Of course it was not a pleasant sign when we (Mark Gromen and myself) entered the grounds on the final day (Saturday, August 4th) and a crack of thunder rang high above like an unwelcome mat. Drizzle shortly followed as we threw on our cheap but effective rain covers, but got lucky as we had hit the tail end of the ominous looking system and the mid day shower only lasted a few short minutes. Of course we headed straight to the grounds to see two things; the mess and how organizers were dealing with it.
And yes there was an incredible brown mud bath and it appeared organizers were slow to action as only minimal hay/wood chips - the only solution in this climate - had soaked in the sloppy mess. Perhaps with that many people on the grounds (80,000-plus) there was no way of accessing the problem. One thing for certain, it was topic of conversation when founders Thomas Jensen and Hübner tried to address the issue with press and media that afternoon.
There was a bit of a lull before TESTAMENT's set was to begin, perfect timing as Dark Roots Of The Earth had just been released. I make my annual venture to the market area to get my fix of CDs, t-shirts and assorted metal related paraphernalia that is nowhere to be found at home. The only worry was would I make it back to the main festival grounds!!!
Shoes were already a write off. Actually every year we begin with a throwaway pair, no matter what the weather throws at us. The night before my shoes had been rinsed off in the tub so the day began with wet feet. Not a big deal, but the worry was the muck, and moreso the suction as your heels were grabbed by mother nature's unforgiving grip and leaving your show behind! But with shoes laced beyond tight, I tippy-toed towards the vendors and the Metal Market. Each step thinking I would topple over in the soupy mess. I didn't even dare to concentrate on a cocktail at the same time! As the photos attest the vendors took a major hit as it took forever to walk through the numerous tents and many patrons just threw up their arms in either frustration or disgust. For me it was mission accomplished and as my feet made their way back in slow motion, Testament frontman Chuck Billy's roar took over the open air field and it seemed to carry as far as the Bay Area! Although we were hoping for a more greatest hits set, the band stormed the crowd with the likes of 'The New Order' and 'The Preacher' before the blast-beat ridden newbie 'American Hate' threw the crowd into a frenzy, Gene Hoglan's skin beating echoing through the massive crowd. 'Practice What You Preach', 'Over The Wall' and the speedy 'D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)' toppled, the seasoned guitar duo of Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick fretting madly.
It was the Viking's turn to pillage and AMON AMARTH may have been one of the largest crowds ever witnessed in the daylight, Johan Hegg and his not so merry crew invading the crowd with their mission of death tinged power metal mythology. 'Cry Of The Black Birds', 'The Fate Of Norns' and 'For Victory Or Death' sent roars throughout the crowd, fans raising their drinking and evil horns high! The encores of 'Twilight Of The Thunder God' and 'Guardians Of Asgaard', swallowed the Wacken faithful and you could silently hear the the crowd wishing the band would sweep them up from mud in their Viking ship and take them to higher ground!
The SCORPIONS appear 15 minutes late which is quite the rarity at this festival. In fact Mr. Gromen noticed one of their crew in a mad rush from the Wacken mid-field obviously trying to rectify some sort of sound/lighting situation. For us the confirmation of the Scorpions was a bit of a non-event for a coupla reasons. The band are currently on the never-ending Final Sting World Tour (kinda like THE WHO!) and it was unclear if this would be the German icon's farewell Wacken show. We were fortunate to have witnessed one of the greatest highlights on these grounds when the band asked fans to vote for the set list and invited Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker and Herman Rarebell back for the celebration in 2006.
It was a predictable greatest hits setlist with the likes of 'The Zoo' and 'Coast to Coast' hitting the crowd between the eyes early, the latter still carrying immense weight for an instrumental track.
All I kept thinking was an outsiders suggestion. Surprise fans with Blackout in it's entirety. Or perform Side A each of Blackout and Love At First Sting. But the clouds overhead which the the strobes easily highlighted and velocity of the cold winds jolted me out of my dream state as the perfect storm (again) swarmed the grounds like a hurricane had hit us. Most of us running for cover as the band continued on with Dynamite', 'Big City Nights', Blackout' and the encore of 'Coming Home', 'Still Loving You' and the fitting 'Rock You Like a Hurricane'!
Stay tuned for a full report with more photos this week as we dry off!
Check out parts I and II below:
(Scorpions photo above courtesy of W:O:A/Olaf Malzahn)