GRASPOP METAL MEETING 25. -27. 6. 2010, BELGIUM, DESSEL
This was the first big festival of my life, but unfortunatelly due to the closure of Czech magazine HardRocker and it’s future plans, this report was never released. Haven’t seen this piece full of incredible performances, backstage ethics and few broken dreams, in five years. Note – no edit since, of early wanna-be journalism.
Overall experience from the first big festival is always very intensive and unforgettable. This option was offered to me at the 15th Anniversary of famous Belgiumopen-air festival, Graspop, for what I’m very grateful. This year promised again breath taking line-up and unique atmosphere, which is sharing a crowd counting up to 130,000 people.
Night arrival into festival grounds offered us a look that showed that pleasant sleeping will not be the case tonight. Masses of people were moving from large parking spaces into single giant camp. As, by the second year already, a festival complex was missing V.I.P. camp, we loyally joined the massive crowd as well. Massive reflectors, showing an unpleasant amount of dust everywhere, tents diving in sand, thousands of people around and sometimes too strict rules inside the camping site, kept us “entertained”, during the first conflict with organizers. Additional “entertainment” was served to us by never-sleeping neighbors, especially our German colleagues. It’s really surprising how much “Timmyyyyy” is still popular! 😉
During the entrance into the festival area, I first experienced the look at the incredible mass of people, which was steadily growing and the alignment of the stages which included 3 big tents (Marquee I&II and Metal Dome) and the main stage. Here was first presented REVAMP, new band of Floor Jansen, previously the front-woman of no more existing AFTER FOREVER. Presented material is compared to her previous experience pretty similar, which was for the fans, even though it was slightly heavier, basically no surprise. Floor totally naturally switching from operatic to melodic vocal, proved why her new band received such credibility. At the same time, she expressed many times honest joy, from being again on the stage, in front of the satisfied crowd.
After this show, I went for the first time in the backstage area. Through out the whole festival we found the shade, peace, quality toilets and comfort in “Artist Lounge”, where only musicians and journalists had an entrance. Place like this is on many festivals unfortunately often missing. It offers big comfort for both musicians and needed back up for journalist, waiting to take some of their free time. “Artist Lounge” also offered pleasant bar, various places to sit but also two plasma TV’s which were showing footages from the main stage and matches from the finishing battles of soccer world championship. To get additional picture: I was really blown away, from watching the singers of CANNIBAL CORPSE and OBITUARY in vigorous discussion about the current soccer games.
During that time I also managed to catch Floor Jansen after her bands signing session to have a short talk, while SLAYER was playing in the background. Graspop Metal Meeting offered such a strong line-up that even SLAYER played in the afternoon block. Their show was as usual, very attractive. T-shirt with their logo were flying everywhere, musicians played like crazy and naturally top hits as “Angel Of Death” and “Raining Blood” were blasting the field. In addition, a photo with Kerry King was for me a perfect fan moment.
Right after, I quickly moved to Marquee II, where U.D.O. has just started. Honestly I’ve seen him here for the first time. And for the ones, who made this mistake more than I did, I give maximum recommendation. His voice is simple incredible and although the instrumental background is rather predictable, it still has balls! It wouldn’t be a bad idea to diversify the set, by attractive songs from his solo career, however the crowd is hungry for greatest hits. Therefore “Balls To The Wall” or the current hits as “The Bogeyman” and “Dominator” were obligation.
Afterwards I experienced a dilemma: DORO or TARJA? Graspop was sometimes very uncompromising and offered such an amount of bands, that one had hard time choosing. Sometimes it had to be simply 50/50. DORO followed already for a while by Bas Maas, ex-guitarist of AFTER FOREVER, filled the tent which was previously occupied by U.D.O and she kept the fans on the same wave which U.D.O. has started. Strong lady concentrated mainly on the songs from the WARLOCK era, and she also shared with the fans, her memories of Ronnie James Dio, who meant a lot for her.
