Festival season is beginning in the Northern hemisphere, and, while I am stuck in this freezing cold house with only a hot water bottle and a cantankerous drummer husband to keep me company, many of you are heading out to a metal festival or two.
I attended my first two metal festivals last year, and I can honestly say they were probably two of the most fun events I’ve ever attended in my whole life, barring possibly my wedding, my 21st birthday and the night I saw Nick Cave and he gave me a hug.
Based on my now expert knowledge, I’ve compiled this list of ten tips for surviving summer metal festivals, based on this article 12 Tips For Surviving Your First European Metal Festival, which I wrote last year.
1. Print out the band schedule and bring it with you
Do you know what would be the most useful thing? If the “Full Metal Bag” included the one piece of paper we all wish we had on hand at all times – the schedule of who’s playing at what time on what stage. But it’s not in there, trust me – I checked. So print it out and take it with you, lest you get drunk, fall asleep, and miss a band you really wanted to see.
2. Pay-for-Toilets and Showers Are Your Friends
Yes, they are overpriced, but going to the toilet in a cubicle not coated in shit is worth 50c. There aren’t words in the English language foul enough to describe the portaloos at Wacken, and I stayed in the campervan section, or the “sedate” camp. I can’t even contemplate what the loos in the rowdier camps would look (or smell) like.
3. Bring a flag
A recognizable flag. And a giant pole or blow-up Cthulhu to stick it on. Now, this is NOT to carry into the mosh pit with you (see point 9) but to stick on top of your tent / campervan so you can find it again.
Maybe it’s because myself and Jonowar spent 2 hours trying to locate our campervan after having walked entirely the wrong way and circumnavigating the entire campground, but however distinctive you THINK your car or tent or camper is, you won’t be able to find it again without some kind of marker, especially if you happen to be blind. And, if some nice German happens to come up to you with an offer of help, you can’t describe your van other than to say “Its light colored, has a German license plate and is somewhere in campground R”.
We were asked by a lovely German if we would mind awfully if he could sleep in our camper that night, as he had pitched his tent somewhere and now could not find it. Apparently, it’s not uncommon to return to one’s tent to find it already occupied by sleeping metalheads, lost on the journey to their own tent and figuring any old one will do.
4. Pack Light, Pack Right
Packing for Wacken is incredibly simple – you need boots. You need black t-shirts, you need pants, you need shorts or a skirt, you need something to keep the rain off and something to keep the sun off. All other space in your bags should be filled with beer, and money to buy more beer.
5. Hippies make the best festival food
I must confess, I am not a fan of meat and bread. If I want to eat something, it has to have some kind of plant matter in it, to give a bit of flavour.
At Wacken, this meant buying most of my meals (aside from Full Metal Breakfast, of course) at the Wackinger medieval market, where a variety of stalls sold everything from currywurst to pizza breads to exotic pork kebab thingies, to “garlic bread” – huge rounds of warm, thick, flat bread covered with your choice of chilli, tomato salsa stuff, and garlic yoghurt. I lived on these.
Although, nothing beats meat-on-a-stick. Or this epic hotdog.
6. Learn a few phrases in German
If you’re attending a German metal fest, or a fest in any foreign country, it’s a nice courtesy to learn a few words in the local tongue. I studied German through university, so I had a reasonable knowledge, but my husband taught himself a few useful phrases. He knew “Danke,” “Meine Deutche is Scheisse” and “eine … (frantic pointing at piece of food he wants) bitte?” This enabled him to communicate clearly to any person in the whole festival.
7. Don’t Count on Getting a T-shirt
70 000 metalheads, all as enamoured of black t-shirts as you are. A limited number of every size and style, except XL. For some unknown reason, the only size that’s ever left when you finally get to the front of the t-shirt line is XL.
Resign yourself to the fact that you probably won’t get the exact t-shirt you want, and simply pop along and
Although it’s really too big for me, being a women’s XL (see?), I love my Wacken Black Stage Shirt, which I got from the merchandise stand on the main street of the town, as opposed to the huge one in the metal market. It was much less crowded. My suggestion – check this stall out first thing, as you might beat the 45 minute queue.
8. Don’t say “Let’s meet in the Bier Garten”
Because everyone meets in the bier Garten, and you can’t find a long haired-dude in a metal shirt amongst the 10 000 other long-haired dudes in metal shirts. It’s a statistical impossibility. We always meet under the soundtowers after a set.
9. If you bring a flag into the pit, I will personally strangle you.
I’m not even remotely kidding.
10. Don’t be a fucktard
This includes not carrying flags into the pit, but also encompasses not <>, not stealing from people’s tents, not trying to start a fight for no good reason, and generally not being a cock. With the exception of the flag incident at Bloodstock, we didn’t meet a single fucktard on our whole festival experience, and hopefully, we can say the same next year, too.
Festival goers, any more advice you’d like to share?