I still wish I had a wider festival experience to be able to compare Graspop to other events, but, due to what I see on various social media about festivals like Hellfest or Wacken, I believe that Graspop is still one cool relaxed festival.
I mainly mean that from the point of view of amount of time needed to relocate from one stage to another, amount of time spent in queues at drinks (close to 30 seconds on average for me), the token selling points, the entrance check-ins (even if only at the beginning of the day) or at toilets. Then, there's the cleanliness of toilets which hardly gave me reasons to complain, the running order that, having 'only' four stages, only forced you to choose between two bands at a time (I really don't want to try a festival with six stages).
Besides all these details that give a lot of bonus points to the organisers, I also had the chance to witness how the disabled people are handled, due the fact that one of my friends had a knee injury that didn't allow her to stand up for a long time. Again, we came across quite decent services with friendly and helpful people and I got really touched by noticing the conditions of some of the folks stuck in the wheelchairs and attached to breathing devices, yet willing to come to the festival.
One final bonus point goes to the guards by the stages. I hardly saw such good mood among them and I hope this will go on like this. On the smallest stage, Metaldome, they got themselves a little plush animal that they decorated differently each time I went there, and then kept taking pics with it. And when they were not busy with that, there was a lot of laughter and jokes made with the people in the crowd. Thumbs up for that!
I won't go through any festival history since the web is full of that, or you can just go to the festival website and read more there. Let's go straight to what happened during the three days of festival at Dessel. For us, it all started with Godsmack on the main stage and their groovy hard rock that has some lovely drumming parts and a pleasant voice to match those grooves. It felt like they had quite plenty of jamming in their show as well and by the end of their time on stage the crowd seemed warmed up enough for the concerts to come that weekend. But the actual awakening for me was during Unearth's metalcore show that unleashed moshpits and a lot of angry fists up in the air. The feeling of “I'm at a metal festival” was completely installed by the time I left the tent where Unearth played and went to the other tent to catch a bit of Ensiferum and their folkish death metal tunes. It's the kind of music that seems to demand you hold some drinking device in your hands and keep emptying it and, as I was not in the mood for that, I started walking towards the main stage.
Zack Wylde and his Black Label Society took over for about fifty minutes and entertained the crowd with their classic songs, all spiced up with plenty of guitar solos. Including a never-ending one by Zack at some moment, a solo that is way too long to stay cool all the way to the end. Yet, everyone in the band has obvious stage experience and know how to unleash their fury at each intense part of the melody and keep the crowd's attention at all times.
Once Zack's gang was done guitar-ing, it was time to increase the tempo with some thrash/speed metal rhythms from Arizona, as interpreted by Sacred Reich. I don't really know how often they got to play after their reunion in 2007, but certainly the crowd was happy to see them. It was a nice moment when the singer asked the crowd to lift their hands in the air for peace and friendship. I left after a couple of songs though to start discovering the food choices and practising my understanding of Dutch language. On a side note, my favourite acquisitions were the Belgian Waffles. Mmm!
Full happy belly, it was time to watch another of the day's legends on main stage: Slash. As usual, he brings Myles Kennedy on vocals, and, as far as I'm concerned, they can interpret the whole GNR discography since it sounds even better than the original at times. I simply like how Myles' voice suits the songs and I'm pretty sure almost everyone is sold to him when the show ends on the beats of Paradise City.
After being impressed few years ago by the live appearance of DevilDriver, I decided to go to the tent they played in, and skip Paradise Lost (I actually saw a song of theirs when the bass wouldn't function, hence it sounded kinda odd). And I'm sure I did the right choice, since I got another boost of energy both from the melodic and groovy death metal performed on stage, from the band's attitude and the crowd's madness. Dez Fafara, the band's vocalist, is very skilled at controlling the madness and the chaos in the crowd, making it “worse” (in the good concert meaning of “worse”) with each song. He actually explains that you should get out of the way if you don't participate in the most pit. Wise words at his concert.
Being under DevilDriver's influence, I decided to skip Sabaton's monotonousness and repeating songs (even if I like their pyro effects) and went to the smallest stage of the festival, Metaldome, to watch Obituary. I had never seen Obituary live, and was quite thrilled, since I heard a lot of good things about them. I even liked what I saw. A massive display of energy and skills, not too much instrument play, more tight, accurate and precise as it suits a band that's already a legend of the genre.
Back to the tents, I went in for a few minutes both for Amon Amarth and Sick of it All. While the former were delivering their melodic hymns to Thor and Odin, roasting the air with stage pyro effects, Sick of it All were more suitable for my mood, set by the previous concerts. Hardcore thrash-y punk that kept the moshpits running and the floor shaking. I have to mention that both of the Marquee tents had a big screen hung above the entrance, screen on which you could see the concerts that happened inside. For Sick of it All, there were already a lot of people watching from outside as it was getting rather difficult to sneak in and see from inside.
It was time for Slayer on main stage and for Cannibal Corpse on the little Metaldome. I saw both bands within the last month and, show-wise, Slayer is way more boring than their fellow Americans. So, I went once more to the Metaldome to be once more amazed by the insane fast guitar and bass playing and the never ending hair-mills of Corpsegrinder. While I don't understand a word he's “singing”, the music has a fantastic energising effect. I used the energy to take one quick trip towards the main stage to catch a bit of Slayer after all. Even if from far away, but I know people who wouldn't forgive me if I fully skipped their show. The last bands in the tents were Kyuss Lives! (who might have great music, but the high pitch parts of the songs made me leave in the middle of the first one) and Lamb of God. I can honestly watch Lamb of God weekly and still enjoy it. It's mad. Randy Blythe, the singer, can't stand still too long, unless he has to scream something. Otherwise he's either climbing and jumping from a monitor, walking all over the stage or jumping or headbanging. Anything that involves a lot of motion. I also love the fact that he has nice short speeches in which he is pretty blunt and prepares the crowd to go crazy on the upcoming songs. Playing a festival, they mainly performed the already famous hits which kept the crowd surfers surfing non stop, the moshpits going round and round and the hands jumping or frenetically waving in the air. I'm so excited to see them again this weekend.
Last on the main stage was the legend also known as The Prince of Darkness. Or Ozzy. And his friends. Friends who saved the evening, as, like one of the Dutch reviews said, Ozzy was a bad guest at his own party. He actually had cancelled a show two days prior to Graspop due to voice problems. And, since he cancelled Graspop the previous year, he more or less HAD to be on stage that evening. He had the energy and mood for the show I guess, but not the full voice. It was almost hilarious in a sad way when he was presenting the band members by shouting their names and all he managed was an ozzified Donald Duck like voice. The singing parts were ok as long as they didn't require long or powerful notes. I can't say if the crowd was disappointed or not, they kept cheering on each familiar tune while we stayed and watched. Which was probably max half of the show as all of us had seen Ozzy before in a much better shape.
All in all, a good day for thrash and death metal, with a special treat from the weather: it started raining when Slash performed Slither (lyrics being along the lines of “here comes the water / It comes to wash away the sins of you and I”). Good thing it didn't last long.