Nova Rock Festival rocked our world and we can’t wait to get back!
After what was essentially a 3-year break, it is with great excitement that we, along with thousands of other people heading towards the Pannonia fields, where Austria’s biggest rock music festival is finally back, are truly living the words “you can’t stop rock & roll” ; that is what the writing on the back of the van in front of us says, in large colorful letter stickers. It’s being called the rain of the century, and all incoming motorized traffic is directed by the police towards a single entry point – the main entrance, as a huge line forms on the field road which is slowly but surely turning into thick mud. Tractors can be seen in the distance, rushing left and right, towing everything from small cars to giant vans or caravans that had previously become stuck in the earthy paste.
Despite the ongoing rain, spirits are up all around, as some can bear the wait no longer and use one hand to cling to the bars of their 4×4 pickup truck and the other to drink beer and toast towards the other cars, then merrily scream “ Nova Rock !!! “. Such is the atmosphere beyond the festival gates as well, with nobody seeming to show much discontent at the fact that, unfortunately, due to the extreme weather conditions, come opening hours, the Red Stage is still being put together at a frantic pace, and the first couple of artists scheduled for it would not be performing. Speaking of stages, this year there are 3 main stages (the Red stage, the Blue and the Red Bull stage) and a singer-songwriter stage powered by Ottakringer (the festival’s official beer) situated on the camping site, all with fixed schedules, plus a whole range of options for keeping the party going until dawn after the last concerts – but more on this later.
As if Mother Nature Herself took grace upon the quarter million people gathering here, the rain soon stopped, as we stumbled into a wonderful meet & greet moment with Grandson and his guitarist, over by some top-up containers which ended with them climbing up onto them, and finally a stage dive and a bit of surfing, . Veterans Bush put on a great show, while Turbobier brought forth a fresh punk rock energy which got everybody moving. Day 1 ended with great shows all around. On the blue stage, Rise Against came out blasting and kept going at a fast pace all the way to the last song, followed by Muse, who looked like they would not stop playing, with a subtle choice of visuals on the large monitors, who worked to reinforce the sound rather than distract from it. Although the red stage opened late, it more than made up for that with an amazing glam rock heavy metal show by Steel Panther which culminated in topless girls from the audience coming up on stage with the band. Following such a spectacle, no pressure is -with no irony- exactly how Bullet For My Valentine took to the stage while bringing the heavy two notches up. Finally for this year’s special late night act, Haddaway and Dr. Alban brought the 90’s disco atmosphere to the Austrian fields, making everybody smile, dance, and then some, to the point of crowd surfing, all that along with a light drizzle that had started to fall from above.
As the early dawn starts to light up the sky, we trudge through the mud – which is knee-deep in some places – , helping each other out of it when some of us get literally stuck from time to time, as we make our way to the camping. While we’re mentioning accommodation, it’s good to know that the options are plentiful and diverse here as well. Perhaps you like to crash in style, at the wonderful St. Martins Therme & Lodge lakefront hotel that’s included in the diamond VIP & hotel package, or prefer a solid roof over your head, with lights and electrical outlets at your disposal but want to be closer to the action, in your very own rock chalet or lodge. Maybe you’d like to enjoy the full-on camping experience, but without the hassle of having to lug around all the equipment, in which case the tent hotel (which is also what we went with) is the right choice – just check in to your very own already pitched tent. Or maybe you’re a good prepper and brought your own home with everything you need, be it in backpacks, ready to set up in the green camping area, or on four or more wheels, with 3 available tiers of caravan camping. Whatever the case, Nova Rock’s got you covered when it comes to accommodation to fit every need and desire. And after all that hard work pitching tents in the rain or trying not to get your vehicle stuck in the mud, and even watching others lug around all their supplies, food and -mostly- drinks in all sorts of wheeled contraptions that they either pull or push towards their basecamps, you’d be right to feel hungry and take a break while you enjoy your meal. The options here are too many to mention, safe to say there is something for everyone, and most vendors also offer vegetarian and/or vegan options. If you’re reading this while thinking about coming to the next edition, or better still, if that’s the case and you’ve also never visited Austria before, then you should consider eating things that are traditional to the area, which pair great with beer and are also good if you’re hungover and need to get it together in time for the next shows. Don’t leave before you’ve tried at least one langos, a kaselebberkase semerl or two, a kasekreiner or currywurst hotdog, and a serving of spatzle from the giant pots, with or without the spek and roasted onion chips.
We awoke on Friday (day 2) to the sound of raindrops falling on our tent from a darkened, cloudy morning sky, only to fall back asleep in the hopes that it would stop after a well deserved couple more hours of rest. And stop it did, as the sun came out and, together with the ever present wind, started to slowly but surely solidify the mud paste that by now was everywhere. Have we mentioned Gummistiefel? That’s what rubber boots are called in the German-speaking world, and whether you may or may not like the language, you’re going to be glad you remembered this word, should you ever need it, because anything short of this type of footwear will get you nowhere fast if it rains here on the Pannonia fields.
