TONS OF ROCK 2022 – festival review

TONS OF ROCK 2022 – festival review

Photos by Andrea Chirulescu

Yes, there’s currently life after a world wide pandemic that managed to put almost everything on hold for two years. And one of the most missed aspects of life – for some of us – were big open air festivals, mainly Tons Of Rock for the inhabitants of Oslo and surroundings. It was incredibly nice to be able to once again complain about the crowded buses to and from Ekebergsletta and have again interesting dialogues with your legs, convincing them it’s not long til they reach home, if they keep on going for some more minutes. The mix of tiredness and immense joy at the end of each of the festival days is difficult to capture in words. So I’ll try instead to write down some memories both about the overall festival related stuff but also the concerts that I have attended. Do keep in mind that I was also photographing at the event and even if I went with minimal equipment, compared to a lot of my colleagues, I still had to take some breaks and just skip ‘important’ acts for the sake of my back and my good mood.

I’ll quickly drop some lines on what seemed to be the biggest complaints that I have heard. Not that anyone I know is an expert in festival logistics, and I am sure there must be explanations for why this or that decision was made, yet, they led to certain levels of annoyance. It’s mainly three of them: toilet placement, the amount of food selling stands and secondary stages facing each other and overlapping concerts leading to weird sounds. I honestly don’t recall how toilets were placed the previous years, but for 2022 there were only two ‘batches’ of tons of toilets located one next to the main entrance (and somewhat close to main stage) and one next to Scream stage. So should you spend your time by the third stage, beer craft area or most of the food or tents located nearby, you’d have to walk half the field either way. Which felt a bit annoying in the scorching heat. The second reason of annoyance were that it felt there’s too few food selling points. The queues during peak hours were so huge that you had to miss one act in order to get some food. All while there seemed to have rarely been any queue for beers. Which is surely nice, but maybe a bit better balance would help. Of course, we also don’t know the number of actors willing to take part in the food offerings for this year, as probably there’s a lot of them still struggling after the pandemics.

The third item on the complaints list is the positioning of the secondary stages. Previous years we had two tents, while this year there was a secondary outdoor stage and only one tent. Which is amazing in theory, as outdoor stage allows for bigger crowds and have several advantages (they also get you sunburnt faster, but that’s your problem). But, it was quite unfortunate that the two stages were facing each other and there were a lot of overlapping concerts. So you had to actually walk close enough to the Scream stage (the outdoor one) or be fully inside the tent of the Vampire stage in order to completely listen to only the sound coming from the specific stage. Should you be sitting down and having a little break at the area in between stages, it all ended up with such a weird musical cacophony that you wouldn’t be able to even realize if you might like some of the bands that you hadn’t heard of before. Their music would be rather modified. Hopefully future editions will bring improvements to the logistics of the two stages and avoid this somehow. But then again, The Darkness sounded really interesting with Sepultura drumming.

And that’s all that felt on the negative side of things. Besides the lack of time and energy to see all bands and meet all friends and spend few hours with each of them. But the rest was an absolute killer of a festival, so everyone involved in putting it together, from those who have spent the past years hoping and planning and cursing to those who joined the team as volunteers or as short term employees for just a few days, they were all a bunch of heroes with a tons of smiles on their faces. Seriously, even the patrolling police people would always stop by and have a nice chat with anyone interested and would mainly show good mood and relaxation. I personally charged all the batteries that have drained for the past years and that’s an amazing sensation, to feed on all the energy of people enjoying a beautiful moment in time. May it not get interrupted again!

The Tons of Craft beer tent was something which I haven’t noticed the previous years and it was nice to be able to have a variety of beer types, given the fact that metal festival goers are also some of the biggest beer drinkers and the breweries are way past producing 2 types of beers each. One could have shade, a cold dark beer, a special kind of IPA, or maybe something light and fruity, one could even play some arcade games and most important, be away from the intense sun. Speaking of which, it was really nice of the pharmacy actor that had a stand on the festival premises as they offered people free foldable water bottles and sunscreen (and teddy bears) and those are quite vital on warm days. It was so warm that the organizers decided to remind people via the app and the big screens to drink water and use sunscreen. By the third day, you could easily see those who kinda ignored the second advice.

