Thursday, August 11, 2011

Moshpit Fever

Somewhere between Judas Priest and our tent, I got sick. I arrived at the tent with sniffles I hadn’t had before and woke up well and truly flu-ridden. Someone at camp called it Moshpit Fever and they’re probably right – after the insanity of the Judas Priest pit, all those people, and the feeling I was getting run down before that, I would have been lucky not to catch a cold.

Although I was the only sick one, everyone at camp was pretty run down on day three. Some of them had spent 15 hours inside the festival to see the earliest and latest bands with no break and so the general consensus was that a slow start was to be had. We ate breakfast, mucked around, chatted, and I mixed this up by blowing my nose every 2 minutes back at the tent.

Eventually we could no longer justify missing the bands that were on at any given time and we made our way into the festival grounds. A few of us wanted to see Mayhem so we headed towards their stage. Courts and I have seen them before – I suppose if you’re not into metal, they’re the sort of music that’s ‘just noise’ as opposed to one of the many other metal genres with clean singing. The lead singer usually wears corpse paint and a costume but in the late afternoon light of their time slot at Wacken, he was just in jeans.

The crowd at Wacken was better than we we saw them at a small venue back home, but neither of us were in the mood for something so dark at that time of day. Mayhem are known for being very extreme in attitude and the singer dedicated a song to ‘all the religious leaders in the world’ screaming ‘time to die’ before launching into it. We obviously don’t follow them for these views, just the music, and while I knew to expect such statements, at Wacken it put me off the show. The thing about Wacken is that it’s nothing like the stereotypes of heavy metal, everyone is happy and peaceful, celebrating music and making new friends. It just didn’t feel like the time to be spouting negative anti-religious crap in such a positive environment. I suppose their reputation is all part of their act now in a way, they almost had to say it. Almost.

After Mayhem we saw Iced Earth, one of Courtney’s must-see acts of the festival. I didn’t really like them so Courts would probably be better off describing the show. He loved it and thought they played really well but thought that Matt Barlow needed to sing true to his own talents instead of trying to replicate Ripper Owens (who had replaced him in the band at one stage). I guess I agree, although I hadn’t heard them before. The main reason I didn’t like them was that Barlow was singing… wrong. I can’t compare him to Ripper Owens in terms of Iced Earth but even without that comparison, you could easily tell when he was singing songs written for him and when he was singing songs written during the Ripper era. He has a much lower, gravely voice than Ripper Owens but in the songs written for Ripper he would try and replicate the higher pitch and clean screams he does. He just didn’t work and came across like he was pushing himself unnaturally. Oh well, Courts still loved it.

We caught the last 10 minutes of Skeletonwitch, a lesser known American band who played in the Headbangers Ballroom – a tent set up for the smaller bands. We had a break then and so made our way back into the Medieval Market to have that delicious food one last time. I wish we had it every day, it’s so good. A little too good in fact because we ended up rushing to get back to the stages for Avantasia. Avantasia are a metal super group who I hadn’t heard much of before. They were on Courtney’s list of ‘Important Bands I Had to See with Him’ but by this time I was exhausted and entirely sick of walking around, unable to breathe and blowing my nose all the time. We made a deal, and I saw the first four songs before leaving him with friends we found from camp.

As it turns out I saw more of them anyway as I had to pick up our phone from the charge station on the way back to camp and there was a big screen nearby showing the act. It’s quite good because they have this screen set up well away from the insanity and if you want to see an act but aren’t quite up to the crowds you can go there instead. Everyone sits on the ground and eats and drinks and watches it as though it’s a movie – in fact after the headliner finishes each night they do show a metal-related movie there.

Eventually I made it back to camp but even with earplugs I could still hear Motorhead (gutted I missed them) playing a good 20 minute walk away and that was on top of the various stereos around. Between that and being unable to breathe it took me a good two hours to get to sleep. In that time, Courts watched the rest of Avantasia and then Kreator before making his way back to check on me. He didn’t quite make it that far, making friends with random Germans as he does, and playing drinking games at their camp for a couple of hours.

It sucks that I missed a couple of awesome bands I wanted to see, but I was exhausted, I couldn’t do it any longer. As far as festivals go though, Wacken wins. I discovered Helloween, (sort-of) saw Ozzy, saw Primal Fear and caught Judas Priest on their farewell tour. For that alone (and the fried apple skewers at the market) Wacken was worth it.

Day three down, time to move on.