Wacken Open Air - Wacken, Germany, 6th August 2011
|Event:||Wacken Open Air 2011|
|Written by:||Promonex, corrupt, Nefarious, GT|
Wacken Open Air 2011 - Day 3: Saturday by Promonex (168)
Wacken Open Air 2011 - Day 2: Friday by Promonex (131)
Wacken Open Air 2011 - Day 1: Thursday by Promonex (43)
Wacken Open Air 2011 - Day 0: Wednesday & Miscellaneous by Promonex (44)
Table of Contents
- Dir En Grey
- Shining [NOR]
- Iced Earth
- Danko Jones
- Children Of Bodom
Wednesday, 03.08.2011 & Thursday, 04.08.2011 featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Blind Guardian, Helloween, Kvelertak, Frei.Wild, Bülent Ceylan, Skyline and Mambo Kurt
Friday, 05.08.2011 featuring Judas Priest, Triptykon, Kyuss Lives!, Apocalyptica, Airbourne, Saltatio Mortis, Morgoth, Trivium, Rhapsody Of Fire, Sodom, Van Canto, Morbid Angel, Suicidal Tendencies, Ensiferum, Primal Fear, Sirenia, Shraphead and The Prophecy²³
Moonsorrow (Black Stage, 12:00 - 12:45)
Nefarious: Having seen Ensiferum play yesterday at the same time on the same stage it was easy to compare the two. Moonsorrow had the better sound but Ensiferum were just slightly better in every other department. This isn't to say Moonsorrow put on a bad performance as I did enjoy it quite a lot, as did the rest of the crowd, but I couldn't help but think that I had seen a very similar show the day before that was just slightly better.
Setlist: Kylän päässä, Tähdetön, Kivenkantaja, Sankaritarina, Köyliönjärven Jäällä (Pakanavedet II)
Crashdïet (True Metal Stage, 13:00 - 13:45)
corrupt: I'm still not a fan of glam metal. Or Sleaze or what ever they call it today. Still, as last time, Crashdïet were a bomb. An energetic show full of life and a couple of hundred fans there to watch. Really deserving of the big stage it seemed. The Wacken organizers obviously didn't think so as there was not a bit of camerawork during the show. The screens showed a still shot of the stage from afar (no pun intended) and that was it. In turn quite undeserving of the band. But they didn't care and gave their best. Good show, as usual.
Setlist: Breakin' the Chainz, Down With the Dust, So Alive, Riot in Everyone, Native Nature, In the Raw, Rebel, Armageddon, Generation Wild
Kataklysm (Black Stage, 14:00 - 14:45)
corrupt: Meanwhile in the land of blast beats and double bass. Like them or not, their recipe doesn't get old and even though this is not the best death metal in the world, Kataklysm never fail to amaze live. The Wacken camera team still wasn't up yet and the screens showed the same still shot they did during Crashdïet's gig, but this one had a lot more fans and just the same amount of energy on stage. The sound was just as awful as all the other days, with way too much drums and almost no guitars. And every time this would get somewhat better during the actual concert. It's as if they don't even do a soundcheck. Still the concert was great. The band was in a good mood and they delivered a most energetic and organic show.
Setlist: Push the Venom, Manipulator of Souls, A Soulless God, Taking the World by Storm, Illuminati, In Shadows and Dust, As I Slither, At the Edge of the World, Like Angels Weeping (The Dark), Crippled & Broken
Onslaught (Bullhead City Tent, 14:00 - 15:15)
Nefarious: After Moonsorrow, it was time to head over to the Bullhead City tent to catch Onslaught. Here's a word of advice for you, if you ever have the opportunity to go to an Onslaught gig, make sure you go. With some bands, their live sound is a disappointment compared to how they sound on record, but with Onslaught it seems the opposite is true. Their music translates so well from CD to the stage, where it just comes alive. Sy Keeler is such a charismatic front man and does such a great job of feeding energy to the crowd and putting on a great show. The band as a whole performs like a well oiled machine that is precise and brutal, and left the whole audience exhausted but thoroughly satisfied when their set was over. Hopefully I will get to see them again someday, and I hope that next time it is in a bigger stage where more people can get to enjoy them.
