Summer Breeze 2017 - Children Of The Corn
September 14, 2017, a year ago
Well, you knew it was going to be a party, given the twenty-year milestone. And it most certainly was, led by the likes of Megadeth, Kreator, Obituary and a first night full of surprises in honour of an industry legend.
As per usual, the trek starts in Ontario via Pearson Airport (yup, Rush's "YYZ") and the seven-hour flight east to Frankfurt, Germany’s massive hub. Departing Canada early, I arrive at just before midnight (in my head), but truly around 6 AM, so it’s time to get that new time-zone cap on. But the first day is long and grueling as you force your body to stay awake as per normal. That rarely happens, as the next three hours of train rides will be seeing a few beers and plenty of dozing off. My long-time travelling partner, writer, photographer, Mark Gromen has joined me and it’s always great to catch up and to see what other festival shenanigans he’s been up to this summer.
As mentioned last year, Dinkelsbühl (about 90 minutes from Stuttgart) is one of those rare German cities detached from the rail system and thus virtually untouched by war, hence tourists parading around throughout the day getting a glimpse of beautifully preserved architecture (see last year’s diary here). The massive grounds are literally in the middle of nowhere. The nearest train station (Ellwangen) is about a half hour cab ride away. So we are most definitely children of the corn!
As mentioned, it is always recommended to arrive a day before the fest and get your batteries charged. So it’s time to take advantage of an incredible array of German beer, much less than half the price than at home, so of course you drink twice as much! Even in the airports the prices are ridiculously low compared to North American ones. Ahhh, the sin tax. So with supplies in hand, we head to our newly-found patio at our hotel and spend the afternoon cocktailing and planning our attack. It is truly exciting as there are numerous industry and band contacts that we’ve become friends with over time, and most bounce from festival to festival throughout the summer in Europe. Quite the difference from the North American scene/mentality which is virtually non-existent. And when I asked Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine about the differences between the North American scene and Europe, he put it simply: “I hate saying this, but it’s a more festive atmosphere. Those words are very important to European promoters - it needs to be festive. And I think when you go to festivals over in the States, it’s more corporate. A lot of it is done on pavement, you don’t have a lot of camping, barbecuing, non-stop partying where you are just hanging out with your mates and stuff.”
But I must laugh, we turn plenty of heads when we arrive, people wondering what the hell we are doing here. Let’s just say the horse has been led to water and we are here to drink.
In terms of proximity, compared to Wacken for example, this is a walk in the park. As free and easy as a summer breeze as it were. We are a mere twenty minutes from the fields of heavy metal paradise, which will see 40,000 people wandering through the farm fields outside of Dinkelsbühl for their heavy metal fix. And organizers are proud of the fact that Summer Breeze is the second biggest festival in Germany. And they are content keeping it at that size, which in North American terms, is a small city!
And it’s much more than the music. Stressing again, it is a true festival atmosphere and in many cases a family event. Camping, games, barbecuing, drinking and just simply hanging out together with the lads, the ladies or your kids! You are here for the duration, which began on Wednesday, August 16th with the unannounced arrival of Amon Amarth, Destruction, Extremo, Powerwolf and Night Demon to name a few.
This was a tribute to the late founder Michael Trengert, who after establishing a career with Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade (and at the time a major supporter of BW&BK Magazine), went on to establish Summer Breeze with Achim Kohler (see recent interview here).
“Yeah, still can’t believe this,” Kohler told BraveWords prior to the fest. “We were partners in 2002, that was when one of my old partners ripped me off. He stepped in and I learned a lot from him and we were the perfect partners. We were different, but we always found good solutions. We all miss him every day. We think about him every day and talk about him every day. We have big pictures of him in the office and he was really important for us. It’s so sad, but nothing we can do. He was one of the real good guys.”
To our surprise, we proceeded to barbecue Obituary-style outside their tour bus as the Florida death metal legends had arrived a day earlier. So amidst many beers, we continued to rave about their latest triumph until the wee hours of the morning! Until death do us unite!
