first albums, but the fans' indulgence regarding the last releases was fully requited at Sibiu by one hour and a half of music played with all their hearts. It was a fine night to exit...

Day two: the most torturing question remained unanswered until this very moment: how the hell should MY DYING BRIDE perform as opening act for WITHIN TEMPTATION? I took a sit on a terrace nearby the Large Square and I could scan at ease the mobs of fans coming from all around the country, vaunting various T-shirts starting with DIRE STRAITS and Eagles to OPETH, EMPEROR or SUFFOCATION, well CRADLE and DIMMU were on top of course, but they were all glad and anxious to experience an unique evening. I've seen parents joined by their kids there (I doubt they were the single ones ?) and also persons that have elapsed adolescence for quite some time (it would be stupid to categorize myself as old, wouldn't it?), moreover I've seen media Rock stars proudly parading their accreditations and gangs of friends singing fragments of the tracks belonging to the bands that were getting on stage that very evening, well I've spotted the whole diversity of participants...and I loved it, as they were all coming thrilled to experience something long awaited. It was the momentous evening, the essential one...and fans were gathering from everywhere. When I entered the Large Square I was shocked: the public doubled comparatively the previous evening! Lots of people amassed in a less suitable place for a Metal evening. But let's get to facts... Saturated in Heavy/Power fragments, TAROT tried to animate the fans gathered there around 7 pm, mostly for a single band. The Finns concert was a seared one, showing a relaxed approach (one hand on the strings, a cigarette in the mouth), for about 50 minutes long, something alike "we've been here, you could see us, give us the money and we'll come another time too!". Sure, the band tried to interact with the audience and those few pogos, but the sun was still up in the sky, the atmosphere was improper, everything was dry. Even though they have over twenty years of activity, I doubt this band will ever be able to go beyond the opening act level.

THE GATHERING was a pleasant surprise for me, even if Anneke's announced departure created, maybe solely in my subconscious, the impression of a sad, confused and scattered band. The fact that the Dutch played some tracks from the melodious "Mandylion" made the audience enjoy the superb feminine voice at its most as was surrounded by several instruments that should have sounded perfectly on that very stage. Anneke was the main attraction of the band, but her performance has been neutral, scenting of scenario directions, quite commercial ones, obvious in the end of their show. The truth is that, neither the light outside, nor the chosen playlist and not even the created atmosphere haven't helped Anneke to exhibit herself plentiful as she used to, or simply the fact that she's about to leave the band made her act reserved... I think that if they would have chosen to play more old tracks saturated in Gothic touches there would have been met a plus of appreciation in Sibiu, yet their decision was to insist on the last releases, far too hip-hop, trip-top, experimental. I wonder what will THE GATHERING represent after Anneke's departure? It's hard for me to believe that they'll be able to create another inspired album as the "Always..." debut was. Listening to "Stonegarden" is still a true pleasure to me! Anyway, given the circumstances, I appreciate the fact that the band honors its tours schedule, even if they do it slightly fade and rash...approximately 45 minutes.

