Disclaimer: The press team at Wacken Winter Nights was kind enough to give me press access to the festival, and I was in close contact with Argon Events, but I am not affiliated with Wacken Winter Nights or Argon Events, nor am I being paid in any way to promote or review the festival or the service provided by Argon Events.
Saturday was probably my busiest and overall most exciting day of the festival. After a lovely night’s sleep in a comfortable bed and a nice bit of heat, it was time for another day. We headed down to the arena (on the slightly too long walk), and the first band I saw was Harpyie (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). I didn’t see a lot of their set because it was a little too lazy a morning, but I did enjoy what I saw. They are another German band who are a part of the genre I have come to know is called
“Mittelalter-Metal” . One thing I did really think highly of the band for is that the sign language interpreter, who was usually right to the side of the stage, was on stage with the band as an equal. It is the first festival where I have seen a sign language interpreter with a live band, and it’s an amazing idea to help those in society who aren’t as lucky as us appreciate the music we all know and love.
After Harpyie, I wandered over to the Theatre of Grace to watch Trollfaust (Facebook, music and merch). I recommended them in my Wacken Winter Nights preview, and they were definitely a band that reminds you that you can never have too many bagpipes. These guys had three sets playing at one time, accompanied only by a drum kit. Their stage gear really fitted their musical style, using leather, war paint, and animal skulls on their pipes, and they started with plague-doctor style masks.
It was then time to check out the other entertainment on for the weekend. Myself and the Heavy Metal Entertainment contingent found ourselves at the front of a magic show by Robert Blake. Our dear friend Nam got picked on to help during the show, and it was a great mix of comedy and magic. It’s great to see performances like this around the festival, as it gives the festival an extra element, especially when there are bands you may not want to see at the time, or you just want to see something a little more chilled out while you have a bit of a break.
The next band for me was Haggefugg (Facebook, Spotify), whose latest album I recently reviewed. As I mentioned in my album review, I had a feeling that I would appreciate the music much more in a live environment than on a recording, and I was right. Haggefugg were probably my surprise of the weekend, as I enjoyed their set far more than I thought I would. There were double bagpipes, the music was happy and jolly, and all of the band were enthusiastic and engaging with the audience. I hope that I will get a chance to see them again in the future!
Moonsorrow (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch) were my next band for the day. I have seen them twice before and I have never been disappointed by them. Their performance at Wacken Winter Nights was no exception. As always they put on an atmospheric performance and I managed to catch some of my very favourite Moonsorrow songs. They are not normally a band I listen to, but I find them growing on me more and more every time I listen to them, and I look forward to the next time I see them live.
Next up was Ereb Altor (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch) back on the Theatre of Grace (yes, I was doing a lot of running between the two stages), and again, Ereb Altor are a band I have seen before and enjoy watching as their music live brings an amazing atmosphere. Although they are a band that I don’t really listen to a lot in my spare time, I will always take the time to go and see them live.
The final band for me on the Saturday was the band who introduced me to Wacken Winter Nights in the first place, Grimner (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). This was my third time seeing Grimner live after their UK dates in March last year, and also in Berlin last September for my belated birthday celebration. Every time I see them, they get better. They are a band that always put all their energy into their performances, and they are clearly having so much fun on stage, feeding off the energy of the enormous crowd who have gathered to see them headline the Theatre of Grace. They thoroughly deserved that slot and their performance proved it. After their set, myself and a few friends waited around to hang out with them, it was good to see my friends again, and finally, after nearly a year, we got a photo together (albeit photobombed by DoomFace).
The final day of Wacken Winter Nights came around all too quickly. All those who had travelled with Argon Events packed up their stuff, and took it to the coach from 11am, and on this morning we were lucky enough to catch a lift from the campsite to the arena. After a final wander around the arena during the day, I headed to the Theatre of Grace to see heavy mahogany-ers The Dread Crew of Oddwood (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). It was some great, jolly, funny music for the first band of the day on the main stages. There was some great crowd interaction and participation, and the drummer’s YMCA dance while the slow parts of the songs were being played was wonderful. Of course, it was some fellow Brits who started a conga line through the crowd to one particular song…
Next was another rush over to the Ice Palace to see The O’Reillys and The Paddyhats (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). There are good old Irish-style punk. Their tracks are catchy, and their stage presence was absolutely amazing. They asked the crowd to engage and the crowd answered back with great enthusiasm. I was quite far back, but you could see those closer to the front jumping, dancing, and singing along. If The O’Reillys and The Paddyhats happen to play at another festival I attend in the future, I would certainly go and see them again, it’s just feel good music.
