By the time my youngest child was preparing to start kindergarten in the Autumn of 2012, I was long overdue to take a break (after 10+ years!) and really do something fun. About that time, the US tour dates were released for Stalingrad. Stephan Soto (founder of Accept Fans Worldwide, on Facebook), who by this time had become a dear friend, suggested that I visit the East Coast to catch a show or two with some of the other fan group members. I couldn't think of a more perfect way to spend a short vacation. Without even thinking about it (which is totally and completely out of character for me), I said, “I'll be there!”
Once I had committed to it, I was determined to follow through. Despite some setbacks—and they seemed to come from everywhere, especially as the dates neared—by some miracle, the money trickled in, I bought tickets for the show and the airfare, and made all the necessary arrangements. When September came around, I was ready. Others who’d planned to join the road trip ended up backing out at the last minute, so I became Stephan’s co-pilot, and we two friends traveled along the East Coast which I’d not had the pleasure of seeing before to attend the first three shows of the tour.
Day One: ACCEPT at Howard Theatre, Washington, D.C. 9/5/12
First Show of the STALINGRAD 2012 US Tour
Endless flight delays caused by storm remnants of Hurricane Isaac had made me at one point today begin to question if this little adventure were destined to begin at all. I was determined to stay positive. By 7PM, when the last plane landed in Baltimore rather than in D.C. where I’d initially scheduled arrival, I was stressed, hungry, and full of pent-up frustration. And where was my luggage?
But I was finally here. Almost...
My friend Stephan picked me up at the airport. He’d been kind enough to wait all day long through the late-summer heat, last-minute delays, and a family of curious tourists (ask him about that sometime!), even after I told him to go on ahead without me. Not many people would do that. This was the first time we had met in person—and there wasn't much time for fancy introductions. It was a “Hi!”, shaking hands, firing up the RV, and hitting the highway to D.C..
Through many twists, turns, and narrow, brick-lined streets, we finally arrived shortly after 8PM. Stephan handed the valet his keys and we raced in the front door. I could hear the band in the middle of "Hellfire", the third track from their new Stalingrad album. I couldn't get past the ticket checking guy and into the venue fast enough.
Howard Theatre has a rich history. Built in 1910 in the heart of downtown D.C., it was dubbed “The Theatre for The People” (during segregation, it was one place the color barrier didn't exist!) and boasted great acts such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Billie Holliday, to name but a few. The façade has been restored to its original beauty, and the inside is modern and lush with rich woodwork and chrome throughout.
As soon as we went into the auditorium and I saw ACCEPT playing on stage, Howard Theatre could have been a time machine for all I knew…because instantly, I felt like a teenager again, ACCEPT being the magic elixir of Youth. Adrenaline shot through my veins so strongly, I felt like I was going to drop like a stone. But there was no way I was missing this!
Even though we had arrived in the middle of the second song, there was no denying that this band of men no longer wet behind the ears were every bit as energetic and aggressive as—perhaps more than—any band with members half their age or less. Clearly, clean living has rewarded them kindly. Looking strong, healthy, and more than capable, they were like big hungry tigers, out of the cage and pacing the stage.
We managed to get spots at Stage Right, in front of Herman.
It seemed all of the sound elements were in harmony. Everything was mixed very well. Mark’s vocals were up front and clear. Peter’s bass was warm and snappy. The twin guitar attack from Herman and Wolf was sharp and sweet, searing through Stefan’s tight and thunderous double bass drums. The acoustics in the venue were wonderfully flattering. As good as it sounded, it was also incredibly LOUD.
The lighting was simple yet colorful and effective. I thought I would miss the elaborate stage set that my European friends had the pleasure of seeing at shows in their region, but I found myself so into the music that I did not realize for some time that it was not there. While it added to the visual appeal of those shows, its absence did not take away from that here. The band members’ vigor on stage and their many smiles and crazy facial expressions gave the crowd plenty to keep their eyes as well as their ears entertained.
