The older you get, the better you get – unless you’re a banana

Uriah Heep | Sometimes dreams come true

(Para ler este post em português: Galinha velha é que dá bom caldo) 

In the southern Netherlands, close to the Belgium border, there is the enchanting little town of Bergen op Zoom, a city that hosts one of the last Medieval Gates remaining in the country. But the reason why I included this village of such a picturesque name on my travel plans was much more special than that:

To attend a gig of the legendary *Uriah Heep*, a band for which I’ve been passionate about since my teens, and also take part on a super exclusive fan party and get to meet some virtual brothers and sisters-in-rock, known as the “Heepsters“.

1 Begen IMG_7338I started the day with a walk to recognize the territory and discover the best route to get to the venue. It was my first time in the Netherlands, and I got pretty impressed with: (1) free internet wifi on the train (2) the unbelievable amount of bicycles (3) the beautiful tulips and other diverse flowers everywhere and (4) the extraterrestrial language!! On my way I passed through a cool open-market with an unique variety of goods: gadgets for bikes, cheese, meat, fish, flowers, cosmetics, fruits, apparel, cleaning products and more.

1 Bergen IMG_7354Not far away from there I spotted the famous medieval gate between two big towers. I was taking a pict when an old crazy bloke (he is the guy wearing a green tshirt, a black leather jacket and a funny hat on the pic on the left) approached me and told me that a long time ago the jealous Marquise of Bergen op Zoom had imprisoned her lover inside the tower until his death, to take revenge on his cheating. I don’t know if this is a true story or not, but the fact is that the Gevangenpoort (Prisoner’s Gate) was built in 1335 to be the main entrance of the fortified city, and that from 1420 until 1828 the tower was actually used as a prison. Unfortunately the stone walls that used to protect the city no longer exist. Nowadays this is the most ancient and important monument in that region.

Back to the hotel, at 4:30pm I discovered that the Heepster fan party was scheduled to start at 4pm!!

How does it feel to be about to miss a lifetime opportunity to meet your greatest idols personally??? I ran the fast I could all the way back to the venue…

When I finally got there breathless I saw the people were gathered together in the atrium. For a moment I hesitated in the middle of the staircase just watching, not knowing what to do, but not even 5 min had passed when Evert, the virtual friend who had invited me to this event months before, recognized me and came to rescue me, armed with a huge smile, a badge and a Ken Hensley CD as a welcome gift! Super friendly, he explained that there was a band quiz going on written by himself, and he handed me a form. I read the questions but did not dare to try to answer since they all demanded a high level knowledge, such as: ‘Wich song is on the European version of (album) Salisbury, but not on the American version?‘ (Wait a minute! We are talking about a band that has already released 23 studio albums since 1969!! 🙄) or ‘Who plays the mellotron on High and Mighty?‘ (If only I knew what is a mellotron...). Evert is the biggest UH collector I know, and he runs a cool website dedicated to the band, with all discography he owns, photographs and stories of the concerts he has been. The link to the page where he posted the picts of this happy day is here.

Then he introduced me to some other fellows Heepsters, everyone was so nice to me, Louis, Marije, Staf, Jim, Lars, Nadia, Egil, Marianne, Elina, Joke… I felt welcomed among friends!

Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice…
Meanwhile the band was doing the soundcheck locked in the main hall, with live broadcast to a big screen installed in the atrium where we were. Evert confided to me that soon they would be joining us…

I was super excited. I could feel that everyone around me was also in this same expectation and the vibe was fantastic, and I couldn’t avoid thinking: ‘Will I be able to at least get close to them?‘ ‘Will I be able to get my albums signed?‘ ‘Will I be able to take a pict with them?

Time was creeping like a garden snail, the clock ticked in a gentle slow-motion, and minute-by-minute I felt the magical moment getting closer…

When the band finished the soundcheck they started an auction of treasures autographed on demand: CDs, guitars, posters, pictures, everything with entitled to take a photo, and the raised funds were donated to The Nightingale, a non-profit cancer support centre from UK.

With Mick BoxAfter the auction, Evert introduced me to the formidable guitarist Mick Box, the ‘soul’ of UH. I felt such a good energy in him that it seemed surreal, I got mesmerized by his honest and friendly smile. Beaming, he autographed the album covers I had brought from Brazil (too bad I couldn’t bring also my vinyls …!) and posed for a very nice picture with me!

To end the afternoon there was an extraordinary ‘drum clinic‘ performed by the phenomenal Russell Gilbrook – and I won an autographed stick from him as a souvenir!!

But wait! There’s more! There’s the gig!!!

What an outstanding concert it was!!! Away to realize a medical procedure, vocalist Bernie Shaw was replaced by John Lawton, who used to be UH’s lead singer in the 70s. For this reason they made changes in their usual setlist, and fans were treated to a very special selection of 4 IMG_7436classics. The downside was the absence of bassist Trevor Bolder, who was away since the beginning of the year because of a cancer, and he terribly died shortly after… His substitute Davey Rimmer is great, but Trevor was a legend… R.I.P.

From the original setlist on the photo, ‘Free Me’ couldn’t be executed due to a technical problem and for the same reason also The Wizard was postponed to the end of the concert. Another peculiarity of this gig was that John had a copy of the lyrics of the relatively new song Against The Odds (released in 1995) attached to the stage. He did it brilliantly!

3 Gig 2013-07-13 14.47.48It is a UH tradition to ask for ladies to come up onstage to headbang with them when they play the classic “Free and Easy”, Guess who was one of the lucky chicks this time …?

After the show I was fortunate enough to chat briefly with the astounding keyboardist Phil Lanzon, and ended the night in a cozy small pub with my new friends Marije and Egil, and Dave and Russell from the band.

Can you believe that??? Out of this world!

Click HERE to see more pics…

4 After IMG_7444******************************************************
Once again I’d like to thank Evert and all the others Heepsters
who provided me such a remarkable day!!
You guys rock!!!
*******************************************************

YOU TOO CAN EXPERIENCE a moment like this with your favorite stars!! I will teach you the ropes:

When I was planning my trip I decided that one of my goals would be to catch the biggest number possible of rock concerts abroad, since some bands hardly ever play in my country and, when they do, tickets are always overpriced. During my researches I signed up in the Travellers In Time Uriah Heep forum, one of my most beloved bands (in case you’ve never heard about them: with their sophisticated lyrics, striking melodies and quintuplet vocal harmonies, UH is among the four most important bands of the 70s, along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple). After a few days receiving emails from the group, I thought: If these guys like UH so badly chances are that we share the same musical taste. And so I’ve sent my first message to them, introducing me, telling about my travel plans and asking for tips. The reply came quickly: Evert answered telling me about this upcoming concert in the Netherlands and the super-exclusive fan party. He even sent me detailed instructions on how to buy tickets – since the venue website was entirely in Dutch!!! You already know the rest… 😉

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5 thoughts on “The older you get, the better you get – unless you’re a banana”

    1. Thanks Egil!! I really had a great time, my pleasure!! Wish I could have joined you at the Koko concert… But I’m already saving for the Heepvention next year! 😉

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