No excuses, no apologies, no regrets

Ragnar Ólafsson – Meskalina, Poznań; September 7th, 2020

The first show in Poznań and the penultimate show of the tour became the glorious reopening of Meskalina before it actually opened. The small place was brimming with joy and for this gig all bets were off and anything seemed possible. We had a great night overall where Poznań once again revealed its special magic and traditions were upheld. 😀

When I woke up in Wrocław it did not look like a good day. I’m not sure if I was still drunk or already hungover, but either way I was dehydrated and headachy. Also I didn’t sleep enough and felt really sad and vulnerable for some reason. One pain pill and a hot shower later I was slightly better, but would have much rather crawled back into bed than get on a train and travel. However, I did make it to Poznań and had only one goal: get to my hotel and get more sleep. Sadly things didn’t work out as planned, because despite confirmed check in time they did not open the door when I rang the bell and I could not reach them via phone either. Luckily the reservation could still be canceled and thanks to booking.com  I quickly found a new hotel, ten minutes away and closer to the venue. Finally I had a bed and some quiet to sleep.

A two hour nap later I felt considerably better and hungry so I ate some and got ready for the gig. The Meskalina, absolutely my favorite venue in Poznań and one of the best in all of Poland had been closed for about a year and was now reopening in a new location. They did not get quite ready on time so this nights gig would be the first one, before they even officially opened their doors. I had not been to the location yet and was just walking about in search for the entrance, when B. (the owner) came along, remembered me from a gig in February and showed my the way. Soundcheck was still ongoing so I had to wait outside. M. came out to get something from the car and we chatted briefly. A while later J. and her boyfriend arrived and soon after they let us in. Suddenly I was extremely hungry so I grabbed a chair and went back out in search for food.

Returned after a quick snack, hugged Kathia and Raggi, said hello to a few familiar people and settled down. Still wasn’t feeling all that great, but immediately liked the new venue. No use complaining either, I had certainly earned that hangover. It  was small with the stage in one corner and maybe 30 seats. Lights were nice and I could feel great expectations in the air. Everyone was getting ready for the show – Raggi was shadow-boxing side stage, all smiles and ready to go.

First we heard from Kathia though. This was a hometown show for her and thus extra special. She had friends and family in the room and played a brilliant set for all of us. I don’t even know what to say about her songs any more. They are really amazing and I can’t get over the fact that she is only 18 – with so much talent she hopefully will go far. For now,  I and probably everyone else in the room was mesmerized by her performance and we all cheered for her loudly.

This time we got a break between sets and all the doors were opened to air out the room for a bit. Even though the chairs were placed at a distance from each other we probably should have all been wearing masks. Just like at all the other gigs few of us did, myself not included. Have I forgotten about the ongoing pandemic or stopped caring? Not really, but I do admit it felt good not to think about it for a few hours. When I set out on this tour I knew I was taking a risk and I have absolutely no excuse. What I can say though is that I have not continuously felt this much alive, happy and mentally healthy in a long time. After months of dread, fear and sadness, it finally feels like I have my life back. So while I have no excuses, I have no regrets either. Once I get back home I will go back to being a hermit, who only goes out for work and bare necessities. Oh and get Covid tested obviously.

Raggi stepped on stage and started with adjusting the microphone and greeting us. He mentioned how nervous he felt and that he’d start the show slowly today and joked that later he’d take his clothes off and stage dive. I’ve definitely seen him do the latter, but somehow it didn’t seem like that kind of a night. 😉 The first song, as expected, was ‘SSDD’, followed by ‘Wine’ – a fitting start to ease us into the show. He showed of his Polish skills and promised to teach us some Icelandic. After “skál” it was “umferðaröngþveiti” and he claimed it meant “I love you” – I giggled, even more so when someone commented “that’s complicated love”. My mood instantly got better and he told us what it really means (traffic jam).

‘A Prayer’ felt really intense that night. Awesome! He asked Kathia back on stage. They sang ‘Minor Scratch’ first and I noticed that Raggi’s voice was slightly lower than usual, but just as good. There is no way for me to describe properly how much I love the song, should just stop trying. He spoke about different forms of storytelling (writing versus songwriting) and traveling to get inspiration and commented that ‘Mexico’ was not the most original title considering it is a song written in Mexico about Mexico. As he started playing he turned and for a second the guitar gots tuck in the back of Kathia’s dress. It caused some laughter.

