Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My (Currently) Favorite Band

My ex introduced me to metal music back in 2007. I grew quite fond of the screams, growls, intense beats and general kickassery that goes with the genre, but I was especially drawn to the bands whose sound had a solid clean singer and LOTS of orchestral sounds. Kamelot, Blind Guardian, Opeth (though they're on the fringe of this description) and others all captured my fancy. However, when I was introduced to Epica, I merely replied with "Meh".

Pretty Mark is pretty :)
In the spring of 2008, we went to the closest thing Atlanta has to a metalfest, which was 6 bands in 2 days, one of which was Epica. I was willing to give them another chance: after all, you don't really know what a band's truly like until you hear them play live. As they came on stage, I heard the crowd mutter a little. Not knowing anything about the band, I wondered what was causing the commotion. Then the singer made the announcement to the crowd: "As you may have noticed, I'm not Simone Simmons. I'm her vocal coach. She's sick and can't perform" (or something like that). I actually got more interested. Maybe she would sound better to me than the original singer. After all, she's the one coaching the lead singer, obviously she must be more talented. After the first song, I realized how incorrect an assumption that was. Her voice was beautiful, but her performance was completely lackluster, and at that point I pretty much wrote off the band Epica.

Flash forward to fall 2009. I had been living in Germany for about a month (looooong story that will probably take several blog entries to tell), and had just made a new friend who was also into metal. She found out one of her favorite bands was going to be playing in a nearby town, and she asked me if I wanted to go with her. "Well who's playing?" I asked her. "EPICA!" she responded giddily. Inwardly I groaned, but I agreed to go with her because a) no one else would and b) I didn't want my new friend to get raped and robbed because she went to a concert all by herself in a new foreign country (which are both reasons she used to get me to go with her to some other concerts as well, but once again, that's another story).
Me with Sons of Seasons

Flash forward to the night of the concert. We managed to find the venue fairly easily, even though the club was underground (with a name like Substage, it's only to be expected), and I was beginning to feel a little bit of excitement. Maybe this time the band would be awesome. When we got to the stage, I was absolutely amazed at how many people were actually at the venue. At a show in the States, a "good" turnout would be probably around 200-300 people or so, and that's if the band is huge. There were probably at least 500 people packed into this tiny area, which was only half as large as the last venue I saw Epica at. And a good deal of them were girls, too! The only girls that go to shows in the States (and there are exceptions, of course) are either a) the girlfriends of metalheads, or b) so determined to prove how hard-core metal they are that they're not even worth talking to. So this was a completely new experience for me.

Headbanging amazingness
We weren't expecting much from the opening band. They were some band I'd never heard of before: Sons of Seasons. I was expecting some local band that just so happened to get a break. Though that description of them was technically accurate (they're German, but the guitarist is also the guitarist from Kamelot), I was not expecting the complete amazingness that came forth from that band. Heads were banged. Horns were thrown. The singer had this haunting voice that doesn't sound like it belonged to that body. I planned on buying a bunch of merch and their CD as soon as the concert was over.

Finally it was Epica's turn to come on stage. This little girl with these obnoxiously huge headphones and her mom shoved their way to the front, but we were ok with that because it seemed like it was the experience of a lifetime for her. Also, I should probably mention at this point that they were releasing a new CD at midnight that night, so the concert was all brand new material. As the intro starts, I'm immediately captivated. It sounded like they might have been living up to their name for once. When Simone walked onto the stage and started singing, I understood why this band was having international success. I realized in that moment how wrong I was to write off a band after one bad performance. They did more than sing; they put on a show. They acted silly, mouthed each others part, and on top of all that, they sounded completely amazing. I was sad to see the end of the show (though I was ready to beat down that little girl's mom who kept trying to take up my space. I ended up just headbanging really hard and flinging my hair all over her face. Petty? Yes. Satisfying? Also yes.). Afterwards, the members of the band (except for the keyboardist and the bassist) all came out and signed autographs for us. My friend even got her picture taken with them. We headed home, humming the songs along the way.

Isaac's a very nice guy.
You'd think that would be the end of the story. However, just after Christmas, Ashley (same friend. BTW, she has a blog as well) she comes up to me and goes "So Epica is playing in Germany again. We should totally go." And just like that, we buy tickets, and take a train 2 hours or so north of where we live to see them play again. They were just as "epic" as last time, but this time, we knew the words to all the songs and were able to sing along. Also, that little girl with the headphones? SHE WAS THERE TOO!! That's one dedicated little girl. We didn't actually get to meet them after the show this time because we had to catch a train home.

The star of the show.

A very blurry shot of the Epicactus

VERY scary faces after we realized we
had to stay outside all night in the cold.
But wait! That still isn't the end of my Epica journey! We were on break from school (because German school systems get 2 months off inbetween semesters no matter if it's summer or winter semester), and we were all looking to do a little travelling. As a joke, Ashley and I mentioned from time to time that we wanted to see Epica again. So one day she checked out the site and found that they were playing in Holland during our break. So we decided to fly to Amsterdam for a few days and go see Epica for the third time together (The concert was actually a 2 hour train ride away, but we still wanted to see Amsterdam as well). This time we wanted to give them a little present, so we bought them a cactus, which we dubbed "The Epicactus". This show was different because a) it was a special 5-year anniversary of their CD "Consign to Oblivion", b) it was a pyrotechnic show, which was AWESOME and c) this band is technically Dutch. Always before, we heard them introduce the songs and stuff in English. This time, we got to hear them speak in their native tongue (as linguists, we found this very intriguing). They seemed to enjoy the cactus after the initial "WTF?".  Afterward, we got the last two posters commemorating the special show, and decided to head back to the train station. Once we got there, we realized something: though the trains in Germany run all night, the trains in Holland shut down. Not only that, but the train stations as well. We were stuck all night in our concert clothes with nothing but our  posters in a strange town where people spoke very good Dutch, but very poor English. We finally made it back to our hostel at about 7am. It was still worth it.

This is technically the end of the story. However, there will be an epilogue: Guess who's coming to Atlanta on December 17th, and guess who has her ticket? It won't be the same without my Epica buddy, but it'll be nice to see them at home again. Hopefully this time it'll be a better show. For more information on Epica, check it out here.

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