Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wacken 2007 - Friday - Trial By Fire

I woke up from my unsleep this morning to the roaring of a guy who'd been apparently jumped or something, and the vain protestations of another dude trying to calm him down. The fest has never been absolutely violence-free, and even the best of us sometimes get mixed up in bad situations, but when metalhead strikes metalhead, it's still, to use the Bard's words, "a treason...like unto another Fall of Man." Sad morning; with bands and gemuetlichkeit the day will hopefully improve.

17: Refilling the taps. With 70,000 visitors, you need a fuckton of beer. Note that this is Beck's now, not Hasseroder; Beck's took over this year and must have paid through the nose for the concession, because their advertising was all over the fucking place, as later shots will show.

18: Metal-Tigger and his mini-kutte. Shot outside the Metal Markt waiting to get in; the girls with Tigger have been taking him around to the shows they shoot and taking his picture with various musicians. The patches on the vest are not real-ssue merch, but photo-reduced versions of extant patches.

19: Suidakra taucht auf.

Suidakra [5/7]
If you can't get Ensiferum, these guys are a pretty good second choice; not hugely memorable over most of their stuff (or separable from Ensiferum in that regard), but decent, and they covered some Skyclad in their set, which is always supercool and shows that they know where they're coming from, at least. I've been ignoring this band as a product of Nuclear Blast hype for a while, but I've got to at least get whatever record they do their version of "Loch Lomond" on, because that was pretty damn sweet.

20: The fire, before it became a problem and caused a half-stage evacuation. Better than the official shots that went into the paper, and probably better than everyone else's except the people with their cameras up center frame.

While Amorphis was soundchecking, someone dropped a burning cigarette in the straw of the infield -- required because the ground was soaked, dry because it wasn't raining now, still piled and fluffy because it was the first band here. The result was a fast-moving, smoky blaze that fortunately didn't have much of anything else to burn. It was controlled fairly quickly, but it was pretty fucking tense for a while for those of us that were up on the stagefront in the fire's path. Credit's due for the smooth resolution to the organizers for managing the evacuation well, the fans for not panicking even when the smoke was making it tough to breathe, and of course especially to the firefighters for getting the blaze controlled, then out, then taking the initiative to hose down the straw all over the rest of the grounds so that it wouldn't happen again.

The source of the fire was in the unusually schitzophrenic weather this year; the ground was saturated, requiring the straw, but the straw itself is bone-dry until it's been trod down -- and this was the first set of the weekend on the True Stage. Regular smoke-out cans may have helped, too; the SOP for smokers here is to toss the butts, and it's easy to forget the carpet's flammable. After this, though, people, even those who didn't drop the cigs, were a lot more conscientious about treading them out.

The smoke created by the fire was billowing and particularly noxious, which isn't usually the case for straw. However, the stuff in the straw was also burning: mud, cigarette filters, and at least one shoe that was trapped in the ground when I walked over it to get to the stage, and found burned up when I walked up again after. We were in a way really fortunate that the straw was so dry: as such, it burned itself out almost as soon as it was lit; a little wetter, and there might have been flying embers to touch off fires in other places, which would have produced a much bigger problem and almost definitely casualties from smoke, trampling, and crushing.

21: Napalm Death -- seriously.

22: ...and why I couldn't get a closer shot. Due to the fire, gates were closed for about half an hour, and I had gone up to the foot of the beer garden in the course of the evacuation, both to clear the danger zone in case the blaze got bigger and to recover from the smoke inhalation I sustained by being right on top of it for the first ten minutes.

23: The Burned Lands. I walked up across here to get back to the front for Therion (actually Amorphis, the organizers trimmed sets but did not cancel any band due to the fire), partly to exorcise the remaining mental stress, and partly because it was empty, as usual.

Napalm Death [5/7]
Killer as always, especially the great response to "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" at the end, but I was way back for most of this one, and Napalm Death is just not a band to see from half a mile away. Someone in their crowd might have a better experience, but as described, I was high and dry and coughing out carbon.

Amorphis [5/7]
So ist es Deutschland: the fire is out, and the setup is speedily re-ordanized so that even the burned-out band gets most of their set. "Play old shit"-dude (see very old Infernal Combustion at the Wayback Machine if you can) got "Son of the North Star" out of them, and they closed, of course, with "Black Winter Day", but most of the set was new-style material; good, but a lot of it sounds a lot like Sentenced, and I'm not sure who came first. I am sure, though, that just as I like Amorphis' death metal period more than Sentenced's, I also like Sentenced's post-death stuff more than I do Amorphis'.

24: Amorphis defying the fire.

On the way over to rest through Therion while waiting for Possessed, I helped drag a guy out of the mud who had gone in nearly to his knees. He wasn't as tall as me, but he looked to be nearly as heavy, and his feet weren't nearly as wide. big spread feet and moving them quickly, before the mud can cover over the tops, will save you every time. I feel really bad for anyone who tries to do this festival without wide-soled, tall, tough logging/farm boots, because the ground will otherwise just eat you alive.

25: Therion being boring from a safe distance away.

Therion [4/7]
When I saw him in the campground earlier this morning, Dick was really up for this band, but unfortunately for my part, they did nothing to disabuse me of my long-held conviction that they've done nothing of note since about 1998. Seriously, this shit could put me straight out if I wasn't camping the rail for Possessed. The execution was decent, but the material top-heavy and kind of dumb.

26: A little paraplegia can't stop Jeff!

Possessed [7/7]
A little rough around the edges at times, and of course, it'd be better with the full original lineup (due to a bunch of dramas, this performance might have been described as by Sadistic Intent feat. Jeff Becerra), but this was still a crazy badass set that further demonstrated how little anything external -- like whether your legs work or not -- has to do with metal. Jeff's still awesome, and this was a complete command performance.

