Even though I’m a native from the North of Ireland I’ve never been to Limavady in the half century I’ve stalked this globe. The Stendhal Festival was a good chance to acquaint myself with the town, it’s people and their customs. Earlier in the month I’d talked to one of the organisers by telephone as part of an interview and enjoyed our chat and discussions about art, music and gardening.
On the day of the gig it was raining constantly and my fears of a stilted audience and compromised performance began to flutter at the back of my mind.On arriving at the gig I was struck by how many people were just getting on with things and more importantly smiling and laughing.
Ten minutes into our set the skies evacuate all that heaven allows and soon we find ourselves at one with the audience and both drenched to the bone, guitars slippery with rain water and amps steaming in the back of the stage. On looking out at the lively crowd there is no register of this discomfort. Those smiles again, people are beaming and I start to get infected too and realise that this is going to be a very special night indeed. Our sound engineer, Richard, hoofs it onstage to see the state of the water retention and I ask him, mid playing, ” what are my chances of being electrocuted?”, ” minimal” he replies. Although not the answer I wanted to hear it’s enough to spur me on through the set and get carried away with the energy of the crowd.
Some people head for shelter under adjacent tents but still stay with eyes focuses on the stage while the others get fully involved leaving the writhing, gleaming mass in front of the stage resembling a cross between a fun wrestling tournament and Dante’s hell. The passion doesn’t let up and their big “fuck you Donald Trump” before Living In The Shadow of the Terrible Thing is the loudest of the festival season so far. This means so much to me coming from the crowd as Stendhal as the song itself deals with myself and peers attempts at stoic resolve during the dark years of our youth growing up in East Antrim.
This festival experience was one of my most memorable in my twenty six years of doing this and is like to thank firstly the fans who beamed a positive light through all the weather and to the festival organisers for making it such a vibey event all round.Also, my comrades Michael, Neil, Richard, Steve and Mark for being there all the time.
The next morning I bumped into legendary songwriter Damon ( Badly Drawn Boy) and he was an absolute gent. That was my weekend made complete.
Take care folks,
Red light fever!
“Neil, Neil, drum like a ___________!”
Cross the beams!
McKeegan meets the locals
(All photos kind courtesy Paul Beattie @PaulTweetie)
A wise friend once said “When a man is tired of riffs, he is tired of life”. Agreeing with that wholeheartedly I was excited, intrigued and chuffed to be heading to Wacken Open Air 2016, arguably Europe’s biggest and best heavy metal festival. Its one of the very, very few festivals Therapy? have never played and it’s always nice to be experiencing new things even after 26 years of rocking.
Heading to Hamburg!
We hooked up in London the night before staying over near the airport as we’d an early flight into Hamburg and we didn’t want to suffer any unwanted delays or hold-ups. It was a beautiful day to fly and the mood was great as we were all looking forward to getting out to Wacken.
He is the strong arm of the law!
Our hotel in Hamburg was straight across from the airport terminal so after an effortless check-in and dumping our non-essential festival belongings we soon were in the big black Wacken fun bus heading up to the site. Felix our capable driver got us there in good time and we got settled in the dressing room. It was a bit muddy due to heavy rain the day before but our room was warm and dry. Fair play to the Wacken people as the rider was excellent and we had goodie bags full of all sorts of cool and practical branded items to explore (Wacken face wipes anyone?)
Can you spot mr Andy Cairns?
Dinner is good, I opt for the chicken satay and with plenty of time before our show to digest the food, I even treat myself to a frozen yoghurt…rock and roll! Henry Rollins is just finishing up his spoken word on our stage and behind the scenes (in our huge tent there are two identical stages beside each other with a huge loading/set-up dock behind) is a hive of activity. Very helpful stage crew are whizzing round and getting various amps and cabinets onto risers as crew members get guitars and drums tuned and set-up. Andy goes off to do a quick interview with Arte who are filming/streaming the show tonight and I have a very surreal moment when I meet Buck Dharma from Blue Oyster Cult in the backstage hospitality area. I’m a massive fan so after plucking up the courage to say hello, I had a very enjoyable chat with him and he kindly lets me get a pic with him.
*insert generic ‘more cowbell’ quip here
We have a signing scheduled over by the main stage so we wander over there checking out some of the scenes of carnage in the crowd. Everyone is in good form and it’s nice to see a lot of drinking being done but hardly any casualties dropped in the mud 😉
Signing goes well, there are people from all over Germany and even a lady from China of all places, amazing to think that our music is known over there as well. Catch a bit of WHitesnake on the main stage and then Tsjuder over on our stage. Both sound great and beginning to get nicely vibed up for the gig. Mike Monroe band are here as well so hang out with them for a bit pre-show…super nice guys and it’s always great to see Rich Jones, top guy, we’ve got a long and fun history with him. There’s a bit of rain just before we play so after Marduk finish (again, I’m a big fan so it was cool to see them decimate the tent) we do our last minute warm-ups and head over through the downpour to hangout on the back of the stage. Our stage is curtained off whilst the gear gets set-up so it’s a really surreal feeling to be hiding behind the curtain, bass in hand, ready to go.
I must admit id been a bit nervous when I saw we were the only band playing at the same time as Iron Maiden on the main stage…not even a slight clash, our 45min set started an hour into theirs and we finished 20 minutes before they did. Couple the fact the festival had sold-out before we were announced there was always the risk the audience would stayed rooted for the full Maiden set. I was selling ourselves short ‘cos as the curtain opened on our stage, I saw the whole tent was packed…not just packed with curious observers, it was rammed with people ready to sing, clap and mosh along. Too many personal highlights in the short set, it really flew by and we tried to keep everything snappy with segues and quick intros to the songs so we could get maximum riff age crammed in. The sound onstage was great as well and that always makes a big difference at festivals especially when there’s no sound check. There was even an impromptu ‘happy birthday’ singalong for Mr Cooper when we’d finished, heart-warming!Anyway you can watch the stream HERE and make up your own minds!
Scream for me Wacken!
Afterwards catch a quick bit of Mike Monroe, high energy thrills as ever, and then head over to the VIP area to have a quick drink with Jan our German promoter and old friend Sean B once he’s packed the Maiden gear away. Bar is good fun, there’s huge selection of Becks beer on ice, too much choice in fact (did I really type that?), most of the ones I pick up are either waaay too weak (1%) or faaaar too strong (8%??).
“Pick a Becks, any Becks”
Michael meets Mikkey!
Meet up with Mikkey Dee again and hear how he’s been doing and also get introduced to Sam Dunn from Banger Films who’s Metal Evolution series is a must see! Last time I saw him he was hosting a Q&A with Rob Halford when we were in Toronto for NXNE many years ago. Good times.
Eventually the shuttle bus call goes out and we retrace our steps back through the mud and rain. Things don’t seem to be winding down either as we hop in the big black bus and begin the drive back down to Hamburg airport.
Hand on heart, that’s got to be one of the best festival experiences I’ve had as a punter or in the band. Everyone was super nice, helpful and easy to get along with…no egos, no ‘rock star bullshit’…lovely crowd and inspiring atmosphere.
Eat my face!
As always big, big thanks to Rich, Steve and Mark for all their hard work…Andy and Neil for all their fun and inspiring playing, Jan and the Wacken organisation for looking after us so well and of course ultimate respect to the audience who came out to enjoy our show. Very very much appreciated!