Graspop 2008 – aftermath

Hans left first from the festival as he had to get down to Charleroi for a flight to Dublin, and wanted to stop in Brussels on his way there. It was great to see him again after so long. I think we should set a rule that we never meet in the same country again!

The rest of us lazed for a while as our bus to Eindhoven wasn’t scheduled until midday. Plenty of time to mop up, finish the scraps of food, the last tins of beer and have a quick wash in the troughs. The campsite looked more like a bombsite. Discarded tents, small fires (and men zipping around on small ATVs putting them out), food flying through the air, corpses… OK, not corpses, but I’m sure the hangover some of them had made them wish they were dead.

Lunchtime approached and we picked out our coach. We had two choices – get off in Eindhoven proper or stay on to the airport. We opted for the former as we had several hours before our flight and the town offered more entertainment than the joys of a small-town airport. For food we joined the ranks in McD’s, mainly as it was easy to pick something, cheap and they’d let us sit there for hours without hassling us.

Dave tried to pick a fight with some juves who were attempting (badly) to vandalise the toilets, but otherwise lunch was uninteresting. We walked about for a bit and noticed that every pub was closed. We had a swift drink at an outdoor cafe in the sun watching some stunning women walking past. I swear, every gorgeous woman in the Netherlands must come from Eindhoven. Oh, and there was a mad man who looked like Santa on an electric trike driving round telling everyone they were going to Hell unless they repented. I refrained from letting his tyres down.

Time came for us to hop on a local bus up to the airport and a short while later we were in a massive queue of scruffy metallers waiting for the RyanAir desk to open.

Oh, and I removed my contact lenses for the last time. Ever. Historical note – my last pair of contacts were disposed of in a small bin next to the ATM in Eindhoven Airport. Well, it means something to me.

The flight back was uneventful with the only spectacular point of note being the complete lack of queue when we arrived at Stansted. A good job as our train tickets only gave us the minimum of time to whizz through. A shame our luggage took an age. Still, we made it onto the train with a minute or two (and I mean just that) before it headed off. Marina had kindly sorted my ticket for me to save me some cash and I jumped off at Cambridge as her and Dave continued on to Ely. Oh, Pete had met his dad off the flight and was getting a lift home. Alright for some.

Colin was there to meet me at the station. As ever, great to see him. The last time was just before I originally left the UK. And he’s not changed. Apart from becoming increasingly bitter about drivers trying to kill cyclists on the roads of Cambridge. He took me to a local burrito shop where they sell what he claims are the best burritos in the UK. I don’t think he’s wrong. I’d be surprised if anyone could top them, frankly. He also, very kindly, paid. Cheers, fella!

After chowing down in the park, watching some foreign kids show off at football, we hopped in a cab to a pub near his place where we met up with Damo for some beer before last orders. Then walked back to Col’s for more beer and a giggle viewing of the excellent film UHF. Monster Munch were chomped on and then bed headed for. A bed. A real bed. Yay!

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Graspop 2008 Day 3

Acoustic rock. Kinda.

The final day. We rose at a reasonable time and realised we were all out of beer. Hans walked off to see early bands while we kept on going on into down to find out that the small supermarket was closed on a Sunday. Argh. Fortunately, there’s another supermarket around a corner which we hadn’t used before. Popping round there, we managed to get the last of the – sadly low-alcohol- tinnies and lugged them back to the campsite.

I managed to miss Lauren Harris for not the first time. Mainly because I’ve heard nothing but scorn poured in her direction. I know her dad’s a rock god, but by all accounts her own band sucks. Besides, beer and food were more important.

I made my way into the festival area in time to catch Apocalyptica coming on and had a good listen. They’re OK, and certainly novel, but not on a par with Hayseed Dixie when it comes to doing covers. Each to their own. After them, I popped into a marquee to see Soilwork with Pete. They put on a great show, but there’s no doubting that their best material was from Stabbing the Drama.

More metal karaoke

As we walked out of the tent to meet everyone else, I saw a familiar face walk past. It was Melanie from the previous day – quite a coincidence as she was only walking past to find her mates. We hooked up again and she kicked around with us for the rest of the day. I guess Brits are more fun than Germans…

Bullet For My Valentine are hard to take seriously in their “We are metaaaalll… from the Valleys” Welsh accents so they were pretty much ignored. We headed back to the campsite to make the most of the beer rather than watch Avenged Sevenfold (I’d eat my own ears rather than listen to A7X) where we discovered that Melanie had much better beer than I’d picked up. Got to love those Germans – they do come in useful at times.

