Friday, December 17, 2010

RAMMSTEIN 12/11 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

So so so sorry about the wait, everyone! Gah, what a mess! I had to endure final exam hell for an unusually long period of time, so I was unable to blog! My Winter Break has also been very eccentric and kept me away from the blog. Pardon the interruption, and let's resume with our regularly scheduled concert reports!

Well, if you saw my last post, you'd know that my friend Melissa and I flew from Chicago to New York to see Rammstein perform live at Madison Square Garden. Yes, we flew all that way and went through all that trouble just to see a band.

For anyone unfamiliar with Rammstein, let's have an introduction. Rammstein (pronounced "Rahm-shtaihn") is a band that hails from Germany. For people who are into rock music, they've become a fairly household name. They're a band famous for many things: pyrotechnics, intense music, scandalous photo shoots, constantly getting into legal trouble, and vocalist Till's booming voice. Their style is almost indescribable, ranging from dance music to metal, and everything in between. They're neither completely serious nor completely funny. In fact, trying to categorize Rammstein is just a waste of time. Most people in America know them for the song Du Hast, but I think it's well worth the effort for people to try listening to something else by them.

In my case, you could say I was almost raised with Rammstein. My mom first heard them on the Lost Highway soundtrack back in 1997. I can still remember my mom playing music in the car and I - a mere seven years old - begging my mom to play that "helicopter song" (the helicopter referring to the song Rammstein, which opens with helicopter noises). When I was younger (all the way up until high school, in fact), I went through a musical dry spell. However, after hearing the songs Rammstein and Heirate Mich for the first time in almost ten years, I was sold. I consider Rammstein to be one of the three bands that reignited my love of music.

A simple rundown of the band... Rammstein is a six-piece band with Till on vocals, Paul on rhythm guitar, Richard on lead guitar, Ollie on bass, Doom on drums, and Flake on keyboard. It's an interesting lineup. Till is the massive frontman of the group. He's absolutely huge, and he has a booming bass voice to go with it. On top of that, he's a licensed pyrotechnician and carries incredible stage presence. Richard and Paul are a seemingly stoic guitar section, but they also perform pyrotechnic tricks and participate in some of the onstage antics. Ollie is the ultra-stoic bassist who adds a rather menacing backdrop to the band. Drummer Doom is, in my opinion, kind of adorable. He's always enthusiastic to cheer up the crowd. Then there's Flake on the keyboard... Flake is the "piece that doesn't fit." The rest of the band is rather tough and menacing in appearance... whereas Flake (whose name is the German pronunciation of the Spanish word "flaco" meaning "skinny") is scrawny and silly. You could say he's the band's mascot... but I think he's more like the band's "bitch." Till picks on him relentlessly during shows, and Flake is often the butt of dangerous stunts. In the case of the song Bück Dich, which the band used to perform a long time ago, Flake was literally the butt/bitch. During that performance, Flake would bend over while Till stood behind him and smacked his bare ass repeatedly with a dildo and spray white liquid all over him. This stunt got Till and Flake arrested in Georgia...

Which brings me to my next point. Okay, so why in the world was it such a big deal that Rammstein was performing in New York? Why did tickets sell out in thirty minutes? Why did Melissa and I spend all this money and fly all the way to New York? Because Rammstein hadn't come to the U.S. in over ten years, were only performing this one show, and are probably never coming back again. That's a pretty damn big incentive to go. Rammstein traveled with Korn on the Family Values tour back in 2000 but never returned to the U.S. after that. I have no idea why they never came back, and listening in on people chatting at the concert, no one else in America knows any more about it than I do. Is it because they were arrested in Georgia and are still angry about it? Hmm... unlikely. Who knows. Anyways, the other thing is that Rammstein are, well... not as young as they used to be. They're all in their late forties now and most of them have children. A lot of bands call it quits around that point in their lives. Till once said he wanted to retire at fifty, and that's just a few years away. The likelihood of Rammstein having enough time to come back to America at this point in their careers is extremely slim. In other words, this show at Madison Square Garden in New York was very likely to be the one and only Rammstein concert in the U.S.

Period.

So I simply had to go. Now other way around it.

Thus, Melissa and I traveled to New York for the concert. Our tickets were, admittedly, purchased through online auction. But shit, how else were we gonna get 'em? The show sold out in a half an hour.

Signs of Rammstein followed us throughout our day in New York. While touring Central Park, a young man who needed the use of a walker went by wearing a Rammstein shirt. You go, man! You're awesome! Later in the day, while waiting at a cross-walk wearing my Rammstein shirt, someone leaned out of a taxi and screamed, "Rammstein's awesome! Whoo!" at me. Hours before the show began, we started seeing packs of "goths" wandering around the area outside of our hotel. A couple of hours before the show, while Melissa and I were searching for dinner, a large group of goths gathered on the sidewalk down the street from the venue. One of the males kept screaming "RAMMSTEIN!!!" amidst cheers. Ah yes, let the insanity begin. Now, I had no idea when it was good to arrive at the venue. The concierge at the hotel said Madison Square Garden usually lets people in an hour early (which would be 7:00 for our show). However, at around 6:30, Melissa and I got nervous and went to the venue. The previously deserted sidewalk was now sporting a nasty line of people dressed in black. All I could think when I saw this line was "oh shit." I mean, now all the good merch would be gone! We got in line and started chatting with people. The girl behind me said the people who had tickets for the pit started lining up before 2 am. Yeesh... Upon hearing our tickets numbers, Melissa and I were also informed by the people around us that we had great tickets. To be honest, I had no idea. Now I was curious just how good they were.

The line started moving at around 6:45. Security was really lax. They just looked at your ticket and let you right through, unless you had a coat or something that needed a quick pat-down. They didn't even confiscate cameras! Inside, they were playing all of Rammstein's latest album while massively disorganized crowds pushed and shoved to get up to the merchandise booths. Despite having four different booths open, it was utter chaos. There were no lines, just crowds of wriggling Rammstein fans pushing up in an attempt to get the seller's attention. At one point, squished and frustrated, a girl cried out "Bückstabü!!!" (the mysterious non-word title of a new Rammstein song). Melissa and I joined the mess, hoping to get a Rammstein t-shirt for a friend of ours. I was also hoping to get a shirt for myself, as well as a poster that caught my attention.

Eventually, Melissa and I managed to shove up front (a little scary, since we were surrounded by a group of large German men) and got our stuff. They were out of almost all the New York tour shirts, but that's okay cuz I just wanted the really cool one with the sparkly red skull with the R+ on its forehead. And the poster where Till looks like an evil butcher, lol. Then we grabbed our stuff and hightailed it outta that mess.

It was quite a trip just to get into the arena and get our seats. We must've gone up, like... five or six escalators? Everywhere there was beer. Beer stands, people handing out beer... Then we finally got to the door that listed the area our seats were in. We were section 36, row 11, seats 10 and 11. I didn't know that was good but people in line were saying it was. Most of them were sections 100 or above. When we entered the arena, my first thought was "holy shit it's huge." Then I realized where we were standing and I thought "holy shit we're close." After a kind staff member noticed our confused faces and guided us to our seats, it was revealed that Melissa and I were dead-center, and close enough to be on a raised part of the ground floor. Wow. I mean, we could see the whole stage, but we were close enough that we could make out the details of everything on the stage as well. Sweeeeeet.