Thursday, August 17th
With head in hands prior to the day’s first beer/Jägermeister (walking the Leffe Hand Path as it were!), we are immediately thrown into the pit as Obituary totally crushed the masses with an all-encompassing set. The band are truly on a comeback of sorts with Inked In Blood and the latest self-titled triumph punishing the crowd with “Visions In My Head”, “Sentence Day”, “A Lesson In Vengeance” and the glorious “No”, which is the non-album track off Obituary and no doubt the finest in the mix!
A close second to album of the year thus far (Obituary first of course) is Decapitated’s math-tech savvy death metal monster Anticult, so the crowd in front of the T Stage thrashed happily to newbies “Deathvaluation” and “Kill The Cult”.
Despite the revolving door Mustaine seems to have a reputation for, the latest incarnation of Megadeth has gelled incredibly with the two Daves seemingly quite content with the mega-talented Kiko Loureiro (guitar) and Dirk Verbeuren (drums). Still supporting Dystopia, the crowd still craved the band’s speedy past with “Hangar 18”, “Wake Up Dead”, Tornado Of Souls”, “Mechanix” and grand finale “Holy Wars (The Punishment Due)” leading the charge.
Friday, August 18th
It’s a bit ominous when you walk into a festival and hear - in both English and Deutsch - an announcer telling masses that bad weather was imminent and explained what to do (i.e. go sit and drink in your car!). While some truly ominous clouds circled the massive grounds, the day could’ve been much more of a wash-out. Highlights included Epica and Sacred Reich, who still deliver a crushing vibe - not death or thrash, but something oddly in between - to this day led by “Independent”, “The American Way” and closer “Surf Nicaragua”. Phil Rind still rules the stage! Let’s hear some new music!
The night was highlighted by a devastatingly brutal headlining set by Kreator, which kinda warms my extreme metal heart. Growing up with the likes of Pleasure To Kill and Extreme Aggression, it’s good to know there is taste on the planet, so 40,000 metalheads pledged their allegiance to Mille Petrozza and Co.
Industry-wise the night was highlighted by the Summer Breeze - Captains Dinner featuring the star of the show chef Stefan Marquard, a bit of a celebrity in these parts.
The dinner featured this vast array of exquisite cuisine and the coolest (literally) tribute to Lemmy (see more photos in gallery):
Roots Blood Roots
Sour / Fat
Ace Of Spades
Whisky / Coffee
Saturday, August 19th
It was a bit worrisome waking up after the previous morning’s debauchery, as we expected a bit of a mud-bowl, but the way Summer Breeze is positioned, most of Mother Nature’s deluge had dried up, aided by the wind and the blinding sun. So, in the words of my late grandmother, it was a glorious day! When you are cocktailing until the wee hours of the morning, at the fest and newly-found patio post-fest, it’s difficult to crawl back into action anytime before noon, or even early afternoon! So we sadly missed Primal Fear, but arrived in time for Overkill’s blitz-stering set! The New York icons - new drummer Jason Bittner (ex-Shadows Fall) - hold the crowd easily in their gutter-smelling hands punished the crowd with such classics as “Hello From The Gutter”, “Rotten To The Core”, “I Hate” and “Electro-Violence”, alongside new material from Grinding Wheel. Thousands joined Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth in a sing-along to the ever-pleasing “In Union We Stand” and of course “Elimination” and the obligatory “Fuck You!” closed out the set.
While I was in interview-mode with the legendary Asphyx singer Martin Van Drunen, Dark Tranquillity played and a surprising Wildhoney-era set from Tiamat appeased the crowds.
As per usual, check out Mark Gromen’s very thorough overview of the entire festival at this location.
Summer Breeze 2017 appeared to have caught up with some, as the night was the most tame of the four. Soon enough after a hearty Deutschland breakfast, it was time to begin the “trains, planes and automobiles” trek to North America. To get back to Frankfurt at a reasonable time in late afternoon, we must get our act together after a few hours sleep. Cab to Ellwangen and two train rides weaving back through the luscious German landscape to Europe’s biggest airport hub.
Still winded, the plane ride home was spent transcribing, building this diary and reeling from another adventure. As I continue to mention, put these European fests, this one in particular, on your bucket list. Don’t live life with regrets. Jump in the fire!