Which side of me will win?

Metalcamp 2011: “FREE HUGZ!!”

On our way to the arena for Arch Enemy, and our first real taste of the live music Metalcamp is all about, we pass the scene pictured above. What you can’t really see in this photo is that the Metalcamp tape tied around his legs is preventing him from walking, so he’s hopping along beside his friends, seemingly enjoying the gentle torture they’re putting him through. I seem to remember he was shouting something weird at passers-by at this point, or maybe just asking for cigarettes or something. I can’t remember. Anyway, we haven’t got time to hang around here pushing him over and laughing at him trying to get up. Arch Enemy are waiting.

Well, they’re not. In fact, they come on late. In fact, while their crew is still sound checking a terse Germanic voice, seemingly coming out of nowhere, impatiently says, “You don’t have time for this. You’re running late.” It could just have been a member of Metalcamp staff talking to the crew via the PA. Equally though, it could have been the voice of God. Either way, it seems to hurry them up a bit.

I last saw Arch Enemy at the very end of last year’s Metalcamp, when they were the penultimate band before the all-consuming might of Manowar. I didn’t enjoy their set that much back then. It had been a long week (a day longer than this year’s festival). I was exhausted, nauseous, sore and feeling generally quite low, and knew that Manowar, and Manowar alone, could cure my ills. Arch Enemy were not Manowar.

This year, however, is a totally different story. They’re the first band I see, and I fucking love them.

It’s just about dark when their set kicks off and, as the metal erupts from the stage, the lights illuminate the crowd and I see thousands of silhouetted horns held aloft in front of me. That’s ‘horns’ as in hands held up like this…

…not drinking horns, although they too are a popular Metalcamp accessory.

Anyway, the metal roars off the stage and the crowd roars back, horns held high – I think to myself, “This is it. This is what I came all this way for. This is what I’ve been counting down the days to for months. It’s really starting now.”

Everything up to this point has just been a prelude. A thoroughly enjoyable prelude, for sure, but a mere prelude nonetheless. But now Metalcamp is really kicking off and, like the big girl’s blouse that I am, I’m almost overwhelmed by the occasion. I love metal so much. I fucking love it.

That’s why I especially enjoy Arch Enemy on this particular night, I’m sure. But credit where credit’s due – I’m also sure they put in an excellent, vintage performance. The perfect band to start my Metalcamp off with.

I went in a casual fan, came out a big one. That happens a lot at Metalcamp. It has to this year as far as I’m concerned, as there’s not one band on the entire bill that I’m more than a casual fan of. Beforehand, that is. One of the reasons I go to Metalcamp is to collect new favourite bands. So that’s one chalked up already.

Ash too, is a convert, even if he can’t hear ‘the stories’. We agree that Angela Gossow’s vocals are hilarious. Not in a mocking way. She really is a better growler than most male growlers and that’s just plain funny. Nice one, Ang.

Later on, by the way, we see this guy again…

Now he’s tied to a post, has a lit cigarette in his mouth that he can’t smoke properly because his hands are tied up, and is shouting “FREE HUGZ!” over and over again. He’s definitely saying it with a ‘z’ on the end, not an ‘s’, by the way. I take this picture then move on.

Later on still, we pass this same spot and there’s nothing left but a charred skeleton slumped over a smoldering stump. I feel kinda bad for him, so I give him a free hug. Ouch! He’s still hot.

All this happens after the remaining two bands of the night on the main stage though, the next of which is would-be successor to AC/DC’s ‘kings of Australian hard rock’ throne, Airbourne. More on them in the next entry.


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