As we sat down and put our stuff under our seats, people were filing in left and right. It was an interesting crowd. I'd say a male-to-female ratio of 3/2 and 3/4 of people seemed to be wearing Rammstein shirts. Moreover, there were tons of people who'd painted their faces with the colors of the German flag or with Rammstein's R+ symbol. There were even shirtless people who'd painted their bare torsos. There were people with flags, people with giant signs, people with banners... This was a seriously dedicated crowd. There was a guy in front of us who was sporting a mohawk and, on the bald side of his head, he'd left enough hair to spell out R+ on his scalp. There were girls in corsets, and a couple of people cosplayed. What could you possibly cosplay at Rammstein, you wonder? Well, the girl was dressed up as Snow White and her boyfriend was dressed up like a miner. This was clearly a reference to Rammstein's Sonne music video. Another interesting thing... there were a lot of actual Germans at the show. I'm not sure if they were Germans who traveled to the U.S. to see the show, or if they were Germans who already happened to be in the states and decided to see the show, but a lot of people were speaking German, lol. There was also an incredible overabundance of mohawks. I wish Melissa and I had counted how many mohawks we saw, lol. We also saw a group of guys who'd spray-painted their hair silver and were wearing silver lipstick and eyeshadow - a reference to the silvered look that Rammstein sported towards the beginning of their career. There was also a guy wearing a shirt that said "God is great but Satan is super" who was there with his son of perhaps nine years old. I told Melissa that child was either going to turn out really messed up, or really awesome, lol. A really funny thing was how many "burly" and "tough"-looking guys were wearing eyeliner, lol. To the right of Melissa and I was a fantastically drunk group of men who would periodically start screaming "Rammstein! Whoo!" and stand up on their chairs or start jumping up and down while drinking beer. They were seriously wasted. But who could blame them? Beer was everywhere. As if it were a baseball game, there were men walking around with trays of beer calling out "beer! Who wants beer?!" I, personally, wanted to experience the concert sober, but a majority of people seemed to be taking advantage of the beer. At one point, this vendor walked by and just started shouting, "beer beer beer!" over and over. Melissa and I burst out laughing. What a crowd, lol.

Anyways, enough about that. There was, indeed, an opener. Rammstein's opening act was the techno-industrial act Combichrist:

Now, I'm sure any steady readers of my blog are waiting hungrily for me to shred this band into pieces like I usually do, but I'm afraid that's not going to happen. Truth be told, I thought Combichrist was awesome. The best way I can describe them is... it's like Nine Inch Nails you can dance to. While I'm not a die-hard, I definitely enjoy listening to industrial. I also love music you can dance to (one of the reasons I love Rammstein). I also enjoy techno from time to time. Roll all of that up into a ball and you get Combichrist.

The setup alone was interesting. As it was slowly revealed, Melissa and I could see that there were three large, rectangular LED screens on the stage. In front of both the leftmost and rightmost LED screens was a drum set. Melissa and I turned to each other and were like, "does this band have two drumers...? What the hell...?" I mean, I've seen two guitarists, two vocalists... never two drummers. Of course, the super-cynical gears in my mind were already turning. "Two drummers... bah, I bet it's all for show. Neither of them will do much of anything." That's what I was thinking the whole time they were setting up, I must admit. There was also a keyboard set up in front of the middle screen. Very strange, all of this.

Anyways, the band was soon revealed. Indeed, they had two drummers and a keyboardist, as well as a guitarist (who I believe is a support member), and a vocalist. The drummers, however, were not doing the same thing as each other. The left drummer was mostly handling percussion. The vocalist and founding member, I've learned, is from Norway, so I believe Combichrist is a Norwegian band. The vocalist was dressed in a silvery-gray outfit and had all his hair silvered back like a cap. His face was painted up, too. The left drummer and keyboardist also had a sorta skull-cap thing going on. The right drummer had his hair flying free, and he was shirtless. Anyways, it was clear right from the start that these guys were doing something different. The three LED screens were lit up bright red, but the effect was mesmerizing. The two drummers and the keyboardist, playing stationary in front of the screens, were turned into moving silhouettes. For some bands, this wouldn't be all that fascinating, but these guys know how to move. The drummers were in constant motion. The left drummer was actually turned sideways so that we could only see his profile, allowing an impressive view of the ups and downs of his arm movements. He was also headbanging the whole time he played. The right drummer was an unstoppable whirl of movement. He was constantly bouncing and flailing in this out-of-control rhythm. He was, undoubtedly, the most mesmerizing part of the act. The keyboardist, also, was constantly headbanging. The keyboardist and right drummer would frequently climb up onto their equipment while playing. The effect of all this in front of the LED screens was like a live action music video. This is the closest I've ever seen a band get to creating a music video on stage. Another way to describe it would be "music in motion." It was like they were dancing as much as they were playing, and the screens were the backdrop to highlight their dance moves.

The vocalist roamed the foreground, screaming and yelling and looking very menacing. He had a very fierce, fuck-shit-up aura about him. Between his roaming and the dancing insanity behind him, Combichrist was a feast for the eyes. On top of that, after the first song, the LED screens started to change. Sometimes they would have symbols on them, sometimes they'd flash to the music, and sometimes they'd play videos. My personal favorite was when the LED screens would flash and the left one would say "COMBI", the middle one would say "FUCKING", and the third one would say "CHRIST." Basically, the level of showmanship going on was incredible. Of course, you'd have to be incredible showmen to open for Rammstein. They're a terrifying act to open for. Rammstein fans have huge expectations and they come to see a spectacle. But Combichrist certainly delivered. Melissa and I couldn't stop nodding along to the music and mouthing "awesome" at each other. If I'd had less restraint, I would've leaped to my feet and started dancing. The band was a ton of fun. They were aggressive, fun, entertaining, and talented all at once.

But fuck, I suck at explaining this. I've scoured YouTube and only managed to find one decent video of Combichrist opening for Rammstein. While this video is shot a bit too close to the stage at times (making it hard to get the full scope of the act), it demonstrates what I was talking about pretty damn well, and in pretty decent quality. The first twenty seconds are blurry but don't worry, it clears up. So yeah, if you wanna see the awesome performing quality of Combichrist that I was talking about, you can check it out here:




Pretty awesome, eh? Unfortunately, Madison Square Garden was only a little over halfway filled by the time they started, and people continued to pour in during Combichrist. Many didn't show up until after Combichrist was done, and I feel very sorry for those people cuz they missed one hell of a show. I've also listened to a few of Combichrist's CDs since the concert and they're fantastic in album form as well. So if you like industrial, techno, metal, or anything like that, check 'em out!

Ah, so now comes the "fun" waiting for Rammstein part... Blah blah blah, long set up, blah blah blah, people were getting really drunk, blah blah blah, people started stomping the floor impatiently, blah blah blah.

Soon, however, the lights went down. The arena went into an uproar. We now had a full house which, at Madison Square Garden equals at least 10,000 people. An ominous sound began to twist about the arena, signaling that Rammstein was about to begin!

Our setlist!

Rammleid
B********
Weidmann’s Heil
Keine Lust
Weißes Fleisch
Feuer frei!
Weiner Blut
Frühling in Paris
Ich tu dir Weh
Du riechst so gut
Benzin
Links 2-3-4
Du Hast
Pussy
Encore:
Sonne
Haifisch
Ich Will
Encore 2:
Engel
Just a quick note: if you think my memory is really amazing while reading this... it's not. I watched some of the videos of the live performances to help jog my memory. I made mental notes during the show, but I can't take mental notes of everything. However, to keep this blog clean of outside influences and biases, I only wrote down stuff I either remembered, or noticed and remembered upon seeing a video. In other words, if I saw something in a video from the show that I didn't notice during the concert, then it's not written here. Cuz that just wouldn't be fair! I'm just writing down the stuff that filtered through my own mind during the show.
So, as expected, we opened up with Rammleid. Ah, the epic-ness began immediately! Rammstein's stage is very interesting because it has several vertical layers and several backdrop layers. The stage was pitch black, but suddenly, these intense columns of light burst through the backdrop. Paul and Richard, the two guitarists, were literally breaking through the far ends of the backdrop. As they chipped their way through, their silhouettes were revealed against a violently white light. In the middle of the backdrop, a flame suddenly lit and twisted into a large oval. From behind it, Till punched out the oval, revealing himself in front of the light. There he stood, a massive beast in a red leather apron, spiked boots, a hair net, and red feathers wrapped around his face. Till strode down the steps onto the main stage and raised his arms over and over, trying to get us to scream. And scream we did. The audience was hysterical. Ten years of waiting hysterical. Then Till grabbed the microphone and began to sing. As if giving a physical embodiment to his powerful voice, Till's mouth glowed fiercely from the inside with every word he sang - and god what a beautiful voice he has. Even from where Melissa and I were standing and cheering, we could see the bizarre light bursting from Till's mouth. For those who haven't seen what this looks like yet, here's a picture:

