Hellfest Open Air 2017 Saturday Review

Oh my word… Banging headache… breath like a dragon. Yip. Its Hellfest Day two.

A walk to the nearby Super U is the first order of business. Whereas in the UK you’d expect supermarkets and locals to pull up their drawbridges and beef up security, it seems the whole of Clisson buys into the Hellfest vibe. Even the staff in the supermarket are dressed in their “rock-est” clothes and there are Hellfest products all over the place, from beer to bottles of ice to Hellfest jam.

Yep, Jam. Actual Jam.

Anyway, Coffee, croissant, sunscreen, cider for breakfast… We’re ready to walk the walk back into Hell. It is as they say, el scorchio here. The sort of scorchi0 where your Converse feel like they may melt.

We arrive and head straight into the Warzone (a rare trip there) for a brief appointment with Verbal Razors and a look at the Lemmy monument before wandering through the leafy shade of the forest of Muscadet. There we stop off for some pre-noon wine before heading down the front for the Dead Daisies. We love these guys and they sound just as good live as they do on our playlist in the van. Although we were mainly looking forward to seeing Marco Mendoza own the place and the whole band are, as you’d expect from their pedigree, on top form. The Hellfest faithful don’t need much incentive to get the party going and the Dead Daisies deliver in their usual style. The crowd are loving it, hungover or not.

We had to nip up to merchandise stall in the opportune moment, maybe it’s a bit quieter..Nope, still crazily busy. Hellfest do the finest array of March of any festival, and the fans lap it up. The queue is basically massive until some time on the Sunday, by which point the place has been picked clean. That’s the thing about Hellfest, the fans not only love the music but they love the festival itself as tens ofthousands of Hellfest branded items, from t-shirts to hoodies, from Bikinis to, erm, puppets, go to deserving homes.

Monarque now playing in the Temple, and apparently they’re quite a big deal in France. It may be a bit early for a dose of Black metal in its purest form but, hey, who’s complaining. Loud and dark, lots of corpse paint. They get a great reception from the crowd and provide the pit with fantastic photo opportunities. Oh, and it’s another one of those bands with a logo that looks like a bunch of twigs in the woods, you get the gist of it yip?

Switching to the other side of the tent next we get down the front for Crypt Sermon in the Altar. After the extremity of Monarque this is a bit more laid back and suited to the early hour. Crypt Sermon were billed as a doom band but they struck us as being much more laid back and up beat, albeit with definite doom-ey overtones. Easier to listen to than some of the more extreme bands/acts fronted by a bloke who both looked and sounded the “proper rock’n’roll front man” part.

So far we’d had the proverbial something for everyone, and it wasn’t even past lunch time yet. This is marvellous, especially as it’s now time for a beer and one of those beef and potato burger combos you only get here.

We hung around the top end of the arena and mooched around the stages with a brief visit to the wallet emptying abyss that is the metal market, but more on the delights in there later. Heading back into the Valley next we caught another “wow” factor band, a new name on us, Monkey3. Progressive metal. Trippy. Very pink Floyd-esque with visuals on stage. We like it immediately, a bit different to all the doom and thrash, a band who take you on a mad mystical musical journey. The crowd look smitten with them. Epic guitar solos that, in places, almost channel David Gilmour. OK, not quite but still.

We always think that this is a famously eclectic festival and Monkey 3 fit right in to that description, spot on!!

They were descended from dragons incidentally. Well either that or they were all vaping. Either way it made for good photographs.

The weather had been relentless. The tents offer a safe haven from the burning rays and allows us a spot of shade. Or the opportunity to bake so we stuck around for the next band purely on the basis of a cool name.

