January 12, 2018 – January 19, 2018
For years now, NIGHT DEMON have represented the last, best hope of the true metal underground to achieve world domination. A few months ago, the Ventura, California trio took a massive step in that direction when they were confirmed as the direct support act for ACCEPT’s 28-date European tour. American metalheads may not know this (because Accept rarely performs on U.S. shores), but the Teutonic terrors are still a really big f’ing deal (to quote Joe Biden) in the Old World. This is no rinky-dink tour of clubs and bars. No, Accept was booked into venues with capacities of between 1,500 and 4,500 for these dates, guaranteeing that Night Demon would be playing to huge crowds on big stages each night. I couldn’t miss this. After all, I’ve been in Night Demon’s corner since (almost) the very beginning. And Accept are my favorite “old” band, still firing on all cylinders and delivering at peak performance. (Trivia: First heavy metal band I ever saw live was Accept. June 3, 1986. Russian Roulette tour. Changed my life.) It was a match made in heaven. So when the opportunity came to tag along with the Night Demon band and crew for the first six dates of the tour, I leapt at the chance.
A note on structure/format: Rather than review what was essentially the same show six times, I’ll begin with a general overview/recap of the Night Demon and Accept performances, then shift into a day-by-day diary to give you a flavor of tour life. Ready? Here we go …
The mission each night was clear: Hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em fast. Leave it all on the field. Make a strong impression on the sizeable percentage of the audience who had never heard of (much less listened to) Night Demon before. Count on the diehards (who also turned out for each gig) for vocal support and crowd participation. Convert new fans with every show. Gain ground every night. And that’s exactly what happened.
For starters, the stage looked great. Night Demon unveiled a brand-new sweet banner with the logo set off in yellow against a stormy sky. (Sometimes they weren’t able to hang the banner but when they could, wow did it look awesome.) Four new Engl cabinets flanked the drumkit, each covered by a screen bearing the distinctive Night Demon sigil. And although Dusty Squires was playing a rental kit (save for the new 101Drums snare he now proudly endorses), the bass drum head was customized with a mirror finish and the letters “ND” in the logo font. Lighting options (implemented by the band’s dedicated lighting engineer) were excellent, even with Night Demon’s limited access to Accept’s rig, and the fog machine definitely added to the vibe as well. From a production standpoint, this was more elaborate and classier than anything I’ve ever seen Night Demon use on tour in the past.
By now, Night Demon are experienced live performers with hundreds of gigs under their bulletbelts. They can work miracles in even the most primitive conditions, and have done so countless times. So imagine what they can do on a big stage with good gear, room to maneuver, a full sound check, and a dedicated soundman who had flown in from Argentina to do this tour. Yeah, that’s right: they took it to the next level. Guitarist Armand John Anthony and bassist/vocalist Jarvis Leatherby used every inch of available stage, recklessly hurtling their bodies from one corner to the other, headbanging feverishly and working up a sweat. As the instrumental passages ended, often Leatherby would sprint back to his mike stand in the nick of time to hit his next vocal cue. Although much of their live experience has been in postage-stamp sized clubs, these guys were in no way intimidated or cowed by the big stage; to the contrary, they were born for it, and they visibly relished every minute out there. That said, it wasn’t easy for them. Accept’s stage was adorned with various ramps, platforms and floor lights that Night Demon could not use and could not touch. So working the stage was somewhat akin to navigating an obstacle course for Jarvis and Armand every night. And the amount of available space fluctuated more than you might imagine from one gig to the next, depending on the specs of the particular venue, so that was a factor too. Still, they made it look effortless and fluid.
