Vegas to Germany: My Wacken Open Air Experience 2007!!
To most American Metal-Head’s,a Metal-Fest to them is in the context of Ozzfest and Rocklahoma. Those are about the ONLY true Metal Festivals we have,but its absolutely nothing in compare to the Metal-Fests in Europe like Bang Your Head,SwedenFest,Hell Fest, and countless others that go on all summer long across the Atlantic. One thing that most of you don’t know is: Metal never died over there and bands you haven’t heard from for years that you thought were gone in the 80’s,like Saxon.
Manowar,Fastway,and Rose Tattoo are still thriving and playing all the fests that are all over Europe! These bands and others are revered and respected. You still see dudes wearing denim jackets with metal band patches all over them just like when we were teenagers in the 80’s. Its not old guys either,its young guys that obviously had cool-ass brothers or Dads that taught them how to wear the uniforms of metal with pride because we are a like a club. We are the misfits of societyand we dont give a fuck what anyone says…metal is not just music,its a way of life!!!The greatest and most respected fest in Europe is Wacken Open Air that sits in a HUGE cow pasture in a small village of 1700 people about 45 minutes north of Hamburg,Germany.
Arial view of WOA Fest!(pic courtesy of WOA website! http://wacken.com/ )
This fest was started by a guy named Thomas Jensen 18 years ago in 1990 and was small at first but it grew over the years and has become the largest Metal Fest in the world that has metal-heads in every country from around the globe coming to Germany to bang their fuckin’ heads and party with thousands of their brothers and sisters! This year bands like Saxon,Iced Earth and Immortal, headlined the fest and it sold out to 82,000 people. Saxon played a free warm-up gig (yes they are still around and have put out new cd’s every other year since 1979!!!) to about 300 people two days before the show and blew us away! Thursday they played to over 40,000 screaming fans when they headlined Wacken! That was just incredible! I got to see them twice in one week,and I had been waiting for years to finally see them! It was worth the wait!!! You can find all that is SAXON at http://saxon747.com
The festival is over three days and this year 70 bands graced the four stages. There is the Black Stage that had bands like Napalm Death,Possesed,Lacuna Coil, and Dimmu Borgir. Then there was the True Metal Stage that had bands like Therion,Grave Digger,Blind Gaurdian, and Iced Earth. Then there was the Party Stage that I never got to because the fuckin mud was so bad over there, that had Black Dahlia Murder,Enslaved,Schandmaul,and Samael. There was the W.E.T. Stage in a tent that had a muddy mosh-pit and hosted bands like Mennen,Turisa’s,Black Majesty, and 1349.They also had the Metal Battles there from bands from all over the world with new upcoming bands like the young band from Finnland called Sturm and Drang that has kids from 13-16 years old playing,that blew away most bands I have heard twice their age!
I decided I wanted to experince this fest at least once in my life-time and it was set in stone when I met a girl on Myspace named Carola from Furth Germany that found me on Jorn Lande’s page (we are both HUGE fans!!) She procceded to ask me if I wanted to come over there to see Wacken and she said she would be my tour-guide and let me stay with her and her family. I decided to get my ticket,quit my job,spend a shit-load of cash on a pro-camera and fly 10 hours to Germany and stay with a person I had never met. It was an adventure that was something I am not used to, but it all turned out for the good when we found we were a perfect match to go to this fest together.It was a 6 hour drive from Frankfurt to Hamburg! We went to the world famous HEADBANGERS BALLROOM and met the main man, Otti!!
We blasted the Metal all the way there and found that our nice little cottage that we rented was wonderful.If you can rent a room or cottage for the fest,do it! Its cheap and you can find them on the internet.We paid 40 euro a day(about $22 a piece a nite for 5 days!) The only thing that sucks about going to western Europe is that our money isnt worth shit! I lost $300 on $1000 that I took due to the shitty exchange. So I had $700 to buy all my shit and eat for 16 days. Then the fest is $120 and the gas is steep!! They go by liters and it was about 1.30 euro per liter,which comes to around $8 to$9 a gallon!!! It cost me $80 to fill her small hatchback tank. Also the Audobahn just means freeway in German and you can go as fast as you want in most places but not all…read the rules before you drive there. Also ausfahrt means car-exit,its not the name of every city or town in Gemany like I thought,because of the signs that say that at every exit!Some things you should know before going to Wacken…if you dont find a cottage or room to rent in one of the small villages all over the place near Wacken, you will be camping in a tent. There was probably 20-30,000 tents at the camping site. There was a lot of rain for two weeks before the show,so there was a lot of mud at the parking site. It was a huge pain getting there for the fans and the traffic was horrendous. I heard the jam was 8 hours for a normal 45 minute drive from Hamburg because of the problems with the mud and the parking. Most cars going to the fest have WOA stickers on them and you will know the fans by all the headbanging you see in the cars! People were just partying outside their cars while they were waiting for them to move!! It was like Heavy Metal Parking Lot on the Audobahn!!