Every once in a while, especially at festivals, you just stand there with a “what the actual fuck” face on… Well this was no exception. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Igorrr in the Temple. Now from the pre-festival promo we learned that they are “something a bit different” and they push you out of the comfort zone.. But, seriously, WTF?? It’s impossible to describe, there’s just about no coherence to what’s happening. Mix tapes… samples… mashed together rather, erm, interestingly. On one side of the stage you have proper classically trained operatic singing and on the other… An exorcism and a growling demon. Death and black metal vocals. Tech metal. Mix desk. Not sure how I feel about this. I’m a bit scared.

I must admit it’s all a bit wasted on me but the crowd in attendance appear to be relishing it. Now we have some sorta siren song and it strikes me, Ignorrr are like our Scottish weather. If you don’t like it, hang on for a bit and it’ll change. It just never settles down, and now that scary demon is back shouting about god knows what. Broken vocals and digitized sounds now. This is nuts. But this is what Hellfest is all about. Extremes. It shouldn’t work. It should be horrendous but somehow, Igorrr pull it off. They even have me and most skeptics sold. Bravo!

Slightly traumatised and looking for my comfort blanket, we head down towards the main stage to catch the safe familiarity of Phil Campbell and his Bastard Sons. This couldn’t be further away musically from Igorrr and, well, it was superb. We get a cracking cover of Silver machine played for Lemmy and others. we get to give Tyla Campbell the finger, we get to headbang to Motorhead classics. God this is fun. The band also made good use of Aerosmith’s runway too, which was added bonus to the short arses in the crowd. Thanks Phil, the was yet another flawless main stage performance.

The brits are out in force today, and next up on the main stage were another of the bright new wave of British rockers. Best get down the front then.

The addition of the new runway on main stage one has buggered up access to the stages/photo pits So an unwelcome run in the sun was needed to get over to Main stage 2 just in time for The Treatment to wow the French crowd. It’s always difficult to gauge how good a band are from the crowd response at Hellfest, the faithful seem to go mental for anyone and everyone and they were clearly well up for some good old British heavy metal. It looks like the image consultants have struck again with The Treatment, but thankfully the core of what they do, proper rock’n’roll, hasn’t been touched.

A rather sweaty CB slithered up to the tents once again. This time, for some more face painted black metal shenanigans from Ereb Altor in the Temple. This is just how epic dark metal should be done and they are one of the unexpected highlights of the whole weekend, one of those sets that you can’t tear yourself away from.

Superb. This was an excessive in getting the balance just spot on, black/doom/folk delivered to perfection. The one name you see all over the place attached to this lot is Bathory, but they’re much more than that label may suggest.

Sometimes you read a bands bio and it doesn’t marry up with the reality. Chelsea grin on the other hand, well we were well warned. We all know the tale/origins of the Chelsea grin and the band live up to the name, even if like most ‘core bands they look and the sound don’t match up. The Soundcheck alone left us with ringing in my ears as we confirmed, yep, Deathcore isn’t our thing. Great at what they do we’re sure but not for me so it’s time to head off to see Pretty Maids on the main stage.

But not until we’d got a photo of someone in Chelsea Grin not doing the ‘core snarl or looking cross.

Pretty Maids are veterans of Classic heavy metal. Seasoned artists with a lengthy and weighty career. If glam was your thing, then this was deffo for you. They’re obviously a band that their immediate successors on the main stage draw inspiration from and as we queued up to get into the pit for Steel Panther Pretty Maids provided the ideal soundtrack. As with most bands, they clearly struggled to get the balance right, I mean how do you dress for the French sunshine when you are used to long hair, leather and denim?

Steel Panther. Now there’s a name that has split opinions. To some, they are just a deliberate piss taking parody band showcasing all the worst in Heavy Metal mysogeny as they flog the same limited jokes through three albums until, stretched to breaking point, everyone realises it’s not that funny.

To others they are a bunch of ridiculously talented musicians with a love for old school heavy metal of the glam and hair varieties and not to be taken that seriously, hey it’s all part of the act.

