Hey dear music friends!
Last Friday, a band that I happen to be very familiar with performed here in Stockholm, in Gröna Lund. You might also have heard of them, since I have been writing articles about their music ever since I started this blog. This band is called Mando Diao.
Now allow me at this point to explain a couple of things related to me and Mando Diao, because I believe that the term “familiar with” underestimates the whole situation.
When I was fifteen years old, meaning almost eleven years ago, I got in touch with Mando Diao’s music for the very first time. Needless to say that I endlessly admired their unique style and edge of sound. They seemed like no band I had heard before and their music followed me in everything I did as a teenager. School, work, obligations.
As the years got by and it was time for me to make up my mind about what I want to do in my life, it came to me completely natural and without the slightest shaft of doubt that I want to follow the music path in a country that I was completely unfamiliar with. I had never visited Sweden, didn’t know what it looked like and knew nobody here. I still remember a lot of my friends asking me how I could be so determined and not second-guessing my decision that I wanted to leave this place and move to Sweden. My answer to them was and always is with no fear “As long as there is music, I am going to be fine.”
The truth was though that in real life, moving away is never an easy task. And just like in my home country, here as well people kept asking me especially the first couple of years, “How can you be so positive and be in love with this country, when you have no clue about it? When you were not born here, when your background is the exact opposite of this way of life in Scandinavia.” And my answer was the same once again.
The truth was though that I never let the obstacles and the problems of an immigrant life stand in my way, but secretly put music always first as my fragile weapon throughout the years of my life here. It would be needless to say that the band that I admired the most and probably one of the very few reasons that I decided to move here was Mando Diao. I wanted to live, breathe and understand the way that their music is constructed, here. Their influences here, this way of life, this attitude, this point of view. Because no matter what I might have thought of felt back in the days, it cannot compare to when you actually live in the mother country where this music is created.
When I lived in Greece, I tried to be as close to their music as I possibly could, as I was member in their greek fanclub and was able to see them once live there and for the very first time, in Thessaloniki in December 2009, on their Give me Fire tour. Along with that, I tried to keep up with all their news and their promotional ways of marketing their music through their website, such as the different challenges and competitions that you could be a part of and gain points, points that would reward you with golden and platinum citizen passports in the Mando Diao community. And I did it all. Challenges, promotion, communicating with several other fanbases, anything needed to be feeling close to their art, while on the other side of the world.
In 2011, when I moved to Sweden, I didn’t lose any time and followed their music journey here. Now this was probably a nodal point in their carriers because they decided to take a step back in 2012, and try something new, with a group of artists, musicians, producers, graffiti artists and many more creative nature spirits called Caligola. I was there when Caligola performed in Stockholm, in each and every performance of theirs, in clubs, in record stores, in Gröna lund, simply to show my support for their music.
The year that followed, Mando decided that they wanted to be Mando again and released a record that went multi times platinum, a cultural legacy for the Swedish nation, called Infruset. Infruset is a record made by the poems of the Swedish poet and writer Gustaf Fröding and the music of Mando Diao. Needless to mention again, that I attended this tour more than three times, in Skansen, in Stockholm’s culture festival and in their hometown in Borlänge Sweden.
In 2014 and with the rest of Europe hanging over Mando Diao’s future record release internationally, (the last one before it was in 2009 with their album Give me Fire), Mando released a record for their wider audience called “Aelita.” Now Aelita record turned out to be extremely controversial for almost all of their international Fanbase. New songs, made in a way that no Mando Diao record was made before. Songs filed up with the synthesizers, completely transformed to the superficial computer sound, almost impossible to understand or relate to. Their stage performance changed completely as well. The man (Gustaf Norén) that used to say he dresses in black simply because he wants the music to drag the attention not the clothes or the outside look in a band, now dresses up with extravaganza clothes, bathroom towels, tennis hats and a lot of times, just his underwear on stage. People calling them a big flop, fans that had supported them for so long not having faith in them anymore and getting completely confused both by their music and their looks. Mando Diao family members attacking fans on Mando’s official fan page on Facebook saying “If you want the same sound over and over go listen to a band like The Hives.”
I personally turned out to be too confused as well. As I had already started working with blogging and wanting to do more with Mando Diao than just attend their show from the audience’s point of view, I soon found out that Mando Diao performed at least here in Stockholm in some sort of a secrecy, like the fact for instance that you had to take part in competitions to win tickets, otherwise tickets were not available for general sale, or the fact that Mando performed for very few in radio stations or Volvo presentations, or having Dj set sessions in clubs and bars that nobody ever mentioned anything about. Now when I applied for photo access in November 2014 in their performance in Stockholm Annexet as a part of their Aelita tour, I was rejected. I guess it must be because my blog and work in Mando diao’s management team might not be as fancy as in Volvo or NRJ radio or SVT. Anyhow, I did not have the chance to see and shoot them in their Aelita tour, only from Youtube videos and from what other people said about their performances.
At this point, I did though notice something that got me more disappointed that any press rejection; Björn Dixgård – The second founding member of Borlänge’s most successful band; At this very point in the Aelita era, he seemed sad. He seemed to me that like he stood in the background and didn’t let his talent show with all this foolishness that was going around. He seemed like he had to tolerate all of this. As if he had to go through with it like he didn’t want to but didn’t have a choice either. Like something was going on that was more than just artistic arguments.
The news didn’t take too long to be revealed and then somewhere in 2015 Gustaf Norén makes a huge statement that he leaves what he once created himself, the band Mando Diao. The news tore me apart. Made me completely unable to think about anything Mando related, when Mando is not Mando anymore without Gustaf. This is when I wrote an article called “Mando without Diao”, one that still gets a lot of traffic from several countries all around the world.
