I’ve heard rumors that at some mornings on the festival, the temperature within certain tents crept to the height of 45 degrees centigrade. On Saturday morning, I wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors were true. Saturday morning was HOT, almost unbearably hot. Both the girls and I were whimpering in the tent by the time 8 AM rolled around, and by about a half hour later, I just gave up and escaped out into the sun.. Which, honestly, wasn’t a much better place to be, but at least I escape the heat insulating properties of the tent.
What met me as I took a morning walk across the camping grounds was a pretty spectacular sight. While the grounds were usually one big party 24/7, this very morning the lazy sun hang low in the sky, illuminating a dusty, lazy landscape where people were mainly just lounging around or laying around, many too lazy to even drink beer. Whereas the morning soundtrack had usually been the likes of Iron Maiden or Metallica, this main sound heard was various camp PA’s blasting the German schlager tune “Guten Morgen Sonneschein” (Good morning, Sunshine) in a rather fuck the world kinda manner..
Having taken care of the business that a involuntary morning walk at a camping site usually involves, I returned to camp and recruited the others for a morning shower/breakfast run, neither of which were worth writing home about.. Unless you’re into hot showers on warm days and salty eggs. Let’s just say we weren’t too impressed, so we quickly headed on with our late morning ritual which involved finding a cosy spot in the shade and a case of beer to share in said place. As always, this was good fun.. Undertaken in a slightly lazier manner than usual.
By the time 4 PM or so rolled around, the group split. Christian and Bo wanted to stay behind and chill a little while the girls really wanted to go to the festival grounds – well the T-Mobile stand, more specifically – in order to charge their cell phones. Lars, Per and I went with them fora bit of fun and a bit of music, and we weren’t too disappointed with our decision. While the girls got in line for the T-Mobile cell charging station, we boys found a cosy beer bar in the shade which offered a nice view over Centerstage and an epic, hilarious performance by Gogol Bordello, an Armenian gypsy punk band or something to that extend.. Anyways, they were great. I’d said to Tina prior to our departure for the festival that if time permitted we should get drunk and watch their performance and it would probably be great fun. I’m not sure she quite agreed with me back then, having only seen a few Youtube videos of the band, but judging by the way she suddenly came dancing towards me with a huge smile on her face and a big ass (8 EURO (!)) Jägermeister/Red Bull drink in her hand during “Start Wearing Purple”, I’m reasonably sure she once again had been forced to agree with me.
Having thusly reunited with the girls who had managed to spend only an hour standing in line to deposit their phones at the charging stand, we hung back at the bar where we watched the rest of the show and I exploited my best friend privileges to steal sips from Tina’s drink. We then headed down to Alternastage, the second largest stage of the festival, for what was to be an evening of heavy metal and rock ‘n’ fucking roll. We conveniently positioned ourselves close to a beer stand and waited for the show to get started.
The first few bands were forgettable.. In every aspect save the incredibly bad sound they’d managed to tweak out of the PA. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong but at least a few sound techs deserve to be fired. For the first band, As I Lay Dying, I wasn’t really too upset with the situation – but the next, Lamb Of God, I’d really been looking forward to so the incredibly shrill, treble-like sound had me pouting and drowning my sorrows.. Poo! Oh well, at least the experience left ample time for filling up on food and beer as well as meeting up with Christian and Bo before we moved on to the big shot bands of the evening.