For those with the means and determination to carry, store and cool their own drinks, there is a supermarket on the festival grounds, who also sells ice, lots of beer, and some hygiene products, which is extremely handy in more ways than you can imagine. On the way to the supermarket is the Jagermeister tent, which is almost always teeming with happy people, singing, dancing and ready to pose for the cameras, even though we’re not entirely sure that many of them have taken a look at the sign posted inside, informing everyone that they may be filmed or photographed without prior notice while inside the tent area.
Music-wise, day 2 was full of surprises and incredible energy. Starting with the blue stage, The Last Internationale put on a fantastic show, which included a very emotional speech by Delila Paz seated on the photo pit fence, and music that makes you want to move with purpose ; an excellent primer for what would ensue next, at While She Sleeps : people flocked to the area, bassist Aaran McKenzie took to the public from the very first song, the pogo and circle pits on both sides of the t-shaped stage would only briefly give way to the almost constant stream of surfers, which would finally be joined by singer Lawrence Taylor, who, to the delight of the crowd, stage-dived in and was then surfed to the pit fence by as many hands as could reach him, a moment to which we’re very touched to have contributed – and we have 360 pics & video to prove it 😉 Yes, that’s a hint to also check out our awesome Instagram and YouTube galleries, which are chalk full of epic moments from all throughout the festival. And if you’ve also got any kind of VR headset on hand, then do put it on, and fully immerse yourself in our 360 material which will take you as close as you can get to (re)living the Nova Rock experience, short of actually being there in person.
And speaking of being in the right place at the right time, with eyes and camera ready, after catching our breaths and some beers, we headed back to the blue stage, where we were treated to what -for us- would prove to be one of the festival’s highlights. Prompting the biggest engagement thus far, with mosh pits big and small forming all the way to the back and crowd surfing, Italian sensations Måneskin were something else indeed. Almost certainly backed by a fantastic technical crew, which clearly showed in the quality of the sound, the old rock & roll vibes on a modern twist, and a stage play straight out of ritualistic tribal mating dances, stirring young and old alike with their erotic gymnastics, all culminating with a sight which we will only describe here as 1969-Woodstock-level-not-safe-for-work, and let our reels show the rest -check out the Nova Rock materials on our Instagram page (partipipal_events), you’ll be glad you did. Finally, about 30 people from the crowd were called on stage to sing and dance alongside the whole band for the last song. On a personal note of this reporter, I think Iggy Pop would at the very least nod approvingly and say ‘not bad’ , upon hearing Måneskin’s rendition of “I wanna be your dog”, which, if you know what I’m talking about, you’ll agree is truly high praise.
Following such a performance, Kraftklub did not disappoint, with an awesome, dance-prompting energy, and a very nice choice of black&white visuals displayed on the screens adjacent the stage, while beer glasses, empty and full, were flying joyously all around the worked up crowd. Meanwhile on the red stage Korn gathered a huge crowd, which were treated to very well engineered sound all the way to the back, sporting great inserts of covers like Queen’s “We will rock you” and a tight performance of Metallica’s “Master of puppets”. We also saw a much more talkative -than the usually shy- Jonathan, which we very much liked, and a Ray Luzier which could barely wait to get into Blind -the last song on their set- paired with a smile that we found quite contagious. Good times with Korn. What came after them though, is truly something to take note of, with the potential to take your vibe to a whole different place / level, bordering on meditative trances. Heilung, well known for the ancient-themed costumes and instruments that they employ, made the ground tremble, and will surely make you decide if you’ll love their performance or not (we’d dare say there’s no in-between in this case) within the first few minutes.
Roughly during the same time slot, those wanting for an alternative rock atmosphere could check out Placebo on the blue stage, which put on a great show, as always.
