8 reasons to look forward to German metal festival Wacken | Music | DW | 01.08.2016
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8 reasons to look forward to German metal festival Wacken

This week, headbangers of the world will unite in the northern German town of Wacken. DW's music team will report from the popular open air festival. Here are eight reasons why they're really excited to be there.

1. The headliners

The Wacken Open Air music festival is mainly for hardcore headbangers, but there are plenty of bands that also appeal to "regular" rock fans.

The DW music team is really looking forward to Whitesnake, Bullet for My Valentine and of course Iron Maiden, which travel around the world in their very own Boeing 747, called the "Ed Force One."

They probably will not be able to land on the nearby airfield, known as "Hungry Wolf." On the other hand, many unexpected things do tend to happen in Wacken…

The founder and organizer of Wacken Open Air festival, Thomas Jensen, Copyright: Benjamin Ochs

He was there from the start: Thomas Jensen

2. The hosts

The founder and organizer of the festival, Thomas Jensen, and his team are devoted metal heads. They love the music and make sure everything is set to ensure a relaxed atmosphere at the festival.

Anybody who has ever been to Wacken will rave about how friendly people are.

The organizers haven't forgotten their humble beginnings: 27 years ago, in 1990, some 800 visitors showed up at the first-ever Wacken Open Air.

Now, since 2008, a maximum capacity of 75,000 visitors plus 10,000 more behind-the-scenes helpers has been set. Despite the huge demand, it would impossible to make it bigger - and this size allows the structures to work well, according to the organizers.

Wacken Open Air music festival, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Rehder

Official Wacken outfit: uncomplicated black

3. The look

Many festivals have turned into playgrounds for egocentrics only interested in taking pictures of themselves in cool poses. These people wear impractical outfits: white pants, dresses with long trains and high heels.

In contrast, the Wacken dress code is simple: Fans wear honest, mud-resistant black. For the extra touch, they don their metal vest with patches of their favorite bands, demonstrating how enthusiastic they are to hear Twisted Sister or Marduk.

There are admittedly plenty of people wearing Viking helmets, morph suits and kilts - but they don't take themselves too seriously.

Wacken Open Air music festival, Copyright: picture-alliance/fotostand/Jakobs

Wacken is always great - unless it rains

4. The food

Metal festival goers are known to survive on beer, hamburgers and canned ravioli. Still, there are many more options available for the adventurous. Vegetarian food stalls are just as popular as the ones grilling sausages. Falafel and burgers peacefully coexist - although they're not exactly cheap.

Those who want to do their own cooking can leave the festival grounds and rely on local supermarkets. After 27 years of Wacken Open Air, the neighboring shops know how to prepare for this special week.

Catering to every need, there's even a location called "Hangover Wacken" that offers gluten-free food.

Wacken-Logo-Installation, Copyright: ICS Festival Service

Wacken, the logo

5. The locals

Wacken has long been an institution. In August, several homes throughout the state of Schleswig-Holstein proudly hang flags with the bull's skull logo.

"Even when they're tipsy, the festival-goers are so friendly," summarizes an elderly Wacken resident. "It's always nice when they come. But it's also nice when they leave," she adds.

Wacken Open Air, Copyright: DW /S. Wünsch

Wacken unites

6. The lines

We're used to waiting in line when going to visit a special exhibition at a museum or at a supermarket on Saturday afternoon. But there are many queues in Wacken, too. Our tip: if you're interested in buying Wacken Open Air merchandise, you should go early in the morning.

During peak hours, it can take up to three hours to buy a t-shirt of the current band or a metal "Wacken" sign. Somehow, visitors all manage to behave in a civilized way just the same. It is said that some people have become friends while waiting in a queue.

They usually arrange to meet right afterwards - in the line at the beer stand.

Wacken Open Air Festival 2014, Copyright: DW/ A. Steffes

The festival never fails to provide an amazing atmosphere

7. The atmosphere

Altogether, 85,000 visitors flock to the "Wacken Holy Land" throughout the festival. Yet it has always kept a cozy and familiar atmosphere. Even though most people are covered with skulls, spikes and inverted crosses, they still look charming.

The brass band of the local fire department certainly contributes to this mood. They play AC/DC on the tuba for a bunch of headbangers.

If this isn't convincing enough, perhaps signs such as this one can convey the feeling: "It is only possible to arrive by tractor on Monday morning, August 1. Directions will be provided to tractors on the site from 9 a.m. to noon."

Can you name another festival that offers something like that?

Burgerkill at Wacken Open Air 2015, Copyright: DW/R. Nugraha

New talents: heavy metal band Burgerkill from Indonesia in 2015

8. The newcomers

Some 120 performers will be taking the stage in Wacken. The organizers also include new talents in their program. The Wacken Foundation invites newcomers from all over the world to compete at the the festival in northern Germany.

The Metal Battle competition includes bands from 28 countries. Headbangers from China to the Caribbean can all find common grounds in multicultural Wacken.

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