Metalcamp 2012: An American's Odyssey Into A European "Hell Over Paradise" - Part IV
Band Photo: Amon Amarth (?)
Continued from Part III...
10:00am. “Waking up” is one thing. “Getting up” is something else. These festivals involve a continuous stream of physical self-abuse of one kind or another – usually both, and more.
I drag myself like a cranky newborn from my tent and stretch, feeling drawn and quartered. By now, I have no problem pulling out my unit and pissing in the open air, on the slight hill next to our Embassy. Bashfulness went right out the window a while ago.
Normally I don’t feel right until I’ve run my three miles in the morning, and I’d even brought my tennis shoes – packed comfortably in my bag, untouched – in case the opportunity came up. It has; that’s what the mornings and early afternoons are for; to recover from last night and prepare for tonight. But whether one’s up to it is another question. I am not.
Kay, on Wacken: “You don’t go unless you don’t care about hygiene and sleep.” Metalcamp seems like the "training wheels" that cut you a little slack, so I’m off to brush my teeth and get more “semen” on my shorts.
Lexy sips her coffee and snickers out loud as I make a mess of myself. “I admire your oral regimen.” She doesn’t know the half of it. I’m not exactly an online self-diagnosing hypochondriac, but I’m pretty sure I’ve had OCD all my life.
2:00pm. Heading down to the Beach Bar for an afternoon dip. Now that I’ve purchased a decent pair of “thongs” on today’s hike to town, it’s only natural that I’d forget something else this time: to actually change into the swimsuit still stuffed in my backpack.
All right, all right, all that bashfulness stuff was half true – I still have limits, and I’m not just going to change butt-ass naked in front of everyone, without warning.
I find an empty outhouse with a functioning lock – I’ve already barged in on several people mid-shit, and vice versa – and get down to some gymnastics.
I’m still kind of finicky about surfaces, and the cleanliness thereof. Maybe it’s the fact that a mere foot below me, through a hole with no lid, is a mound of human feces stirred in with brown-streaked toilet paper and miscellaneous garbage.
I try to keep my eyes off it, but the individual dumps – the fresh ones – still distinguish themselves.
The heat is cooking the stench, fermenting it. The suffocating pall of odor forces me to choose between self-asphyxiation as I attempt to hold my breath, or glorious intakes of poop-flecked atmosphere.
I’m not sure how I pull off the change. Lots of balancing on one foot, leaning on the flimsy plastic wall for support, maneuvering my feet, hoping I don’t fall through the hole – it really does look big enough to at least get a leg stuck down there – and praying the whole damn thing doesn’t topple over before I escape. By some miracle, I emerge unscathed wearing my swimsuit.
4:00pm. Australian Embassy. I’ve procured another bottle of Metalcamp wine. The stuff just goes.
It finally happens, as it was foretold. The Austrians next door launch into a slurred, reckless rendition of the Cantina Song. The Germanized “drinking chant” improvisation sounds much, much funnier than the English original.
Kay shakes her head. “The German sense of humor is one strange, complex beast.”
For the first time since we pitched our tents, the afternoon sky has darkened. Rain clouds in the distance, gathering over the Valley, converging on our paradise. Droplets of drizzle on my skin, caught up in the cool breeze. This could get ugly.
Guzzling wine, ensconced in my Jim Jones throne beneath the gazebo, I watch something bizarre develop. We have a new visitor. An unidentified, barely coherent, and helplessly drunken Irish guy – ponytailed, shirtless, and barefoot – on a camp-to-camp bender. He tumbles to the grass at our feet.
The girls seem able to communicate with him one iota better than I, because somehow, a halting “conversation” is sustained.
He keeps announcing he wants another beer. We hand him our crappy stuff – the label reads “German quality beer,” a dubious distinction from “quality German” – that nobody wanted. He starts chugging and doesn’t even notice it’s warm as a bowl of soup.