As late afternoon turned to early evening, my disappointment was, thankfully, quickly turned into awe as one of my personal highlights of the festival took stage in the shape of Stone Sour who was kicking off their European tour at Rock Am Ring less than a week after the tragic death of front men Corey Taylor and Jim Root’s Slipknot band mate, Paul Gray. We were pretty nervous to see how they’d handle actually playing a show in the wake of such a tragic incident and as the band hit stage, it was pretty obvious even to the clinically blind that we were dealing with a band who were not doing at all well emotionally.. But this is where I’ll have to tip my hat to the boys in Stone Sour and to Corey Taylor and Jim Root in particular. They would have been totally forgiven for playing a half-assed show under the circumstances, but instead they probably played the show of a life time. I think part of the reason why we’re (and by we, I mean Tina and I, can’t really vouch for the others) so attracted to metal is that it more so than most other genres lets you pour your heart, feeling and emotion into the songs that you play.. And that’s exactly what happened on that fateful Saturday night at Rock Am Ring, the boys took their already pretty emotionally laden songs and poured all their pent up anger, frustration, pain and sorrow into them. The result was strangely pretty and soothing in a very, very ugly, mean and aggressive kinda way.
And can we have a special mention for Corey Taylor, please? Fronting a successful live band is probably a hard task at any given time. Fronting a successful live band under these circumstances is probably about as difficult as it comes. Yet, Corey rose to the occasion and once again, in my mind, showed why he deserves to be labeled as one of the best front men in metal today. Though visibly shaken from a blow, the strength of which we can’t even being to imagine, Corey pulled through with his head held as high as humanly possible. His strength, energy and professionalism was nothing short of awe-inspiring, seriously. Here was a guy who had just lost his best friend and was now on stage, singing his heart out in his friend’s honor. You sorta expected him to address the issue at some point during the show, but he really didn’t. At least not in a verbal manner. Instead, he rather symbolically let the music, the song titles, the lyrics and his performance say what he wanted to say. “30/30-150” sounded heavier and angrier than ever before, “Made of Scar” was performed with more energy and intensity than I’ve ever heard before, hinting that another scar had just been added to the collection. “Your God” asked the pressing question: “What am I supposed to do now?” and went on to conclude that “I haven’t felt this bad in I don’t know how long.” While a thunderous, half spat/half screamed version of the classic “Get Inside” reminded people that they had no fucking clue what he/they were currently going through and, for what it was worth, shouldn’t even try to imagine. In between this, Corey also managed to do what he was actually primarily there to do which was to promote songs off their upcoming album and address the crowd. I’m really unsure how he mustered the strength to put on such a performance. I know I couldn’t have done it. And I know it must have been fucking hard on Corey. There were times when his voice did shake and he looked like he was gonna lose it – especially when the audience went into loud chants of “Paul, Paul, Paul!” while unrolling large, homemade banners reading simply “REST IN PEACE PAUL GRAY!” – an amazing, heartfelt gesture which nearly floored the poor guy who had no better reaction than a sad smile and a bit of a resigning “C’mon, people, we’ve got a show to play”
The whole thing came to a nearly heart-breaking end with Corey’s obligatory solo performance of “Through Glass” which in four and a half short minutes forever changed the way I felt about that particular song. It’s no secret that I’ve always bashed the song for being simple, superficial and repetitive.. Well, on this hot summer evening, watching a 38 year old man performing the song for his dead friend with tears in his eyes and voice in front of some 30,000+ people who responded by clapping steadily and singing along.. It somehow hit home.. A moment to remember, from a show to remember. Quite possibly the best show of the weekend right there.
From then on, things got a little lighter. In so far as a re-united, legendary Seattle grunge band with a legendary, dead ex-front man performing songs about being stuck down in a hole and the horrible mistreatment of war veterans can be considered lighter. What I’m trying to say is that Alice In Chains were next and that they delivered a nice, little performance. I can’t say I really know a lot about Alice In Chains as I mainly stayed off the whole grunge bandwagon, so I was a little lost during the show – much to the amusement of my travel companions who were absolutely thrilled (in a somewhat surprised manner) to be seeing a band of which they knew more than I did. My conclusions to take away from the show was that I quite enjoyed AIC, that the guitarist was a better singer than their lead singer, and that I obviously know the most important songs of the band as both “Them Bones”, “Down In A Hole” and “Rooster” were performed.. And they’re pretty much the only songs I know by the band.. So, fun times.