Creepy, isn't it? I mean... when I see Till singing like that, I almost feel like his soul is suddenly visible - like he's evoking his soul through his words. It kinda weirds me out, but it's so awesome that I can't help but love it. Anyways, as soon as Till yelled "RAMM!" the lights flashed, revealing that the backdrop had collapsed and the entire band was now visible. Ollie, wearing a black hat, was stationed on the second level of the stage near Doom, and Flake was on the other side, facing sideways and ready at the keyboard. The three members on the ground floor had interesting mic stands. Till's stand was a pogo stick (no, really) while Richard's looked like a normal stand but would sometimes retract into the stage, then come back up later. Paul's stand... was more like a kickstand than a mic stand. It usually laid horizontal on the ground, but Paul could kick it, causing it to spring up. When it tipped back over, a spring on the ground would cause the mic stand to bounce up and down. Strange band, lol... Also, Doom's drum set spelled out LIFAD, which stands for Rammstein's new album: Liebe is für Alle da (translated as "love is there for anyone). The background was black with silvery slashes all over it, as if a great beast had tried to claw through it. It also kind of looked like the trails left behind by planes or rockets. Till roamed around, guiding us through shouting "RAMM! STEIN!" Whenever the background chorus would sing, Till would open his mouth as wide as possible, allowing the light to glow from inside him (by the way, I am aware of how the trick is done with an LED lamp. That doesn't stop it from looking eerie and amazing).

Once again, I'm terrible at explaining all this. Since it defeats the purpose of this blog (concerts through words) I want to keep videos to a minimum, but I feel like Rammleid is interesting enough to warrant a visual example. If you'd like to see a video of Rammleid performed at Madison Square Garden, check it out here:



When Rammleid ended, the band went straight into B********. If you're wondering what the hell is up with that title, well... from what we can gather in the chorus, the "censored" word is "Bückstabü" which... isn't really a word. According to herzeleid.com, it's close to the German word Buchstabe, which means "letter" like a letter in a word or the alphabet. When asked in an interview what the word means, Richard responded that it can mean whatever you want. My personal interpretation of the word is that it's like in English when you swear in a fit of rage but, rather than using a specific swear, you just write a bunch of nonsense letters. The word is just a bunch of garbled rage. Well, I don't know if I'm right, but the song opened with Till having a fit and spraying water out of his mouth all over the place and headbanging like crazy so... the song, at the very least, is pretty pissed off. Also, Till had ditched his Rammleid outfit and gotten rid of the apron and the feathers. The whole band was headbanging and stomping around. The stage was drenched in red light. I knew right from the start that I was going to do this show my own way. Some people just nodded along, some people headbanged, and some people just stood and watched the show, but I rocked the hell out. I threw my fist, whipped my hair around, danced, and went crazy without any regard for what the people around me thought of me. Before Japan, I would've been much more shy, but if indies concerts in Japan have taught me anything, it's that the best kind of fun is the fun you have without any concern for what others are thinking.

As soon as B******** was over, a trumpet sounded. Oh god yes. Yes! It was time for one of the songs I was most anticipating: Weidmann's Heil! I fucking love this song! The title translates into English as "the hunter's call." And what is Rammstein hunting, you might ask? From what I can gather from the lyrics, they're hunting for pussy (you know, female game animals, lol). How typical, lol. Till started off by carrying a massive (and I mean massive) hunting rifle on his shoulder while singing. He would frequently stop in his tracks and start pelvic thrusting violently at the air. This song also began the first of our fire stunts. When it was time for the keyboard solo, Till dropped to one knee and clutched his rifle as fire began to shoot out from the stage in small fan shapes. The audience went wild! I was so excited to see Rammstein's fire tricks in person! As the flames shot into the air, Till pretended to shoot at invisible game up in the sky. Then, suddenly, their was an explosion and sparks rained down from the ceiling and lit the stage. The stage literally looked like it was on fire! For the rest of the song, the fan-shaped fire continued to burst from the stage while Till chanted "Waidmann's mann's mann's mann's HEIL!" I threw my fist back at him in a frenzy. I mean, fuck, this was such once-in-a-lifetime stuff...

After Waidmann's Heil came an old fan favorite: Keine Lust. This one is such a ton of fun! After each guitar riff, columns of steam would burst out from the stage. Till, who was headbanging, would rear back with the steam as if it had hit him in the face. Melissa and I full-body headbanged right along with him. When the song started, Till didn't sing at all. Instead, he held out his microphone to the audience and waved his arm in the arm, signaling for us to take over. All 10,000+ people shouted "Ich hab' keine Lust!" ("I don't feel like it!") over and over for him. When they got to the epic "mir ist kalt! So kalt!" ("I'm cold! So cold!") part, the entire background turned frigid blue, and a strange light burned from behind it. Suddenly, the claw marks in the background looked like cracks in ice. The stage seemed to freeze over. I threw out my arm and screamed "mir ist kalt!" right along with Till. This line had often been a joke amongst my friends, like, whenever it was cold outside we'd shiver and jokingly wail "mir ist kalt!" but... this time I meant it, ya know what I mean? Ah, well, concerts can do that to you.

Next up, however, was a super old classic: Weißes Fleisch. That song is from Rammstein's first album, it's so old. To be honest, I didn't realize it was popular enough to still be on setlists, but who am I to complain, I freakin' love that song. It's one of Rammstein's old "dance" classics. For this one, we got to see Till's "Till-hammer" in action. This is when Till crouches down, shakes his head, and beats his thigh with his fist in time to the music. It's kind of a distinct Till-move. During the singing parts between riffs, the entire band (minus Doom, obviously) would take a few steps back, then a few steps forward, as if line-dancing to the song. Even Flake, perched between his keyboards, marched back and forth to the words. During the chorus, Paul and Richard would throw their fists in time to each beat, encouraging us to join them. Then we got to hear Richard do a guitar solo, followed by Doom doing a drum solo. As if that wasn't awesome enough, Doom's solo slid ever-so-gracefully into one of Flake's spazzed out dance routines. Flake climbed down to the first level and began to, well... dance isn't the right word... more like he flailed in time to the music, lol. He twitched and seized and moved around like crazy and began kicking across the stage. Till, however, was waiting for him on the other side. Till held his arms out like a zombie and began to slowly chase Flake, who was still kicking and flailing, back across the stage and onto the second level. I didn't know whether to cheer or to burst out laughing! I also couldn't help but notice the people around me particularly screaming a certain line in the song. When Till yelled "in meinem Himmel gibt es keinen Gott!" (in my Heaven there is no God!") the people around me really screamed it and threw their fists into the air. I guess that line holds a lot of significance to some people. Interesting.

Ah, well, I feel like all the dancing and spazzing during this song warrants a video. If you'd like to check out a video of the song taken at our show, go here:



Coming up next was one of Rammstein's number one crowd pleasers: Feuer frei! Yup. Feuer frei! live is epic enough to have become the entire opening sequence to the movie XXX. It's undoubtedly most famous for the use of the so-called Dragon Masks on stage. The band got right into it. As soon as the sirens went off, there was a big explosion. Every time Till yelled "Bäng bäng!" I was unable to resist the urge to hold out my pointer finger in a shooting gesture and "shoot" at the stage. During Flake's squeaky keyboard solo, I had to laugh because I always thought the solo was painfully high-pitched, and apparently I'm not the only one. Till clapped his hands over his ears and stomped over to Flake. Then he reached up and jabbed Flake in the side, causing Flake to flail and start swatting furiously at Till. Oh those two. Then, of course, it was time for the Dragon Masks. The masks were greeted by some of the most explosive cheers of the entire show. The audience had been waiting for this moment and I'd even heard people before the concert talking about how they hoped the band would use the masks during Feuer frei!. Paul, Richard, and Till each strapped on, well... they basically strapped flamethrowers to their faces. Yup, flamethrowers on their faces. For those who haven't seen what this looks like, here ya go:


Close-up:

So yeah, pretty epic stuff. As Till screamed "Bäng bäng!", he and Richard and Paul shot massive jets of flames into the air in time to the music. Simply incredible. Even from where Melissa and I were standing, we could feel the intense heat. I can't even imagine what the heat must've felt like to the people way up in the front (or how it feels for the band members doing it). It was incredible. I'm so happy I can now say I've personally felt the heat from Rammstein's fire.

