Wacken Open Air 2016 'Rain Hail or Shine' In Review

This day is now known as 'Fuck-Eyed' Wednesday....

The great pilgrimage to the Holy Land was finally upon us and for Doom Raider Nikki Hallam it started out at our Wacken Mothers’ house, ten minutes from Wacken, in a great reunion and with Esther’s traditional home cooked chilli con carne to boot! Meanwhile Laura Vezer was stuck in the middle of transit hell in Amsterdam caused by airline strikes, but after paying an arm and a leg for a 7 hour train, a bus and another train, she was finally reunited with the Crue.

We all set up camp, had lots of laughs with our mates we hadn’t seen for a year, bought an extra sleeping bag for Wacken's cool summer nights (+5 degrees!) and had our ‘only’ early night of the week. Now it wouldn’t be a Wacken morning without waking up to German techno and horrific animal sounds from blasting speakers next to our tents, so we kicked the day off with a bucket of morning Caesars (Canada's version of the Bloody Mary, but meaner). Our pal Sean brings out a treasure chest time capsule, where we all wrote ‘vodka inspired’ letters to our future selves, to be buried at the holy land. It's a warm and sunny day and we spend it playing games, and watching Germany’s grossest slip and slide, where willing participants slide half naked on plastic through ketchup, bbq sauce, tinned ravioli and other edible delights.

We embark on a family trip to Wacken Village for lunch, a walk to the supermarket and Wacken Brewery – finally in a wifi zone, we find out we're interviewing Clutch on Saturday – Laura has a fan girl meltdown. We need more beer! Naturally, we fill a trolly full of booze and somehow get it back through the mud to our camp, which once emptied, proves to be an entertaining mode of transport named ‘The Slayer Mobile!’ Tuesday night becomes a Rendsburger party, with the whole campsite becoming a dance floor until about 4am. It feels like the whole of Wacken is partying together, at our camp, a warm up for what's to come. The rain comes. And so does the mud. We start the treck with our friend Jessie (a radio host from Canada) to the check in point to get our mitts on our press passes, with the intention of coming back to camp. We are gone for 11 hours. And so begins what we have dubbed "Fuck-Eyed-Wednesday". Wednesday is Wacken Village party day. We walk through the village after checking in. Jessie is the most hung-over person we have ever seen, after she shut down every single camp party from the night before. During "Fuck-Eyed-Wednesday", we met a host of characters including a German gymnast who on demand would pull back flips with his penis out on while clapping and whistling; a 70 year old local couple who have attended every Wacken, and a girl from Hamburg who came to the festival for the first time, alone. She hangs out with us for a little while, telling us how excited she is to see Iron Maiden. We bar hop along Main Street Wacken, where locals have set up "public houses" in their driveways. Wacken-goers are literally pouring out of attic windows along every house on the strip. Our favourite bar, “The Old Metal Bar”, was a tent that sold Headbanger shots, beer, and Jäger, and played only Iron Maiden. Imagine Laura’s delight, when there are 150 of her new best friends, all in battle vests and singing along to Maiden at the top of their lungs, while the torrential downpour continues outside.

Laura is reunited with her friend Luis at the next pop up bar. She met Luis and his sister at Excalibur bar in Amsterdam, and is excited to see him again. He is from Mexico City, and by this stage in the day she is drunk enough to believe that she is fluent in Spanish and starts throwing words at Luis, in an incoherent babble; he is nice enough to pretend she is doing okay. Meanwhile Jessie is in the pop up moshpit somewhere and Nikki is buying drinks for every German she meets, or rather spilling drinks on them! After causing chaos at a few more bars, we drag half of Wacken with us and finally make it back to Camp Vagina, where our Crüe are all there and hanging out together. Luis from Mexico comes to visit with some tequila, after which things get a little hazy. Needless to say, he left with no tequila....