Dir En Grey (True Metal Stage, 15:00 - 16:00)
corrupt: Now this is one I was looking forward to. Having been a fan up until the time of Vulgar and only having had the chance to see them twice before, this was surely one of my anticipated highlights. The band did have a few surprises prepared. For one, Kyō trained his growls since 2007, giving him even more range and broadening his vocal spectrum to a ridiculous extreme. Another thing is how well the new songs work live. I loved the chaotic, structure-less songs of their early times way more than their recent, more generic stuff. But on stage, both styles get dominated by the live sound, which in this case was amazing. The camera guys had gotten up and were ready to do some work and so this became the first really awesome show of the day. The setlist could have featured more pre-Marrow Of A Bone stuff, but seeing how varied and organic the show was, I didn't even care that much. Especially since they played "Merciless Cult". I can only urge anyone getting this chance, to see Dir En Grey live. I don't think there's another band out there with such a spectrum of styles and a singer with this much range.
Nefarious: I must admit that I am not familiar with this band but I happened to catch them while lurking around the main festival area looking for food and beer. I wish I hadn't. I can't really describe the experience other than it was some kind of audio rape. I left the area feeling dirty, violated and in a state of shock at what my ears had just been subjected to. Now there were moments where it came together musically and flowed quite nicely, but these moments were few and far between as for the main part it was just horrible random noises akin to an animal being tortured. I am pretty open-minded and listen to all forms of extreme and progressive music, but this was just too much. To me this wasn't music at all.
Promonex: J-rock/visual kei is a flamboyant subculture which I used to be slightly interested in, but I've never really scratched beneath the surface and instead I stuck to the radio-friendly artists like Malice Mizer, Gackt, X Japan and L'Arc~en~Ciel. Next to these bands with their sugary melodies, Dir En Grey with their eccentric nu metal vibe always appeared like the odd one out, so they never really captivated me, but I still was curious to see a live show of theirs. And as many curious passersby I got pretty much blown away. Not by the quality of the band, but by its sheer brutality! Despite being an avid listener of extreme metal and some industrial I was totally taken by surprise by the eccentric and seemingly uncontrolled noisefest that was unleashed upon us. And so, just like Nefarious, I didn't manage to stick around for longer than for three songs of their set. One thing is for sure though: I certainly won't call j-rock "sugary" again…
Setlist: Kyoukotsu No Nari, Tsumi To Kisei, Lotus, Red Soil, Hageshisa To Kono Mune No Naka De Karamitsuita Shakunetsu No Yami, Obscure, Different Sense, Conceived Sorrow, Dozing Green, Bugaboo, Reiketsu Nariseba, Merciless Cult, Agitated Screams of Maggots, Rasetsukoku
Mayhem (Black Stage, 16:15 - 17:15)
corrupt: Mayhem at last. This show I've been anticipating with almost childish excitement, the legends themselves, the mighty Mayhem right here in Wacken. And what they brought with them was pure splendour. The set was a complete roundup of most their classics and a few unexpected interludes like "Sylvester Anfang", leaving me with smile after smile at the beginning of each song. The sound was pretty bad at times, and not really consistent through all the songs. During the riffing part of "My Death" for example, the lead guitar was almost inaudible whereas other songs sounded perfectly fine. Attila performed his own little show for the most time. He threw in suffering moans and shrieks at times and set up a scary voice for some of the announcements. Ridiculous as this may sound, it actually worked quite well to support the atmosphere. When I see a black metal band I half expect to see stuff like this and Mayhem found a classy middle ground between appearing overly serious and completely ridiculing the show. There was a tad bit of irony to all of it and I bet that, had they been given a nighttime slot, the whole thing would have been perfect. The Everest of awesome, however was Hellhammer. The camera work was quite good during this show and they had set up a wide angle cam at the drumset so he was visible quite often. The ease of his playing and his relaxed, almost casual attitude dropped my jaw to hell. This guy is the very definition of magnificence. With a bold 4 minute overtime, Mayhem left the stage. And the last song should coin the summary of the whole show for me: Pure Fucking Armageddon.
Setlist: Pagan Fears, Ancient Skin, My Death, Cursed in Eternity, A Time to Die, Illuminate Eliminate, Freezing Moon, Silvester Anfang, Deathcrush, Buried by Time and Dust, Carnage, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Pure Fucking Armageddon
Shining [NOR] (W.E.T. Stage, 17:30 - 18:00)
corrupt: Another highly anticipated one. Shining, too, were given an insanely long 30 minute slot on the smallest of the main stages so they had to hurry up. But already during the sound check Jørgen Munkeby had the time to entertain the crowd with a little saxophone solo. After a small "hello" they started directly into "The Madness And The Damage Done" and from then on played their set of three songs through as a whole. And they seemed to have some great fun at that, with a huge improv session in the middle of "Schizoid Man". For once, the sound was decent and every instrument was clearly audible, which made a welcomed difference compared to some other bands. And this kind of show I had never seen before in metal, they just kept improvising with a look at the watch every few minutes to time it perfectly with the outro and finish on the spot with another big thank you. This was way more awesome than expected. A really special show.
