W:O:A Festival Report: Wacken Open Air 2017 – Wacken, Germany (3-5/8/17)

This year, Metal & High Heels followed the call from the Holy Lands Of Wacken to have some fun, yet exhausting days at the biggest Metal festival in the world.

Wednesday – Wacken Day 0: Arrival and impressive Karaoke

The Wacken-trip starts on Wednesday without any rush and hitting traffic only at the finish line, driving bumper-to-bumper into the camping grounds of Wacken Open Air. After setting up our camp, getting to know our neighbors and enjoying our barbecue-dinner, we grabbed our rubber boots and walked to the festival area.

A short stroll through Wackinger Village and Wacken Center allowed us a look into the still grass covered infield – the calm before the swamp. The entertainment for the night awaits us at the Beergarden Stage, where BERLIN ALLSTARZ LIVE KARAOKE accompanied several singers, some better than others with highlights like this one, featuring the front woman of a newcomer Rock band from Hamburg:

Thursday – Wacken Day 1: Rain and Virtual Reality

As if there’s not enough mud yet, the weather gods send a little storm in the early afternoon. Strong winds and heavy rain have everyone on edge for 15 minutes, holding on to tents and tarps so they don’t fly off. Wacken Open Air is transformed into a swamp, which makes it really exhausting to walk around the festival and even stand around to watch shows.

While EUROPE hit the Faster Stage, I hit the Press Tent, where I have an appointment to experience the Banger Films-documentary “Welcome To Wacken” in Virtual Reality:

Welcome To Wacken – A Documentary Film in Virtual Reality

Technology is a wonderful thing and combined with Heavy Metal it absolutely rocks! The four chapters of the “Welcome To Wacken” documentary aren’t very long, but they are so immersive that I had to remind myself of where I was standing IRL. It’s all so real that I feel the need to headbang and cheer and even get dizzy with vertigo during some scenes.

My only small critique is the high perspective of the camera, mostly when filming people, which is obviously very different to my experience of the festival, with my 1,60 m perspective. With the VR-spectacles and the headphones on, I get to see several attractions of Wacken Open Air 2016, including footage of the ARCH ENEMY performance. I get to see the Swedish-Canadian band perform as if I had been there, as well as from their own perspective on stage – how awesome is it to stand on Wacken’s main stage looking at a huge crowd cheering at you?! Breathtaking! If you’ve never been to Wacken Open Air or aren’t able to go, this is an amazing alternative to experiencing the Mecca of Heavy Metal first hand – and an inexpensive one, too, since WackenVR is only 4,99 € on the Oculus store.

When my interview Greg, a member of the production team of Banger Films about“Welcome To Wacken” comes to an end, I can hear EUROPE‘s ‘The Final Countdown’ performed not only by the band but sung along by the whole audience. Later in the evening, my classical instruments-loving heart beats for ACCEPT, who perform a long three-part set on the Faster Stage with an orchestra.

The day’s headliner is VOLBEAT, who delight some and bore some with a set accompanied by pyrotechnics. Front man Michael Poulsen sings just as well as on the album but fails to connect and interact with the audience. Nevertheless, the Danish band’s performance is impeccable and leave me singing ‘For Evigt’ the rest of the night.

Friday – Wacken Day 2: LACUNA COIL and exciting interviews

The second day of Wacken Open Air was quite busy and started with the coolest Italians. LACUNA COIL play my heartstrings like Marco “Maki” Coti-Zelati‘s bass – as soon as I hear the first notes of their music on my way to the infield I feel a rush of excitement. Whoever scheduled their show at noon deserves a mud bath in the swamps of the infield! However, the early opener slot didn’t stop many fans from gathering in front of the Harder Stage and cheering for the “Gothfathers”. ‘Enjoy The Silence’ and ‘Our Truth’ couldn’t be missing from LACUNA COIL‘s festival setlist, but the band also delivered newer songs like ‘My Demons’, my personal highlight from their latest album, and the always encouraging ‘Nothing Stands In Our Way’ – for which Cristina Scabbia gets the audience to repeatedly chant the verse “We fear nothing”.

