Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Review: Reading Festival 2011



The Reading festival has just concluded and it was a pretty good festival. This is all the bands, comedians and only some of the mud. It would really be impossible to include all the mud; there was a lot of it.

THURSDAY


After a Wetherspoons breakfast, we set off from Fratton and headed to Reading via Southampton. The journey was painless until getting to Reading, when my trolley decided to crap out. It was still useable but it was also an asshole, tipping over all the time. Arriving at the gates, someone remarked they couldn’t believe I was at Reading (in all fairness, I was wearing a Wacken Open Air shirt). At this point, the feeling was pretty much mutual. Getting into the festival itself was fairly easy and pretty well organised (Rob, having been to the festival before, said it was a vast improvement on the times he had been before). It was quite a step from the main gate to Brown Camp, where we eventually camped but the camping spot was pretty good and quite close to the arena. We walked to Reading town centre, along the Thames, to get some beer. Quite helpfully, Sainsbury’s ran a free bus back to the festival if you bought something there. After getting back to the tent, we sat and drank beer until the rain came. It was very slight at first and we hoped that it wouldn’t get that bad.

FRIDAY

Holy shit! The rain was really bad overnight. The ground in the campsite was a swamp. As a result, the boots I was wearing and trousers were covered in mud. This day also marked the first visit to the long drops. They were bad but it could have been much worse. Anyway, the first band of the day was the first band of the festival.

CHERRI BOMB (8)



Really good set from this all-girl band. Some of their stuff was really catchy. Seemed to be a damn fine mix of pop-infused rock with a healthy dose of sleazy rock and roll in there as well. Cherri Bomb is a very enjoyable band.

We headed over to the NME Stage at this point to see the next band. Upon entering, we discovered a serious fail on the part of whoever set the tent up. Part of it had given way and was leaking water. Considering the recent events at Pukkelpop and that US State Fair where the stage collapsed, couldn’t help but be concerned.



Anyway...

PULLED APART BY HORSES (7)



Pretty good set by this band. Really full of energy which was matched by the crowd response.

DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? (10)



Despite some initial sound trouble, DIOYY delivered a fantastic set and the atmosphere was superb. When they announced they were from Reading, the audience damn near exploded. Really enjoyed this set and loved “We Are Rockstars”.

NEW FOUND GLORY (7)



First band on main stage for me this weekend and they were pretty good. I enjoyed their pop-punk filled set and actually knew a lot more of their stuff than I thought I did. The nostalgia box was ticked with their last song “My Friends Over You”. They also did a pretty great cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” as well, which was the first of quite a few awesome covers over the weekend.

We headed over to the Alternative Stage for the first bit of comedy for the weekend. We only intended to see one comedian but got there slightly early. The compere came on stage and said a legend of comedy was coming on stage. That made me quite excited about Stephen Williams set. However, the compere announced someone different.

MILTON JONES (9)


Well that was unexpected! He was very funny. He had some fantastic interaction with the crowd and tended to pick on someone slow from Nottingham. Really glad I turned up early now.

STEPHEN WILLIAMS (9)
Very funny set from this guy. Completely different from the one-liner comedy style from Milton Jones. He had some fantastic festival-related material. It was awesome.

RISE AGAINST (8)



Genius set from Rise Against. Really enjoyed them. Set highlights for me include “Prayer Of The Refugee” and their cover of The Clash’s “White Riot”.

PETEBOX (9)

Considering I just went into the tent to make sure I got a spot for Rollins, and didn’t expect anything, this was a nice surprise. He is sickeningly talented when it comes to making all sorts of noises from his mouth, crazy.

HENRY ROLLINS (10)




Rollins is always superb whenever I see him. He covered his trip to Pyongyang and some stories from his days in Black Flag. His story about meeting Metallica was pretty awesome. I might have to go see him in London next year.

THE OFFSPRING (6)



From a nostalgia sense, they were pretty good. However, they looked disinterested and were just going through the motions. They didn’t have any stage show which is pretty poor for a band 3rd from top. Anyway, the songs seemed a bit flat aside from their absolute classics. A real shame.

NOAH AND THE WHALE (10)



Considering I just checked out this band to avoid seeing all of 30 Seconds To Mars, they were fantastic. I knew some of their material before going in, which was all superb and apparently I knew more than I thought I did. The atmosphere was superb the entire time and they were great.

As I headed back to the main stage, I saw in the dance tent there was a band that seemed to have a really flashy back drop. All sorts of different lights in the logo of the band I’m guessing. If that can be achieved in one of the smaller tents, The Offspring have no fucking excuse. Lazy asses...Anyway!

30 SECONDS TO MARS (4)

I had to see the last ¾ of their songs and to be perfectly honest, it was dull. I heard the end of the one song of theirs I don’t mind and it didn’t sound great. Jared Leto then started talking about his faith and I blocked out the rest of what he said. The rest of the material seemed preachy and dreary. Jared Leto dragged loads of people on stage, put on someone’s bear suit and then announced the band was going on hiatus. From what I saw, it looks like they need a break.

MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (9)




They were really good and had an impressive stage set-up. The band was on top form but the sound seemed a bit on the quiet side from where we were. They were particularly enjoyable and played a good set. However the conclusion to the set was something special. Brian May coming out to join in with a cover of “We Will Rock You” and stayed on stage for the powerful set closing “Welcome To The Black Parade”. A very enjoyable set from MCR.





A headache sort of ended the day’s proceedings. Having finished Friday, it seems almost appropriate to then move on to Saturday.

SATURDAY


The weather seemed alright today but the ground around the arena was still really sloppy. Another trip to the long drops was a touch worse but the smell was bearable (although it stayed with me for a while afterwards). I was thinking I might get away with not smelling them at their worst. The day started in the Alternative Stage for what I thought would be some stand-up.

MARK THOMAS (10)

This was more spoken word than comedy but was still funny. Mark Thomas spoke about the walk he went on. He walked the route of the wall which will surround the West Bank and the Palestine people in Israel. It was a superb set which was very serious and insightful while being devastatingly funny at the same time. He has detailed the walk in his book “Extreme Rambling: Walking Israel's Separation Barrier. For Fun”. He was selling them at the festival and signing them as well. I would have bought one there but didn’t really want to carry it round all day. Definitely buying the book though.

DANIEL SLOSS (10)


The compere of the day came out and announced there would be more comedy and bought out Daniel Sloss. I’ve seen some of his stuff on TV and thought he was pretty funny. He was just awesome in the short time he was on stage. He seemed genuinely impressed about the reaction some of the jokes he was telling got considering it was 1pm and he was telling jokes about masturbating while his girlfriend slept. Hilarious guy and not even 21 yet, a very bright future I reckon.

SEASICK STEVE (8)



A very enjoyable set which had me amazed at the instruments he had made himself. These included a 2x4 with string and a guitar which had a broomstick as a neck. He had a special guest for the set in John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin who played all but one song with him. Really awesome to see JPJ again, especially for more than just one song.

STREET DOGS (7)



Pretty fun set by Street Dogs. A good mix of punk and ska. They served as a suitable warm up for the next band I was planning to see.

MADNESS (10)



Absolutely stunning and so much fun. Starting with One Step Beyond, the entire hour of Madness was just a party. The atmosphere was superb around where we were. People just dancing and having a great time. Madness are still awesome live and I am really glad to have got to see them. The set finished with a sheer onslaught of classics – House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House, It Must Be Love, Madness and Night Boat To Cairo. They were just superb.

