Oh, the pressure! I said I’d go to bed but I really wanted to get this blog live before going back to bonny Scotland! (And yet here I am three days later in an internet cafe in Glasgow…)
So one day, I got a Facebook message on behalf of Europe’s post-apocalyptic powerhouse “The Wasteland Warriors”. One of the members had seen some of my ‘day job’ work and asked if I’d like to join them at the largest heavy metal festival in the world. I think that’s what they call a no-brainer…
At risk of sounding terribly pathetic, I’d never been to a big music festival before. Oh well… 😉 A few logistical sort outs later- like a tent, blankets, travel and some incredible hospitality and kindness from total strangers that would preemptively set the tone for the adventure I’ve just come back from (I’ll tell you later), and I was on a coach to Frankfurt.
Obviously I’m late in writing this but it’s my blog and I’ll procrastinate if I want to. I was trying to work out how to write about a festival like Wacken; I’m not a seasoned festival goer- I didn’t even think to bring loo roll. Did it measure up to Infest in Bradford, UK? Cambridge’s Strawberry Fair? The Bromham Show? (that’s the annual tiny village fete where I grew up). 😛
It was only on an all-night coach journey a few weeks before The Big One (fifteen hours to Frankfurt) that I thought I’d check the lineup. Iron Maiden headlining. Steel Panther…. Ministry… Twisted Sister…! There is something to be said for having no idea what you’re getting into, as I then had to sit through said coach journey completely unable to scream excited gibberish in someones ear. Disclaimer: I know what I like, music-wise but my in-depth knowledge of bands is so limited, I’ll let the good folks at MetalAsFuck tell you that side of things. 😉
The Big One was delayed by four hours which I tried to stay calm over as, after all, I had got 22 Euro tickets just two weeks before leaving day, but at last I got to my host. Any metaller, LARPer or Wastelander knows that the scariest looking social groups are often the friendliest, and the kindness and family mentality was pretty overwhelming in a good way- these people took a chance on a twentysomething model and blogger with no experience of festivals and invited me to join them. <3 After about ten hours of being dead to the world, I was off in a car of US expat soldiers, war stories, ‘rock’ horns and embarrassing hummingbird-related mishaps.
The first person I met (other than my carmates) invited me for Red Bull at her tent where I watched the beginning of the sunset. We then watched the end of it from the fighting cage in the Wasteland Warriors corner while playing “the Norwegian knife game”. (You chuck knives at each others feet in a non-manly manner while slowly doing the splits.) I have a ridiculous fear of somehow “missing the party” but as we were all needed in costume in the morning, I made myself sleep and in the morning prepared to dress up and test run my claws.
A half-finished costume with clawsies. 😉
After a day of chilling on top of Mad Max cars, meeting people and realising that meine Deutsch ist SEHR schlecht, I was feeling way more at home. There are few easier ways to become comfortable with people than helping paint each other in dirt and fake blood, sharing a trailer and bending around each other like a kind of multilingual post-apocalyptic tetris game.
It all formed one awesome blur after a while but I’m pretty sure it was Thursday that I fell slightly head over heels. I was sitting, looking very mean, on top of one of the cars when a stunningly beautiful and amazingly unmuddy woman walked past my car, long black cloak billowing. She caught my eye (several times), blew a kiss which I returned with a heart-hand shape I’m not sure she saw due to the presence of the fairly large claws strapped to my hands, and off she went. Over the next few days she visited a few times but due to work, language barrier, being slightly hard of hearing and me becoming a shy 12-year-old boy when confronted with a lady I’m interested in, I never got to talk with her properly. Why didn’t I ask her to come and hang out in the evening? Why do I get tongue tied? Why?? Because I am a noodlebrain. That is why. If you’re reading this and recognise yourself, you are beautiful and I hope that you are having the most wonderful life.
Welcome to the office…
I need one of these for my boat. Duck, diver, swan, mermaid…
Anywayyyyyy… we tended to head off in groups to see bands and as my taste in music isn’t absolutely terrible (debatable), there was always at least one other person who wanted to see the same people so I got company for Iron Maiden. The mud this year was pretty bad in my limited experience but I have apparently been spoiled as it hadn’t reached my knees. To be honest, it wasn’t as though I cared either way- looking up to see the tiny droplet-lets of rain lit by the stage lights while listening to a band I’ve always wanted to see in concert was worth mud up to my thighs and it was barely ankle-deep. We were the last stop on a pretty epic-sounding Iron Maiden tour and obviously I don’t exactly need to say how awesome they were on stage. Enough said? 😉
I got about four hours sleep due our tent’s unfortunate placement next to the massive karaoke tent. Just an aside to people; the rain will come in your tent and make your feet soggy if you forget to zip up the side window…
The Mud Situation…
Tribute to Lemmy- there were a lot of photos, interviews and a beautiful tribute video. Prince, Lemmy, Bowie… apparently there’s a party we weren’t invited to.
I spent a lot of my time at Wacken getting acquainted with the Fallout soundtrack while swinging around the dancing cage. A few of the Wasteland Warriors were vloggers, cosplayers or filming for television so I got to hear a lot of background stories to peoples outfits and characters! So much effort and creativity was put into giving characters and costumes (already worth hours and hours of work) a backstory. I made friends with a couple so into their writing and cosplay that they had invented a religious cult for one of their other groups in their spare time!
Through hearing the team talk about their projects, I got inspired myself- there was so much more I could do! It hadn’t occurred to me that I could make a costume from scrap metal, ‘wasteland’-up last seasons trendy necklaces or bolt together a headpiece that wasn’t a nightmare to pin to my head. I’m already working on a half mechanical costume for next time.