A couple of meters away, CLAWFINGER enter the Louder Stage and boost our mood on this rainy afternoon with their Rap Metal. A sudden drizzle prompts singer Zak Tell to give the skies both middle fingers and scream “Fuck the fucking rain, motherfucker!” – the crowd cheering while putting on their rain ponchos.  Up next is my interview with BEYOND THE BLACK-singer Jennifer Haben (coming soon to YouTube), which is constantly interrupted by extremely loud cheers during the announcement of the winner of the W:O:A Metal Battle 2017: the Mexican Heavy Metallers JET JAGUAR.

SONATA ARCTICA‘s ‘I Have A Right’ and ‘Don’t Say A Word’ were some of my late afternoon’s highlights before I have to embark on an odyssey towards a very interesting interview with EXIT EDEN, which will soon be on our YouTube channel as well as on the Metal & High Heels Podcast.

Exhausted from all the walking through the mud I make the heartbreaking decision to skip headliner  MARILYN MANSON, who apparently took quite a break during his first ever performance at Wacken Open Air:

Saturday – Wacken Day 3: Nicer weather and AVANTASIA

It’s a sunny Saturday and the festival grounds aren’t as muddy anymore since the crew seems to have worked overnight on drying the swamp-like terrain. The lovely festival weather and the fact that it’s easier to walk provide the energy necessary for the last day at Wacken Open Air.

BEYOND THE BLACK have an early slot at the Harder Stage, but still draw a bigger crowd than LACUNA COIL the day before, which makes me wonder if and why there are more fans of  BTB than LC…? Today’s numerous Lemmy-tributes start with BEYOND THE BLACK-front woman Jennifer Haben at the piano performing ‘Love Me Forever’ – a staple on the band’s setlist. Later on, I’m impressed by HEAVEN SHALL BURN and their energetic show, followed by POWERWOLF and their Metal Mass, which honestly struck me as kind of boring.

The legendary ALICE COOPER may struggle with his voice a little from time to time, but he and his band still deliver a powerful performance, topped by covers of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ and MOTÖRHEAD’s ‘Ace Of Spades’. His tribute to Lemmy went even further, with a donation of 10.000 $ to the Wacken Foundation, in order for the Foundation to “find the next Lemmy”. After COOPER’s show, the Lemmy-tribute continued when Wacken Open Air-Founder Thomas Jensen presented the “2018 Wacken Hymn” MOTÖRHEAD’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’:

The Vikings of AMON AMARTH put on a show full of entertaining visuals, like the sophisticated stage decoration and fire elements, as well as a funny sword fight. My evening’s grand finale is watching AVANTASIA‘s Power Metal show in the company of two gracious EXIT EDEN-singers, Anna Brunner, and Marina LaTorraca. Tobias Sammet introduces every AVANTASIA-song and guest vocalist with his characteristic humor – guests include former QUEENSRŸCHE-singer Geoff Tate and Jørn Lande. The song that gets stuck in my head is my AVANTASIA-favorite ‘Farewell’ with a romantic duet between Sammet and Amanda Somerville – the full moon making it all the more idyllic. The melody resonates in my head as I return to my tent just in time to evade the sudden rain.

Wacken Open Air 2018 is already in the making.

We enjoyed our stay at the Holy Lands Of Wacken in spite of the weather and of missing a couple of performances off my list. I also skipped the daily Yoga, but after watching a video of Metal Yoga at Wacken Open Air, I don’t really regret it. All in all, it was a great Wacken 2017!

And “after the festival is before the festival”, they say. Throughout the last festival day, the visitors got to see the trailer for next year’s Wacken Open Air. The video features NIGHTWISH-music, revealing the first headliner and inviting me to come back and see the Finnish Symphonic Metallers rock the 29th edition of W:O:A.