[ note: all the live shots can be enlarged by clicking on them ]
Bang Your Head-festival in Stuttgart was running this year for the 9th time, but for yours truly it was a virgin trip. Being familiar with Wacken Open Air since 1998 there wasn't as much expectations for the two day BYH-festival. But the band line-up sure was great; Cage, Ruffians, Shok Paris, Kingdom Come, Blaze, Primal Fear, Anthrax, Children Of Bodom, Gotthard, Queensr˙che, Alice Cooper, Majesty, Ballistic, Angel, Omen, Lillian Axe, Death Angel, Magnum, UFO, Sebastian Bach, Testament and Iced Earth. I was feeling really nostalgic too, when it came to most of the bands. About 10 years had passed since I'd last seen many of those bands. Not to mention this was the first time for me to attend a Gotthard and Lillian Axe show, being a fan from late eighties.
Our journey began by driving from Stuttgart airport with a rental car that was already giving us trouble with a drifting front seat. But a little fixing eased our worries from a terrible car crash scenery where flying through the front window with the loose seat couldn't have been avoided. As our trip went on, we couldn't fool ourselves anymore from the fact that we were cursed. Or actually we were victims of a Candid Camera Show...Already on the Helsinki-Vantaa airport an internet machine ate our money and it was babbling strange alphabets on its screen which we couldn't understand for the heck of it. And as we went to the check-in, somehow Kari got fooled and one of his tiny bags ended up travelling somewhere below us, and there wasn't no point in sending it there. We had to wait for one measly bag after the flight. Of course we had forgotten our local map at home, so we had to travel with some internet instructions to our hotel to leave some of our stuff there. Strangely our drive brought us straight to the hotel, eventhough the instructions were really bad and in german and all of us knew only a few german sentences and words. Our hotel Lamm's door decided to play tricks on us, so we went through some battle before getting it open. And when you wanted to go out, keys were needed to the door...but the hotel and the non-english speaking staff was nice. We got what we wanted and the drive to the festival area was as short as approx 20 km.
The parking area was situated really close to the festival area, so you only had to walk about five minutes. We managed to get our passes really fast and the ticket lines didn't seem too long either. The weather was a bit cloudy, but it never rained. We got to the area just in time to see KINGDOM COME, whose set was only 40 minutes long, but that was the case with most of the bands. Lenny Wolf was having trouble with his voice. He was in a flu and really pale, but seemed to enjoy the show. He tried to give his best for the fans who didn't like what they heard, but he did get sympathy from the crowd. He couldn't reach the highest notes and overall was having a hard time with the singing. "Do You Dare", "Always On The Run","Only Rainbows Know", "Should I" and "Living Out Of Touch" were heard at least, but the set could've included more familiar songs. After their show I was supposed to have a chat with Wolf, but at the time he only had to give me an apology and a handshake for not being capable to speak, but maybe later.
While BLAZE was on stage with one of Iron Maiden tunes, "Man On The Edge", (and drinking after the show among the crowd), and PRIMAL FEAR were playing their quite impressive shows, we wandered around to get into the athmosphere. People were already quite pissed in the early hours and at some point Kari even saw a bunch of guys in a strange "wrestling" match in the middle of the audience and after that one of the guys peed on them. I'm glad I didn't see that and you can bet we don't have pictures of it! There was a tent full of records where you paid to get in, like in Wacken. I bought my cd's outside and found some great rare ones. There was also the signing tent where you could get autographs from musicians, even from bands who weren't playing at the festival this year, like Doro. I had the luck of meeting her and changing a few quick words and a pic. She was really sweet. Doro will be performing at BYH next year. All in all BYH has most of the activities Wacken does, which is great. The music fans don't get to meet their bands that easily, but in festivals the signing sessions and live interviews are a big plus. You can also hear prerelease presentations of cd's and dvd's and get some promostuff.
Traditionally there's only one stage in BYH, which is great considering the walking you have to do in some other festivals. And you won't miss out on any important bands, though you see fewer of course. Both days started at 10 in the morning already, but the biggest bands played last and longest. BYH has been growing in audience numbers during the years, the year 2003 had 36 000 visitors and 2004 runs around the same numbers. Eventhough there were loads of people, it was really easy to get to the front row althrough the festival. People were quite polite. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd; guys from Death Angel, Thomas Bauer (Frontline/Evidence One) and Lillian Axe for instance.
