Wacken 2019 Report

My fifth Wacken trip happened without a single of my favorite bands being present, which on the one hand was a bit sad, but which on the other hand, meant a very stress free and relaxed Wacken for me 😉
The weather was actually excellent, a bit hot, but not as hot as the previous year and not as dry and as dusty either. Nevertheless there was of course a weather-happening. On the Wacken Friday they suddenly stopped the gigs of Eluveitie on the Faster stage and Gloryhammer on the Louder stage because of a thunderstorm. With security people and do-not-enter bands, they drove the entire 75.000 people out of the holy ground, Wackinger village included, and into the tent town behind the venue. They asked people to return to their cars. Since daily parking was a mile away, I decided to stay at a breakfast/coffee place while my two companions returned to our car.

It then rained about for an hour and there was some distant thunder and lightning, but the show could go on after an interruption of about two hours in total. Trouble was that a few bands didn’t fit into the schedule anymore and were sent home! One of the bands, Tribulation, was one I had wanted to see. I was disappointed of course, but had this been one of my favorite bands, I would have been devastated and gone wild. You fly all the way to Wacken and then they cancel your favorite band because of a tiny storm?!??? I surely hope that this won’t happen again next year again. I can sort of understand that the organizers are careful after apparently several accidents with fatalities happened during other open air gigs that were hit by thunder storms. But it did feel a bit like overkill to send 75.000 people away from the venue.

Other than that we had an excellent time at Wacken. The atmosphere at the festival is awesome with everyone being happy to be there. I of course saw quite a couple of bands, but I shall only focus on the highlights. Warking looked fun and I shall download some of their stuff. Jinjer impressed me very much. That lady has a roar that knocks your socks off. I will definitely check out more about them. There were of course the Powerwolf and Sabaton gigs, though that business with the two stages for Sabaton worked only to a very limited degree with the Harder stage being empty the first hour of the set…
The small highlight was Demons & Wizards for me. It was the first time to see Hansi from Blind Guardian on stage in Wacken and they even played some Iced Earth and Blind Guardian songs too. A very nice gig and a great show.

My personal big highlight though was Septicflesh.
I had seen them once before at 70.000 tons of metal and had them in good memory, and in the meantime my taste has turned ever more towards rough vocals and melodic death metal and my ears were kind of prepared more for Septicflesh. I also managed to get into the first row (for the first time inside the Headbangers Ball tent) which always has a big appeal and the gig was exceptionally good. I shall most certainly listen in to more of Septicflesh’s albums. The gig was awesome.

My fifth Wacken was great and I immediately bought the Wacken ticket for 2020, since at least one of my favorite bands will be there, Amon Amarth! Let’s see if other favorite bands will join them! It will be sad again of course to go to Wacken 2020 without my British buddies, but they can only join me every second year. Guys, see you again in Wacken 2021! But before that Wacken 2020 for me with Amon Amarth! Muahahahahahaha!

Wacken Open Air 2018

This year marked my fourth trip to Wacken and it was remarkable in so far as that I went for the first time alone without my trusted English buddies and oh miracle there was no rain! Zero rain, nothing, niente! Who would have thought that to be possible? Instead it was hot as hell and dusty beyond measure 😉 I suppose that ideal weather for Wacken does not exist 😉
Since I am not staying in tents under any circumstances 😉 I had chosen a hotel package including bus transfer. 
How cool that I already met two Japanese girls in havy metal gear on the plane to Helsinki, who were having the same destination. Even more remarkable was that one of the girls bought the same hotel package as myself. We shared a taxi to the hotel and thus the arrival in the tiny town of Bad Bramstedt was nice and smooth. 
The daily commute to the holy ground was a bit longish unfortunately, since the bus took an hour, partly over an hour, to get there. Also, there was only one bus to the holy ground and one bus back, no alternative, apart from expensive taxis. 
Wacken was as epic as always. The atmosphere is unbeatable (I heard Hellfest is the same or even better, but I’ve never been there yet.) Wait, there is another unbeatable atmosphere, the one on the boat (70,000 tons of metal) but that is quite a different pair of shoes. In Wacken, where 75,000 fans are gathered, it’s just the amazing atmosphere of being on the holy ground that you breathe in with the dust or drag with your boots in vase of mud 😉

Since the bus was arriving too late for some bands, I bluntly asked around on the Friday morning whether anyone was willing to share a taxi with me to get to the holy ground earlier. Turned out asking was a good idea, since I found a couple from Romania staying at the same hotel, but without the bus transfer package but their own rental car. They were so kind to take me along and I made it in time for the desired concert 😉 I saw a ton of bands of course (23 to be exact), hung out with excellent people and had a great time despite the dust and resulting nose trouble from the middle of Saturday.

