"WACKEN OPEN AIR" The Metal Festival




The Metal Festival 

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"Wacken - the best heavy metal festival in the whole wide world right here! The answer to the world's bullshit is not being full of hate, but being full of love, ligh and music"  IronMaiden.
Wacken Open Air (W:O:A) is a summer open-air heavy metal music festival. It takes place annually in the small village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. With 80,000 festival visitors, and including personnel a total of roughly 86,000 attendees in 2011, it attracts various kinds of metal and hard rock music fans.  Wacken 2016 will be held from Thursday 4 August- Saturday 6 August Acts confirmed so far: Iron Maiden, Testament, Blind Guardian, Ministry, Steel Panther, DragonForce, Tarja, Therion, Symphony X, Arch Enemy and many more. Watch this great festival on the official LIVE stream

The festival was first held in 1990 as a small event for local German bands. W:O:A is usually held at the beginning of August and lasts now four days. It is currently considered the biggest heavy metal festival in the world.

 "Wacken - the best heavy metal festival in the whole wide world right here!" Thank you, Nicko McBrain! We're simply honoured. 

 "The answer to the world's bullshit is not being full of hate, but being full of love, light, music - and full of beer"



Wacken Open Air 2016

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Genre                Metal, Hard Rock
Dates                July, August
Location           Wacken, Germany
Years active    1990–present
Founded by     Thomas Jensen & Holger Hübneer


"That shows you how connected people are in the metal world, because it is a really deep, deep, deep emotional thing for our fans as music is.The great thing about metal is it doesn't matter what generation you in, it doesn't matter what kind of life-level you at,it doesn't matter how much money you got. This comradely, this metal spirit, that really unite us together with that sound and particulary with these festivals. This is a great celebration. This Wacken is one of the most important festvals in the world. And this not only for the bands, but for all these metalheads. All these metalheads see each other once a year at Wacken. And these keep us a home, a special vipe, strong and powerful." 
Rob Halford  of Judas Priest





The festival ends traditionally on the first Sunday of August and on Monday 0:00 o'clock ct ticket sales open for the next year. Remarkably, all 75,000 tickets were sold out within 43 hours in 2014, 12 hours in 2015 and 23 hours in 2016, despite the fact that the lineup (with the exception of rumors or headliners) had not been announced, which is probably unique for a music festival of any kind. The non-optional basic ticket price for all four days including camping was €180 in 2016. In 2015, 158 bands were playing on six stages. The international festival has a unique rate of foreigners by over 30% of the crowd, with up to 10% non-Europeans. Many metal fans travel around half the globe just to stand on cow meadows before stages of Wacken in the middle of nowhere 80 km northwest from Hamburg.



Village people of Wacken during W:O:A

The entire village of Wacken (~1,800 citizens) get free entrance, which makes W:O:A to a kind of public holidays, because the village joins in fun. Everywhere private Biergartens are sized up, bands are playing on street and nearly every citizen offers support. Starting offering shelter in barns and transportation by farmers, over kids increasing pocket money by helping transporting beer and food, to offering already familiar metalheads toilet visits or showers. Besides, it's great business as well. About additional €20,000,000 are spent every year during festival by visitors in the Wacken area. The friendly north-Germans offer warm welcome, who are socializing with "the scary looking, devil worshipers" from different cultures all over the world and make them easy, which transports to the festival as well. Aggression is normally just shown in the pits before stages by Headbanging, Wall of death or screaming as meant to be. Therefore, the festival is considered quite peacefully and save, separated from crazy, self-expressing, scary appearances and reputation of metalheads in other countries. The awards winning documentary Full Metal Village by Korean Sung-Hyung Cho dealt with relation between village people and the festival and had made the village internationally well known beyond the music scene. The amazing village people are one reason why W:O:A sells out immediately without lineup.


Camping ground
In 2015, W:O:A offered 2.2 km² camping ground for the visitors, which are directly connected to the festival core area.





Festival crowds
The W:O:A audience, from bands, artists or by each other short addressed as "Wacken", is a legend itself and maybe the biggest headliner at all. Another reason why the festival sells out without billing. German crowds in general tend to be quite interactively, outgoing or partitioning during shows, which raise by metal genre, musical comradeship who enjoy especially this kind, emotional boundary, crowdsurfing, moshing and mainly little beer intoxication by ten.

To quote some band members from 25 years louder then hell - The W:O:A documentary :

"It is one of the best crowds in the world, actually!" 

Mikkey Dee of Motörhead


"People have just fun. They celebrate every note. Sometimes I think it doesn't matter who is on stage. They just into it and that's unique worldwide." 