JIMMY EAT WORLD (7)



Jimmy Eat World were very good but seemed a touch flat. As much as I like the material from them, it was hard for me to enjoy their set anywhere near as much as Madness. They had some technical issues which the lead singer joked about, saying “Jimmy Eat World are a professional band, folks!” IT didn’t hold them back much and the set closed on my 3 favourite songs of theirs, which was nice.

CAPDOWN (8)



Much like Street Dogs, they delivered a very enjoyable set. They were much more of a ska band than Street Dogs though so that is where the comparisons end. They got a good reaction from the crowd which helped. I liked what I heard and was glad to have seen them. Granted, I’d have been glad to have seen anything other than The National, but it helped Capdown were really good.

It was then time to head back to main stage for a band I’ve wanted to see since they announced they were doing summer gigs. It seemed like every time I had the chance, something clashed. This time though, nothing would stop me from seeing Pulp.

PULP (10)



Absolutely superb, both in performance and in stage show. The show consisted of quite a lot of screens flashing different colours and patterns between songs complimented by a complex lighting show. The band themselves were on top form, with Jarvis Cocker sounding particularly good. Opening with the great “Do You Remember The First Time”, they came out on fire which continued throughout the set, made of the very best of Pulp. Predictably, it was the bigger songs such as Disco 2000 and Common People that got the biggest crowd responses, but the rest of the set was really well received and created a great atmosphere. They were everything I hoped they would be, and it was spectacular.





The plan was to then go and see Jane’s Addiction. Dave Navarro came out on stage and said the band couldn’t play as Perry Farrell was unwell and was receiving medical treatment. The crowd booed which Dave acknowledged saying that no-one was more bummed than them they couldn’t play. It was a shame that happened but what can you do? If Perry falls sick and can’t sing, they can’t play. I was disappointed sure, but getting angry was a waste of time. People leaving the tent were livid they couldn’t play. If you’d gone to the festival just to see them, then I could understand being livid. However people were cussing the band for cancelling which I didn’t get. What can they do? Shit happens. Anyway, could have seen The Strokes but decided that as I only know 3 songs or so not to bother. Headed back to the campsite to beat the rush.

SUNDAY

The day started off with a very brief trip to the long drops. I say brief as they were fucking grim. The smell was so awful. 3 days of use plus the heat equals horrific-ness. Long drops really are vile. Sonisphere have portaloo and Wacken has toilets you have to pay for but are well kept all weekend. Figure it out Reading! Anyway, got into the arena early enough to be able to get right near the front for the first band. Not that I overly like them, but hell why not get down the front if you can.

WE ARE THE OCEAN (8)



A great way to open the day. We Are The Ocean are a really good hardcore band. One thing which I thought was odd was the seemingly main vocalist only handled the screaming vocals, while the rhythm guitarist handled main singing duties. In my experience, it is usually someone with an instrument in hand who does backing vocals. Oh well, they were still bloody good. The screaming vocalist went out into the crowd to sing the last one, which was cool. It seemed like security told him to come back at one point, so he jumped further in and got crowd surfed back, nice touch.

TAKING BACK SUNDAY (6)



“We are Taking Back Sunday, and we are the greatest band in the world!” – Nothing wrong with a bit of cockiness (in fact I would say it is important when you are the front man of a band). To march on the same stage that so many great bands have played already this weekend, and Muse would be playing later on and declaring you are the best band is bold. I would even say the singer acted like a bit of an arrogant prick here. It was a tag they did not live up to either. I enjoyed their set but there was nothing which really made them stand out from the pack.

FRANK TURNER (7)




This was a very good set from Frank Turner and his band here. His first time on the main stage was a success for what I saw (I didn’t see the whole set). His music sounds like perfect background music to a good drinking session. Really good stuff from Frank Turner here.

We left the set early to head to the alternative tent to see Tim Minchin. However there were some other comedians first. It was a right Down Under moment.

STEVE HUGHES (9)

Very funny bloke who seemed a touch out of place as a heavy metal fan at Reading. I could relate to that somewhat. He told jokes about drugs, festivals and how gay straight people are. Hilarious stuff here.

JARRED CHRISTMAS (9)

Some more hilarious comedy from a man who I’ve seen in small doses at Sonisphere as an MC. He was very funny, telling stories from bad gigs and bemoaning the fashion world not making 37 inch waist trousers. It led to a story about a dry roasted peanut ending in his arse. Amazing stuff here.

TIM MINCHIN (10)




Tim Minchin is such a showman. He was outstanding. He played songs from all of his shows, including one from the orchestra tour (Cont) which was hilarious. Other songs played included Rock and Roll Nerd, Prejudice and The Pope Song. The tent was absolutely rammed when he was on but that lead to a superb atmosphere. There was one moment where he addressed the crowd and someone called him a cunt. That led to some fantastic banter in which the yeller got destroyed. Apparently he was fucked out of his face, which I hope was true. No-one can honestly call Tim Minchin, a man who nearly sold out the o2 Arena, a cunt and mean it. Awesome stuff again and a true festival highlight.

At this stage, I got food and something to eat and headed over to the Lock Up Stage to see Bedouin Soundclash. They, however, were fairly dull so a decision was made to go see whoever was on the NME Stage, citing that we’d be there for the following two bands anyway.

WARPAINT (2)


Dear fucking god, they were awful. Performance wise they may have been solid but the music coming from them was not good. Imagine Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, played over and over again – but much more dull. I didn’t know that was possible until I saw Warpaint. I almost wanted a refund after seeing them. Copying the style of Metal Hammer for this one, Warpaint fucking suck.

PANIC! AT THE DISCO (9)




Granted, I could have seen anything after Warpaint and probably enjoyed it but Panic were really good. I didn’t think I knew much by them at all but apparently I do. They were a lot of fun and a damn good live band as well. The atmosphere in the tent was pretty epic as well. As I said to Rob, I am not a fan of Panic, but I am a fan of the genre. It would be impossible to deny that this set was great. As a side note, some strange stuff was happening in the crowd during this set near us. Mostly, it was because of someone who was drunk and/or on drugs. He hi-fived me 6 times for having a beard, so I am leaning towards on drugs. Entertaining, but weird all the same.

DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 (9)




The crowd for Panic emptied out but a new (smaller) crowd arrived for DFA1979 and it was still a good atmosphere. However the set was awesome. It is amazing that two guys were able to make such a glorious racket as they did. I really enjoyed the set. There were a group of guys dressed as monkeys going round, finding random people and dancing round them. This was quite humorous.

FRANK TURNER (8)




The special guests slot on the Lock-Up Stage was Frank Turner (world’s worst secret) and he was much better in the smaller, more intimate surroundings. The set was packed with more of the music I sampled earlier with a fantastic cover of Queen’s Somebody To Love. I am glad to have seen most of this set as I had to leave the earlier one for the comedy, and Frank Turner now has a fan in me. Then, this happened on main stage



While there were some good bands this weekend and a lot of good times, there were none that were on my bucket list of bands that I had to see. There is only one band that were on my bucket list before the festival started, and that was Muse. I was really excited to see Muse anyway but then they announced they would be playing all of Origin of Symmetry, and that would be awesome.