The only utterance I can make out is what he keeps repeating: “I DON’T WANT A FUCKING GIRLFRIEND.” I take the simplest approach by introducing myself and asking his name. Like speaking to a child on a straightforward, adult level. He levels a pair of cloudy eyes at me and croaks out…
“I… I… I… I DON’T WANT A FUCKING GIRLFRIEND.”
Accidental pregnancy? I wonder. That would explain his kamikaze booze cruise. Or maybe he just wants out, period.
Speaking of “wanting out,” I’m suddenly reminded of a Helloween show in Montreal four years ago. There, I witnessed a nasty fight amongst a couple in the crowd. It ended with the girl storming off in a huff, and the guy screaming after her, “YOU’RE NOT KILLING METAL FOR ME!”
My ex was not into metal, either.
5:00pm. Rainfall. Not too heavy or violent, but steady and consistent enough to soak anyone or anything without shelter. We’re sticking to the gazebo for now.
Jure and Matic have dropped by again, and we’ve filled them in on our recent guest. Jure one-ups us by relaying a story of his own.
“We were sitting in camp, and some drunk guy came stumbling in. He started pissing right in front of us, looked at the girl closest to him, and yelled, ‘I’M GONNA FUCK YOU!’
“Then he started pointing at all the other girls, one by one, shouting, ‘I’m gonna fuck YOU, I’m gonna fuck YOU, I’m gonna fuck YOU, and I’m gonna fuck YOU.’
“He was so drunk, he started saying it to us, the GUYS, as well! Then he whipped his cock around and spun it like a windmill.”
After some time, the rain finally tapers off. A break in the clouds, a widening ray of late afternoon sunlight. We might be in the clear.
7:00pm. Korpiklaani on the main stage for some more Finnish “folk” metal. It’s one subgenre to which I cannot refer casually, without wrapping it in quotes. Nothing to do with the quality of the music – this band is fantastic both recorded and live.
I just simply hate subgenres.
When people really get into the scientific “sub-sub-subgenre” labeling, I just lose all enthusiasm. “It’s not Viking/melodic death; it’s pagan/folk” is a level of nerdpicking not worth a profane YouTube argument.
Sebastian, the cowboy-hatted German, appears and watches with me for some time. I’m getting hungry, I realize, and might hit the Beach Bar stand for a bit. I ask Sebastian if he’ll stick around to watch Edguy next. He shakes his head. I ask why not.
“Because I’m heterosexual,” he informs me in a flat, businesslike tone.
With that cleared up, we agree to disagree, and I hurry off to… slip myself some sausage.
Cevapcici, to be exact, not too different from pljeskavica, and just as mouth-watering. Served in links, with ajvar, onions and pita.
8:00pm. Last I saw Edguy was the “Rocket Ride” tour in fall ’07, so this is long overdue. Even better, they’re going easy on material from the latest album, last year’s “Age Of The Joker,” which, I painfully admitted to myself after months of trying to get into it, is not a good album. Aside from the first single and highlight “Robin Hood,” the setlist plunders the back catalogue.
Poor Tobi Sammet. The chaotic frontman is still nursing an injured shoulder from a nasty fall a few weeks ago, and is forced to limit his animated stage moves.
He announces, “I can’t move my right arm that much, or even lift it… maybe it’s good that a German can’t do that.” Onstage comedian that he is, that gets some big laughs.
He adds, “It’d be better for history if someone had his right arm injured a long time ago.” Good one.
Edguy is big on crowd participation and taking time out for singalongs, but I really wish they’d surprise us with something other than the typical extended intro to “Lavatory Love Machine.” But that’s not really a complaint, now is it? They’ve oiled this machine well over the years.
9:15pm. Hatebreed. Another genre-bender. Definitely more metal than Madball, but still hardcore enough to retain the “crossover” designation. Whatever you want to call them, they bring it live.
I guess it’s not a coincidence that Hatebreed and Korn – “black sheep” bands to many metalheads – are two acts to which Lexy and I have rocked out the hardest (excluding my foolish fanboyism during Testament and Machine Head a lifetime ago).