Laura wakes up still wasted after ‘Fuck-Eyed-Wednesday’, at 7am and decides to beat the line by showering early to try and sober up. Already, Nikki has given up on showering and sleeping. And it turns out, even shoving two pairs of earplugs in to drown out the German techno doesn’t work. The rest of the Crue wakes up and demand Caesars for breakfast. We naturally make a batch with half a bottle of gin as the main ingredient as we watch our buddies in the ‘Wasteland Warriors’ get into their costumes and makeup for another big day of cage fighting. Our friend, Constantin explains to Laura that during her MIA mission, the previous day (what you've all now come to know as 'Fucked Eyed Wednesday') she sat next to him and slurred, "Where the hell have YOU been all day?" Wacken is working its magic.

It's still raining on and off, and we are forever grateful for our big gum boots. Laura brought her Canadian boots with her that survived working through the Calgary Flood, and are now keeping her dry in northern Germany. Nikki has already broken hers and they are already full of water and mud. First highlight of the day was a visit to our camp by Banger Films. Three members of our Wacken Crüe are being interviewed, and as a result of this the Banger team want to get some footage of our Crüe hanging out a camp. We get to meet Sam Dunn and his team, who are all super kind and friendly, it felt like we were hanging out with our mates and not a film production team. They set up their 360 degree Gopro camera which they will create a Virtual reality film with and we went crazy for it! We have our first interview today, with Morgan [Steinmeyer Håkansson], vocalist of Swedish Black metal band, Marduk. He's a bit late due to transit delays, but when we meet with him he is in good spirits and happy to chat away. Laura finds out he's a big hockey fan, and we talk about the NHL, his love/Laura’s hatred for the Boston Bruins, Danzing’s view of Foreigner and of course, Black metal.

English rockers Whitesnake are up next and we are really, REALLY excited to see them live. We throw back some Jäger bombs and head into the pit! Whitesnake put on an incredible show in front of tens of thousands of people, soaked and muddy in the Wacken rain that we have come to accept as a standard part of being on the holy land. David Coverdale does an exceptional job on vocals and the rest of the band each plays a solo, while they draw out the set until the song everyone is waiting for. When they start the opening few bars to Here I Go Again, the crowd erupts and the infield becomes one big karaoke bar. We are grinning from ear to ear as we both experience seeing this first hand. What an experience! Any other time we’d be doubting whether the band to follow would be able to match Whitesnake's performance. But we knew that seeing Iron Maiden at Wacken was about to be one of our life's highlights. Laura is a massive fan, she has seen Maiden many times, and knows their ability to put on a show, but at Wacken with 85,000 of her best friends? How could that not be the amazing? Nikki tries to contain Laura’s excitement, with coffee and whisky, but she is jumping out of her boots so high, you can see the Eddie tattoo on her leg! We stood ankle deep in the mud while it poured torrential rain for 2 hours. Maiden are incredible; they are closing a 72 show tour for The Book of Souls, and are more relaxed than normal, and we can tell they are having a fun time with the show. Bruce Dickinson is a master comedian, playing silly pranks on Nicko and Adrian, and at one point came out in a monkey mask with about 10 bananas in his pockets, and was throwing them into the crowd. Bruce announces that the set is being live streamed, and we find out later that 550,000 people tuned in worldwide to watch the show! We are treated to some incredible songs from The Book of Souls, as well as being taken on a ride back in time to some of their biggest songs that every Maiden fan loves: Fear of the Dark, Number of the Beast, Wasted Years, and Hallowed be thy Name are just a few of the songs on their list for the evening. A Giant Eddie chases Bruce around the stage as he magically changes costumes throughout the set. With every song, Laura gets so excited that she forgets about her impending hypothermia and even forgot about the rain for just a moment or two. Maiden close out their epic set with Blood Brothers, after Dickinson's monologue about the importance of the metal community and its transcendence from race/colour/gender. It was a really powerful moment, and we had an overwhelming sense of pride to be a part of this global metal family. When the line up for Wacken was announced last year, Motörhead was featured as a headliner. We were treated to an emotional Lemmy memorial, which was also streamed worldwide. The bomber flew for the last time on stage in front of Marshall stacks, as videos of Lemmy hit the screens of the infield. There were interviews, songs, and photos of the legendary Lemmy, and Motörhead. If that wasn't enough of a tear jerker, Mickey and Phil came up on stage and shared some words about their friend Lem. Across the globe people tuned in and watched us celebrate Lemmy through his music, and through our hearts. It was a lovely send off.

