Zekes – Vi Lyfter Igen

Zekes… a bit of Swedish alright!
In 2010 I was at Stockholm Pride and walked past the smaller of the two concert stages in the park (as I did many times over the fours days). On the smaller stage, a lot of individual and dansband performances were held – acts not quite big enough to justify the main stage. Anyway, I noticed this smartly dressed group of young Swedes in a band. Obviously it was a dansband. “And what the hell is a dansband?” you are asking yourself…
 
Well, Wikipedia says…

“Dansband (“dance band”) is a Swedish term for a band that plays dansbandsmusik (“dance band music”). Dansbandsmusik is often danced to in pairs. Jitterbug and foxtrot music are often included in this category. The music is primarily inspired by swing, schlager, country, jazz, and rock. The main influence for rock-oriented bands is the rock music of the 1950s and 1960s.

The terms dansband and dansbandsmusik were coined around 1970, when Swedish popular music developed a signature style. The genre developed primarily inSweden, but has spread to neighbouring countriesDenmark,Norwayand the Swedish speaking regions ofFinland. When the music came toNorwayit was first called “Svensktoppar” (from the Swedish radio music chart Svensktoppen, which was a major arena for dansband music before its rules changed in January 2003).

A dansband often travels by bus, performing several times every week year-round, outdoors in the summertime and indoors in the wintertime. Performances may also be held on a boat.”

I found out later that the dansband playing was ZEKES. The sounded pretty damn good and they looked even better! I stayed for a few numbers and tried to take a few photos but the smoke machine wasn’t appreciated by the digital camera and the shots didn’t turn out.

I hadn’t thought a lot about ZEKES until quite recently when DJ Karl on scandipop.co.uk mentioned them. He loves one of the tracks on their new album called Bullfest. I was more interested in the title track “Vi Lyfter Igen” (We Take Off Again). The band has done a little low-budget clip for the song and I’ve watched it a zillion times since Scandipop featured it. I was happy to discover tonight, thanks to my erstwhile flatmate, Yoda, that the title track and, in fact, the whole album is on Australian iTunes. Thanks to Yoda I now have the single “Vi Lyfter Igen”. 

In coming days I will be ordering the album from Bengans in Sweden. (I much prefer having the physical CD).

Anyway, the whole point of this post is that I’m turning into a ZEKES fan. I’ll need to do that from 17,000km away but, thanks to the internet, I’m sure I can do it.  They have a great sound, they are totally gorgeous – especially lead singer Rickard Carlsson AND they have a logo! Yes, they have their own logo and I always feel more comfortable following groups that have their own logo. It helps that I love the font used for ZEKES logo (I’m a bit of a fontamentalist).

I love a sensible logo!

It is kind of funny that most of the music I’m buying/enjoying is Swedish these days. I guess when the Australian, U.S. and U.K. charts are full of R&B, Hip Hop, Rap and other stuff I absolutely LOATHE, that pretty much seems to leave Sweden. Sweden with its Schlager and Dansband music. I’ve always been a pop slut. I was spending my pocket money on buying singles from age 13 and it has always been about pop for me. It isn’t that easy to find good pop-music today. You can find something that the industry and media call “pop music” but most of the time it is actually R&B, Hip Hop, Rap or some unattractive looking guitar player singing badly about how his girlfriend left him / how he never gets the girl / how no-one understands him etc. etc. Bores me shitless.

ZEKES wouldn’t class themselves as “pop” but their dansband music certainly has a  pop sensibility. Here it is Vi Lyfter Igen – I better play it quietly before my flatmate kills me for bombarding him with it 24/7 recently!

They have a website: zekesband.se – use Chrome and it will translate it into English for you!

My name is Lena Philipsson

If you can imagine two Australian Gay men walking around Stockholm – separately and together – randomly saying “Mitt namn är Lena Philipsson”….well, you have James and myself  in Sweden two weeks ago.

We’d been at GoldenHits bar/club the night before for their mega-schlager night and someone requested this song – “Lena Anthem”. James immediately got into it and danced. I thought “ooh, this is good, don’t I own this?” Well, um, yes…I bought Lena Philipsson’s 20 Years Greatest Hits album a couple of years ago. I do have a habit of buying CDs and not listening to them properly! Anyway, the crowd was going off and I just instantly fell in love/re-fell in love with this amazing track.

Lena is a winner of Melodifestivalen, the Swedish final of Eurovision Song Contest and represented Sweden in 2004 with “It Hurts” (known as Det Gör Ont” in Sweden). She is a true schlager and pop queen in Sweden and followed up Eurovision with a killer album called “Det gör ont en stund på natten men inget på dan” (It hurts for a while at night but not during the day). The album went #1 immediately and sold double-platinum in Sweden. The first track on the album was the sensational “Lena Anthem.”

So….by Friday morning, the song had burnt itself well and truly into James’ and my head. Thus the random “Mitt namn är Lena Philipsson” coming out of our mouths. James even got caught by a Swede doing it in public. Luckily they just smiled at him rather than having him taken away by the men in white coats.