Despite having just 45 minutes to work with, Night Demon miraculously managed to tear through a full dozen tracks by keeping the talking to a minimum, not wasting any time, and going full speed ahead from beginning to end. The setlist (which, with one minor exception I’ll discuss below, was identical for each of the six tour gigs I witnessed) was expertly constructed for maximum impact. Right out of the chute, Night Demon ripped through three burners in a row, in the form of “Welcome to the Night,” “Full Speed Ahead,” and “Maiden Hell,” drilling the unsuspecting audience right between the eyes before they even knew what had hit them. “Curse of the Damned” took the foot off the gas momentarily and allowed for some crowd participation, before things slammed back into high gear with “Hallowed Ground” and “Ritual.” A bit of rock’n’roll was up next with “Heavy Metal Heat,” white lights flooding the crowd when it was time to belt out the title phrase. Then Leatherby would address the crowd in depth for the first time with a special tribute. Fast Eddie Clarke died two days before the tour began, joining the rest of the three amigos from Motorhead (Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor) in Valhalla. Leatherby would name each of them (pausing to point skyward for Fast Eddie), thank them for the music and inspiration, and then Squires would attack a familiar drum intro. The crowd would go nuts when it dawned on them what was happening, and Night Demon would perform the first verse and chorus of “Overkill,” before segueing seamlessly into their own “Dawn Rider.” This was my favorite part of the set every night, feeling the crowd go into a frenzy for the Motorhead tribute and the energy levels spike for the remainder of the gig. Speaking of energy levels, “Black Widow” and “Screams in the Night” revved everyone’s motors bigtime. Then things got spooky, as hooded skeletal mascot Rocky joined the band on stage for “The Chalice,” hoisting the titular goblet for any who might dare succumb to temptation. The set ended on a high note appropriately enough with “Night Demon,” the instrumental section with Jarvis and Armand standing back to back at the front of the stage giving me goosebumps every single time. The band would take a bow as their UFO outro music played, then band and crew scrambled like hell to get out of the way for the Accept changeover.
My role in all of this quickly settled into a predictable pattern. For the first eight songs of the Night Demon set, I’d be out front, as close to the the stage as I could get. The rooms were nearly full when Night Demon played, but even so there was usually sufficient room for me to thread my way into the first two or three rows. Observing the people around me, it was cool to see the Accept crowd (which definitely skewed older) watching and paying close attention to Night Demon. Of course, it was cooler to see the maniacs like me, rocking out, throwing horns and singing at the top of their lungs. And there were a good number of those like-minded individuals at every show as well. At the end of “Dawn Rider,” I would reluctantly vacate my spot, work my way backstage, and change into the Rocky costume in time for “The Chalice.” Yeah, I had the honor of playing Rocky for each of these six shows. It’s not as easy as it looks. You can’t see a damn thing with all that stuff on, and I had to be very careful not to trip over any of the Accept obstacles strewn across the stage like a minefield. But it was such a blast to do. I worked on my routine, and thought it became a bit better, a bit more polished each night. Then I’d slip into the wings, shed the Rocky garb, and watch the last song “Night Demon” from behind the band, a unique perspective that allowed me to see just how huge the crowds were and to marvel at the great reaction ND were getting each and every time. When “Night Demon” ended, I’d help Dusty get his drum kit moved off stage as quickly as possible, then wander back to the ND dressing room for a celebratory beer or two. Man, that’s living right. I could get used to this …
I’ve already penned a “traditional” review of Accept’s performance at the tour opener in Hamburg, which you can find at the True Metal Lives site at the following link: www.truemetallives.com/blog2/live-reviews-accept-kits-reviews. For purposes of this review, then, I’ll focus more on impressions, thoughts, and observations gleaned from seeing the band six times in a row.
You’ve got to hand it to Accept. Their live show is like a case study in precision German engineering. Every single detail has been thought through, controlled and maximized to the highest level. Nothing is left to chance. The band’s playing is ridiculously tight, and you almost never hear any of the musicians make a mistake. Lighting cues, choreography, sound and performance were all remarkably consistent from one night to the next. The band members would be in the same place at the same time with the same lighting effects at each and every show. They move and gesture at the same time in the same way at the same moment each night. At the end of the gig, they even do the same gag (with Peter feigning tossing his bass into the crowd only to be rebuffed by a disapproving crew member) each night. You could look at it as being mechanical or robotic. Or you could look at it as Accept being a sheer juggernaut of focused, controlled power. I see both sides. Being a denizen of the underground, I missed some of that spontaneity, those reckless and wild moments you get at an underground gig. But Accept’s polish and consistency are most impressive, and allow them to maintain absurdly high standards of quality night in and night out.
