SATURDAY, AUGUST 2, 2014.
6:30 AM. I’m awake. As I lay in my sleeping bag I’m aware that this may well be my last full day at Wacken, ever. If the transfer with the AAA passes goes off, it will be a fine ending to my 14 years of festivals here. Still, I’m not holding my breath.
I go to the showers again very early, as yesterday. The line is longer this time but still manages to work out all right. You should see the line in the afternoon—you’d be waiting an hour or more.
8:00 AM. The Norwegians are stirring. After a while, Josh comes over from the neighboring camp. He, Karl and I agreed yesterday that we would be at the appointed table in the Wackinger Village beer garden well in advance of noon; it’s not really a big deal because there’s not much we will be missing in the early part of the day. After the usual morning hijinx at camp, Karl, Josh and I split off from the Norwegians and go into the village for breakfast.
9:00 AM. Breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen. It’s much cooler this morning. Yesterday we were struggling to find shade; today is much more comfortable. Josh tells us a little about himself. He’s from Edmonton, and active in the rave scene there, evidently. I haven’t been to a rave since 1991 and I wasn’t too impressed back then. To each their own.
Morning at Camp Metric. Left to right: Joachim, Ida, Morten.
10:00 AM. We get to the Wackinger Village, which has just opened. Amazingly, on the main stage in Wackinger, there is a wedding in progress—a real wedding. A man with a blond mohawk is marrying a girl who obviously looks like a metalhead despite wearing a traditional white wedding dress. The couple’s family and friends are gathered around onstage as well. The ceremony is conducted by a priest who I guess is Lutheran. This seems quite awesome. I have witnessed at least one marriage proposal at Wacken, but not an actual wedding. That would be pretty cool to say you were married there—though it doesn’t quite measure up to a windswept beach on the Oregon coast, but such a thing is intensely personal.
After the wedding, Josh, Karl and I settle down at the appointed table, order some waters (it’s too early for beer), and wait. Will the Germans with the AAA passes show up? If they do, how do we get their wristbands? It’s anyone’s guess.
10:38 AM. Amazingly, two of the Germans’ friends who were in the beer garden yesterday appear, including the Cracker-Head Guy. Thankfully now he’s much less drunk. They don’t have AAA passes, but they seem to have come here expecting (eventually) to meet up with their friends. We have some drinks and chat with them, and then they go off to see one of the other stages. I can’t hear exactly what one of them says as he goes away but it has the air of an “I’ll be back” type of statement. We assume they will return to meet their friends at noon.
The wedding, which took place on the main stage at the Wackinger Village.
11:45 AM. It’s getting warmer and dustier. Streams of people are coming through the Wackinger Village, many on the way to the main stages to see Arch Enemy. Karl is obviously getting nervous. At this point I’m becoming more skeptical that the transfer will go off. Josh is gnawing his fingernails impatiently. Matt and Steph—some of our Canadian friends—randomly spot us, and come over to join us. Good to have some company, but as the minutes tick by I’m now certain that the AAA pass deal is dead. Arch Enemy, distantly audible from one of the main stages, begins playing at noon. Shame to miss them, but it’s definitely worth staying one more hour just to foreclose any possibility that the Germans, perhaps late, might show up and consummate the deal.
They don’t. By 11:30 I’m glad we’re in sight of the end of our long wait. “Oh well,” I tell Josh and Karl, “it was definitely worth coming out here to see if it would go off.” They agree. We won’t have AAA passes—but at least now we can tell everybody the story.
1:00 PM. We go back to camp. Arch Enemy is over so there’s nothing more to see there. It’s warm, so we change clothes; Karl, who is about as white as a human being can get, comments, “I’m so white, when I get out on the sun I start sparkling.” By chance the Norwegians, who are also extremely white, appear. Nuclear-powered sunscreen is liberally applied. We talk briefly about what we should name our camp. My advocacy for “Camp Maus Hosenbügler” is to no avail—Hobbes and the other Norwegians decide that my foibles in continually expressing temperature and distance in incomprehensible (to them) Imperial terms has earned our camp the name “Camp Metric,” and so it shall be.
(Left to right) Karl, Joachim and John argue about who is the whitest resident of our camp. The competition is pretty fierce.
2:00 PM. Karl and I go up to the village, both for the clean toilets and the prospect of a drink. We wind up having drinks at a front-yard bar right near one of the Wacken campground entrances. There are shady spots there and the beer is cheap and cold. We end up talking to a guy who fractured his ankle today and isn’t sure how he’s going to stand there to watch bands this evening. I realize I’m getting pretty tired. Wacken is almost over.
5:00 PM. Karl has told me, apropos of nothing, that his uncle is a professional photographer who’s shooting pictures here at Wacken, and he’s told him to meet him at the Wacken Foundation tent in the infield. I find the uncle, who’s armed with a state-of-the-art camera, to be a perfectly charming fellow, mid-50s, and very enthusiastic. He snaps a bunch of pictures of us in the tent, which is decked out in Wacken-inspired artwork. I’ve never seen this before, but it’s pretty cool. The photos of us—which I won’t see until after I return to the USA—are awesome!
Karl finally smiles. Photo copyright (c) 2014 by Olaf Plotz.
Karl and his uncle Olaf pose with some Wacken art. Photo copyright (c) 2014 by Olaf Plotz.
5:20 PM. It’s ironic that, after all the complaining I’ve done about the food at Wacken for the past 14 years, on the last day of my last Wacken I find a truly awesome food booth. It’s an unassuming, medieval-looking outfit in the Wackinger village called “Vegetarix,” and the dish is evidently known as Reisgemüse, which Karl has to translate for me—but it’s a great rice dish with vegetables and a sweet spicy sauce. This is something I’d order in a restaurant. It goes down well with a beer at our infamous table where we spent 3 hours waiting for the AAA passes. From looking at the angle of the sun I realize the whole thing is almost over.
