September 30, 2017 was a night that I had been looking forward to for a long time…about a year actually. Dark Tranquillity is one of my favorite bands, and I was fortunate to have been granted an interview. I didn’t know with whom the interview would be, but I was ready for it.
I arrived at the venue timely, and met up with friends who take care of the band, whom I had met the year prior. After a quick hello, they retreated to the bus to collect the surprise band member and returned to me with lead singer Mikael; I was thrilled.
Mikael and I walked together to the green room and sat in preparation of the interview. When you are in the presence of Mikael, he provides a calmness that would quash any nervous tension you even thought about having. His smile lights up the room, and the ease with which he answers each question is inspirational.
I started off with prepared questions, but soon just went from my heart, and as I suspected, the passion that Mikael exudes in his music is evident in conversation as well. He is likely the nicest, most passionate musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing.
After twenty minutes I concluded the interview, and we walked out together. I thanked him for his time and we parted ways. As I exited the venue through the back door, the security guard indicated that my friend (a local Rockstar) had been there and was waiting for me at the restaurant behind the venue. I walked over and saw him in line. I cut through the line and touched his shoulder so that he would know I was there, and sat down at an open booth. I looked over at the table next to me and most of Dark Tranquillity was sitting there, sans Mikael, eating dinner together.
My friend had brought his two young daughters to the show to let them experience Dark Tranquillity as their first metal show. He and his family sat down at the table with the band, and motioned me over. I made fast friends with my new little metal girls and listened to the many conversations that were in progress at the table. Mikael joined the group, and I tried not to be a giggly fan, rather, a professional music journalist…just chilling with friends having dinner. But I was having dinner with one of my all-time favorite bands, and it was hard to quash the super fan within. I had met Dark Tranquillity the year prior and was totally star struck. A phenomenon that I’ve only experienced once with Ritchie Blackmore years ago. Last year, I was ushered into the venue by my friends and I walked smack dab into the beginning of a Dark Tranquillity meet and greet with all of them. I hadn’t been prepared for it, and was overwhelmed. I shook each member’s hand, said thank you, and followed it up with a curtsy. I’m not actually sure sound came out of my mouth, but that is how I remember it anyway. I walked back to my friend, just about 6 feet away, and now faced the Swedish guests in an awkward silence. I know that I couldn’t stop smiling, and they looked at me with smiles covering their confusion on what just happened. It was the fastest meet and greet likely in the history of meet and greets. To this day my friends remind me of the time I had nothing to say in the presence of my favorite band.
Back to 2017; When dinner was over, two members of the group wanted to go to the store to pick up some essentials for the rest of the tour. So my friend, his little girls, a crew member, and a band member went for a walk in the streets of Portland. My friend and the crew member partnered ahead, and I could hear their conversation about the year that had passed since they last saw each other. The little girls paired together ahead of me, poking at kicking at each other as little sisters do, and that left me side by side with the band member that I wasn’t familiar with. I introduced myself and we talked generally, as you do when you just meet. To my surprise, it was Johan from Andromeda, and we chatted as we walked. He is soft spoken, inquisitive, and friendly. We visited a few stores, and casually walked back to the venue, parting as my friend and I entered in the front door of the venue, and they retreated to their bus.
As was the case last year, the treatment the band provided me with was exquisite. Everything was perfect and without flaw. I quickly secured a spot to the left of the stage, right in front, and watched as Warbringer performed. I’m pretty sure it was the third time I’d seen them this year, but it was enjoyable. However, I was anxious for Dark Tranquillity, and found myself to be a bit antsy and fidgety.
During the set change, friends found me, and they gathered around me where I stood. The lights went dim, and out walked my beloved band. As luck would have it, Johan was directly in front of me, with Chris Amott on the opposing side. When you see Dark Tranquillity in a small venue, they make you feel as if they are genuinely happy to see you. They look you square in the eyes, and seem to pay every fan a moment of attention.
All members were on-point. The ever sturdy and calm Anders Iwers on bass, the precise percussion of Anders Jivarp, the perfect vocals of Mikael Stanne, the maker of ambiance Martin Brändström on keys, celebrity Chris Amott on guitar, and guitar virtuoso Johan Reinholdz on guitar.
My friends and I sang and danced (well as much as you dance at a metal show) during their 90-minute set, and as always, the emotional music of Dark Tranquillity was like a beloved friend. The connection the members have with the audience is something you have to experience to fully understand. They obviously love what they do, and exude that love with every song.
I watched as my friend’s little girls saw the members of Dark Tranquillity (that they had just dined with) on stage. At dinner, it was obvious they just thought they were sitting with “Dad’s rocker friends.” Their feet fixed on the ground, their eyes wide with intrigue, and their little hands with the universal metal sign high above their heads.
Playing songs from Atoma and the catalogue of older songs that we all love, at about ten minutes before the 90 minutes was up, the band exited the stage. The band returned to the stage immediately after leaving, but Mikael was absent. I felt something behind me that felt slightly different from the minutes prior…like the air turned thicker and sweeter. I turned to see what the disturbance was, and there was Mikael, singing from the floor, amongst his fans…face to face with me, singing just to me for one sweet moment. He glided slowly past, giving each person a special serenade. The fans were grateful, and gave Mikael the room and respect he needed to move about.
When it was over, each member came over to the edge of the stage and took a moment to meet each fan that stayed behind. I stayed behind.
It was one of those perfect nights that you know you can never duplicate; to even try would be futile. I left there knowing that the next time they come to town, it will be amazing in a brand new, yet deliciously familiar way. I left there more in love with Dark Tranquillity, in love with a stranger, in love with my friends, in love with music, and in love with the night.