Don’t misunderstand the above as suggesting that an Accept show is soulless. It isn’t. Just watch Wolf Hoffmann and Peter Baltes. You can see it in their eyes, their facial expressions. The metal heart beats strong in both of these men. Their passion and love of their craft is obvious and undeniable. It’s just that their artistic vision is to lock in every single detail in advance. It may be a different ethos than you and I are accustomed to in the gutters and sewers of the heavy metal underground where we spend our time. But it’s what makes Accept total pros, and the result is an unfailingly amazing show.
I’ve observed some interesting debates about Accept’s setlist on this tour. (If you’re wondering, the 2-hour, 21-song set goes precisely like this: Die by the Sword, Stalingrad, Restless and Wild, London Leatherboys, Breaker, Rise of Chaos, Koolaid, No Regrets, Analog Man, Final Journey, Shadow Soldiers, Wolf solo, Neon Nights, Princess of the Dawn, Midnight Mover, Up to the Limit, Objection Overruled, Pandemic, Fast as a Shark. Encore: Metal Heart, Teutonic Terror, Balls to the Wall.) As you see, the set is split nearly 50/50 between ‘80s classics and Tornillo-era tunes. That doesn’t sit well with some folks who would prefer the ratio to be 80/20 or 90/10 in favor of the oldies. But Accept are on record as saying they have no intention of devolving into a nostalgia act. And why should they? The four new albums with Tornillo have been mostly excellent. Songs like “Stalingrad” and “Teutonic Terror” are as good as anything they’ve ever done before. Even an overlooked cut like “Final Journey” (off Blind Rage) works brilliantly live thanks to the magnificent classical melody in the guitar solo that never fails to get the audience singing along. Now, I wasn’t completely convinced by The Rise of Chaos, and a whopping five songs are aired from that record each night on this tour, including a run of four in a row. But I’m telling you, it works. “Die by the Sword” is a killer opener that does the job perfectly. “No Regrets” and “Rise of Chaos” are sturdy traditional Accept tunes. As for “Koolaid” and “Analog Man,” I’m not particularly enamored of either one on record but I’ll be damned if they aren’t super entertaining in a live setting. I went into it thinking I was going to dread the four-song module of Rise of Chaos tracks played in a row, but I actually really enjoyed it. These are good live songs. (I’d find myself walking around the next day singing things to myself like “We’re gonna mix it up / And add the cyanide” or “Update and Download” – this stuff gets stuck in your head!) And goodness knows, Accept played plenty of the mandatory classics and even an unexpected deep cut from the early ‘90s in the form of the stupendous “Objection Overruled,” which served as the launching pad for the nightly Hoffmann / Baltes jam session, as they dueled each other on adjacent ramps leading out into the crowd. For my money (even though I never had to pay the hefty 42 Euro entrance fee for any of these gigs), this is a really good setlist that is honest to Accept’s beliefs and values while at the same time satiates the masses’ thirst for the glory-days material of olde.