MUSE (10)




Sometimes, a band’s live presence is hyped up so much, that it can never match it and winds up being disappointing. Muse matched it, and then some. Performance wise they are flawless. The three of them have amazing stage presence and are very faithful to their songs when replicating them live. As for the stage show, it was just mind blowing. I thought Pulp’s was one of the best I have seen but Muse’s completely outshone it. The setlist following Origin of Symmetry as well was awesome. I would have liked to have heard Sing for Absolution but you can’t win them all. An awesome setlist + a stunning performance + a mind-blowing stage show = Muse at Reading 2011. They were the best band of the festival, without doubt.





Following Muse’s set, my faith in humanity was tested a number of times. A massive crowd moving slowly out of Reading’s utterly retarded way of letting people out the arena (hey 60k people all leaving at once, here’s 3 tiny exits all next to each other. That makes sense!) Seems like the perfect time for people to decide to change direction without warning, or to stop to kiss. Here’s a thing, when there is a lot of people behind you who just want to get out of the crowd, don’t stop unless it’s fucking important! Anyway, we got back to the campsite and....that was it. I’ve heard many bad things about Reading on the last night and experienced it a little in 2008, but there was nothing in Brown Camp. A good end to the festival.

MONDAY


We woke early to avoid the masses when leaving. We left the festival no later than half 8 and walked along the Thames. The weather was nice and my trolley wasn’t being a cunt, which helped matters. We arrived at the station which was surprisingly quiet (considering a major festival just finished) and left Reading. The train was also pretty quiet which made for a pleasant journey home. The festival was a good one, capped off in amazing style by Muse. Will I go to Reading again? Absolutely with the right company (the right company this year helped make a good festival). Will I bring wellies? Definitely!


BEST BAND OF THE FESTIVAL
– Muse
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Madness, Noah And The Whale, Tim Minchin, Does It Offend You, Yeah? Henry Rollins.


I blogged quite a lot, saying how excited I am about my summer plans and I am sad they have concluded. I will blog soon with a list of the best things from this summer. Until then

Saturday, 20 August 2011

X-Filter

This blog in its original form simply said OH FUCK OFF X FACTOR. However, I feel like it needed more words

In my last actual post to this blog, I mentioned that Big Brother and X-Factor were coming back. I believe I may have used a new favoured phrase in response to this occurrence – “oh bucket of cunt!” I do not care for these shows at all. I don’t care who’s on it, what happens and would be much happier if they jumped up their own arses and died. I don’t even know if such a thing is possible, but if it is, that would be good. My main annoyance with these shows though is not that they exist (although that is no.2 on the list of my problems with them). It is that social networks become infected with updates about these shows and by proxy, I know things that I don’t want to know about. The simple answer is to avoid the social networks while the shows are on. I agree I could do this but with the magic that is recorded TV, updates come in all over the weekend and sometimes during the week. These shows are on more than once a week (especially Big cunting Brother which is on every day, or at least it feels like it) so the whole week has reality TV updates which generally contain phrases such as “like, omg!” and I am growing to hate them more than the actual shows. I’ve unfollowed 4 twitter accounts already because of X Factor. I hope it doesn’t become more

I have called for this before on twitter (although I tweet far too much and can’t find it) and a friend has just suggested this great idea for an innovation which could save people like me from feeling the need to have a cull of Facebook friends or accounts on twitter I follow. There should be a filter that can be installed, so that any posts that contain words you don’t want to see will be removed from your feeds. So if someone says “X-Factor was awesome”, I would have X-Factor blocked and therefore not see it! Its 2011 people, you can grow crops on Facebook now (something else I’m not fond of), why can’t you block X-Factor?! It would be a great thing; a shit filter is a catchy name. You could put anything in there. So for example if you hate reading how drunk/hungover people feel, you could block that! There are all sorts of examples I could use. This is a preliminary list of things I would block with my shit filter:

X-Factor
Big Brother
Celebrity Big Brother
Embarrassing Bodies (I have a very embarrassing issue, so instead of seeing my GP privately, I’ll go see Dr Date Rape on national TV! That makes sense!)
Strictly Come Dancing
All other reality shows (I can’t think of any but they all invoke this same anger in me)
Justin Bieber
Most of the pointless celebrities (hey congrats for getting famous for taking drugs, but I really don’t care about you so go away).
BNP/EDL

Just looking at that list, if I never encountered any of those things ever again, I’d live a much happier existence.

Bring in the Shit Filter!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Calm Before The Storm

Inciting riots is not the smartest move at the best of times. Inciting riots on a public forum is really not smart. Inciting riots on a public forum where your suggestions will be posted with YOUR NAME and all your personal information ranks highly in the “what the fuck were you thinking, twat?” list. Two people have just been convicted of trying to incite riots on Facebook and have been given sentences of 4 years each. There is now fairly widespread discussion over whether these sentences were too long/too harsh. I think they are just right. I am a big fan of seeing people punished for being really stupid. It doesn’t happen nearly enough. There is a difference between a lack of common sense and being a right twat, and posting messages on Facebook trying to start a riot has to be considered twattish behaviour. I think this could be a good thing, and people that do post really stupid things on social media should be arrested. Although, this could take some work, it would be better for society as a whole. Sarcasm though would be a right bastard. Wit may have to be removed completely. Actually, I’m not sure I like this. Anyway...

I spoke fairly bluntly about phone hacking on this blog. The main group implicated in this row has been News International (NI) and the main newspaper has been the News of the World (NOTW). The last I blogged on the situation was calling for a boycott of NOTW, saying this would hurt them the most. Just after my boycott call, it was actually announced the paper was closing. I couldn’t have been happier with this news story. NOTW deserved to be closed for what they have done to innocent people (I feel sorry for the innocent members of staff but one has to wonder how many of them there are). I was even happier that they closed after the story about Sara Payne came out. In brief, they allegedly hacked the phone of Sara Payne, the mother of the 8yr old girl called Sarah who was murdered by Roy Whiting. The phone was allegedly a gift from NOTW as they were campaigning with her not long after the conviction of Whiting. Absolutely sickening if you ask me.

Anyway, the big remaining question mark over all of this was the question of who knew what about the phone hacking. Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks were called before Parliament to answer questions about what they knew about phone hacking. The Murdochs and Brooks have all denied knowing anything, as has Andy Coulson. He resigned in 2007 over the first phone hacking scandal and has protested his innocence ever since. David Cameron hired him as his director of communications (spin doctor) not long after his resignation as editor of NOTW and he continued in that position when Cameron became Prime Minister. When phone hacking became a major news story again in 2010, Coulson resigned again but continued to protest that he had done nothing wrong and that he knew nothing of phone hacking.