Since I returned to Australia, I searched Youtube and found this absolutely ball-busting live version of the song. Lena (also known as Lena Ph) looks and sounds amazing and the crowd are going wild for it…check it out…

Since my Swedish is almost non-existent, I had my trusty translator and flatmate, Grant, work on an English translation of the somewhat bizarre lyrics…

At the platform

Twenty past five

The train is coming

And I’m already longing for home

I sit in the corner

Just want to have time to myself

The doors, they are opening

And our eyes meet

I keep hold of the rail

So hard that it hurts

I get up slowly

And I sit there next to him

My name is Lena and I am not going to be quiet

I am not going to just sit here and wait to be kissed

If you want to have a little snow bunny, you can go somewhere else

It sounds obvious but always annoys someone

The one you’re talking with isn’t the average Söderberg or Eriksson

My name is Lena Philipsson

At the club

The dancefloor is hot

All my friends

Are the best looking I have seen

I see right through the smoke

Yet I have full control

Then like a shadow

He reveals himself

He dances with someone else

But it doesn’t bother me

I dance a little closer

I look the other way

My name is Lena and I am not going to be quiet

I am not going to just sit here and wait to be kissed

If you want to have a little snow bunny, you can go somewhere else

It sounds obvious but always annoys someone

The one you’re talking with isn’t the average Söderberg or Eriksson

My name is Lena Philipsson

And not Lisa Nilsson

And not Grete Philipsson – aha-ha

And not Regina Lund or anyone else

My name is Lena Philipsson

My name is Lena…

Her name is Lena Philipsson

Magnus Carlsson at GoldenHits in Stockholm

There’s a place in Stockholm called “GoldenHits” and upstairs it has a bar/club area entirely devoted to schlager.

An entire bar devoted to Swedish Schlager music. I discovered this with the eclectic James O’Brien a couple of weeks ago when we were in Sweden. To say we had the night of our lives is an understatement! There was a moment, after a couple of hours of perfect schlager music,  drinking latt öl and good company –  a moment when they played “Du är så Yeah Yeah Wow Wow” by Martin – that I literally and honestly thought “if I died right now, if I had a heart attack and died right here, right now, it would be okay.”

Never, in all my years on planet Earth did I think that I would have the experience of being in a bar/club (especially a straight one) and hearing Martin being played loud and proud. And witnessing the dance floor light up with a slew of Swedes strutting their stuff and singing along to every single word.   It would be a perfect way to go because I can’t imagine there will be any better moment than this in my life. I experienced bliss, joy, emotion, vindication, fulfilment, warmth, love and hysteria all in the one moment. I was in a bar/club, city, country with a people who “got it”, they really, really “got it” – they loved the music we were listening to all night as much as I do. It’s normal for them…for me, living on the other side of the world in Australia, it’s something you can’t even explain to people properly.

James and I had been to the slightly disappointing Stockholm Pride Schlager Night for most of the night and then moved on to GoldenHits. They were having a special schlager night with a live appearance by Magnus Carlsson, ex-Alcazar, ex-Barbados, uber-fab-Swedish-entertainer and prominent Svensk Homo. I’d seen Magnus perform live before, in 2009, and was instantly converted to fandom and worship. I’d even met Magnus and had my pic taken with him. He’s a darling. But James, an uber-uber-Magnus Carlsson fan, had never seen him live, in the flesh. He was almost wetting his pants in anticipation.

Magnus did not disappoint. In about 35 minutes he did just about his entire career. Seriously. This was the best of the best. And the crowd went nuts. As did James. As did I.

I’d recently purchased a new camera – a Panasonic FS-33 (known in Oz as FH-25) – and had been enthusiastically trying it out all week in Stockholm. But with still photos. I decided, on the spur of the moment, to do a test of the camera’s video recording capabilities. I don’t really have much experience of this with any camera so it was definitely an experiment. I filmed a few minutes of Magnus live on stage. I thought I might surprise James with the footage later on.

It hasn’t come out too badly for a first attempt. I got sick of holding the bloody camera still – your  arm and hand get tired after a while! But anyway, tonight I uploaded it to Youtube and you can see it below.

Big hugs to Magnus for being so fabtastic. Hugs to GoldenHits for providing me with the night of my life. And a big puss och kram to James for being my partner in crime for a week in Sweden!

The Dining Plaice, Berwick Street, London

The best fish & chip shop in London

London is my equal favourite city in the world (along with Stockholm, Sweden). I can never get bored there no matter how many times I go back. There’s always something to do, something to see and something new to discover.

Something I discovered on one of my early trips to London was “The Dining Plaice”, quite simply the best fish and chip shop in London.

This gorgeous little old-fashioned piece of London is located in the heart of Soho at 20 Berwick Street. Inside it feels like stepping back into a bit of history – when fish & chip shops were everywhere in England. Yes, there are still many around – but there’s so much competition from other food outlets and choices thesedays, the traditional fish & chip shop doesn’t hold the market share it once did.