6:10 PM. Karl and I go to see Emperor on the movie field. I suppose it’s blasphemy among metal fans, but I never really saw the big deal with Emperor. Groundbreaking band, very technical, Isahn is very talented, sure, yeah. But they never really moved me on an emotional level. The set tonight, I think, is noteworthy primarily for its existence: it’s the Emperor reunion, man! Musically it’s not bad. I’ve seen Isahn at Wacken before, and also Zyklon, both of which had the same sort of “it’s an almost Emperor reunion” sort of buzz. This strikes me the same way they did: fine, but not really my cup of tea.
7:00 PM. I definitely want to try to catch Amon Amarth in person, and Karl and I set out early to try to weave through the crowd and find a good place to see them. This attempt is a little better than our ill-fated foray into the HammerFall crowd yesterday, but it’s still not entirely successful. As the mighty engine of Viking metal gets started, we find ourselves in closer range of a large Jumbotron screen than the actual stage. Karl wants to make one more attempt, so into the crowd we go. The music is great, if predictable. Amon Amarth are one of those bands you just can’t help loving, partially because you know exactly what you get with every song. It’s virtually the same song played over and over again but (unlike, for example, the cantina song!) it’s not tiring. Johann Hegg is certainly one of the most epic madmen the metal world has ever produced. The beard, man! Anyway, after watching about half of Amon Amarth, the crowd is just too thick, once again. We go back to the movie field and finish out the set.
A brief snippet of the Amon Amarth set, which I took from our vantage point.
8:15 PM. Karl’s dream, the whole Wacken festival, has been to catch a guitar pick from Megadeth, his favorite band. Now that their performance is upon us, he leaves early to get right up front. I’m alone on the movie field for a long time. It’s more crowded than it’s been at any point in the festival so far. People are getting tired. The clouds overhead are a bit ominous; I hope it doesn’t start raining. That’s the last thing we need—to pack up camp and try to get to Hamburg tomorrow morning in a downpour.
Megadeth takes the stage at 8:30. This is the first time Dave Mustaine and company have played Wacken; it’s rather unusual for a band as big as they are to have missed it until now. I haven’t seen Megadeth live since 2000, and I rather checked out of their albums after the horrible atrocity that was Risk. (I heard they got much better, though have never regained their 80s-90s success). Tonight they’re a bit slow to get started. Dave seems a bit addled and not entirely tracking on what’s going on. He seems to believe the attendance of Wacken is 200,000—an impossible figure, but he mentions it more than once. His spiteful vocals squirm and squeal through “Sweating Bullets” and a few more recent songs, and some older ones. About midway through the set, though, Megadeth finally starts firing on all cylinders. I like that they did some stuff from Cryptic Writings (an album I loved but no one else seemed to), but the real triumph of the set is the closer, “Peace Sells.” Overall it’s a good set, not the best of Wacken, but pretty enjoyable, and at least now they’ve played the world’s largest metal festival.
Morten joins me on the movie field during Megadeth. After looking at the clouds he pronounces, “We will not have any more rain.” He’s right. He stays only a short while, then goes off to find a place to watch Avantasia.
The glow of the last sunset paints the Wacken sky.
Karl returns, stoked but exhausted. He says he was in the second row for Megadeth, but alas, did not catch a guitar pick. Still, he says Dave Mustaine looked directly at him as the show was ending. I guess that’s enough.
10:00 PM. Probably my last set of Wacken—in person or on the movie field—is going to be this one, Avantasia. I’m very, very tired. Tobias Sammet’s “metal opera” supergroup always puts on a great show, and this one is no exception. Avantasia is, by definition, much more theatrical than pretty much any other band that’s played, and it’s rather like watching a live opera performance than a metal band. Michael Kiske and Oliver Hartmann join the fun. I’ve always been amazed at Tobias Sammet’s stage presence; whoever he’s performing with, he seems to own the entire stage and his charisma and energy is infectious. Avantasia does a great job with “Reach Out For The Light,” but the best of the set is definitely the title track, “Avantasia.” It’s also during this track that I realize I’m at the end of my energy. This is the end of Wacken for me.
The very first set I ever saw at Wacken Open Air, in the year 2000, was Vader. The very last set was Avantasia.
11:00 PM. Back to camp. It’s getting a bit chilly, but at least it’s not raining. I’m exhausted, but I tell Karl we should stay up at least until one of the Norwegians gets back, preferably Hobbes, so we can formulate our plan for packing up the camp and leaving in the morning. It turns out to be a very long haul. I drink a beer very slowly, and Karl quickly becomes absorbed by a saga unfolding on his phone via text messages. Distantly I can hear the end of Avantasia, then Kreator. It seems to take forever for the Norwegians to arrive, although Ida shows up and joins us for a while.
Night at Camp Metric. The beams are spotlights emanating from the main stage.
1:38 AM. I just can’t stay awake anymore. I’m literally falling over in my chair. Hobbes, Morten and the others aren’t back yet, though I expect them at any moment; Karl, who says he probably won’t sleep at all tonight, agrees to stay up and meet them. I crawl into my tent. Just as I’m getting into my sleeping bag I hear the boisterous voices of the Norwegians returning. Still, I have no more energy. I have one more night to sleep here on this field, one more night in my life, and then tomorrow I’ll be in a luxury hotel in Hamburg. The last Wacken is just about finished, and an era in my life with it.