Wacken Open Air: The Pulse of Metal

Wacken Open Air, get more (head) bang for your buck...

What comes to mind when the words Wacken Open Air are uttered? Some say, the Holy Land; some say Nirvana and others - the Home of Metal. There is no denying the statement the festival has made; its contribution to both gloryifying and supporting heavy metal and its importance to the people who each summer descend upon this rolling green valley and immerse themselves into the depths of its vast moshpits.... Into the belly of the beast!

The muddy paths of Wacken have been troden on and warn in by over over 2 million people in its twenty seven year history.... and not just any people - Metal Heads. The blood, sweat and beers of over two million metal heads have soaked into the soil of Wacken and in turn created this almost celestial environment. The soil of Wacken in turn infuses itself into our DNA and we all take a piece home with us (that and a nasty bangover). To Wacken metal heads are the pulse. They are the blood that corses through its veins. Stepping foot upon the holy land is one of the most invigirating experiences you will have. Sure, sure there are heavy metal festivals the world over - great ones, though none evoke the same amount of overwhelming reverence, admiration and adulation as Wacken. 

Each year the festival increases its presence and continues to aim for a perfect atmosphere for punters to enjoy our sweet, sweet music. During the last two years the Wacken Open Air has been drowned by rain and mud. The water could not flow off properly and made the subsoil gritty. "Over the  last few  years, we have reached the limits of what  we can expect from our “Holy Wacken Land” and the visitors," says organizer Holger Hübner.

For this reason, the company invested in comprehensive construction measures. The first construction phase consisted of excavations and straightening of the area. Several excavators, tractors and bulldozers were used to remove sinks and elevations which had deformed the ground due to the stresses of recent years. So the water had accumulated in the sinks and could not drainoff.

In addition to these recent works - at this year’s instalment of Wacken Open Air, with the German festival’s curators are reportedly constructing a beer pipeline at the 2017 gathering. Yes, a beer pipeline. News of this has spread like wild fire and just goes to solidify the festival's determination to not only increase the punters experience but to decrease their environmental footprint. The state-of-the-art pipeline is set to service six tasty and most likely German (the tastiest) beers to be poured every second from one centralised system. A god damn beer pipeline! And while we get overly excited about this beer pipeline - to a metal head on a hot day of Wacken is considered a lifeline - the logistics were simple; the installation of the pipes and the enlarged drainage is a lasting investment in the infrastructure of Wacken and is paving the way for many more years of Heavy Metal at Wacken Open Air!

Over the years Metal As Fuck have proudly covered and documented this monumental festival - we have stories (both professional and not so), we have battle wounds, made life long friends, and even our German is pretty pro now - and we like to take the opportunity each year to promote this festival not only from a media perspective but from a punter perspective - no matter how focused you are on your tasks at Wacken (and I tell you what, they run a pretty tight ship) there is always time for fun and always time for firsts.  As an Australian, getting to the holy land is easier than you think... 

Tickets - that golden ticket! Be mindful that they go on sale a year prior to the event and sell within hours. This baby will set you back 221 Euro... About 330AUD. This may seem like a lot to some at first howevever lets see what you get for this rent payment: 3 days of non stop heavy metal - including camping! That is 3 massive days of heavy metal, beer and friends. You will get more (head) bang for you buck!

Flights - here is your where your budget gets beaten up - the initial flight from Australia to Wacken (or thereabouts) can cost anywhere from 1500 - 2500AUD. A massive amount of money. Though take the opportunity to poke around Europe! 

Tents - where are you going to pass out either from moshpit exhaustion or beer? I personally go through  German business mein-zelt-steht-schon here Rick and the team will treat you like you are the king of the polyester network. As you hire your tent in camping area A, the tent is fully erected on your arrival, you are also greeted with airbeds, sleeping bags, camping chairs - the works. And after the festival, you simply leave. It is the best feeling walking out of the field with nothing but your bag, looking at all the nonsense people have to pack up and take home. You can find the team here

Transport to the festival - several companies make the trekk to Wacken from all cities around Germany and beyond - the price can vary however the cheapest is from Hamburg and will set you back around 45AUD for a return trip. Each bus is full to the brim of heavy metal travellers so take my advice and book early! All the information you need to know can be found here 

Wacken open their gates to metal heads from all around the world and have a comprehensive site of information - if you have any questions, I bet they can be answered here