The next song up was Weiner Blut. Hoo boy. This song requires a bit of explanation for the theatrics of it all to make sense. Rammstein seem to get a real kick out of writing songs about terrible crimes in the news (a la Mein Teil). For the latest album, they wrote the song Weiner Blut, which was inspired by the Josef Fritzl case in Vienna. Basically, this Fritzl guy was insane and kept his daughter captive in their basement for twenty-four years. During that time, he raped her and she wound up bearing him seven children. I guess this was especially bad because it was the second such case to come out in the open in Vienna. So Rammstein wrote the song Weiner Blut (a play on words for many reasons, since it either means "Viennese Blood" or "blood sausage").

Weiner Blut live, however, was seriously epic. The stage went dark, and the set was redone in the darkness. A slow, choppy string melody began to play, and the lights went up in the center of the stage to reveal Till on his knees in a small basement-like setting. The area under the drum set was a dark square and, in front of it, there was a lamp on a table and a record player. Till hobbled along on his knees, swinging his finger around in time to the music and smiling eerily. When Flake hit the first airy note, Till suddenly stopped, raised a finger, and looked upwards with his mouth gaping open like he'd just heard something amazing and wanted us all to listen to it too. Then he began singing the opening to the song in that dark, gravely voice of his. As he crooned, he slowly climbed back up, first onto one knee, then onto his feet, then he bent over suddenly and the lights went out. The audience went wild. In the darkness, something was lowering down from the ceiling. In fact, many things... many things were hanging from the ceiling... Amidst the darkness, strange, green laser points fluttered about the stage like sprites. Then, as the first riffs began, the lights flashed like lightning, revealing what was hanging from the ceiling.

Babies. Doll babies were hanging, each by a wire, from the ceiling. Dozens of them. And their eyes were glowing alien green. Uuuuugh, so creepy. Then Till whispered "willkommen..." ("welcome..."). There was a tense moment before he screamed "in der Dunkelheit!" ("to the darkness!"). Then it was nothing but mad headbanging and rocking out. When Till returned to calmly singing, the stage went dark again. I remember when he sang that horrible line "Und bist du manchmal auch allein, Ich pflanze dir ein Schwesterlein" ("and because you are often alone, I plant you a little sister") Till flailed his arm in a rounded shape across his torso, signaling a pregnant belly. Towards the end of the song, Flake started having jam sessions on his keyboards. Then, in time to the drum hits, the wires above the hanging babies began to explode, dropping their bodies onto the stage one by one. Yeah, this was some seriously crazy shit, as I'm sure you can gather. I'd post a video, but I don't think videos do it justice. I didn't realize how epic it would be till I was there.

For the next song, the band turned it down a notch for Frühling in Paris. The song began with a spotlight on Ollie, who was crouched on the ground on the first level beside Till, playing an acoustic bass. Some of the people around us began pulling out lighters, lol. Till sang beautifully as always. Eventually, Ollie climbed back onto the second level. On either side of the stage, Paul and Richard sat on the sloping inclines that led up to the second level and played their guitars. The entire stage was red and, although Frühling in Paris is a slow, pretty song, I should add that the dead baby dolls were still scattered all over the stage. When the chorus began, the "shredded" backdrop behind the stage collapsed, revealing the full, tinker-toy-like backdrop behind it. The entire background was complicated and metal, like some kind of heinous factory. A very odd moment that made Melissa and I laugh out loud... during the music box part of the song, Till held up both his index fingers and wiggled in a circle like a cute little wind up toy. It was very silly looking but it caused the audience to scream and whoop loudly (and made Melissa and I look at each other like "what the hell"). During the second chorus, smoke began to engulf the stage in front of Till. From where Melissa and I were standing, he basically disappeared. Then, when the song ended, the doorway beneath Doom's drum set parted and Till descended into the darkness beneath the stage.

It was time for Ich tu dir weh. This was probably in the top three for songs I was most excited to see. I love the song, and I'd seen a video of what the live performance looks like. To see it in real-time was like a dream come true. The song began with Flake playing that eerie keyboard music. When Doom began beating out the first riffs of the song, explosion of sparks erupted in front of his drum set in time to the riffs. As Till began singing, he stomped slowly around the stage in time to the beat. He sang so beautifully during the chorus, I simply couldn't help but reach out and sing along as loudly as I could. "Ich tu dir weh. Tut mir nicht leid. Das tut dir gut. Hör wie es schreit" ("I hurt you. I'm not sorry. It does you good. Listen to it scream"). During the chorus, Richard kept skipping around excitedly in circles. It was after the second chorus, however, that shit got real. While Till was headbanging, Flake - wearing a black trench coat - suddenly abandoned his keyboards and jumped down to the first level. He snuck up beside Till, then kicked him hard in the side. And damn did he kick hard. I mean, unless Till was just totally off his guard or something, but since all of this is choreographed, I kind of doubt that. Till was kicked all the way over and landed on his side. He pulled himself back onto his feet and Flake, of course, ran away and tried to climb back onto the second level. Till grabbed him around the waist, however, and threw Flake over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. I can't believe how easily Till can just pick up a grown man and carry him around. Incredible. He carried Flake, punching and struggling, over to the other side of the stage where a bath tub was stationed. Then he dropped Flake into the tub and pretended to beat Flake down. When Flake stopped struggling, Till climbed onto the second level and grabbed a metal pail. As Till bent over and pointed angrily into the tub (and even spit into it), the ground beneath Till suddenly began to rise. Till was standing on a circle of the stage that was rising higher and higher into the air. It rose to a terrifying height, until Till was standing on this tiny podium high above the stage. From up there, he sang one of my favorite lines: "Du bist das Schiff ich der Kapitän. Wohin soll denn die Reise gehen?" ("You are the ship and I am the captain. Where do you want to go?"). Then Till stuck the microphone into his mouth, tipped the pail over, and a massive waterfall of sparks cascaded all the way down into the bathtub. This was an absurd amount of sparks. I have to confess, I don't really know how Flake comes out of this stunt okay. As the sparks descended, the bathtub began to explode from the inside like fireworks. Then Till sang the last of the chorus, standing atop his perch and holding the pail right-side-up with a flame coming out of it. When the song was over, the platform began to lower back down onto the stage. Till stepped off and looked down into the bathtub. He lifted up one end and slammed it down, then tipped the side and slammed it down. Then he made a cross gesture in the air to signal that Flake was "done for" and stormed away. But wait! A single arm shot out of the bathtub and felt around for the edge. Then Flake pulled himself up, revealing that he was now wearing a violently sparkly one-piece suit. He crawled out of the bathtub and then... seized his way back over to his keyboards. That's the only way to describe it. He was twitching and spazzing all the way back to his spot, as if he'd been electrocuted. Then he climbed back to the second level and took his position between the three keyboards. As the song wound to a close, he hit a button, starting up his treadmill for the first time. Yes, he was walking on a treadmill. One last explosion in front of his keyboards signaled the end of the song.

One word: epic.

It needs a video. You can watch the Madison Square Garden performance of Ich tu dir weh here (also includes a great sweeping shot of the massiveness of the arena):



Next up was a veeeeeery old classic from their first album: Du riechst so gut. This is pure dance music right here! From this point on in the show, Flake continued to walk on his treadmill. The fun thing was, however, that he would always walk to the beat of the music! One of my favorite moments of the show was during this song: every measure, Till would stomp over to Paul. When the guitars squealed, he and Paul would both full-body headbang at each other. Then Till would back up, stomp forward, and they'd headbang at each other again. This was so funny that Melissa and I both started full-body headbanging with them every time. During the line when Till sings about the girl's sweat and blood dripping onto the ground, Till spread his legs and wiggled them, which was totally gross. Wow, I never really thought of the line that way, but now I can't un-think it. Thank you, Till, lol. This song is just so much fun, I was basically jumping up and down to the beat. Eventually, Paul and Richard moved in front of Till and kinda half-played guitar, half wiggled their finger in the air at us. People cheered like crazy, though. Then the band all froze in an epic position before the music started up again.