Tom Angelripper of Sodom

It is consensus among the bands, that the most impressive sight and experience is standing in front of the sea of 70,000 - 80,000 metalheads on stage, who are showing national flags from literally every inch in the world, are going completely nuts during their shows and developing an one of a kind energy, which translates to stage and inspire the bands giving everything and let them performing their all-time shows. Naturally, some bands get much more demanding as usual to the crowd. Memorable was the moment during the show by Rock Meets Classic in 2015, when Wacken got a normal audience due to a classical orchestra and "chief animator" Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) was complaining openly on stage, that the audience didn't sing loud enough and that the hell they are the famous Wacken crowd and owe their part. Then, after some dry exercises with We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister song) and I Wanna Rock he adjusted them to 120 Decibel and finished them up with Highway to Hell (song) that the show in Kiel 70 km away got noticed.


They are also famous for crazy appearances and self-expressing behaviors. The well known photo session by Pep Bonet in his collection book "we the republic of wacken" dealt about Wacken crowds in 180 pages and 2 CDs. Shortly before, during and after festival most German nationalwide newspapers and magazines, such as Der Spiegel or Süddeutsche Zeitung, compete for the most funny pictures of the annual W:O:A event that the entire country has something to laugh about. Therefore, Wacken is often compared with Burning Man festival in Nevada or Fusion Festival in Lärz, but just for Hard 'n Heavy fans.


According metal subculture the crowd is dressed in certain ways (Heavy metal fashion). Of course, officially there is no dress code. Black is color of first choice, mostly as T-shirt featuring the favorite bands or a W:O:A T-shirt of current or an attended year. Kutte with patches of favorite bands, leather, spikes and chains are also popular. A special Wacken fashion are Viking, day-after (e.g. Mad Max) or medieval looks. Rest is crazy free style reminding a little on Carnival and even a most non-conforming white tuxedo would be an attraction. Some visitors didn't care about dressing at all; in both senses.


Most of them are regular visitors. Many of them kept score by W:O:A tattoo with stars for every year they had attended or by collection of their entrance bandages. A few couples had married at W:O:A on stage in front of hundreds of metalheads who cried with same emotional boundary for metal "their f--king eyes out" during ceremony. Others made honeymoon at festival or had been engaged. For some visitors the festival is their highlight of the year. Not just concerning music, but more for their entire life and their spot to be of desire all the time. That's the nickname "The Holy Land" came from.

--"I think that is something very special to Wacken that is a all-day thing and people are here all-day. Hangover!? What ever. It's time to get up. It's time to rock. It's fucking raining?! We don't care. We are covered with mud?! We don't care. That is their time in a year. This their time to go. Just let it all loose. Forget all the problems and raid."

Chris Jericho of Fozzy

"Even it sounds properly wicked for some people (ER: by up to 90,000 people), it is like a huge family party."

Thomas Jensen - festival founder and host

Most astonishing, a home of elderly of Itzehoe takes frequently field trips to the festival to celebrate their over-70 parties, because Wacken seems to be the perfect spot to find out one is still alive. Hosts grant them free passes. The metalheads show their admiration and respect to the seniors by hailing them accordingly with "Waaacken" battle cries and showing the Sign of the horns. The elderly up to 99 years old admire most the peaceful, huge gathering for music; those were unknown in their youth times.


To explain this fountain of youth by Deep Purple at Wacken 2014:

"As you get older the world changes on you and the world becomes a more serios place and lot people do tend to forget what they like when they were kids; and when they do come to a Rock'n'Roll show and they are few kids in the audience. The kids actually remind them what is like being 18 again. And then those guys or those women they forget that they are 55 or 60 and they become 15 years old kids again. And it is an amazing thing to see happen." - Ian Paice - "I see that all around here. The music has a great power to move people." 

Roger Glover

Since 2011, the target number of attendees by hosts is 84,500 people. 75,000 tickets are on free sell. A third for foreign visitors. 5,000 are on special guests list by hosts, mostly with backstage passes. Free passes went to the about 1,800 village people and up to 158 bands and their crews as well. 2,600 are organizational staff, who could increase drastically by circumstances in some years. A couple of hundreds of authorities and emergency aids, such as police men/women, duty officers (searching for drugs), regulatory authorities, fire fighters and ambulances, are also needed.

The hosts had decided let the festival not grow further in 2011, despite the huge demand for extra tickets, because of some reasons: First, logistical problems. Wacken is a small village and every infrastructure must build up for a week for every visitor from scratch - fresh water, camping ground, toilets, showers, power, food and beer supply, stuff supporting etc. - which got on limits. Second, safety. Germany got really sensitive after the Love Parade disaster in 2010 where 21 people died by suffocation and 500 more got injured. So every festival has fulfill highest prevention standards, which are strictly and permanently controlled by regulatory authorities today and would be hard to match by W:O:A with more visitors. Third, not jeopardizing the Willkommenskultur of the village by been overrun from too many visitors. And last, concentration of festival grounds, which would have to be deployed with more distance otherwise.


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