I’ve introduced a number of friends to this little gem over the years and they’ve all loved it. You can sit down and have a meal at the old fashioned tables inside the shop or you can order at the counter and takeaway. The counter area of “The Dining Plaice” is often packed at lunch times as nearby Londoners rush in for a feed. I’m not sure many tourists know of this place – and they should. Fish & Chips hold a special place in English history going back many years. Not fries or burgers – but traditional fish & chips.

Hot chips

Yum....unbeatable taste!

On my recent visit to London, I did pop in for those delicious chips. Nearly every day, in fact! You can have them “open” or “wrapped”. I chose “open” and naturally had one of those gorgeous little wooden forks they give you in English fish & chip shops! As I stood across the street, devouring my chips, I wondered how many times, in the last 17 years, I’d done the same thing. And I also vowed to write a post about “The Dining Plaice” because everyone visiting London should pop in at least once.

As a reviewer on a food blog says “The Dining Plaice’s fish and chips are really very good – it’s the only fish and chip shop in central London that I happily return to. They serve *proper* fish and chip shop food – crispy batter encasing light, meaty fish, and slightly crispy-on-the-outside and slightly soggy-on-the-inside chips, just as they should be. Coated in salt and vinegar of course. The only downside is having to queue for takeaways. Although – on the plus side – this does mean that food is always freshly cooked and piping hot.”

So if you happen to be in the most exciting city in the world, pop in to “The Dining Plaice” and treat yourself to a bit of English tradition!

Gotta love Thai Airways!

Thai Airways Jumbo - 747-400

Thai Airways 747-400 at Stockholm Airport

I just returned from London and Stockholm and my first trip flying Thai Airways. I’d heard good things about Thai but this was my first experience with them.

I flew Sydney – Bangkok, stayed overnight then flew Bangkok – London. On the return I flew from Stockholm – Bangkok, changed planes and flew from Bangkok to Sydney. Three out of the four flights were sensational, one was merely “pretty good.”

It is hard NOT to love Thai – the 34″ leg room in economy, the friendly and gracious cabin crew, the very generous food and beverage service and the immaculately presented planes.

From Sydney – Bangkok, I flew on an A340-600 with personal seat-back on-demand video and audio entertainment. On the Bangkok – London and Stockholm to Bangkok legs, the aircraft was a 747-400 without seatback entertainments. That did not worry me in the slightest. I much preferred being on an airline that had 34″ of leg room and terrific service than something like the Evil Empire (Qantas or BA) with 31″ cramped seat pitch, stingy food & beverage service and grumpy staff. Even though I was flying Economy on Thai, the 34″ seat pitch felt really spacious.

As soon as you’re in the air almost, the crew are coming around with snacks, alcoholic and soft drinks and hot towels. Then the meals are served, then more drinks followed up by regular water/juice/cola runs throughout the flight to ensure you don’t get dehydrated. The crew responds to the passenger call bells very quickly and nothing is too much trouble. I like to have a few beers at the top of the flight and then kind of zone-out for most of the rest of the time. This was no problem on Thai.

About 1 3/4 hours before the end of these four long haul flights, the crew come around again with more hot towels, bar service and another meal. And the meal proportions are generous which is quite refreshing.

I really also like the fact that the aircraft toilets are kept clean by the crew throughout the flight. On the last leg – Bangkok to Sydney – the crew was a little lax and service wasn’t as good as the previous 3 sectors – but seriously, compared to doing long haul flights with say Qantas or Air Canada or British Airways, all sectors with Thai felt luxurious in comparison. Rather than cutting back and being mean and stingy with their service, Thai are still doing economy the way it should be done and making passengers feel like they are important. They treated me like a valued customer, not like an inconvenience.

The price I paid was competitive and the flight scheduling was great for me. I arrived in London about 5.30pm and arrived back in Sydney about 8pm. Arriving at night allows you to crash into bed and starting adjusting to the new time zone to minimise jet lag. But anyway, Thai has multiple flights per day from Sydney and a couple daily from Bangkok to London. So they’re quite flexible in that way.

I just think they deserve a rave review. I’ll certainly be flying with them again.

The sensational Danny!

On my recent trip to Stockholm Pride, I got to meet the amazing, gorgeous and incredibly talented Danny!

Swedish Uber-spunk Danny Saucedo was simply hanging around the bar near the XL Lounge area after Saturday night’s final Pride concert. He was happy to talk with fans and pose for pictures. No attitude, just very relaxed and friendly. He happily obliged when I asked if I could have a picture taken with him (thanks to James O’Brien for this shot!). Plus Danny looks sooooooo much better looking in person (if that’s possible!).

Since then, I haven’t been able to get his brilliant Melodifestivalen 2011 hit out of my head – I’ve been playing “In The Club” on repeat. I have 2 of Danny’s albums and just need to get the third to complete my collection.

Danny Saucedo & fan

JudgeG with Danny