As usual, the area offered a decent amount of merch tents, besides the official festival/bands merch area, an art tent, a VIP area, a huge wheel (think London Eye kinda wheel), and maybe a couple more places of interest that I have missed. We should maybe get one day off on festival grounds, without bands, just to have time to look at all the art pieces, check all the beer offers and so on. I know there’s an area with food tents where my feet never stepped since it was always on the other side. Oh, and I remember something about NFTs. Which was sad to see at a festival. Why would someone support this idiocy…but if people have money to waste, well, good luck.

One really cool and special thing about Tons Of Rock is that each of their edition is opened by the same band: BLACK DEBBATH (with a little speech from the city’s mayor), the Oslo based act delivering “Heavy Politically Incorrect Humor Rock”. Now they even have a Tons Of Rock hymn, besides the already classical songs dedicated to Ekeberg area (where the festival is held) and which has its share of political WTFs. Besides weird statues. And they’re such a loved band in Norway that the festival area gets decently filled up from the very first band. Smart move, this one! Oh, and this year they invited Cannibal Guttekorps, a brass mini orchestra who backed them up on different brass instruments for about half a concert. How cool is that!

The second outdooor stage, Scream, hosted a band which I was dumb enough to not have bookmarked in my schedule, even if I had read about them prior to the event: DEATH TO ALL, considered a “tribute” to Death and Chuck Schuldiner, who passed away more than 10 years ago. The band, features former Death Members Bobby Koelble, Gene Hoglan and Steve DiGiorgio as well as guitarist/singer of the the US prog metal band Cynic – Max Phelps taking over Schuldiner’s parts. But instead I went to the Vampire stage and watched Norwegian hardcore/heavy rockers SPIDERGAWD, a what is called supergroup as it contains members from rather important Norwegian music acts, such as Motorpsycho members Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther, Per Borten from Cadillac and New Violators as frontsinger. Plus an amazing sax player, Rolf Martin Snustad (Hopalong Knut), so I never regret a new chance at watching them live.

To avoid a heat stroke, I had to sit down a bit and skip Bullet For My Valentine. Kinda listened to the Welsh metallers in the background, but they haven’t impressed me much before and Thursday hasn’t changed that impression either. However, the next act on the Scream Stage is a fantastic musical experience. Called HEDVIG MØLLESTAD TRIO, the Norwegian act is well, a trio, built around Hedvig Møllestad who won the Molde jazz festival award for the youth category, before forming this project. She is such an inspiration to watch on stage, together with Ellen Brekken on bass and contrabass and Ivar Bjørnstad skilfully supporting the ladies on percussion. There’s no vocals in the music, just pure jazzy rocky fusion insanity. And actually a lovely addition to the world of ‘loudness’ at a metal festival.

EUROPE was absolutely superb on the main stage. I don’t have an impressive knowledge of their musical catalogue, I am one of those who only knows ‘the hits’. And they were played and enjoyed, but every other song was actually delivered with tons of joy and artistic mastery. Hats off to Joey and his bandmates. However, besides the vocal impression, almost everything else pales once BARONESS takes over the second stage. Seeming as if they drank all the coffee backstage, Georgia based sludge metallers really leveled the stage with their impressive drive and energy. And by Gods, those tons of constant smiles. Which was a nice followup from the Hedvig M. Trio, who also smiled endlessly. Main stage was next up hosting another band from Georgia/USA, this time MASTODON and their intense heavy metal. With a new album recently out, they had to mix some of the newer songs with older hits that worked better at suiting the crowd. However, after Baroness, their static stage show seemed rather dull.

One last round to the tent to catch some dose of death metal for the day, delivered by master Tägtren and his crew in HYPOCRISY. They were delayed quite a bit due what seemed to be issues with the in-ear system, so the enthusiasm of the concert faded a bit by the time they started and my personal issues that day didn’t allow me to stay for too much. They didn’t actually allow to see the performance of the mighty IRON MAIDEN, who were one of the main reason that the festival area seemed so packed. They must have the widest and most varied audience type ever, as I’ve seen people of all ages enjoying the moment to the max, before I left. And what’s not there to enjoy when the stage props and performance are absolute killers and the mix of old and new songs is a perfect choice from such a long musical career. The concert was still going when I reached home and to my surprise, you could still see and even recognise the songs from downtown Oslo. That’s how clear the sound was.

