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Summer Breeze Festival 2014 @ Flugplatzstr, Dinkelsbühl, Germany

Various Artists
in Thursday, 14 August 2014 at Flugplatzstr
by Erika Kuenstler

There’s nothing like ending things off with a bang, and what better way to end the summer than at Germany’s second biggest Metal festival? This year’s Summer Breeze saw 112 bands play on three open air stages and one indoor stage over a four day festival to crowds over 60 000 strong.

Although officially running from Wednesday 13 to Saturday 16 August, festival goers swarmed to the airfields outside of Dinkelsbühl as early as Tuesday, camping outside the as-yet unopened festival, eagerly waiting in line for the next morning when the gates would open. Already then, the festival atmosphere wafted infectiously through the air, until the entire parking lot outside the festival was one big party, with beer flowing freely, and with Metal anthems mingling through the air, blasted on car radios or through portable speakers. This carried on until 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning when the gates opened and security wove their way through the cars, ensuring that the city of tents that had sprung up overnight were taken down and relocated to the camping areas that had been set aside. Once inside, a spectacular sunrise over acres of lush green fields awaited the campers, with huge tracts of land to choose from. However, what were once verdant pastures were soon tramped into veritable quagmires over the course of the festival, thanks to the incessant rain that sporadically fell on each day of the festival. Nevertheless, the campsites were well equipped with portaloos that were in surprisingly good condition for most of the festival. In addition to this, the campsites themselves were furnished with other facilities such as supermarket tents, first aid tents, refreshment stands, as well as stations where one could recharge cellphone batteries for free.

Wednesday, the official warm-up party day, saw two of the stages open and showcasing bands, whilst last-minute constructions still took place on the two main stages which opened a day later. After a leisurely time to find friends, set up base camp, and take a gander through the multitude of merch stands and food stalls, the music officially kicked-off at 2pm, running until 3am the next morning. This lineup featured a whole host of bands catering to every taste, with everything from neo-hippy bands such as THE VINTAGE CARAVAN and BLUES PILLS all the way to the more extreme end of the metal spectrum with bands such as PENTAGRAM (CHILE) and my personal favourites of the day, DECAPITATED.

The official first day of the festival began on Thursday, as witnessed by the massive influx of people joining the festival. A band that many were looking forward to seeing was ARCH ENEMY; many wanted to see how Alissa White Gluz faired as successor to one of the best known female Metal vocalists, Angela Gossow. And, based on the crowd’s reception, Alissa did superbly. By no means inexperienced, Alissa certainly seems like the right person for the job, capturing the crowd with seemingly effortless natural flair. Other highlights of the day included DOWN, BEHEMOTH, TESTAMENT, and EQUILIBRIUM, with the headliners of the night being Finnish legends CHILDREN OF BODOM, with Summer Breeze being their last European festival of the year.

The penultimate day of the festival, which was mercifully a public holiday in Germany, was even more raucous than the last. A definite highlight was J.B.O. Being German, and thus having the home-ground advantage, J.B.O. had one of the largest audiences of the festival, despite their early slot. In addition to this, J.B.O. was celebrating their 25th birthday, with several spectacles to mark the festivities. Inflatable plastic swords in screaming tones of pink had been handed out all day, ensuring that the crowd was awash with fans touting the J.B.O. branded sword high in the sky. And to make things that much more pink, hundreds of packets of pink powder were thrown into the audience, dying everything and everyone in their chaotic trajectories a bright pink colour. Another crowd-favourite who also dabbles in parody Metal was EXCREMATORY GRINDFUCKERS; the tent in which they performed in their Christmas themed stage outfits was overflowing, with many fans choosing to watch the band on the massive screen outside, rather than trying to fit into the already jam-packed tent. My favourite performance of the day was HYPOCRISY; this Swedish Death Metal band put on an excellent performance that drew quite a fanatical crowd. Other big names gracing the stage included GAMMA RAY, CARCASS, DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, and AUGUST BURNS RED, with the headliners of the night being Californian metallers MACHINE HEAD.

And with stunning rapidity, it was already time for the final day of the festival. This day’s lineup saw bands like TARJA, KAMPFAR, WINTERSUN, IN EXTREMO, and THYRFING take to the stage, with the headliners being HEAVEN SHALL BURN, another exceptionally well received German band.  However, the most outstanding performance of the festival, in my opinion at least, was WATAIN. Red and orange stage lights cast an infernal glow across a stage draped in flames, with macabre hangings of butchered providing the perfect backdrop as they held their audience captivated by their hellish hymns.

Singing sessions were also aplenty, with Metal Hammer and having organised a total of almost 50 sessions with various bands, including names such as DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, ABORTEDSKELETONWITCH, ELUVEITE, AUGUST BURNS RED, GAMMA RAY, and OBITUARY. One of the longest queues I saw there was for WINTERSUN, with the line snaking backwards and forwards on itself several times. Even the steady rainfall didn’t deter these fans, as they stood forlornly in a seemingly endless queue, hoping for an autograph. Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes of the festival occurred when a sudden shift in the clouds allowed just enough sunshine through to create a rainbow; from my vantage-pointed it looked as if the end of the rainbow was directly over the booth where WINTERSUN sat meeting their devoted fans.

However, no festival is without its flaws, and one of the most frequent complaints was that the area around the stages had no places to sit whilst you wait for the next band you want to see. Had the weather been fine, this wouldn’t have been a problem, one could have simply sat on the grass; but considering the ground had been turned to sludge, this was not an option. It also would have been nice if a few bins had been provided, at least in the proximity of the numerous food-stalls, but these too were conspicuous by their complete absence, resulting in unnecessarily large piles of debris by the end of each day. Nevertheless, organising a festival of such magnitude is no mean feat, and the fact that everything else ran so smoothly stands testament to how much solid work went into making it all possible. A big thumbs up to the Summer Breeze team and all those whose work went into making such an event possible!

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Edited 28 September 2020

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