Setlist: The Madness And The Damage Done, Fisheye, 21st Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson cover)
Iced Earth (True Metal Stage, 17:30 - 18:30)
Nefarious: This was a show I was really looking forward to and was made all the more special knowing it was Matt Barlow's last performance with the band. All I can say is, wow, Matt Barlow has quite a set of lungs on him! Although he missed a note here or there, his vocal range is fantastic and they band as a whole put on a great show. It all got quite emotional towards the end as the rest of the band and the crowd said goodbye to Matt. I only wish the set was longer as there were so many classics they didn't have time to play.
corrupt: When the running order was released, I immediately wrote an email to the team asking them not to put Shining and Iced Earth in overlapping slots. This would amount to having to decide between a band that almost never plays in Germany and one that will never play in this lineup again. Obviously they didn't care because everything stayed as it was and after Shining were done, we only got the last half hour or Iced Earth. Totally undeserved and even more so unnecessary. Anyway, this was Iced Earth's very last show with Matt Barlow. Right about when we got to the show they started the "Prophecy" three-song part and after that, Jon announced this to the crowd and they took a few quite emotional moments to say goodbye and thank you. It seemed a real pity that they only had a one-hour festival show to celebrate this but at least the show itself was great. Schaffer (with confederate flag head scarf) and the guys did their best to deliver one last time. Even though the setlist for the most part was the same they played through all this tour, I enjoyed the hell out of the part I saw. Really just too bad that we couldn't get the whole thing.
GT: Another concert I really had been looking forward to. Maybe that's the reason I felt a tiny bit disappointed afterwards. Don't get me wrong, the concert was good, but it just wasn't as amazing as I had expected it to be. Sound- and music-wise it was near perfect even though Barlow did sound a bit rusty at times, maybe due to the fact it was his last performance. The goodbye moments as mentioned were indeed quite emotional and you really got the feeling that these guys have a special relationship. An hour was a bit short for a show of this kind, but that's festivals.
Setlist: 1776, Burning Times, Declaration Day, Vengeance Is Mine, Violate, Last December, I Died for You, Jack, The Hunter, Prophecy, Birth of the Wicked, The Coming Curse, Iced Earth
Sepultura (Black Stage, 18:45 - 19:45)
corrupt: Even Crashdïet watch Sepultura. Damn right. This was my first time seeing them and it was way better than I expected. Derrick Green is way more present on stage than Max Cavalera and knows some German, too. The sound was good and the band in a perfect mood. They played a surprisingly good set consisting of some more recent and quite a deal of older stuff with all the classics people wanted to see. They will never be a band I enjoy too much but when it comes to concerts, I'll definitely look out for them again.
Setlist: Intro, Arise, Refuse/Resist, Kairos, Just One Fix (Ministry cover), Convicted in Life, Choke, What I Do!, Relentless, Troops of Doom, Territory, Inner Self, Ratamahatta, Roots Bloody Roots
Vreid (Party Stage, 18:45 - 19:45)
Promonex: As I had seen the perfect Sepultura show just a few days prior to Wacken, I opted to catch Vreid instead. The Norwegian black n' rollers delivered a decent show that appeared to entertain the crowd quite well. Even more fun was seemingly had on stage as the four guys were grinning quite a lot. The show itself was quite enjoyable, but dragged a bit after a while, mainly due to the setlist's heavy emphasis on the newest album which seems to lack the rawness and intensity of their earlier works, or at least it appeared this way in a live environment. All in all this certainly was no outstanding show, but it was quite nice to bridge the gap between Iced Earth and Avantasia.