A letter has been published which implicates a number of people in the phone hacking scandal, and also discusses how people used to openly discuss phone hacking in the NOTW offices and at the editorial meetings until the then editor, Andy Coulson, put a stop to such open discussion about it. Well, I don’t know if Andy Coulson will be able to continue saying that he knew nothing after this revelation. What it does make you wonder though is about the judgment of David Cameron. Cameron has said that Coulson made it clear to him whenever asked he knew nothing and Cameron trusted him. With this revelation that Coulson did know something about phone hacking, one has to look to Cameron again. Now, I’m not suggesting that Cameron knew phone hacking was going on and that Andy Coulson was aware of it. What I am suggesting is that Coulson got the job as a gesture towards News International before the election so that when 2010 rolled around, they might support the Conservative party. If this is true, then Cameron has some explaining to do. If it is simply a case of Cameron taking a man at his word, then I would have to wonder how his brain works. I support Cameron most of the time, but even I am questioning his judgment here. I just don’t know what to think. I think this won’t take Cameron down, but I do think he has some more questions to answer. Then again, what can he say? It is a tough one. Ed Milliband, by the way, is showing how ineffective he is as a Leader of the Opposition. This is a perfect chance to take shots at the Prime Minister and his attacks have received little to no attention. Oh well. Moving on as the dark clouds are moving over the UK....

I knew it would be too good to be true. When I heard it was going away, I allowed my guard to come down and be genuinely happy that this cancer on the lung of TV was going away. Sadly however, my happiness would prove to be short lived. Channel 4 tried to kill it off but Channel 5 (the bastard that it is) has revived it. Tonight is the calm before the storm as tomorrow; it is the return of Big Brother. The program which infects the nation and the social networks is back. It will be nigh on impossible to avoid this sack of bollocks known as a TV show.

I can’t decide if this is better or worse, but it is a celebrity version of what is already a shit show. We live in a celebrity obsessed world, so to trap a group of them in a house and be able to watch them for 24 hours I guess is the next logical step. I couldn’t care less about Big Brother or celebrities so I won’t be watching this bucket of shit. What annoys me though is that it is nearly impossible to avoid it. I would like to, I really would – but I can’t avoid newspapers, magazines and social media for the length of the show. Even if I stick with my regular paper, which probably won’t cover the show – I’ll still check Facebook or Twitter and have my brain infected with this poison.

With the TV already suffering a major blow by having Big Brother on, let’s hope something really terrible doesn’t happen like X Factor starting now as...

Oh bucket of cunt!

Friday, 12 August 2011

So, who is the best?

As it won’t have escaped your attention if you read this blog, I happen to quite like going to gigs. Whether it is seeing a friend’s band play a little venue in my hometown or travelling to Germany to attend the biggest and most famous metal festival in the world – I love almost everything that comes with live music. One thing that I have been asked a lot though is “who is the best band you’ve seen?” or “which gig/festival have you been to is the best?” The best is quite a title to give to one event. I don’t even know if it is possible for me to say that one band is the best I’ve seen live. I just don’t know. What this blog will do is go part of the way to answer that question by talking about my absolute favourite bands to see live and where was the best I’ve seen them. Most of them are festival headliners, but some are not. This is the best of everything I’ve seen. Also, as a side note, I have now seen 230 different bands live. This number will increase by the end of the year, seeing Rise Against and Theory of a Deadman along with all the new bands I’ll see at Reading. Anyway, the best of (in alphabetical order):

AIRBOURNE (Seen 5 Times)
Best Time – Portsmouth Guildhall, 2010
They are very faithful to their songs live while making all their material fun. In certain songs they extend solos and make songs even more fun. They are loud and lively, and all 5 times I’ve seen them have been great, with Guildhall being the best.

ALICE COOPER (Seen Once)
Best Time – Sonisphere 2010
Alice Cooper is a legend. A lot of the hype that surrounds Alice Cooper live is to do with his stage show. However, he still has it live. It was a superb set and I’ve heard that other gigs he has done since have been better (including a truly memorable performance at Club 100 – no stage show at all, just Alice Cooper with band).

AVANTASIA (Seen Once)
Best Time – Wacken 2011
This could and should have been “seen twice”. Fuck you Corvus Corax for being so bad I had to leave the arena at Wacken 2008. Anyhow, they were absolutely stunning at Wacken this year and were my favourite band over the whole weekend. The show was perfect from the beginning to the end.

DREAM THEATER (Seen 3 Times)
Best Time – Wembley Arena 2007
They are flawless live, or if not flawless then damn near close. What they do is show you just how damn good they are with their respective instruments in their hands and that is enough. Some people say it is just them showing off, but to me it works. Absolutely stunning.

FOO FIGHTERS (Seen 2 Times)
Best Time – Milton Keynes Bowl, 2011
From start to finish, Dave Grohl and friends are just superb. When I saw them earlier this year, they were perfect from the word go. Now it is one thing to be perfect for a short burst, but the Foo Fighters can do it for really long times. This set at MK was 26 songs long and was about 2.5hrs if memory serves. Dave is the perfect front man, knowing exactly how to speak to a crowd and how to hold a crowd, no matter the size, in the palm of his hand. It is a fine art that not many can do, but he can do it perfectly.

GINGER WILDHEART (Seen 3 Times)
Best Time – Talking Heads, Southampton, 2010
The front man of The Wildhearts has been touring solo since 2009 when The Wildhearts went on hiatus. It is unknown if they will come out of it, but Ginger is touring solo with a group of his friends and they are superb. The Talking Heads gig was amazing. It was a superb set list (like it is every time) and Ginger is a master at banter, making the crowd laugh in-between songs and dealing with hecklers sublimely. The only disappointment to me is that it isn’t The Wildhearts touring, but even that is becoming less of an issue for me each time I see him live (the latest being Sonisphere 2011).

IRON MAIDEN (Seen 5 Times)
Best Time – Twickenham Stadium, London 2008
Iron Maiden are one of, if not the best band the UK has offered to the metal genre. They are superb live, regardless of the set list. This gig was the best because it was my favourite set list along with the most memorable performance.

METALLICA (Seen 8 Times)
Best Time – Sonisphere 2009
They are just superb. Metallica mix their set lists up every gig so you can go twice on the same tour and see a different gig. They were stunning in 2009, just like they have been every time I’ve seen them.

MOTLEY CRUE (Seen 2 Times)
Best Time – Download 2007
The second time I saw them was at Sonisphere 2010 and it was ok at best. There were strong parts of the set but it was dominated by poor aspects. Download 2007 was Motley Crue on form, and they were utterly superb and fun. They created an amazing atmosphere in the tent and solidified their position of one of the best live bands out there.

NINE INCH NAILS (Seen 5 Times)
Best Time – MEN Arena, Manchester, 2009
NIN are mind-blowing live. Even on the Wave Goodbye tour, where they were calling it a day, they were superb. They would always choose the perfect set list and performance wise, it is hard to say that any other band is better live. When they stopped touring, they left a massive void in the live circuit.

RAMMSTEIN (Seen 2 Times)
Best Time – MEN Arena, Manchester, 2010
Rammstein are much like Alice Cooper. When people speak of Rammstein live, they talk about the live show. Just like Alice Cooper, Rammstein not only deliver a fantastic stage show, but they back it up with an awesome live performance. Crowd interaction with them does not need to take place at a Rammstein show for the crowd to feel involved.

SKINDRED (Seen 5 Times)
Best Time – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, 2011
How this band play such small rooms on their headline tours is beyond me. However, they are absolutely stunning live. I have never seen them do a poor gig or festival set. Their music live is immense and that is coupled with a very energetic gig, lead by Benji Webbe who is one of the best, and could be the best front man of this generation.

SLIPKNOT (Seen 2 Times)
Best Time – Sonisphere 2011
Seeing Slipknot live is mayhem. The band are always on form, lead by Corey Taylor who is a dominating front man. The show is something which needs to be witnessed to be believed. It is carnage of the best kind.