After a quick food break, and some relaxation on some of the chairs provided in the Ice Palace, it was time for Feuerschwanz (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). I had listened to Feuerschwanz quite a lot and enjoyed what I heard, so I was looking forward to seeing them live. I’m sure if I was less ignorant of the German language I would have understood a lot more what was going on. Each song seemed to have its own theme, much like if Evil Scarecrow had a bigger budget, but the music was this “Mittelalter-Metal” I had heard much about over the weekend. I really did enjoy it, but when I took out an earplug to see if I could do without wearing them, I did notice that there was a distinct lack of bass tones in the mix. Obviously this is not the band’s fault, and their enthusiastic performance was not hampered by this. The German crowd were especially involved in the performance, and it was clear to me that Feuerschwanz were a very popular German band.
There was now a bit of a gap for me as I didn’t want to see another band on the main stages, so I went to grab some food and noticed that The Dread Crew of Oddwood were going to be playing the last of their acoustic sets from across the weekend. I knew after their Theatre of Grace performance earlier in the day that this would be another fun filled set. It started off civilised enough, until the same bunch of fellow Brits turned up and started up yet another conga line, and I did indeed participate in this one. Then chaos ensued, with the crowd engulfing the band while they played their last song. What had started as quite a civilised group of people had descended into a rabble of dancing wannabe pirates. It was glorious.
The end of the festival was approaching all too soon. It was time for the final band of the festival, Faun (Facebook, Spotify, music and merch). By this time, the tiredness and exhaustion of the weekend was beginning to kick in for many of my fellow coach travellers, and the lovely, calming, folk music of Faun was sending us to sleep. Not in a boring way, you must understand, but in a lullaby way, the music was just beautiful. Sadly, I also missed Faun play their only UK show on 2nd March this year, but I do hope I get the chance to see them again, and manage to stay for the full set.
After we had left Faun, we took a final slow wander through the arena, picking up waifs and strays from our group as we went along, stopping by one of the many fire pits for a while to warm up, as the temperature had plummeted as darkness fell. Our coach was due to set off 20 minutes after Faun had finished, so we had a nice chill and recollected our experiences over the past weekend. We got on the coach, and started out on the long journey back to the UK.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sleep for the majority of the journey in darkness to the Port of Calais, and the ferry led me to a big full English, and a large coffee. Strangely for the UK, the weather at Dover was cloudless and warm.
My journey was not over when I reached London, however, I had another trip on the Underground (thankfully I didn’t need to use the stairs this time), and I had a long wait at King’s Cross before a 2 hour train journey back to the North. The sunset was spectacular that night, a poignant ending to a beautiful weekend.
For a festival that is only in its third year, Wacken Winter Nights was remarkably well organised and put together, even more so than some festivals which have been going for many more years. The lineup for me was absolutely faultless, I just wish they could have fitted even more bands on that I enjoyed, it really is a festival that is right up my alley. There was such attention to detail, even tiny lanterns hung on tree branches with tea lights, which crew members used to go around and relight every night. The stages were nicely laid out and decorated, everyone on the food stalls and bars were lovely and helpful. The fire pits were a much needed source of warmth and added to the amazing medieval festival atmosphere. For those who like to share things on social media and keep in contact, the signal was great, except for in the stages, where it could be especially patchy. And the press WiFi was strong and reliable, enabling me to keep my Instagram stories updated throughout the festival.
The issues myself and my friends had were more “it would be nice if” suggestions rather than make or break problems with the festival.
The main issue a lot of campers had was the walk from the campsite to the arena. There were plenty of fields between the campsite and the arena, and the shuttle buses were not reliable or frequent enough to rely on using them to make the journey.
The Theatre of Grace layout could have been a little better, perhaps by rotating the entire setup by 90 degrees, having the stage in the corner where the bar was, and the merch on the back wall as you enter, this would stop a lot of bottle necking and allow people to visit the bar, merch stall, and Wacken Foundation stall during the sets of bands playing the Theatre of Grace rather than just in between performances.
Water points would also be much appreciated, it is understandable that these couldn’t be just everywhere as the weather is normally a lot colder than the weekend we were blessed with, but perhaps having these near the flushing toilets means that there is not just alcohol or full sugar drinks available to festival goers. Many of my friends (and myself) found ourselves dehydrated over the weekend.
The final thing that would have been nice, and this is an ignorance thing on the part of those who don’t speak German, would be that the food stalls had the menus in English as well as German. The festival was, of course, in Germany, but this year especially there were people from Canada to New Zealand at the festival, as well as people from all over Europe who may not necessarily speak the local language.
Would I come back to Wacken Winter Nights next year? Well, let’s just say that I have already booked my time off work for next year, with extra recovery days for more sleep 😉
If you enjoy your folk metal, then I would definitely recommend making the trip to Wacken Winter Nights. It’s a small enough festival that you feel like one big folk metal family, you have a chance to see everything that is on offer, and you also get to experience new things and meet new people that you might not otherwise.
Next year I plan to be a lot more proactive, talk to more people, try more food and more beer, and be more confident in diving in head first and immersing myself in the festival. The gloriously warm cloak will be making a return, as will I.