If you didn't head to Hellfest this year, you probably spent last weekend glued to your computer screen salivating over the immaculate line-up. There's no shame in admitting it. However, while the all-star bill left all who attended in a state of dewy-eyed awe, there were various other pros – and cons, believe it or not – to the annual French bash.
Pro 1: Again… that** line-up**
Headlined by Aerosmith, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, the two main stages offered a wealth of talent; where else would you see Soulfly and Deep Purple one after the other? Staggered bills on the two main stages and the suitably creepy Altar and Temple stages ensured that there were no clashes in those areas respectively. Which was nice.
Con 1: That being said, some of the clashes were brutal
Undoubtedly, there will be clashes at every festival. It’s inevitable. But with a line-up as perfect as Hellfest’s, punters were left ambling around like leather-clad sheep in a desperate attempt to clear their heads. Who should have to choose between Gorgoroth, Phil Anselmo and Aerosmith? And who wants to make the judgement call between Paradise Lost, Soundgarden and the Misfits, or even something as apparently simple as Hatebreed and Clutch? We shouldn’t be moaning about the fact the festival booked _too _many great bands, but we’re British – it’s what we do.
Pro 2: The band you want to see will actually get a decent time-slot
No UK event of Hellfest’s size would consider giving Behemoth an hour-long main-stage slot at eight in the evening. It just wouldn’t happen. Despite the band looking more out of place than a Teletubby in Mordor, it was a genuine delight to see something as extreme as Behemoth exposed to so many people. Even Stinky Bollocks (still don’t know who they are), who were on the smallest stage at 11am, got half an hour.
Con 2: Sixteen hours is a long time to be stood watching bands
This really shouldn’t be something to moan about, but it should be addressed, at least. You see, us Brits are used to crawling out of bed at around midday, catching a few of the early(ish) bands, retreating to the tent and grumbling about the crap weather before watching the closing acts – we’re all tucked up in bed before midnight, basically. Hellfest’s gates open at 10am and close at 2am the following morning. If you plan on seeing as many bands as possible, you’re going to be absolutely knackered. Happy, but knackered.
Pro 3: For the most part, organisation kicked arse
Transitions between bands were smoother than a baby’s bum dipped in axle grease; none of that waiting about for an hour goes down at Hellfest, with the biggest gap between main stage bands being about ten minutes. Every stage was ridiculously easy to access, the schedule was viewable in the arena – underneath a giant, laser-eyed crow statue, no less – and the campsite was literally two minutes away.
Con 3: But just on a few occasions…
Everyone’s allowed a boo-boo now and again. Last year’s edition of the festival saw hordes of pissed off Danzig fans left watching Ghost close the weekend due to Danzig’s schedule buggering up, instead shifting him to play a late afternoon slot in a tent. This year, gaggles of Death Angel fans were greeted with the presence of Trivium. Why? We don’t know, but it was broadcast on the Hellfest Facebook page a day before – if you ain’t got internet access while you’re there, you’re gonna be out of the loop.
Pro 4: The location and weather was gorgeous…
Hellfest is based in Clisson; a gorgeous, idyllic town in the Western pocket of France, the entire population rallied behind the event, as they do every year! Schoolkids threw the most adorable devil horns ever, locals set up market stalls in the sunshine and the supermarket was stocking Emperor CDs. Plus, they have a McDonald’s, which essentially eliminates the rest of the competition.
Con 4: …but not by the end of the weekend
The sun didn’t seem so friendly after beating upon the backs of punters for nearly five days, with several water points refusing to work. The supermarket didn’t seem so revolutionary when you had to actually queue to get inside. And McDonald’s didn’t seem so clean after hordes of metalheads had finished with its poor, unsuspecting toilet – by the Sunday, most sane people just bit the bullet and went to the festival bogs; unearthly pits of stinky man-poo reeking in the thirty Celsius heat.
Pro 5: Everyone seemed to be drinking before they even brush their teeth
How they do it we may never truly understand, but those French know how to drink. With beer being decently priced on site and huge crates of Kronenbourg going at the supermarket for about a tenner, no leg was left unwobbled by the Sunday evening.
Con 5: You won’t be able to keep up with them
To paraphrase some French guy we met during Rob Zombie: ‘Ah, you’re English. Have some water’.