Setlist: Arche, Fire on the Mountain, Raped by Light, Speak Goddamnit, The Sound of the River, Wrath of Mine, Wolverine Bastards, Jarnbyrd, The Others and the Look, Pitch Black
Avantasia (True Metal Stage, 20:00 - 21:30)
corrupt: Remember the time when Avantasia would never be brought to the stage? Or the time when there wouldn't be more than two albums? Or the time when that one Avantasia show would be the only one ever? Yeah, me neither. Because what we've seen in the last couple of years was an impressive display of how fast things can change when there's money involved. Why risk creating another side project under a new name that people could miss or not care about, when you can just as easily rape an established project and drag its fame and glory to the dust? As long as the name still translates 1:1 into money, morals are negotiable. And so it neither shocked nor surprised anyone when Tobi announced that this, really, was the very last Avantasia show ever. Really! After the tour that this show should finalize, it wasn't really a surprise who'd be joining them on stage. Jørn Lande (Ark, Masterplan,...), Bob Catley (Magnum), Michael Kiske (Helloween) and Amanda Somerville were to complete the already pretty impressive lineup that Tobi had assembled. Jørn's mic was actually working this time (don't ask, it was horrible) and the sound was quite decent as well, so good conditions. But the setlist they came up with was such a massive downer that I have trouble even putting it in words. It was just crap. I mean, it's not like we hear "Avantasia" on any other Edguy show and "Farewell", The "Sign of the Cross"/"The Seven Angels" medley and "Reach Out for the Light" were already played the last time they showed up, they also picked a whole shitload of average to sub-par fillers from the new albums to stuff in the gaps. Not a single new song from the original Metal Opera, not even any of the faster and heavier songs from the latest three like "Another Angel Down" or "Devil in the Belfry", just mediocre radio stuff over and over again. And if you think, that alone is quite bad, you haven't heard half of it. To look at it from a distance, there was a big all-star band playing at prime time on one of the biggest metal festivals in the world. Big names, a lot of awesome musicians on the same stage at the same time, but apparently only one guy worth of camera attention: Tobias Sammet. Last year after the Edguy show, I wrote that the stage was just big enough for his ego to fit on it. This year, as it seemed, it had outgrown the stage by a few orders of magnitude, which could apparently only by equalized by constant camera attention at all times. There's a cool guitar solo? We show Tobi toweling his hair. Michael Kiske singing on the verge of breaking his voice? Here's the bass drum Tobi stands behind. Kai Hansen on stage as a surprise guest? Not more important than Tobi sitting at the side of the drumset. Tobi telling the camera guy to film the band and not him? Well, why not film him anyway? For the whole 90 minutes (yes, Wacken does still does have these slots [see: 'Money']) there was just one part of the show that the people standing further behind could see on the screens: Tobias Sammet. And that is how the whole show went down. Whatever happened, Tobi was on the screens, even telling his guitars to quiet down while he was talking and constantly speaking German, except for advertising the upcoming Edguy album. That is certainly too important to be missed by the international audience. Not that it hadn't been advertised on max volume on the screens for three days. Better make sure everybody knows it's coming, further oiling the wheels of the money machine that made this show possible in the first place. I know I shouldn't be surprised. It's not even that I didn't expect this, it's the mere realization that I could tell what this show would look like even before it had started. This was just so poor and obvious that it hurt. Really, physically hurt. A great deal of people knew better than we did and actually left. I would have loved to see the audience from on the stage to gauge the masses of people streaming to other places. Maybe the constant focus on Tobi was a means to avoid accidentally filming the crowd. But if this is what Avantasia shows will look like in the future, they had better stick to their word and stop touring altogether. But mark my words, you heard it here first. There will be other Avantasia shows as there will be new albums. And we'll be writing about both of them.
GT: Well everything about this concert has already been said, so I'll just stop by and say that I didn't find the show to be crap and I enjoyed the old songs that were played, but the show in 2008 was way better. And in case you're wondering: no, corrupt is not exaggerating about the constant filming. It really was that bad.
Promonex: One thing I don't understand: why does the last show of Iced Earth with Matt Barlow get an early 60 minute slot and Avantasia gets a 90 minute headliner slot? I'm not saying that Avantasia didn't deserve the slot (okay, I am saying that they didn't deserve the slot), but 75 minutes each would have been the perfect balance for two bands which will probably never ever perform again in their respective lineups. Well, all schedule bickering aside, Avantasia's show really wasn't that bad. Granted, their show three years ago was absolutely mind-blowing and impossible to surpass. Naturally expectations were insanely high and once again they had an awful lot of talent up there on stage. Especially Jørn Lande and Bob Catley were delivering a fantastic performance, and seeing Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske rock out together might have caused a mess in the undies of the attending Helloween fans. But those hard rock songs of their latest two albums just don't have the charm and the punch of the preceding outputs, so what we got was a decent show that failed to captivate, but managed to entertain.
