COPENHELL festival 2019 –
- by Andrea Chirulescu
- Posted on 24-06-2019
I’ll talk about the concerts a bit later, without going into extended concert reviews, but the coming part is about the festival altogether, since I am left with such a pleasant impression after the three days in Copenhagen and now my experience with Scandinavian festivals has expanded beyond Norway and Finland and one cannot help but compare. And the comparisons I make are between outdoors festivals of this size. First of all, the weather was pretty much on our side. Well, a few drops here and there, but nothing tragic. Actually, Thursday was so sunny that I’ve seen a lot of pink Scandinavians who probably didn’t have the best of Fridays afterwards. Festival area is located at Refshaleøen, a 15 minutes bus ride from the central station, and even a free bus ride if you catch the dedicated festival shuttle number 666 and it’s not during rush-hour. Really helpful idea and thanks to whoever made this possible. The entrance to the festival went pretty smooth, as I arrived quite early on Thursday. Few hours later I noticed a giant queue, probably when people had finished work, so I guess not everyone agrees with me on this one.
The festival area is somewhat circular, the three stages being in the middle, thus making it easy to keep the backstages secured and compact. Then, all around the stages there’s shopping streets, offering all sort of food types – with the most inventive of names, both for the foods and for the actual stand – drinks and merch. But in some areas of the circle (well, actually oval), there is extra space where one can find a giant beer garden and huge tent where you get this Valhalla feeling when random people stand up to cheer and then hundred other voices reply loudly. Another area is dedicated to whoever feels like smashing a car with any of the metal hammers, pipes or the likes offered by Smadreland or who wants to have a headbanging contest (which also involved some beer) or to watch a freak/magic/burlesque show on the tiny Panopticum stage. I found out that big parts of it were presented by the entertainers in Pain Solution (from Norway), and I highly recommend you catch their shows if you happen to run into one.
Overall it feels like Copenhell has everything for almost everyone, including donuts and waffles. I noticed some queues for the burger and beer places, but I personally never had to be in a queue for more than 2 minutes (except when I waited for the festival merch, but that also went really quick on Friday afternoon). I heard people complaining that Live Nation festivals are too big and find them very annoying with all the queues systems not working and everything being badly organized. I am sorry to hear about such experiences, maybe my access to the Press area, located inside the R.I.P. (local VIP version) area, made a difference, plus the fact that most of the times I stick to filling my water bottle and rarely have to queue for drinks. And while it makes sense that if you need a beer during a show, you want to go to the nearest bar (together with a bunch of other people watching exactly the same show as you), all other alcohol selling places a bit further away have little to no queue. So maybe it’s an advantage to be more mobile during the concerts. But I must admit that I also got the impression that most people at serving points were constantly learning how things work, so it felt like the logistics there could have used some improvement.
Still on the alcohol matter, after the experiences with Norwegian concerts and festivals, I was quite in awe at the relaxed policy noticed here. They sell you beer cans and you get to keep the can? And it is not opened in front of you and you can actually walk around without practising your juggling skills? Whoa. Also not harassing the tipsy people is something else that events in Norway really suck at. Of course it’s nice to prevent someone from going in a coma, but considering all they do there is to kick someone outside the event area and then leave them out in the street, it really feels like an idiotic legislation. Anyway, this review is not about the Norwegian alcohol laws, but I can’t help but notice and compare how much more friendly the atmosphere gets, how easier it is for the security people when there is way less pressure of baby sitting happy metal heads. Another big plus for the Danish festival is the fact that they seem to understand what concerts are about and the fact that there will be crowdsurfing. So instead of placing huge signs saying it is forbidden and taking everyone ‘by surprise’ when it happens, they display educational texts on the huge monitors, advising people to help eachother, to not step on someone who fell to the ground. Aka, to practise common sense. Hail to that!
Another bonus for Copenhell and maybe for the whole Danish culture was the cleanliness. Of course there’s trash, but way less than other festivals. Because there are PLENTY of bins, bigger, smaller, plastic bags attached by the fences in front of the stages, and I even saw people actively looking for them to throw away their garbage items (I found out this is something recent, as it used to be way worse before. If this is the case, another round of applause to whatever led to this behavior). Also, the festival invested in a big number of ‘single’ pissoirs which got attached to the fence that goes around the hill which is facing the two main stages. Hence there’s fewer people randomly pissing in every corner and making certain areas really unpleasant to be around (although a bunch of a drunken guys and a girl decided the fence between the two stages is a perfect location for taking a leak…). I’ve also witnessed a less pleasant situation when the flushing system of a lot of the toilets in one of the toilet areas stopped functioning, so most toilets were not usable due being too full. But other than this incident, there’s very few things to complain about. Maybe the return bus on Thursday was a bit chaotic due the lack of a queue system and the fact that the road to the festival only has one lane in each direction. And when you have thousands of people, cars, buses, bicycles and other transport devices trying to leave an area at the same time, it leads to a bit of waiting. I could also complain about dust, as I didn’t realize this area of the city, surrounded by water, was not asphalt only, so by the end of each day my hair felt like barbed wire and nothing had its original colors anymore. But it can surely be worse and this is just a matter of not knowing the area. Next time I will be prepared with clothes that I don’t mind throwing away after the event. Or I might have to locate the area where Gorenje has their washing machines in action and where you can rent bathrobes and slippers while you wait for your clothes to get cleaned.