Not pictured: Jeff's NYDM vest; I didn't know he was a member. It may be thought of as a little silly back in Boston, but out here it's as good as home colors and every bit as welcome.

Also not pictured: two chicks mudwrestling by the True Stage-side infield bar complex. Why? Partly because it's exploitative (to take pics, not for the girls to do it freewilled and fully clothed), partly because it'll probably be in the paper tomorrow (it wasn't), and partly because the mud there is largely from piss; I don't want to take pictures of innocent people getting cholera. WTF MATE. Seriously, there is enouugh non-piss mud in the infield to wrestle on.

27: These furries showed up during Grave Digger. You really get all kinds at this fest. (not saying anything about the band not saying anything about the band not saying anything about the band)

Grave Digger and Turbonegro, both of whom I saw a couple songs from, aren't rated because I didn't really see them as such. Both were decent, but I caught much less than full sets from both due to other priorities.

28: Martin, Andy, and the boys are back!

Sabbat [6/7]
A little rough in places, but in total a nice thrash set for the time allotted. No Skyclad material, but the band's own originals are eminently cool enough. This was a great Wacken for classic thrash metal, and Sabbat put on a performance that could stand proudly with the more high-profile bands on the big stages.

29: Grutle et al fusing Thought and Act. Probably my best picture from this festival; the light is perfect, and the color and detail is like you're right there.

Enslaved [6.5/7]
I hate split scores, and as such this is the only one of the festival. This one is the result of leaving for logistical reasons after 3 songs spent at the front...only after which did they do "Storre en tid, tyngre en natt", which is pretty much my dream Enslaved experience. On the other hand, they sounded a little peaked on the tunes that I heard from the rail, rather than the line for the washrooms; awesome, but not superlative. This is not really a band, even now, for heat and sunshine. Still, STORRE EN FUCKING TID. I hate my colon. >[

30: Blind Guardian!

31: Hansi does the air clutch to pump up the crowd.

32: Hansi screaming his guts out.

33: Hansi comes over to our side.

34: Das Publikum, seventy thousand strong, horizon to horizon.

Blind Motherfucking Guardian at the Wacken Fucking Open Air [7/7]
If you've been to a good Guardian show in the States and think you know what this is about, three words: you. are. wrong.

If you haven't seen the Guardians live yet, take it serious when I say that seeing them at a major German fest has to go on your list of things to do before you die. It is an experience unlike any other show I've ever seen, anywhere, even Amon Amarth and Emperor on this very stagefront, from almost this exact spot, last year. The kids who in the US are too cool for Blind Guardian are here throwing themselves over the barricades, even the xHxCx doods and the guys in Burzum shirts and corpsepaint that are supposed to despise this. But THIS IS HEAVY METAL. THIS IS REAL. THIS IS GERMANY. And if that don't resonate like a koan, get your ass on a plane and get over here to get drunk and muddy; there's still time for Party.San, and more fests after.

In sharp contrast to their set at Worcester, they played three songs from Tales... in this set: "Traveler In Time", "Welcome To Dying", and "Lord Of The Rings", though unfortunately no "Lost In The Twilight Hall" or "The Last Candle", which I can see getting changed out as a set closer in favor of "Mirror Mirror" these days, but which I still love the hell out of. Come to Germany, see Tales... material live -- or just let the band know we like the record here in America too.

Unfortunately, they didn't amend their set to be more timely by including "Trial By Fire".

I was thinking about staying down for Iced Earth, but on my way to refill my beer, I realized that the ground wasn't getting any firmer, and trying to make it over across the flow of traffic in the pitch dark to see Kampfar would be a great way to brew up a joint. It was then or never to get out, and this way I got to sit down civilized-style in the beergarden for Dimmu and then the Tim & Jon Show -- for Matt-Iced Earth I'd have forsworn the beer and just pushed on up to the rail.

Dimmu Borgir [5/7]
What a great festival this is. What a fucking luxury to be able to say "oh, Dimmu? Bo-ring. Fuck them, wake me up for Iced Earth." This is the metal equivalent of bitching because your free tickets are in coach instead of first class. While I find Dimmu boring (especially when they aren't playing "Progenies..." or "Broderskapets Ring"), they do put up a solid show. As far as black metal goes for me, this is just a Vorspeise to Immortal tomorrow...and something to listen to while waiting for Iced Earth.

35: The ladies of the friendly BAC patrol- new this year. What'll they think of next?

Iced Earth [5/7]
The sound was a little fucked, probably largely because of the distance involved, but the impression of a band past its moment and without its definitive voice would probably remain even if I was up front where I'd seen the Guardians from. Regardless, though, Jon Schaffer hs written some great fuckin' metal songs in his day, and the execution thereof is good enough to continually draw you in. Matt ain't coming back, and if you haven't seen Iced Earth yet, you still need to, but this is the echo, not the shout; the smoke, not the flame.

Oddly enough: I met another "deep-cover man" while watching Iced Earth: a Brit who, being fluent in German, was talking exclusively in that language and passing mostly for native. It took about five minutes of conversation for it to come out that neither of us was using his first language...after which we had a good laugh and switched mostly to English, except when his friends chimed in (in English, usually...to which we answered back auf Deutsch). One wonders how many others of us there are out there, without recognizing marks or overseas accents, fitting in and admitting our outlander status only reluctantly. It's not hiding because we fear being discovered; we just like Germany and go undercover to dig into it a little more closely.

36: Dresdner Dudelsacker! Sure, "gonfallon, gonfallon", whatever, but having the state crest on your vest (unfortunately not visible here because the light was bad; it's on his right front pocket if you see him in person) shows certain pride here in the West that both real Ossis and pretend ones like me are only too glad to get behind. And this dude was a pretty mean piper, too.

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