OK, so one thing we can ALL agree on…. Steel Panther capture the essence of 80s metal to perfection. They looked the part, even thought they spent longer doing their bits between songs than actually playing. You know the score. It’s educational too, Satchel gave us a French lesson (or tried to) but we suspect that was just a ploy to get some boobage. The thing is, Steel Panther are brilliant live, even shorn of all the excess stuff. Michael Starr works the stage like David Lee Roth and the crowd were completely, absolutely love it.

They still divide opinion, but life would be boring if we all agreed on everything and undeniably that was a lot of fun. Still smiling we tear ourselves away from the bay of boobs and head up to the tents to cool off before the specially selected women who had been assembled in the corner of the photo pit went on stage and got ’em out.

Oh, and the undisputed star of the Steel Panther set was the girl in the wheelchair who crowd surfed over the barrier more than once. Hats off, that looked awesome AND she managed to get attention while keeping her top on.

From the throwback hair metal on the main stage to something much more serious back up the hill in the tent. We think we’ve stumbled into a dinner party as Skepticism are on stage in the Temple. Yep, and now for something a bit different. We are quite taken by their weird black/death vocal thing but mostly we’re impressed by the fact they’re dressed in dinner suits like a bad ass Il Divo. Not that it’s a bad thing. Let me remind you, this is Hellfest. It will lead you into a false sense of security and then take the carpet from under your feet. I actually found Skepticism quite refreshing, you do see a lot of stuff that’s very similar here, so it’s nice to catch something that stands out.

An old favourite of ours next. through next door we have Decapitated in the Altar. Technical, Hard and heavy with just about our favourite Death metal singer. The tent is rammed like never before and it’s a “could have played the main stage” set. There’s not much in the way of crowd interaction but then there’s no need. This is a band where the music speaks for itself. The man wants a pit people, best do as he says.

Oh, and  extra points for the windmilling of hair. Always a good thing, not enough windmilling in the world.

During day one, we mentioned our “Big Four” for the weekend and Turisas are very definitely one of them. This isn’t just because they’re possibly one of the coolest bands to shoot (or so I am told) in their red and black battle paint and costumes, but because quite simply there is no one quite like them. There is nowhere else we’d ever be than front and centre for Finland’s finest! Are Turisas the ultimate party band? Impossible to say for sure but by god they’re close. “Great time?. Eternal hangover tomorrow!!” predicts Nygard, and he’s probably right.

We didn’t realise how full the tent was until the whole place started to bounce “This is a party song” we’re told, so we must dance and join in the madness. Actually the tent isn’t just full, like the last time we saw Turisas here it’s overflowing to the point that you can’t get into the Valley for fans watching the set on the big screen outside the tent. Turisas power through loads of folk songs and although it’s not a “greatest hits” set we absolutely love it. Thank you Turisas that was a night to remember!

One of us did wonder, as a make up wearer, as to how they got it their face paint to stay put in this heat! Thats serious dedication!

While Saxon blasted out on the main stage Team CB took a short dinner and drinks break where we gathered some notes and tried to take in the goings on so far.

After enjoying the heavy metal thunder from the reading confines of camp, we headed back for more. The scenes walking down to the Hellfest arena were like something from an ongoing apocalyptic party where everyone is in high spirits and everyone is clearly a bit inebriated.

Not us of course, we were working.

Honest.

Right, every year at Hellfest there are a number of boxes that one band ticks. The surreal, the extreme, the “what the fuck” but the one check box that hadn’t been marked off yet was “impenetrable, indecipherable art-prog” (look it up, it’s a real genre).

Well Pain Of Salvation ticked that box, but after our allotted time in the photo pit (mostly spent thinking “will someone turn a light on” we’d had enough.

Nah, not for us. We left for the altogether more enjoyable sight of a pig playing a cello.

Looking for our porcine / stringed instrument fix we headed to the Valley that was doing that “tent overflowing so much you can’t get bloody near” thing that lets you know there’s something special afoot.

