Sunday was a day of total opposites. For starters, it was both the warmest day of the festival and the coldest and rainiest as well. It was a day of great musical heights and major disappointments. It was a day of making relations and breaking relations.. And it was also the only day except for the trip down where a majority of us got absolutely stark raving wasted.
It all began mercilessly. We woke after only a couple of hours of sleep to what was without a doubt the hottest morning of the festival. We didn’t even make it till 8 AM before the baking sun made it absolutely impossible to sleep and made the tent absolutely unbearably hot. Tina was the first to surrender and dragged her sleeping bag outside in a bit of shade created by another tent. Pernille soon followed and while I’d have loved to join them, it might all have gotten a little close to comfort, so I opened the tent and stayed behind and in a pretty weird trail of thought, and possibly for the first time ever, realized that I was actually happy for a change, not to be surrounded by cute girls.. Simply because the lack of their body heat actually cooled down the tent marginally and so, having shed my sleeping bag and insulating sleeping mat, I actually managed to catch about an hour’s worth of extra sleep, laying directly against the plastic bottom of the tent, right on top of the remarkably cool grass below.
After said hour, it became clear that we weren’t really gonna get any more sleep and as such, we once again did about the only thing we could which was to get up, seek out some breakfast and then some shade.. Which all seemed simple enough, yet ended up somewhat of a struggle for yours truly. Days on end of shitty food, lack of water and an ample supply of beer was, by the beginning of Day 6 really starting to get to me and I was actually really scared that I’d have to call it quits before the day had even really begun. Yet, Sunday was the day when one of Tina’s and mine’s personal favorites, Five Finger Death Punch, were to play and I’d hate to miss that, so despite reeling, feeling like crap and constantly being one step away from spewing my stomach contents, I soldiered through breakfast after which I immediately got sick to my stomach and had to leave the party for a while. I’ll spare you the details and just say that after a while, I managed to rejoin the party, down a few pints of water and, staggering slightly, follow the others into our preferred little place in the shade where I once again discovered that there is no better cure for an upset stomach than a couple of beers with friends.
While chilling in the sun, we were approached by a young gentleman who spoke the fateful words: “Does anyone here speak English?” .. And that’s how we met our new friend, Liam, who had taken the trip over with his pregnant wife on a motorbike from England to check out the show. We started chatting and he pretty quickly fell into the group, our sense of humor and our antics – something he, in a few short hours, would probably grow to regret. We talked for a while about the differences between the festival circuit of England and that of mainland Europe, of general differences between European countries and this and that.
Eventually it got late enough for Tina and I to have to break free of the rest of the group and make our way to the festival grounds to catch an early show with our hardcore heroes, Five Finger Death Punch. We grabbed a few brews for the road and headed off, chatting happily and not really worrying about anything, except making it to the grounds in time to withdraw some money (having somehow managed to spend our last few euros) and making it into one of the front of the stage booths for 5FDP’s show on Centerstage.
As we made it onto the festival grounds after having been thoroughly checked for weapons, illegal objects and drugs (apparently owing to the Cypress Hill show later that evening), my bossy little friend took command of the situation. “Right, you go withdraw money for both of us,” she demanded, “and I’ll go find us some rain ponchos! We’ll rendez-vouz back here!” “Wait? Rain ponchos?,” I demanded slightly confuddled as she sped off, then shrugged and went to an ATM to withdraw a couple of Euros (or a hundred), being fully aware that: A) our relationship works a hell of a lot better if I do what Tina says, B) Tina usually has her reasons, and C) when it comes to real life situations, not useless random trivia, Tina is usually right and I usually end up looking like an idiot if I question her or disagree.
