Wacken Open Air

Festival Report 2008

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

So, another year has passed at the worlds' largest metal-festival, and with a total of 75000 people visiting, I'd say it was pretty darn impressing!

For those of you who still might not have heard about Wacken, it is a festival located a bit to the north-west of Hamburg, Germany. The town where it lays is also called Wacken (pretty logical, I suppose), and it has for the last nineteen years acted as host for metalheads from all over the world. It has grown a bit, yes; more bands, big and small, and the organisation have more and more adapted to not only respect the needs of fellow Germans, but try their best to make everyone feel welcome.

One of the (welcome) changes this year was the re-building of the bus stop. This, together with more control over the traffic, made it impossible for us to find a single car queue whilst arriving at the festival, and for those of you who have been there before, you know how much trouble there have been with this in the past. I would like to give the organizers a very big hand for this, it was wonderful to see. There was still a bit of a queue issue on the Sunday when everyone was going home, but I am confident that this be solved in a similarly satisfactory manner.
Another queue that's been bothering Wacken since the dawn of time is the one forming in front of the entrance of the festival area. Even though the organizers had put in several more entrances this year, it had failed to reach the crowd, thus resulting in yet another big line in front of the main entrance, whereas the others where more or less empty. The organizers put up a speaker system to tell everyone to spread out, and for next year (2009) there are plans of making some form of a traffic-light system, to show people where it is crowded and where it is easier to get in.
There were also some changes to the layout of the festival area. Last year saw the moving of the Party Stage to the other side of the twin Mainstage, and this year the road there was made a lot easier as they had removed the big wall separating the two.

Learning from past mistakes, Wacken has stopped putting hay out in the muddier parts of the ground. There was something of a fire accident with this last year, as you can see in our photo report from that time. Instead, this year they made good use of wooden splinters, and it worked like a charm.

We also attended a press conference with the heads of the Wacken organisation, and here are a few of the things we got to bring home from there:

This year the festival was visited by a total of 75000 people, but there are no plans to make it bigger than this. The organisation feels that this a good amount since it makes them able to get some really big bands, like this year with Iron Maiden, but without having to make compromises in security and such.
On the other hand, there is talk about bringing Wacken Rocks to other countries; Brazil and Australia were mentioned, but nothing seems to be set in stone as of yet.

The Wacken Metal Battle is also growing; this year it was attended by 16 countries, and for next year there will be no less than 32 different countries contending. The grand prize for this year was some sponsorship equipment from Washburn Guitars, Eden Bass, Mapex drums, Marshall amps and a record deal with Wacken Records. The winner was The Fading from Israel.

Wacken had also decided to give a little something extra back to the fans, therefore some of the earnings from the festival tickets and merchandise sales have been used to start up a fund, which was created to financially help young musicians in need. Also, remembering the tragic accident from a few years back, the fund will try to help out metalheads who end up in bad situations.

There was more said, but most of was in German, so I'm afraid I was unable to understand the rest.


By a fault of our own, we had missed the line saying that Wacken didn't open until Wednesday, so after a merry little trip to Hamburg where we spent far too many Euros in Remedy Records, we arrived at the Press Office, hoping to get our passes and then go and set our tent up.
But that was not to happen.
When we got to the Press Office we were amazed at how short the line was, but when we asked for our papers we found out. Nothing until 8 o'clock in the morning.
So what were we to do now? Well, since it was very warm, and we were a bit tired after all the driving we decided to go check out a place we have never visited before, although often wanted to. The Wacken bath.
It was the perfect way to end the day, cooling down and relaxing in a pool filled with metalheads. The only downside we could find was that they did not seem to have any lockers in the changing room, so we had to leave all of our stuff out in the car. Apart from that, it was great.


So, finally we got all the paperwork done (not any work at all, really...) and after a brief visit to the Metal Merchant right across the street, we went to the camping area to make our home. We ended right next to Metal Hammer's place, but we never saw much of them since they put walls up all around their camp. The rest of the neighbours were nice enough though.

We had actually planned to go see a few things already this day, like Mambo Kurt and Metakilla, but since everyone was playing in the W.E.T. Stage, which is way to small in our opinion, there was just no way we could get anywhere near enough to see or hear anything.
Instead, we ended up in a friend's camp where we spent the day hanging out and doing some drinking...


Ah, the big Iron Maiden day!
We did have a few hours to kill before the big show, though, so we spent some of the day getting acquainted with the new layout of the festival ground, which had opened up quite a bit since last year.
After this, we decided to go and check out Rokken, the Wacken karaoke live band playing at the Beergarden Stage. This turned out to be a very good choice, as they were one of the most entertaining acts we would see throughout the whole festival. I sincerely hope they will be back next year.

After this, at my request, we went down to the W.E.T. Stage, which was a bit less crowded today, since the rest of the area had been opened up. What I wanted to see was the Chinese contribution to the Metal Battle contest, called Voodoo Kungfu. I had never heard of them before, but the name and promo photo had intrigued me, so I was curious about their act. Another great show was what it was.
When they had finished, we had a couple of hours before Maidens show to backstage and enjoy the benefits of Wackens press area, which is the best press area I have tried so far.

All good, and just a little drunk, we went back to see Iron Maiden and after this there really isn't much more to tell...


Since it had been such a good day the day before, we were pretty late with getting out of bed on Friday, so the first band we got to see was Ensiferum playing at the Black Stage. After a couple of songs from the Finns, we hurried over to the Party Stage to catch a bit of Headhunter's show; they were both playing at the same time.
After these two shows we went backstage to empty the camera; we had a lot of shows left that day.

First up was Sonata Arctica on the True Stage, quickly followed by Massacre on the Party Stage. After this there was a short break and then it was time for yet another famous Finnish band, Children Of Bodom. We later heard that the Red Cross workers had counted crowd surfers for this show, and had arrived at a number in the vicinity of 2100(!) people. Sadly, as we at Metalmoments are no big fans of crowd surfers, this was something Wacken seemed to take great pride in.

Then it was time for this evening's main act, the long awaited live performance of Germany's own Tobias Sammet's Avantasia.
They played for about one and a half hour, and after this enjoyable and nice show, it was time for possibly the most evil band who has visited Wacken; Gorgoroth. Hmm, maybe not the most evil, since there has been plenty of black metal in the past, but they did have quite the elaborate stage setup.
At the same time the re-united Crematory was playing at the Party Stage, and we left Gorgoroth a bit early to go and see a bit of their show as well.


Actually, there were loads of bands we had planned to see here, but somehow we managed to miss almost all of them, due to various circumstances.
The first to go was Danish Mercenary, which I had actually been looking a bit forward to, but they were set to play at the same time as Peter Tägtgren had a pre-listening of his of his upcoming Pain album, so there you go. Bad luck.

A couple of other acts had to be passed up as well, since we hadn't yet visited the Medieval Market and the Metalmarket, and then At The Gates had to be turned down in favour of another Rokken show in the Beergarden. Here they were even kind enough as to hand out special 'Stage-freak' shirts to everyone, previously only available to those who had dared to enter the stage and sing with them.

Ending this years' Wacken was another one of Finland's finest, a band not one of us had seen before, but had heard much about; Lordi! The show was a blast, and I think all of Wacken was there to witness it.

All that was left after this was to go back to the tent with a big old smile on our lips, and the next day we packed up and went home from the last festival for us this year.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. We here at Metalmoments want to extend a big thanks to the backstage breakfast tent, which served some of the most excellent baguettes for a very reasonable price all through the festival. We will see you next year!

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