Blitzkrieg 2010 Part 1: Hamburg and the road to Wacken





In 2008, Metalbeast and I embarked on an epic metal adventure to Wacken Open Air. Originally it was going to be our trip of a lifetime - but let me tell you, metal festivals are more addictive than crack. Hooked, we somehow scraped together enough dosh to make it back for 2009, and 12 months later, we’re back again for 2010. This time, however, Wacken is only the beginning of a three festival trek.

Every story has to start somewhere, so let’s go to the very beginning. We find our heroes in wintery, miserable early August in Perth, Western Australia…

The epic metal trek begins

The mad rush and panic of packing ends, and with important items no doubt forgotten Metalbeast and I leave the house. Due to various tedious and not-at-all amusing mishaps befalling our travelling companions along the way, we arrive at the airport half an hour earlier than Charp and Vagrant, are forced to check-in separately, and are subsequently seated on opposite ends of the plane. I think back to the last minute things I didn’t end up doing and spend a few minutes sighing deeply.

Regular infusions of bourbon and coke make the five hour trip to Singapore fly by. Nothing, however, could make the next 12 hours bearable. We leave late at night in our timezone and arrive early in the morning Munich time, so in theory it’s just a really, really long night and we should try to get as much sleep as possible. That’s the theory, anyway. I’m not sure it actually works for anyone. The plane is cramped, children are crying, and getting your free international flight booze is easier said than done.

Ein Bier, bitte

Munich is a blur, then we’re on the plane to Hamburg. We arrive, collect luggage, and take a taxi to our hotel, which is not ready for us to check in at this early hour (surprise surprise). So we do what any self-respecting metal tourist would do – we leave our luggage at the hotel and head to the Reeperbahn for beers. Which we find without too much trouble, even before 11 am.

Later that afternoon we meet up with some British friends and consume yet more beers and a dodgy Chinese meal (frog drumsticks, anyone?). Fed, we head to the Headbanger’s Ballroom, which has relocated from the Fischmarkt to the middle of the Reeperbahn, where it’s nestled cosily between porn shops, peeps shows and kebab stands. The venue is a former comedy club and most likely strip club before that, and is much larger than the previous premises with a large stage (and classy red velvet decor to boot). It’s still hot as hell though, so we end up once again drinking outside on the pavement, as is the German custom.

Headbangers Open Air was the previous weekend and this is the after party, with a few bands playing, including Australian thrashers Trench Hell. Embarrassingly, the Aussie contingent is too tired, drunk and jetlagged to stay til the end and see our countrymen play, so we stumble back to our hotel instead.

Ein margarita, bitte

Monday is spent sourcing local SIM cards and doing some Hamburg sight-seeing. It’s a gorgeous city, with a mix of old and new architecture, and there’s plenty to see. One must-visit spot is Remedy Records: record label, music store, long-time Wacken collaborator and generally, a very cool place. We wander up and down the aisles of CDs, tshirts, rarities and vinyl, and try not to buy too much.  

The night ends messily at a Carribean Cocktail Bar. The proprietor, a large Honduran dude named Max, greets our party in English: ‘I’m the cocktail man, I’m gonna fuck you up’. He does his damnedest – although to be honest, it’s not like we were unwilling participants.

Hot tip: visit Roatan on the Fishmarkt, in St Pauli. Happy “hour” goes from 5pm until 9pm daily – now that’s what I call happy! If there’s no one else in the place, Max might even play some Ministry or Sepultura for you.

Una cerveza, por favor

Tuesday morning sees some of our party feeling rather unwell. The cocktail man, it seems, has lived up to his promise. After a quiet day, we meet up with some more of the English party and revisit a Spanish tapas restaurant that had been excellent the previous year. This year it was more like a scene from Fawlty Towers, only with five people all playing the role of bumbling Manuel. The less said about that night the better.

Wednesday 4/8: Wacken Open Air Day 0

Ever seen eleven metalheads, bright-eyed and bushytailed at 6.45am? On the day they’re off to a metal festival, sure! At this obscenely early hour we pile into taxis and head to the tiny village of Wacken.

Despite the hotel concierge being very concerned that the taxi would be very, very expensive, we pack everyone into 8-seater taxis and when we split the bill, it works out to a super-economical 15 euros each.

Hot tip: if you’re travelling with a group of mates, this is cheaper and less stressful than the train/bus route.

When we get to the holy campgrounds, we pretty much have our pick of spots. The Brits, who beat us there, have chosen a prime location on ‘Devil Drive’ and we pitch out tents around two gazebos, forming the camp site that will be our home for the next four days.  As the day wears on more of our friends arrive and add to the camp. We set up camp chairs, crank some tunes, and tuck into beers – and instantly, we’re right back in festival mode, almost as if we never left at the end of 2009.

We also witness a curious phenomenon: get a group of Aussies and Poms together, add some beer, some sun, and a nice grassy spot, and before too long a game of cricket spontaneously erupts. No one is sure who’s on which side (or even if there are sides), but a jolly good time is had by all.

Anticipation for Day One is high: Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and Gojira, amongst others. It’s been a long, long day, so after yet a few more beers, it’s off to bed.

Coming up next: Wacken Open Air, Day 1.