DAY 2 was opened by the crazy Danish rockers D-A-D, who, besides cool tunes, delivered some interesting visuals, especially from the funky shaped 2 stringed basses or the shiny outfits chosen for this performance. I’m sure they had their share of boiling in the early afternoon sun, but that didn’t stop them from performing with style and good mood. I should catch them again some day. A bit later, the tent stage was the odd choice for what’s probably one of the most intense band at any festival at the moment, both musically, visually and because of the situation in their country: the Ukrainian act JINJER, led by the fabulous Tatiana Shmayluk, a vocalist with tons of charisma and talent, who is a constant rollercoaster between suave moves and crazy headbanging, soft melodical singing and crazy growlings. She’s a joy to watch and listen to and as they recently got the clearance form their government to go and perform their live shows, she had to get the crowd to address some angry middle fingers to the mad Russian leader. As cool as it would be to be able to keep music away from politics, the current events are crossing several lines by now. Sadly! Hope they can soon travel without the issues that they face at the moment and that music and concerts can freely take place in Ukraine in the near future.

KATATONIA was supposed to play at the same time, but as they got sick recently they were replaced by GHAAL’S WYRD. I just couldn’t leave from the Jinjer concert though, so I don’t have much to report about this replacement. Instead, I went towards the main stage and watched STEEL PANTHER, which I am well aware how sleazy they are and that I am having mixed feelings about their overall message, but bringing the little Asian looking girl on stage and performing dry humping on her was way beyong the level of gross I thought they’d ever do, so I won’t even bother saying anything else about them. I’m glad the good energy of ACCEPT and their amazing drive on stage has quickly washed off those images, but sadly it was the time when I had to run and catch some food and shade, so I’d make it back in time for DIMMU BORGIR on the main stage. I love Dimmu’s music and their dramatic performances, and having Agnete Kjølsrud on stage to perform ‘Gateways’ was a big plus for them. But, as much as I tried, I don’t fully get immersed into their show in full daylight.

The Swedes in HELLACOPTERS were way luckier at getting my interest when they poured down their catchy riffs and good mood rock’n’roll on the Scream stage. No wonder they have been invited to open for acts such as The Rolling Stones. They’re perfect for that. I even wished they had the main stage instead of BRING ME THE HORIZON, but musical taste is subjective so I’ll leave it at that. I give them some thumbs up for when the singer climbed down from the stage and asked the crowd to come and give him hugs (and that gave the security guards some heart attacks I guess). But I left right after that to have a look at the merch area and see a bit of the art exposed at the festival, and I know for sure I would love to have more time (and money) to browse through all the exposed stuff. There’s something for everyone there. Everyone into a bit darker stuff I guess. And after that, my choice was between THE DARKNESS and SEPULTURA, and as I always love the energy of the Brazilian legends, I opted to negotiate with my legs for one last round to the tent stage. And damn, that was good. Derrick Green is never short of impressive with his overall stage presence and energy, but everyone in the band is delivering at least 150%. Watching the drummer Eloy Casagrande makes you wonder how he doesn’t actually end up underneath the stage. Oh and the crowd went so wild during this set. Unlike during the headliner’s set, when it seemed like a lot of people were actually leaving. KORN didn’t seem to have the same impact as Maiden, and unfortunately, the sound in the video had a slight delay, making it weird to watch from the sides. But didn’t last too long and joined the leaving crowd after some songs, and saluted my comfy bed with all the enthusiasm left for the day.

Saturday was supposed to be rainy, based on some forecasts. Then it was meant to be a super hot day. It was actually a slightly cloudy day that turned everything into a tons of greenhouse effect and sweat. A couple of steps on the festival ground and I had wished I could bring one tshirt to change every hour. And a portable shower. Night to Saturday was actually a very sad and special one for Oslo, as a deranged man fired shots outside a nightclub, killing and injuring people and leading to the Pride parade being cancelled. Not the news one likes to wake up to, but the best you can do for the departed it to go on living. And so we did, with WIG WAM‘s concert as the first on the main stage, a concert during which one minute of silence has been held for the victims of that night. Quite impressive and touching to ‘hear’ silence at a festival.

