Metal Babe Goes to EUROPE!!!
By Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Things had been really slow in L.A. lately and I hadn’t been to hardly any shows. It was time for a change, and a new adventure. I decided to go on a Metal Mission to explore Europe for a while and see what else is out there…
In one month, I made it to 10 countries, starting in London, making my way through Europe, all the way up North to Finland and Sweden, and then back to London again. Thanks to metaltravelguide.com (and a lot of Internet research), I had a list of heavy metal stores, bars, cafes and coffee shops to check out, AND I even scored tickets to see one of Hanoi Rocks farewell shows in Helsinki Finland! Metal is everywhere in Europe. Every bar, every corner…I experienced more metal in one month in Europe than I have in Hollywood in a long time. I have narrowed down my top Metal Moments to London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Helsinki.
I started my crazy adventure in London and I was ready to ROCK! I had a list of places I wanted to check out. I was really excited to find a few rock bars, The Intrepid Fox, Garlic and Shots and Devonshire Arms, and couldn’t wait to shop at the Camden Market (Tons of music stores, rock stores, etc.).
The Intrepid Fox was awesome! It was covered from floor to ceiling with music memorabilia and metal-styled decorations, and it even had the Guns N’ Roses pinball machine. I was there a bit early, so it wasn’t too crowded, but the music ROCKED! I REALLY wish we had a bar like this in L.A.
Garlic and Shots was awesome as well. When I walked in I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. My metal senses told me to go downstairs. I did, and the metal was CRANKING. This was the place to be! It was set up like a bat cave and they had a list of special “garlic” shots. (They are famous for their bloodshot, which is garlic, tomato juice, vodka and “spices.”) I had a great time rocking out and trying a few of their specialty shots. I just hoped no one would want to talk to me when I left because my breath might scare them away! Also, I noticed that they had another location in Stockholm and looked forward to checking it out when I got to Sweden. (I did get to check out the one in Stockholm. The downstairs was closed, and they weren’t playing any metal, but the shots were still good!)
I ended up getting to Devonshire Arms just before 10:30 PM on a Sunday. I walked in and it was dead. There were only a handful of people left, there wasn’t any music playing, and there definitely wasn’t a rock and roll vibe. I tried to order a drink and they said they had just closed. I learned the hard way that most places in London close early on Sundays and headed back to my hotel.
The Camden Market was packed full with street vendors and booths throughout several different markets, and it also had music stores, goth clothing stores, and rock stores scattered all over. I got my record store fix at Resurrection Records. Their entire selection was goth and metal. I could have spent all day AND all my money there! After some serious consideration, I managed to narrow it down to eight CDs and was on my way to check out some of the other stores.
One cool find not on my list was a “guitar street” (Denmark Street) that I stumbled upon by accident where I found over 10 guitar shops in a row! I saw a ton of killer guitars, and met an interesting Londoner who informed me that the old Regent Studios building was close by. (The Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath both recorded at Regent Studios.) I was also told that Jimi Hendrix stored a bunch of his gear in the basement, and when he died around the corner from the studio his equipment got flooded, and thrown away before anyone even knew its value! After five great nights in London, it was time to jump a plane and head to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
I only had two things on my metal list for Amsterdam, a “coffee shop” called Blue Bird that was supposed to play 70’s music, and Café Excalibur, which was a rock/“coffee shop” owned by the Hell’s Angels.
While trying to find Blue Bird, I accidentally stumbled into my most Metal Moment in Amsterdam – Planet Rock. I walked in the door to find Iron Maiden’s “Rock in Rio” playing on TV screens throughout the bar, and music memorabilia filled the walls. Right inside the door was an autographed Chris Caffery (Savatage) guitar and pics of him signing it. I couldn’t believe it! There was tons of autographed guitars and pictures everywhere. They even had a giant Bon Jovi collage and one of Richie Sambora’s double-neck guitars, autographed by all the members. I watched Maiden for a little bit, and then continued on my Mission to find Blue Bird.