Festival goers come in all manners and modes, many are rookies, many are well seasoned; you’ll see these hardened veterans around; they are the punters with (literally) 20+ festival armbands donning their arms like scalps, walking barefoot and running on zero hours sleep. These punters have the most incredible stories. You’ll pick out the rookies too – the one’s with Dettol travel packs clutched to their belt loops, waving their phones senselessly in the air for a signal; they have ridiculous footwear and basically either look like a kid in a candy store or horrendously overwhelmed.... We won’t sugar coat it, it can be gruelling at times even for the well seasoned; there are mornings when you are hung the fuck over and you wake inside a 40 degree tent covered in Margarita sugar [It was delicious the night before] or when you are literally a darker skin shade from the tornado’s of dust you’ve been covered in for 4 days straight [happened] or when your tent mate spew’s on your shoes after too many cocktails [*rolls eyes* true story] or when the 100 year storms decide to stop in and you find yourself slogging around in mud up to your knees the whole festival [holy fuck that did happen] – one thing you need to realise though; it’s all totally fucking worth it!! 5 day metal festivals are not for the feeble, they take stamina, incentive and a fucking great attitude. However, any aspirations you have for attending one of these festivals often over clouds your ability to recognise if you will be able to handle one of these festivals. The vast majority of us run with it, embrace it and fully get amongst it. Yet there are some who struggle.... and I have personally seen many struggle spectacularly. So before you go running off and purchasing your tickets and jumping on a plane to Europe - check it out....

If you hate camping Wacken is not for you: I hate to break it to you folks who enjoy the comforts of your duvet and sleep number bed set at ‘#21, man the fuck up’; but 90% of European Festivals go for a period of 3 – 5 days and unless you go through the arduous process of nailing in a hotel miles from the festival ground and commuting each day – you will have to perch yourself in the polyester network of over 25,000 tents.....

If you hate dirt and germs Wacken is not for you: You will need to get comfortable with the fact that you will be absolutely dirt bag fucking filthy. And I mean, dirt bag fucking filthy. So to all you ‘germaphobes’ and Dettol abusers out there, you must learn to deal with this fact. Another fact is more scientific; according to one Dr. Joshua Zeichner, humans do not need to bathe as often as we do, so cut the ties from societal ‘norms’ and let your primordial side take over. Fuck it, you can shower laters... and I encourage the later part as there is absolutely no damn point showering at a 5 day ‘outdoor’ festival. No point.

If you hate shite weather Wacken is not for you: Prepare for the unexpected people – not all summer festivals are sunshine and lollipops and if they are, the sun is literally out to kill you while you choke on that fucking lollipop – you will gamble with the two extremes – you will either be cooking in the heat or drowning in the rain and if it rains – ffs, suck it up Bitch.

If you hate people Wacken is not for you - Get along with your neighbours, everyone is there to have a great time and are generally (fermented) in great spirits. You will see a vast amount of metal heads from various cultures, backgrounds, territories, traditions and creeds and we’re all here for the same reason – our love for heavy metal.

If you suffer from separation anxiety Wacken is not for you - you will be separated from your comrades at one point or another, it is inevitable and unavoidable. Don’t despair; it’s an opportunity to meet other radd people. Just make sure you have a meeting place or a tonne of battery on your phone to get in contact and try not to get lost in the dark. It’s a fucking pain in the arse.

If the ladies can't handle a day without the war paint Wacken is not for you - trust me, you will not recognise yourself after 2 hours. You will be the most hideous form of yourself you have ever seen. Avoid mirrors. Your hair will be matted, your face will break out in a fury of pimples and you will fucking smell.... Like the arse of a low flying duck to be specific. Look on the bright side though; everyone looks fucking terrible, so to put it simply; fuck the standards, you are here to rock! Embrace your fucked up festival face! Own it!

Lastly, if you're 'That Guy’ Wacken aint for you so stay the fuck home - I don’t know how many times it can be said. You know the one we speak of; that one guy who can’t help but be the biggest fucking dick at a festival, who goes out of their way to ruin it for everybody. Don’t be that guy; no one likes that guy. And if you find yourself near that guy, or worse – camping with ‘that guy’, then boot that fucking guy.

Sooooo....

Once you’ve got your cash, wet-wipes and sun block sorted, five days at Wacken Open Air is pretty much smooth sailing. Now we could go over the sensible list, like make sure you drink plenty of water, don’t over-do the alcohol, don’t be that guy the medics have to peel off the moshpit floor; these are all valid conventions to live by, however, the list I am about to impart on you all will surely not only be certified by punters who make the annual pilgrimage, but a mouth-watering insight for the virgins about to experience the happiest place on earth. Fuck Disneyland, they no longer deserve this slogan.  

For the 2017 Wacken Open Air I am travelling with three veterans, we are ready for minimal sleep, ready for the mud finding its way into every crevice and a beer belly to write home about. The four of us have felt the hand of the devil a few times and this aint our first time at the rodeo - that being said it still pushes us. To the point where you have lost your voice from screaming, you are red fucking raw from sunburn, your feet are aching from the walking, your stomach is churning from the rich food and your back is breaking from the moshpits. We are ready! As an avid traveller to Wacken I'd like to share my best tips to make your time at WOA something to remember always. 