An interesting part of the dynamic of seeing Accept live is, of course, the predominance of Hoffmann and Baltes. We’ve all heard the comment that Accept is basically the “Wolf and Peter Show” now. There’s definitely a good bit of truth to that observation, as those two guys spend most of the show front and center, quite literally in the spotlight. But that’s not a bad thing, to my way of thinking. Both of them are fantastic. They have kept in great physical shape, look and act far younger than their ages (both are in their late 50s, I believe), and are energetic and charismatic performers. The synchronized bits they do in songs like “London Leatherboys” are timeless, and it was always awesome at the end of “Balls to the Wall” to see them join on the platform at the center of the stage, cross the necks of their guitars and point skyward. Anyway, I never grew weary of watching the Wolf and Peter Show, that’s for sure. That, plus they’re the only members from the classic lineup, the creative and strategic force propelling the band forward today. Why shouldn’t they be in the spotlight? That’s not to denigrate the other band members, of course. Mark Tornillo (he of the army hat, Harley-Davidson shirt and sometimes sunglasses) does a stellar job with the songs, old and new, but he’s not a natural frontman. I was struck by how uneasy he seemed (even after all this time) with his infrequent stage banter. The first couple of shows, he was using a line, “You smell what I’m cooking?” in talking about the new songs, then one night he stumbled over it and said, “You see what I’m cooking?” He didn’t use the line again on any of the shows I saw. Another time he tied himself in knots talking about their “brand-new album” even as he admitted it wasn’t really “brand-new” at all. The point is that Tornillo seems way more comfortable rocking out in the shadows than he does in a traditional frontman role. So it makes sense that Wolf and Peter pick up the slack. As for guitarist Uwe Lulis (a very talented player in his own right), I did feel bad for him sometimes being left out of the fun over on stage right, but he was afforded a couple of opportunities to shine each night. Uwe was able to stand on the center platform to deliver a scorching solo on “No Regrets” each night, and the dual-guitar part of “Fast as a Shark” featuring a smiling Uwe and Wolf at center stage was maybe my favorite part of the show. All four musicians came together up front at the end of “Breaker,” and they all windmilled like mad in front of the drum riser during the “Balls to the Wall” finale. Finally, drummer Christopher Williams performed admirably on his massive kit (complete with gong for use in “Metal Heart” and elsewhere) each night, even when the rooms became so hot it looked like he was going to pass out, and delivered a brief tasty solo at the conclusion of “Metal Heart” each night. And the frequent “woaahhhh-woaaahh” audience singalongs (“Stalingrad,” “Final Journey,” “Princess of the Dawn,” “Metal Heart,” “Balls to the Wall”) were almost transcendent in the union of band and fans amidst the glorious melodies.
So in the end, after witnessing six Accept shows in a row in their entirety, my take is that they remain a lethal live act. They are still at the height of their powers, a most worthy headliner. The level of detail that goes into their shows makes them consummate professionals, a precision-engineered killing machine, but a metal heart beats inside. Hopefully they’ll be able to do a proper U.S. tour for The Rise of Chaos, which they’ve not done in a few years.
Friday, January 12, 2018. Hamburg. First day of the tour. The Night Demon Crafter touring van (complete with a bunkbed built in the back over the cargo space) picked me up at my St. Georg hotel in the early afternoon. After getting some Doner Kebap for lunch, we proceeded to the venue, the Mehr! Theater at the Grossmarkt, which is sort of a new industrial/commercial zone near the Hafencity waterfront. Finding our way into the complex with the van proved oddly challenging, sort of a Spinal Tap moment as we drove from one closed/locked gate to another trying to gain entrance. Finally made it inside. I’m not going to lie, it gave me a real charge to receive an Accept “ALL ACCESS” pass that was tethered to my belt for the next 8 days. The Mehr! Theater is a cavernous, echoey building, like a giant new warehouse with terrible acoustics, but the backstage accommodations were spacious and comfortable. Watched Accept soundcheck (sans Tornillo) for the first and only time on these dates. (Most days, the band does not do a sound check at all because they have almost no stage volume with their elaborate in-ear monitor system.) Unfortunately, Night Demon experienced major technical issues through no fault of their own. For quite some time while they were setting up, there was no power on stage. Minutes before the doors were supposed to open, ND’s microphones still had not been delivered to the venue. So there was no time for a soundcheck for Night Demon tonight. Things were a bit chaotic and rough around the edges. The gig still went very well, but sound and lighting were not as good as hoped because of the aforementioned technical issues. Large, raucous audience numbering approximately 2,500 people, and they were loud and ready to rock. Tornillo later commented from the stage that this crowd had made it the best tour opener ever for Accept. Funny moment: I changed into the Rocky costume backstage and as I walked toward the stage in full garb, I encountered Peter Baltes, who was sitting in a chair off to the side checking out Night Demon’s set. The bassist gave me a quizzical “WTF?” look as I passed by, haha. After the show, got to hang out with my friends IronIngo, Jan and Claudia backstage for a bit, then Peter came in briefly to congratulate Night Demon on a fine tour kickoff. Went to our host Claudia’s house to sleep, but sat at her kitchen table with Night Demon’s sound engineer Pablo until 4:30 in the morning drinking beer and talking. Pablo rules.