Oh yeah, and then there was the filming. Apparently the same incompetent director who already messed up Apocalyptica the night before was at it again. Interestingly this show was also broadcasted live on German TV and apparently the TV channel had someone else for cutting and compiling the input of the many cameras, so you actually got a decent result if you were watching the show from at home. You can also watch it on Youtube. Take a close look at what's going on during the song "The Story Ain't Over" (after the 20 minute mark), both on stage and on the huge screens adjacent to the stage and you'll probably understand all the sentiments expressed in this review of ours.
Setlist: Twisted Mind, The Scarecrow, Promised Land, The Story Ain't Over, Prelude, Reach Out for the Light, Dying for an Angel, Death Is Just a Feeling, Lost in Space, Farewell, The Wicked Symphony
Encore: Shelter from the Rain, Avantasia, Sign of the Cross / The Seven Angels
Kreator (Black Stage, 21:45 - 22:45)
corrupt: When it comes to live shows, the name Kreator is always a guarantee for quality. They have found their recipe and they stick to it like the pope to the bible. This show was again one of their video shows where they show their music videos and other imagery on a video wall during the songs and Mille at least made some of his announcements in English. Much as Rhapsody on the previous day and much as expected, Kreator did everything right. A great selection of classics and just the right amount of new stuff were just what we needed after Avantasia's egomanic shitfest. They could have played some more really old stuff like "Riot of Violence" or "Under the Guillotine", but that's splitting hairs. The show was as awesome as all their others I've seen and hopefully all the ones I will see.
GT: Had the chance to experience Kreator since it took forever to get a hold of a beer and the fact I met a couple of guys I shared camp with two years ago. Lucky me. It was pretty good and the videos shown during the show worked well. Seems like I have to listen to some of this band's stuff.
Setlist: Choir of the Damned, Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite), Warcurse, Endless Pain, Pleasure to Kill, Destroy What Destroys You, Voices of the Dead, Enemy of God, Phobia, Reconquering the Throne, The Patriarch, Violent Revolution, Betrayer, Flag of Hate, Tormentor
Danko Jones (Party Stage, 21:45 - 22:45)
Promonex: "FUCK! Kreator are LOUD!" When Danko Jones halted for a while between two of their songs to listen to the German thrash legends on the other stage, you clearly felt that the guys up there - despite being somewhat out of context as a rock 'n' roll band on a heavy metal festival - are all metal fans themselves. And he carried on: "You know, a while ago I've visited a festival with Kreator and Morbid Angel back in Canada. And now we're on the same billing as those bands! I've got SUCH a huge boner right now!" Yeah, Danko did a great job at talking. He connected perfectly with the people, even addressed some directly, made a lot of jokes and broke the fourth wall with ease, bestowing the whole performance with an attitude a la: "We bring the music, you bring the moves, now let's roll!" Speaking of the music, holy shit, that was some great fun indeed! If you think their blues-influenced rock 'n' roll songs about love, sex and, uh, sex and love are great on CD already, wait 'til you've caught Danko Jones live! This Toronto trio had literally the whole audience dancing and made for the perfect prelude to Motörhead.
Setlist: The Rules, Play the Blues, Active Volcanoes, Forget My Name, First Date, I Think Bad Thoughts, Full of Regret, Sugar Chocolate, Sugar High, Invisible, Lovercall, Had Enough, Cadillac, Mountain
Motörhead (True Metal Stage, 23:00 - 00:15)
corrupt: Know one Motörhead show, know them all. "Good evening, we are Motörhead. And we play Rock'n'Roll". I can't recall how often I've seen them but in contrast to Kreator, whose live recipe never fails to amaze, Motörhead's never fails to bore. It's not terrible; in fact it's partly quite good. But seeing three old guys on an otherwise completely empty stage playing songs that all sound alike even if you do know them just doesn't tickle me as much as it did the first time. So we watched them from a distance and had a few drinks while waiting for the next band with just the very same ever-recurring recipe.
GT: My first time seeing Motörhead. And probably my last. At least if I'm not at a festival, and they play anyway. Honestly, if it hadn't been Motörhead, my guess is that at least half the audience would have left. Somehow they managed to be somewhat entertaining and that might have been why I stayed there to see the whole show.
