Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

The World's Loudest Acre:
Wacken Open Air 2002

Thursday, August 1, 2002

It was Thursday, still officially the "pre-show" day of the festival. Witch Hunter (a veteran of two previous Wacken trips) arrived and drove us to the town of Wacken proper. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the yellow highway signs leading to our destination. WACKEN 5KM. This time I knew what to expect. The little town was besieged, awash in long-haired metalheads carrying camping gear and crates of beer. In the first minutes of our arrival I probably saw 15 different varieties of Blind Guardian and Kreator T-shirts on the various hot, weary festival goers streaming into the place. We joined them, standing in line for over two hours to receive our passes and press accreditations. A very long, hot, sweaty wait! However, in the line we were reunited with our Italian friends, Francesco and Cristiano--not only bassist and vocalist, respectively, for Stormlord, but also big muckety-mucks for the magazine Rock Hard Italy. They had been nice enough to bring their roadie, Claudio, a short and cheerful Italian fellow in full black metal gauntlets and combat boots. After various misadventures backstage and in the town of Itzehoe, none of which I will describe, we finally wound up in the backstage area with beers firmly in hand, ready to catch the entertainment of the evening…and ready for Wacken Part 13.

BLAZE BAYLEY was the first official act we saw at the festival, having arrived back from Itzehoe too late (sadly) to catch Timo Koltipelto's solo performance. I'm not a fan of Blaze Bayley, or of Blaze-era Maiden, and thus I can't say I was really interested in his solo stuff. However, Blaze was surprisingly tight, catchy and energetic this first evening of Wacken. I rather enjoyed "Silicon Messiah," and although he's definitely not even close to Paul DiAnno or Bruce Dickinson on Maiden songs, his rendition of "Man On The Edge" was competent. Not a bad start to the festival.

Toward the end of Blaze's set the gunmetal clouds that had been gathering over the Wacken village finally began to weep. Ah! At last, the heat is breaking! We retired to the backstage area for more beer during the drizzle, which thankfully ended before long. Unfortunately it had not ended soon enough. The rain soaked the mushy unpaved ground of the backstage parking lot, and Witch Hunter's rental car did not have four wheel drive and several other cars in the lot were already bogged down in the muck. Not to fear! Nomad and I leaped out of the car and gave it a good push. We freed the car in less than five minutes--but wound up completely covered in mud from head to foot. This was endlessly amusing to Ice Maiden, but a bit on the sticky side for us. Thankfully we were headed back to the hotel where warm, wet towels and a bar were readily available. We had a drink there, still mostly covered in mud, but the hotel manager was quite cool about it, and the longer we sat there we began to notice various metal celebrities milling about--Joacim Cains of Warlord, for instance, who may be more well-known for his work with one of my favorite bands, HammerFall! On my way back to the bathroom to swab dried mud off my shorts I conveniently bumped into his HammerFall bandmate Oskar Dronjak. Given the late hour and the amount of beer I'd had I couldn't resist a little hand-shaking and hero worship. "I love HammerFall--you guys rule!" Not a bad ending to the first day of Wacken.

Because the rain had cooled things off, we could sleep with the windows closed--and no mosquitoes. All of us fell into a heavy sleep…and missed the fact that it started raining again, and continued raining all night. Enter Wacken Tribulation No. 2: mud.

Read On... Friday, Aug 2

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