TONS OF ROCK 2024 – Day 1 Review

TONS OF ROCK 2024 – Day 1 Review

Tons of Rock 2024 – 10 years jubilee -review

Having had attended each of the festival’s edition since it started in the picturesque fortress of Halden 10 years ago, there is still a mix of curiosity and various worries that build up when heading to the area for the first day. What has changed since last year? What could go worse, what was improved? A first impressions, I think it’s the same or better compared to last year at least. Even if the amount of crowd expected has increased a bit – I think they expect 150000 attending crowd for the whole festival this year – they rearranged the area, tents, food stalls and such so it didn’t feel too overwhelming. The only time you’d notice the extra people was during the headliners, especially on the first evening, if you tried to cross the area in front of the main stage. It would be way more packed than usual.

Just like everywhere else the prices seemed to have gone up, and maybe there’s only a small amount per item, but at the end of the day your wallet is a bit emptier compared to last year. Overall, it’s not that my memory is the most reliable one, but I felt like what I paid for a portion of food or a drink were not that far off compared to 2023. Doesn’t mean they were cheap. I just thought it’d be way worse, but maybe it’s good I already think the food will be expensive in advance.

The art tent and some of the non-commercial tents were moved further away from the central area so it felt a bit more difficult to go and hang out there. You’re no longer just stumbling upon them. I totally missed any extra activities this year. No art for me, no talks…Do remember or note that most of the review is written from the perspective of a photographer who usually gets to photograph the first three songs from each show and then maybe watch a few more from the crowd, then run to the next even and repeat throughout the day. Squeeze in food, toilet time, say hi to friends and sit down occasionally so that you tell your legs there’s only few hours left til the shoes come off. So it’s not that I don’t want to get such activities and tell stories about them, it’s physically impossible. But hopefully a lot of those who attended the event got to enjoy everything to the max.

Back to food, there’s a new kid on the list food providers and they offer a metal croissant, which is huge and delicious. But a vanilla filled chocolate covered croissant was not something I’d ever expect to experience at a metal festival. I had a less pleasant experience with one of the Thai serving places, which had rather raw chicken skewers, but other than that I found most food tasty. I also did my best to eat when the queues were minimal so I have no negative experience with this. However, I did notice queues at times and that seemed like a good way to miss at least half of any show. Hope the lasted for short periods of time.

I loved the fact that the alcohol free beer offer has expanded and would be nice to see more of it sold at the main beer tents. Drunk, sun burnt people are a sad and outdated sight, no matter the context.

Exchanging tickets for wristbands seemed to be a rather smooth process as the festival now has booths in most major Norwegian cities and people can go through this process there and not have to queue at Ekeberg. I think it helped a lot of reduced queues.

The shuttle buses had a new departure area: they were moved to track 19 of the central train station which is very known by the locals who would have to take train replacements. However, on Wednesday, it was a rather chaotic experience for foreigners as even if you end up at track 19, a lot of people see it as a train track so get confused. It wasn’t obvious you actually have to walk for some good minutes to end up where the shuttles would leave from. We rescued a friend who was off to the bus terminal to look for a track 19 there. However, we noticed a bunch of people who started placing some big posters on various locations in the stations to make it more obvious where the shuttle buses go from. Sadly, the first day was a fiasco when it comes to the return trip. We left after some Metallica songs to avoid the crowd madness, however, the many minutes we waiting in the queue for the bus turned into tons of lack of buses. We ended up walking to the tram stop. Luckily, it is downhill, as my back was at the end of any resources it has managed to gather to go home after a day of running around with the camera.

All of the above was to try to summarize some of the main aspects of the festival which I have interacted with. It did seem like a smooth run, with few glitches. I’ve seen and experienced way worse so I think the effort put up by everyone involved is really worth of a lot of praise and congratulations in the end.

Now, about bands and music.