Saturday, January 13, 2018. Filderstadt (near Stuttgart). It was a looong drive to Filderstadt, taking 6+ hours to traverse from northern to southern Germany. I realized the heater doesn’t really do much for the back rows of seats in the Crafter van, so I’d best bundle up for these drives henceforth. The Filharmonie was easily the classiest, most beautiful venue I saw on this run of dates. It’s a state-of-the-art symphony hall that looks way too fancy for a rock’n’roll show. The sound in that room was a dream for both bands. With none of yesterday’s technical glitches, set-up went smoothly and Night Demon had a full opportunity for sound check, where they busted out some killer covers like “Stranglehold” and “Jailbreak.” Nearly 2,000 people in attendance tonight, and I even heard some “Night Demon” chants breaking out around me while they were playing. Backstage amenities were excellent: large dressing room, delicious catering, ample supply of Bavarian beer, even a private bathroom/shower adjoining the ND dressing room. After Accept’s set was finished, I took advantage of the facilities backstage to brush my teeth, since I wasn’t sure I’d have an opportunity to do so later. In the middle of brushing my teeth, the other door to the bathroom opens and in walks Mark Tornillo. He sees me and goes, “Hey, how ya doing?” and starts trying to have a conversation with me while I’ve got a mouth full of toothpaste. A bit surreal, to say the least. We then piled into the Night Demon van for a 30-minute ride to our host’s house. Everyone was in fine spirits, and the jokes, laughs and insults where whizzing around the van at lightning (to the nations) speed. Our generous host greeted us with a refrigerator full of incredible Kellerbier, High Spirits on the turntable, and Iron Maiden and Judas Priest DVDs on the big-screen TVs. Amazing hospitality. Finally drifted off to sleep at around 6:30 a.m. Fantastic day.
Sunday, January 14, 2018. Munich. Just an easy two-hour drive today to the TonHalle in Munchen. Once again, the venue was inside a fenced-off complex, and we drove around for some time trying to find our way in. Definitely a step down from luxurious Filharmonie the night before, the TonHalle is like a low-slung, cold, grey concrete bunker. Capacity couldn’t have been more than 1,500 or so. Stage was definitely the smallest on my run of shows, so much so that Accept had to scale down their production significantly. Only one ramp out into the audience instead of the usual two. No room for the full banner, or for Night Demon’s banner at all. Had to walk 50 meters outside in the cold and damp to access the backstage area, which was also kind of cold and grey, although I did avail myself of a nice hot shower back there for the first time on this tour. Catering was plentiful and delicious though. At soundcheck, Night Demon treated me to versions of “Turn Up the Night” and “We Will Rock You,” with several security guards whipping out their phones to video the latter for posterity. Night Demon’s performance tonight was excellent. For the first time on this tour, everything really coalesced into its fullest and most powerful form: band, sound, lights, Rocky … everything was simply ace. The TonHalle was completely packed and this was the only night I couldn’t navigate my way anywhere near the front of the stage for Accept. However, the audience was noticeably more restrained than the last two nights. Maybe it’s the dreaded Sunday night effect? Or maybe everyone lost their energy from being jammed in like sardines in a room that suddenly became a sweat box? I don’t know. Accept had a bit of trouble during their show, as the technology Wolf relies on during his solo spot to record/repeat his guitar lines was not functioning properly, much to his visible aggravation. After the gig, we retired to a small hotel near the central train station in Munich for the night. Several of us went out on the town looking for something to do. Everything except the Kinos/Spielhalles (gambling/casino-type establishments) and table dance places was closed, so I gave up and went back to the hotel to get some sleep at around 2:00 a.m. Had to laugh when I walked past a business called “Peter & Wolff.” Accept are everywhere it seems ...