When ANTHRAX hit the stage, some of the crowd was really into them, though most people were watching the band just chilling out. The band was having a great time though and it's amazing how hot they still are. John Bush is a powerful singer and I've always liked his voice eventhough I still prefer Joey Belladonna's voice to Anthrax's music. The band was moshing like in the good old eighties and that stuck to me a bit also, eventhough I haven't listened to the band in ages, but the lyrics are still stuck inside me. They played a powerful set with a great selection of songs; "N.F.L.", "Got The Time", "Caught In A Mosh", "Fueled", "My Safe Home", "Antisocial", "What Doesn't Die", "Madhouse", "Be All, End All" and "Indians".
Once again I missed out CHILDREN OF BODOM, since I was doing an interview at the time. But the fans insured they sounded and played as mad as before and I did hear bits and pieces too. We do have pictures (above, the two on the right) for you though.
The Swiss hard rock group GOTTHARD was among the best bands in BYH, they put up a show that should've been taken to arenas. They sounded as huge as Bon Jovi with influences coming from all over and their singer Steve Lee has a charisma to take over even bigger stages with his huge and powerful voice. The band was a joy to listen, their set included mostly newer songs, so as I was expecting a song like "Angel" from their debut, the setlist was a bit disappointing for me. But they started the set with the rocking "Standing In The Light" and that really worked live. Other great rockers from them were "Firedance", "Human Zoo", their cover of Deep Purple's "Hush" with fooling around on stage with "Smoke On The Water" bits and some crowd singing. The rest of the songs heard were "Make My Day", "Cheat 'N' Hide", "Top Of The World", "Let It Be", "Sister Moon", "Movin' On". The band convinced many first-timers for Gotthard and Germans seemed to like them quite a lot judging from the huge crowd.
Sadly I have to say that Geoff Tate's voice isn't carrying as much as back in Sweden Rock last year, eventhough it wasn't that good back then either. Balingen saw QUEENSR˙CHE with the female singer Pamela Moore, who's been joining the band lately on stage and did the Sister Mary parts on "Operation: Mindcrime"-album. Now she was singing her parts again, but somehow it was disappointing that only half of the set was sung by the legendary Tate. The band played the "Operation: Mindcrime" from beginning to end, but as much as I love the album the show hardly got me into the mood the album always does. As an encore they played the amazing "Take Hold Of The Flame". And as it wasn't enough that Tate's voice almost made you cry from desperation, you could hardly even hear the vocals and the sounds were terrible too. The crowd was looking really bored and disappointed, though some were really excited to finally see them live, but the band was still trying to put up some kind of a show. Everytime Moore walked on stage she was in another outfit reflecting the songs and when she sang, Tate was glancing her with admiration. But Moore's parts didn't go all that well either, eventhough I've always thought her voice fits perfectly for the part of Sister Mary. The band was almost in its original line-up, but guitarist Mike Stone replaced Chris DeGarmo.
ALICE COOPER was the main band on Friday and it was nice to see him on stage once more. As the weather was starting to get quite cold, it wasn't nice to notice the band was 20 minutes late from the schedule. His set was two hours long, so you would've thought to hear plenty of great songs in it. But as his latest album goes back to old school metal and seventies, most of the show was also spent there with the typical sets; Alice the albino python, Cooper with his top hat and the stick, wearing his straight jacket, draging a woman doll all over the stage, slitting a woman's throat, a gang fight in which the gang is beaten up by an acrobatic woman who also strangles Cooper, but is then beaten up by Cooper. There were loads of activity on stage and if you didn't know what the man is about, you probably missed out a lot of things from the show. The woman on stage in many parts was Cooper's own daughter Calico, who's been touring with Alice before and has now taken the place of Alice's wife on stage. The intro of "Black Julu" started the show, followed by; "Hello Hooray", "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Man Of The Year", "Billion Dollar Babies", "Between High School & Old School", "Muscle Of Love", "Be My Lover", "Who Do You Think We Are ?", "What Do You Want From Me ?", "I´m Eighteen", "Desperado", "Halo Of Flies", drum solo which was just annoying since the show was already so long and you started getting cold at the late hours, only followed by a long guitar show, "Sick Things", "Gutter Cat Vs The Jets-Backyard Brawl", "Cold Ethyl", "Only Women Bleed", "Ballad Of Dwight Fry", "School´s Out", "Brutal Planet-Wicked Young Man"- medley, "Poison", the band introduction, (Eric Dover & Ryan Roxie-guitar, Tommy Clufetos-drums, Chuck Garric-bass) and last "Under My Wheels". Alice is still a great showman and like "Only Women Bleed" proved once again, he can still touch you even from all that gore.