TARJA on the other hand didn’t offer such a vital and attractive show. Although Mike Teranna was doing magic behind the drums, whole band of mercenaries didn’t sound compact as you would expect and even TARJA experienced I believe better days. Set was concentrating mainly on a debut album and also expected second album “What Lies Beneath”. As a dessert we received NIGHTWISH hit “Over The Hills And Far Away” and also slightly inappropriate “Still Of The Night” from WHITESNAKE.
While enthusiasts in the first line with the AEROSMITH t-shirts were holding their positions for the main act of the day, MOTORHEAD kept them entertained. Honestly, one can watch them even for the hundredth time. Excellent band, excellent set list, which enjoyed the most, guitarist Phillip Campbell, looking at his solos. In addition, massive stage-dive broke out in the crowd, although it was formally forbidden by the organizers. Lemmy was intensively supporting it though, which kept body collectors pretty busy. No surprise, you can hear “Ace Of Spades” or “Overkill” for bunch of times, still it pulls you in.
I was never a fan of MY DYING BRIDE, but the atmosphere of their show dragged me in, in few short moments. Smoke was slowly rising higher, musicians were almost systematically but sensitively, playing strong melodies and crowd was following them in trance. The most passionate during the show, was with no doubt the singer, who was wriggling, fainting on the microphone and falling into melancholy. Cold chording was replacing aggressive marching, where crowd reacted intensively only at the end of each song, which was ended by symbolic “Thanks” or “Cheers”. …At that moment, I became one.
Time has come for totally different emotions, served by American institution and main act of the first day, AEROSMITH. Current European tour caught the band still in strong condition. Unstoppable process of ageing is present only visually, fortunately not musically. Offered set, was compared to other headliners, bit shorter, however filled with such a famous hits, that even the hard-core metal heads were pulled in by this emotional wave. Performance of Steven is still after all this years impressive. Special platform offered a band almost a promenade and additional playground for their show. One could receive slightly sad impression while looking at both Steven and Joe Perry, whose relationship seemed mostly cold, resulting in thoughts, if this could be the last tour of the band. Finally, Steven’s perfect communication with the crowd and slightly female gestures are simply part of his personality, but the fact which could never be taken away, is that, there is only one Steven Tyler.
Atmosphere of the festival was a real experience. In my personal example it meant multiply my previous experiences multiple times. Festival complex was filled by the sea of people moving from one stage to another and still basic needs were perfectly supplied. Water and toilets were available to such a level that I didn’t have to wait a single time. Refreshment was naturally very diverse and also without waiting, however from the Czech point of view, for the sake of squealing wallet. Fans were allowed only to pay by Graspop chips in the exchange rate of 2, 25€ for 1 chip. Food costed up to 5 chips, and drinks were regularly sold for 1, however in the amount of 0,2 liters. Crowd was formed mainly from the fans from Benelux, Germany and enthusiasts from all over the world, which were all pretty fine with prices.
Program at sunny noon, was served by today very popular Swedish SABATON. Their T-shirts were extremely popular product and crowd seemed more than entertained. They presented to their loyal fans series of their greatest hits and also some tasting of new album “Coat Of Arms”, naturally back up by essential effects, mainly fire. Singer Joakim Brodem was constantly entertaining fans and in the back stage, he was without no doubt, the most busy, in giving interviews.
Even younger fans received what they needed, when British BULLET FOR MY VALANTINE took over the main stage. Metalcore enhanced by catchy choruses, is today that popular, that even teenage magazines are covering steps of this British band, even though there are bunch of other similar ones. Whether it is due to their look or massive propagation, the crowd was insane. I was really glad to hear songs from the latest album “Fever”, which caught my attention the most, but naturally they pleased the crowd by even slightly older hits. Mosh-pits were a stable fun, but band let the crowd release steam also in “wall of death”, which resulted in some cases in blood drops. Somebody might condemn these activities, however when there is a need for help, everybody is available.
After we survived another period of hot temperatures, CARCASS took care of the main stage. They enjoy the reunion, already for a while, therefore their form was undeniable. Visually the most known member of the band, red-head Michael Amott, was spitting one solo after another, to the point where they had to cool us down by steams of water. I must honestly say that the watering of the crowd during these three days was extremely pleasant. Main stage, which was supported on sides, by double plasma TV’s, was always showing very professional video footages from the stage. In their case these footages included very sadistic or even disgusting videos from dissections procedures and cutting body parts, till I lost my appetite for local French fries.