Fast forward a few minutes and we’re sprinting towards Centerstage while Tina’s busying herself shoving spare disposable rain ponchos in my every spare pocket, having already handed me one for myself and one for her. “Babe, what the..” I manage before a huge thunderclap echoes over the Nürburgring and it immediately starts raining cats and dogs. Tina’s soft, knowing smile as she pulls her poncho over her head says it all “I f’ing told you so!” – “Okay,” I continue, “let me rephrase.. How the hell..” – “The wind direction changed,” she simply remarked knowingly, “down here that means rain – and lots of it!” – “You do come in handy from time to time, I’ll give you that,” I pouted as I checked out my newly donned disposable rain poncho.. “But did you have to get me a hot pink poncho?” – “Of course,” she beamed as we tore through the entrance turnstiles to the front stage area which very conveniently slammed closed and locked right in our wake.. It’s good to know we still get to be lucky sometimes.
Seeing 5FDP again was an experience to say the least.. And a pretty weird but interesting one, really. What I mean by weird is that when we saw them the last time, they essentially played the same set as they did on this afternoon.. Only last time they played in front of maybe 200 people and we were literally inches from the band in a small club setting. This time around, we were maybe a hundred meters or more from the stage while watching the show with some 20-30,000 of our nearest friends on Europe’s largest outdoor stage in pouring rain. Strangely, these outside factors were about the only differences in the performances of the band. They showed just as much spirit and dedication playing for 200 people as they did playing for 20,000. On the other hand, front man, Ivan Moody, seemed equally good at reaching out and grasping the 20,000 people crowd as he did with the much smaller audience which is a feat, to say the least.. It made for a really great, interesting and positive, albeit wet, experience and I’m super glad that we got to go.
And, I realized, as I watched my cute, little friend jump and dance around on the outer edge of a mosh pit, I’m pretty blessed to have a female best friend who actually thinks that shit like this is great fun. And yes, I realize I have ranted and raved about the unlikely combination of pretty blondes and heavy metal over and over again. I should get it by now.. But even so from time to time, it still weirds me out a little.. I mean, seriously, how many of you guys out there have girls in your lives who will slap on a disposable poncho and go dance around with you in the pouring rain all for the sake of heavy fucking metal and watered down beer? And how lucky am I to have one?
All in all, the experience was one of the best of the entire festival and it was, without a doubt, the wettest.. Ten minutes into the show, we were pretty well soaked, another ten minutes in, we were soaked to the skin and had puddles of water in our shoes, by the end of the show, we were not only soaked but also cold to a point where even beer couldn’t help keep us warm or make the experience particularly enjoyable, so we made the hard decision to give up our favorable positions and head out of the front of stage area to get back to camp for a change of clothes and a bit of vodka to provide a bit of inner heat.. Well, that was the plan anyways. Unfortunately, that meant I had to settle for hearing the next band, Pendulum, from afar as we walked back towards base camp, but under the circumstances, that seemed quite okay.. And at least they sounded pretty good, even from afar.
On our way back, we received a text message from Christian saying that the rain had apparently drifted back to town where they were hiding out and that they had now taken refuge at a nearby bar, rather than standing up to the elements. “A bar? This sounds fun,” we mused, and rather than camp, set sail for said bar to check up on the guys and Pernille. We arrived some ten minutes later, dripping wet and found the entire gang at a table in the back of the room where they were chilling, rather loudly, still in the company of our new friend Liam and his pregnant wife. “Liam,” I called, “good to see you again, what are you still doing here, mate?” – “YOU!,” Liam countered, rather loudly, “are you Canadian? Coz.. Coz your English is really good.. Li.. Like a Canadian’s!” – “What? No,” I countered in a rather confused manner.. “Oh, okay,” said Liam and settled back down.. “What happened,” Lars started to explain in a slurred voice, “is that it started raining, so we took our new friend inside for a beer and a little lesson in Danish customs and our viking heritage. And, somehow, somewhere along the way, some of us may have gotten a little drunk..” – “Oh dear God,” said both Tina and I, looking at each other. – “JÄGER!,” cried Christian, “JÄGER AND BEER!”, which was apparently a sign for the waitress to get another round of beers and Jäger for the table.. Oh well, since we were there anyways, we might as well sit down and have a beer and a shot.. Or two, or three for that matter.. I don’t think anyone was really counting, but the final bill looked like this (not including a round that Tina and I bought for the table before being made aware of the shared tab):
I’m not sure whether we got too annoying and loud or the place really was closing down, but at some point we were kindly, but insistingly, asked to leave on account of them closing down for the night. So we got up and walked on.. Which is to say staggered on as far as some people were concerned. Liam had definitely had his fill and ended up apparently throwing up behind a tree twice before trading t-shirts with me and staggering back to his camp for more booze for the walk to the festival grounds. Lars, Bo and Christian weren’t exactly on top of their game either, but at least they were just tumbling around and not making sense. Pernille actually seemed the most sensible of the bunch at the time, maybe owing to her fear of Jäger, while Tina was in that special state of hers where she’s seemingly coherent and well on top of things, and you wouldn’t really expect her to be very drunk – if it weren’t for the fact that you knew her well and realized that her thoughts and actions didn’t make quiiiite as much sense as they usually would. For whatever reason (possibly owing to my history of partying a little too much), I didn’t feel quite as well liquored up as everybody else, so I kinda just kicked back and watched the carnage unfold.