Next we heard about his trip to “Mekka” which for a songwriter is Nashville, Tennessee and driving motorcycles in the smoky mountains. He introduced ‘Water’ and ended with saying that he doesn’t understand how he wrote the song two days before the accident it is about. Usually people stay quiet at that point, but this time some found that funny. It was weird for a moment, but did not take any of the song’s strength away. It is absolutely a masterpiece. It always makes me sad and very often brings me to tears, but that is exactly as it should be. He then introduced ‘Shine’ as “another song about death” and explained what it is really about. That very rarely happens and always creates a special atmosphere. Then he talked about using the metaphor of a trip to mars and the things one would miss… “like Polish piroggy” – the joke broke the tension. And still the song got to me as it always does. <3

‘Time’ brought us more stories about Mexico and Tequila, before we mentally traveled to the Mississippi again and hard about how each travel destination brings different inspiration and thus the river brought the blues – ‘Muddy Waters’ was great. Raggi taught us more Icelandic, throwing complicated words at us. Someone in the audience threw it right back at him with a complicated Polish word and he just replied “Gesundheit”. 😀 “lalala” was easy though and we all managed to sing along nicely to ‘Örlög’. Without further ado he went right into ‘Bravery’ and hell yes it rocked!

Kathia was back for more duets, but first he had to tell us how a blue note came flying out of the air and lead to ‘Message’. If perfection has a name it should be the title of this song. Just wow! ‘Petals’ of course was in no way less beautiful. These two songs are a killer combo. <3 It was time for the glockenspiel, the Borow-Cow and ‘Dragonfly’ – how did we get there that quickly? They all had fun with it and so did we. 😀

We demanded encores and – as tradition has it – Raggi played Enrique Inglesias’ ‘Hero’ for us. It really made me grin, because he mixed up the lyrics just as much as I always do when I attempt to play it on the ukulele. Who cares? – it was fun and everyone was singing along loudly! Especially funny was Raggi’s running commentary on how bad the lyrics are. 😉 Of course he could not leave us without ‘Southern Nights’ and again we got a great sing along going together with Kathia and Bartek.

We kept cheering, even though someone put music on and what I had secretly hoped for happened: We got another encore – murder ballads of course. Again they joked about Kathia singing Nick Cave’s part and for a moment I thought they actually might do the song with the roles reversed, but they didn’t. However, they totally destroyed it by turning it into stand up comedy about halfway through. Raggi started the second verse with “On the second day I brought her a flower” and then added, spoked, all the other things he brought like “a box of chocolates, six seasons of friends and frozen pizza”. He screwed up the lyrics after and Kathia was just like “What are you doing?” – it all went downhill, i.e. got funnier from there. When the wild rose got killed with a rock he added how he kissed her but the face was all bloody, how it was hard to get stains out of a white shirt and how he left false evidence at the crime scene. I laughed really hard at that and how no idea how they managed to even sing the rest of the song. *giggles* ‘Sleep now’ the started standing at the edge of the stage and continued with a walk into the room, where it eventually morphed into a reprise of ‘Hero’ for which Raggi dropped on his knees in front B., singing to him. Sadly the room was too dark to take pictures, so you’re gonna have to take my word for it. The song ended with B. and Raggi standing arm in arm and all of us singing along. Perfect show was perfect!

We stood around and hugged and chatted and joked for a while. I felt an early onset of post tour depression, but was still really happy. All of us were tired and there was not going to be any going out that night. so we said goodbye with a final hug and soon I was home for a good night’s sleep. Just one more time my dear.

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
A Prayer
Minor Scratch
Mexico
Water
Shine
Time
Muddy Waters
Örlög
Bravery
Message
Petals
Dragonfly

Hero
Southern Nights

Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now
Hero (reprise)

Ragnar Ólafsson – m.i.s.s. is in town tour – seven gigs down, one to go.Next stop: Poznań

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Gorgeous venue, pre gig toast and an extra encore

Ragnar Ólafsson – Stary Klasztor, Wrocław, September 6th, 2020

It seems, I can still work some magic 😉 – traditionally, whenever I claim one show cannot be topped, the next one is even better. I had loved the show in Chorzów and thought it was the highlight of the tour, but then Wrocław was even better. How that was even possible I don’t know, but as Kathia said to me after the show “We did it. We topped yesterday!” You did indeed. It was perfect in absolutely every way, for sure and 11 on a ten scale. 😀

Got a good night’s sleep in Chorzów and easily made it to Wrocław by train. It was a long walk to my hostel and when I got there I realized I’d made a mistake in the booking so I needed to go to another location of theirs. Thus, it took me an hour to finally have a room, but it actually got me a lot close to the venue – win! Spent a nice day relaxing, had some food (not enough I learned later that night) and got to the venue before they opened. Said hello to everyone, got a few hugs and had to wait a little before I got it. It was a gorgeous former chapel with stained glass windows and we had lawn chairs to sit in.

Turns out the show was sold out too, every seat was taken. Just before the show Raggi came over to say hello. He’d been working on a music project for the past two nights and just made the deadline that morning. I’d brought Salmiakki to toast to that and he decided that now was the time to do it. So we drank to a good show!

