König Wacken 2016
Wacken Open Air 2016
Every Summer, the tiny village of Wacken, about an hour's drive from Hamburg, becomes the rocking epicentre of the international metal music scene. This year, Wacken Open Air, the world's largest metal festival with headliners like Iron Maiden, Whitesnake, Blind Guardian, Saxon,Testament, Twisted Sister and Steel Panther, drew more than 75,000 visitors from all over the world.
Metalheads from South Africa, Indonesia, El Salvador, the United States, Mexico and Singapore talk about their love for metal, German beer drinking culture ─ and how to survive the mud at Wacken Open Air 2016.
Travelling for days … and months
True metal fans don't shun a bit of travelling to see their favourite bands rock the stage.
Zoom in Daniel travelled to Wacken for 28 hours from Monterrey in Mexico. (picture: Jessica Mintelowsky) Daniel, a psychologist from Monterrey in Mexico, took two planes to Berlin, boarded a bus to Hamburg and finally ─ 28 hours later ─ made it to the 'Holy Land of Metal'. "When you’re a metalhead, you know that the very best metal festival is here at Wacken, so here I am again for the third time," Daniel explains.
Zoom in Vincent gave his girlfriend Hazel a ticket to W:O:A as a birthday present. (picture: Jessica Mintelowsky)
Vincent, a student from California, travelled for two days. He first heard of Wacken Open Air when he was ten years old, and had his first Wacken experience in 2011. "It was a dream come true. I still can't describe it. There are so many people, great bands and everybody is having a good time."
John from Cape Town had been touring music festivals around Europe for a few months before pitching his tent at Wacken Open Air. "I knew that this was a very famous metal festival, so I had to check it out. It feels like something very special, so I'm glad I did!"
The world's biggest Iron Maiden fan
Syam from Indonesia is the ultimate Iron Maiden fan. (picture: Jessica Mintelowsky)
With his long, black coat, adorned with countless Iron Maiden patches, Syam from Jakarta is quite a sight. Eight hours before his favourite band takes the stage, Syam is already on his way to ensure a spot at the front.
“Iron Maiden changed my life," he explains in between drags of his fragrant clove cigarette. "I heard them for the first time in 1986 and I fell in love. It's truly a gift to be here, and I'm enjoying every single second."
Hazel, who works as a chef in California, is surprised by the size of Wacken Open Air. "This genre is not that popular in the United States, so it's special to be surrounded by so many people who like this type of music."
Meeting people, making friends
Zoom in John from Cape Town has been touring European festivals for two months. (picture: Jessica Mintelowsky) Shared love for heavy, doom, death or glam metal is what unites most visitors, but is music the most important element at Wacken Open Air?
“It's about the people you're surrounded with, and the feeling you get from the environment you're in," says John from Cape Town.
To Ayush from Singapore, it's the open and friendly community of metal enthusiasts that matters the most: "My first time at Wacken, I came for the music, but this year I returned for the people."
Vincent from California is also looking forward to meeting his Wacken friends from last year. "I made a lot of friends from Austria, Belgium and Germany. It's great to hang out with everyone, swapping stories, and making fun of each other."
Exploring Hamburg and tackling the rain
Now on his third visit, Daniel knows his way around Hamburg: "I just fell in love with the city, the St. Pauli football team, the Reeperbahn, the amazing city park where you can grill sausages, and of course the port with the big ships." Before heading over to Wacken, John from South Africa also spent several days exploring St. Pauli with a local, and took home some good memories of vegan snacks and a great view of the harbour at Park Fiction.
Singaporean Couchsurfer Ayush is a second-time Wacken visitor. (picture: Jessica Mintelowsky)
Are there any interesting cultural differences?
"The beer drinking is definitely more excessive here," John notes. And compared to festivals in Asia, European metalheads are different, says Singaporean Ayush: "People are a lot more enthusiastic, a lot more animated and fun. You see their crazy hair and costumes ─ you don't see that at other festivals."
And then there's the treacherous weather, rain and lots of mud. "I'm a tropical guy, so it's cold for me," says Syam from Jakarta. "But even with the cold, Wacken is a warm place. I've made new friends from all over the world. When they learn I'm from Indonesia, they say ─ come join us and take a beer!"
A true Wacken veteran, Daniel warns newcomers to be prepared. "If it's gonna rain, you'll need 'Gummistiefel', and get a good tent. On my first year, my tent was really thin and I had one of the worst nights of my life. It was so cold and I had no winter clothes."
Any other tips for newbies at Wacken Open Air?
John: "Pack light ─ it's horrible carrying lots of stuff around. Drink beer, and make sure you meet as many people as humanly possible ─ because that's what makes the festival great."
Daniel: "Be prepared to drink with Germans. Here at the festival it's like a sport, they invite you to their camps and give you beer. You're gonna have the best time of your life, but you need to keep drinking ─ that's the rule."
Ayush: "Take your boots ─ because it always rains ─ bring beer and don't forget to have fun."
Vincent: "Bring a good attitude and have fun!"