Liam eventually returned from his camp, sharing his bottle of vodka and orange juice with us while informing us for the 20th time that evening that he was supposed to meet up with his lady (who had ditched us earlier, possibly owing to our drunken behavior) at Alternastage in an hour. Lars and Bo, in an effort to soothe the poor guy and getting him to shut the hell up, went with him to Alternastage, while Pernille, Christian, Per, Tina and I went towards Centerstage to catch Cypress Hill, Rise Against and Rammstein.. The road there was a long and winding one, especially seeing as we had to stop every five minutes for people to pee or do silly things like dive into a fuckton of garbage..
But that’s how we roll and it was all good fun, and I got to have a lot of really interesting conversations with some exceedingly drunk fellow travelers along the way, the most interesting being that of me trying to explain the rather special relationship Tina and I share to Per.. Something that’s really hard enough to explain to a sober person, let alone a pretty drunk one.
After many a funny detour and a few rest stops along the way, we finally made it to Centerstage which, as could be expected, was exceedingly crowded at this time (7 PM) on a day when Rammstein was playing a home field headliner show. Gazing longingly at the spot Tina and I had held hours before, we did the only thing we could which was to sit down some 500 meters from the stage and send out people for beer and food. Which was devoured while watching a rather amusing Cypress Hill performance on the big screen. We were soon joined by the last of the gang, Lars and Bo, who had been out doing fuck knows what and didn’t themselves seem fully capable of explaining what had happened. Having eaten our food and drunk a few beers, we got up to inspect the impossible situation in front of us. We were not anywhere near as far back as we were during the KISS show, but Tina had been looking forward to the show like a little kid for Christmas (or Michael Poulsen of Volbeat for a Slayer/Motörhead double header) and as such really, really wanted a view of the stage.. However, with various trucks, food stalls, beer tents, mixing stations and what the fuck have you between us and the stage, that all became more than a little impossible. Add to that some 60-70,000 people wanting to see the show and that we aren’t the tallest people in the world.. Well, it was gonna be hard. Which is not to say that we didn’t try. Tina, Pernille and I actually spent half a Rise Against show scouting around for better opportunities which led us far and wide along the stage, but being unable to push forward nothing really helped and we eventually ended up right around where we started as it was definitely the best available spot to watch the show from. Which is not really to say it was a good spot, but all things considered it wasn’t bad either. It was however, naturally, not at all what Tina had expected from the show she had been looking forward to all year.. Watching her disappointment and frustration was heartbreaking to say the least, but sadly there was nothing I could do, save hoisting her onto my shoulders for the entire show and that just wasn’t going to happen (and no, baby, I’m not saying your ass is big or that you’re fat, I’m saying I’m a scrawny weakling).
To make matters worse, the Rise Against performance was followed by a one hour wait coupled with heavy rain and very cold gusts of wind. The girls had been wise enough to bring a blanket for the evening while the only two remaining guys in the group (which had at some point been separated in a fit of drunken confusion), Per and myself had donned our disposable rain ponchos and were now huddling around the girls, offering whatever heat and shelter we could, much to the satisfaction of the little ones who were now being kept both relatively dry and relatively warm. As we even managed to keep a steady beer supply going, this actually ended up a rather cosy little intermission, albeit a pretty long one on account of Rammstein’s stage show taking forever to rig up.