From what I could understand, I believe that their paths split because the artistic arguments were too big to handle. Like one band member was living in the East, and one of them in the West. At that point I didn’t know which one lives where artistically, but I did have my suspicions. And these suspicions came true last Friday night.
Mando Diao have not released a new record yet, but what they did do was reform. They did get a new lead guitar player that stands in the place of where Gustaf once was. With Björn Dixgård in the vocals and rhythm guitar, C.J. in the bass, Daniel Haglund on the keyboard and Patrik Heinkipieti on the drums.
A couple of days ago, I did have the pleasure to see one of the new reformed band’s performances. I did apply for photo access but once again didn’t get any because hey! big news I am not the Aftonbladet nor the expressen newspaper and since I already mentioned it, obviously a livelihood of Mando Diao true and pure support means nothing to the Mando Diao management team. Last days’ rejection probably makes it four years in the row of me trying to create a decent and professional piece on Mando Diao’s music. I wasn’t informed about any photo/ press access of this show, not from any Gröna lund associates nor any Mando Diao workers either.
Anyhow once again, at least I would be able to watch the show and have a clear opinion about the new Mando Diao. Around eight in the evening and with an audience filled up with all sorts of ages, from sixteen year olds to eighty year olds, Mando Diao were about to hit the stage. No extravaganza stage equipment this time except a silver curtain and the band’s name in silver glitter letters in the background. I was too curious to see what they are going to sound like. What they are going to look like. What songs they are going to say. Is this new kid good enough to fill Gustaf’s shoes or is he going to turn the band into another more new direction? And the rest of the members, do they still have their original sound or did they turn into new horizons as well? Questions over questions, trying to supplement my worry over a band that I can easily say I dedicated my heart and soul to.
A couple of minutes after eight and with this Gröna Lund reference guy saying “Ladies and gentlemen they are back!” (was it really so..?) , Björn Dixgård jumps on stage and along with him the new guitar guy ( forgive me I don’t know his name nor could I find it) , and then familiar faces, C. J, Patrik and Daniel.
“Yellow burning thing, it’s a dirty sin I know, I’m on the pavement of my own mind it’s silly…”
Yes. A song from a very old era to open their last performance for this summer. Björn Dixgård; A passionate enthusiast whose voice surrounds my very teenage existence. A true, rock n’ roll, deep, untamed voice, fearless and unique. A real professional that turned out to be the one who successfully saved the band from this last couple of years’ unending storm. A different kind of an alchemist.
And then the new guy who in my opinion fits the band like a glove. Creative, full of spirit, putting his own touch into the songs’ solo guitar parts. I never though that I could say this and didnt really know what to expect from this performance, but I didn’t miss Gustaf for a second. It seemed like he was never there in the first place. This new kid seemed such a good fit, that at some certain parts he looked like he almost moved and acted like Gustaf Norén. And I am saying this with a best intentions.
The band played good old Mando songs. “The band” , “Mr. Moon “ , “You got nothing on me”, “Never seen the light of day” , with an audience jumping up and down, but oh wait a second; there was something funny that I noticed; Not many people knew about the very old Mando songs. Maybe a lot of them got familiar with their music since their smash hit “Dance with somebody” or the older ones heard of them when they created the national legacy with Gustaf Fröding’s poems. Anyhow, the thing that screamed and spoke volumes last Friday was this; That Mando Diao are indeed back. They are here, and this is their sound. I heard Gustaf Norén once replying to people who had doubts about their Aelita era, saying “Mando Diao have no sound”. Well I got news for you dear Gustaf and try not to act surprised. Mando diao do have a sound. And it is the sound that I experienced a couple of days back in Gröna. Maybe you should just accept that.
And last but not least, the show could not close with a more touching final. As there was a couple of songs left, after the encore, I didn’t notice it visually but on the sound. The drum sound turned out to be louder and more intense. As if it got doubled in a way. I turned my head into the other side of the scene and there it was, the ear doesn’t lie. Sam. It was Sam. Good old, kind Sam. And Patrik too. They both played drums on the last couple of songs. I have never seen a two-drummers performance live before. It was not only unique but also surreal in a way that maybe only I can understand. And not to forget, Mats was there too. Good old Mats that I saw for the first time in 2009. Just like not a day had passed by. What can I say more, except that this was a true example of not to give up on the things and the people that you love. Things don’t always turn out the way we want them to. Not work, not music, not life. But we shouldn’t give up. I try to say that to myself so many times during the day. I almost gave up on Mando during their Aelita era, and when Gustaf decided to leave. And I am sorry I did so. I only did it because I couldn’t understand any of it. But I did secretly have a hope within me that a day will come and Mando will be Mando again. One of the very few reasons I chose to make Sweden my home for now. :)
And one last thing before I reveal a couple of Mando photos during the years; hey dear managers, associates, you that make the important money-wise decisions and rule a band’s life in the most despicable way. Take all of this livelihood article and shovel it straight up your ass. Maybe then you’ll get it. Because no matter what you do, and no matter how greedy you might be, at the end of the day you cannot kill this spirit. And you cannot kill good music. Good music gets noticed. Always has been and always will be.
Now to close up this very personal article, I decided to share some of my Mando Diao personal belongings that I have kept safe for more than ten years, and tag them so that you can understand Mando Diao through my eyes all of this time.
Have a great new week my friends with lots of music and positivity!
Mando Diao in Greece, December 2009
Mando Diao with Caligola at Bengans Record Store in Stockholm – March 2012
With Caligola in Club Sommar – Summer 2012 (Photo taken by Sommar’s fanpage on Facebook)
With Caligola in Gröna Lund – August 2012
July 2013 in Skansen-Stockholm
Stockholm Culture Festival August 2013
In Borlänge August 2013
Last Friday night in Gröna Lund- Stockholm