LIVE EVIL: Wacken Open Air Festival 2017
Welcome to METALHEADS brand new section, Live Evil! What better way to break in this new section than to cover the massive Wacken festival in Wacken, Germany! Check back to this post throughout the duration of the festival for updates posted from the thick of it all. The Festival runs August 3-5th.
The journey begins! I have arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia, made it through security in record time, gotten food, and now I sit and wait to board the plane heading for Reykjavik, Iceland. Pardon all my spelling and grammatical mistakes as I am writing this from my iPhone. If the autocorrect doesn't get me, the fat thumbs will. So please bear with me. Even now the Xanax calms the raging inconsolable terror that arises before air travel. Soon a second dose will finish the process and with luck a little whiskey will lead to nighty-night time. That's all for now. See you in Iceland!
Update: Rather than boarding when we were supposed to it was announced that we would have an hour delay because our plane was hit by lightning as it was landing. Now they have to check out the plane. WTF. That's all I needed to make me feel better.
Update 2: It is now two hours since our initial anticipated departure time and no word on whether we even have a functioning plane. Hopefully this is not an omen of the rest of the the trip.
Update 3: The best laid plans can be turned upside down by one lousy lightning bolt. This is the face of the not amused. It is now 1 a.m. And rather than landing in Iceland in an hour like I should be, I am back home where we started the whole day. The flight was cancelled, which caused a continuous stream of foul language to spew from my mouth. Until it was pointed out to me that by cancelling the flight they may be saving our lives. Point WELL taken. However, this leaves us in total limbo as to what, if anythIng, will happen with the rest of this trip. Since we are now missing at least a whole day of the two planned in Iceland, it doesn't really seem worthwhile to bother with Iceland at this point. Sooooo, after sleeping on it we will figure out tomorrow if there is anyway to get to Germany directly. Stay tuned...
Iceland is no longer in my good graces. Icelandair cancelled our flight (sure, they had good reason) and their related Icelandair Hotel is now telling us, sorry you can't make it, but we still have to charge you an arm and a leg for the night you won't be here for tonight. Even though it is our fault not yours. So I cancelled the second night (screw them) and will now have to dispute the first night with my credit card (who is usually awesome about such things.)
Now we are doing our best to skip Iceland all together. Our cancelled flight was rescheduled for tonight, same time as yesterday. We can't avoid going through Iceland apparently, but we can try to get an immediate connecting flight to Frankfurt and end up in Germany a day early. Yes, please. Hopefully that will work out. We'll see. Hopefully my next post will be from another country. Until then...
Aboard the first flight from Dulles to Reykjavik. Not thrilled to be flying but glad to finally be under way.
This flight went pretty smooth, however when we arrived in Iceland and I woke up it turned out I could barely hear out of my left ear. Presumably the result of flying up at high altitude with the remnants of whatever sinus infection I've been fighting off. So when we got off the plane I wandered around in a daze for awhile unable to hear much. After a quick breakfast I pinched my nose and blew and managed to clear my ears mostly. Apparently you aren't supposed to do that for fear of hurting your eardrums. But it worked. Here's a photo right before landing. That is about the extent of what we saw of Iceland.
Wandering around the airport we did come across a beer and liquor store I want to revisit on the trip back through. Had some interesting items:
We then boarded our next flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This flight was a holy terror. Almost as soon as we got up my left ear (the blocked one from earlier) started hurting like a mother. Like someone jammed a pencil in it. I thought maybe I crammed my headphones in too deep but I don't think that was the case. This flight was only a little over three hours but I spent at least half that trying not scream and thrash about from the very extreme pain this ear was causing. I popped another Xanax and tried to sleep but the pain kept waking me up. I was sweating and visibly distressed. Luckily when the plane landed the pressure subsided and I stopped praying for death. Hopefully over the next two weeks I can get that shit figured out before having to get on a plane again, because that was no fun. Also, the extended landing was incredibly rough an bumpy which added nausea to the mix as well.
Here is our less than impressive view from our hotel window in Frankfurt. No matter. We arrived here around 5pm local time and thus far have done nothing but sleep. I woke up briefly to make this update, and with the hope of possible dinner, but that hope is quickly fading and I expect sleep will claim me again once I stop typing. Good night, world....