Kathia was up first though, singing and playing her heart out. I could totally close my eyes and just get lost in her voice. As every night she started with the Polish loop station song, where to me her voice is just another instrument in a great mix of guitar, tambourine and rattle. Next was one of her English songs that has become my favorite over the past days, but I still haven’t asked about song titles. 😉 Then another Polish song on the guitar where I cannot even guess any of the lyrics but it’s sung with so much feeling that it doesn’t matter.  <3 She switched to the piano for a bit, song one gorgeous song in English and one in Polish, before she got back to the loop station for he last one and got everyone to clap along. This audience was loud and they went along all the way, cheering her on. I’m sure none of us would have minded an encore.  This was a promising start.

Raggi kicked off his show slowly with ‘SSDD’ and like the night before it worked for me. The sound at this venue was great too, which became especially noticeable with ‘Wine’. He had stepped to the front of the stage to play it and the audience was listening quietly. After the second verse, the guitar strap came off on one side and he had to fix it before he could play on. 😀 The audience was really responsive too and cheered for this.

He made introductions in Polish, then switched to English and explained the little ritual we had witnessed before the show where he got in a circle with Kathia and Bartek and Bartek asked “Who let the dogs out?” while they shouted “Who” – a pre show prayer of sorts. He asked us to give Kathia another round of applause, only he kept calling her Katka. Tired brain? 😉 ‘A Prayer’ was back on the setlist and this night’s version was perfect. I love the power of the song.

Kathia joined him again and we learned they’d met the previous year in Puszczykowo and Raggi had liked her voice so much he’d asked Bartek to invite her back. I fully understand why. She’s a brilliant singer. ‘Minor Scratch’ was perfect and ‘Mexico’ gets better every night. It is so much nicer when they sing it together. The sound was generally great that night and the audience as really into it. 😀

I don’t think there are any more ways in wich I can express how much I love ‘Water’ – between this song and ‘Minor Scratch’ a concert is already amazing, no matter what else gets put on the setlist. This night it seemed to sound especially good and together with ‘Shine’ that followed, it brought me close to tears. Each song alone offers enough emotions to make me cry, but both together are almost too much to take. <3 The rest of the audience agreed and cheered loudly.

Luckily, ‘Time’ is a lighter song that chased away the sadness. Raggi told us it was his favorite song on this tour. I think it was also the only time I heard him speak about Patreon so far on the tour. While he was tuning his guitar, someone’s phone made a sound and he noted that it was in the same key. 😀 I had a random Bruce gig flashback because he mentioned how people like Springteen have someone to hand them different guitars between songs. I almost yelled “Kevin!” (Kevin Buell, Bruce’s long time guitar tech) but nobody would have gotten the joke. 😀

Afterwards he explained how he writes different songs in different places and played ‘Muddy Waters’ for us which not only made me fully smile again, but got a great clap along going in the end. Hell yeah! He kept on rocking the house with a powerful version of ‘Bravery’ and then asked Kathia back to the stage. Their duets are a highlight every night and that is a lit to be said for a concert that is not short of great moments songs I love deeply. Both, ‘Message’ and ‘Petals’ were absolutely amazing. <3 We did not stop clapping for quite some time when they were done.

They both decided we had been the best audience so far and closed the show with ‘Dragonfly’, with Bartek joining them as always. It is still not one of my favorites, but I still enjoy watching them have fun with it every night. Loud cheers had them back on stage soon for ‘Southern Nights’ and stories about life on the river. The song was so much fun and ended with everyone clapping along and forming one big choir. 😀

I had been filming the full show and ended with just under ten minutes left on my SD card – phew!. Only then the incredible happened and we clapped and cheered so much they came back for another encore! I tried changing the cad, but somehow my camera would not read the replacement, so back in with the old one and hope for the best. We got to hear the murder ballads hat night. ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ together with Kathia, which sounded lovely and then Ask the Slave’s ‘Sleep now’, during which Raggi walked all the way through the room and out in the back. Just as he returned my SD card ran and I filmed the rest with my other camera. He walked all the was back and reprised ‘Southern Nights’ with all of us singing along one last time. Clearly this was the most perfect show of the tour (or at least of the shows I had seen). Wow! <3

We all hugged afterwards and once the place had calmed down a bit and most people had left, the tour family got together and finished the Salmiakki. 😀 Since Raggi was done with his side job for now, everyone agreed on an after party and we moved on to a pub in the same building. It was a long ass after party during which I got very drunk, spent a lot of time chatting with M. about tattoos and probably many profound things I cannot recall right now :), the wine kept flowing, people got lost and found and we all stayed pretty much until closing time. That’s the way that we wanna go!

Setlist

SSDD
Wine
A Prayer
Minor Scratch
Mexico
Water
Shine
Time
Muddy Waters
Bravery
Message
Petals
Dragonfly

Southern Nights

Where the wild Roses grow
Sleep now
Southern Nights (reprise)

Ragnar Ólafsson – m.i.s.s. is in town tour – six gigs down, two to go. Next stop: Poznań

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