Now, with all the pain, suffering and hardships endured, I’d love to say that it was all worth it and that Rammstein delivered one hell of a show to make us forget about the rain and the cold and all the crap we’d gone through.. But, well, quite honestly, that simply just didn’t happen.. Rather this particular show will probably end up going down in history as my biggest ever personal disappointment in our Rock Am Ring/Rock Im Park history, topping even the notorious 2008 Metallica performance at Rock Im Park.. And apparently I wasn’t alone in not digging the show too much. I remember back in 2008 being surprised to see people walk out before the Metallica show. This time around, people actually walked out during the show. Tina and Pernille included, but then Tina was really tired, wet, disappointed and grumpy, so I would have too in her place, and I was actually rather bummed about not being able to follow them back not only because I didn’t much care for them having to walk all the way on their own in the dark, but also because it meant I had to stay back with Per and watch the show.. Nothing against Per, but the show just wasn’t very interesting at all.
“Why, pray tell!”, the Rammstein fans are probably yelling at me right now.. Well, for starters.. You go to a show with certain expectations. In this case I went to Europe’s biggest rock festival which for almost a year had been tooting Rammstein as their exclusive, sensational 25th anniversary headliner. I honestly (and possibly a little naively, I do admit) expected them to deliver something a little special! What I certainly didn’t expect them to deliver was a scaled down version of the exact same show we had already seen six months before. I know it’s too much to expect them to perform a different setlist, but with such a huge stage, such a long, lengthy build time and such fuss around the show, I did expect them to put on a little extra.. Or at least the very same show, fine.. I most certainly didn’t expect them to actually cut songs, effects and pyro out of the show and that, I admit, disappointed me. Add to that a bunch of technical “difficulties” and a band which didn’t even really seem particularly energetic or keen on playing but rather seemed, well, understandably tired, it really wasn’t much fun to watch. An opinion which seemed to be shared by the general crowd around us who were either standing dead still or, alternatively, were busy walking out.. One good thing I will take away with me from the show, though, is that Per looked to be happier and having more fun than he had all festival, so for the sake of not playing the role of the old grumpy man, I simply gave two shits about personal conceptions and partied along with him.
The show eventually came to an end at around 11:30 PM and Per and I set out on the grueling long walk back to camp, our shoes sloshing happily as we walked along, chatting in that strange male bonding kinda way that seem to take place after a great experience has come to an end (and by great experience I mean mainly the festival itself, not so much the Rammstein show). The one hour walk back to camp was further complicated by the fact that a lot of local Germans were already starting to pack up and leave, meaning that everything was basically one big mess of cars, campers looking for cars, random drunks and people just generally looking to make it back to their tents to catch some sleep. We somehow managed to get through all of this chaos and back to our camping area where we bid each other farewell at the toilets as Per headed in to take care of some pressing business while I headed back to camp for a couple of hours of sleep before me and the girls were set to head out insanely early the next morning.
Well, I thought I was gonna get some sleep, anyways.. I returned to the tent to find both the girls snoozing happily in their sleeping bags.. Well, correction, Pernille was snoozing happily in my sleeping bag which I’d told her to use if necessary after someone – I’m not saying it was me, but it may have been – spilled beer in hers that very morning and subsequently hung it out to dry in the sun, which eventually turned to rain. That’s how great of a guy I am. So with my clothes soaked and all, basically what I did was kick off my dripping shoes, take off my wet socks and curl up in my jeans and hoodie to face the coldest summer night I ever remember having – and I was at the infamously cold Rock Am Ring last year. How cold was it? Well, I’m not about to go into details but let’s just say that my teeth chattering and trembling actually woke Tina at one point.. That’s how fucking cold I was.. But hey, all in the name of Rock N Roll.. And hey, temperatures did start rising again already at like 4:30 AM, which was about a half hour before we had to get up and pack for the trip home..