STONE SOUR (Seen 5 Times)
Best Time – Dingwalls, London 2010
Hey its Corey Taylor’s second entry in this list. Seeing them in the tiny Dingwalls highlighted how good they are live as we were so close to them. Even when they seem miles away on a festival stage, they are superb live. They don’t need a stage show like other entries on this list; they just turn up and dominate the stage, no matter the size.

VOLBEAT (Seen Once)
Best Time – Sonisphere 2011
I saw Volbeat at Sonisphere play for about 40mins and truth be told, it was amazing. This entry can be updated more when I see them at their own show. This is coming in October.

So, who is the best? I cannot say, but to me, it is one of these bands. I fully expect to be able to add at least one more entry to this list by the time this month has ended, and that would be Muse

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hazel

Hazel Blears, the former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, covered herself in glory today. On Sky News, the hot topic of the week was being discussed which was the trouble that has been happening in this country this week. She said of the kids involved in the rioting and looting “people need to ask, why are they not at school?” So if anyone has the answer to this question, then lets hear it.

Oh wait, its August, its the summer holidays. Schools are closed.

Well played

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Wacken Open Air 2011 - A Review

Wacken 2011 has come and gone and to put it blunt – it was fucking fantastic. It was a superb weekend with very little for me to complain about. This review will cover all the bands that me and Dave saw over the weekend with little stories along the way. I reckon it would make sense to start on day one, that being Wednesday.

WEDNESDAY



Last time I was at Heathrow and went to Wetherspoons for a pre-flight breakfast, there was an incident involving a flying egg and a change of trousers. Thankfully, this did not occur again and I was able to avoid embarrassment before getting on the plane. With no flight delays, we left the UK just before 9am and touched down in Germany at 11.25am local time. After looking at each other, somewhat clueless, it became apparent that neither of us really remembered what to do when we got to Hamburg Airport. We knew we had to get to Itzehoe, but that was about it! After much debate (and much walking around Hamburg Airport) we got the train from the airport to the hauptbahnhof (central station – but what a great word) and from there we were able to get a train directly to Itzehoe. The bus from Itzehoe was fairly quick to arrive and aside from constant staring matches with my suitcase, was fairly painless (it may only have been 16kg but if that fell on my head, it would have hurt!) Anyway, we arrived at the festival to relatively short queues to get wristbands & full metal bags and headed to set up. We had a great spot in 2008 for camping and this year we were just as lucky I think. We found a great spot for the campsite and set up. I later discovered my tent was ever so slightly downhill which I think explains the water my tent let in. I also had a nice patch of solid mud directly under where my back would lay. Other than that, the spot was fantastic and close to the arena. No more than a 5min walk unless a stop at the supermarket occurred.

Once set up, we ventured into the village surrounding the arena and had a look around. There was a massive queue at the merch stand (always the way on the first day) so we decided to come back tomorrow when the queue would surely be shorter. After watching a few of the games in the football tournament, we ventured into the arena briefly to have a look at the W.E.T Stage. In 08, we only ventured in there once due to not liking it basically. I wanted to rectify that this time around. The entrance to the tent was much bigger which helped matters. It was also brighter inside so you could see where the spaces in the tent were much easier. Anyway, there was no band playing (or at least I don’t remember if one was playing – awkward!) so we left fairly quickly and headed off to a new part of the festival site (or at least new for us) – Bullhead City. This was a tent outside of the main arena which had a stage and a wrestling ring set up in it – with a walkway linking the two. It was a bit strange, but it was also quite cool. On this visit, we didn’t actually go into the tent, but instead looked at the screen outside. There was a big crowd outside the tent of people who couldn’t get in. The confusion surrounding this was cleared up soon enough when we realised the first of the two Miss Wet T-shirt contests were taking place. What essentially took place was for this contest, the festival had hired strippers to get soaked with water and dance around topless while making out with each other. When that finished, we headed back to the football tournament, having decided that any festival that hires strippers for entertainment can’t be bad! The conclusion to the football tournament was very entertaining and we saw some fantastic goals being scored on the small pitches.



We headed back to the Bullhead City tent for the football awards ceremony but also for some of the other evenings fun on the stage. When we arrived, there was something called Masters of Comedy on. Now, this is where being English and not speaking German at a German festival does let you down somewhat. However, despite that, it really didn’t look funny. There was someone pretending to be a dog, someone pretending to be riding a motorbike and generally people acting “crazy”. This intertwined with stand-up comedy and Mambo Kurt equalled me and Dave looking at each other, wondering if this was a practical joke on us. It was awful. There was another stripper in this show though who attached sparklers to her breasts. That was different. We moved ringside for the football awards and stayed there for the wrestling. The wrestling started with 5 of the girls from the earlier Miss Wet T-shirt contest dancing provocatively with each other. After this, the wrestling actually started with a battle royal type match. I am a fan of wrestling and quite enjoyed what I saw although thought some of it was a touch lame. One of the wrestlers had Rammstein – Du Hast as a theme song. The atmosphere in the tent when that played was electric. Must see Rammstein in Germany one day. Anyway, I liked seeing Robbie Brookside, an English wrestler, although his appearances were limited. After a few short matches, the wrestling ended with a wrestler called Herman the German ripping two women’s tops off. It would seem that female nudity was a constant theme of the Bullhead City tent and this continued with the next Miss Wet T-shirt contest. It would seem this time that the girls were not strippers but girls from the Wacken crowd. That didn’t stop some of them stripping mind. We vacated pretty quickly after this contest as according to the running order, it was time for another Masters of Comedy session and to be frank, fuck that! We headed off to see the only real bit of live music of the day.

MAMBO KURT (5)



In my preview, I said we failed to see him in 2008 and that seeing him this time would be a necessity. He was a part of Masters of Comedy where he played along with their theme and played Highway to Hell. When we saw him on the Beergarden stage, we saw The Final Countdown and Engel. It was moderately entertaining to hear music that everyone knew played on the organ but truth be told, it wasn’t fantastic. I would go so far as to say it was ok. I won’t bother seeing Mambo Kurt again as I’m going to guess I don’t get it. That’s fair enough I think.

THURSDAY

The start of this day made us aware of the fact that we were in for some weird weather over the course of the weekend. It rained quite significantly over the night but yet the sun was out and it was hot. This was the first day of bands all day and would start at midday, so we decided to head into the arena and get some festival merch before seeing bands. Sonisphere had plenty of merch stands all over the place and had an option where you could pre-book the merch before the festival and collect it on site. Wacken had 3 merch stands by the looks, all of which were swamped almost all weekend. I won’t say this often, but Wacken could learn from Sonisphere here. More merch stands or put photos of the merch up online and arrange pre-booking. It took 90mins for me to get served and even longer for Dave. I ended up with a hoodie which I really like. Would have preferred a couple of the T-Shirts but no matter – I’m relatively easy to please when it comes to festival merchandise. Anyway, after the 90min wait we went back to the campsite and shot the shit for a little while before heading back into the arena. This meant missing Ski’s Country Trash, but getting to the arena in time for the Metal Battle Winners.

SACRAMENTAL (6)



The MB winners from Latvia did a good job on this stage. They were quite enjoyable.

