Losing My Wacken Virginity (part 2 of 2)
Lots of pictures and lots of words. Part 1 is equally dangerous, so consider your browser warned. And now back to your regularly scheduled Wacken.
03.08.07 Friday At 6am I was awakened by loud death metal someone was blasting nearby. I pissed and went back to sleeping bag until 9am. Thankfully found pain pills. Unfortunately, there were only two left.
On this third morning at Wacken people seemed less interested in each other. There is really no sleeping late, although naps through the day are very doable. We were all up at about 9:30am, but we were all sullen, and I personally shook a bit with hangover. The .7 liter bottle of whiskey was grievously short of being even a 10th full.
I officially evicted Brett later in the day after he confessed to having have pissed in the tent. He used a cup, and promised that he didn’t miss at all while doing this in total darkness next to my sleeping form, but I still felt that he would be better off with his British friends.
After breakfast, despite the deliciously strong European coffee, I went back to my tent leaving Brett to fend for himself. At some point yesterday I turned my ankle and that made me feel less guilty about lounging around and waiting for the shaking to subside. I hobbled past people having burping and drinking contests to show off their manliness. The female presence was meager as is the case at these things, and I prefer it that way. From inside the tents coughs and sneezes erupted along with choked laughter.
What the ‘hood was looking like by then
As people settled in, flags rose up everywhere; worn as capes or fluttering in the wind on poles above tents as people sat outside drinking, BBQing, smoking and chatting in the languages of the world: French, Swedish, Russian, Spanish, Danish… the list goes on and on. One flag was missing, of course. No one wanted to admit to being the black sheep of the world; none declared themselves American. And yet, in the night I was awakened by “Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom SNAAAAKE!! A SNAAAKE!!!” and screams of “Spider Schwein” and “Timmeh” were more popular than the seemingly more appropriate “Wacken!!!”
You may not like us, but you sure watch our TV
The already established metalheads adopted the aimless and leisurely stroll characteristic of the homeless. Beer bellies were as ubiquitous as riotous laughter and ambulance sirens. Jets and Plexiglas helicopters flew overhead, filming, constantly collecting updates. Outside of your basic metalheads, I saw some Goths, Cyber-punks and lots and lots of folks that would fit in just fine at Medieval Times as well as some S&M enthusiasts.
For authenticity’s sake Conan here insisted he needed to be drinking a beer for this pic
The Metal Market sold anything and everything you may have forgotten at home to complete your look: jewelry, clothes, flags, patches, pins, hats, chain mail, corsets, band shirts, boots, bullet belts. A large tent with a paid entrance was dedicated to rare CDs and DVDs and had a huge line in front of it as well as strippers inside.
Finally hydrated and sufficiently bored, I ventured out of my tent and decided to check the stages out. I thought I missed Amorphis, but they were rescheduled for a later slot. I got to watch them through thousands of flecks of crushed straw swirling through the air. That straw was apparently just on fire.
The Wacken Firefighters (who have their own band) put the fire out very quickly and afterwards mulch was the mud cover of choice. Courtesy of Roy Doron
I couldn’t take the sunny heat of the day, so I got out of the festivaly kitchen and went back to my roasting-hot tent to sleep in its pathetic shade for a few hours. I forced my aching body back out for dinner.
Every wall in Wacken, as well as every hole in the ground or even puddle, was used as a pissoir. The men were marking their territory mercilessly and the stench wafted, but not too offensively. When I got to the stages at about 4pm, Gravedigger fans already had the place packed. A lot of folks opted to stay outside and sat on the grass from where it was easy enough to see the huge screen which showed the stage and the crowd. Inside, thousands of sunburned unmoving faces flanked the few hundred people actually moving around.
Much drinking and even quaffing went on at the Beer Garten where a man proudly displayed a stack of cups higher than he was, presumably once full of beer, while friends and strangers alike took pictures and touched him reverently. Medics, concerned friends, and bored passersby converged around someone both dirty and hairy, not moving on the ground.
This is as good a place as any for Roy Doron’s ‘Gallery of the Passed Out”
And let’s not forget Trashcan Guy captured by Garth Witmer
While waiting for Lacuna Coil to go on the Black Stage I listened to a few covers done on the True Metal Stage by a German band Schandmaul. I know nothing about this band, but I love cover bands that sound like your favorite radio station. These guys were too versatile for comfort though—after covering Metallica and Nirvana both they hit it with some Back Street Boys, which, amazingly, folks around me sang along and even jigged to.
