Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wacken 2007 - Sunday - Quintessence, or, Fucking Metal

As referenced above, this year's Wacken (from my perspective) breaks out with a minimum of levering into an elemental concept: on Wednesday, the problem was water everywhere; on Thursday, the waters receded but the land was still trying to eat your feet. On Friday we had the fire, and Saturday is a kluge, but there was enough Stimmung of various kinds throughout the day that I could use the title.

This brings us to today, the last of the five elements -- and it works whether you're using the Western or Eastern tradition. The quintessence ties everything together, and what it binds here is Metal. As every newbie I met here said -- and there were a bunch -- this is what heavy metal is: awesome bands, good beer, easy camaraderie with other fans. Because other scenes don't have a festival quite like this all to their own, they're still stuck on "if the kids can be united"; all metalheads have to do is come here and see what unity really means. The crowd for Immortal is the crowd for Blind Guardian is the crowd for Heaven Shall Burn; we all take a smaller slice of the whole as our personal preserve, but never forget that we belong to the whole as well as the parts.

In the course of this festival, I met and talked with people from Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Mexico, of course Germany, the Netherlands, Canada (for reals, not Lisa-Simpson-style), New Zealand, Spain, L.A. and Philly in my own land, and renewed an acquaintance with an expat Ozzie, among likely several more nations to whose members I spoke only in German or German-accented English. I shared beers with and gave crowdsurf support and initial boosts to countless people I didn't even know. I traded email addresses with a graphic designer and former Bundeswehr soldier from the Ruhrpott, and sweet nothings with a silicon foundry worker from Bavaria. I heard a Brit's hopes for sane government under Gordon Brown, Germans' relief that a lot of Americans are as dissatisfied with the policies of the current US administration as they are, and a Swede's dream to drive across the US, Atlantic to Pacific. I heard a fuckton of great bands, but there's so much more to Wacken than the music. We're all together here: we endure the traffic together, survive the mud together, thrash to the music together, drink the beer together, and in the end, every single one of us is connected through the vast web of smaller interactions to every other thrasher among the tens of thousands here. If you want to get sociological about it, this is where heavy metal goes to rediscover and reestablish its core values; if you're a normal person, it's the biggest and craziest party of its kind on earth.

That being said, it's also a model to be imitated. This for-real metal idyll with 70,000 residents, its own newspaper, and the top bands of the genre from the head to the tail of the bill started out as a biker party in a sandpit that maybe 300 people, tops, came out to, where a couple of bands played, including the organizers, who couldn't get an open-air slot anywhere else. The implication is obvious: support your local open air, because this could be your town. Go to Forest of Witchery (unfortunately canceled; Pam and Loki didn't have as much luck with their host as Holger and Thomas have with Uwe) or Loudfest if you're in New England; unfortunately, they're on the same weekend this year, and since my camping supplies are still going to be arsed up, it's up to Haverhill for me. Someday, we may have a festival in America that approaches this level, but even if and when we do, I'll still come back here if possible in addition to supporting festival culture locally.

Full circle; the worm bites its tail and the traveler flies back to whence he came. I'll be back next year for Maiden and Kreator and whoever else awesome comes by, to see old friends again and make new ones. The only question is, kommst Du auch mit??

31 July - 02 August
Rain Or Shine

Final Wrapup/Gesamtbetrag
bands seen: 28
bands seen from the first row: 9
patches: 34 + festival strip
CDs: 28 + 2 freebie samplers
beers: lost count
new friends: Monika, Andy (IE), Kurt, Thorsten, Timo, Dick, Janini
hours sleep: <10 overall experience: Weltmeisterklasse
coming back: fuck yes 2008

Bands Thursday: 23 points, average score 5.75
Bands Friday: 55.5 points, average score 5.55
Bands Saturday: 71 points, average score 5.92
total festival: 149.5 points, average score 5.75

This was written originally shortly after the fest, and a bunch of other stuff has passed in between; Forest of Witchery got cancelled -- though it'll hopefully be back for another try next summer -- and closer to home, I put this year's strip and six other patches on my jacket, got the Boston underground issue of Metal Maniacs (reviews of Revocation and the Watchmaker/Hirudinea split, plus half a page on Shroud of Bereavement, so you should get it too) and Ramming Speed (nee Despotic Robot)'s single, saw THIS IS BOSTON, NOT LA on a sheet hanging over the side of the stands at a recent Revs match (good to see we're getting more of the right people into soccer in this country), and put in an order for my 2008 ticket; I was going to wait, but Iron Maiden and no expansion means there are going to be a lot of nervous people ordering early, and it'd suck if I got frozen out. (also, how likely is it that the dollar's going to gain against the euro any time in the next 12 months? might as well just cut my losses.) Normal show updates will return shortly -- at least 3 gigs between now and Sunday, maybe 4 if I'm not feeling beat Thursday night after soccer and the MLS prime-time match isn't compelling, and slowly life will go back to normal.

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