Monday, January 15, 2018. Day off. The first order of business today was to get the band to an 11:00 a.m. radio interview at Antenne Bayern, a high-rent modern building with swank office space and loads of state-of-the-art tech. The DJ informed us that this radio station has 120,000 listeners at any given time. Interview lasted about 30 minutes, and was very cool. Hilarious moment when the band members were asked to record station IDs at the end. Jarvis and Armand recorded their assigned English-language IDs without a hitch. Then Dusty went to read his, only to find it laden with unpronounceable polysyllabic German words. Each time he tried to do it was funnier than the last until he finally surrendered. Drive to Leipzig was three or four uneventful hours. Checked into a nice, inexpensive hotel on the edge of town, which featured large suites with kitchenettes. There was a market nearby, so we bought supplies (beer and snacks, mostly), loaded them up in a shopping cart, and wheeled the cart down the street, into the hotel, and all the way to our rooms. Rock’n’roll! Night Demon’s tour manager Bruno cooked for us tonight, miraculously whipping up a fine meal of shrimp and rice despite electrical problems in the room that tripped the circuit breaker every time he turned on more than one burner. While he cooked dinner, I borrowed crew member Joao’s Portuguese-configured laptop computer to write up a quick report on the Hamburg show at the request of Accept’s management for promotional purposes. Did the best I could. After dinner, Armand, Jarvis and I decided to take a cab into town to a metal bar called the Black Label. We inadvertently ended up at a tiki bar next door for awhile, then eventually worked our way over to the Black Label. Not much happening there, but the drinks were good and the décor was interesting. There was a quote from Lemmy on the wall about how he avoided getting hung over by never stopping drinking. Good advice! Somehow we started drinking shots called “Dead Nazis,” which were peppermint and Jager. Not very tasty, I must say. Ended up talking to a table of metalheads, and they were telling us all about this Leipzig venue called 4 Rooms, which has been the home of live underground metal in Leipzig for years but which is set to close next month after Visigoth plays there. Somehow the idea was floated for Night Demon to play 4 Rooms tomorrow night after the Accept show. And thus a diabolical, spur-of-the-moment plot was hatched …
Tuesday, January 16, 2018. Leipzig (two shows). Today’s venue was the beautiful Haus Auensee, along the banks of a lake in a wooded area. With a capacity in excess of 3,000 and a history dating back more than a century, this location provided a lovely setting for the Accept gig tonight. Interestingly, Iced Earth had played here just a couple of days earlier. We found juvenile handwritten notes on the walls in the dressing rooms that the Iced Earth guys had apparently left for each other as inside jokes. I was not surprised at all to see Wolf Hoffmann come onstage in the middle of the afternoon to work on correcting the technology that had failed during his guitar solo in Munchen. Again, there’s that precision and attention to detail. For their soundcheck today, Night Demon ran through a trilogy of KISS klassiks (“Cold Gin,” “Strutter,” “Detroit Rock City”) and even part of “Disposable Heroes.” Another really strong performance from both bands tonight in front of a large crowd, although the place definitely was not sold out. As soon as Accept’s set concluded, we loaded up the van and proceeded to drive across town to get to the 4 Rooms venue for the after-show gig. We arrived at this place, and hauled the gear downstairs to what was basically a big basement. To our surprise (since the gig had been announced just hours earlier), there were around 50 people waiting for us. Everyone was stoked to see Night Demon. From the first time I walked in, lugging heavy gear, somebody handed me a lovely half-liter of beer. The beers and shots flowed freely all night long. Sometime around 1 a.m., Night Demon took the stage and played a sweaty 11-song, 50-minute set consisting exclusively of covers. The crowd loved every minute of it, but the best part is that the band and crew obviously did too. Don’t kid yourself: It’s stressful being on this Accept tour. There are big audiences every night. The stakes are high. The 4 Rooms gig sort of took away all the stress and pressure and let the guys go back to having fun. There were big smiles onstage and in the crowd throughout the set, and Jarvis and Armand even did some synchronized KISS stage moves during “Cold Gin,” with Armand dragging on a cigarette during “War Pigs.” No, these weren’t technically perfect versions of most of these songs, but they had raw energy, true spirit, and real heart. This was Night Demon blowing off steam by going back – however briefly – to what they came from. There was a real magic there, and I think everyone in the room felt it. This was just what the doctor ordered. Setlist: Am I Evil?, Lightning to the Nations, Breaking the Law, Cold Gin, Radar Love, Turn Up the Night, War Pigs, We Will Rock You, Road Racin’, Axe Crazy, Wasted Years. We stayed out way too late and kept the party going back at the hotel until well after sunrise. What a killer, unforgettable night. Thank you, Leipzig!