A relatively long respite followed, about fifteen minutes, perfect for the night to fall in and then, in the spiel of less colored and diverse stage lights, rather on a dominant blue shade, MY DYING BRIDE appeared! The skin from the fans' arms revealed their deep emotions, inner torpedo feelings exploded in the audience's mood, nearby the stage you could hardly breathe as the crowd got mad and delirium embraced every single present soul! Aaron, was equipped quite odd (I could bet he would show up in white, yet he surprised me by wearing absolute black), with his arms and hands painted in various red coloured symbols, and he entered the stage alongside the band, presenting a female bassist looking shapely (even if she's a new member, Leena fits fine both on stage and playing the bass) and also another woman behind him, manipulating a laptop/synth, plus the unstoppable Hamish and Andy along a very energic drummer, also new. Therefore, we could experience live the unique, poetic, full of hopelessness British Doom Metal...it was sensational for those who have never saw them live before or at least on a DVD...as for the others, the distinction was brought solely by the feeling, because the visualization has been the same one that MY DYING BRIDE presents on stage, seldom, yet exquisite! If "Catherine Blake" nearly "killed" the fans, "The Cry Of Mankind" and "The Snow In My Hand" certainly ceased their breathing. How should I describe a MY DYING BRIDE concert? Seeing it is a crucifixion but missing it means pure suicide! Aaron the artist...what a dramatic show he has done!!! Now standing, then kneeling, afterwards fallen to the ground...the depressive dimension embraced multiple forms all dominating the burden contemplative atmosphere... sadness, pain, passion, living, suffering...! The leaden guitar riffs perfectly harmonized with Aaron's multiple inflexions...while the battery was the sole instrument trying to contour a rhythm, to give an anchor to the sound, a way back to reality... the Britishers kept me in that particular mood for the whole concert, about an hour long, taut and speechless. Still, something intruded that mood of mine... MY DYING BRIDE is not a band imparting an extravert message, neither one to be enjoyed alongside other 8.000 fans! MY DYING BRIDE opens soul doors towards isolation and escape from immediate reality throughout a dramatic, even abstract, dimension...and maybe that's the exact way many of those present at Sibiu felt, yet me for one couldn't enter the trance! Perhaps it was due to the fact that the voice could be barely heard on the first tracks, plus the agglomeration and the stamping on my feet, involuntary jostling and the dynamic pogos that wearied my sight that persisted into staying freeze on that dream stage. In fact, MY DYING BRIDE symbolized, for many people in the Large Square in that particular evening, a dream come through. Yet, there's another thing to be said: a concert alike this one shouldn't have been kept in that open square! Somehow, the mirage of dark poetic MY DYING BRIDE was diluted by this uninspired location choice, an inadequate one for these distinct sonorities that encircled the entire Sibiu downtown. "She Is The Dark" represented a true frame of audience doom, and so was the entire show. I cannot understand why haven't they ended the concert with one the early pieces, "Sear Me" for instance, especially as it was their first representation in Romania. On the other hand, it might be better that they haven't, who know how many suicides would have filled the news afterwards! I now find that the perfume emanated by the first accords of "The Cry Of Mankind" in its live version is the same one scented twelve years ago, when I finally succeeded into holding in my hands this genius album "The Angel And The Dark River", opening with this exact track. I also remember that I have opened the envelope with the promo CD received from the label exactly five minutes before going on air as back those times I used to produce a radio Metal broadcast on a local station. You simply cannot imagine the impact that album had over me, that particular track listened for the first time on air, that evening at 11 pm!!! Ok, I am accessing nostalgia and turning pathetic. And of course that's not characteristic for a MY DYING BRIDE admirer! Well, I just shared you my impression over the veteran fans immediately after Aaron&Co left the stage. Curiously, I saw plenty of adolescent admirers, mostly young girls that were quite euphoric consequently to the doomed representation ... Yet, only time can tell the right balance between pure imagery versus profoundness! The important thing is that the band is highly admired in Romania by a mass of Metal fans growing bigger day after day! Moreover, after this concert, the mass of fans will certainly increase...just the same way ANATHEMA syndrome burst fourteen years ago...