Black metallers KAMPFAR were next on Scream stage and I actually ended up staying to the end, as I know that after Ofidian’s Manifest, they have replaced their ending song with ‘Det Sorte’, a fantastic extreme ballad about death and letting it embrace you when the time comes. Goose bumps and sweat were an interesting combo and I did hold in a few tears while screaming along ‘Kom og ta meg, styggemann’. This should have been the day’s anthem and Kampfar is certainly another band worthy of the main stage, as their lead singer is one of the most charismatic presence in extreme metal, both in the way he performs and in the way he constantly pays respects to the people who made it possible for the band to be where they are.

Another well loved Norwegian act was next on the main stage, this time TURBONEGRO and their self-named deathpunk, with the lively stage presence full of gimmicks and makeup and sparkles. This obviously comes with a crowd full of energy and who seem to know all the lyrics, headbangs and sings along and raises the overall level of intensity of this performance. Fun to watch. Fun to watch is also the gracefulness of Sharon, the singer of WITHIN TEMPTATION, who followed on the main stage. However, even the intense pyro effects and extra stage props didn’t quite help them stand out in any way, as I somehow feel they were the intruders of the schedule. But I’ve seen happy people during their concert, so they surely spoke to some people in the audience.

ABBATH is another Norwegian act with a lot of history and who has surely been seen during good or bad days by a lot of the people gathered to watch him that afternoon. To everyone’s surprise, he started the concert in time and didn’t seem to be too interested in blabbering between songs. And now the music really stands out, as the classical music piece used as intro contributes to the build up of the black metal’s dramatic expression. There’s still that old half joking half serious attitude on stage, which is part of his charm in the end. Sadly, the sound became a big cacophony after a few songs (at least where I was standing) so I went and gathered some strength for the upcoming DEEP PURPLE concert. Oh gods, how I had to dance at that one. Even if some of the high pitch notes were not as before, even if some movements were not as energetic as before, listening to all those childhood memories live in front of my eyes (and my ears) was so beautiful and inspiring. It started to rain slowly during ‘When a Blind Man Cries’ and that was such a magic moment, and it made me just forget about everything else and dance for the rest of the show. Well, at least until ‘HUSH’, when I had to leave Ian Gillian&Co and catch the next concert. But when I ran into my friends after that, we agreed how cool it was to witness live songs that were written way before a lot of those in the audience had been born. And still consider them rocking like crazy. I think I still have the sound of those lovely playful keyboards somewhere in the back of my head and it still makes me smile.

The last band I watched was OPETH, who delivers very few songs in the same amount of time as other bands. They just spend a lot of time on tons of cool stuff, like those awesome guitar riffs or solos or plays between guitars and keys. I’ve seen them live before, probably almost the same songs as people just wanna hear them each time. But the skilfull Swedes are always a wonder and a band that I’d love to watch playing for a couple of hours. And preferably have people shut up during those beautiful guitar parts. Oh, and the lovely sunset that could be seen through the trees next to the stage added a hint of drama to the already awesome concert. I did notice quite some musicians who came out of their dens to watch Åkerfeldt and his bandmates.

On our way out from the area, and while waiting for the bus, we spent a bit of time listening to the last headliner, FIVE FINGER DEATHPUNCH. They seemed to have coated their show in tons of pyrotechnic effect and I know they have used some huge confetti cannons at some point. But my brain was too full of impressions from the 3 days of festival and 5FDP is not something I find enjoyable, so I will just applaud them for the intense stage show and use the last pixels of this review to thank everyone, be it crowd, band member or crew member, OR photographer (especially photographer) who made 3 days in June 2022 an experience to keep me smiling for the days to come.

We have tons of photo galleries for you, but it will take some days in which normal job and life have to be combined with long hours of photo selections, editing and uploading into galleries. Stay tuned for those!

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