It’s nice to be on the same page with someone equally honest about musical taste. Our official conclusion: without regard to popularity, or subgenre classification, or underground approval, some bands were just born to kill it live. The stuff that’s made for headbanging, the anthems made for crowd chanting – that, more often than the hyped hoity-toity prog/doom release to be enjoyed through headphones by a winter fire with a sixer of microbrew, is what gets me excited at shows. I have no desire to be a musical wine taster. This is METAL, for crying out fucking loud.
Frontman Jamey Jasta sums it up: "I love when heavy metal, hardcore, and punk rock music can come together in unity at a show like Metalcamp. It's fuckin' unbelievable, man."
Jure joins us during Hatebreed’s set. After shoulder-hoisting Lexy again for “I Will Be Heard” and nearly throwing what delicate voice I’ve reclaimed straight in the garbage (it’s hardcore; you HAVE to shout along), I’m honestly relieved to see the band wrap. A good brutal time, but few things are more frustrating than a terrific show that simply runs too long and tries my stamina. Plus, I’m itching to see Amon Amarth again.
10:45pm. HOLY PYRO. I suddenly realize I’ve never, not once in my life, seen pyrotechnics at a live show. I’ve never been much of an arena-goer, they’re unheard of in typical U.S. clubs, and the last time a band used them at such a show without permission, people burned to death.
Back on topic. Amon Amarth. The very name, by now, triggers a Viking shipload of visual clichés, and there’s really no point in trying to describe their live show. I’ve seen them once before, headlining their 2008 North American “Twilight Of The Thunder God” run, but this is massive. We’re outdoors and a good thirty or forty yards from stage, but I can still feel the faint heat blasts from the volcanic fireballs during “War Of The Gods.”
It took three days, but I think I’ve finally gotten my game back. Then it happens.
A bump. A splash of spilled beer. A muttered apology in an unidentified language. A shoe, and someone’s full clumsy weight, pressing down on the edge of my right flip-flop. My instinctive recoil, yanking my foot back. All in what feels like a nanosecond.
The strap breaks.
It takes a minute to process, after my bare foot has slipped out onto the ground a couple times, and assess the situation. There is no fixing the strap. I can kiss this pair buh-bye. But can I fake it? Can I at least stand for the rest of the show and worry about walking later?
Of course not. People are already starting to push and shove. Amon fucking Amarth is playing. If a Wall of Death sweeps me up, that’s it. I don’t want to stand here worrying about my feet.
I shuffle aside. The third song is ending, and Kay is emerging with the swarm of exiting photographers from the pit. By the time we meet – a ten second walk – I’m reduced to limping pathetically along just to keep something remotely sanitary beneath the sole of my foot.
Like a diva, I tell Kay what’s happened, my speech rapidly deteriorating from sane, proportionate restraint into profane, ranting Americanese. Roots run deep, and typically after some booze, my Southern starts to show.
“I’m fuckin’ just standing in the fuckin’ crowd, minding my own goddamn fuckin’ business, when some fuckin’ ass douchebag blows right by me, steps on my goddamn foot, and I pull away and break the fuckin’ strap on my goddamn flip-flop. Now I can’t fuckin’ walk without dragging my goddamn foot on the fuckin’ nasty ass ground covered in beer, butts, and who knows, maybe jizz. FUCK.”
She calmly tells me to quit wasting time and change into my proper shoes as quickly as possible. Duh.
11:30pm. Australian Embassy. I limped halfway back to camp, still trying to keep the forsaken “thong” between my foot and the unsanitary mysteries of the recently rain-soaked ground. After some halting, pathetic progress, I just ditched the flip-flop and walked normally, one foot bare, through what felt like a grubby, grimy swamp.
