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Live Concert Report: Vader and Gruzja tour Poland

When MetalDays 2021 was cancelled a few months back I found myself with a free week in Europe. I scanned the concert calendars each week to see if anything would materialize, and finally Vader announced a series of shows in Poland. Poland had always been on my radar as a place I wanted to visit so I began to plan.

Originally, I planned to see Vader in Poznan and then Sunnata the following night in Warsaw before continuing my journey to the Czech Republic. However, Sunnata’s show in Warsaw on July 31 was postponed so I was left with an open Saturday night in Poland.

Nothing else was announced so I ended up going with Vader on back-to-back nights. Vader wasn’t playing alone. They were playing with four other bands so I became familiar with them as well. Gruzja (and KAT, but to a lesser extent) also became interesting to me. Clairvoyance and JAD were the two other bands on the bill.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band on back-to-back nights, doing essentially the same set, in different cities. Turns out, the second night isn’t nearly as great as the first. I could have, and probably should have, predicted that. Maybe I did. Again, I had an open night so this seemed like something I shouldn’t miss.

Friday night in Poznan began Friday afternoon at the soccer stadium for the local team. I love stadiums, have been to dozens, and have toured, on a more formal basis, at least a half dozen as well. So that’s what I did before the gates opened since the concert venue was just outside the stadium. Vader came to the stadium to eat before the gig so I got to meet them as well.

Poznan crowd

I think we were supposed to stay a meter and a half away from each other and wear masks. Neither of those things happened. Covid-19 is really low in Poland right now so those rules seemed a bit odd—especially since this was an outdoor event. The show was fairly normal in that there was a mosh pit, crowd surfing, people standing, etc.

Gruzja in Poznan (July 30, 2021)

The sound quality was not great, especially near the stage. Near the mixing booth the quality was good. Gruzja and Vader were both excellent in my opinion. Gruzja seemed to attract the younger crowd, KAT the older crowd, and Vader was for everyone.

Gruzja in Poznan

I left during the KAT set as the last trams were about to finish for the evening, and I didn’t want to be stranded. I knew I could see the entire KAT & Roman Kostrzewski set the following evening as the start times were much earlier in Warsaw.

Vader in Poznan

If you haven’t heard of KAT, and are wondering why Vader was opening for them, you are probably not alone. They’ve been around since the late 1970s and were/are huge in Poland. They were/are so big in Poland, that there are actually two versions of the band these days (similar to Venom or Queensryche). However, they have never toured outside of Poland and probably have very little following elsewhere in the world. The version of KAT at these events was with the original lead singer, Roman Kostrzewski. His vocals are very unique so I’m not sure how the other version of KAT is getting along without him. Tim “Ripper” Owens is their vocalist I hear.

Roman Kostrzewski of KAT

Flash forward to night two. I took a three-hour train from Poznan to Warsaw. Note for anyone taking a long-distance train in Poland: Bring your own toilet paper! Anyway, back to the show.

Everything in Warsaw was bigger, much bigger. The stage was probably four times the size as the one in Poznan. The sold out crowd was also several times larger. Despite this, there were only two (extremely slow moving) beer lines. You could easily wait over an hour to purchase a beer! The toilet situation was also bad. Eight porta potties and that was it. No urinals. No one peeing in the bushes. Several of the doors on the porta potties were broken so intruders were common as well. I’ve never seen a worse situation at a planned event like this. I felt especially bad for the ladies.

Massive beer line building before most of the attendees have even arrived

The grounds in Warsaw were also a mess. I don’t think concerts are normally held at this location outdoors. There is an arena nearby that normally holds indoor shows, but that is closed due to Covid. Walking could be hazardous. One step would be on a hard rock and the next would be in quicksand. The benches were mostly wobbly or broken. Sound was, again, not good at all near the stage. I spent most of my time near the mixing booth for OK sound quality.

Food isn’t a necessary option at all concerts—especially if only a band or two are playing and there are nearby eating possibilities with in-and-out privileges. However, this was a five-band concert (over six+ hours) with no nearby food stalls or restaurants or in-and-out privileges. There were zero food offerings--not even a polish dog or some French fries.

I’m not sure what the organizers were thinking. They lost out on a ton of beer and food revenue (not to mention customer satisfaction) by not having food options, more beer lines, and faster moving lines. Maybe this is normal in Poland? I don’t know, but I didn’t see anyone complaining. If this was in Denmark or the USA, people would have been outraged.

Gruzja on the bigger Warsaw stage

As expected, I was a little less enthusiastic about the bands in Warsaw as I was with the Poznan show. This probably had as much to do with the beer situation as it did with the fact that the element of surprise was gone for me, having just seen these performances less than 24 hours prior. Vader seemed to have a lot more pyro going on in Poznan than in Warsaw too. That may have been because they played before dark in Warsaw and after sunset in Poznan.

Vader's set in Warsaw begins (photo taken from my spot in the beer line--55 minutes after I began standing in said line)

When darkness came on the scene in Warsaw so did the bugs. I’m not kidding. Mosquitos by the thousands descended on the crowd shortly after KAT hit the stage and began ravaging everyone’s flesh. I needed some food, some beer, a place to pee, and relief from the swarm of locusts so I split—once again missing the second half of KAT’s set.

Vader and Gruzja will be at Josefstadt in less than two weeks. I’m looking forward to a more comfortable environment there.

Vader in Warsaw - July 31, 2021

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