For the interested, my character Deathhawk ‘the eloquent’ scouts ahead of her tribe most of the time. Just occasionally though, she returns with treasure, artefacts… or bodily parts. Questions about the origins of her finds are met with silence but the book she carries with her and scribbles in obsessively may hold the answers… 😉 Costumes are always a work in progress and there’s a lot I want to do before I bring the Deathhawk costume out again but it was a relief to see it didn’t make me stick out as an obvious newbie, which I’d been concerned about.
I heard a few people ask how to become a Wasteland Warrior. The answer is; make a movie-quality costume and send a few pictures over. If you have a talent or other skill that could be useful, mention it.
Guys, I don’t know what names you want tagged! Let me know and I’ll tag/link you right away. xx
Wacken’s very own shamen- he had an incense holder out of shot. 🙂
Later in the day, I was asked to support Sub Dub Micromachine dancing with other Wasteland Warriors on stage. A minute after coming offstage, I was pulled onto the roof of one of our post-apocalyptic cars and taken for a drive around the arena. If anyone is reading this and has footage or photos, for the love of all that is holy, please get in touch. As it is, there are a couple of shots of me in the video here.
Dancing superstar, tell me your preferred link and name. 😉
My turn in the cage…
I went off to see Ministry with my campmate ‘Badger’ who unlike me was alive when Ministry started up. (Heeheehee!) 😛 I had a squeee moment when New World Order started up as it happened to be my first introduction to that genre of music, in a grungy bar in Southampton over a decade ago… There were fewer people watching than I expected but it meant we got nearer the front.
We came back to base camp to find a drinking game taking place. The rules must remain a secret but “make the Wasteland great again” was the quote of the night and if I see my Wasteland Warrior friends drinking heavily while I dance onstage, I will know I’m doing it wrong… 😉 I’d given my mutant costume a trial run on Friday but as the skirts trailed and were a little ragged in a bad way, I reverted back to Deathhawk. There’s an unwritten rule that after a certain time, the Wasteland Warriors can wear variously customised onesies and dance to Korn. I didn’t get the memo so remained boney and leathery amid a sea of fluff.
Later that night. Is that a flamethrower? That’s a flamethrower, isn’t it…
Having spent the vast majority of time either at the Wasteland Warriors corner or watching bands, I went around my surroundings for the first time on Saturday. Being more socially awkward than I look, I wasn’t quite sure how to ask new friends if they wanted to come with me, so I lone wolfed it and got acquainted with some actual wolf pelts. I’m not sure the store owner was prepared for a videogame-y-looking spine headpiece-wearing be-clawed women stroking the pelts and telling them how sorry I was at the sad ending for them. If someone can assure me the dead foxes didn’t come from a fur farm, I’d appreciate the knowledge. I also caved in and bought a keyring as I couldn’t choose between t-shirts.
I went to visit my Wacken crush but work (her side now- she’s a baker) got in the way but I did get a pizza bread out of it. And it was good…
As the evening came and the Steel Panther gig got nearer, I joined forces with a group of us to watch and slid our way as near the front as we could and watched banter, boobs and a bloody good show (please read that in an English accent). So there we were- the post-apocalyptic standout group in a sea of black band t-shirts, hippy-hugging and bouncing around as best we could to “tomorrow is the end of the world” Then we got covered in pink confetti which greatly upset some of our party. 😛 As the set ended it was time for shopping for some of us (had I known about the metal market and brought my wallet to the gig, I would be even poorer than I am now…) serious amounts of food and screaming at the cage fight. My German may be awful but I am confident I can shout “two go in, one comes out”. So much fun to watch and take part in (as a cage rattling, disembowelling spectator). I missed Twisted Sister that evening as I was too busy partying, sadly. I hear the gig was awesome.
Sadly I didn’t get this on video…
Another stint at stage dancing and vehicle sitting, and it was onesie time back in our corner, where a friend had a surprise for me… my very own onesie for the night. So I spent my last night at Wacken in a fluffy manner. By the time it was 4am I was dying on my feet and went back to camp via the hot chocolate machine. Throughout the festival, with backstage passes and dressed in an awesome manner, I saw nobody I recognised. And now the one time in my life that I walked past Dee Snider, I was dressed as a fluffy green dragon…
I have to say, I have never felt so safe. After four days of walking to and from camp (often on my own and long after dark), I never once felt at risk. Imagine trying to do that on a Friday night on your local high street… I got accosted by one person mid-gig, who my friends waded (literally) in to help with and I later threw someone into the mud as I couldn’t remember how to say ‘piss off’ in German. That was all.
I’ll write my own guide sometime but as advice for festival first-timers is all over the internet, I’ll just say: Know yourself. Can you cope without showers for four days? Can you put up with cold wet feet because you were too ditzy to close the tent door? Can you eat anything or do you need your own supplies? (We had our own cooking people, who rocked. There were a lot of options in the main area but if you’re vegan, plan ahead.)
It was partly the incredible, family atmosphere that made my week- I’m used to ‘flying solo’ but I’d have found an 80,000 strong festival a bit more daunting. Even if I was so tired I got blind spots, so what? Rock on. I’ve made friends (and as I’m comfortable to-ing and fro-ing across Europe I can actually see them more than once a year!), found welcome everywhere and will I be back again? HELL YES.
p.s. I’ll add videos and extra bits to this post as I find them and get permission so keep checking back… 😉