I mean, as far as European festivals go, Metalcamp has seemed pretty civilized so far, but still… THOUSANDS of people traverse this path hourly, leaving heaven knows what behind. The germaphobe in me shudders, manipulating my brain through my senses, telling me I’ve just coated the sole of my foot with a sticky, crusty, layered patina of fifteen different people’s urine.
Furious, I rub my foot into a patch of wet grass near the gazebo – a safe zone I know hasn’t yet been used as a pouring, pissing, or ashing ground. I pull on a pair of clean socks and tie my shoes.
I can still hear the cacophonic echo of Amon Amarth in the distance. I’m missing half the show. I might as well get numb.
For the first time, I open one of the dark ales I picked up on Monday. The bucket ice has melted; the water is lukewarm, and so is the beer. It tastes like fermented septic sludge.
I really don’t care at this point. I leave camp and join up with the dirt path snaking through the woods, hustling with long strides as I try to guzzle this shitty beer – just because I can.
There are few worse ways to feel 17 again.
11:45pm. Main stage gate. Security wouldn’t let me through with an outside drink – more to clean up later – but I don’t want to give up what’s in my hand. It’s vile, but it’s getting the job done. I figure I’ll top it off with something proper to rid my mouth of the taste.
I stand aside at the edge of the gate and watch the rest of Amon Amarth’s set from afar. I finally get sick of torturing myself and pour the foul beverage in the trash. I pick up a gigantic-meal-sized pizza slice, with sausage and mushroom, from the food stand a few feet away. I finally decide not even to bother reentering. I can hear just fine and see decently, and I’ll catch my people on their way out.
12:00am. Sebastian appears. I greet him with a mouthful of pizza. We recap our adventures and misadventures of the past 24 hours while Amon Amarth draws close to wrapping. “I really, REALLY need to hear ‘The Pursuit Of Vikings,’” he says gravely. I’m still waiting for “For Victory Or Death,” I tell him. A new song, but quickly and easily one of my favorites.
Both are played in short order, before the finale. Kay, Lexy and Jure appear soon after, in the Amazon of metalheads exiting through the gate.
1:00am. Beach Bar. Sebastian vanished at some point during our brief detour to camp to drop off Kay’s equipment; social butterfly Lexy has rendezvoused with another cadre of new friends; Jure and Matic are mingling around here somewhere. For the moment, it’s just Kay and me left. We find a flat rock near the beach, fresh rounds in hand.
One night left. We reflect.
It’s taken simultaneously a blink of an eye and a swirling eternity. A maelstrom of haphazardly organized rituals and routines; an endless barrage of metal thrown at us equally from the stages, the DJ, and the competing echo of car stereos and ghetto blasters across the vast campgrounds; a sloppy pastiche of booze-soaked evenings and strung-out mornings. We discuss tomorrow evening’s bands.
Kay is no fan of the main stage headliner. “Sabaton offends me.” How, why? “They’re singing about war, genocide, murder, and all this awful real-life shit, and turning it into this happy-sounding music.”
“What about 99% of thrash, death, and black metal out there?”
“Most of them are either making a joke of it, or just deliberately going over the top, to fit the extreme sound of the music. And it’s all really dark and angry and aggressive, so it feels appropriate. But Sabaton tries to be all serious and heartfelt about it, and they still want to play these happy anthems. It’s all kind of gay.”
“I don’t know. I always thought they played some of the LEAST gay music in the power metal genre.”
“Oh, come on. What about that song where they keep singing, ‘What about the men?’ over and over?”
She’s talking about “Wehrmacht” from the “Coat Of Arms” album. I remind her it’s a meditation on the question of culpability of the average German soldier during the Second World War, and that the full lyric is “What about the men executing orders?”
She’s insistent. “But at the end of the song, he trails off, and it’s just, “WHAT ABOUT THE MEN…?” She almost spills her beer giggling. “I’m sorry, that just sounds REALLY gay.”
Whatever our differences, we’re both determined to make the most of tomorrow, Metalcamp's last full day - possibly ever, as the cemented rumor now has it.
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