Setlist: Iron Fist, Stay Clean, Get Back in Line, Metropolis, Over the Top, Rock Out, One Night Stand, The Thousand Names of God, I Know How to Die, The Chase Is Better Than the Catch, In the Name of Tragedy, Just 'Cos You Got the Power, Going to Brazil, Killed by Death, Bomber
Encore: Ace of Spades, Overkill
Children Of Bodom (Black Stage, 00:30 - 01:45)
corrupt: I could write about any Children Of Bodom show without ever going to another one. I didn't even take notes during this show. Alexi's main word still is "fuck" in all its varieties and their setlist is essentially the same they've played on all tours during at least the last six years. Still, when I get the chance, I always make sure to catch them. Their music, even the new stuff, really works live and they are one of those bands that can keep you entertained despite the ever repeating pattern that is their show. And so we didn't mind that they would be our final band for the festival. A band that we watched from very far because it started to rain cats and dogs when they started (and didn't stop until hours later).
GT: I saw COB from the beer garden. Apparently I'm getting too old to be able to be on my feet for 20 hours, so I had to take a rest and enjoy a beer at the same time. Glad I did, 'cause then I was close enough to the beer tent to avoid getting totally soaked when the North Sea joined the party. The concert was enjoyable, but the rain and my aching old body took away a lot of the enjoyment, so this was also the final concert of the festival for me, even though Promonex did his best to persuade me otherwise.
Setlist: Not My Funeral, Bodom Beach Terror, Shovel Knockout, Roundtrip to Hell and Back, In Your Face, Living Dead Beat, Children Of Bodom, Hate Me!, Blooddrunk, Angels Don't Kill, Follow the Reaper, Downfall
Encore: Are You Dead Yet?, Hate Crew Deathroll
Ghost (W.E.T. Stage, 01:05 - 01:45)
Promonex: While GT found cover in the beer tent, I went to the W.E.T. Stage which ironically seemed to be the only dry spot to be at that time. Here I also found the reason for the sudden cloudburst: Ghost just started their ritual… I'm not superstitious or anything, but it just can't be coincidence that the forces of nature conspire against everyone not standing in front of the only sheltered stage on the festival grounds while Ghost commence their incantation on exactly this stage. And I don't think any spectators who involuntarily ended up in front of this stage regretted having come this way. The band of the faceless Papa Emeritus and the nameless ghosts played some psychedelically tinged heavy metal with a slight doom metal edge of high quality, not dissimilar to Grand Magus and Mercyful Fate. Despite lacking an identity, Ghost didn't appear dissociated from the crowd (unlike fellow occult rockers The Devil's Blood) and invited their parish to be witness to their rituals. One has to say, atmosphere-wise this band did everything right. And considering that the rainfall had waned once their set was over, they seemed to be doing something else right as well…
Promonex: And so another great Wacken Open Air has passed. Once again we have been treated with a great organization, loads of awesome bands and the unique international atmosphere that makes Wacken the one festival that represents the "In Union We Stand" spirit like no other. And with the return of Ministry and Coroner, orchestral shows by Dimmu Borgir and Moonspell and the last German open air show of the Scorpions' seemingly never-ending farewell tour being confirmed for next year's edition already, we'll definitely be there again in 2012. However, not all is good, as many long-time visitors have come to witness...
corrupt: In its 22 years of existence, Wacken has seen its fair share of ups and downs. It's not always easy to put them into good and bad years, it's more like good and bad choices made along the way. For example, in 2005, they had the first and at that point only ever show of Bloodbath.
