Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ines and I survived Rock Im Park last weekend. Some background…Rock Im Park is the smaller sister festival of Rock Am Ring. The same bands play both festivals over the course of 3 days, albeit in different orders. Rock Am Ring is bigger with nearly 80,000 attendees, while Rock Im Park tallies 60,000 visitors. Taken together, this is by far the biggest rock festival in Germany, and one of the biggest in Europe. MTV Germany even broadcasts parts of Rock Am Ring live every year. Given the huge audience, they manage to attract numerous big-name acts every year. This year was of course no exception, but, as I hinted at in the previous post, many of the headliners were not exactly the freshest faces. Nonetheless, I was excited to see many of the top bands of my adolescent perform in one place. I was not disappointed. In fact, I felt like I made up for lost experiences. As a 17-year-old I watched clips from Woodstock ’99 (it was pay-per-view, so I only got highlights and news reports about the carnage), and longed to be there right in the middle of the mosch pit. Several of the headliners from that show played in Rock Im Park last weekend, so, although there was no mass destruction and I avoided the mosch pit (too old), I feel like I finally experienced my own delayed version of Woodstock ’99.

After flying from Hamburg to Nürnberg, I arrived at the festival in the late evening, just in time to catch the first and probably most intriguing headliner, Limp Bizkit. Though I didn’t know it beforehand, the band has been reunited since the beginning of this year. After something like 5 years hiatus, they couldn’t expect much resonance with the audience, or? Well, apparently, because they put on a great show. Fred Durst wore his signature red hat, and Wes Borland, the guitarist that had left the band, jumped around stage in an extravagant, clown-like costume. And the crowd sang along with every big hit (e.g. Nookie, Rollin’, Faith, etc.). It was like they were never gone. With this Bizkit comeback, I finally understand why people go to the concerts of reunited, dinosaur bands. It’s not about the music; it’s about memories. Seeing Limp Bizkit reminded me of rocking out as a teenager.

Saturday was the first full festival day for me, and from 2 in the afternoon until 1 in the morning I was watching bands. Here’s the rundown…Dragonforce (80s metal and bonus material in Guitar Hero III), Shinedown (terrible radio rock), Juliette Lewis (boring), Razorlight (surprisingly energetic), Papa Roach (points for persistence, but really why are they still around?), Placebo (not bad, not great, but that’s also my opinion of their music), and Killswitch Engage (who knew that a metal band guitarist could rock out wearing a cape and an Football Club Nürnberg scarf?). Saturday’s headliner was The Killers, and Ines and I secured a position in front of the stage. The Killers released their first and best CD at about the time that Ines and I got together, and ever since we’ve both been big fans. However, being more of a hard rock guy, I was not expecting a high-energy show from these indie boys. I was absolutely wrong; The Killers were probably the highpoint of the weekend. Ines and I danced through their 1.5 hr set to all the songs we knew (which were all of them). Ines described it correctly when she said that they write indie-rock anthems. Indeed, when the fireworks went off during the last chorus of “When You Were Young”, it felt like an anthem worthy of 60,000 spectators. Check it out (that's Rock am Ring, not Rock im Park, but you get the idea). After The Killers we ran over to the extremely crowded second stage and caught the last song from Marilyn Manson. As the crowd started to disperse somewhat, I secured a good position for Korn, the final act of the night. For years, I was a huge Korn fan; one of my fondest teenage memories is travelling to K.C. to see them play for the first time. This show was a bit different, though, because Korn has shrunk in the past years. One guitarist left the band after becoming a born-again evangelical and the drummer has retired due to an injury. But the remaining three members are soldiering on and still performing. For the most part, they played the familiar classics (e.g. Freak on a Leash, Blind, Falling Away From Me). The only surprise was a very cool cover of Pink Floyd’s “Brick in the Wall”. While it was fun to jump around to the old favorites and to watch the band perform (they still appear to have fun playing, even after 16 years), I can’t imagine anything of new and interesting coming from Korn in the future.

Sunday was the final festival day, and the most memorable thing about it was not some performance, but the weather. In the middle of the afternoon, during Flogging Molly’s entertaining set, it started pouring. Luckily, Ines had a press pass (and so did I, because I was her guest), so we could retreat to the press center. The rain only lasted about a half an hour before giving way to blue sky. The weather remained friendly for most of the rest of the day…but not the whole day. At dusk, after The Prodigy finished their set, which was cool but not mind-blowing, it rained in sheets for about 5 minutes. What was essentially one rain cloud soaked thousands of people to the bone and turned the festival into a muddy mess. The timing was terrible, because the sun set shortly after this drenching and the temperature dropped (I later heard that this June weekend was the coldest in 30 years). Now, if Ines and I would have done what was in the best interest of our health, we would have left immediately. I, however, wanted to watch the last headliner, Slipknot. As these crazy guys come from Iowa, I had numerous chances to see them when I lived Nebraska, but for whatever reason, I never managed. Thus, I didn’t want to forgo my chance to see them at Rock Im Park, even if Ines and I were wet and freezing. Slipknot’s show, like their music, was fast and furious. The masks, the rapid fire drum beats, the hard-core fans screaming along with every chorus…it all gave the show energy. Because of the cold, you could see the condensed breath with every scream of lead singer Corey Taylor. More accessories were employed than I expected…flamethrowers, pivoting percussion sets, and an upside-down drummer during the final song. For me, it was worthwhile to suffer through the cold, though I did feel guilty for making Ines, who was wetter than I was, suffer through their whole set. Nonetheless, it was a fitting end to a wild weekend. Unfortunately, reality cruelly returned several hours later, as I got up at 5 to catch my 7 am flight back to Hamburg.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The last two weekends have been great, and next weekend is looking very promising. In the German calendar, May is full of holidays, and the past two weekends have been extended by Feiertagen. Two weeks ago, I spent a 4 day weekend in Leipzig. Ines and I did not have any problems filling the time. We visited the fairgrounds, watched the final episode of Germany’s Next Top Model (mostly Ines), saw the new Star Trek movie (surprisingly entertaining), cooked Lasagne (my attempt at a romantic dinner), went kayaking on the Leipzig canals, and attended a very eccentric party organized by an art school. This past Monday was also a free day, so Ines drove to Plön for a 3 day weekend. Ines and I normally see each once every two or three weeks, so being together on two consecutive long weekends is quite an exception. But we didn’t get bored. We went to see Angels and Demons (in English!) and we watched a straight to DVD Futurama movie (not bad, but not grand). We also took advantage of the unusually warm and sunny weather. We spent an afternoon at the Baltic Sea, which is the number one holiday destination for Germans (the water is still damn cold), and we also tested the water in the Plöner See (also damn cold). So, after two great weekends, we should get back to normality, right? Nope. Ines got accredited to report at Rock im Park next weekend. And guess who her “plus one” is? So, next weekend I am flying to Nürnberg to attend one of the biggest rock festivals in Europe. It lasts 3 days, and the list of bands is impressive: Limp Bizkit, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Slipknot, The Prodigy, The Killers, and Placebo among others. Many of these acts actually achieved their peak popularity during my teenage years (e.g. Bizkit, Korn, Manson), so I was surprised that they managed to score top slots. Nonetheless, I am excited to see them all in one place. Will they play old hits? Or new stuff that hardly anyone knows? I suppose that will have to be the topic of the next post...