SEVEN STITCHES (6)



MB winners from Portugal were just as enjoyable as Sacramental.

ACHREN (6)



I enjoyed their set the most of the MB winners (granted I was slightly more partial to them as they were from the UK). One thing though, the growling laughter and speech in-between songs was completely unnecessary and made it really quite difficult to know what song was coming next.

EXQUISITE PUS (2)



A band with music as horrible as their name. Got some serious Job For A Cowboy vibes from them. That is not a compliment

Deciding that it wasn’t worth watching the whole of Exquisite Pus’s 25min set (yeah...), we walked around the arena, getting a feel for the place. As we walked over to Bullhead City Stage to catch Kvelertak, we noticed that we couldn’t get into the tent. We decided to watch from outside but before we did, we walked over to see that a heavy metal marching band known as Blaas of Glory were playing in the crowd. We heard them play Highway to Hell before we moved on. They were quite entertaining.

KVELERTAK (8) – Due to being outside we didn’t watch the whole set but caught the first few songs. They sound like a genius live band who I hope to see live again at some point soon.

In my preview of the festival, I said I might go and catch some of Skyline. What with not being able to get in the tent at all for Kvelertak, we went and watched all of Skyline.

SKYLINE (8)



We arrived in time to hear Skyline covering Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills and Far Away” which was pretty damn good. They then introduced Doro Pesch as their first special guest who sang 3 songs with them including what I believe is a Wacken hymn or something like that (We Are The Metalheads). The other special guests included Chris from Grave Digger, Onkel Tom and Udo Dirkschneider from U.D.O. This was a cool set and introduced me to a number of different artists I want to see live now.

SEVERENTH (7)



Back at Bullhead City, Severenth were taking to the stage. I had no idea these guys were from the UK. They had a very enjoyable set with the lead singer loving the walk way between the wrestling ring and the stage.

ONKEL TOM (8) - As I said in the review, this couldn’t be anything but fun and that was the case. His band does thrash versions of drinking and Christmas songs and we got that in the tent. A great deal of fun. I only just learned we saw Tom Angelripper (the guy who is Onkel Tom) with his other band over the weekend, Sodom. During this set, a German guy came and sat next to me, declaring he was drunk as a pig and had been awake for 3 days. That is impressive, it has to be said.

HAYSEED DIXIE (10)



Hayseed never fail to impress me live. They had an hour set and were great throughout the whole thing. The set list had most of my favourite songs in it. Not a great deal (if any, thinking of it) from the newer albums but that’s ok. They did a great job and got a big crowd considering Helloween were playing on the True Metal Stage.

HELLOWEEN (6) – Only caught the bit of their set after Hayseed Dixie. They were very good from what I heard but I don’t think I can score them more because I didn’t hear any more.

BLIND GUARDIAN (9)



A superb set by a superb band. The set never felt boring or too long. They essentially joint headlined the Thursday night at Wacken (what with having the same length set as Ozzy, although playing more...) and they did a fantastic job of it. It makes me wonder how this band isn’t playing to crowds that size in this country. This is the first time that I wondered about that over the course of the weekend but certainly wasn’t the last. The set closer, Mirror Mirror was sublime.

OZZY OSBOURNE (9)



One of the reasons I ended up going to this festival was Ozzy Osbourne and I was pretty happy with what we got. We got a best of set list which was the best of Ozzy’s solo material and arguably the best of Black Sabbath. Ozzy genuinely looked happy while performing and we did get a good performance. I do have a couple of complaints however about the set though. In between every song, Ozzy told the crowd “I can’t hear you!” which got a massive response each time. For me though, this was fine at first but quickly got annoying. Another thing, Ozzy had a 90minute set, which as far as a headliner goes, is fair enough. 90mins is a perfectly acceptable length for a headliner. About half way through, he disappeared off stage and his band took over. On setlist.fm, this part of the set is called Rat Salad (a Black Sabbath instrumental). I have no problem with this, or would have had no problem if this two minute song didn’t take up about 15mins of the set. There were guitar solos and drum solos along with the song Rat Salad before Ozzy came back out and did 3 more songs before going back off stage again so an encore could be done. With the breaks in the set and the banter between songs, he probably did about 60mins out of his 90min set (I am discounting Rat Salad as I only found out today that’s what it is. That to me was the band jamming). 60mins for a headliner is not very good. I have said this to a number of people since who have all said the same thing – “he’s getting on a bit now”. I can’t argue that – but I would suggest that perhaps the time has come to stop being a festival headliner if you can only do 60mins a night and need to take a 15min break in a 90min set. The performance we got was solid and I am very happy to be able to say that I have seen him. It just annoyed me a touch that the set was as short as it was.

Ozzy finished at midnight and he was the last band on the open air stages for the day, thus concluding the day as far as we were concerned. There were other things going on into the night but we had a long day planned for the next day so decided to get sleep not long after getting back to the campsite.

Band of the Day – Hayseed Dixie
Honourable Mentions – Blind Guardian, Ozzy Osbourne, Skyline
Moment of the Day – The mass sing along to Black Sabbath – Paranoid.

FRIDAY

Another night of rain and what seemed to be another day of baking hot sun. While it was hot throughout certain parts of the day, others were surprisingly cool. It was a very confusing day weather wise but a very good day music wise.

PRIMAL FEAR (8)



A very good start to the day. Nothing like a bit of power metal to wake you up in the morning (or in this case, very early afternoon). They played a very enjoyable set and finished on the crushing “Metal Is Forever”.

SUICIDAL TENDENCIES (7)



They were enjoyable but at the same time they got a touch dull as their set rolled on. They played a few songs of theirs I knew (including You Can’t Bring Me Down, War Inside My Head and How Will I Laugh Tomorrow) but they didn’t play the main one I was hoping to hear, which was Institutionalized. I’m not entirely sure why they extended the songs they were playing, beyond the applause they got for it. It was like they would finish, get clapped/cheered etc and then start it back up. Oh well no matter, they were quite good.

MORBID ANGEL (7)



They were pretty damn good. Didn’t hang about for the whole set as I decided to go see some of the band on the Party Stage as well but what I heard I enjoyed. I also managed to hear “Where The Slime Live” after the band on the Party Stage had finished, which was a big plus for me as it is my favourite Morbid Angel song.

VAN CANTO (7)



I really enjoyed the set from these guys. Only saw the last few songs but in that time, they covered some of Master of Puppets and all of Fear of the Dark, which was superb. Dave put it best by saying this was a fantastic idea and it was. I don’t know if I could have watched the full hour if I’m honest with myself, but seeing a small bit of it made it really cool.

SODOM (8)



Hey its Tom Angelripper again. Can’t believe this was the 3rd time of seeing him over the course of the weekend. Sodom is quite similar to Kreator in their style of thrash metal which appeals to me quite a lot. They also played a quite a few of the songs I knew of theirs which made me happy. No Surfing Bird though, alas!

AS I LAY DYING (8)



This was a very good set from AILD. I really enjoyed what I heard and thought they did a very good job on the Black Stage. I really enjoyed them according to my 2008 review but couldn’t remember them. As soon as they started, they sounded familiar to me which was probably my brain waking up. The crowd were absolutely fired up for AILD, delivering circle pits on command. They talked about having friends in the next two bands, both of whom I saw.