Ok, so I am now going to make a concerted effort to make sure this blog is more about travel/Wacken and less of a bitchfest. But at the same time it is becoming difficult not to laugh (preferable to crying) about the continuous string of bad luck.
In the middle of the night last night I woke up with my left ear (the usual suspect) in screaming agony. Guessing I have some kind of ear infection. I can't remember the last time I've had one of those, but it isn't fun. By the light of day I have found drinking lots of hot coffee seems to help.
So then I finally was ready to wash off the road and start a fresh new day. Aaaaaaand the brand new Samsonite luggage lock on my suitcase decided to give up the ghost and prevent access to all of my everything. Well of course, right? So after a phone call to the hotel lobby my hero with a toolbox arrived and cut that shit right off of there. Now I am clean and fresh and ready to get this show rolling. I am preferring to think we are getting all the bad luck out of the way now so Wacken will be nothing but awesome.
Coping with illness on the road. "Bartender, more of my medicine, please..."
Well, the beer didn't work out so well as medicine. Yesterday I started feeling worse and my right ear joined the fun as well. So I ended making an 11pm visit to the lovely St Georg Klinik shown above where some very nice people took care of me. They assured me I could treat it over the counter, gave me some tips and said I should be able to get back on a plane when it is time to return home.
So today is the day. I just took a train from the station shown above and am now at the Hamburg airport waiting for my shuttle to Wacken. There are Metalheads everywhere; it's a beautiful thing to see.
The holy vessel that shall convey me to the holy land.
Chris and George with beer!
Sunset over Wacken
So Chris and I did a lot of stuff last night. Above are some of the pictures. We saw Annihilator and I talked politics with a German. we agreed that metal brings us all together. We saw pretty much everything except the infield which didn't open until today.
Chris about to eat one of this guy's relatives
George and Sergiy
Huge storm, tent leaking
The gang's all here
Doro - Goddess of Metal
Ross the Boss
Mud. Lots of it.
What a day today has been. Chris and I met up with Matt and Eric first thing in the morning. We made the rounds and then went to meet up with Sergiy and his wife and their friend. We saw clouds rolling in and high-tailed it back to the tents but didn't beat the storm. A real rager. The tent nearly came down and was leaking water. Then we went to see the infield opening ceremonies. An all-star kind of thing. Doro came out and played a couple songs and I lost it. She is so amazing still after all these years. I wept with joy. But then Ross the Boss came out and played an all Manowar set that blew my mind. All the old great songs. I was singing and crying and waving my arms (which I never do.) I saw the true beauty of Wacken today. It rained throughout all this. More mud. Then we saw Europe and Chris lost his mind. It was at this point I realized boots are not a recommendation, they are mandatory. So I picked some up and travel is much easier. Sitting outside by the bus drop off now waiting for Keenan to give him Jay's ticket. What a day so far.
When your tent gets flooded and all your stuff gets wet and the battle vest doubles as a pillow. PS - I am starting to smell baaaaad. I am unaccustomed to infrequent showering. Looking forward to a full hotel shower in Berlin.
Today has been another amazing, yet extremely tiring day. Started with Memoriam at 11am (and was specifically reminded they are not Bolt Thrower). Got a good spot on the rail so stuck around for Lacuna Coil. Was never much of a fan, but Cristina's voice is so amazing I was glad to hear her no matter what crap she was singing over. Then it was Sanctuary. Warrel said they brought us rain from Seattle. It rained like crazy during their set and despite being miserable to feel physically, it was incredible to stand in pouring rain with thousands of Metalheads and experience the set from a band I first saw live 30 years ago. Realized Grave Digger was next so continued to stick around. Never been a big fan but couldn't pass up a legendary band in their homeland. Met Igor on the rail. He is from St. Petersburg, Russia and we discussed how easy it was for us to get along. I think Trump and Putin need to go to a metal festival and work things out. The spirit of metal provided by Grave Digger and the huuuge crowd for them moved me to tears again even though not a fan. Wacken is amazing. Met back up with Chris, Matt and Eric after that and we ended up taking in Grand Magus and Prong. They talked me into Dillinger Escape Plan who are up next. Then it is off to the reason for being here: Emperor. More later! \m/
Emperor was way more awesome than I can describe in a short post, so come back for the podcast episode to hear my tale. Megadeth sounded pretty good too. So Mrs. Lincoln, other than that how was the show?