Quickly after the show ended we had to try and find something to eat. The festival area offered quite poor vegetarian food, though beer was everywhere and typical german sausages and food alike. You had to buy polets when buying beer. We ended up driving to a nearby McDonald's which was the only place open at midnight. But before getting there "Smile, you're on Candid Camera" pulled its prank on us again and we ended up driving to a roads end that looked really suspicious. We fled fast to save our souls.
MAJESTY and BALLISTIC were the openers for the day, but we missed them. The seventies band ANGEL with their UFO-like hard rock, accompanied with LILLIAN AXE guitarist Steve Blaze, was the first experience of the day and the band lightened the stage in fully white clothes. A strange image in headbangers eyes, and in Steve Blaze's case he seemed a completely different guy from his Lillian Axe-looks. Well, these guys probably fell down from heaven as their name suggests, their set sounded perfect and clean enough, even that I didn't know any of the songs played, and their singer Frank DiMino sang well. Barry Brandt, drums, was also still with the band, the only two original members still left. The band seemed to be a strange pick for the festival, since most of the fans were quite young and more into the thrash side. Angel was an energetic band and their try of getting some action going was good enough, but the crowd didn't seem to be too interested or then it was the sun that was heating up the places. But the crowd sure gave good applause to the band, so all in all the band seemed to be quite pleased at the welcome.
OMEN was playing between Angel and LILLIAN AXE, but we caught the latter one with not so good sounds. But LA were among the most vivid bands and seing them live for the first time anything is a plus. Steve Blaze, Ron Taylor and Darrin DeLatte got close to the fans even that there was the wide photo/security pit in between during the whole festival. The set surprised with mostly the not so familiar songs from the band. Since the set was very short, there was time for only eight songs; "Misery Loves Company", "Letters In The Rain", "Deepfreeze", "The World Stopped Turning", "Become A Monster", "Mercy", "All's Fair In Love And War" and "Crucified". The band got great feedback from their fans, though this band must be at home in clubs with a warmer atmosphere. In spite of the sounds, they put up a show that convinced me to see them once more if ever given that chance, as this was supposed to be Ron Taylor's last gig with the band after his long commitment with them. But he promised he would continue in the music business, so keep your ears and eyes open. The guys were having a great time among the BYH-crowd after their show, signing pictures and such and even enjoyed the Iced Earth show as the last band that day.
DEATH ANGEL didn't fall nowhere behind from them, as they enjoyed their time off among their fans too and answered questions with patience and posed for pictures, as you can see when I ran into the guys. Their show was again among the best, the band is an energizer bunny that spreads the good vibes all over and not even their harsh looks can turn you away from such fun. Their live act hasn't changed in over ten years, the guys have kept their young and playful hearts. We saw Mark Osegueda tumbling down on the stage smiling all along. The other guys were also thrashing around crazy. For the most enthusiast fans the band was seen on Thursday night in Rockdisco WOM near the festival area along with Ruffians, Shok Paris and Ballistic, a second show following on Friday with Omen and Italian Doomsword. The Death Angel set in the actual BYH festival included a bunch of great thrashers; "Thrown to The Wolves", "Voracious Souls", "Thicker Than Blood", "Disturbing The Peace", "Evil Priest", "The Devil Incarnate", "Bored", "Stagnant", "Seemingly Endless Time" and "Kill As One".
Before MAGNUM hit the stage I had a quick interview with their singer Bob Catley, who turned out to be a gentleman, dressed like one also. I had to rush afterwards to see their show, as after the interview Bob and the band immediately walked on stage, Bob was already wearing his live outfit while doing the interview. Once again Magnum didn't let no one down, they played the set through with sheer profession and in great spirit. The sounds were favourable towards Magnum and the crowd really seemed to love the band, who seem to be really confident and relaxed on stage. It's amazing how their old songs from the seventies can still sound so powerful today and even beat the best of those symphonic acts. The set was a mix of old classics to the new songs from the great "Brand New Morning"-album; "All England's Eyes", "Wild Swan", "Brand New Morning", "Backstreet Kid", "Les Morts Dansant", "We All Run", their beautiful and powerful "How Far Jerusalem" and "Kingdom Of Madness". UFO continued from there with a similar set to their show in Sweden Rock this year. The band sounded as good here also, so for their fans the show was perfect, with the complete rock star line-up.