It was a hot day. Started quite cloudy, but all clouds cleared by the time we got to the area, picked up the accreditation – a very smooth process, yey. Heavy bags parked, cameras on the straps or around the necks and off to start shooting bands. As every year, the madness is opened by local beloved heroes, Black Debbath, with their heavy heavy metal and quirky humor. Some of the photographers got a chance at going on stage and that was a nice and different kind of adventure and chance at looking down at the crowd and the snakepit. The snakepit was built for Metallica and people who either won or paid (I guess) for Snakepit tickets. It made it really weird for the photographers as it was like a semicircle in front of the main stage, surrounded by a catwalk and only behind the catwalk you’d have the crowd. So for most of the day, we didn’t have the usual happy faces cheering behind us while we photographed acts on the main stage. And for the first act, it was just photographers in the snakepit. Such a luxury, we could all fir it in without touching eachother nor blocking anyone else’s view by moving around. After the first band though, they let people come into the Snakepit, and I heard some of those complained there were too many photographers. Poor souls. We also complained among ourselves that there were…people who had no photo etiquette. I think that the person taking this decision deserves some…negative reviews.

Another Norwegian legend, Trondheim based Motorpsycho, played on the second outdoor stage, Vampire. I can’t remember if I saw them as a quartet live before, they were usually a trio. It was also the first time I saw them with their new drummer and as with any of their previous drummers, they made an amazing choice. The grooviness of everything is too beautiful for words. It was peak heat though so I ran away after the 3 – long – songs which we get to photograph. Also this stage and its photopit were modified, as it had a weird huge catwalk meant for Parkway Drive so we had a bit of a logistic challenge to run around it and get some nice angles to shoot from. However, the crowd could come all the way to the fence.

Nervosa was next on the tent stage – Moonlight – and I’m happy I finally got to see the Brazilian thrash act live. The girls are such a delight to watch and their intensity and good energy is contagious. I left there with my spirits well lifted. I used the end of their show to grab some food – some noodles with chicken, not the best of festival foods I ever had though. And even if the queues were really small at this time of the day, I didn’t have the energy to go to see Saxon so I skipped them and went back to the tent to watch the New Zealand act Alien Weaponry. They were simply amazing. Only 3 guys but the stage felt small for them. The show started with their drummer performing a small haka ritual behind the drum kit and then their cool mix of maori lyrics, powerful riffs and simple joy of being on stage was yet another uplifting concert. It seems like the tent stage hosted the best of concerts on Wednesday. Next up there were the Greeks in Rotting Christ, who simply leveled the place down and delivered such a perfect show in every way. Sound, energy, execution. I am glad I stayed and watched most of it and it was sad when it ended.

I also got to watch some of Europe’s performance on the main stage. The fact that they have the charming Joey as a band leader that, makes it so that even if I’ve seen them many times and my back wanted to go home and die in a sauna for some hours, I managed to forget the pain and enjoy some of their hits. Or simply some of the show off moments on the catwalk.

Wednesday’s headliners were Metallica. Which was…ok. I’ve never gotten much into their shows to be honest. And I really dislike golden circles, snake pits and any other ways of splitting the crowd, giving unnecessary headaches to organizers and security, and just…meh. It kinda shadows the show for me. Besides, I couldn’t figure out if someone had a bad day when it comes to the images projected on the main screens or it was actually meant for the first song to show us a still of a monitor on stage and nothing else. Afterwards we started to have moving images, but whoever thought it’s a good idea to split those screens into maaany picture in picture trying to show all band members at once should pay by having to read different 5 books at once, every second, for the rest of their lives. Those screens were visual cacophony. To be honest, the most enjoyable parts of the concerts were those without visuals and I am so happy to have heard Sanitarium live. And the sound was tweaked and was way better by the time Sanitarium and some other of their bigger hits started, because the beginning was a bit odd, sound wise.

I hope many people felt flattered by Metallica’s cover of a CC Cowboy song “Vill, Vakker og Våt” and enjoyed watching Brian Tatler (Saxon, Diamond Dead) with them on stage when they covered “Am I Evil?”. We heard the last chords of this song and at the end of the day, I have to admit it’s quite powerful to hear the cheers of soooo many people for one of the biggest bands in metal history. If I read the stats correctly, there had been around 40k people at Ekeberg on Wednesday afternoon.

Full photo galleries from day 1 are available here