After Alice In Chains, it was time to feel a little patriotic and for a game of Hide n Seek. And by that, I mean it was time to catch Volbeat’s set. Volbeat, for those who still do not know, is a small Danish band who somehow exploded to huge international fame. Which is kinda weird for someone like me to experience as I’ve been with them since the release of their debut album and have been used to seeing them in front of like 500 people. It would be an overstatement to say that they drew a hundred times as many people as that on this evening. But not by much.
My reasonable guesstimate would be that they drew about 40,000 which suddenly made our little Danish group look very small indeed.. And even smaller when we managed to get lost from one another. Not too sure what happened, but the girls went to the toilet while Lars and Christian just sorta split, leaving Bo, Per and I waiting for the girls at our designated meeting point. While we waited, things got so crammed that once the girls made it back, we were unable to locate one another even though we were in touch over the phone and by our calculations were within a couple of feet of one another with the girls scaling a fence and me crawling onto Bo’s back looking for them. Yup, quite a lot of people there indeed. And they weren’t disappointed. Volbeat brought an impressive range of equipment for a warm-up band including lights, stage gear, a few bridges and about a gazillion Marshall stacks.
The performance, as always with Volbeat, was solid but predictable.. And as always, that’s my only real complaint with Volbeat.. They need to evolve more and try on new things. Their sound is getting a little old and worn out, sorry.. Still, you can’t help but be a little impressed and feel a little proud standing there watching a couple of fellow Danes that you used to absolutely idolize perform such a bombastic show in front of so many people.. It’s a bit of a WTF moment to be reckoned with. One thing I will say is that lead singer, Michael Poulsen, sounded even more enthusiastic than he usually does, which can quite possibly be attributed to the fact that he was feeling like a little kid on Christmas Eve over the fact that he was warming up for the absolutely unbelievable double-headliner that was the combination of SLAYER and MOTÖRHEAD!
By the time Volbeat left stage with a “Thank you, goodnight, merry Christmas, enjoy the rest of the evening!” it was starting to get late.. Really late.. As is fitting for a band like Slayer who shouldn’t be taking stage any time before midnight.. They’re simply too evil not to play the midnight hour. We spent the time during the stage change to rendez-vouz with one another at the nearest beer stand which proved a much better meeting point that the one we’d agreed upon before. While there, we decided to grab yet another beer just for the hell of it and downed it while waiting for the gods of thrash metal to take stage and watching Johan get more and more giddy. It had been five years since my last Slayer show and, by golly, I was excited!
At around 0:30 the stage lights finally came on and the first notes of World Painted Blood started ringing out of the PA..
It was present time! The crowd generally responded with a huge roar but in our camp, reactions seemed a little mixed. I, of course, was going metal thrashing mad, Pernille was on the phone with her brother, apparently in a “see what you’re missing” kinda incident, a few “Huh?” and “Ummms” were heard from the rest of the crew while the cute little blonde next to me simply remarked “THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!” at the top of her little lungs.. Which I, yet again, can’t help but admit weirded me out a bit – in a good way, of course – because the concept of such a pretty, innocent looking little girl digging hardcore metal is still a little weird to me – color me proud, though.
To be honest, the Slayer performance was about as predictable as that of Volbeat, but I’ll let them get away with it on account of them being FUCKIN’ SLAYYYYYYYEEER! Seasons In The Abyss, Hell Awaits, Mandatory Suicide, Chemical WArfare, Raining Blood, South of Heaven and Angel of Death made up the last half of the show and might as well have been a verbatim quote off the track listing of a Best of Slayer album.. But it’s what the crowd came to hear and the crowd loved it.. And Slayer are living legends after all so it’s only fitting that the play the songs that helped shape the genre that is thrash metal.. And it’s strangely uplifting to see a band with average ages in the mid to late 40’s playing thrash with the same anger, speed and intensity it was played with some 20+ years ago.. Yes, I’m looking in your general direction, Metallica..
Never the kind of band to shy away from controversy, Slayer ended their show at around 1:45 AM with their classic track Angel of Death, chronicling the works of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.. Apparently the mantra of “Don’t mention the War” doesn’t apply to Slayer, and thank God for that.
