Hellfest, that legendary European festival that has taken the world by storm and won the hearts of countless musicians and fans across the globe. For the 150 bands playing and hundreds of thousands of fans at the festival journeying to the small French village of Clisson and uncovering the strangely sublime hellscape that the festival represents is always a pleasure. With these articles I seek to document nothing less than my journeys in hell.
Isn’t it strange how every train station that claims to have wi-fi actually doesn’t? What I mean to say is there is a profound level of shittiness to wifi in these types of places – you find yourself stuck trying to write up yet another fucking article while you wait four hours because your train was delayed. Am I grumpy? Yes. Did I only get four hours of sleep? Yes. But guess what – now I’m trying to tell you about one of the hottest and most life changing rigamaroles around. European festivals are quite a bit different than their American kin and picking apart what they can do to you is always a challenge. Sitting here with my by now partially dreadlocked hair I have my jaw agape and I think back to how the hell I even got here in the first place…
On my flight over I was initially very stressed. Because I do interviews for Hellfest it was essential that I get a European phone number as soon as possible – the issue being I was supposed to interview Judas Priest the night before I left for the festival and the handler needed to be able to call me. On the plane I got sat next to a former Deadhead who I spoke with for hours about spirituality and explorations of the mind and body. Suddenly things didn’t seem so shitty. She spoke of the power of tapping into the flow of the universe and finding where you fit in with everything else. Given the adventures I was about to endure these were words that I desperately needed to hear.
My short time in Gods beloved city of Paris though felt far too limited. While in three days I did indeed manage to see dozens of old friends, it still felt as if I had barely left at all. The old rules of the metro still stuck with me – where you could sneak on, what shortcuts to take, and what etiquette to follow, all that good shit. I had also forgotten how among the French I’m a veritable giant. A people who Christopher Bowes of Alestorm described to me as “Pointy” I felt much more at ease amongst them than in the barren somber world that America represents beneath its glistening veneer.
I rode down to the festival with a few friends from the French metal scene and ended up walking the last few kilometers because man… fuck traffic. The point being – after 5 hours of travel (an hour and a half of which where we covered only five kilometers due to traffic) I had found myself in front of Hellfests legendary guitar sculpture. Of course – that was when I found out I’d have to walk another four kilometers to pick up my volunteer credentials… Things were off to a bleak start and I knew that at this point they could only get better.
And so the day wore on. Beers were chugged, old friends were hugged and new friends were made. That evening I went to the annual Season Of Mist garden party and met some of the most important people in the industry. It was surreal to realize that so much of the power behind metal music could be concentrated in one place – and yet here they were. Suffice to say – the fact that I was such a Hawkwind dork in high school paid off in a big way, so much so that when I started walking back to my tent I felt more confident about my career than ever before.
This first soiree of Hellfest proved to be a success and the endurance that is required to survive this kind of event had yet to be tapped in too. When I snuggled up in my sleeping bag I though to myself that I had everything planned out and that this year would run far more smoothly than the previous one. I felt certain that more connections would be made and I would finagle more interviews than at any previous festival I had covered. While I was right to some degree I don’t think I could have imagined the chaos to come even in my wildest dreams.