After paying respects to our beloved Lemmy with some Jack and coke, we popped off to finish the evening with Blue Oyster Cult! Although Nikki had seen them many times, this was a first for Laura. These rockers from Long Island created such a magical atmosphere joined by young and old and the crowd huddled together under the safety inside the W.E.T tent stage. They sent us off to bed nicely playing classics, ‘Burning for you’, ‘Godzilla’ and seeing them play ‘Don’t fear the Reaper’, live at Wacken was definitely one for the history books. Our Crüe woke up weary eyed, but ready for another day of shots for breakfast and mud pies for lunch and dinner. Another visit from Sam Dunn and crew, this time to film the Wacken baptism of our crue’s newest recruit, Hannah. Hannah is our friend Rabih's cousin from Syria. She had moved to Germany as a refugee and because of the unity of Wacken, she was able to join us and finally meet her Canadian cousin. This was a very special time for us and we were eager for the baptism to commence. Rabih says a few words of wisdom, before pouring an entire beer over Hannah's mop of pretty curls. She blinks and gives a proud smile through the beer trickling down her face. We all chant her name and yell “Prost” as she downs mead from a drinking horn. The baptism is complete, her Wacken name is ‘Hannah Banana” and we couldn’t be more proud to have her a part of our family.

We throw on our ponchos and headed over to the press tent to have a beer with Kampfar frontman Dolk. We spoke about the bands win at the Norwegian Grammy awards, broken ribs and to our surprise Dolk didn’t spew after tasting the vegemite we brought! Next up we see former Nightwish vocalist Tarja and she is a shining beacon of light who plays the infield with such grace and charm. She looks delighted to be up on stage, and is smiling and waving to people in the crowd as her classically trained voice floats over the infield to thousands of fans captivated by her show. We found out in her press conference on Thursday that she performed a classical show at the Wacken Village church, where she surprised everyone with classical arrangements of her favourite metal songs. Imagine a church full of metal heads in Wacken tshirts, listening to an acoustic classical show... Incredible! The crowd got an amazing surprise when Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz appeared to sing with Tarja and her band for the new song, "Demons with You".

Smashing every type of meat on a stick into our faces, we head to watch Norway’s black metal beasts, 1349. Playing in the Bull Ring Circus tent, they keep a full crowd warm with so many flame bursts that we’re worried for the wind-millers in the front row. They played an intense set and proved why they are still one of the leading black metal bands today. Attempting to move back though the sludge we make it to see a few songs by Blind Guardian. They are playing to an entirely full infield of fans and there is a haze of steam over the top of the crowd. With the light beams sending signals into outerspace and the bullhead throwing flames over the stages, this makes for a magical scene. The ambiance is interrupted by a girl from Alice Springs attempting to abuse a food stall clerk, but instead clocking Nikki in the head with a muddy corn on the cob. We take this as our cue to leave and head over to Red Fang, who made sure they kept everyone awake with their groovy beats and entertaining stage presence. So many crowd surfers continued to get pulled over the barrier during the set, Wacken certainly got their money’s worth out of the security today!