For those who have not guessed from the story so far, it was now getting quite late.. Or early depending on how you look at it, and with still one stage change and another set to go from the Kings of Hard Rock themselves, it was growing quite obvious that we weren’t getting to bed any time soon and that we wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night. With Motörhead billed to take stage at 1:45 AM, it was very much in the spirit of Rock N Roll that we were still waiting patiently at 2:10 AM for something, anything to happen. That is, some of us were still waiting, yawning ever so slightly now and then, Bo and Per had already given up and had left for camp shortly after 2 AM. Apparently Motörhead wasn’t their cup of beer or they were just really, really tired.
Finally, at around 2:15 AM, the lights came on once again and all hell broke lose as the man, the myth, the wart, the legend himself, Lemmy Kilmister in the front of Motörhead took stage and addressed the crowd. “Good evening,” he yelled, “or good morning, I should say.. Are you tired yet? WE ARE MOTÖRHEAD AND NOBODY FUCKING SLEEPS WHILE WE’RE ON STAGE!”
As the band tore into Iron Fist and the crowd went nuts, Tina looked at me and screamed “… little .. ….. … don’t.. … think?” – “WHAT?!,” I yelled back, at which point she grabbed me by the neck, pulled my head down to hers, cupped her hands around my ear and yelled “It’s a little loud, don’t you think?!” – “Pfft,” I shrugged and chuckled a little at the suggestion. Tina was right, of course. In fact, she was understating things. Motörhead was every bit as loud as you could expect by a band whose motto is “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” and which is comprised mainly of people who have been clinically deaf (and/or drunk) for the last 30 years.. Which was, in lack of a better word: crazy loud!
This fact, however, didn’t exactly stop guitarist Phil Campbell from stepping up to the mic after a few songs to ask the pressing question: “Is it loud enough for you?” – The reply was as predictable as it was stupid: a thundering “NO!” – After which the boys cranked the amps all the way up to 11 and delivered nothing short of the loudest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life.. We somehow went from crazy loud to stupid loud and in an odd kinda way you couldn’t help but love it, bleeding ears and all.
Having never seen a Motörhead show before, the concert was pretty much what I could’ve expected: Loud, fast, ugly, distorted and full of incoherent drunken ramblings from a certain Mr. Kilmister.. I probably make that sound like a bad thing, but it’s really not. Motörhead’s music was never meant to be pretty, technical or coherent.. It was meant to be loud, ugly, fast and distorted.. It’s only Rock N Roll.. And for what it’s worth, the model works for them, flawlessly. So, I had a ball of a time – even if I only knew four of the 15 songs played.. Which made most of the set sound like one big song to me.
Finally, at some point in the wee hours past 3 AM came the moment we had all been waiting for. A tell-tale lead guitar followed by an equally tell-tale double bass drum spelled the beginning of Motörhead’s undying classic “Ace Of Spades” which, despite the late hour, earned a frantic response from the crowd, including Tina and I who really gave it our last until the song faded into the seemingly unending “Overkill” followed by a surprisingly coherent comment from Lemmy who stated that “I would just like to say that this entire show is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio. He was a good man, a very good friend of mine and certainly a very good friend of all of you. He will be sorely missed. Thank you and good night!” .. And then it was all over and everything got quiet except for the constant ringing in our ears.
As we staggered away from Alternastage at the very early hours of Sunday morning and made our way back to camp by way of a shitty pasta stand, no one really said much. We were all partied out, worn our and rocked out for the evening and were pretty keen on just upholding basic body functions such as breathing, walking and what have you. And for what must have been the first time in Rock Am Ring history, we actually skipped the after party once we did make it back. We simply settled for stopping and coming to the conclusion that the clock had now passed 4:30 AM and that in some short three hours, we would once again be woken by the merciless sun..
Did I mention yet that I didn’t come to Rock Am Ring to sleep?