Next song up... Benzin! The song opened up with Flake trying to run as fast as possible in a crouch on the treadmill. Ya know, I really hope I'm as energetic as these guys when I'm in my late forties. Seriously. While Paul and Richard threw their fists into the air to get the audience to go "hey! Hey!' with them, Till dragged a giant gasoline tank onto the stage. For at least half the song, I couldn't stop staring at this tank, trying to figure out what in the world Till was going to do with it. During the chorus, after each time Till growled the word "benzin!", flames would erupt along the edge of the second level. Well, this song is Rammstein's ode to pyromania, after all. Another funny thing... Flake's treadmill rotates. He would be playing along on one keyboard, then rotate the treadmill while still walking on it until he was facing the other keyboard. That must be rather exhausting, lol! I have terrible balance, so I probably would've fallen right off! After the second chorus, Till went over to the gasoline tank and grabbed the nozzle. Then he pulled out this over-sized matchstick and struck it along the side of the tank, lighting a huge flame. Then he lit the nozzle and revealed that it was a flamethrower when he shot a massive jet of flames from it. I was kinda disappointed, though. I mean, a flamethrower? They dragged that giant thing onstage for just a flamethrower? However, as Till was happily shooting flames everywhere, someone dressed in a black hoodie suddenly ran across the stage. I didn't see where this guy came from and, in a moment of panic, I thought some idiot from the pit had jumped onto the stage. In fact, this moron was jumping up and down excitedly, like "whoo! I got onto the stage!" Till finally noticed the guy too. Then I watched in horror as Till frowned, turned around, and blasted the man with the flamethrower. The guy erupted into flames and began running around the stage, flailing. I was shocked! How could Till do such a thing?! Melissa and I looked at each other like "oh my god!" A couple of roadies ran onto the stage with towels and began beating the guy to put him out, but he continued running and freaking out. Till looked on mildly, then shot the guy with another jet of flames. At that point I realized, okay, this has to be a stunt. Till would not just light an overzealous fan on fire. Rammstein have always had very safe pyrotechnic shows. Anyways, the stunt guy eventually collapsed onto the stage, where the roadies put him out with fire extinguishers. The guy climbed back onto his feet and started jumping up and down excitedly, clearly very proud of his terrifying stunt. Till poked him jokingly in the ass and the staff picked the guy up and carried him off the stage. Okay, okay, you all wanna see this guy get lit on fire, don't you? Okay, Benzin live, right over here:



Hokay, next up... the ever-infamous Links 234 (pronounced "links zwo drei vier" which is German for "left two three four" - like when soldiers are marching). This song is probably right up there with songs like Feuer frei! in popularity. The song opened with marching sounds, and everyone started cheering. Many people started stomping along. In fact, Doom stood up behind his drum set and started marching along with us. Even Ollie jumped down to the first level to march along with everyone. Since "links" means "left" and the entire song is, from what I've gathered, a cry for leftist liberalism, I switched to throwing my fist with my left hand. Especially when Till would shout "links!" and everyone would yell and throw their fist in response.

Links 2-3-4 is an interesting song. It was just before the release of that album that the bullshit Columbine blame-game started. Marilyn Manson wasn't the only one caught up in it. People also blamed Rammstein, claiming their military-esque music urged on the Columbine killers and riled them up into doing what they did. It was around that time that weary Americans started muttering that Rammstein were a bunch of Nazis because they're, well... scary and German, I guess. I mean, after all, anyone who's German and into hard music must be a Nazi, right (pardon my sarcasm)? Rammstein, however, are hardly Nazis, and Links 2-3-4 was written in response to that bullshit. The song sounds incredibly military-esque, yet the lyrics are about liberalism. As Till states in the song, "Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck, doch seh ich dann nach unten weg da schlägt es links" ("they want my heart to beat on the right, but when I look below it beats left there"). The irony of these lyrics is that finger-pointing Americans don't bother to look up the lyrics, so they instantly assume Rammstein are Nazis based on the way the song sounds. Rammstein obviously realized that anyone with enough brains to actually look up the words before accusing the band would realize the hidden message wrapped in the disguise. So please, people, please do your research before pointing fingers.

Anyways, back to the show. Very often, when Till shouted "links!", he would smack himself on the left side of his chest, then throw his head back with his mouth wide open. During the chorus, the band marched along as Till growled, "links zwo, links zwo, links zwo, drei, vier, links!" ("left two, left two, left two three four, left!"). People around us started marching right along with them. Melissa and I, laughing, joined the arena-wide "army". Eventually, the music went quiet except for the drums, and Till started yelling "links!" and signaling us to scream back at him. And boy did we scream. Every time Till shouted "links!" the audience threw their fist and yelled, "hey!" as loud as possible! Aaaah, good times! I was way too into it, hahaha.

Next up, the most required song of the setlist, I suppose: Du hast. Melissa and I both looked at each other and rolled our eyes. Okay, here's the thing with me and Du hast: it's not like I don't like the song but... I'm just so sick of Du hast being the only song everyone in America knows and it started to annoy me. Any time I say, "yeah, I like Rammstein" the immediate response from people is, "oh, that's that band with the Du hast song!" Blah blah blah, what is the big fucking deal with Du hast? It's hardly one of their best songs. American radio stations overplayed it so much it became unbearable. I even went to go see this rap act one time (yes, I saw rap, shut up, it was MC Chris which is totally different), and the rapper started rapping Du hast partway through a song. What the hell, that song is everywhere. So anyways, Melissa and I sighed a little since we knew Du Hast was gonna happen. But really, I don't dislike the song, so I still had fun! The opening music was met with a huge outcry of excitement from the crowd, so it was hard not to get swept up in it. Till didn't even bother to sing the first part of the song. He just held out his microphone towards the crowd and had us go "du! Du hast! Du hast mich!" as loud as possible for him (the lyrics sound like a double meaning, since pronunciation-wise, it sounds like either "you! You hate! You hate me!" or "you! You have! You have me!"). The chorus was kinda fun. Whenever Till was done singing the wedding vows that comprise the chorus, a choir would sing and flames would erupt from the stage. Then Till would shout "nein!" ("no!") and flames would blast down from the ceiling. During the second round of "du hast", Till once again held up the microphone and had us shout the whole thing for him. I excitedly went along with it. Regardless of what I think of the song, this was Rammstein for fuck's sake. You gotta have a good time! Then Till whipped out this crazy thing... it looked like a metal crossbow! He fired it into the air and a rocket-like thing shot out of it and zigzagged flames through the air. Sweet!

Ah, what could be next... yes, it was time for Pussy! God this song cracks me up. As the cheerful dance music began, I simply had to dance in my spot. Whoo! Ollie was still on the first level, and Flake grabbed a portable keyboard and jumped down to the first level to join everyone else! Now, since the first couple lines of the song are in English, Till decided to have us sing it for him while he pantomimed. First he held his arms out wide while we shouted, "too big!". Then he held his thumb and index finger close together while we yelled, "too small!". Then he swatted his hand through the air like "nah!" while we shouted, "size does matter after all!". Then Till took over the German. During the English chorus, Melissa and I just had to laugh and pantomime it at each other. When Till sang, "you have a pussy!", Melissa and I pointed at our crotches. Then we pointed at the band when Till sang, "I have a dick-ah!". Then, much to my explosive amusement, when Till sang, "so what's the problem?", not just Melissa and I, but lots of people around us threw their arms up in an exaggerated shrug. Then Till sang, "let's do it quick" and Melissa and I made obscene pelvic-thrusting gestures. Oh, it's all in good fun, lol! During one of my favorite lines ever, I really made some obscene gestures. That line would be, "Steck Bratwurst in dein Sauerkraut" ("stick bratwurst in your sauerkraut"). Hahaha, yes. After Till yelled, "I can't get laid in Germany!", he picked up his microphone stand and started smashing it against the stage. And damn, he killed that thing. It was actually bent into a curve after he was done slamming it. Then he smacked it against the side of the second level, and something there exploded. Boy, anything on Rammstein's stage can explode, huh? Then they wheeled it onto the stage. And Till straddled it and got on. What is "it", you wonder? A penis cannon. No, really, I'm serious. A giant penis cannon. It's a giant cannon shaped and painted like a penis. Till put it between his legs and it was revealed that he could ride this thing around like a car. Melissa turned to me and shouted, "Till's got a huge dick!" lol. Then Till rode around on the penis cannon, shooting white, foamy, feathery stuff all over the audience. Wow, lol. I laughed until my sides hurt. If you're curious, the penis cannon looks like this:

However, Pussy signaled the "end" of the show (yeah right). Doom beat the hell out of the drums and the band members all removed their instruments. Then they all came up to the front of the stage in a line (except Flake who was playing the ending music on the keyboards) and took a bow. Then Till said something in German (sorry, I don't speak German - oh gawd, I hope it wasn't English and I just couldn't understand his accent! I would feel so embarrassed!) and then, in English, said "thank you very much". Then the band bowed again. They all exited down the ramp that goes under the drum set.