The last show of the evening was here, you could tell everyone was staying awake for this and within good reason. Kampfar arrive on stage with Norwegian torches lit up as vocalist Dolk commands the nightowls with his arms clad in nails and eyes smothered in black. In between songs he congratulates his audience, “There are a lot of people out there, but all the bad people are right here with me! Get your fists in the air!” The vocal changes in the song Tornekratt send the crowd into a frenzy and fists get thrown into the air in every direction we look. As they bring the set to a close, its 3am and we all mope off wanting more but glad we can go get warm in our tents or pass out in the dirt.....

We both woke up surprisingly without hangovers, and super stoked to get in and see Dragonforce kick off the morning. With Canadian-Jessie in tow, we make our sleepy way through the mud to the infield only to be met with a full on power metal breakfast, with Dragonforce BRINGING it for the start of Saturday. Towards the end of their set, singer Marc [Hudson] stops to tell us that he's been sick on tour and couldn't sing a few of the shows leading up to Wacken. He brings Norwegian vocalist Pelle K out on stage who backed him up on previous shows, and invites him to sing a cover of Ring of Fire and Dragonforce classics such as; Through the Fire and The Flames with the band.... A whole lotta fire and a great way to thank Pelle K for stepping up to help the band out. While DevilDriver drew most of the festival over to the Party stage, we headed off for a busy day with interviews for both Clutch and Metal Church. FYI Laura is a huge Clutch fan, so having the opportunity to hang out with Tim Sult and chat with him was a real honour for her. Tim is super laid back and calm before his debut set at Wacken, and a good sport trying our Vegemite among putting up with Laura's fan-girling. Metal Church took the stage just after 4pm and with Mike Howe back on vocals after re-joining in 2015, they played onstage as though no time had passed. Cruising through the set list they played many killer tracks including Fake Healer, No Tomorrow, and Watch the Children Pray certainly got everyone listening. Immediately following their spectacular show, we headed backstage to catch up with Kurdt and Mike and talk about Metal Church, Wacken, and how it's all going for them now that Mike is back with the band.

Our very busy schedule then had us running off to see Wacken favourites Steel Panther who were playing at sunset and provided an amazing backdrop for the babes from LA to share their special kind of love over the crowd. Boobs, blow up dolls and gigantic inflatable dicks lit up the Wacken skyline and as usual, the boys had an awesome show for the excited crowd. Then they pulled up a 16 year old girl with braces who was the object of the bands affection as they serenaded her with impromptu acoustic songs that were amazingly cringe-worthy. Of course getting 17 girls in a row on stage was no issue, the entire front row was full of scantily clad girls fighting over each other to be objectified. It was hilarious. Steel Panther kept the crowd in stitches as usual, even stating that Dragonforce should come on stage, “Who wants to see Dragonforce get some chicks for once?” they asked the crowd....

Clutch take the stage immediately after Steel Panther, and the mega-fan Laura was like a gun on her way through the drunken masses. We hear their opening song as we trudge slowly through the shin-deep mud at this point, and settle in to a good spot on the side of the stage. This is Clutch's first time at Wacken, and we were curious to see the reception. It was an awesome sight to see the Party stage full of metal heads rocking out together. Laura was standing next to one German guy who looked more excited to be there than she did, and when Cypress Grove came on, they were dancing about and singing along together. Clutch played a few crowd favourites including - Burning Beard, Regulator, and Earth Rocker; however this was the first time Laura had heard Psychic Warfare live. Firebirds! was incredible, as was A Quick Death in Texas. By far the highlight of the set was seeing thousands of people on the holy land singing along to "Electric Worry" together. It was the perfect way for Clutch to close out their debut Wacken set and we were so stoked to have been there to see it! We went back to camp to wrap ourselves up in our Aussie flag by the campfire one last time.

Over the last few hours at camp, we party to the sounds of Twisted Sister, Arch Enemy and The Dio Disciples blasting in the background. Although sad we missed the last three bands, we would have been even sadder had we missed our last night with this incredible Wacken family who we have grown to love over these last few years.

United by metal, reunited by Wacken. What an amazing week it had been, so we said our goodbyes and drank until sunrise.