We did head back for At The Gates, In Flames and Arch Enemy. The latter did keep asking for updates on the football as the Euro 2000 final was on, and the lead singer is German. A good job nobody told her they lost…

Of course, the big band of the day was Iron Maiden. They drew the biggest crowd that Graspop has ever seen and justifiably so. Hans even sang along to some of the songs! The stage show was superb, the song choices excellent, the whole buzz of the crowd amazing. With a great mix of songs, predominantly from Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Seventh Son along with the obvious classics they rocked for around 2 hours before letting loose an enormous Eddie mummy.

Fancy dress

Show over and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life being sung by tens of thousands of metalheads as they made their shaky ways back to the tents. Partying continued late into the nights, though. Just because the bands were done, didn’t mean that the beer would stop flowing!

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Graspop 2008 Day 2

Today was more of a festival day. The sleep overnight wasn’t too bed all things considering – like the number of us in a tent and the lack of mattresses or padding of any sort. The earth underneath kind of fit round the way I sleep so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Plus I was tired!

As ever, Hans was on a mission to see as many bands as he could in one day. We headed over to the ground and caught Throwdown (a.k.a Pantera with different band members. And songs. But much the same sound) who were really entertaining. Apparently in the US they’ll play to small club crowds of a hundred or so. What a waste. Great fun, and incredible to watch a lead singer actually crawl onto the audience and do half a song kneeling down as they supported his weight. Also the start of the “biggest mosh pit of the day” competition.

Sabaton I won’t bore you with. Because they bored me. Nothing special, nothing new, nothing memorable.

Back in Marquee 2, Bleeding Through rocked almost as much as Throwdown, including an impressive clamber up one of the support columns by the guitarist who managed a solo up there. This time they went for a circle pit around the sound desk which turned into some kind of mosh doughnut. Weird, but impressive from another “small” band.

I wasn’t too fussed by many of the afternoon bands, and wanted more beer so I headed back to the tent where the rest of the gang were already chilling out. Marina had scrawled “FREE HUGS” on Dave’s back and he was having… limited success. From a large group of scary men who all hugged him, one guy who seriously looked like he’d rearrange Dave’s features if he got within 6 feet and a woman who told him in no uncertain terms “Do not come near me”.

While we were messing about, enjoying the sun and the beer and the people, I spotted my second Lawnmower Deth t-shirt of the festival. This one turned out to belong to a German girl called Melanie who we got talking to and sharing beer with. Time ticked on and it was time for more bands. Hans had already zoomed off and we walked back to the festival area to try and locate him.

By this stage I was rather merry having gone through a handful of cans of cheap Belgian lager, and most of a bottle of Jagermeister and a lot of Red Bull. We got to the arena just as Cavalera Conspiracy hit the stage and nothing was stopping me. The pit was it…

Frankly, I can’t recall many specific tracks from the set. I was too busy kicking lumps out of people. And having the same in return. Classic Sepultura, an oddball Nailbomb song and a few numbers off the current album. Absolutely superb. Despite being exhausted so easily the previous day I simply did not stop for the entire 90 minutes the band were on stage. Not once.

The best part was being recognisably the oldest person in the pit. So people listened to me. Oh yes. I was in charge. Bwahahahaha! People pushed back to make it bigger. Fallers were helped up, circles started, bodies flew overhead as the “no crowdsurfing rule” was roundly ignored, though the security staff didn’t mind one bit. I had a great surf to the front myself, but after the set finished was even better. I was knackered and fell backwards against a load of people… who picked me up and surfed me out of the crowd in the direction of the bar! Something new at every festival…

In the fun I’d misplaced Melanie which was a shame, but I caught up with the other guys at our usual place by the Belgacom tent. Sustenance was needed to after giving My Dying Bride a chance – about half of one of their over-long, slow numbers – we headed outside to the burger vans and scoffed away. Hans and I returned to see KISS while the rest made their way back to camp.

Now the last time I saw KISS was on the “we’re back in make-up” tour and they were headlining the last Donington Monsters of Rock Festival. I’d guess around 12 years ago? This time around they were promoting the 35th anniversary of the Alive album and proceeded to play all of the thing – possibly in order – for well over an hour. With very little stage theatrics and not a lot of songs that I or Hans knew.

Hand on heart, I was toying with walking off for an early night. I’m glad we didn’t as eventually they started playing some more recent material and pulled out all the stops on the fireworks and gizmos. The show got ten times better and they rekindled the memories I had of them from the last time.

As the lst fireworks dropped out of the sky and the guitar chords silenced, we made use of the extra exit and staggered back to the tent where the cold, hard earth awaited my bruised and battered (and aging) body.

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Graspop 2008 – Day 1

We’d arranged to meet Marina outside the festival campsite around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to grab some food and get packed. The train station is only a short walk up the road from the hostel and within 20 minutes we were sat on a train (filled with long-haired people in black clothes) heading north.