Big numbers of fans, including me, were really looking forward to see guitar master, who calls himself SLASH. He has chosen as a vocal partner Myles Kennedy from ALTER BRIDGE, who as the only one, has on SLASH’s solo album, two songs. Both “Back From Cali” and “Starlight” sounded even better than on the album, and the other songs to which he didn’t contribute previously, were sang impressively accordingly to his talent and experiences. Somebody might felt that his vocal was positioned sometimes too high; however I must say, SLASH couldn’t find a better partner. To my big surprise, we could even hear an ALTER BRIDGE song, “Rise Today” and naturally also a GUNS N’ ROSES hits as “Sweet Child Of Mine” and “Paradise City”. During the whole time, Mr. Guitarist was having fun with the crowd, entertained him, ran through the stage and impressed us all with his play.
A quick movement took place to get to Marquee I, on time, to see PARADISE LOST. Luckily I took a place in the front row and I was really looking forward to see them. Big space luckily received their incredible latest album “Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us”. Frontman Nick Holmes seemed slightly tired; however he proved himself well, worked hard, motivated the crowd and was banging with the microphone stand so hard that he even scared security guards under him few times. On the other hand Mr. Mackintosh had a taste. He is not hitting the guitar; his colleague takes care of that. He is not even playing the solos that much, he is debating with the guitar, slightly coquetting with her and eructating mind blowing melodies. A drum stick which felt into my hands, in the end of the show was just a peak of a wonderful show.
Whole metal Belgium lives from the reunion of local heroes, CHANNEL ZERO. Their return to the Graspop field was organized truly grandiosely by giant video and light effects, and naturally very looooong intro. Crowd was served by the greatest hits from the whole career and luckily some from my most favorite last album “Black Fuel” from 1997. On the other hand, this performance wasn’t anything ground braking and even though we take into consideration their qualities, on similar event in some other country, they would not receive such a lucrative time space.
AIRBOURNE, are already for a while entertaining audiences all over the world. For some, they are the fans of AC/DC tradition, for others, they are their close followers. One way or another, their performance has guts and incredible energy. The singer is, as everybody says, true beast. During one of the songs, he climbed on the stage construction up the roof, locked his legs and played on. Songs are really catchy, and mainly it pulls you in, so you would just enjoy this wild party.
Time has come for main star number 2, American-Brazilian SOULFLY. First line was occupied by wild youth, which reacted to each signal to get wild. Main word had naturally Max Cavalera, who surprised, not only me, how much he put on weight since the last time I saw him. He barely moved the whole time, and looked pretty swollen. Fortunately it didn’t have any effect on his singing capabilities. He left big amount of singing to the crowd as well. Audience was lost in Amazonian forest which was distorted by massive hurricane ordered by instrumental background. All members were impressive; however the main instructor of the hurricane was an incredible guitarist, Marc Rizzo. It was really unbelievable how impressively and precisely he could play. Without any doubt, all important chapters of SOULFY very covered, including “Carved Inside”, “Back To The Primitive” same as old SEPULTURA classics as “Territory” and essential “Roots Bloody Roots”.
Right after that, I went again to the backstage, where everybody was enjoying a needed drink. One could say that young and fresh music journalist realizes a lot. Life of a musician is mostly really a Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll, but in some cases in a not so beautiful way. I had a chance to talk and drink with my big idol, Tom S. Englund from EVERGREY and ELUVEITIE singer Chrigel. But when a drunk ANATHEMA singer falls in front of you with a table, or high & drunk SEPULTURA bassist Paulo Jr. is barely able to sign you few booklets and has almost aggressive reactions its not such a ideal moment, as one would think. They are all humans from flesh and blood, and only few of them are worth the real respect. In addition, I truly respect a need and time for celebration and drinking, while a musician is still able to serve his main purpose: professionally entertain and play for the fans in front of the stage. This was not the Tom’s case though; whose reply on my question, if he’ll make it tomorrow was “Nope bro’!”
