As we walked on our way to the Summer Theatre, Basia explained to me that Inowrocław was only a small town and everywhere is close to everywhere else. Soon enough we were walking down streets that I recognised from a previous visit and as luck would have it, our route to the Summer Theatre passed right by the hotel where I was staying for the night. I dashed in to the hotel, checked-in, went to my room, changed from travelling clothes to concert-going clothes, jeans swapped for shorts, t-shirt swapped for different t-shirt, and re-emerged ono the street where the others had waited for me.
They had waited for me but I wish they had not. Not because I didn’t want them to, it was nice that they did but because when I got to my hotel room and opened the door, it was enormous. The room, not the door. I wanted to explore. I even had an outside veranda, a sun-deck if you will complete with recliner. Not that I was going to have time to recline on it, well, not while the sun was still in the sky and the sun was very definitely in the sky, it was a beautiful, blue-sky, cloudless sort of day, and quite hot to boot.
Set fazers to fun.
Arriving at the entry gate to the Summer Theatre there was the queue of people waiting to get in and others mingling about, not yet willing to get into the queue. More people who I knew, more greetings. I still find it odd but nice that I can fly a thousand kilometres and end up in a group of people who know me, who call out to me, “Hey, Tony!”, there are waves and smiles, hugs and kisses and handshakes. This fazed me a bit at first, when I first started going to concerts in Poland. I was, not a celebrity, perish the thought, but a bit of a curiosity, this strange Englishman who keeps turning-up.
Slowly we filed into the theatre grounds. It’s hot, time for a cold beer. The ground in front of the stage rises slightly and all the seats are set out on this gentle rise, to the right-hand side, looking away from the stage there is a recess that stays at “ground-level”, in here there are stalls selling food and beer, and a handful of tables to sit at while eating. Set out before these stalls there are other stalls selling LPs, CDs, t-shirts etc. Beer procured, I went and sat with some others on the first row of seats in front of the stage.
I love going to these concerts, I love meeting all these people that I have made friends with but, as I have said elsewhere, when they are all talking in Polish I haven’t got a hope of keeping-up or even understanding most of what’s going on. To their credit, most of the people I know in Poland speak at least a little English, more English than I speak Polish that’s for sure. Some of them speak very good English and are quite chatty but often, after initial greetings I tend to keep myself to myself at these affairs, just so that the language barrier is not so apparent. Maybe that’s the wrong thing to do, maybe I should just be right in there, trying to understand and yes, at times I am and I do but right now I was sitting quietly waiting for the first band to take the stage.
Many who are first really ought to be last, and many who are last should be first.
I have said before that musical appreciation is a very subjective thing. The headline act at today’s concert was a band I’d never heard of before, “Lacrimosa”, a Germano-Swiss, Goth band. I’d never heard of them before but plenty of Goth girls all lined up at the railings directly in front of the stage had, all dressed in lace and black and black lace. The band I’d come to see, the band that had sold it to me was the opening act, a Swedish band called “Agusa”.
This is my third visit to the Ino-Rock Festival; two years ago the headline act was the British band “IQ” one of my all-time favourites. Last year the headline was Ex Marillion front-man, Fish. Being a Marillion fan in no small way, going to see Fish, in Poland was of course a no-brainer.
This year however the opening act was the draw. I discovered Agusa on the Bandcamp website, I was looking for, something or other, I can’t remember what but I came across this band and gave them a listen. I liked what I heard, keyboard-led with a very 60’s psychedelic, progressive feel. Anyway, I liked it and then there they were going to be in Inowrocław.