Now, the music sounded very "end-like" and the lights were kinda up, so it was a little weird. Like the show was actually over. Melissa asked me if the show could really be over, but I was like "hell no." Our feet were killing us from walking around New York all day, so we sat back down to wait for encore (but we continued to scream and clap for encore, even while sitting). I also muttered to Melissa that they couldn't be over cuz the bastards hadn't played Haifisch yet. I was gonna kill them if they didn't play it! People were screaming and freaking out for Rammstein to come back and people kept chanting their name. Many fans were getting so excited that they started stomping the stadium floor as loud as possible.

But of course the band came back! Rammstein didn't even waste a second. They went right into the fan-favorite (and one of my all-time favorites): Sonne! I should add that Doom and Ollie came back shirtless, and Till came back shirtless except for a pair of suspenders, lol. The brief break did them some good. Rammstein was rocking out like crazy. Till was headbanging like he wanted to break his neck or something. Since this song is one of my all-time favorites, I full-body headbanged right along with it and whipped my hair around. During the chorus, Till counts out loud. It's like "Eins! Hier kommt die Sonne! Zwei! Hier kommt die Sonne!" ("One! Here comes the sun! Two! Here comes the sun!") and the chorus makes it all the way up to four or eight. I threw out my fingers with the correct number each time, and I was really happy to see sooooo many people doing the same thing. I'm never sure how many fans really look up the lyrics, ya know? And counting is such a simple thing to remember in another language. It made me really happy to see so many fans familiar enough with the chorus to count along with me. During the second chorus, flames burst from the stage on each number. At the end of the song, as we all rocked out, flames erupted in spastic bursts all over the stage. Epic.

What could be next? What could be next? It's... Haifisch! Yay! I wasn't sure what the hell was going to play because Flake was just hitting some random, deep notes on the keyboard. When I realized it was Haifisch, I turned to Melissa and nearly jumped for joy. Okay, what the hell is up with me and this song? Well, Haifisch has a lot of sentimental value for me. It's a very weird song, and may not even be palatable for some people. And yet, the first time I heard it, I was in love for no apparent reason. Something about the song made me deliriously happy. Every time I needed to cheer myself up, I would play Haifisch and feel all better. Sometimes, while listening to it on my iPod, I would want to start leaping and dancing in public because I was so happy. I even remember sitting on the trains in Tokyo and tapping my feet to the music while the Japanese looked at me curiously. The sentimental value only increased after I returned to America. As steady readers of my blog know, my best friend and housemate, Dylan Ellefson, passed away a couple of months ago. While he was alive, he never much liked Rammstein, but fell in love with their latest album for some reason. Haifisch was also his favorite song, and we would listen to it in the car together sometimes. One day, while the song was playing, Dylan turned to me and said, "so who's this Doctor Shark, anyways?" ("haifisch" means "shark" in German). I looked at him like he was crazy. "Doctor Shark?" Dylan looked back at me like I was crazy and said, "in the song, he says 'Doctor Haifisch.' Who's this Doctor Haifisch?" Considering the chorus starts with "und der haifisch...", I couldn't understand where Dylan was getting these misheard lyrics from, and I laughed at him. He thought it was weird that I couldn't hear it. From then on, he referred to Haifisch as the "Doctor Shark Song." Less than a week later, while in the bathroom, the song got stuck in my head. The chorus played itself all the way through in my mind: "Und der Haifisch der hat Tränen, und die laufen vom Gesicht. Doch der Haifisch lebt im Wasser so die Tränen sieht man nicht" (one of my favorite lines ever, translated as "and the shark, he has tears, and they run down his face. But the shark sleeps in water so the tears can't be seen"). Suddenly, my brain did a rewind. "Doch der Haifisch... doch der Haifisch... Doctor Haifisch!" That's what Dylan was hearing! "Doch der" sounds like "Doctor!" I ran out of the bathroom in a panic and skidded into the living room and screamed, "Dylan! You're not retarded!" He looked up at me like I was insane, lol. He was like, "...thanks...?" From that moment on, however, Doctor Haifisch became my alias. It was one of my favorite songs and one of my favorite bits of poetry, and the mishearing was so magical that I couldn't help but use the name Doctor Haifisch from time to time. After Dylan died, the name still stuck, but with even more sentimental value. In fact, when my friends and I made a Halloween card for Dylan and left it at the tree where he died, I lovingly signed my name as "Doctor Haifisch." To hear this song for real... there were no words for how happy I was. Dylan was there when I found out I was going to see Rammstein at Madison Square Garden, and he was so happy for me. I hope Dylan knows how happy I was at the show.

Anyways, as Haifisch played, I danced and boogied in my spot like it was a fuckin' party. I actually caught the woman next to me smiling at me. For this song, Richard and Paul swapped their sides of the stage for awhile. Then, much to my excitement, the song dropped off into a drum-oriented section. While the audience clapped along, Flake went up to the front of the stage and climbed into a raft. Then they pushed him out into the audience, and Flake got to crowd-raft over the pit! I was so happy they did crowd-rafting! Flake would point in the direction he wanted the crowd to move him, then he'd pantomime rowing along the sea of fans. At one point, he even pantomimed throwing out a fishing line and reeling in something big. Maybe he caught the real Doctor Haifisch, lol! Then Flake waved to the arena and we all cheered and waved back. When Flake made it back to the stage, he did an excited jig in time to the music. Till pointed at Flake and gestured wildly for us to cheer.

Just cuz I love the song, have a video:



Next up... Ich will! It was fairly obvious this song was starting, since Till's growling chant of "Ich will!" ("I want!") filled up the arena. The audience started clapping along to the beat. Ich will is a song made for concerts. The chorus comes complete with its own audience participation. When Till yells "Könnt ihr mich hören?" ("Can you hear me?"), the audience (or at least those who know the words) shout "Wir hören dich!" ("We hear you!"). When Till shouts "Könnt ihr mich sehen?" ("Can you see me?"), we respond "Wir sehen dich!" ("We see you!"). When Till shouts "Könnt ihr mich fühlen?" ("Can you feel me?") we respond "Wir fühlen dich!" (We feel you!"). Thus, Till responds, "Ich versteh euch nicht" ("I don't understand you"). I got the feeling the people in the audience who didn't know the words still wanted to shout along, so they made stuff up, lol. I couldn't remember the words exactly, so I had to shout what I thought it was! I don't really know German, lol. Partway through the song, while Till was singing, he shouted, in English, "show me your hands!" Well who could resist?! I threw my hand out in response. Anyways, the song ended with a big, sparky explosion, and Till immediately disappeared into the area beneath the drum set. The rest of the band quickly took off their instruments and left the stage. Hmm... more encore?

Anyways, since Ich will is my mom's favorite song, and she couldn't be at the show, I'll post the video! Enjoy Till's extraordinarily inappropriate microphone usage!