Wednesday, January 17, 2018. Berlin. Honestly, this morning was not fun. After about 90 minutes of sleep, it was already time to wake up, get packed up and climb aboard the van for the drive to Berlin. We did it, but no one seemed particularly thrilled. Somehow in the fog and commotion, I managed to leave behind my Exodus hat and favorite cheap sunglasses, as casualties of tour life. Could’ve been worse, and it’s not like I needed sunglasses anyway since the sun basically never came out the entire time that I was in Germany. Arrived at Huxley’s in Berlin bleary-eyed and exhausted, but absolutely committed to powering through the day. Upon arrival, members of the Accept crew let us know that it had been an extremely challenging day for them already, but they were all asking us about the second show in Leipzig the night before and marveling that Night Demon had actually done it. Huxley’s is another beautiful big old building. I was told that it dates back to 1902, and that it has been used as a roller skate center, amusement park, theater, military hospital, and a meeting place for political events at various times. Cool. Rocky had a tough time tonight, because there was very little room onstage to maneuver and I very nearly stepped backward into Dusty’s kick drum. That would not have been good. And Night Demon dropped “Hallowed Ground” in favor of “Life on the Run” for tonight only. As they played it, I started thinking about how the lyrics (which are obviously about something else) could be adapted as theme music for tour life. Think about the chorus: “Now you’re burning down the road [hauling ass to get to the next gig on time] / Like a devil in disguise [me? Rocky? Which is the devil and which the disguise?] / Look in the rearview mirror / Just a pair of blood-red eyes [bloodshot is more like it from long nights and no sleep] / Where you gonna go? / Don’t even wanna know / A place so far away from home / Life on the run.” Yep, that about sums it up. Both bands had tough sledding with the crowd tonight, which seemed very subdued and oddly stand-offish. Some people told me later that that’s normal for Berlin crowds though. Afterwards I met some Berlin fans who were telling me that they thought Rocky had done a killer job tonight, a compliment they doled out without having any clue who had actually played Rocky. It warmed my heart, haha. Helped with load-out in the cold and damp, although at least there was an elevator to transport all the gear down two levels. Found a cool KISS pinball machine (complete with the German version of the logo) in the area where we were loading out. We proceeded to our hostel, got into the room (I had a killer upper bunk bed), and listened to preliminary mixes of the forthcoming Night Demon Live Darkness album (which sounded friggin’ incredible) until we nodded off to sleep.
Thursday, January 18, 2018. Day off. This was a very well-timed day off in Berlin. By late morning, most of us were up and ready to get out and about. The bummer was that it was snowing intermittently, sometimes changing over to cold rain, so the weather conditions were pretty lousy. But we didn’t let that stop us. There was no breakfast being served in the hostel, so some of us ordered some beers and had them for breakfast instead. Then Pablo, Armand, Dusty and I boarded the subway and went into town to do some sightseeing: Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Potsdamer Platz, Dunkin Donuts. I’d say we did pretty well. Went to a German food place in the sparkly Mall of Berlin and gorged ourselves on schnitzel (with a fried egg on top) and beer. Then the sightseeing portion of the day gave way to bar-hopping. Armand found a place called the Clash Bar (so named because a member of the band had once lived upstairs), which served half-liter beers for just 2.50 Euros. Two of Night Demon’s local friends met up with us there, and took over the role of tour guide. We killed a lot of beers there. It ended up being a late night, moving from bar to bar, adding and dropping companions as we went. At one point, we made our way to the famed Halford Bar, but we couldn’t go inside because it was closed. Everything got a little hazy, but somehow we made it back to the hotel very late. The next day Armand and I put our heads together to try to piece together exactly where we had gone and how we had gotten back to the hotel. It was that kind of night. Fun times in Berlin!