Have I mentioned the constant screams of "Waaaaacken!" Almost as if people can't believe they are here. I know I can't believe it.
It is Saturday morning. Last day. This has been a total blast, but I continue to have bad luck. The boots I bought to deal with the mud started rubbing against my shins and causing blisters and sores. One of these is in a pretty bad way. It looks disgusting and very irritated but hopefully not infected. It caused an abrupt end to my night last night as it was becoming apparent it was a real problem. Eric has lots of first aid stuff and was able to hook me up with ointment and a bandage, but I am probably going to go to the med tent to see if they can do anything more. But first I have to see Possessed and Ahab. Because you have to have priorities. It's very inflamed and nasty looking but I've ditched the boots for my shoes again so at least it isn't still rubbing and I can get around better. Luckily a lot of the mud is starting to get packed down so there are a lot of places I can still go without boots. Here's a picture of Possessed from my vantage point leaning on a railing.
Good news! I went to the Red Cross station and they patched me up. Took off the bandage, cleaned the wound, gave me a proper bandage and some replacements and I'm back in the game coach.
Powerwolf is playing now and they sound incredibly good. The infield is absolutely packed so I don't think I'll get close enough for a decent pic.
Next we saw Wolfheart. They were on a surprisingly small stage that was generally used by folk bands. We enjoyed the intimate access and they sounded great too.
Right before Wolfheart we heard a few Alice Cooper songs. I was surprised and pleased to hear "The World Needs Guts" off Constrictor.
We also saw Amon Amarth from a great distance due to the many thousands of people there. I've already seen them on this album tour, but this time Doro came out to duet with Johan from the album and that was something you won't see everyday.
By this time it was getting crazy cold for August and we made our way to a big fire pit to warm up while waiting for Tankard. I have never been a huge Tankard fan but have been getting into them lately. I figured it best to see a classic band in their homeland. The crowd loved them.
During Tankard, Eric and I stepped out to use the facilities. Many people just pee wherever they want (no matter who is around) and as such the ground water in Wacken is polluted. They put up signs everywhere saying not to pee on the holy land. As we walked out we saw a guy peeing on a fence where lots of people pee. So of course it was all muddy. Well today the holy land fought back. This dude slipped in the pee mud and went down sideways. Hard. And was covered in muddy piss. He hopped up like it was a snake and danced around waving his arms around in panic over being covered in pee mud. Lesson learned?
Onward to the final band of the evening and of Wacken 2017: Kreator. The German thrash legends took to the stage just as the sky decided to take one last shot at us and rain again, making it not only wet but even colder. Despite the last minute weather the band sounded Amazing! Afterwards we trudged back though the mud to start prepping for leaving the holy land after only a few short hours of sleep.
The experience has certainly been a rough one. The weather and the mud demand strong stamina. But what an incredible and enjoyable experience it was to finally attend the world's largest heavy metal festival. I'm looking forward to a shower (it's been four days, I STINK.) Also a real bed and bathroom. But I don't regret a second of the experience and am so glad to have spent the time with three men I now call brothers. I love you guys.
The one thing that was constantly driven home to me this week was how well people from literally all over the world get along at Wacken. In metal we are all brothers and sisters and place of origin matters no more than the standard conversation opener, "Where are you from?" We all ooh and aah about the exotic locales. Russia. Columbia. Wales. And here even the US is an exotic location to be marveled upon. I wondered about admitting to being American while here, but I did not encounter anyone who reacted poorly towards me based on my country of origin. Most were excited to see someone from so far away. So if all the people of the countries of the world can come together in peace and camaraderie for something like this, with no concerns for race, politics or sexual preferences (I saw a great many battle-vested lads hand in hand), why can't the rest of the world get it together? It's pretty cool, we should give it a try.
The partying at Wacken goes on long into the wee hours of the morning. You just have to accept that there are going to be drunk people carrying on and sleep as best you can. However, on one night, there was a particularly insidious tent nearby. They decided, very late, 2-3am if I recall, to play this track loudly from their tent. As you might guess, after the first few dozen times through people in the area were not amused. I tracked it down and am posting it here for posterity.
Once I get home I will clean up and expand on all of this. I will also embed a player with the recordings when it posts. \m/