I’m really bored by the typical rock concerts reviews. I’m bored of reading the same formulas over and over. They are cold. They are the result of he who lets himself be defeated by standard styles and formats.
If the subjective experience is not to be communicated, if the life experience had as a spectator is not going to be expressed, if a concert lived is not going to be intensified, if a text, never minding what it talks about, does not transmit a part of he who writes it, it is not worth of being written, let alone be read.
The text that follows is not about that which happened in the Belgian community of Graspop, since more than 135 thousand things occurred, because more than 135 thousand persons concurred there among the bands that played, their friends and staff, just as among the people that sold food and metal merchandise. Each one of us lived her/his own Graspop. The text that follows is what I lived, saw and listened and I’m writing it for you. If what you want is to be objectively and briefly informed about the bands and the songs they played, randomly criticizing one or two things while rooting for some others; if what you want is a cold summary of rock events, don’t read this post… Because it is written with love, not with a pragmatic interest.
II. Day one: Something huge out of something small.
Graspop is a very small town in Belgium surrounded by three or four other which are even smaller. In the midst of them there is a European coniferous forest, dense and dark. After a journey of a couple of hours by train, included in the price of the ticket for the Metal Meeting, I arrive by bus –also free- to the place of the event. As soon as you are in Belgian territory coming from abroad roundtrip transportation is for free as long as you have your ticket to the show. It is a gray day. I think about how stupid I was while forgetting that summer in Europe means not summer in Mexico. I have nothing really warm to wear but a flimsy camping tent made in China that would soon be defeated by the rain that filtered itself into its inner space later that night while Twisted Sister was playing.
I lead my steps to the camping place. Due to my arrival the very same day in which the festival would begin, at close to 4 pm, I find out that the place is simply full. I look for a chink where that which will give me shelter –I thought so, at least at that moment- the next three nights. I build it the way I can, because I am too excited to get to which ever stage out of the four to choose. I don’t want to miss another minute. I already had lost Grim Reaper and Helloween due to my delay. I have to see Coal Chamber. I think to myself: “No problem, worse things have happened”. I am not a fan. Yet, I am very surprised by their level of execution, the excitement felt by the band’s members and the absolute beauty of their female bassist. The most attractive metal-head woman I have seen over a stage.
Entombed on the smaller stage of the festival, on the Metal Dome. For whatever reason, since 1998 when they gave an extraordinary show at the Ozz-fest, the occasions in which I have seen Entombed live, even if they are one of my favorite bands in studio and for me one of the most rocking ones, their live gigs always leave me with a taste of “they missed something…”. The songs never sound like in their albums, they played them at least one tone lower, probably two, and thay don’t impact me like they do when their music comes out of my earphones.
Papa Roach? I pass, thanks. Korpiklaani (?????), Asking Alexandria, All that remains? I pass again, thanks. However, I will never, never, pass on Prong!! I’m sorry I’m an old schooler. New, Black and that kind of Thrash that doesn’t sound like Toopa-toopa-toopa don’t move my inner feelings. Prong put 7 thousand souls to dance at what they called Marquee 2. Absolutely groovy, rhythmical, juicy. People mosh and slam while others dance at the beat of the disco-thrash. Prong was so advanced for their times 25 years ago, but now they are a classic group that knew how to see beyond its times. Snao your fingers, snap your neck! Poser of the damager, Revenge, best served cold. Songs that I thought I would never listen live. Prong had been vanished for a long while. Not even in dreams had they played in Mexico in my teenage years. Maybe now that they are back. What about Prong at the Hell & Heaven Fest in Guadalajara?!
I don’t like Korn, yet I feel compelled to see them play. Come what may, I’m already there. The vocalist does not use eye make-up anymore. Another good surprise at Graspop. Soulfly or Kreator? The answer comes in less than a second_ Let’s go see the Germans. I grew up listening to them. After Rigor Mortis and Testament, Kreator was the third group of Thrash Metal I knew. From then to now, many raindrops have fallen to the ground. Their set-list includes too many new songs and not too all the classics. Not a single song from the Extreme Agression or the Renewal albums. Yet, they play Flag of hate, Endless pain, Pleasure to kill, Tormentor. 15 thousand bodies sing and beat each other. The wall of death (activity officially forbidden by the Festival organizers to meet the security rules of the county, yet fomented by the bands and de facto by the organizers –they showed the videos of the endless mosh, crowd surfing and different walls of death on the gigantic screens next to the main stage-) was brutal. If I it wasn’t due to the fact that I know that we metal-heads are a community, an identity, and everything is just friendly violent fun, if I was a member of a parental watch society, of a right winged conservative party and I saw what happened with Kreator, I would be terrified. The violence with which half of the people crashed against the other half of the public, totally out of their minds, in ecstasy as Civilization Collapse came out of the PA, reminded me more of the battles of the European Barbarians in pre-Christian times than of a rock concert. The image I’m describing is actually indescribable. It was plain brutality at the rhythm of thrash metal.
Twisted Sister. It rains. They play hard. The cold stings. Dee Snider swears against Mother Nature: You cunting whore!!! We’re not gonna take it. The kids are back. The members of the band are really human. They talk to the audience really pissed because nobody can have as much fun under the rain as if the weather were more amicable. A short-haired no-make-up and 45 pound (20 kilos) heavier Jay Jay French confesses that he answers the mails he gets and that he made a friend in Belgium. Jay Jay invites the dude and his girlfriend to the stage. The dude asks the girl to marry him in front of over a hundred thousand metal-heads who, since they also have a heart, cheer and whistle totally moved. The girl starts to cry and accepts. I hope they never divorce and that they love each other as much as they did that night. We all wanna rock…