Going back a couple of years, when I saw IQ at Ino-Rock in 2014 the evening turned a little chilly, not really cold but cold by comparison with the heat of the day. The IQ merchandise stall had “hoodies” for sale, with the IQ band logo embroidered on the breast. What I was thinking was that one of those would be ideal and also provide a pocket, somewhere to put my beer can. I wondered over to the merch stall which was staffed by two ladies who I have subsequently seen at IQ gigs in the UK. Choosing my moment I walked up to the stall and in my best Polish I said, “Przepraszam, chciałbym kupić hoodie”. They looked at me; one smiled and said “One hundred and twenty”, I shrugged and looked back, “One hundred and twenty”, she said a little slower. It’s the British way with foreigners, it really is. I was going to reply with, “Ale ile to kosztuje?” but I could no longer keep-up the pretence, I laughed and said, “Sorry, I’m English”, “Oh, you…” she replied and then smiled.
The auditorium is filling up; the sun is slowly slipping behind the trees at the back of the arena but still high enough to cast dappled shadows across the stage. Suddenly I remember about the cheese in my pocket. I’m wearing “cargo shorts” and the cheese is in one of the big pockets. I get up and start to look around for its intended recipient. There she is – there they are – two thirds of “Signal To Noise Ratio”, Marysia and Przemek.
I had seen “Signal To Noise Ratio”, a three piece band from Warsaw, earlier in the year in Łódź at the Łódź House of Culture. There were three bands playing that particular evening and SNR were the opening act. I knew and liked the other two acts but for me the highlight of the evening was “Signal To Noise Ratio” and their own particular brand of homage to 60s psychedelia.
I walked over to Marysia and Przemek who were in conversation and exchanging greetings with others. Seeing my opportunity I caught Marysia’s eye, and introducing myself I pulled the cheddar truckle from my pocket and held it out to her with the words… actually, I can’t remember what I said. “A small present from England”, in Polish I think. Anyway, there was a moment of hesitation and then she realised what was being proffered. A big smile spread across her face. Of course, we had to pose for a photo with the cheese, smiles all-round.
Kärlek från Agusa
Soon after that, Agusa walked on stage and the music began. In short order I too was down at the front of the stage. The Goth girls weren’t giving-up their prime positions at the railings but there was room enough and I stood there enjoying the music. The Swedes on stage didn’t speak Polish but they did have a good grasp of English. The Poles in the audience probably didn’t speak Swedish but most of them had at least some grasp of English. The lone Englishman in the audience had the upper hand, ha, ha!
There was a fair bit of between-song banter from the stage, including an observation that Poland has the best ice cream in the world. That went down very well with the audience, but what was going down very well with me, and not just me judging by the reception each song received, was the music.
Hot August night.
The sun was slipping lower in the sky; the shadows were lengthening on this hot August evening and the best band of the evening came to the end of their set. I had thoroughly enjoyed it and was wondering how any of the following bands could possibly better it. They didn’t of course, not for me but the next band up; also a Swedish band was pretty good. By the time the third band came on stage it was getting dark, I had also consumed one or two more beers and was feeling the need for food. Eventually the headline act, Lacrimosa, appeared. No doubt the Goth girls down at the front were going wild, well, as wild as Goths go. I was at the back, under the trees just taking-in the general vista, the atmosphere of the whole thing.
It was a spectacle, a performance, I could understand that but the music wasn’t exactly to my taste. Food was needed. I went to the beer dispensary for another beer and to peruse the food on offer from the neighbouring establishment. Then I spotted someone I knew, Robert, sitting at one of the “food” tables. Robert has a very good command of English so I went and sat with him and we chatted for a bit, both agreeing that maybe Lacrimosa wasn’t exactly to our taste. Deciding what I wanted to eat I went and bought a sausage, just a sausage with a bread roll and a dollop of mustard. Very tasty, not as tasty as the sausage that I had been treated to in Kraków but tasty nevertheless; so much so that I went back for a second one.
While sitting there with Robert, mopping-up the last of the mustard from my second sausage, and chatting about Brexit – a recurring theme I have to expound upon when in Poland, a chap sat down at our table with three beers. Obviously thirsty I thought, but he leaned over and said, in English, “Hello, are you Robert?” Robert answered that he was, “And you’re Tony?” He said looking at me. I agreed that I was, “Here, have a beer” he said pushing the beverages towards us. He introduced himself; he was Tomasz, a native Pole but living in England for the past 12 years or so. Tomasz is a member of a Facebook group that Robert and I are also members of, he had spotted and recognised us so he’d come over to say hello, with beer… I like this man.