Once again, we waited. Melissa and I sat down and pondered what could be coming next. However, since Till went beneath the drum set, which is where the serious props are hiding, I had a feeling I knew what was coming. I turned out to be right!

A high-pitched whistle informed us it was time for Engel! Whoohoo! The doors beneath the drum set opened and a massive pair of metal wings emerged from the light and smoke. Till backed up slowly, giving everyone ample time to take in the sight of the monstrosity attached to his back. Then he turned around and stood there, somehow standing up straight beneath the towering wings. I don't have any goddamn idea how Till can wear that prop. The wings are a good fifteen feet long and solid metal. Incredible. As the female voice began to sing, "Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn, kann man uns am Himmel sehn. Wir haben Angst und sind allein..." ("Only once the clouds have gone to sleep can you see us in the sky. We are afraid and alone..."), Till sang along and the massive metal wings began to open, spreading out to their full wingspan. For those curious, the wings look like this:

Anyways, after the female singing part, the entire audience loudly screamed "Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein!" ("God knows I don't want to be angel!"). The audience seemed to have that bit of German memorized pretty well, lol. Till must have expected that, cuz he had us scream the line for him. When the female part started for the second time, the tips of Till's wings sparked and began to light on fire. Well, of course. Everything on Rammstein's stage is flammable, lol. Soon enough, flames began shooting out of Till's wings. Yup, everything on Rammstein's stage can also be used as a flamethrower, lol. It looks like this:

Epic. After Flake's spazzy keyboard solo, the entire length of Till's wings began to spark and erupt into flames. The next thing we knew, Till's wings were shooting flames from the tips, sparking flames along their edges, and flames were bursting skyward from the stage. Fire, fire, everywhere! As the song came to a close, the backdrop of the stage even started to explode! Whoo! As Flake played the airy ending music, Till's wings folded back and he slowly exited beneath the drum set. Amidst mass hysteria and screaming, the rest of the band came down to the first level. Paul purposely elbowed Till's pogo stick mic stand, causing it to wobble back and forth wildly like an upside-down pendulum. Then the band members lined up, two on each side, facing in towards the drum set. They each got down on one knee or bowed as Till returned to the stage from beneath the drum set. Then they all lined up at the front of the stage and got down one knee, their heads lowered in a bow. They stayed like that for quite some time as the audience shrieked and applauded and cheered. When they stood up again, Till took the microphone. Once again, I think it was all in English, but I didn't catch all of it (not just because of Till's thick, German accent, but also because he kinda mumbles). All I caught was, "we all thank you very, very much." Then the band members all took another bow. As the band exited the stage, Richard actually jumped down off the stage to greet some of the fans. Melissa and I were like, "whoa!"

And that was it. The insanity was over. People continued to holler and cheer, and some even stomped and continued chanting for Rammstein. Melissa and I quickly gathered up our stuff. But ugh, the t-shirt I put under my chair got covered in beer from the people behind us. Yuck! Oh well, nothing a quick run through the washing machine can't fix. Oh, speaking of which... remember the incredibly drunk mass of guys near us that I mentioned at the beginning? I guess they overdid it, cuz one of the guys left a massive pile of vomit on the floor. Good job, lol. Melissa and I joined the masses pushing to get back outside. Hungry, she and I bought a pretzel from a vendor to split. It was already almost midnight! Still, the madness didn't stop for everyone. Even by 1:00 am, Melissa and I could hear mobs of people running past our hotel window screaming "Rammstein! Whoo!" I guess the Rammstein fans were storming the streets well into the night, lol! At least everyone had a great time and were still excited!

So that was the concert! What an epic experience! Rammstein are true showmen. They played so many amazing songs and had so many amazing stunts. I'm so happy I was finally able to see them! And I hope this report wasn't too painful. At this point, I imagine my epitaph will one day read: "Here lies Jamie. She was wordy." Ah well, I write all this down as much to retain my own memory as any other reason. I also wrote as much detail as possible for my parents, who were supposed to be at the show but couldn't make it. Hope they enjoyed, and I hope other readers enjoy it too!

(Also, a special thanks to Jeremy Williams of herzeleid.com and the translators of affenknecht.com for lyrics and translations. I hope they don't mind that I looked to their translations as a point of reference, but I've been reading their translations for years. Fantastic websites! Credit must be given where credit is deserved!)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NEW YORK

Hokay, I'm officially back from New York and I've completed my epic mission of seeing Rammstein perform at Madison Square Garden. This post, however, will not be about Rammstein. After some debate, I've decided to separate my adventure in New York from my adventure at Rammstein. Sorry for the delay, but I think the blogs will go more smoothly this way.

So yeah, once again, THE RAMMSTEIN POST WILL BE AFTER THIS ONE. THIS POST IS NEW YORK ONLY. This one probably won't be as interesting or well-written, hahaha.

So anyways, this trip to New York was planned awhile back. As soon as I was assured a set of Rammstein tickets, my parents - who are also huge Rammstein fans - arranged plane and hotel reservations for the three of us to go to New York. However, not much later, my mother became sick and we decided it was best if she didn't go. If she didn't go, however, my father was unlikely to go. So where did that leave me? Well, I was going to go no matter what, because Rammstein have been #1 on my bucket list for years. But I didn't want to go alone. In the end, it was decided that one of the Rammstein tickets would be transferred to my friend and housemate Melissa. We also wanted to transfer the plane ticket to her, but it was against FDA regulations. My mom called and pleaded her case, and they agreed to at least refund her ticket so we could get Melissa a new one. Because of this, Melissa and I wound up taking the same flight to New York, but were stuck taking different flights back. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

On Friday, I had to do a fifteen minute presentation entirely in Japanese about school violence (yes, my group members and I picked the topic, lol). After that nastiness was over, I ran down to Madison's Memorial Union to pick up bus tickets. Melissa met up with me not much later and we hitched a bus down to Chicago, where my parents let us stay the night. Bailey was kind of afraid of Melissa, lol. He doesn't like strangers. Anyways, because our flight was at 7 am, we had to wake up at a miserable 4:00 in the morning. We were running on virtually no sleep, but we dragged ourselves up and took a taxi to O'hare airport. We got on the plane and it turned out to be an incredibly small one. Only four seats across. Not gonna lie, I felt really claustrophobic. Melissa and I were across the aisle from each other with an old, sneezing woman in between us. I spent most of the two hour flight trying to wish away my claustrophobia. Not fun. And embarrassing, when you consider my love of ultra-squished concerts. But it made me that much happier to finally land in New York city!

First thing's first, we had to get to our hotel. Just our luck, the hotel was directly across the street from Madison Square Gardens! And it was a damn fancy hotel. I asked my mom about it later and she said this hotel was actually cheaper than the other hotels that were farther away from the venue. Huh.

This was our hotel room:

(Lol, messy beds)

Our room even had a kitchen!

So then it was time to explore! First, while getting lost, we found a cute little puffball doggy! Look how fat and fluffy it is!

Now, one of the big things on our agenda was to go to the Chrome Hearts store in New York. Yeah, yeah, we're JRock fans, whatever, lol. Lotsa JRockers wear Chrome Hearts fashion and jewelry, and there are hardly any Chrome Hearts store in America. Plus, they have no online store, so if you wanna see their stuff, you've gotta go to the store. This is their display window:


The store had a butler and everything. Some dude in gloves let us in and then locked us in! Inside, lots of people were making very expensive-looking transactions. There was tons of jewelry on display, all of it super gaudy and super expensive. Most of the items didn't even bother to list their price, and when it did, it was scary. Melissa picked up a really cute hat, only to be met with a price tag of over $350. Ugh... no. I also recognized a lot of the stuff that JRockers have worn in the past. Lol, I'm so lame. I fell in love with this one leather bracelet with a sparkly buckle, but I didn't even want to find out how much it was. Melissa and I really just went to Chrome Hearts to say we went, but we never really intended to buy anything.

Next up, we went to Central Park. It was a surprisingly nice day for New York in December:


A parade of horse-drawn carriages went by...