TRIVIUM (10)



They were absolutely stunning. The older material sounded better than ever (including the two best tracks from Shogun – Down From The Sky and Throes of Perdition) and the stuff from the new album In Waves sounded fantastic. It sounds like it is going to be a great album. It was somewhat surprising that there was no material at all from The Crusade. They were very good in Portsmouth in 2010, which was just a few weeks after Nick Augusto had joined the band. Over a year on and Trivium are once again a dominating force live. I will go so far as to say this is the best time of the 6 that I have seen them live.

HEAVEN SHALL BURN (9)



An awesome set from an awesome band. They played the two songs I was hoping to hear (though they made me wait until the last one for one of them). They had a backdrop to start the set but utilized the video screens behind them for bizarre videos and putting their name up in a variety of fashions. Good music + a good stage show + an arse load of pyro = vast enjoyment from me. So so close to a 10, but Trivium were just that bit better.

JUDAS PRIEST (10)



Aside from a flawless performance of Metal Gods, I thought they got off to a fairly slow start. I was a bit concerned that we would get a lacklustre performance. After disappearing for 30mins to see Sirenia, I came back and any fears of a lacklustre performance had all gone. They were absolutely superb. When it came to the end of the set, the atmosphere was electric, and I was at the back of the crowd, as in the very back of the crowd (aside from when I walked off to get some photos). It absolutely smoked their Wembley set from 2009 and I was delighted to hear them play Living After Midnight. The only possible complaint I could have about the set was Halford not singing at all during Breaking The Law. I know the crowd knows the words but we want to hear you sing it, Halford!



SIRENIA (10)



Absolutely stunning (and I’m not just talking about Ailyn). Since getting into metal, I’ve always liked symphonic metal, especially when the bands have a female singer. I like Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Evanescence, Leaves Eyes and so many others. Sirenia had a sublime set and I don’t regret missing 30mins of Judas Priest to have seen it. I really need to see this band again. Please come to the UK!

Just after I came out the tent after Sirenia, the next band in their started and I decided to check them out briefly. It was Tsjuder. They sounded alright. Doesn’t this fellow look happy?



Based on the layout of the arena (and how many people had packed it out), we decided it just wasn’t practical to walk to the Party Stage after Judas Priest to see Kyuss, to then walk back to the W.E.T Stage. So instead we decided to head straight to the W.E.T Stage and see whoever was on before Skindred. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was Accuser, a band who I ruled out seeing when I realised they clashed with Kyuss.

ACCUSER (8)



I really enjoyed this set. Considering they were up against Kyuss and Triptykon, they drew a pretty good crowd who were very responsive to them. I am happy to have caught them.

SKINDRED (10)



This band never ever disappoint me live. Seeing them at a festival in a smaller environment was a change but a welcome one. It was a show similar to their ones at the Wedgewood Rooms which are superb. A fantastic set list mixed with some amazing crowd banter equalled a stunning set by Skindred. I am always impressed at how easily Benji Webbe can control, a crowd and how entertaining he is. His abilities to make a section of a crowd laugh and cheer after telling them to fuck off is amazing. He also told us we better be fans of James Brown, which got a surprisingly loud cheer considering where we were.

AIRBOURNE (9)



Didn’t catch much of their set due to the fact we got shepherded out the arena with the rest of the Skindred crowd. We watched 2 of their songs from outside and saw Joel climb and play on top of the stage. We listened to the rest as we walked to the tent. They sounded bloody good. I would have stayed and watched the whole thing but my feet were killing me!

Band of the Day – Judas Priest
Honourable Mentions – Trivium, Sirenia, and Skindred
Moment of the Day – The crowd responses to Skindred and Benji Webbe’s natural ability to control a crowd. The hip-hop arm swaying before Destroy the Dancefloor was unbelievable.

SATURDAY

Oh did it ever rain very early Saturday morning? But again, the sun was out so it was unpredictable weather. Transpired the rain would come and go all day. This day would include two bands which helped sell me a Wacken 2011 ticket as well as others I was looking forward to seeing. I was also really looking forward to avoiding Dir En Grey (if you haven’t guessed, this is a running joke. However I really don’t like them).

VISIONS OF ATLANTIS (9)



I’ve often thought that symphonic metal, without a massive stage show, is better suited to a tent stage at a festival. When I saw Lacuna Coil at Download 2006, they weren’t great and would have suited the then indoor 2nd stage. Visions however dispelled this theory by opening the Party Stage with a very good set. I was pleased to hear At The Back Of Beyond and Passing Dead End. They fared much better than I thought they would in the open air environment and their set was a very enjoyable one.

CRASHDIET (4)



I didn’t enjoy this set. This is the first one from one of the main stages to have disappointed me. When I listened to them before the festival, I thought they were a watered-down Motley Crue or Guns N Roses. Live, they are a significantly watered down version of both of these bands. Their set was packed with songs that all sounded similar, making it sound like one large song. The reasons Crashdiet have got a 4 is because a) they used a harmonica for one song (you’ll always win me over with a harmonica) and b) they used pyro. All I can say is that they were not worth the watch, and if it wasn’t for the fact I wanted to go straight back to the Party Stage after; I would have gone to see Triosphere.

THE HAUNTED (9)



One of the bands that helped sell me a ticket and they did not disappoint. They were superb. The set highlights for me were the songs 99 and All Against All. Was hoping to hear Moronic Colossus but can’t win them all. Thought the on stage banter from the lead singer was quite entertaining, especially the bit about coloured shirts. Really glad to have seen this band again and once again, they did not disappoint. I would have liked to have seen them have a 75min set like in 2008 but no matter.

TORTURE SQUAD (7)



Only managed to catch half their set by the time we made it to the W.E.T Stage from the Party Stage. They seem really good. One thing which was really cool was they seem genuinely blown away by the reaction they received during their set and talked about how playing Wacken is a dream come true for them. Granted, they played in 2008 so it’s a dream already accomplished, but who says you can’t accomplish your dreams more than once? (Or is that showing off?)

STORMZONE (8)



Considering how pitiful of a crowd they got, they were very good! I said in the preview I thought they reminded me of Iced Earth but live, they remind me more of Iron Maiden. This was a very good set and I am pleased that the lack of crowd did not take away from the performance. Also, they’re from Ireland which is cool.

MAYHEM (3)



Yeah...what the fuck was that? I don’t mind some black metal. My favourite band in the genre is Dimmu Borgir (which I guess is probably because they are more symphonic black metal). Anyway, this to me was literally a wall of noise and a bloke screeching. There was very little variation between songs which didn’t help as it wasn’t good noise. I’d made the call to see these over Hamatom and seriously regretted that call within about 10mins of their hour set. People surrounding us and all through the crowd loved it so I guess I don’t get it. People crowd surfing and generally when appearing on the big screens looked possessed. It was quite strange. Bloodstock has got some of the bands that played Wacken playing their festival this weekend. Mayhem is not one of them – be grateful for that. All I knew was after the 2nd worst set of the weekend that I had seen. I needed something special to follow it up with.

ICED EARTH (10)



That is exactly what I needed following Mayhem. Iced Earth was stunning. A set that was packed with their best songs and fair representation of the new album meant for a great hour of live music. Matt Barlow is an absolutely phenomenal front man who I am sure will be missed by Iced Earth, as Wacken was his last show with the band. The end of the show was awesome as they all hugged Barlow goodbye (with one of the guitarists wearing a Matt Fucking Barlow shirt) and played Iced Earth. A perfect send off and a stunning set.