Eventually, I found it… but it wasn’t what I expected. Instead of 70’s rock, they were playing some sort of dance/trance music. The food looked good and cheap though, and I wished I hadn’t already eaten. I hung out a minute and decided to go back to Planet Rock. This time they were playing Metallica… MUCH better than Blue Bird.
While walking around the Red Light District, and taking in all the interesting “sights,” I came across Café Excalibur. (I had actually forgotten that this was on my list in the 1st place.) They had suits of armor and swords all around, combined with some Harley stuff, and an upstairs “smoking” lounge. The best part was that they played Dio, Pantera, old Metallica, etc… ALL NIGHT LONG! It’s funny that “coffee shops” in Amsterdam don’t actually even have to sell coffee. I was just happy they played metal.
My record store moment in Amsterdam was at a music store called Concerto that had four separate doors/rooms, each specializing in a certain genre. I couldn’t believe it when I walked up and saw six, yes SIX Savatage CDs on display in the window, in addition to a bunch of other metal CDs. (They love Savatage in Amsterdam!) Once I was in, it took a minute to figure out where these metal CDs came from. Finally, I went down some steep and scary steps and found what I was looking for. An hour or so later, the CD stack continued to grow. After traveling through Spain, France and Italy, my next Metal Moments happened in Berlin…
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I arrived in Berlin. I knew of one metal bar called Rockcafé Halford, which was a tribute to Judas Priest and had a Rob Halford statue outside, and I planned on visiting the Berlin wall, but that was it. From the moment I stepped off the train, until the moment I left, Berlin was filled with surprise, after surprise, after surprise. It just kept getting better by the minute.
The first thing I saw when I arrived in Berlin was a rock and roll store filled with leather bracelets and rock and roll t-shirts. From there, I found a killer breakfast buffet for only 5 bucks, and then ran into a giant street flea market that had venders selling CDs and Records at every other booth. THEN I find out that they sell Jack and Cola in a can! I felt like I was in Heaven. Cheap, good food everywhere, CDs and Records for sale all over the street, Jack and Coke in a can, and I haven’t even seen Halford’s yet! I must be dreaming!
Rockcafé Halford was really cool. The statue outside of Rob was awesome, and the bar was decked out in metal gear, and had video screens all over playing metal videos. (They had Amon Amarth on for most of the time I was there.) They also had a drink menu with a list of drinks named after metal bands. (I had the Nightwish.) Does it get more metal than this? I didn’t want to leave!
I found another metal bar around the corner that was almost as cool. Again, the metal was cranking, and it was mostly decked out with ACDC, Metallica and Motorhead memorabilia. Pictures of Lemmy were all over the walls, and I had a feeling that he hangs out here when he’s not at the Rainbow.
Every minute I was in Berlin it seemed to just get better and better. I was seriously impressed and can’t wait to go back again and spend a lot more time there. Finally, it was time to fly to Helsinki and see Hanoi Rocks!
I had a few things on my list for Helsinki. I planned on checking out the Music Hunter music store and going to Heavy Metal Karaoke at the Heavy Corner, but the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing Hanoi Rocks perform one of their “sold out” farewell shows at the Tavastia Club! This was the highlight of my Helsinki experience, if not my entire trip. (Please see my review below.)
Hanoi Rocks – Tavastia Club – Helsinki Finland – 04-09-09
Hanoi Rocks headlined the Tavastia Club in Helsinki, Finland for eight SOLD OUT farewell shows, and I was lucky enough to see one of them. As I write this, my ears are ringing from tonight’s AMAZING performance, and I am filled with excitement… and a little bit of sorrow. I just saw my 1st (and last) Hanoi Rocks concert!