Get to know your neighbours – Wacken brings in faces from all over the globe, the one thing uniting this diverse bunch of characters is the music. During Wacken 2013, we were introduced to two curious Austrians attending their first Wacken Open Air, well... one fell in our ‘tent fore garden’..... We’ve organised to share a camp with them both again in 2015. The link between newly found Wacken mates after experiencing a festival like this together is one of the coolest mementos I’ve taken home from Wacken. That and the Mead....  

Crowd surf – nothing is more surreal in this life than crowd surfing through a 10,000 strong moshpit to your favourite band. Deafened by the crowd, dust is everywhere and your two missions are, 1. Not eat shit, and 2. Keep a firm grasp on your beer for the journey down. Crowd surfing etiquette, we all know the way; simply tap the shoulder of the chap in front of you, point to the skies and you’re off....  

Taste – taste everything. Wacken offers the most amazing culinary delights (for a festival) and if you’ve had a bad experience on festival food, as most of us have, set aside those former woes as Wacken offers the cream of the crop. Mexican, Indian, Asian, and of course German, there is something for everyone. And if this still doesn’t sit well (see what I did there) there are ways around this – such as a rather interesting fellow I met at Wacken 2014 who felt it necessary to drag around a shrink wrapped bundle of 30 toilet rolls.... Just in case the festival belly struck without warning. Nice chap he was.... So yeah... There’s always that way...  

Whilst we’re on the subject of food, another must do is to find yourself a great breakfast spot. This will save you on those dreaded mornings where you had lost count of your beer consumption, where a zoo of furry animals is living in your mouth and you’re currently looking at life through blood shot eyes.... Right now you’re feeling pretty sorry for yourself; fear not, help is at hand at one of the many breakfast spots on the main street. Pull up a bench under the shade, reminisce with mates about all the funny dumb shit you did the night before and consume all the bacon you can physically manage before hitting the beer gardens. 

Try the Mead – this should be compulsory for entry in my opinion.  

Check out Wackinger Village – Seriously, a world of its own. Don’t be surprised if you find Vikings, knights and some trippy role players; there is also a mass assortment of entertainment, mouth watering foods like pig on a spit, mead, medieval costumes and an armoury, its incredible! Bring your Euros... 

Embrace the locals - Wacken natives get just about as excited for August every year as the punters, get amongst the town, throw em a big cheesy smile and most importantly respect them and their property; 75,000+ metal heads have just taken over their humble town guys.

Get out of your musical comfort zone – many times have I accidentally stumbled upon great bands at festivals through either walking around taking in the atmosphere or consciously getting amongst it. Wacken, without fail will accommodate everyone’s musical tastes however it’s the undiscovered bands that are the real gems and the ones who leave a lasting impression on your experience at Wacken.  Open your mind man! There is no room for elitists’.    

Buy a drinking horn – what else are you suppose to pour your mead into?  

Bring the flag – this must do could go in the necessity pile as flags are great landmarks to guide you back to your tent, however, your own flag signifies your claim or footprint on a little portion of the holy land (for those five days anyway ha!) and if you’re like me, not any old flag will do...  

Get muddy – It is unavoidable really, rain, hail or shine make for some spectacular mud puddles, don’t try to avoid it. Embrace the dirt, embrace that inner child who used to make mud pies in the garden (I love making mud pies!). Just be careful though - that big mud pile you’ve got your eye on, the one you want to shed off your blue collar coil; cast off the strings of responsibility in the hope to bring some anarchy into your life... might just be a piss puddle... you don’t want to slide around in no piss puddle....  

Know the location of your slushy vendor – this is a must do simply for survival. Again we’re touching on a safety issue but it’s a good one to raise. The fields of Wacken get up to 40 degrees some days, sunscreen only protects your skin; slushies protect your guts from exploding on the inside. That’s brutal.  

Watch a sunrise – 6am at Wacken Open Air is breathtaking. On one hand you have the last stragglers of the previous night’s shenanigans, still laughing and drinking and then silence on the other. The dew is on the ground; you roll out of your tent (looking fabulous, I’ll admit) grab a coffee and sit quite contently taking in the morning air.   

We all celebrate Wacken differently, some of us like to drink alcohol for the five straight days; the only bath you take comes in the form of making mud angels, and we’re the type who walks around all day taking in all the bands on offer.... Some of us like to strategically plan our days, highlighting our bands in our uncreased programme, arriving five minutes early and packed to the rafters with water bottles to get through their day.... Regardless of how you spend Wacken, the experience is overwhelming... you won’t return home the same.