My band highlights were Amorphis of course, then Alestorm and Ensiferum in the first rows (if at the side, away from the surfers), but also Nightwish was fabulous, as well as good old Judas Priest and Helloween. A new discovery was Behemoth from Poland, I have to check out more about them. It was the first time that a black metal band “spoke” or appealed to me. Then two re-discoveries, the smaller band Diabolo Boulevard from Belgium and Children of Bodom. I actually saw Diabolo Boulevard on the boat (70,000 tons) and liked them there too, but now they reconfirmed that they are worth looking into. Children of Bodom I saw once at Loudpark but they didn’t impress me so much then, this time I found them to have much more impact on me. Very interesting was Arkona from Russia, who played on the Wackinger Stage. 

I found myself rather often in the headbbanger tent and at the Wackinger stage this time. During my first two Waken tours, I hardly ever left the infield (where the three big stages are), but this time I was in the tent as much as never before. 
The busses back in the night were a bit too late for my taste, on the Friday and Saturday they only left at 2:00 in the morning, brining you back to the hotel at 3:00 respectively. (The busses to Waken left at 12:00 every day and got there around 13:00 or later, due to traffic). The busses already arrived around 1:30 though, so at least you were out of the evening cold for a while. Yes, cold! When it’s over 30 during the day and drops to 15 at night that’s cold, especially when you come from a more humid climate where it never gets much below 23 during the night in summer.
It was a great Wacken tour this year and it was interesting to experience it with the bus tour package, but I’m glad that next year, I’ll be back with my English buddies and their car, which makes you more independent. Our lovely hotel in Buesum is also closer to the holy ground than Bad Bramstedt. Tickets are ordered, hotel is booked, we are ready for the big 30th anniversary of the holy ground! See you in August 2019, rain or shine. 

Up the Mountain

I’d like to share my fascination with a German colleague (who does not live in Japan) who has been climbing Mt. Fuji ten times by now. I kid you not.
And I’ll be using his “hobby” to justify mine, hahaha 😉
So, during the months of July and August, when Mt. Fuji is mostly snow free, the mountain suffers “open season” and hordes of people are climbing it. You can climb Mt. Fuji in other months as well, but then you face snow on the top and also, the mountain huts are not open. There are several mountain huts between the 6th to 9th stations, but they only operate during those two months and if you go outside of the season, you have to do real “alpine” climbing without “help”.
So that colleague is finding some business trip “excuse” every year, comes to Japan, stays over a weekend and climbs Mt. Fuji. Usually he is taking other colleagues with him, who are more or less enthused by the prospect, but who don’t dare to decline, because the Mt. Fuji fan is high up the pecking order.

I have tried to do the Mt. Fuji climb as well, some fifteen or so years ago and it was a horror trip! 😉 There was brilliant weather in Tokyo on the day of my climb, 35 degrees Celsius, sunshine, but when the bus arrived at the fifth station at 2500 meters, where the end of the road is, there was a mighty thunderstorm. It rained cats and dogs, it was windy, it was bloody cold.
The most popular way to climb the beast is to arrive there at 22:00 in the evening, climb up during the night, be for sunrise at the top and then climb down again.
I struggled up the mountain in the dark in rain and sometimes I had the feeling the wind would blow me off the slope to an untimely death. I slipped somewhere on the wet rocks and hurt my knee and gave up at the 8th station, which is at around 3000 meters and climbed back down after the sun rose (I had a magnificent sunrise above the clouds too after waiting a few hours at the mountain hut and the weather getting better).
Apart from the physical strain – you are not alone while climbing. In July and August there is a queue up the mountain. You cannot walk your own pace, you are trapped in the path with hundreds of others in front of you and behind you.
Where is the fun in that? Once it’s quite interesting, but why do you have to do that ten times??? Every year??? There are plenty of beautiful mountains in the European Alps just around the corner for the German colleague, why climb Mt. Fuji with thousands of others once a year? It totally escapes me what is interesting and fascinating about that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Mt. Fuji, but I decided that it’s a wonderful mountain to look at because of its symmetry, you don’t need to climb the guy! Once maybe, yeah, but not ten times! 😉

Nevertheless, looking at the Mt. Fuji fan, I feel very comfortable about my own “madness”: flying around the world to see heavy metal bands, hahaha. Sometimes I have that short, brief, insignificant thought that I’m crazy hanging out in rain and vicious knee-deep mud for three days to see bands, but when I hear/see this story of the dude who flies half around the world to climb Mt. Fuji every year, I feel very sane, normal and unweird! Thanks, Sir, for making me feel good about myself. And, Oh yes, I depart for Wacken in five days! Yeah! 😉