A good old chat ensued, Lacrimosa were no doubt giving it their all and the Goth girls were being whipped into a frenzy, maybe, but us chaps were getting into more down to earth things. It was nice really; to have one of those rambling, semi-drunken conversations that rambling semi-drunken blokes get into from time to time.
And people twenty stories down…
And then the concert was over, people were leaving, goodbyes were being said, do zobaczenia, cześć, na razie, pa pa. I walked back to my hotel through the warm night with the warm glow that alcohol, good music and good company provides. Now to fully explore the hotel room and then get some kip.
There was music, music of a different calibre. I walked out onto the veranda, there were people down there, not like coloured currents in the street, I was only one flight up but there were people partying down there and the music, which went on until 3 am. I slept, eventually, and woke some hours later very strangely none the worse for anything. I went out onto the sun-deck, it was another lovely morning.
My train back to Poznań wasn’t for a while so after breakfast I walked up to the market square and sat by the fountain. It was a cloudless morning; the sun was already quite hot. I contemplated just staying here. What’s the worst that could happen if I were to just stay here? It’s not a very serious question but I do find myself asking it.
A bit of a stroll through Inowrocław, back to the hotel, check-out and walk to the railway station, once more, arriving nice and early to afford some train-spotting time.
By now the sun was high in the sky and really hot. I checked which platform my train was due to arrive at and then did my customary walk from one end of the platform to the other, and back again before seeking refuge under the platform canopy.
Upon arrival at Poznań I walked the short distance to my hotel; when I got to my room, in spite of it being a beautiful day, I flopped onto the bed and turned the TV on. I fell asleep. Must have needed it.
Waking a couple of hours later I stared around my room, unsure of where or when I was. I had a panicky feeling that I may have overslept and that I ought to get down for breakfast; then I remembered. It was still a lovely day outside so I went out for a walk ending up once more in the market square. I went looking for a place to eat, that’s easy enough but I wanted to find a place slightly off of the square. I fell upon a Mexican restaurant. Now, I like Polish food, it’s really good but I also like Mexican so finding a Mexican eatery up a side alley off of the main square I decided to go in.
After studying the menu I decided upon what seemed to be a Polski Fusion dish, half Polish and half Mexican, the centre of which was a large piece of pork. I have observed elsewhere that portion control can be a bit, er, wayward in some restaurants in Poland, this was no exception. I struggled to eat the enormous amount of food and eventually had to admit defeat. “Thank you”, I said to the girl who came to clear my plate away, “It was delicious but there is just too much of it.” She smiled and nodded.
Forgetting to take my own advice about asking for the bill somewhat before the end of the meal, I had plenty of time to sit and digest what I had eaten before the bill arrived. I paid and left. Walking back through the market square the night life was in full swing, diners dining, drinkers drinking, promenaders promenading. Once again that “What if I just stayed here” thought surfaced and then gently sank out of sight.
The journey home.
The next day was cooler and fresher than the past few days. After breakfast I went for a last walk in Poznań and then collecting my bag from the hotel, I went to the railway station. Why? Trains…
From the railway station I got a cab to the airport. See? Method in the madness.
The flight back to Stansted was uneventful and we arrived on time into a warm English late summer evening. The Stansted Express even seemed to be flying along at a fair old pace, finally living up to its “Express” name.
Upon arrival at Liverpool Street I had to do a bit of ducking and diving on the Underground as the Met. Line platforms were closed for some reason or other but I ended up at Moorgate, Metropolitan Line platforms and waited for the Chesham train, which arrived after several Uxbridge trains had gone through. I’ve mentioned this before too but why on earth are there so many Uxbridge trains?
Chesham train boarded, I sat back for the journey home. Two nights in Poznań and one in Ino, great music, for the most part, and great company. I sat and watched the landscape roll by.