SEBASTIAN BACH was one of the acts that drew metalfans like magnet towards the stage. It's been a while since anyone's seen the man live, so everyone was really anxious to see the band. It's been 13 years for me since the last show from Skid Row, who were always very powerful and lively on stage and it seemed with this show that there never were those 13 years in between. Sebastian Bach was looking as good as ever and going with full force all over places and he was still the same motormouth he's known from. The whole band had a great time in BYH (Mark "Bam Bam" McConnell (ex-Wasp/Madam X, etc), Randall X Rawlings (Dead Tight 5), Brian "Cheeze" Hall, ex-Dead Tight 5 & Black Bone and Paul Crook (Meat Loaf, ex-Anthrax). The set was brilliant of course, since it was mostly Skid Row tunes (haven't heard Bach's solo work) and the whole show went really smoothly without being boring at all and Bach giving the crowd some speaches between the songs; "Slave To The Grind", "Big Guns", "Riot Act", "Piece Of Me", "Frozen", "Here I Am", "18 And Life", "I'll Never Turn My Back On (Rock'n'Roll)", "Sweet Little Sister", "The Threat", "Monkey Business", "I Remember You" and "Youth Gone Wild".
TESTAMENT's show didn't go as planned, as their amps were cut off while they were still playing. This was due to other bands' delays in the schedule plus mishaps along the way. Testament was supposed to shorten their set like Iced Earth did, but somehow the information didn't go through to them, so the show got a sad ending. But otherwise everything went great, and Steve Smyth (Nevermore/Dragonlord) joined in to replace Eric Peterson who injured his leg recently. They played a set similar to their show in Sweden Rock this year and Chuck Billy and the band were going strong again. I can recommed this band live, I've never seen a bad show from them, they're still as great as in the early nineties.
ICED EARTH seemed to be pretty powerful with the new singer Tim "Ripper" Owens, though somehow their set was a bit boring and Owens sounded too technical without emotion compared to Matthew Barlow. And as he sang a heartfelt song like "Melancholy", I didn't find that awesome feeling anymore when I saw Iced Earth with Barlow before. But otherwise they had a good show and the crowd loved them. Even Sebastian Bach and his gang came to check the band out, watching the show from the photopit, sitting right in front of the wildest Iced Earth fans, just drinking beer and enjoying themselves. Amazing how peacefully they could sit there from all that thrashing. And of course the headliner has to beat the earlier bands of the day, so Iced Earth was really noisy. They played both "Something Wicked" and "Gettysburg"-trilogies and the sets had canons on both sides of the stage, fire and a lot more based on their latest album. Even that the band played very well, though were noisy, the guys mainly stood at one place so there wasn't much action going on. But they must've been pleased at the welcome they got from the huge mass of people. Later that evening Sebastian Bach met their guitarist Ralph Santolla and now the guy has switched camps to the Bach band. Also drummer Bobby Jarzombek (Halford/Riot) replaced Richard Christy, as he decided to move on to the Howard Stern show, so the band has went through quite a lot of changes recently. The full setlist; "Declaration Day", "Burning Times", "Vengeance Is Mine", "Violate", "Melancholy", "My Own Savior", "Prophecy", "Birth of the Wicked", "The Coming Curse", "The Devil To Pay", "Hold At All Costs" and "High Water Mark".
Both nights ended at eleven o'clock, not that late really, but we were really tired after everything. The festival ground was quite empty in thirty minutes after the bands had finished, but backstage people were still having fun and the place was packed. We still watched the amazing fireworks afterwards, which complited the festival for us. The city of Tübingen was still very lively though, so we stayed there for a while for a late dinner. The next day was mostly spent in the car cursing with maps (tried to do some sightseing) and on the airplane tired, along with other festival people who were still drunk and had some really tasteless jokes they kept repeating throughout the short flight, which felt like it would never end. The peaceful festival grounds in BYH gave us a good impression, though there were some difficulties organizing things for RockUnited. But all in all a good trip and a fun-filled festival worth going to.
Big thank you's go out to Thomas Michel (Heavy-Oder-Was?!) and the promoters Frank Suepfle and Mirko Marten, who were very helpful arranging the interviews and all. Also thank you to the bands for co-operation and being so kind towards us.