Dubious Claims To Fame – 9
This claim to fame is particularly dubious, and I’ve spent ages trying to decide whether to include it or how best to present it. Up close, the sequence of events is pretty rational – I came to know a certain band and regard them as friends, watched them grow in popularity, and very occasionally I ask a favour of them if all other options are out. That’s reasonably straightforward and rather dull but, as you’ll have ascertained by now, I much prefer the absurdity of life and, thankfully, I can summarise this tale in a far more entertaining way…
I got into a sold-out Rammstein concert by travelling 200 miles and turning up at the stage door with three bottles of spirits.
I explained my relationship with Combichrist in a previous blog, but if you can’t be bothered reading it what you need to know is this: I used to crew for them any time they played Scotland, got to know them all to some degree, and continue to see them play (and catch up or hang out with them) whenever the chance arises. I don’t presume, I don’t take the piss, but every now and then – usually when all other avenues have been explored – I request a favour of them, usually involving their guestlist. I don’t like to do it, and try not to, but to their credit they have helped me out on the three occasions when I have asked. For the record, I have seen them 24 times.
As one of the hardest-working bands I have ever encountered, who fully deserve all of their success, it was still something of a coup when Rammstein chose them as the sole support on their European tour. With tedious regularity, big bands will announce a great band as European support, and then when they get to the UK that band is off and replaced with somebody lacklustre. As an example, Iron Maiden would tour with Motorhead, Dio, Slayer, or any other number of renowned and highly-regarded bands. Then they would reach the UK and subject us to Dirty Deeds, Funeral For A Friend, or some other godawful act that sensible people would choose to miss. I had no hope, therefore, that Combi would actually make it to these shores on the Rammstein dates.
I was also wrong.
The gigs had sold out within weeks, and with no Glasgow show (Rammstein last played here in 2005, a gig I missed as I was in America, and so I’ve only seen them once, in 2003), the nearest show to me was Manchester. Having seen Combi play to a couple of hundred at club shows, I relished the opportunity to see them play an arena to 21,000 – the vexing thing being that I had no means of getting in. The touts on ebay wanted stupid money for tickets, at a time when I wasn’t working and would have bus travel to pay for too, in order to make the four-hundred-mile round trip. I carefully composed and sent off an email.
Initially, the band’s manager wasn’t keen to help, and wouldn’t commit, but as we had never met I explained fully how I knew them and why it was important to me to see them play this show. I wasn’t looking to just blag free entry either – a ticket was £45 but there were none to be had. Instead, I offered to spend that same £45 [at that point the very last of my week’s money] on alcohol for the band – the same amount of money, and to the same end: it would let me obtain entry to the show. It was unconventional, I knew that, but I was desperate. Thankfully, he agreed to guestlist me provided I turned up at the stage door “with a LOT of booze.”
I don’t think I’ve ever made a more nerve-wracking journey than I did the day of the gig – two litres of vodka and a bottle of Jager in my bag, a five-hour bus trip, no cash for if things went awry, and no guarantee I would actually get in. Even after I had arrived, found the crew entrance, met their manager and handed over all of the alcohol, I still wasn’t convinced that things would work out – I had to wait until 8pm for the lists to come through to Front Of House to find out if my name was on there. Thankfully, it was.
The gig was outstanding – so good to see a band I have supported almost from the very start reach the point where they can hold half an arena crowd. I didn’t even care about seeing the headliner, making me possibly the only person who went to see Rammstein but not to see Rammstein. Although I found out that’s not true, as I met an acquaintance from Glasgow while I was waiting for the box office to open, and his girlfriend was only there to see Combi too.
Despite my opinion that every Rammstein album since “Mutter” has been formulaic and followed that template, this show was incredible – I do like their music, and they had incorporated a lot of visual humour and story into their onstage antics, as well as all of the flame and pyrotechnics for which they are famous. The stage itself was a marvel of engineering, incorporating hydraulics, moving parts, and all kinds of impressive spectacles. Someone told me later that they spent a million on the stage alone, and I can well believe it. They sold out arenas and stadiums across Europe and America with that tour though, so it sounds like the investment was worth it.
I didn’t see the Combi boys afterwards – in a venue of that size it was almost inconceivable that I would – but it didn’t matter. I saw what I went to see, and I had fun. I also got this story out of it, and it’s a bit more interesting than just buying a ticket and walking through the front door. 🙂