Lacuna Coil haven’t changed their set in years and put on a lousy show which was attended to by an overanxious crowd needing directions. I would have been much better off seeing Enslaved at the Party Stage. Andrea Ferro can’t get over the fact that it’s really all about the pretty girl and not about an insecure and balding man. Cristina Scabbia and he took turns trying to rile up the crowd, demanding that hands go up and instigating screaming contests. In their defense (and mine, I guess, since I was a fan until that point) their brand of melody may simply not be suitable to an open air environment. The juxtaposition against all the heavy and death metal around them probably didn’t help either. In either case, it’s lame when a band puts more energy into trying to get the crowd to look like they’re enjoying themselves than into the music everyone came for.
My next decision was to go out and get a drink, therefore missing Blind Guardian (I think I managed to miss just about every metal heavyweight at the festival) and then waiting around for Dimmu Borgir. Disappointed and foot sore, I mixed myself a 50/50 vodka and orange juice and wandered around drinking it before going back to the Black Stage.
I was very far from the stage, and so stood around worrying that I made a mistake but feeling good about the body heat emanating from all the static metalheads around me. The sun went down a few hours ago and so the burning heat was replaced by quickly dropping temperatures. The crowdsurfers got pretty annoying right away, and not just because my arms were still sore from Thursday but because it was the same idiot guys. Even when they were dropped, they insisted on going up again anyway, and this is before the music actually started.
I’ve seen Dimmu before, but they left no impression. At a small venue they are not memorable, only noise. But with thousands of fans and under an open sky they turned my whole night around. I pushed my way as far as I could but couldn’t get to the pit. I stood there, watching the pyrotechnics, but not really seeing the band except on the big screen. I needed courage to tap the large men in front of me and become an asshole crowdsurfer.
I shoved a couple of people off my head and then “Succubus” came on and that’s like ignoring Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl.” I couldn’t, so I tapped. And a monster of a man sank into the crowd and then I felt myself grasped, lifted, and thrown.
I didn’t ask to go up again when I finally came down, but I was glad. I laughed through my cracked lips, headbanged until my brain was shaken not stirred and generally felt good, not in the least because this time I was placed safely on the ground while last time I crowdsurfed I got dropped on my neck and could barely walk for a week.
After making a friend in the shower (she gave me her card) I went back to my tent and was in my sleeping bag by 2am, like a good girl. At 3am my bladder made its overfilled nature known and since I felt like I just shivered and shook with cold until then, waking up was not difficult. Armed with a flash light and wet wipes I left my freezing tent to find port-a-potties that I knew were only a few meters away, somewhere. I found the toilets all right, but somehow got totally turned around on the way back. Like a moth drawn to light I found a tent powered by a generator and full of party but distinctly lacking my sleeping bag. I found a ditch stinking of piss and tried to follow it home, but that didn’t work either. My flashlight was hardly useful due to the blinding overhead lights which would not allow me to orient myself. Around 4am I finally found the tent again, crawled back into my sleeping bag and realized the joys of blacking out with exhaustion.
The day started with Sacred Reich, who reunited to play Wacken and a few other European shows. I was surprised to find them an aging group of Americans going to fat. They talked to the crowd and played good thrash that didn’t rely on spitting painful hate at the crowd like lots of other bands here. After a cover of Black Sabbath they finished up and I prepared myself to love Moonspell, one of the bands I came to Wacken for.
They relied on the smoke machine to undo the evils of daylight
Moonspell was not stirring. I came to Wacken to see some favorite bands, but only found that I do not care for their music anymore. Moonspell wasn’t as much of a disappointment as Lacuna Coil, but maybe my love for these bands is just proof that metal is twitching its last in the U.S. My idea of what good music is all about changed drastically since I got to Wacken. Again, it may be that open air did nothing for their gothic sound and neither did the broad daylight, which Fernando Ribeiro (vocals) recognized as especially inappropriate during the rendition of “Luna.”
Back to the tent I went, deciding to drink the disappointment away and maybe nap through the hottest hours of the day. The amount of alcohol I was imbibing was probably getting to be dangerous. There seems to be a huge amount of people who come to this festival specifically to hang around the tent and pass out before getting anywhere near the stages. Good thing too because I don’t know where they would fit if they made it.
Sufficiently rested I went back and checked out the W.E.T. stage/tent called that probably due to the lack of air and excess of perspiration. Turisas had its chance to dazzle me, but they took too long to come out and so I departed for the True Metal Stage where I waited for Type O Negative.
I sat around on the wood shavings which supplanted the highly flammable straw and listened to the thrash band Destruction. Thrash and 80’s metal isn’t really my thing, but Destruction put on an engaging show with lots guest appearances.
Will disappointments never end? I didn’t even realize that Pete Steele was already out on stage it was so anti-climactic. I know that Steele is an asshole on purpose, but I also should have taken into account that he has issues with anxiety. He hates crowds. And now he is stuck before thousands of fans.
