Thursday – Road to Hell
Before the fun starts we drive for twelve hours through four different countries until we finally arrive at the French town of Clisson. Once there, we naturally get lost between the GPS navigation and the signs pointing to the festival site (asking for directions in English gets us literally nowhere). Night has started already when we finally get to enjoy our first beer at our built-up camp.
The walk around what was already open of the festival grounds is definitely stunning: hats off for the amazing decoration job! The next discoveries, however, were not that great: 1) from our camping site we have a 20-minute walk to the first and only water taps, showers and flushing toilets; 2) our first dinner at Hellfest consists of McDonald’s-like burgers and the worst fries I’ve ever tasted – which makes me wonder why they’re called French fries; and 3) the fact that 95 percent of the festival’s population did not understand English (nor Spanish, nor German), including staff and crew members (no wonder the medic center’s sign read “FIRST AIDS”).
After checking out World Of Warcraft’s “Hellfire Tavern” – which didn’t honor its name, since they didn’t serve alcohol – and playing a couple matches of “Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft”, we call it a night and try to get some well deserved sleep.
Oh, in case you were wondering about the toilets: every camping site has several compost-toilet cabins with cardboard walls, which keeps them from getting too warm in the sun. Naturally they smell, but not as bad as a standard porta-potty and are kept very clean. And hey, if it saves water, I’m in! They’re supposed to save 36 liters per festival day and person, so that’s a hell of a lot and a great role model for other festivals.
Friday – Queues of Hell
Since I’m awake at eight I decide to kick-start my day with a nice shower, but of course it’s not that easy. I stand in line for over half an hour while wondering why everybody waits for a booth to change and shower in, when there were these nice open communal showers no one was using. But, oh well, the water was nice and we never say “no” to privacy, right?
The second long line starts at the entrance to the nearest supermarket, and then to check out. But the ice that cools down our beer on a 30-degree-day is totally worth it. We’re also really lucky to get incredible camping neighbors from Ireland, Russia and Belgium, with whom we share beers, shade and sunscreen.
Since the weather is so perfect to get sunstroke, I finally make our way into the festival in the evening and get to see CRADLE OF FILTH rock out the Temple Stage with the ever so lovely Lindsay Schoolcraft and her gorgeous voice contrasting Danni Filth’s screams and grunts. Later, CHILDREN OF BODOM bring me back to when I first saw them live at Wacken in 2011, but I have to say I remembered them to be more fun.
Meanwhile on the Main Stages BILLY IDOL, MOTÖRHEAD, and ALICE COOPER are performing, but the sun makes standing there almost impossible, so I cherry-picked must-see songs like ‘White Wedding’, ‘Overkill’ and ‘Poison’.
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, whose singer Ivan Moody reminds me a lot of DISTURBED-front man David Drainman, attracts me to the Main Stage for the first time, rushing loads of energy into the crowd with songs like ‘Burn, Motherfucker, Burn’, ‘Lift Me Up!’ and ‘Bad Company’ sung along by the jumping crowd.
Approaching the Main Stage on time to see SLIPKNOT paid off, for JUDAS PRIEST’s ‘Breaking The Law’ is one of the greatest mood-boosters and lets the energy rise for the audience to welcome the guys in the masks. The crowd screams and jumps to their big hits like ‘Wait and Bleed’ just as much as their newer singles, ‘The Devil in I’ for example. SLIPKNOT obviously deliver a strong visual performance but my expectations might just have been a bit high, because I leave wanting more, towards the camp to party on.
Saturday – The Rules of Hell
After a great night’s sleep and waking up at amazing 10 in the morning, hung-over and sweaty, I arm myself with towel and shampoo and march to the showers. But the line is much, much longer than yesterday and remembering the communal showers in every festival and gym in Germany I just stop caring, skip the queue and go shower in those. This time they were not totally empty, but the people under them are wearing bikinis. Halfway into my shower I notice a sign stating that it is forbidden to shower naked. Oh, so that’s what the staring and talking was about… oh well, good thing I don’t understand French.
On the way back to the camp I get sunburned on my sunburn and after having some boozy breakfast at the camp with the neighbors we all pay the supermarket another visit. Later, the sun is still too murderous to see AIRBOURNE and SLASH – the latter we can hear all the way to the campsite. And after another disappointing meal from another festival caterer, FAITH NO MORE – whose performance is “pure perfection” as many of our camping neighbors mention – are up, but to be honest the beer just tastes too good at this moment.