That something special was an unforgettable headline set from Primus. You want odd, we’ll give you odd. Pigs playing cellos. Psychedelic rock and metal. Frank zappa -esque. As we had no chance of getting into the tent we had the weird experience of watching them off in the distance on stage and on the big screen, both with another huge screen behind them showing all sorts of weird shit. Top drawer progressive oddness complete with trippy dancers and contortionists.

Even if we didnt quite get it, we got it, if it makes sense.

CB had a list of bands, pre-festival, that we were 100% sure we would love and rave about for years to come. Wardruna due on the Temple, were pretty high up on the list. The thought of them using primitive instruments, natural resources and the likes. Sadly we were left a little deflated. Although the sound generated was phenomenal, it was kind of wasted on the Saturday night party animals that were waiting on the likes of mega stars Aersomith. They were well worth checking out but this wasn’t, we suspect, the way to get the full experience overall. Anyway we couldn’t stay too long due to some dude who looks like a lady starting on main stage.

On leaving the Temple, the entire Hellfest arena had sprung to life and things got a bit crowded. Aerosmith have a HUGE following, maybe not quite as rammed as Rammstein last year but not far off it. Team CB were stoked to be seeing them and at our favourite festival and people poured out from tents, bars, and all areas to catch a glimpse of the Aerosmth banner that graced the screens. Carmina burana played out on the P.A. The stage was set….. Screens now showed images of the band over the years.. rather fitting build up….

Aerrrrrrooosmiiiiiiiith!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve Tyler strutted on stage like the bonafide rockstar that he is. Dressed to kill, in his sequin and lace ensemble, he belted out Let The Music Do The Talking and Clisson erupted. I’m pretty sure it was like being in the epicentre of an earthquake for a minute as 50,000 people decided they wanted to be 3ft closer to the stage. We stayed well back where everyone was fixated on the screens and from our safe spot on the hill we had a view of the stage and a cracking view of all the screens. It was loud. It was intense. Joe Perry and them guitar solos, his blues interlude, this was epic. Cue loads of adoring fans power grabbing the sky in a massive sing along to I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. Cue embarrassing dad dancing to Dude Looks Like A Lady. (pronounced laydeeeeey) Cue young lovers getting frisky during Love In An Elevator. It was great to see everyone letting their hair down (that had hair) and nodding away to classics like Janie’s Got A Gun and Sweet Emotion. Magnifique as they say in France. Cackblabbath were completely star struck! And just as we thought it was aero-vederci…

An encore of Dream On, Walk This Way and even a spot of James Brown. Aersomith delivered an all you can eat buffet of Rock and Roll, old school style! That was incredible, hopefully their upcoming retirement will be a short one.

We had one last appointment to make this evening, which had always been with the proviso “if we’re still awake”, before it was time to head back to Camp CB pour les cider.

Sleep can wait, Suicidal Tendencies are playing the Warzone. The more mature member of TeamCB assured the young’un that this was a band that defined a genre, one of the greats. We fought our way through to the Warzone, but it appeared the whole of Clisson appeared to have the same idea and we couldn’t squeeze in. “I got one question.. what the hell is going on around here” bellowed Mike Muir and we’re off. Wow! Thrash infused punk or vice versa.

This is nuts. Its 1:00am and this place is full of life and energy with everyone belting out You Can’t Bring Me Down.

As much as we’d love to get down the front there is a danger of not getting back out alive and being carried away by the crowd surfers. We ain’t as young as we used to be.

Or as stupid.

OK, maybe just young.

We headed out into the night having had an awesome day full of sights, sounds and smells (the toilets were feeling the heat). Wandering through the casualty clearing station of Hellcity we saw the party was still in full swing there too. This may be the place that never sleeps, but alas we had to so as we staggered back to camp with the rest of the walking wounded, the shell shocked and the really, really drunk we knew one thing.

We’d had an awesome day.

Wonder what delights tomorrow may bring….