I bought tickets for the 2nd night back in January and could not wait to finally see Hanoi Rocks! The only tickets available were for the 5PM early all ages show, and the experience was quite different from the typical L.A. shows I’m used to. The crowd was young and the bar was closed. (They weren’t even open for water or soda.) Everyone held their places waiting for Hanoi Rocks, and it was interesting to hear only Finnish being spoken around me. None of it mattered once Hanoi Rocks hit the stage…
Photos of Hanoi Rocks flashed on a curtain hung in front of the stage as we waited in our center spot. They entered from behind the curtain, and all we could see was their strobe light silhouetted poses and shadows. Excitement grew, the curtain dropped, and Hanoi Rocks exploded on stage with so much energy the crowd could hardly keep up. I didn’t know that I could love Hanoi Rocks any more than I already did.
Michael Monroe poured his heart and soul into every word he sang, and every note he played on harmonica or saxophone. He is so flamboyant, and has such a charismatic, fun and personable stage presence; you can’t help but fall in love with him. He changed his costume throughout the night, jumped into the crowd several times, hi-fived fans, and threw out “gifts” to the crowd. Also, it was interesting to hear everything he said in both Finnish AND English.
My dreams came true when they played one of my favorite Hanoi Rocks songs, “Day Late, Dollar Short.” During the song, Michael Monroe dedicated a moment to Razzle, while he was on sax, jamming beautifully in sync with Andy McCoy on guitar. My prayers went out to Razzle.
During “People Like Me” Michael Monroe pointed out that his Dad was in the audience and told him, “we need more people like you.” The crowd agreed and applauded him. They had a dramatic instrumental intro for “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” and it was a bit sad, as I swayed my hands listening to the words, knowing this would be my 1st and last Hanoi Rocks experience.
I was ecstatic when they played my all time FAVORITE Hanoi Rocks song, “Until I Get You.” They lit up a big heart in the back of the stage and I thought about how in love Michael Monroe was when he wrote this song. I screamed every word.
Other songs included “High School,” “Beer and a Cigarette,” “Back to Mystery City,” “Malibu Beach Nightmare,” “Tragedy,” and “Love’s an Injection.” To top it off, they played at least a 5 song encore, which included Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” and “Taxi Driver.” Hanoi Rocks just kept coming back for more and we were ready for it. This was an amazing show, and I am so lucky to have been part of this experience. (R.I.P. Hanoi Rocks)
In addition to seeing Hanoi Rocks perform, Music Hunter was coolest rock and roll music store I have ever seen! It was packed from top to
bottom, room after room, with rock and roll collectibles, autographs, books, magazines, CDs, records, and more. I didn’t even know where to start! Two hours later I made it out with a stack of CDs and some “stuff” that I just couldn’t live without.
Another highlight in Helsinki was the Heavy Corner heavy metal bar. I had planned all along to go there Friday night for Heavy Metal Karaoke, but ended up stopping in earlier in the week to check it out. It was pretty empty, but they had a KILLER jukebox. It was ALL metal. It had tons of metal songs I know and love, and tons more that I was curious about. After a few hours of rockin’ out, I had a list of “new” bands I wanted to check out when I got home.
I went back on Friday for Heavy Metal Karaoke. This time, there was a cover charge, the place was packed, and there was more long hair in one room than I’ve seen in Hollywood in a while. The karaoke book was amazing and I had a blast watching people sing Skid Row, Guns N Roses, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and more… Also, it was really interesting to see people singing in Finnish. And yes, I did sing. I couldn’t leave Heavy Metal Karaoke without getting up there at least once. I narrowed down my song choice to The Ramones “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” I did ok… I really wish Helsinki was a bit closer to L.A. so I could go back and try out the other ten songs I was thinking about… Well, at least I can say that that I sang at Heavy Metal Karaoke in Finland!
Also, I saw about a dozen music stores in Helsinki, and they all pay tribute to their greats. I saw Hanoi Rocks, HIM, Nightwish, 69 Eyes, and Lordi stuff everywhere! And yes, my CD stack continued to grow. It broke my back, (literally since I was backpacking) but I ended up coming home with 26 new CDs.
This was definitely one hell of an adventure and a life experience. Metal is alive and well all over Europe (as I have always known) and I am really fortunate that I was able to experience this firsthand!