The SCORPIONS-performance includes some amazing fireworks, good thing that I can see and even hear snippets of a couple songs from the comfort of my camping chair. And then finally the performance I’d been waiting for all day starts. MARILYN MANSON, the Pale Emperor himself appeared with his immense stage presence in some black trousers and different blazers, a wardrobe that has noticeably evolved throughout his career. Sure, he carries a few more pounds and looks a little more mature, but his voice remains powerful and emotional. After cutting the back of his mic-hand with a broken bottle while singing, he advises the crowd “not to try this at home”, in the hopes that the Hellfest crowd would enjoy his wicked humor. After compelling the audience to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Twiggy Ramirez, the front man pauses the show and asks for some bras for the birthday boy. But even when he says it very slowly, with emphasis on the “French word brassiéres” as he points out, not one piece of underwear reaches the stage – talking about language barriers. The show goes on through ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘The Beautiful People’ but also songs from the latest album, such as ‘Deep Six’ and ‘Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge’. All in all, a very enjoyable gig, just a bit short for my taste.
Sunday – The Heat of Hell (it doesn’t stop)
When the last festival day comes around, showering is an effort we don’t really care to make. And a metal festival is a place, where it’s never too early to start chilling with other un-showered friends and beer. But despite the few clouds and the refreshing beer, the heat has taken its toll on our strength and by noon we can only walk a couple hundred meters from our campsite to an improvised Portuguese restaurant. The tender grilled meat, crispy fries and salad were amazing and cheaper than any festival food, but by now, anything that requires utensils is a real pleasure to eat. It seems like this family does it every year, so I totally recommend checking out “Café Asterix” near the orange camp, on your next Hellfest.
First on Sunday’s agenda is ALESTORM and it seems we’re not the only people very eager to see them, for their fans start to stand and sit under The Temple’s roof a good hour before they start. The Temple becomes a party with everyone singing and clapping to ‘Keelhauled’ and ‘Shipwrecked’; the crowd surfing starts far outside the tent, but reaches the stage. Not for lead singer Christopher Bowes, however, who is prevented from surfing the colorful crowd by a security guy several times, before he can do it for a couple seconds, to then be grabbed by the ankles again and taken back to the stage. After this hilarious scene, the Scottish band finishes their fun performance with ‘Drink’ and ‘Rum’.
It’s great to see my favorite band performing on the huge Main Stage of this incredible festival! My first thought when I see EPICA, though, is “How is (front woman) Simone not dying in this heat, wearing a black leather dress with black tights and knee-high boots?!?!” The sun shines directly on her and she’s not even wearing her famous Ray-Bans. RESPECT! Like many other girls, I’m wearing a bikini top and shorts and it’s still too hot in the shade. But even red-faced and sweaty, the Dutch symphonic metallers deliver a fiery performance in the vast meaning of the word – with some pyro and a fierce wall of death from the crowd to their finisher ‘Consign To Oblivion’.
As soon as LIMP BIZKIT starts I’m off through the crowd towards the stage, jumping as front man Fred Durst tells us to and making new friends I jump along with. Guitarist Wes Borland definitely takes the most-memorable-outfit-of-the-festival prize, not even the Pikachus nor the pink bunnies among the crowd look weirder than him. It is a fun throwback party, with ‘Rollin’ and ‘My Generation’ in the set list, which also includes a great cover of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’s ‘Killing In The Name’. Later it takes me what feels like 30 minutes to communicate with the people around me that I want to please be thrown up to crowd-surf to ‘My Way’ and luckily I finally do it before the moshing starts with ‘Break Stuff’. I say goodbye to the coolest guy on earth, Mr. Fred Durst and go to relax a little and get a beer, in preparation for KORN, whose set list is rumored to consist mainly of their by now 20-year-old debut album.
It’s past eleven when KORN hit the stage, but I’m not going far into the crowd this time (that last beer was strong!). Luckily, from the comfort of the bar I can still rock to ‘Blind’ and by the end to ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Freak On A Leash’. In-between I honestly got a bit bored, would have loved to see they play more than their debut album, but, hell, the celebration is well deserved.
The fact that NIGHTWISH is ending the festival makes this experience all the more amazing. And the set list couldn’t be better! It includes singles from the new album and all time favorites like ‘Shudder Before The Beautiful’ and ‘My Walden’; ‘She Is My Sin’ and ‘Stargazers’. My new friend, whose name I sadly never get to know, and I push through until we are 20 meters from the stage and sing along – no, scream along to (almost) every word. Floor Jansen’s performance is flawless and the whole band seems to legitimately have a good time at midnight on this summer solstice night. ‘The Last Ride Of The Day’ is my cue to start the long walk to the tent and get some sleep to start the much longer way home tomorrow.