Wacken Open Air

Festival Report 2009

Text: Tobias Nilsson Photo: Lunah Lauridsen

Thursday:

We entered Wacken about midday, and even though this should count as rush-hour, there were literally no car queues to be found. Even though this was a repetition of last years’ success, it still feels new and welcome to me.
After camping down with some friends we met at an earlier festival, and of course having some welcoming beers, we went for a walk around the tent areas. It was still a couple o hours before the first band for us to see, so when we met some friends from home, we stayed on for a bit in their camp for some cosy socialising.

The cancelation of Anthrax was of course very unfortunate as I had been looking forward to seeing them again, but even without them, there was still plenty of music to go around.
The first band on the agenda was our fellow Danes of D:A:D, and even though this could be considered light-weight for Wacken, they still pulled a good crowd.
Sadly, this would also prove to be my last concert for the day...
As I had some time to spare before the next band, a return to camp seemed to be a good idea; but as I was there I accidentally (ahem...) partook in a drinking game with our German friends, which would prove fatal for any further plans of seeing music.
The planned last show of the godfathers of pirate metal, Running Wild, came and went without me noticing it, and when it was time for the godfathers of all metal, Heaven & Hell, I was too wasted to take any real pleasure in the show. This must count as one of the worst mistakes of my life!

And then darkness came...

Friday:

To jumpstart the day, we started out with doing a double feature. Vreid and Napalm Death were playing at the same time, and as we wanted to see both, we had to go for half’n’half. First Vreid on the Black Stage, and then Napalm Death over at the Party Stage. Both had pulled nice crowds, even though they started as early as 11 a.m.

After this it was time for a well deserved break, as I hadn’t really woken up yet, and later we had Gamma Ray over at the True Metal Stage. They performed excellently, although the grounds were becoming rapidly filled up with people, and as soon as they were done we decided to walk away from the masses for a bit.
This led us to the W.E.T. Stage, where we were just going to get a drink, but a couple of interesting looking people entered the stage, so we decided to stay on for the entire show. The band was called Irr, and they were Norway’s entry in the Metal Battle competition.

Wacken had incorporated a whole new area to the festival, a medieval market place called Wackinger, and this was where our feet led us next.
Beautifully constructed, and filled with all sorts of stands and activities, it provided just the kind break that one might need from time to time. You could sit down and have a cup of traditionally prepared tea, have some meat in a bun, or if you were into some more action related stuff, there was also knights battling in a jousting ground.

Back at the festival area, it had now become time for Hammerfall. The concert was good, but the insane amount of people hindered us in even getting near the stage.
The same went for In Flames, which we had to drop completely, and instead went for a drink with a friend from Denmark.
The crowds had lessened a bit as night came, but it was still nearly as packed as before when Germany’s own Doro entered the True Metal Stage, and when this lovely lady was done it was finally time for our personal main band; in an altogether magnificent performance by the mighty Amon Amarth.
Even though it was now passed 3 a.m., the show had invigorated us, and we were hungry for more. This was provided by a late-night open bar, where we raised our glasses with friends from festivals past.

And thus ended day two...

Saturday:

Another warm and sunny day – was I really at the right festival?
Obviously, we were finally paid off for putting up with so many years of rain, and it was beautiful. More of this please.

Musically, the day started out with a nice re-run from Metalcamp in Suidakra, and as I now knew a little more about the band, I was able to appreciate this show more than the first one.
After this it was time for a hard run with three bands in a row, starting with Cathedral on the Black stage, after which Testament thrashed the True Metal Stage.
Even though Testament did an excellent job (as usual), I still had to cut their set short in order to get a good spot for the show which I was looking forward to the most at this years’ Wacken; Borknagar.
This time they were playing the Party Stage, and even though I arrived 45 minutes before the show, the front row was already filled up.

When Borknagar were done, we stayed on at the Party Stage as the next band up was Pain; the break was spent drinking and eating ice-cream (courtesy of the walking vendors Wacken had introduced this year).
There were several other bands we had planned to see and do this day (like Volbeat, Turisas and Machine Head), but the festival grounds was so incredibly filled by this point, merely moving around was becoming something of a pain, and this resulted in us not being able to do a decent review again until Gwar who played the Black Stage at one in the night.
They did an excellent show however, and after it we were pretty beat and went for some farewell drinks with our Italian and German friends (until around five...).

Thus began the day after...

Sunday:

Not officially a part of the festival, I still feel it is relevant to mention this day as it is filled with as much, if not more, emotion as the rest of the festival.
You wake up to a sombre, nearly depressing feeling as you look out over the emptying fields, and all you want to do is stand up and scream; ”I never wanna go home!”

And of course, the lines on the freeway almost make that wish possible. We were sitting in line for several hours going to Hamburg, until we finally gave our GPS a chance at guiding us through the country site instead, which made the trip a much faster one.
If you are not quite finished with the German metal atmosphere (which is the best one I have tried so far), the afterparty at Headbangers Ballroom (in the Fischmarkt district, close to Reeperbahn) is an excellent destination for finishing up the weekend.

Postscript:

Before the festival, I had heard a lot of voices complaining about a weak line-up; I couldn’t quite understand this, as I felt my time schedule was very well filled up. Ok, so it didn’t offer any giant names such as Iron Maiden from last year, but the small, midsize and large bands were all well represented.

As always, Wacken is ahead of the game in reinventing itself from year to year as well, and the new inclusions of a wrestling tent in addition to the already present soccer courts should care for all the sport heads out there, and the excellent medieval village did the trick for the rest of us.
Also, the addition of walking beer and ice-cream vendors was a welcome sight in the festival area, as the number of people there can make it difficult to reach the bars.

I thoroughly enjoyed this years’ Wacken as well (just as every other year...), but I still wish the organizers would think before putting names like Turisas and similar on the W.E.T. Stage. It’s good enough for stuff like the Metal Battle and such, but for those semi-large to large names there is nowhere near enough space. I say make it bigger, or stop billing famous names on it.
Other than that, everything is pretty sweet...

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