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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wacken: Next Time with Lenses - Pt.2

In my last article, I talked about the bands I saw at W.O.A. However what makes Wacken the renowned festival that it is today, is the experience...
In my last article, I talked about the bands I saw at W.O.A.
However what makes Wacken the renowned festival that it is today, is the experience in the camps and on festival grounds, in addition to the incredible band lineup.

Here's a few examples to help illustrate what I mean:

"Welcome to the No-Pants Zone"

Walking through the camp zone is probably like nothing you've seen before. Everybody in the camps is trying to keep themselves entertained when there are no bands playing that they want to see, and so, they come up with all sorts of gimmicks. You will see people dressed up as vikings, Scotsmen in kilts, ballerinas in tutus, some wearing nothing but mankinis, and as the night goes on, completely naked dudes. Besides the dress code, you will find some people enforcing weird behavior in certain strips of streets (e.g. No Pants Zone, Sing For The King, etc), others standing by the side of the street and grading the looks of passers by, an enormous collection of signs saying things long the lines of "Beer for tits"... You name it.
Basically, every single drunk gimmick you've ever imagined, and then some, shows up in Wacken, and the best thing about it, is that no matter how drunk everybody got, I haven't seen a single fight.

Don't drop the soap

When you have seventy five thousand people watching a concert, most of which are pushing to get to the front in order to see their favorite band (e.g Iron Maiden, Slayer, Arch Enemy...), the one thing you do NOT want to do, is have to pick up something off the floor. The thing is, when you're in the crowd, everybody's jumping around, pushing each other, partying... you really don't have all that much "personal space". And then of course, you have crowd surfers. If trying your best not to get hurt from people all around you was a challenge, wait till people start passing over your head. The thing about those, is that first off, they don't all know how to keep their feet over your head, and so sometimes you only get to see them coming in the form of a sudden kick in the neck. Then, you have the "crowd exhaustion" factor. That basically means that as the night pushes on, people get tired of carrying crowd surfers around, and so instead of passing them gently to the people in front of them, they opt for a more radical solution: throwing them onwards. The bad news is, you might be the unsuspecting civilian a huge crowd surfer lands on, and believe me, it hurts. So to sum it up, when you're in the hottest spots in the audience in Wacken, your favorite band might be playing on the stage, but you are playing for your life as danger comes from left, right, front, back and above. When you think about it, it's as close to a traumatic experience as you might get.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... garbage ?!

Did I mention that weird stuff happens in Wacken ? Well first off, as I mentioned in another post, the happy campers at Wacken can be absolutely filthy. What is more amazing, is that at several occasion, the garbage at Wacken was not only all over the ground, it was also flying above our heads. I don't know how to explain this, but several times during the festival we would look up, and far into the sky, we'd see garbage flying over us in the distance.

"Come on don't be shy we came all the way from the Middle East"

I already expressed my admiration for Orphaned Land, the Israeli metal band that integrates Middle Eastern music into metal tunes. One thing I deeply regret however, is not having a Lebanese flag on me during the festival. Among other occasions, it would've been really cool to lift that flag while Orphaned Land were playing. These guys are Israeli, and all the while they were playing, I couldn't stop noticing how similar they are to Lebanese people, in the way they look, carry themselves, talk, etc. I guess that's one thing I missed out on, but I guess I'll grab a chance to see them live again, and then hopefully I will have that flag on me.

"Showering is not Heavy Metal"

You heard me. Apparently there's some sort of pride in going through the entire duration of the festival without showering (that's at least four days). I don't know any other place or culture in the world that rewards bad hygiene, and "unfortunately" for me, I have shamed my Heavy-Metal-ness by showering during the festival, but as a friend pointed it out, it's only when you're clean that you notice how filthy everybody else is, and my nose now knows this all too well.

Do NOT let go of your friends

Once you lose someone in the Wacken crowd, it's impossible to find them again. When I lost my friends on the first night, I spent about thirty minutes looking for them, knowing exactly in what area they are supposed to be, in vain. When I couldn't find them the second night, I gave up after ten minutes. The third night, when I wasn't even looking for anyone, I ran into an old friend from Lebanon that I hadn't seen in years. I guess that's how it is, it never works when the odds are on your side (finding the friends you were just with), but of all people on the festival ground, in the middle of the night when you can barely make out a face, you meet an old friend. Well for what it's worth, it was awesome running into you Eliane.

Next Time with Lenses

The first lesson you should draw from my description of the crowd dynamics is: Don't wear glasses. Seventy five thousand drunk (or halfway there) metalheads can do a lot of damage, and you should know that at Wacken, crowd control is practically non-existent. It mainly consists of using the word "Please" a lot when addressing the crowd. Why? Well, how many more effective ways to control a seventy five thousand strong crowd in a festival do you know?
Going back to my point, glasses are extremely volatile and breakable. Having secured a front-row place to watch Arch Enemy, and my eyes being the useless globes they are without glasses, I insisted on wearing my glasses "just this time", so that I can better enjoy the show. Boy did that plan backfire. With all the pushing, shoving and crowd surfing going on, I spent more time shielding my glasses than I did paying attention to the band's performance, and eventually, in spite of all my efforts, my glasses ended up flying off my nose. Luckily for me, they landed safely in the security lane under a step, and so I managed to get them back in one piece.
The other kind of lenses I'd like to take with me next time, are camera lenses. I have no idea how a camera could possibly survive Wacken, but I'd hate going to this festival again and not taking pictures.
So I have a year ahead of me to figure out a plan for my camera, and to learn how to wear contact lenses.

Finally, I leave you with a final riddle:
How many public toilets do seventy five thousand metalheads need for the duration of a festival?
None, they just need a long bush and a forest.

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