The two main stages of the festival, Helvíti and Hades, are close to eachother, both facing a hilltop which allows people to sit during the concerts, while still having a perfect view over the performances. And the sound, wow…Of course, the wind was interfering with it, but it was rather impressive how clean it felt from almost anywhere I watched. The stage were also tall enough to allow for a good view, but that made things a bit complicated for the photographers. On the main stage, the organizers decided to place two ‘cage’ like platforms where photographers would stand rights in front of the stage, so that security people could watch over the crowd and especially crowdsurfers without having to worry about the people with expensive camera being in their way. Reminded me a bit of the way photographers were placed at the Live Aid concert.
I arrived early on Thursday (I left early from Oslo, meaning I had to be up since 5 AM) to catch Demons and Wizard after having had heard good things about the show from a friend who recently watched it. Indeed, Hansi Kürsch still has that particular voice of his and uses it perfectly and, together with Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer/ the rest of the guys on stage, they made for the perfect festival opener. The grunge rock act Stone Temple Pilots followed on the main stage and due a mixture of it being too hot and still trying to figure out the area (aka walking too long to locate certain places), I didn’t get in the mood for their music. Instead I left back to the hotel so I could checking and deliver the luggage to my room, thinking I’d be a short trip and I’d be back in no time. I miscalculated the rush hour, so I ended up missing Refused and a bunch of acts on the smallest stage – Pandemonium. I got back just in time for Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Guitar bonanza, a charismatic front man and an eager audience and I don’t even know when the entertaining concert ended. I never saw Halestorm live, so I was rather curious about the next show. The Grammy Award winning act delivers with a lot of passion and tightness, being led with style by vocalist Lzzy Hale. But not being my cup of music, I stick to the visual impressions. I even got to witness a bit of the Fever 333 show, which seemed to be pure insanity in their hip-hop’ish-hardcore mix which seemed to send everyone flying while performing.
Finally, time to find a good spot on the grass and wait for the magic to unveil. I had just witnessed Tool in Prague a few weeks prior to Copenhell and it was an unearthly experience. Therefore I couldn’t help it but set very high expectations for what was to come. Luckily, Maynard and co have exceeded them and offered me a 90 minutes trip that will be hard to top or to ever forget. I haven’t figured out who is responsible for the visuals of this show, but all the hats off in front of that/those person/s. While Tool’s music has always been in it’s own class of excellence, with one of the coolest bass lines, the fact that someone has perfectioned visuals at the level witnessed at both of their shows (songs differed a bit, hence I guess visuals have to be arranged for each variation) is really mind blowing. The two new songs that they are performing during the tour sounded even more interesting now than in Prague, and I can only hope that the long awaited album, due to be released at the end of August, will be followed by even more shows. I need more Tool shows in my life.
Day two of Danish hell started with another miscalculated transport time, so I missed Manticora’s show. I recently saw them at Karmøygeddon in Norway and I was nicely impressed, so it’s a pity I couldn’t make it in time. Instead I caught some Trivium songs – 3 is the maximum I can tolerate, then I went to watch some car destruction and other side programs. Tesseract’s technicality and tightness is not something I got into when it comes to live shows. They are fascinating to listen to, but not to watch. Unlike the Danish new sensation, Baest, who had the support of every being in the audience and who delivered a mind blowing performance. I can only hope these guys are on a wave which will have them performing at a lot of events, as I’d love to experience them live again. I have heard of New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry and how well received they have been, so I naturally had to check out their show. Prior to it, a haka practise was held, so that the crowd would learn some moves and chants from the famous Maori war dance. When the 3 band members came on stage, they performed few minutes of Haka and then a maori ‘chief’ directed the crowd to perform the learned moves and probably one of the biggest Haka’s ever held in Scandinavia. It was a very energetic start of the show, and luckily the energy didn’t fade out once the music begun. I now understand what the hype is all about and there’s another band on my list of I’d like to watch them live again’.
