Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Surprises, Good and Bad

There was a slow start to our first full day at Wacken. We had brought a small amount of food with us but we couldn’t carry the weight of milk or the mass of bread so we were without staples. There’s really no easy way to go to town to shop and we hadn’t yet realized how well stocked the mini markets on site were, so we begged and borrowed some milk for our muesli and took in the sights and sounds of camp.

We went into the festival grounds with a few people from camp around lunch time and after watching a knight battle, a weaponry demonstration, and some poor guy getting pelted with slops and cream pies while in the stocks, we finally made it beyond the Medieval Market and the wristband booth. For all the crazy things we saw the night previous, we hadn’t even scratched the surface. We waited at one of the many Merchandise tents for an hour or so to get t-shirts and a programme and then headed into the Metal Market.

Everyone at camp had been very keen for us to see the spectacle that is the Metal Market and we weren’t disappointed. Rows and rows of stalls selling everything I’ve ever wanted. I mentally spent at least a thousand dollars but didn’t let myself actually buy anything – for the time being. Merchandise for every metal and almost-metal band you could think of, and far more varied than what we get at home. Motley Crue miniskirts, jeans, shorts, dresses… heaven. Handbags, alternative clothing, animal hats, zombie high heels, corsets, amazing cuffs and jewellery as well as dragons and armour and anything else that could possibly fit into the theme.

It made me wish Squish was there because it’s the sort of stuff we email each other pictures of all day, but right there, in front of me and potentially mine, right then and there. I didn’t have my camera with me but made a mental note to take it in at some point to take pictures to show Squish and Soul Buddy, if only to have them bandaid my upset at how little I could afford or fit on the bike.

We went back to camp for an hour to relax before the big bands started – strange to think how much we had seen and done and we hadn’t even seen a band yet. There is a stage in the Medieval Market but the main stages are through in a 4th and final area of the festival grounds – the only place I’ve had to show my wristband. When we walked through the gates the sight was incredible – the biggest number of people I’ve seen at any one time, ever. The stages are really well positioned, very slightly uphill but just enough so that those who don’t want to be front row can see no matter how far back they are.

Of course being us, we wanted to be as close as possible for the first band, Helloween. Taking turns leading the way we navigated the crowds and got within 10 rows of the front. It was nothing like trying to get to the front in New Zealand. The vast majority of the massive crowd was happy to let us through, and even at the front there was space to breathe. Still a tight pack, but nothing like the crush you would have at home.

I never knew I loved Helloween until I saw them live. I’m sure Courtney has played me there songs but he plays me a lot of songs, I didn’t know any of their songs before we saw them and at one point briefly considered not going in for them at all. I’m so glad I did though, they put on a really good show, and played until they essentially got asked to leave, making up for a couple of hitches at the start when the power went out on them twice. Halfway through their set I was thinking if I saw no other band at all at Wacken, it would be worth it.

The two main stages at Wacken are next to each other as at other festivals I’ve been to, and essentially take turns – one has a band on while the other is being set up for the next and so on – but they’re quite far apart and with the intense crowd it takes a long time to get between the two. Still, the next band was Courtney’s favourite, the one he was most excited to see – Blind Guardian. The crowd was a lot tighter for this one but we pushed our way back and across, out of the crush a little but towards centre stage. We ended up maybe 30 rows back – close enough to see everything but far enough away that we could breathe.

I didn’t love Blind Guardian as much as Helloween but Courts was in his element. There was a constant stream of crowd surfers overhead, including a girl we knew from home. I had to wear my glasses into the festival instead of contacts so I was ducking every time a crowd surfer came over to save them. The people around us changed as the crowd surged and moved around but no matter what, someone always tapped me on the back to let me know someone was surfing their way over.

Ozzy Osbourne was on the same stage as Helloween had been, immediately after Blind Guardian. I really wanted to see him upclose because I’ve seen him before but from the back of a crowd. We made our way to a good position but Courtney needed to pee and in a stroke of gentlemanliness, refused to just pee in a corner like everyone else. There was no way we would find each other again and he had the tent key, so I followed him out.

Getting out of that crowd was an insane experience. It took over half an hour and it was seriously hard work, never mind that when we eventually got to the back the only exit was on the opposite side. We ended up in a part of the festival grounds we still hadn’t seen, so we completely lost our bearings. Courts did eventually get to a toilet though, and we never bothered trying to get back in the crowd for Ozzy. We did go back through the gates but we stayed right at the back and watched the big screen. As much as I wanted to see him, we wouldn’t have been physically able to get as close as we had been in the length of his set, and there was no point fighting the crowd just to still watch the big screen.

As it turned out, as much as I wanted to see Ozzy up close, there was little value in hearing him. We heard that at a festival a couple of weeks ago he hadn’t sung a word and he may have been better off repeating that act. I love Ozzy Osbourne, but he had no voice whatsoever. On the easiest of notes it cracked and broke. I don’t know if he was sick or tired or just old but when I saw him 4 years ago he was amazing and this time, he just couldn’t sing. He relied even more heavily on screaming ‘I can’t hear you’ and on letting the musicians do epic 15 minute solos – both things he used the first time I saw him. It was genuinely sad to see a legend put on such a poor show and we left for camp half way through, after Warpigs. We could hear echoes of his set almost all the way back to camp and that was enough – I wanted to keep the memory of the first time I saw him more than create a new memory of a really sad performance.

Three epic acts down, two whole days to go. Anyone have any Redbull?

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