I hate that hat
They only played a handful of songs, which he sometimes interrupted to laugh a fake laugh. He chugged nonstop from a wine bottle and sprayed the wine at the cameraman and crowd nearby until he finally just threw the bottle at us.
“Black #1” livened everyone up, of course, but didn’t really save the show. I didn’t realize how drunk Steele was until he fell down behind the speakers at the end of his set and a roadie had to run over to get him up again and drag him off stage. Steele puts on a much better show in his native Brooklyn, at a tiny venue like L’Amore’s.
The best part of the Type O show was this guy crowdsurfing on an air mattress.
The days of festivalling were starting to get to people who became easily agitated and more prone to not want to be touched despite being within 50 meters of the stage. These folks were in turn starting to get on my nerves, because I was starting to get pretty irritable myself. My feet were blistered, my back was killing me, my brain befuddled with all the shaking around and my arms sore from the fighting. We waited for In Flames while Immortal played on the side.
The sun was down when In Flames mounted the stage and unleashed their music on the thousands of fans who were so tightly packed that I couldn’t even move my arms. The second they started playing I realized that I needed to be closer and started taking advantage first of the currents of people who realized the same thing and then of crowdsurfers whom I used as battering rams. Soon I got from not being able to see the stage to the edge of the mosh pit and some cool air. A circle pit spontaneously erupted and I threw myself into it, running and kicking. Since this was the first band I enjoyed all day I may have gone a bit overboard. During the next lull in music-inspired violence a huge shirtless man was patting me on the head and giving me a thumbs up.
After the third encore In Flames got off stage and I, soaked with sweat and falling down with exhaustion, was ready for the exit as well. Good luck there, Cannibal Corpse was to start any minute on the stage next door and the clusterfuck all around me was carrying me off into the blackness which probably did not contain enough space to sit in or any water to drink. I decided to finally speak up “Who is pushing to the exit?!?!” and I was incorporated in a train of Danes singing their national anthem. With them I made it to the exit, found some port-a-potties and drinking water, was assaulted by a French Man and his penis, finally understood that it WAS the Simpsons everyone worshipped and then settled down to listen to the last band of the night, Subway to Sally.
Subway to Sally’s lyrics, despite sounding jolly, are about murder and pillaging and all sorts of other evil shit, I was told by one of the guys. Already in love with their violin, I added the band to my growing list of Wacken-inspired favorites, which now include Norther, Heaven Shall Burn, Samael and Neaera. The amount of planning that should have gone into my going to Wacken was reflected by the fact that I only saw one of these bands. Yeah, it kinda hurt.
My last sunset at Wacken. There was a crowdsurfer tangled up in it.
We sat around on the wet grass and I was educated on what good beer is all about: Tuborg, Carlsberg, Hancock, Odin, Thor, Spar, Cobra, Kronenbourg 1668. Music ended at 3am and knowing I had a long day ahead of me I found it wise to crawl into my sleeping bag by 4. Thanks guys for adopting me for the night and not trying to engage me in a political discussion.
The Danes: drinking, drinking, sunning, wearing national flag
At final count, over 70 thousand metalheads, press, band members, and other miscellaneous peoples attended Wacken this year and while everything ran smoothly, the villagers decided that was capacity. Personally, I am amazed at Wacken. A festival like this would never go over in America, where people would steal each other’s shit and probably kill and rape and rape to kill until everyone was dead. Including the villagers. And their cows. So don’t hold your breath, buy your Wacken 2008 tickets early.
It took no time at all to disturb a mouse and an assortment of insects while packing up my tent. Some guys across the piss trough simply beat the shit out of their tent with a chair. The villagers were already hard at work trying to put everything back how we found it.
Metalheads left all through the night, but I had the Remedy Records shuttle to catch at 11am, which I finally found within minutes of its leaving at the end of a long line of buses heading back to civilization. The trip home was more or less uneventful. I grabbed a taxi from Remedy Records and was at the airport in about 15 minutes and about 20 Euro poorer (I had to pay that man with dollars and Euros because I ran out of cash). Against all odds I found Brett also made it, still without any of his belongings. I watched American movies all the way home and tried to adjust to the idea of having a bed to sleep in again.
One of the shirts popular at Wacken said “Metal will never die” and I agree.
Not while Wacken is around.
Thanks to everyone who contributed pictures and to everyone else who was there making this a sick and unspeakable event I can’t wait to attend again next year. For Part 1 of this article, click here. And this page is me blathering on about how I found out about Wacken and then couldn’t decide if I should go and what I did to finally get there.