I took a position in the first line, under the early afternoon sun, with an hour advance and solid hangover from last night, so I could see again one of my top favorite bands. 3 significant members of EVERGREY left the band recently, from various reasons, therefore I was wondering how the band and new forces will deal with it. New members surprised me by their skills and hard work, however, without any personal feelings; they didn’t reach the level of the previous line-up. Already from the start, one could see that not everything is alright. After intro a wild beginning of “Blinded” should have started, however the synchronization of all members didn’t work at the time. Tom had often that typical look in his face, when something wasn’t going on as planned, especially when he played quicker parts. In addition, I was really surprised how much his guitar was louder, than a one from, at that time more capable, co-guitarist. Even though they covered most of the playlist I would like, and even camera caught me many times, the overall show didn’t have any power and the hangover of the significant members, showed her face. My personal dissatisfaction wasn’t even saved by the two guitar picks I caught, or by the fact, that Tom threw me water, because we, as loyal fans didn’t receive this time the most significant aspect of the show, professionalism.
Compared to that, Swedish KATATONIA was a totally different story. A set, compared to the one I saw recently in Prague, was naturally shorter but more intensive as they concentrated only on the greatest hits, which brought the crowd to the boiling point. Thanks to the site of Marquee I, a show received needed cold atmosphere. Stage was just slightly changing colors and musicians dived into the performance. Jonas showed even better performance than in Prague, and proved why the tent was in this time of day, full.
In the afternoon, I was really looking forward to see KILLSWITCH ENGAGE which I also didn’t have a chance to see before. Not only teenagers came to see this icon of metal-core genre. A singer, Howard Jonas wasn’t showing such a performance that I would expect, however it was still an incredible experience. The band took care of everything else and threw the whole crowd into a washing machine. The coolest guy on stage was with no doubt guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. He is big showman, and apart from few funny conversations with the singer, he was entertaining the crowd by himself. He was provoking, motivating, playing with water and running on the stage as a small kid. However when he removed his “mask”, he truly thanked, as one of the few, the fans for the chance of being here. He also, in the name of the whole band, made a tribute to DIO, while waving to him up there in the sky, by their legendary cover of “Holy Diver”.
Guys from KATATONIA changed into even darker clothes and took their position in the Marquee I again, now accompanied by Mikael Åkerfeldt. BLOODBATH itself is for these artists very useful tool how to share their passion for 90’s Swedish death metal. In the back, guys from KATATONIA were creating deadly atmosphere and in the front Mikael was passionately roaring. He had to share 3 times with the crowd, that he is drunk, however on his performance it had no, or even better effect and their played very attractive set.
On the same place, actively touring AMON AMARTH, presented themselves and performed their typical show, full of popular hits. However at the end of the show, they faced the loss of sound. Technicians were doing what they could; musicians were having fun with the crowd, however it was soon obvious, that this is the end. We could see big dissatisfaction in the face of frontman, but the crowd reacted incredibly, by massive clapping to ensure the band, that the overall performance was more than satisfying.
Time has come for the third headliner and the final band of the festival, KISS. Everybody saw them already probably, but that “first” time is always very intensive. Such an amount of effects, screens, lights, fun and specific cheesiness at the same time, is simply unique. Same as SOUFLY before, the American cult extended its set and played everything that a crowd might wish. Whole show was naturally practiced till the last detail, same as communication with the crowd, but with each song they had additional ace in a pocket. No matter if it were flying platforms, firing guitars or traditional flying, Kiss performed such a show, which was expected from them. Fires and perfect projections were obvious. Even the performances of each member satisfied the crowd. Especially surprising were the singing capabilities of Gene Simmons. On the other hand you could feel in the case of Paul Stanley, missing that highest level of performance, which he is regularly capable of. One way or another, it was amazing show, worth the end of the festival. Goodbye and icing on the cake, of the biggest festival I ever experienced, was served by the giant fireworks. Hope to see you next year again Graspop.