Friday, January 19, 2018. Geiselwind. I awakened this morning to a very chipper Dusty’s announcement, “Ready to go to the next big rock show?” I wasn’t, but I rallied anyway, as did we all. It was a long drive to Geiselwind, and I slept most of the way there. I remember waking up periodically and glancing out the fogged-up windows at the snowy scene outside. Visibility was poor, and I have no idea how Joao navigated us as safely as he did. Joao rules. We reached Geiselwind, where we found what was basically a giant truck stop. The venue and a hotel were supposed to be part of that truck stop. Trouble was, we couldn’t find it. GPS was totally unhelpful. So we started driving around the woods, everywhere, trying to figure out where the damned venue was. Hello Cleveland! Somehow we finally found it. The EventZentrum honestly looks like a big, sprawling beer hall. Capacity must be well over 4,000, just an enormous place. I understand presales were a robust 2,000+, so there was a very healthy crowd albeit nowhere near sold out. This afternoon I had an interesting conversation with Accept’s tour manager, Frank. When I told him I was going home the next day, he asked where home was. Much to my surprise, Frank was well aware of Mobile, Alabama. He started naming and accurately describing concert venues in downtown Mobile, as well as nearby vacation spots where he’s been. I’ll be damned. Walt Disney was right. It’s a small world after all. Honestly, I didn’t care much for the layout of this venue, from a backstage perspective. There’s a hotel connected to EventZentrum. In lieu of regular band dressing rooms like every other venue on this tour had, bands are required to rent hotel rooms, which are tiny. The result was there was no place for band and crew to hang out anywhere. Both bands put on fantastic shows tonight, and I tried to savor every single moment, knowing I would not pass this way again. But the tighter you try to grab onto something, the faster it seems to slip through your fingers. Bummer. To make matters worse, afterwards, I came to the unfortunate realization that (probably my own fault) I had no place to sleep tonight. So I found a corner, sat down and waited for morning. Not the most glamorous way to end my week of tour life, but there you have it. When morning came, we all ate a delicious multi-course hotel breakfast. The Night Demon van took a slight detour on their way to the Czech Republic to drop me off at the Nuremberg central train station, where I said my goodbyes and boarded a train bound for Hamburg. Had a fun day lined up with friends in Hamburg before my flight out the following morning, but I was so exhausted that I’m sure I wasn’t very good company. Apologies to Alexis, Jan and Claudia. I’ll make it up to you next time, I promise, but tour life wore me slap out and got the upper hand on me this time.
As I write this, I’ve been home almost a week. Already, it doesn’t seem like it was even real. There’s a dreamlike quality to all of my memories of that time in Germany. Special thanks to Jarvis, Armand, Dusty, Bruno, Pablo and Joao for allowing me into your world for a week. I tried to help out, stay out of the way, and be a source of positive energy. Hopefully I succeeded on all three levels. My overall reflection is this: Night Demon are roaring, howling, screaming out of the underground. This Accept tour marks a huge incursion into the mainstream metal world. It’s like opening the door to the Howling Man. All hell’s about to be let loose. Night Demon are ready to take this step, and they are doing so on this tour. To paraphrase the words of John Gallagher, they are rising to the challenge, taking their chances with both hands. This is their time. Night Demon are coming. Nothing can stop them. And the sky is the limit. They’ve got the talent, the discipline, and the work ethic to make it all the way to the top. Join the ride, won’t you?
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~