The Wacken Diaries - 03: Fun and games in the wind and rain

They say it's Wacken, rain or shine; they forgot to mention gale force winds.

Thursday – the first real day of the festival – and we woke to the sound of rain. Poking my head out of our tent, I was dismayed to discover it was very grey and very soggy outside. Our prized gazebo was straining under the weight of accumulated rain water, but a few drainage holes and some leg-bending soon set it (mostly) straight. It wouldn’t be the end of our poor gazebo’s problems though...

First order of the day was breakfast. We gathered most of our camp together and headed into the village for Wacken’s best-kept secret: the pub serves a European buffet breakfast for 9 euros – as much coffee, eggs, bread, cheese and cold cuts as you can eat. While not the cheapest breakfast in the village, it was certainly the best value, and the perfect cure for the hangover that various members of our little party may or may not have had. It was particularly good for the caffeine-addicted members of our entourage, not that I would mention any names. 

Breakfast at the pubMy Twitter status: having a pub breakfast at Wacken, nom nom nom

From the pub, we went for a long walk to find the media check-in point. It was a long, long way out of the way, and obviously not intended for people on foot – but in the end, we found the right spot and I got my second wrist band for 2009, which i photographed, flickred and twittered with much excitement.

Twitter: got my media wristband - it's purple!

Next on the agenda: heading back to camp for a beverage (or ten). The weather was taking a turn for the worse, with the wind picking up to almost gale force proportions as well as the showers getting heavier and more frequent. But worse was still to come – when we got to the camp site, we found our poor gazebo in pieces on the ground some distance from our camp, a victim of a particularly nasty gust. Sadly, it was destroyed beyond repair, even with two rolls of gaffer tape.

Twitter: back at camp. wind is nuts. gazebo didn’t make it. hoping our tent will!

The next few hours were spent alternating between sitting unsheltered in our deck chairs and hiding from the intermittent rain showers in our tent. The weather was not being festival-friendly! Being Europe in summer however, it wasn’t long before the wind died down and the sun came out again. As it was the first official day of the festival, there were, of course, bands to be seen, but we decided to check out De Wackinger (medieval village) first.

The first thing that was amazing was the size of the place. Covering an absolutely huge two hectares of space, the village included multiple bars (including one in a long boat) and food stalls, craftsmen working in leather and wood, more clothing and weaponry stalls than you could poke a staff at, a stage, an arena with live entertainment (jesters, mock sword battles etc), and medieval torture device demonstrations. And probably about another 500 things that I never saw.

De Wackinger!Leather working

Longboat barHookah

Clothes!Medieval entertainment

Disneyland After DarkThe band action started for us at around 5pm with a trip back to the ‘90s – D.A.D., the Danish band better known (although not legally so) as Disneyland After Dark. Their party-hard set on, appropriately, the Party stage, was a great start to the festival – but my Twitter status says it best:

Twitter: Disneyland after dark - smoke, fire, a rocket-shaped guitar, a white suit jacket and a top hat. ROCK.

Rock indeed. Over on the True Metal stage, the winners of the German Metal Hammer awards were being announced by Sabina Classen of Holy Moses, using her distinctively terrifying growl. Notable among the winners announced was Metallica for the best release, for Death Magnetic. The crowd near my vantage point seemed less than impressed with this choice, and also with the extended pre-recorded message from members of that band. They were, however, very happy with the choice of Amon Amarth for best live band. The Swedes went up in person to accept their award and thankfully kept the acceptance drivel to a minimum.

Our next appointment was with Running Wild, the German power metal pirates. Given that it was their last ever show after a career spanning 33 years (and given the Teutonic affection for power metal), the big turnout for this set on the Black stage was not surprising.

Running WildA theatrical introduction with costumed actors baffled the non-German speaking portion of the audience, then Rolf Kasparek and his crew did what they do best – for two whole hours. The set was a special one too, consisting of songs as voted by fans on the band’s web site. While we no doubt didn’t get as much out of it as a diehard Running Wild fan would, I’m glad we got to see it.

It was starting to get dark by the time Heaven and Hell took to the Black stage, for which I was grateful  – shows always seem more metal, somehow, after sundown.  The only other time I had seen this band, I had bad tickets in the seated area at the back of a sports stadium, so this was absolutely huge: the stage, the lights, the video screens, the crowd; all massive. Tony Iommi and co work together as a virtually flawless unit, and Ronnie James Dio, the godfather of metal, is five foot nothing of living breathing legend – and they did not disappoint. Again, my Twitter status says it best:

Twitter: goddamn, heaven and hell were just so fucking good. little ronnie is just mad

Back at the campground after the set, a greeting of “how fucking good was Heaven and Hell?” pretty much summed up the consensus: easily the show of the Festival thus far.

And somehow we slept, even with the next camp over singing their made-up Amon Amarth chant until it was nearly daylight again. Enough festivals and you can learn to sleep through almost anything...

Heaven and HellCold!

Stay tuned for Wacken Part Four, which is day two of the real festival.