Wacken 2017 Report

After three times you can start to call it a tradition to go to Wacken Open Air festival. Two British friends of mine and myself have been going to Wacken every other year in 2013, 2015 and now in 2017. The first Wacken was superb, nice weather, hot, only a bit of rain on the last day and a tiny bit of mud. Our second Wacken was mud-hell with constant rain a week before the festival, constant rain on the first day and knee-deep mud. 2017 Wacken greeted us with only a tiny bit of mud and spirits were high until a flash flood in the afternoon of the first day, which I would like to call Odin’s Wrath. Everyone got wet to to bones and the holy ground of Wacken turned into a mud battle equal to the one of 2015. 2017-08-04 10.13.41
Nevertheless it was a great festival, because it’s Wacken 😉 I wonder what makes Wacken special. I have been to quite a number of festivals by now, Artmania in Rumania, Sziget in Hungary, Nummirock in Finland, Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic, Bloodstock in the U.K., Vagos in Portugal, Loud Park in Japan and the 70.000 Tons of Metal on the high seas. The only two festivals that have this special flair and air about them are Wacken and the boat (70.000 Tons of Metal). They are, for one, both truly international festivals, on the boat as well as in Wacken there are people from all over the globe. There are people from Australia, North and South America, Asia, all over Europe. They are (almost) all happy to be there and that they can enjoy their favorite music together with like minded people. This Wacken or 70.000 Tons atmosphere is special and no life stream can compensate for it. You gotta be there to feel it.
2017-08-05 17.33.14

A small highlight for me was the Grave Digger gig, which was excellent, 2017-08-04 15.27.25
but the big highlight was seeing one of my favorite bands, Amon Amarth live for the very first time. Despite them being super popular, I managed to sneak into the first row at the left hand side of the stage and it was a blast to see them live from a first row for the first time. Tons of crowd surfing interrupted the experience, but hey, that’s part of an Amon Amarth gig.2017-08-05 20.38.47
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to my next time in Wacken. For me the next time will be already next year, since I cannot stand to not go to Wacken if my number one band Amorphis is playing there 😉 Unfortunately, my two British friends will not be able to join, but we already made a pact to go again in 2019. It will be weird to go to Wacken without the boys next year and I still have to figure out a hotel and a means of transport, but it’ll work out somehow 😉

The Road to Wacken and the Rest of Europe

In three days I’ll be on the road again and I’ll have a full program. At first there will be Wacken, baby, Wacken. That’s where the world’s biggest heavy metal festival happens. It’s a tiny town in German’s most northern state of Schleswig-Hollstein, just below Denmark, and once a year the population of the town swells from 5000 people to 85,000 people when the metal heads fly in. It will be my third time at the festival and I’m looking forward to it mightily.
I just hope the weather will be better than the incredible rain and mud battle from two years ago.
On I’ll go to visit my sister and my Dad for two days and then I will fly to Scotland, since I’ve never been to Scotland yet. I’ll go on two bus tours in Scotland visiting lochs and castles and whisky distilleries 😉
Then on goes the journey via ferry to Ireland. Two nights in Belfast and two nights in Dublin with more bus tours and castles and scenery.
I have decided on this trip rather than going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Finland, because frankly, the convention would only frustrate me. I’ve had enough of aloof agents and publishers and more or less frustrated authors running around begging for attention between a few established authors who get all the attention that the newcomers and nobodies would need. I still want more people to read my books, but I’ve had it with having to do things I don’t like doing for that.
My time is too precious to waste it with crap I don’t wanna do. I love going to places I haven’t been to yet. I wanted to go to Scotland since kinda forever and that seems to be a much much better thing to do than hanging around on a convention that will bring me zero joy.
The weather will be a challenge though! It’s been over thirty degrees for nearly every day in July in Yokohama and now I’m going to places where it’s barely twenty during the day. It feels weird to be packing warm clothing tomorrow 😉
So, beautiful cliffs, green meadows and whiskey, here I’ll come and relax my neck from the highly welcomed headbanging in Wacken before that. It will be a great pleasure to see Amon Amarth for the very first time! (Yeah, I know, unbelievable, but I’ve never seen them yet!) And I’ll see Grave Digger again and Alice Cooper and Powerwolf and and and. Raise your horns, metal heads and rejoice in the holy land of Wacken!

