FESTIVAL REVIEW: WACKEN OPEN AIR 2016 – Day 3 (Saturday)
So if you’ve been following this write-up then let’s just clear one thing up about Wacken Open Air. By the Saturday there is every possibility that you have been out camping for at least four nights (some spend almost a week there), your tired due to the minimal sleep you have had, more than likely hungover, or just feeling really ordinary from the shenanigans of the night before, and (if it has been raining) you are well and truly over trudging around in the mud. When it hits this point and your feeling at your lowest the one thing that keeps you motivated is knowing that normally the bands performing on the final day are some of the best– and this year was no exception.
Feeling as cruddy as could be waking up at 7am, and knowing that I had to make it to at least 2am the next morning where I would conclude my Wacken experience with either Arch Enemy or Parkway (which at this point was yet undecided), there wasn’t much running through my system apart from adrenaline. Luckily I headed down to the festival area once the gates opened and one of the first bands on stage for the morning happened to be one of my all-time favourites in Dragonforce. There was the normal showmanship from the band, but being a set of ‘best of’ meant that every song I personally love of their was played. The crowd was really enthusiastic about the band, but increased that intensity when they band began ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ for their closer.
Up next were Symphony X, who have been a long favourite of mine. They put on a blistering show in the middle of the afternoon sun and were great to watch. Russel Allen was faultless on vocals and the vibe of the whole show just came across as very powerful and emotive. Sprinting over to watch Devildriver do what they do best was a smart option, as Dez Fafara was so far into his element leading the American quintet that it almost seemed like he was a man possessed. The band had so many of their fans going ballistic, with the energy on-stage being mirrored off the stage and it just created one hell of a moving moshpit. The fans really came out in force for this one, and even with the wind coming cross stage playing slightly with the sound, the band was difficult to falter.
Triptykon was next on the main stage and their performance blew me away and reinforced just why they are one of the best extreme metal bands in the world. As you would expect, there was a terrifying ambience about their performance (even if it was in the middle of the day) that found me transfixed to the majesty of Thomas Gabriel and Victor Santura on their respective guitars for the duration of their set.
I’m always fond of watching Steel Panther. There is just something about the primality that they withdraw from their fans which is humorous and also electrifying. The band has never got a bad reception on stage when I have seen them and this show at Wacken was the same. While a little more ‘reserved’ than their normal shows (maybe because this performance was being live streamed), the band was still able to delight the crowd with their over the top antics. There is something about the chemistry that this band has on stage which just works, and whether its Michael Starr’s vocals, Satchel’s guitar playing, or the constant slinging towards bassist Lexi Foxx, the crowd is always in stitches. The only problem with watching Steel Panther is that it meant that I missed most of Einherjer playing. I managed to catch 1-2 songs of theirs, but it wasn’t enough to satiate my appetite for the band. It would have been cool to have watched them play Dragons of the North in full, but just wasn’t lucky with scheduling on this occasion.
Doubling back to the main stages again I settled in to watch the night’s headliner Twisted Sister touring on their Forty and F*ck It tour. Now this is a band that needs no introduction and performing their last show in Germany they were always going to get a massive crowd and always get a good reception.Belting out classics such as Burn in Hell and Like a Knife in the Back, and opting out of creating a 20 minute long conclusion with ‘We’re not Gonna take it’, but instead slotted that 15 minute period into the middle of their set – and each time they finished the song and resurrected the chorus shortly afterward the crowd went wild. One of the most touching moments of the festival occurred when the band dedicated The Price to their fallen drummer A.J. Perro and to Lemmy Kilmister. Dee Snider is still as charismatic as ever and Jay Jay French looked like he was having the times of his life on stage. Closing up with ‘SMF’ as a tribute to their German fans brought rapturous cheers and applause for the conclusion of this great act’s touring career in Germany.
Finally, realizing that I was going to conclude Wacken with Parkway Drive proved to be one of the smartest decisions I made. Don’t get me wrong, I love Arch Enemy, and having to pick between these two bands was extremely difficult. I was skeptical to see how many people would show up to watch the Australian boys at 12:55 am in the morning, but to my surprise the crowd grew and grew until there was little space left in the mud. Parkway were as electric as ever, with vocalist Winston McCall using this performance to cement himself in the minds of those in attendance that he has become one of the premiere vocalists in the world. The set was strong and diverse giving the fans a good mix of old and new and just exuded a massive energy about it. Halting one song at it’s beginning to join the three circle pits that were going on into one giant one added some comedic value to their set, which consisted flames, flying mud and concluded with fireworks.
I missed Dio Disciples who were playing as I walked out of the festival infield. The band was touted on the bill as Dio Disciples+ very special guest, and not knowing who it was, didn’t persuade me enough to tag along. This was a decision I would regret after hearing that the man himself, Ronnie James Dio appeared via hologram to perform to the crowd (I’m sure a lot of you have seen the video). And with that it was done — another year of mud, sweat and beers — but most importantly another year attending one of the best places on earth. Disneyland often labels itself as the ‘Happiest place on Earth’, which might be true for most – but Wacken is the Disneyland for metalheads, and leaving the campgrounds on the Sunday morning gets harder and harder with each visit!