The mud was so bad at the fest site that they put hay all over the site to soak it up and it helped somewhat but it was like walking on jello sometimes…it was weird and scary. I thought I would lose my shoes at one time on the way over to see Blind Guardian.Was worth it except for seeing a chick taking a piss by the wall…ick! Oh yes,the toilets get bad! You can rent your own for $140 for three days but have your handy(cell) handy so they can call you for the reservation. We forgot ours and were gald when we saw the clean toilets at the press area! Thank God!One thing that is great to know is..the German beer is so damn good and preservative free that you can drink the shit all day and nite and not get a hangover!! I didnt believe it until I felt it!! The Becks is 4.9% alcohol and its so much better over there..also do yourself a favor and get some Erdinger beer!Its the best tasting beer I have ever had! I basically drank beer about every day over there and felt fine every day!! Was killer! They dont sell regular bottled water over at the fest, but they have it elsewhere. They sell carbonated shit that sucks. Get your own and take it in with you so you dont get dehydrated. Bring LOTS of bottled water and beer because you can bring anything in!
We were very lucky to get backstage/press passes and we could VIP park (was $20 euro for the pass) right by the backstage door. The first day we walked like three miles in the rain to find the press area to get our passes. I had huge bleeding blisters the whole time because of that walk! We didnt know where to park but we didnt make that mistake twice. We got a ride to the fest site from a nice Greek guy named Stavros that had some KILLER Ouzo that was like FIRE! Thank God for him! When we got there we were so happy to see that we had access to clean toilets,a BBQ,a coffe shop, and COLD Becks Beer!!! Yay! So we go back and just mingle around and I find out that Saxon is doing a press interview and I have access. I actually get to ask Biff a few questions and he said they will be on a triple bill with two bands that they couldnt release to the public yet in the USA in January or Feburary!He said we Americans will be estatic to see that bill!
We walked around the fest in the hay,which people were actaully having a blast in,bought lots of Metal shirts in the 5 euro bin,shopped in the HUGE cd store and found hard to get in the USA cds, ate lecker (Yummy) stuffed ham and cheese pies,and drank lots of cold beer! The first day was rainy but the other two were like a hot day in California. People had tans and there was some sunburned people passed out in the hay! I got to see some cool bands I have never heard or seen before like Therion,Rage,Black majesty,Stratovarious, and Mennen. My Fave new band was RAGE who had a full orchestra playing onstage with them…when I asked the singer about the band he said they have been around over 25 years and have that many cds out! How could I have not have heard of them?? The shitty-ass american radio/media thats why! We have American Idol mentality…whats trendy for the day.Where’s the loyalty? I have loved metal like Priest,Maiden and Saxon since I was a kid and I still buy their cds! They are still out there, you just have to look a little harder than your radio station people! There are tons of killer new bands that played too like In Flames,Lacuna Coil,and Dir en Grey. Then there were some old faves like Type-O-Negative,Dimmu Borgir,Icedearth,Immortal,Destruction,and Cannibal Corpse.
There were so many bands playing at different times that I didnt even get to see a quater of them! Also all the stages go at the same time except for the Black and True Metal stages,because they were side by side. I thought it was funny that when In Flames was on one side all the people were going nuts over there and on the other side, the Cannibal Corpse people were sitting around just waiting. When Flames were between songs the Cannibal fans were like chanting CANNIBAL!!!.. it was weird! All these different metal fans coming together for the same reason, just different bands.The best bands there for me was Saxon,Iced Earth,Blind Guardian,Dimmu Borgir,Type-O- Negative,Rage,Therion,Lacuna Coil,and Mennen.
There was a lot of bands I just didnt get to see due to they were playing at the same time as someone else I wanted to see. You really have to map it out to see every one you want and then you still may miss someone. I got to tell ya, I would rather be back in the press area instead of the actual fest area because of the cleanliness of it. There are some die-hard,hard core metal-heads that are out there in the muck and mire and they dont even give a shit about it. They are partying for three days,seeing tons of metal bands, and just being crazy as fuck because they can. I salute those fuckers for their bravery and just plain craziness. I couldnt be out there with them that much.I had the sanctuary of the press area and was able to hang out with some cool bands,fans,editors,photographers,managers,and reg people back there.Believe me that area was a party within itself. There was over 3000 people just hanging back there. There were full screen TV’s so you can watch the fest. It was cool as shit! I still had to be in the huge ass crowd for the bands I wanted to see believe me but I braved it,but not without a cold Becks in my hand!
My review of the whole experience is this: A killer Festival for any fan of metal in the world!! It brings all kinds of the genre’s together in the same place to just go crazy and drink and rock out and meet new people. The sound was incredible,the lights shows were insane,lots of pyro,and lots flat out METAL!It was the most twisted time I have ever had and getting to shoot in a photo-pit with about 80 photog’s from all my fave magazines was crazy as hell!Most of the people I met were really friendly and a lot of them were nutty! The people were having the time of their lives! A lot of these people come every year and have the wristbands on their arm for years! These people are seriously die-hard metal-heads. They live it and breathe it..Just like me… (Joss of Mennen!)
Next year…Wacken Open Air with Avantasia and IRON MAIDEN!!! Will you be there??? http://www.wacken.com/