One quick change and second train pulled into Mol on time for us to run straight onto a shuttle bus to Dessel. This year, even those with e-tickets (like us) qualified for free transport within Belgium. A superb addition to an already well-organised festival.

So there we were, bang on time… and no sign of Marina who’d got there the night before. I tried to SMS her and got no reply. Tried to blip her phone… and she picked up just as I was cancelling my call. Then I ran out of credit. Grargh.

Finally, after an hour, she located us. She’d been waiting at the wrong bus stop. As this is my blog, it is therefore all Marina’s fault. So there. Regardless, we all (Dave, Pete, Marina, Hans and I) walked through to the campsite. This year, no annoying rummaging in rucksacks by security staff looking for gas canisters or bottles. We felt trusted. Also no need to change our e-tickets as yet. We could get settled and do that later – again, an improvement on previous years.

Marina had brought a big tent with her, enough room for her and Dave in one segment and the rest of us in another, plus all our luggage. Not a bad spot either, round the back end of one of the shower blocks and with some Germans next door having moderate success with their “Show boobs for beer (pretty ladys only)” (sic) sign.

Hans wanted to catch as many bands as possible over the weekend, so we dropped him off at the festival area while we walked into town for a beer and some shopping (which may have involved more beer…). The first supermarket we arrived at was all out of beer, except for that in bottles which isn’t allowed onto the campsite. Fortunately, there’s another supermarket in Dessel so we made our way round to that one.

Armed with two crates of Jupiler and some munchies, we stepped out into the sunshine to begin the walk back to the site. A BMW with a very attractive young woman in it pulled up and asked uus how to get to Graspop (twice – the first time in Dutch). We volunteered directions then Dave stuck in “if you’re heading that way, any chance of a lift?”

Cheeky. But it worked. She drove us about half way as she had to detour to collect some kit for the stall she was working at. So “thank you” mystery lady! At the entry to the festival area, I handed my stuff over to the others and went in to find Hans as we were running late. This also saved me carrying all that beer back to the tent. Convenient.

I caught up with Hans outside the Belgacom tent, where free internet was on offer. He’d seen Tesla (not so good) and Behemoth. While we were stood around, Yngwie Malsteen insulted our eardrums until Saxon came on and pretty much rocked the place. Not bad for some old guys who’ve been playing since I was three, and much better than I was expecting. Sadly no Ride Like The Wind, though – it’s the only song by them I know.

The others hadn’t appeared by the time Saxon finished and we wanted food and beer, so opted to walk back to the tent. We picked up some grub from one of the local houses that had become a cafeteria for the weekend then strolled into the campsite. Where we couldn’t find the damn tent. Anywhere. And we were missing Def Leppard. So not all bad, then.

We gave up after a while and walked back to the festival site where we found the others before running into Marquee 1 for Testament. I’ve been waiting to see these guys for many years and they didn’t disappoint, although the sound quality wasn’t great. I can now say that I’ve moshed and crowdsurfed to every one of the major Bay Area thrash bands. Finally. I can also say that I destroyed my £7 trousers which I’d hoped would last me all weekend. Small price to pay.

We met up with the rest again, and Marina offered to take me to the tent to grab some beers. It meant missing Whitesnake, but hey ho. There were better bands on over the weekend. It turns out that the tent had been moved from where it was originally which why Hans and I couldn’t find it – not our fault at all [may contain traces of outright fib].

Beered and snacked up, we walked back to the music area in time to hear the ending notes of Still of the Night. We split up as we wanted to see different bands in the tents. Hans headed in the direction of Marquee 2 for Morbid Angel while Dave and I went to see Ministry. I have to say that if this really is their last tour then it’s a hell of a loss to live music. Hans wasn’t so impressed when he came in halfway through (he got bored of Morbid Angel), but Dave certainly liked them.

And on to the headliner of the evening – Judas Priest. Currently touring on a huge concept double-album, it was always going to be a worry that there was too much new stuff. And also that frontman Rob Halford is 56. Soundwise, they were superb. Note perfect and Rob’s vocals are as good as they ever were. Atmospheric on the new songs, melodic on “Angel of Destiny” and screamy as you could wish for on “Painkiller”.

However… physically, he’s definitely struggling. Most of the set, he was sat down or singing entire songs while bent double. When he did move, it was very slowly as if he was struggling to gain any momentum.

Overall, not a bad performance and a decent mix of tracks including most of the old favourites. A small crowd for a headliner, though. Still very enjoyable.

The walk back to the campsite was aided by the secondary exit put into the festival area, so no bottlenecks as in previous years. We were all pretty much pooched after the hot weather and milling around so we had a comparitively early night. And again I was glad for my earplugs. No car horns, but several hundred stereos and several thousand drunk metalheads singing and screaming into the night.

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