Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wacken 2006 Part 1: Travel and Thursday, or Well, Quality Over -- Wait, *What*??

Because Emperor was reuniting for Wacken this year and I somehow knew that the US Heimatsicherheitsdienst would not allow Samoth into the country for the US shows, I packed up my pack again and flew off across the Atlantic to the metal Mecca for another year of "great festival - great bands - a perfect evening for METAL" (to quote Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg from last year's Rock Hard fest). I got my skull blown in by an absolutely stellar lineup, and will of course be going back next year; Blind Guardian, a reunited Immortal, and Samael are already announced, and there's of course going to be even more godlike bands announced over the next 11 or so months.

This is a documentation of how I got to and from Wacken, and little things about Germany and other places noticed en route, with some commentary and analysis that I was able to think and see about because I wasn't a newbie this year, and marveling at simply being able to take part.


2 and 3 August - Reise, Reise, Ankunft

The single signal mistake I made planning this trip was flying Continental instead of Lufthansa. Continental sucks, not least because everything crossing the Atlantic is routed through Newark. Now, some people may think that getting down on Newark isn't fair, but I have family in New Jersey, and even New Jersey people get down on Newark. Newark is so bad, it's the New Jersey of New Jersey...but in all fairness, Continental's other hubs are in Cleveland and Houston, so Newark is probably the least sucky of them. This is an awful and condemnatory statement.

Fortunately, they were able to at least get me and my gear in to Hamburg without losing any of it. Then it was over to the central station, and on a train to Itzehoe that turned out to be free because the ticket-taker's handheld ticket-printer was out of order. Hooray technology. Off the train and onto the bus, where I got to listen to a bunch of first-time attendees from Sweden and Finland talk in English about what they expected from the festival. I was smiling inside at their naivete, and at how much Wacken was going to exceed their expectations. Twenty thousand people? Try one and a half times again that many, and for the headliners almost all of them are going to be in the infield.

However, even I was surprised at how camped-up the place was. Last year, I got in later on Thursday and didn't have any problem setting up fairly close to the entrance, but this year I was out in East Siberia, as can be shown on the map. Getting there required walking almost all the way around the festival grounds, a great workout and a discouraging if simultaneously totally awesome reminder of how many damn people this festival draws. Next year, I'll go a day earlier; I'll get to see TSV Wacken get their butts kicked by St. Pauli, and maybe I'll even be able to get a reasonable campsite.

After setting up the tent, it was off to the festival grounds to get in some beer and merch, including a vital piece of equipment because I forgot to bring a carabiner for certain uses. After bolting it up, I was good to go:

01 - Wacken mug gear im vollen Effekt. A 3,60-euro goth wristband attaches the mug handle to the tool strap on the shorts. The liter-mug is the most efficient available drinks vessel, but kind of a pain to have in your hand all the time. This way, it's constantly to hand, but not necessarily in your hand.

While in the beer garden, I took a couple other pictures as well.

02 - New this year: festival banners on the old foundry tower.
The Raiffeisen tower is a Wacken landmark, and for this year, the festival organizers were able to hang banners on it, probably due to their strong and ever-better program of village relations that makes it possible to hold a festival of 50,000 metalheads in a town of 2000 farmers -- and have most of the locals like it. Any way you cut it, this looks damn awesome, especially for festival veterans for whom it was not only new but different.

03 - This dude wears two backpatches by using one as a backflap. The big takeaway from Wacken, clothing-wise, is that there's no wrong way to build a patchjacket. Later, I encountered a guy whose vest was all patches, the underlying canvas having worn away, and a guy so big that he could wear three normal backpatches side by side across his back. Mine, worn constantly, was about average in badassedness level, as opposed to the US where it's one of the few and often one of the most kickass among that small number. I ofcourse picked up a number of new patches at Wacken this time, but only a few will fit on the current jacket; time to start building another one as soon as I find the right backpatch.

My first drink finished and some good pictures taken, I went down into the infield to wait for the first bands of the fest to go on, and took a few pictures that make a discount panoramic:

04 - Empty infield pan shot part 1.
05 - Empty infield shot part 2.
06 - Empty infield shot part 3.

I got a beer, stood about watching people fill in while drinking it, then sat down at the base of the bar to rest while waiting for Faster Inferno to start. It was at this point that things started to go wrong.

The first problem was that I fell asleep without noticing. The second problem was that when I woke up and tried to stand up, I didn't notice that my legs were still asleep, and unable to balance, I fell over on my butt. I was uninjured, but well aware of how dumb and lame I looked as I pounded and massaged feeling back into my lower limbs. This was not a good sign, as Faster Inferno was only barely getting started. If I continued to hang around, I would likely fall asleep again, and if I fell over again, I might get escorted out to get medical attention that I didn't really need; I wasn't drunk at all, just exhausted from travel and basically not having slept in the longer part of 32 hours. So I decided to return to base camp and get some sleep; with enough sleep I would be recharged for the rest of the festival and, besides, Faster Inferno was pretty bad.

Faster Inferno - 3/7. I only heard about half their set, but if the guitarist's last name wasn't Schenker, and if his dad (Michael) and uncle (Rudolf) weren't playing later in the same night with MSG and Scorpions, respectively, there is no way in hell that they would be even on the W.E.T. Stage, let alone opening the festival on a mainstage. Unoriginal and with crummy songwriting and arrangements, I should have just continued sleeping -- back at the campsite, and set an alarm for when Victory was going on so I could wake up and get merch before MSG.

On the way back to the site, the rain which had been dripping intermittently had cleared off, leaving a good omen behind:
07 - "At the end of the rainbow/With gold in our hands"; a good omen over the campground.

This would be the last notable rain of the weekend, with only a few drips on Friday during Nevermore.

Before dozing off, I snapped some shots of the huge merch haul. Most of this stuff is from the Metal Markt, but I also joined in the run on festival wear in order to get some good shirts for me and my brothers before they sold out. Stuff was selling out while I was in line -- it was fucking whack.

08 - Swag pile part 1: t-shirts, Eddie pin, and some CDs.
09 - Swag pile part 2: a whole bunch of CDs and some stuff from the last shot.

In amid this stuff you can see a Bifrost longsleeve, which is ultra-rare, and a Xentrix album, which while it isn't For Whose Advantage?, is still ultra-ultra rare. I actually asked the guy who was selling it if it was actually for sale, because the idea of Xentrix albums available for purchase is so foreign to be that I could not initially believe it. 25 euros for a used CD, and I still think it was him who got ripped off. I mean, it's FUCKING XENTRIX, man.

At around 2300 I had to get up and walk into the woods to take a piss, and I saw the Scorpions' lights and heard some of their music coming across the empty fields and crowded campgrounds. it was some good stuff, but I was still too bushed to go down in person. Yet another reason to fly in a day earlier next year, especially if it's Saxon doing the "Night To Remember"show.

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