SEPULTURA (8)



I really enjoyed Sepultura. They seemed genuinely happy to be playing Wacken for the first time in the bands career (which considering how long Sepultura have been around is quite surprising). It was a very good set. The song Convicted in Life was absolutely crushing live. When the songs were played from Cavalera’s era, I did find myself thinking that it sounds strange without Max singing them (having seen him sing them a number of times). However, in all fairness to Derrick Green, he does the songs very well.

It was at this stage they announced the first 7 bands for Wacken 2012.



Scorpions got a huge cheer, and it will be their final open air show in Germany before they call it a day. Gamma Ray was next and also got a good cheer. Cradle of Filth didn’t get much of a cheer but I guess they’ve been booked as they had to pull out the 2011 festival. HammerFall got another big cheer as did Amon Amarth. Ministry got a fairly massive cheer as I don’t think anyone expected that they would be announced. The final announcement made at this time was U.D.O was playing and that again got a massive cheer. Me and Dave had seen adverts throughout the day for the Xmas Package and had thought seriously about coming back. All discussions about 2012 festivals though ended with the same sentiment – it all depends on the line-up. This was a superb first announcement in my opinion, and having now been to two Wacken festivals – this festival is only going to get better and better. When the announcement was made, the fruit machine which announced which band was on stage next showed this.



To say I was excited would be a slight understatement.

AVANTASIA (10+)



OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD!!! They were absolutely stunning. They started their set with a curtain hiding the stage. From behind which they played the opening riff of Twisted Mind to a massive roar from the crowd. I would list highlights but it was all stunning. The live band that forms Avantasia are flawless live. Every time a new song started, the atmosphere was sheer electric. I don’t know if I could say for sure that I had a favourite moment, but the sing-a-long to The Story Ain’t Over and Lost In Space were something else. I could talk at length about how great every song was because honestly, there was not one weak part of the set as far as I am concerned. It was just amazing. Everyone that came on stage seemed to be having a laugh with each other and having fun performing. They were truly mind-blowing. Enough with the superlatives now though. It was the last ever Avantasia show (granted in any form of entertainment, “last ever” should be taken with a pinch of salt). However, if it transpires that this was the final ever performance from Avantasia, they went out with a bang. I am really happy to have been there for the final show, and am really happy that it was that good. This was so far the best thing I have seen this year. At any festival or any gig, this is the best set I have seen a band do.





KREATOR (10)



I think the best way to describe this entire set would be crushing. It was absolutely superb. A set list packed with thrash favourites, they opened with Hordes of Chaos. The highlights of this set (aside from the aforementioned Hordes) would be Violent Revolution, Enemy of God, Phobia and Reconquering the Throne. Kreator do not fail to disappoint in both live performance and stage show – taking advantage of the same video screens that Heaven Shall Burn used to display some very graphic imagery along with Kreator imagery. It was a superb set and a fitting close to the festival.

Deciding that an early-ish night was needed so that we didn’t sleep late and get caught up in the bulk of people leaving the festival, we opted to leave the arena at this stage. As we were leaving, Motorhead started.

MOTORHEAD (10) – They sounded so much better than they did at Sonisphere. I know Wurzel had died and that had to weigh on the minds of the guys at Soni, but Wacken blew the Sonisphere set out the water. Truth be told, I wasn’t even in the arena and it blew the performances of the headline gigs I’ve been to out the water. It was a fantastic performance and despite the fact I wasn’t there, looking at the band playing it, the performance (and how damn loud it was) made me feel like I was there.

Band of the Day – Avantasia
Honourable Mentions – Iced Earth, Kreator, Motorhead, Visions of Atlantis, The Haunted.
Moment of the Day – I could pick so many from Avantasia’s set but I’ll go with the first one – the opening riff to Twisted Mind behind the curtain.

SUNDAY

Dear god, did it rain? Woke up about 5am the first time and heard a few drops of rain hitting my tent, then a few thousand rain drops. It was bad. However, the sound of rain is quite calming so falling back to sleep wasn’t an issue. I woke again about 8 and started the fun task of taking down my tent and getting ready to go home. Thankfully, the rain had stopped so putting the tent down wasn’t such a horrible task. Although, the tent was an absolute bastard to put away but aside from that everything went smoothly. The ground between where we camped and the festival entrance had turned into gloop, which made walking uphill in it an awful lot of fun. The walk to the exit was a sad one as the post-festival blues kicked in early, and it was sad to already be leaving Wacken. We were able to get on the first bus that arrived which was helpful and not too cramped actually. Arriving at Itzehoe was interesting as there was a guy preaching about Jesus to us. Well, I assume that was what was happening as he had a number of signs. One said “JESUS” and another said something about Jesus and HIV/Aids or something like that. Always entertaining to meet a lunatic. We spoke to someone who looked homeless (apologies sir if you weren’t – but you had pissed yourself) who thought the preacher was a swine. We got the train from Itzehoe and were on the way.

There was a change this time at Elmshorn. This happened both times in 08 so it wasn’t a shock. What wasn’t fun was how busy the train was. Now, this was to be expected but that doesn’t make it any less unpleasant. What didn’t help matters was a family who had a seat decided to get up in preparation for getting off the train in 20mins time (what’s that about German efficiency?) but stopped on the stairs. 2 adults and 2 children taking up more space than there was available. This meant my suitcase was sitting on top of someone else’s bag and I had to support it until this family got off the train. Every time the woman turned, she knocked my case; I’ve never had such a good (or long) triceps work out. Unfortunately as she turned, her handbag met with my genitals. That wasn’t a fun time for me as she had two grandkids (I presume) behind her who wanted to keep talking. So every time she turned, triceps workout and balls get bashed. The kid who was closest to the grandmother kept leaning round her as well to talk. This would have been fine had she not been wearing a rucksack, which also made a connection with my joy department every time she leant round. Basically, this was not a fun time for me or my testicles. When they got off the train I sighed with relief. We made it back to Hamburg hauptbahnhof in one piece and made our way towards the airport. Nothing else really of note occurred other than when I got my ID back after taking a shower, I was confused for someone else on the grounds I had a beard (and I don’t in my passport photo).

Wacken 2011 was a superb festival and I had a great time. I saw a lot of good bands, I saw the odd occasional shit one (Mayhem) and I managed to avoid Dir En Grey! The organisation of this festival is second to none and I cannot wait to go back. Me and Dave have already purchased our tickets for next year’s festival. On top of the 7 bands already announced for the festival, there have since been another two announcements – Axel Rudi Pell and Forbidden – both good announcements. I am hoping for the following bands to get announced now (in no order):

Turisas; Volbeat; Korpiklaani; Saxon; Nightwish; Kamelot; Sonata Arctica; Dimmu Borgir; Testament; Edguy; Oomph!; Doro; Devildriver; Exodus; Lacuna Coil; Malefice; Alestorm; At The Gates; Carcass; Evile; Within Temptation as well as many others.

If any of those get announced, it will become an even more amazing festival. If none of them do, it won’t be the end of the world because the first 9 announced are good, and it will give me scope to discover more bands. Wacken 2011 was awesome. Wacken
2012 is off to a flying start. See you next year Wacken!