A pretty statue:

A cool building:

Aaaaand a giant-ass menorah, lol:

We wound up on one of New York's big, fancy shopping streets where they had some really cool window displays. Unfortunately, the glare on the windows made the photos complete and utter shit. Buuuut, I figured I'd post them anyways. You can squint and try to see what made them cool, lol:



Melissa wanted to pose in front of Louis Vuitton, lol:

We went to the Diesel store... where little people dressed as elves handed us candy canes. Hmm...


And we found a really beautiful building:

The intricate details are amazing:

Sweeeeeeet...


We also stopped off at a sushi place for lunch and got some taro bubble tea.

Not much later, Melissa decided she wanted to try authentic New York hot dogs. I hate hot dogs, but decided to go along with it anyways. Don't I look thrilled?

Melissa's very happy about her hot dog:

Me... not so much, lol...

Btw, I thought the hot dog was disgusting, lol. I barely finished it DX

We also took turns posing in front of that weird LOVE thing, or whatever. I'm a lousy tourist, lol:


We saw the Radio City music hall...

Giant Christmas baubles...

And the Wiener Mobile, lol XD

Soon we wound up in Times Square, where I took an ass-load of pictures of some shit, lol:


Hehe... beer...

I'm proud of myself for capturing this image with a well-placed shadow, lol:

Chooooooocolaaaaaaaaaaaaate...

Speaking of which, Melissa and I totally went into the Lindt store. We bought about ten truffles each, lol.

M&M store with a long line to get in (which is why we didn't go in, lol):

More shit:

Fucking crowded...

And it looks much better at night:



My general feeling towards New York was fine, but Times Square pissed me off. I'm sure it's just cuz it was a Saturday before the holidays, but I found Times Square to be crowded, smelly, rude, and annoying. I couldn't wait to get away from it. There are no bathrooms anywhere in Times Square (including inside places like Starbucks) and there are long lines to get into everything. I started to get a very terrible urge to start slamming and pushing people. Ya know, Tokyo's crowded, but it isn't suffering from the horrible disorganization that New York is. I was really irritated with Times Square, seriously.

After escaping Times Square Hell, Melissa and I returned to our hotel area to find some food before Rammstein. We couldn't find anything close to the hotel that was fast enough, so we wound up at another sushi place, lol! But salmon over rice was very satisfying for me, so I couldn't complain. Then we ran over to Madison Square Garden!

[Insert completely epic fucking awesome Rammstein concert here]

After Rammstein, Melissa and I made our way back to the hotel (which was just across the street, derp). We picked up a soft pretzel to share and inhaled all our Lindt truffles, lol. Then we went to sleep.

Trouble started the following morning, while we were showering. I noticed I had a voice mail on my phone, so I listened to it, trying to figure out why my phone didn't ring during the night. The message turned out to be from United Airlines... saying my flight was canceled and was rescheduled to the next available flight... which was the following day. Well isn't that nice. When Melissa was out of the shower, I told her what happened. Of course, we had no idea if her flight was going either. For me, it wasn't the worst thing in the world if I couldn't get back to Madison till tomorrow. For Melissa, however... she had a final exam the next day (aren't we such wonderful students?). So it was kind of an emergency. So instead of going to Korea Town like we'd originally planned, we spent over an hour on hold with American and United Airlines trying to find out if Melissa's flight was canceled and if we could somehow get a goddamn flight back to Chicago ASAP.

Well, it turned out all flights to Chicago were canceled because it was windy (for fuck's sake). Hmm... okay, now what? Well, American Airlines finally found a flight for Melissa going to Chicago. She asked if they could switch me over to that flight somehow and they said there was one more seat, and reserved it for me with a confirmation code and everything. All I'd have to do is ask United Airlines to switch me over at the airport. Also, the plane would be leaving in less than two hours. We grabbed our shit and ran for it. We caught a taxi and rushed to the airport. When we got there, however, we discovered a massive line of people trying to get up to the United Airlines ticket counter - most of them waiting to reschedule a flight to Chicago. I explained to a staff member that I needed to get up there because I'd reserved a flight for another airline and it was leaving soon. And get this... he basically told me to fuck myself. Even though my transaction would take less than a minute, he told me he couldn't get me up there to do the switch because there'd be a "riot" if someone jumped the line. He said this, despite the fact that most people in line were looking at me sympathetically and shaking their heads at the staff member. I ran to American Airlines and they told me to go back to United Airlines. I went back to United and they, once again, told me to fuck myself and get in line. I said it was just take a moment and my plane was about to leave. He said "too bad."

Well, then there was only one thing I could do... I told Melissa to go. I told her to just catch the plane and leave. I mean, she had a final exam, how could I hold her back?

Now completely alone in New York, I got in line. The woman in front of me, who saw what happened to me, shook her head and called the airline "heartless." Yeah, seriously... I was on hold for an hour to reserve a ticket, and they wouldn't even let me have it. So now I was all alone in New York with no way of getting home. I waited in line for over an hour. When I got up to the ticket counter, the woman said everything was sold out. I asked about the other airlines and she said they were sold out too. I told her what had happened with the ticket reservation. She looked furious and asked who the hell wouldn't let me cut the line. I waved my arm vaguely and said "the staff." She scowled and told me she'd put me on standby, even though they weren't putting many people on standby anymore.

So now, with my standby ticket. I went through security and waited miserably at the ticket gate. Hours went by. I called my parents to tell them what had happened, especially since I might need another night at the hotel. After that, I was feeling lonely and called up Ashley. She kept me amused for awhile, but then they started calling standby names and I had to hang up. Every name they called was a disappointment. I knew I'd never make the list. And, sure enough, I failed. They said the ones who didn't make the list would be transferred to the list for another flight to Chicago. I sighed and moved myself over to another gate to wait. I got a text from Melissa saying she was back in Chicago. But there was a problem: if planes aren't flying into O'hare, our buses to Madison stop running. So we'd either be trapped in New York, or trapped in Chicago. But I knew it would still be better for me to get to Chicago cuz it's easier to be stranded with company than to be stranded alone.

Around that time, I got a text from Ashley. So here I was, trapped all alone in New York unsure of how to get home, and what do I find out from this text? Shou from UnsraW suffered a collapsed lung. I almost hit the ceiling. Ashley assured me he was okay, but all I could think was, "Shou, nooo!!!" I texted Ashley back telling her I'd call her as soon as I could. But now they were calling out standby names again. And, sure enough, my name wasn't called. I was running out of options.

I sat there, watching the plane board, feeling morbidly depressed. There was a group of Orthodox Jews sitting off to the side praying and bowing their heads and I was really tempted to go over there and ask them what their take was on "comeuppance." I mean, did I do something to deserve this? It had been the worst year of my life and I'd finally tried to go do something fun and look what happened. Did I do something wrong? Before I got the chance to go talk to the Jews, however, a furious-looking employee suddenly stormed out from behind the ticket counter and yelled, "who here is on standby?!"

I basically lunged at him. I mean... there's no other way to put it. I pounced. He ripped my standby ticket out of my hand and slammed it on the counter. "Transfer it," he growled. The woman behind the counter shrugged and put my ticket through the machine. And out popped a shiny new boarding pass. If I'd had less reserve, I would've burst out singing "I'VE GOT A GOLDEN TICKET!!!" I nearly ran onto the plane. Oh, what joy! A plane back to Chicago! Except our wheels broke, leaving us with a thirty minute delay. Sigh... I used that time to call up Ashley and find out what happened to Shou. I'm sure the UnsraW fans already know all about it, but I guess it was just a random thing and he's totally fine. Phew. Also, our flight had terrible turbulence. When the plane finally landed, everyone burst into applause, lol.

At O'hare, I managed to find Melissa. I grabbed some food (I hadn't eaten all day) and she told me she'd found an alternate way home. There was a Coach bus to Milwaukee, where we could transfer to a Badger Bus to Madison. Perfect. And that's just what we did. By 12:30 am we were back in Madison. It was a full 11 hours of traveling. What should have been a quick 6 hour trip was nearly doubled in time and quadrupled in effort.

Ugh...

But we made it back! And it was through such trials that our Rammstein experience felt that much more triumphant!

So now I shall begin to work on the Rammstein post, which should be a lot less annoying than my New York post! Brb!