In 2006, they managed to feature the long-disbanded Emperor in one of the band's exclusive six shows played that year; the band had not performed since 1999. Over the years they displayed their good ability n selecting bands to have something for fans of every type of metal. But at the same time they also managed to turn a perfectly good festival with a decent size of some 10,000 people into a mass migration with a whole theme park and over 60,000 people at the same grounds. And then they lost it. Which is not to say they don't feature one or the other good band on occasion, it just means that they focus on so many things besides music and organizing a good festival today that they slowly alienated almost all of their original audience over the years and now thrive on people visiting out of curiosity instead of love for music. And their organization turns more and more into chaos. In their desperate attempt to satisfy their new audience they pull in band after band on more than five stages now and create redundant feature after redundant feature with no bonus to the actual festival. In consequence, some of the most essential aspects of a metal festival get left behind, such as:
1. Bands. And I don't mean choice, I mean numbers. Does a festival with a playing time of three days really need 120+ bands on six (more or less respectable) stages? The sheer number results in most bands not playing for more than an hour and a good amount for only 30 minutes. I'm surprised that these bands even go through all the trouble to travel to Germany to be able to play four songs and then leave. In my opinion there are two ways to resolve this. One of course is capping the number of bands at around 80 giving them the time they need to convey what they want. On a festival, I expect a band to play a special show, with a good selection of their old and possibly new songs and a show of 90-120 minutes length. The usual show is what tours are for. On a festival I like it big and special. The second possibility is to keep the numbers where they are and make it a four day festival. That would mean to start on Wednesday instead of Thursday and open the whole ground with all stages. Which leads me to:
2. Opening times. I usually arrive in a big group of around 50-70 people. I don't know all of them but it is kind of a tradition that some friends and me (and their friends and so on) camp together and have a great time while no band is playing. Wacken offers camp reservations for this. If your group is bigger than 50 people, you can order a campground that is guaranteed to be open to your group alone for all of Wednesday. But you're not allowed to enter it before Wednesday 8 a.m. Don't ask me, I don't know why. But the rule is beyond redundant. Especially as they have to pay special guards to enforce this in numbers around three times of what would be needed to just keep an eye on the place. And the logic is completely beyond any of us. If a big group can make sure to camp in one place, how the hell are all these people supposed to time their arrival to one specific moment? Wacken allows people to arrive early. You have to pay a few Euros for every day you do so but it's possible. If you want to, you can arrive on Monday and stay until Sunday. But not if you have your camp reserved. There was an international group of people with a reserved ground this year that managed to set up camp on Tuesday, and they were made to leave that camp and not come back before Wednesday 8 a.m. Meanwhile, the guards started to tear down their tents, which is clearly damaging another person's goods and leave them in the wet grass for the night. If anyone can tell me the logic behind this, I'd be more than glad to listen. Because this has been driving me nuts for years. The Wacken team essentially made Wednesday another band day, for the small bands and the metal-battle at least, but prevent a huge amount of people from being there in time to see these bands and still experience some other parts of the festival. This nonsense has to stop.
3. Stages. This has partly been covered by 1. and 2. Reduce the number of stages to a feasible amount. Four stages are hard to cover already. With at least two bands playing at the same time all the time, there will be insane amounts of overlaps for most of the fans. And if you add another two that aren't even on the festival area but require a 10 minute walk through a thick crowd and about double the time back through the entrances (including being checked again), you are bound to miss at least one extra band when you venture out to find one of the smaller stages. People want to see their bands, period. They don't want to travel (yes, travel) between stages and miss half of what's decent because greater numbers attract more people. Four stages is more than enough.
4. Showers. All prejudice aside, most people do have a need for hygiene. And if 70,000 people live in one contained space for a week, you can expect at least 40,000 of them to want to take a shower at least once, probably half of them every two to every single day (like me). And that requires the right amount of sanitary arrangements. Wacken however has barely seen a noticeable increase in both toilets and showers since 2005. I say noticeably because they did of course increase the numbers. But they also increased their audience by almost 100% since then. And that means waiting in line up to three hours at some days just to get a shower and see a clean toilet. That is totally unacceptable for a festival that every attendee payed 130€ for.
5. Disneyland. Yeah, I stole this one from Promonex. I may be old fashioned with this view, but a metal festival is a metal festival. And when I attend such an event, a metal festival is what I expect. I don't need oil wrestling, pole sitting, a Viking village, an official poker tournament, special Wacken brand beer, special Wacken brand water (seriously, water?), a Wacken credit card, memorial stones, personal photo books and more merchandise than all bands put together. As long as the essentials don't work, and that includes letting obviously handicapped people onto the special podiums even if they didn't get a reservation, that's what the focus should be on. Not more and more attractions year after year.
6. Sound. It's not bad in general. Just during the first two to three songs of every band. Why do a sound check when the result is messed up anyway? There are other festivals out there without these problems, so why is this so hard? On a 30 minute show that some bands are forced into (enforced by a cut of power for the smaller ones if they even play 1 minute over the time), three songs can be half the show. A good festival needs to get this down right.
I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm pretty sure the festival will continue as they did. It obviously pays. And what's a few complaints compared to 70,000 enthusiastic fans? But the dynamics will shift. The audience is way younger and more aggressive than just a few years ago already. The old feeling of community is gone. And it won't come back soon.
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