During “Restless and Wild”, Stephan recognized a few people in the crowd and introduced them to me. I recognized them from their participation in the group Accept Fans Worldwide. For a long while, I think I mostly just stood there in shock. I could not believe I was truly here in the physical sense. I had not seen Accept live since Wolf Hoffmann had hair—over half my life ago! Now, to be attending a show and to be so close—perhaps three people back from the stage, just in front of Herman Frank—was much to get my mind around. Peter acknowledged us with a smile, and he threw a pick in our direction. Fans around me jumped on it like hungry dogs on a bone. Meantime, he threw out a couple more. As they made mad dashes for them, my friend Stephan said, “T, look under your boot!” Sure enough, I had inadvertently stepped on it myself. I smiled, held it up in acknowledgment, mouthed a “thank you!” and tucked the memento safely away safe in my blue jeans pocket.
Next on this impressive setlist were “Losers and Winners”, “Stalingrad”, “Shadow Soldiers”, “Pandemic”, and “Breaker”, and it was all too fantastic beyond words. You have to keep in mind that I was still in shock—and trying to work my new camera, and keep my footing near all of these crazed fans (like Soto)...
Their powerful performance of “Bucketful of Hate” had everyone in the place thrashing. Oh, yeah, it's a killer tune, all right, but it's even better live! Afterward, Mark took a moment to connect with the crowd, and thanked all of the fan groups, communities, and the Street Team for everyone's support as the band launched into “Princess of the Dawn”.
I was surprised and delighted that they performed “Up to the Limit” as well. I always liked the song and I think it goes over terrifically live.
Their show could never be long enough for hungry fans, but the guys managed to narrow it down to some of the best of their best.
Here's a few shots I took during Wolf's solo on "Metal Heart":
Some photos during "Fast as a Shark":
No matter if the crowd was 100 or 100,000—the guys spared nothing, giving it 110% for the whole performance.
Here is the setlist:
Hung, Drawn and Quartered
Restless and Wild
Losers and Winners
Bucket Full of Hate
Princess of the Dawn
Up to the Limit
Fast as a Shark
Balls to the Wall
Here's a link to the rest of the photos I took during the show if you would like to see them:
After the show and much lingering outside the venue, we made small talk with the technicians and roadies packing up the gear and equipment. Despite how hard these guys were working, they were still friendly and polite to us and shared a few stories of their personal experiences on the road. Frank Trzaskowsky came out of the back door, and had just a minute or two to talk. What a terrific guy! It came out in conversation that he resides in Tennessee. As my family heritage is from that state, I asked Frank how he liked living there. With a wistful smile and a deep, thick German accent, he replied, “It is the most beautiful place in the world!”
A short while later, Mark Tornillo came out of the same door. “Teresa!” he said, welcoming me with a friendly hug. Considering as many people as these guys see during a tour, that surprised me a lot. Well, we had given them all fair warning that we were coming, and had talked about it in our Facebook group so much, I guess that explained it.
For any doubters out there (as if there were any by now!), I gotta tell you straight up—Mark is the real deal. He's more than paid his dues on the journey to where he is now. Well-earned and well deserved, I say. And he is so humble, so down to earth. It's not hard to strike up a conversation with him. I was proud to shake his hand. We all talked about the show and how much we liked it.
Then, as if all that weren't enough excitement for the entire day, Herman Frank came out too. His soft-spoken and low-key manner belie his grand stature. I got a hug and a handshake, and we talked a little and took some photos.
I found these gentlemen to be very polite, charming, and nicer than I ever imagined.
As he was about to leave, Herman noticed the lettering on the front of Stephan’s RV. Stephan has affectionately named it “Rolling Thunder”—complete with a New York State license plate that reads, simply, “ACCEPT”. “Ah!” Herman said, his face breaking into an ear to ear smile. “The greatest song EVAH!!” We got some photos of Herman and Mark in front of the RV. The little bit of commotion it caused apparently caught the eyes of fans passing by, and they wanted their pictures taken with it too!
Well, they had some plans to unwind after the show, so they bid us goodbye and headed out with a friend. By this time, it was growing late and time for us to hit the road on the way to Philadelphia—so we could attend that show the following night!