A Wacken Mud Report

After only two years, I was supposed to return to the holy land of Wacken. Two packed flights did not contribute to travel comfort. The plane from Tokyo to Zuerich was sold out to the last seat and the plane from Zuerich to Hamburg was equally packed. I’ve been flying to Germany on business trip a few weeks earlier and Turkish airlines had the far better food and also an amenity pack for economy class plus a more modern inflight system…  Despite arriving half an hour late at Hamburg airport, my pick up had not yet arrived. My British friends who had left their houses at four in the morning had been stuck in traffic jams around Duisburg on their way to Hamburg. I phoned the hotel and told them of a later arrival. 

My friends arrived around 21:00 and we drove on the last roughly 100 km to Buesum at the North Sea, which is about 30 km beyond Wacken. 

We drove in pouring rain… Warnings from the Wacken app kept pouring in. Don’t come by car, come late, the site is drowning… 

We finally arrived at 22:30 at the hotel and fell into bed. 

The next morning, still rain and rain and rain. Despite that, the brave warriors set out for the holy ground. Daily parking was luckily not in such a bad condition and despite the warnings we got there okay. Then, the first odyssey through the marshlands to exchange our tickets for wristbands. That odyssey took the better part of an hour walking through ankle deep, calf deep mud. Incredible. I have not yet seen the likes of it. 

After successfully getting our wristbands, we queued for the goods booth in pouring rain, the spirits slightly sinking. But those spirits were raised again by succeeding in obtaining a Wacken plush cow, which eluded me the first time around. 

We continued the shopping spree in the Wacken village whilst walking through endless stretches of mud. The first victims crossed our path, abandoned shoes sticking in the endless goo. 

In 2013 I acquired an “Odin” ring, ( a silver ring with the runes for Odin carved into it) and this time I wanted to get a “Loki” ring. I found one and the shopping spree was satisfied for the moment. On to the arena to watch a few bands. There was UDO and In Extremo, Savatage reunion (if only with seven songs) and Transsiberian Orchestra. In between In Extremo and Savatage we took a break and I noticed that my just bought “Loki” ring was missing! Aaaahhhh…. It lasted but three hours, but wait, there was one last chance that I might have lost it while groping for stuff in my little belly bag and oh miracle, indeed the ring had fallen into the bag, not the mud. He is a trickster that Loki, isn’t he? Mark had to give up on his boots, which were starting to fall apart. We went back into the village, he bought new boots, and retired his old ones to the growing boot graveyard. 

The enjoyment of the music was unfortunately further hampered by guess what, more rain. It was freaking cold too, not 15 degrees and at night even colder and of course that knocked out my sinuses, that were used to 35 degrees in Tokyo and the throat started to scratch. 

On the way back to the car we got caught in the path of horror. From the festival ground to the street that led to where we had parked our car, we had to walk a fenced-in mud path that was pure madness. 30 cm of sticky, sucky mud almost sucked my rubber boots off and I slipped half out of the boot and had to touch the muddy affair with my hands to put the bloody boot back on. Yuk! It was incredibly hard to walk through that goo. Getting out of the soiled gear at the car and into the hotel without making a ridiculous mess, also proved to be a major operation and we were in bed only at 1:30 at night.

 For me the night was very uncomfy due to the sore throat and some time during the night, when the nose started to get clogged, I decided to take a day off from the mud and to not go to Wacken the next day. 

I had breakfast with my friends and they went off to Wacken on their own, while I had a walk at the beach in Buesum in cloudy weather, and a stiff cold breeze, but at least it had stopped raining.

 I walked through town and searched for cold meds and gloves to put the muddy gear back on then took a much needed two hour nap in the afternoon. Searching for dinner, I ventured out again and noticed I am at the Wattenmeer. While the tide had been high in the morning, the sea had retreated for a good kilometer in the evening and the boats had sunk to the ground of the dried out mole. It was impressive and beautiful and I’m kinda glad that I’ve seen a bit of Buesum after all, thanks to the horrible conditions at Wacken. 

But, the last festival day bore a few favorite bands, Sabaton, Judas Priest, Powerwolf, and Amorphis and I joined my friends again despite the snotty nose. Luckily the weather had finally turned and much of the mud had somewhat dried and it was way more bearable than on the first day. Even the path of horror had become more or less walkable. 

So, now I’ve had the real Wacken. Luckily the weather was better during the first Wacken trip, otherwise I might have been a bit discouraged. 

I really feel with and for the thousands of people who camped in that sea of mud. I even caught a cold without staying in the mud! I hope they are all okay and got home safely! And I bet the farmers in Wacken had a lot of work pulling all those cars out of the goo again! 

I probably shall return to Wacken in another two or three years 😉