A weekend full of metal, beer and debauchery.
There’s not much to be said about metal that hasn’t been said before. It’s a genre that surfaced in the 80’s with headbanging, black-wearing and air-guitar playing individuals who called themselves metalheads. And as they increased in number, many people, even today, fail to recognize the crass but colossal grandeur of it. Metal, is a genre of music, but it’s also a culture. A culture of rebellion, chaos, hedonism, standing out and making bold statements. And Wacken Open Air is the church where we celebrate this culture, worship the metal gods.
Held every year Wacken Open Air brings to life a small, otherwise quiescent town in Germany with over 80,000 uber-tattooed festival attendees from all over the planet. There are several reasons why this has developed to be the ultimate hub for metalheads everywhere and The Sherp has a few listed for you here.
1. The Gods Of Metal
The paradise of every metal lover, Wacken, which started in 1990 as a couple of young metal fans from the area pooling in ash, building a stage and bringing in a couple of metal bands went on to feature some of the biggest names in metal rock ever known to mankind. From Iron Maiden, Apocalyptica, Ozzy Osborn to Motörhead, Slayer, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest and more – underground, experimental, fledgling and legendary. There have been a multitude of incredible performances at Wacken over the years. Here’s The Sherp’s pick of the lot.
When over 40,000 voices sang along to Blind Guardian’s Bard Song performance – Wacken, ’11
Apocalyptica’s soulful instrumental cover of Nothing Else Matters – Wacken, ’14
Motörhead’s entire headlining set – Wacken, ’06
2. The Community
One of the most assertive aspects of metal as a culture is the oneness of it. Metalheads belong nowhere and to nothing but metal. The atmosphere at Wacken reminds you of precisely this at every turn. In the vast slew of abundant (and sometimes even redundant) summer festivals that harbour crowds that go there for various reasons – the road trip, the trend, the vibe and those few who actually love the music, Wacken stands out like a sore thumb. Everyone at Wacken is there not to explore metal music, but because they know that they fucking love it. From their black clad bodies to their loud voices, everything about them is as bold as the music at Wacken.
3. The Hefeweizen
Apart from the music, the other thing that defines Wacken is the beer. And what could be better than some cold German brewskis on a hot summer day? The festival provides two expansive, Bavarian-style beer gardens that are almost as popular as the main concert stages. Barrels of lager litter the arena to cater to the eager crowd. Your W:OA experience is vastly incomplete without some lager, folks.
4. The Adrenaline
For those of you don’t know what to do with all that adrenaline death metal pumps into your veins, Wacken has a number of aggressive, immersive and downright guttural activities to let it all out. Starting with mud-wrestling in the mucky quagmire that becomes the arena after the intermittent downpour to the faux medieval sword-fighting in Wackinger village, there’s a lot of ground to cover if you want a thorough Wacken experience.
Speaking of a thourough Wacken experience, if Wacken Open Air has been on your bucket list for a while now, then we have a checklist to affirm your immersive experience there. If you’ve seen or done at least some of these things, then you know you’ve experienced an absolute and profound Wacken experience. So here it is, The Wacken Bucket List:
1. Spotted a streaker – there’s always at least one person showing off their junk when drunk.
2. Saw at least a thousand people making the bull horn symbol – there will be over a thousand for certain, but this is probably as far as our eyes can see.
3. Participated in/witnessed a Circle Pit or a Wall of Death – if you don’t know what a Wall of Death is you’re not a true metalhead. There has been word about the banning of both, but whether it’s been confirmed or not, is unknown to us. Either way, in this rebellion infested culture, someone is bound to start one or the other, so look out. This extremely terrifying Wall of Death was executed flawlessly during Wacken ’10
4. Experienced the ‘first morning after’ – the first morning after a night of blaring music, vigorous headbanging and excessive beer and well, everything for that matter, is sure to give you a nearly-morbid hangover. Have fun!