Lamb of God, on the other hand, is a band I’ve seen MANY times. Never a dull show with these guys. While not all of their music feels as exciting as some of their classics, the madness of Randy Blythe is contagious and the crowd goes bananas for the duration of the whole concert. The crowdsurfers probably caused a lot of back pain to the security guys. Also he photographers might get some of that pain while trying to follow Blythe on stage and catch his crazy jumps. I forgot that Chris Adler is not performing with them on drums, but I can’t complain about the way Art Cruz managed the rhythm. Speaking of rhythm, it was really amazing to watch Clutch live as the next act, since their grooviness and passionate blue rock seemed to move everyone’s legs and make them dance with big smiles on their faces. Neil Fallon is still a charismatic leader and has a wonderful voice, which live delivers as pleasant as on the recordings. With Randy Blythe as a guest, things got even more interesting. Due a little accident with a dude who fell on me and my leg while I was sitting on the grass, I decided to call it quits for the day and skip Slipknot and Heilung and most important, the bus queue. While I am sorry for missing Slipknot’s energy, I don’t think a Heilung show can beat the experience I had last year when watching them at Dark Bombastic Evening, on a small stage, with few hundreds people in the audience. The ritual is fading a lot in bigger venues/crowds.
Saturday started with the folkish melodies from the Swiss act Eluveitie and their cool mix of interesting instruments and metal. Always a pleasant appearance and everyone being in a good mood, it washed away the tiredness of the past days. Main stage was opened by the American rockers in Living Colour, who delivered an incredible lesson in funkiness and a fantastic mix of grooves from a wide range of genres. But most of all, it was a lesson in creativity, maybe not the most obvious choice for a metal festival, yet I saw a huge number of people smiling and dancing their asses off. And that bass, god damn, how much groove it delivered. Ending the show with an own redention of ‘Should I stay or should I go’ gave me such a good mood for the rest of the day. The trip in time continued with Glenn Hughes on the second stage, treating us with classic Deep Purple hits and grooves and a lovely Hammond organ sound. Too bad Orange Goblin overlapped with Glenn Hughes, making me run a bit between the two stages, since the British act is always an impressive live act who knows how to unleash chaos.
But the Swedes in Amon Amarth raised the chaos norm with a few levels and triggered the viking spirit among the fellow Scandinavians. After photographing their first three songs, I went by the moshpit area and damn, that was insane. The dust lifted when people ran around or sat down on the ground to start the ‘rowpit’, made it impossible to see the stage at times. Being so entertained by the action in the moshpit, I missed the fact that LG Petrov guested this show. Oh, and there was no economy when it came to pyro effects during this show. I didn’t pay attention to what ’10 years in hell’ performance was about, only to realize towards its end that it meant a celebration of 10 years of Copenhell and a big bunch of Danish musicians gathered on stage to perform both local and international hits. Instead, I went to grab some food and then to watch Municipal Waste which triggered an even higher level of insanity in the moshpit through their thrashiness. Too bad I missed the part when Tony Foresta invited everyone to crowdsurf and you could see tens of crowdsurfers in the air at once. Although I’d surely have mixed feelings about this, thinking how uncool it must be for people in the first rows and also for the guards. Speaking of guards, this is another detail which made me keep comparing to other festivals that I attended. Prior to each show, they’d have a small gathering, delegating tasks and responsibilities, but other than that they were most of the time full of smiles and dancing and singing. And well, seriously handling the crowdsurfers or other situations. But I haven’t experienced an angry security person who thinks they’re ruling the world just because they wear the security vest. I don’t think the festival uses a dedicated security company, and that is probably why those who volunteer for this job are treating the concert goers in a friendlier way. But maybe I am wrong. And I also noticed that the guards don’t ‘guard’ the moshpits, not try to stop them, nor prevent people from lifting their girlfriends on the shoulders. And somehow people survive and have a good time.
Rob Zombie took over the main stage next and entertained the crowd with his famous horror show and a bunch of moving images in the backdrop. All the 3 mobile band members kept changing outfits from song to song and by the crowd’s reaction, I believe they are very loved and they received very loud cheers when covering School’s Out or performing the ending song, Dragula. Back to the second stage for some Norwegian metal delivered by black metallers Dimmu Borgir. Last time I saw them, I could hardly see the band due the amount of smoke that they used. And pretty sure they used as much now, but the bigger outdoor stage helped it to disperse and spread more evenly, so it actually had the desired dramatic effect for the band’s show. The sound made them more justice after I moved away from the photopit and I believe the crowd was satisfied with watching Dimmu live in Denmark.
Scorpions was up next on the main stage, but as they had photo restrictions and due the fact that we were not allowed to photograph from the photo pit, combined with the taste of ‘dust’ in my mouth and the feeling I keep breathing sand, I decided not to wait for the performance of the Germans and their beloved rock hits. And all the regrets I felt on the way back to the hotel were really washed away by one of the longest showers ever.
Even if I missed the main acts on two out of three days, I am really happy with the concerts that I have witnessed at Copenhell, as some of the smaller acts are more rewarding for me personally. I am also thankful for being offered the chance to photograph at this year’s Copenhell, even if there have been quite a number of restrictions for acts whom I never saw restrictions on. Maybe another aspect of the collaboration with Live Nation? It’d be sad if that’s the case. But the facilities for the press area were very nice and we need to say big thanks to the people who made sure we have drinks in the fridge and a nice quiet room to rest in between concerts. If Copenhell stays at this size and with such cool lineup, I’d probably love to come back and experience more of Danish friendliness. And liqorice.