If the first evening addressed mostly to the fans yearning to experience ANATHEMA, on this particular evening the admirer entered sevrage under MY DYING BRIDE. Truly distinct! And sadly short... Afterwards followed a band that couldn't reach high appreciations, especially as they've performed behind a MY DYING BRIDE show! It is just the same as you'd cheerfully enter a room filled with people mourning for a dear one! If WITHIN TEMPTATION would enter the stage subsequently to THE GATHERING, I am convinced that the entire show for that evening would have turn out an exceptional one. But things didn't go that way, so something about the organization left place for some fade bitterness to be sensed. On the other hand, WITHIN TEMPTATION is supported by far too respected label, they offer a much more commercial music (it sells better) so, it was natural for them to consider themselves the headliner. Yet, once again surprisingly, at least for me, these Dutch dancing cavorters were quite friendly with the public, always smiling, and leaving no room for arrogance or infatuation to be spotted! Musically speaking, they aren't my style, because their sound is far too simple and bombastic, completely repetitive! It was a far too luminous sound for that nightly hour, a too dark place for enlivening rhythm, dynamism or cheerfulness! Despite the Gothic décor saturated in gargoyles and torches set on metal pillars, the Dutch failed into convincing all those that previously idolized MY DYING BRIDE's representation to enjoy also their show. With a Gothic Metal cloning NIGHTWISH, an excellent feminine voice (that sometimes yield and other instants given me the impression of being doubled) plus a scene act specific for the melodic Metal bands, the Dutch succeeded into performing more than an hour, even improvising a bis, the sole one that I've seen at this festival. Sure, I appreciate Sharon's dedication, as she, barefooted (forgotten her shoes back home probably) and wearing a nile and modest dress, continuously furrowed the scene from one corner to the other and raised her hands imperatively as she was inviting the audience to a fitness session. Aside this slightly infantile behavior, she really tried to make the pogos bang their heads and the reserved ones to at least applaud. Moreover, during two tracks I could spot in the audience happy faces singing along her. Well, if you wished to keep THE GATHERING on stage just a bit longer, you started to think at a certain moment about chasing these Dutch out of the scene, to unplug their amplifiers cause they've seemed to never end their representation...Why, why hasn't the Artmania stuff given another fifteen minutes to MY DYING BRIDE and cut from this one, I cannot understand it. Well, I do and so do you, but ... that's it. I find it totally unfair to compare WITHIN TEMPTATION with MY DYING BRIDE, as there is no bridge between their styles or musical conceptualization. Moreover, it's quite untrendy to praise the Dutch when you can bring out the tumultuous feelings awakened by MY DYING BRIDE's art, a cult and truly profound band. Judging it all pragmatically and objective, both bands performed exemplary, each one throughout their own approach... if we bring THE GATHERING in the same equation, in their case the expectations were far higher, but even if so, their show has been almost saved by the fact that many already knew about the vocalist departure and so some of us turned more indulgent with the performance due to this unpleasant piece of information.

Another weak element for the festival: Titus's stand, placed left to the stage was completely empty after 8 pm; no T-shirts, neither CDs, nor DVDs. As long as I stayed there I think I've seen tens of fans disappointed for not being able to buy some materials with their favorite bands of the evening! Well, they could eventually get some Artmania T-shirts! Yet, I heard some complains while waiting in line to get a beer, about the smuggling prices demanded for these materials, far too expensive in this context comparing with the normal one. And where is the problem with that? You want to buy a CD right on the concert, pay more! Obviously, the beer you drink back home is cheaper than the one you consume at the concert! It's also true that nearby the delimited festival area there was a shop filled with Rock accessories (army boots, T-shirts, bracelets) but everyone exited the same way they've entered it, as the offer was far too general, as Bon Jovi came to play at Artmania.

The ecological toilets placed within the Large Square proved to be insufficient once again, and so did beer stands and popcorn machines. Yet, you could get lucky into finding some alternatives if exiting towards the tens of terraces waiting for their clients to stop by. The fact that every participant to the Artmania festival had a distinct bracelet on the hand, showed that the organizers acted efficiently, so that everyone owning a ticket could get easily in or out the festival perimeter.

I can hardly tell you anything about the last evening as I have not attended it. The first two evenings' advantage was that the weather went hand in hand with the organizers hopes, and not solely theirs, despite some threatening thunders on Saturday afternoon. I should also mention that everything was civilized, with police forces discreetly present everywhere, so you could feel more than comfortable.

As a ascertaining querulous that I am, I'd say that if AFTER FOREVER would have been programmed to perform on Friday or even Saturday evening instead an inland band, if HAGGARD would have been present and MY DYING BRIDE would have concluded Saturday evening, then this second edition of Artmania would have been sorely felicitous.

I'll end this story of mine by telling you that I had a great satisfaction into being able to participate to a professional festival, well organized (including the two huge screens disposed in front of the audience), exhibiting a fine fond with forms that still require small details to be considered (I've heard some people complaining about the lack of indicators towards the camping areas or towards the Large Square), yet now that it is all over I can pleasantly bring Artmania 2007 to my mind! Congratulations to the organizers for the second edition of Artmania at Sibiu and I guarantee you'll gather together even more participants if MY DYING BRIDE will become a tradition for the future editions! As for those that weren't in Sibiu between 15 - 17 of June: you cannot imagine how great your perdition is!

June, 2007

PS. As you already know, my site is a strictly informative and atypical one...therefore, no photos this time too.