Closing day 2, on the red stage, Bring Me The Horizon proved to everyone present that they’ve got what it takes to make you sing and run around in a circle pit, even after 12 hours of concerts and running around, which we quite appreciated. And as with any great party, there will always be those for which even all that is still not enough. Nova Rock aims to please here as well, with a dedicated party zone that includes quite a few different concepts. Sadly, this reporter’s experience with this area was not up to expectations, and even though there surely is informed reasoning behind the choices made by the organizers regarding the party zone, one cannot help but wonder why is techno music blasting through speakers that make your tent tremble at 4’o clock in the morning at a rock festival, or why in the name of all things unholy can’t anyone rid of the rock tent of the smell of regorged stomach contents of people who’ve had one too many drinks, mixed with Redbull…
Nevertheless, just like in the rest of life, we take the bad with the good, and keep on having fun. An 80’s and 90’s hits soundtrack echoed well into the sunrise of day 3 (some big plus points here for the party zone) that-even though we were too exhausted to keep going and head over there to join the fun- kept us up still drinking and dancing in our tent, which was positively lovely. Later on in the morning, you could sense the anticipation all throughout the campsite. It’s sunny outside. Some are already drinking beer and gearing up for The Offspring and Billy Talent, playing their songs on all manner of portable speakers, while others are ‘licking their wounds’ or basking in the sun seated on portable chairs, like sea lizards on a tropical island, warming up for their day. After our morning routines and some brunch, we started off at the blue stage with Boston Manor, which we must say left us wanting more, after performing for only 30 minutes. Ukrainian metalcore favorites Jinjer put on a fantastic show, with quite a few emotional moments of showing support and giving thanks for receiving it, with regard to the situation in Ukraine, and particularly in their native Donetsk, which at the time of writing is itself, along with other considerably large areas of the country, under deadly siege by armed forces that are either part of, or backed by the Russian military, who thus far appear to have shown little regard for either international conventions regarding the rules of war, or civilian lives.
Yet akin to how in life, even in the worst of times, a little laughter can do so much for morale, so it was with Nova Rock’s lineup. After reflecting on our brethren’s difficult situation and collectively directing all our mental energy towards a peaceful resolution of all conflict and injustice, we were greeted by award-winning german melodic metalcore comedians Electric Callboy, whom the editor shall try to refrain from praising too much, only out of fear of exaggerating though, as we must say they have become one of our new favorite bands. What we will say though, is that the band was amazing, the sound engineering flawless, and report on a particularly touching fact from the crowd : for the entirety of the show, standing a couple of meters behind us, was a young gentleman not more than 20-something years old, of a positively inconspicuous demeanor -we first observed him a little earlier, while filming the Ukrainian flags circulating through the crowd – , who knew all the lyrics by heart, and had the most piercing, angelic voice who ‘cut through’ the mix coming from the imposing stacks of loudspeakers that frame the stage, and that could-in our humble opinion-sing along with the band, on stage, anytime. A truly superb sonic experience.
Day 3 brought on 3 very special shows -which we’re glad to say we succeeded in fully witnessing- put on by 3 legendary punk rock bands : Lagwagon, Bad Religion and The Offspring. Spectacular soundwork, geared towards making the crowds that chanted along to the choruses an equal part of the mix.
Last to play on the blue stage today were Volbeat. If there would be such a thing as a business-casual dress code and attitude when it comes to live rock music, these guys would be the example for it. By this time, most everyone in the crowd is pretty drunk and disorganized, but Volbeat’s mix of hard rock with a pinch of blues & heavy metal music, coupled with great visuals and crowd engagement ability not only managed to keep the general atmosphere cool & friendly, but made for what this reporter subjectively considers the best overall show.
Last on the red stage for day 3, we were treated to a very particular kind of crazy, bordering on contemporary musical theater, only with electronic music and punk rock energy. Too many costume changes to keep track of, crowd surfing on a prop resembling an airplane jet engine, alcoholic beverages delivered via a hose to people in the first row, a beautiful singing moment and a finish with a bow. Check Deichkind out first time you get the chance and thank us later!
The last day came all too soon, with wind-blown dust and desert-like heat, so much so that we could spot as many people as would fit under it wherever we’d see a bit of shade, every one of them seemingly resting, gathering their strength for the final hours of the festival.
Imminence were a nice surprise, with strong energy and also some violin playing by the frontman, while Faaschttbankler sported a poutpourri of countless songs known and loved by all, with excellent instrumental and vocal technique, while blending modern synth bass with traditional swiss music.
While a lot could be said about Finch, we’re just going to say it was all that we hoped it would be (epic!) and invite you to check him out.
Later on, German Punk Rock power trio Wizo put on a great show, with thunderous basslines and wonderful vocal harmonies worthy of their 35-year history.
Billy Talent was awesome and the time flew all too fast, as pretty much everyone sang along and danced to the music.
Closing the festivities this year were Five Finger Death Punch. Nothing we say can even begin to describe the kind of energy that they brought, and how good Ivan L. Moody “worked” the crowd. If you’ve never seen them live, you Need to!
The shows were done, but the party carried on all around, as everybody celebrated another job well done, before clocking in some rest, ahead of the journey back home.
We don’t know if post-festival depression is really “a thing”, but what we will say is that the feeling that you get if you hang around for a while and observe the campsites emptying and all the people leaving, like in a time-lapse, is truly surreal, and although you might, in all fairness after such a great party, be tempted to ask yourself, somewhat confused, ‘What now?’, all you can really think is.. ‘I can’t wait to be back next year!’
Article by Alex Caciu