1. It started off as a small, DIY hardcore gathering before becoming one of Europe’s biggest festivals
Back in 2000, a bunch of hardcore fans led by 18-year-old Ben Barbaud put together their own non-profit association to organise gigs in the Nantes region. Two years later, after a dozen successful DIY shows for bands like Poison The Well, Strife and Terror, they decided to do their own festival. Furyfest (Hellfest’s original incarnation) debuted in June 2002, with Agnostic Front headlining in front of 400 kids.
2. It’s good for local business
If the initial reaction of the locals was, to put it mildly, far from ecstatic, these days everybody’s enjoying a piece of the pie, commercially speaking. Six months in advance, there’s not a single hotel room or B&B left in a 50 mile radius, and the local supermarket sells more beer over the course of the weekend than during the rest of the year.
3. It’s big but not too big
Even if they’re breaking their own record in 2014 by expecting a grand total of 138,000 metalheads over three days, there’s more space than at many festivals!
4. It allows you to live after midnight and rock ‘til the dawn, as Rob Halford used to say
With shows starting as early 10:30am – and come on, how cool is it to bang to Spanish thrashers Angelus Apatrida on Friday while enjoying your first croissant of the day? – and finishing around 2am the following night, it means you get over fifteen hours of loud and obnoxious metal a day.
5. It satisfies both the new schoolers and the old schoolers
What links together light grungers Seether, Singapore-born war metallers Impiety, Wino’s Spirit Caravan, cult Polish black-metallers Mgla, Skid ‘they used to be way cooler when Sebastian Bach was still singing for them’ Row, punk n’ rollers The Bones and Black Sabbath playing what could be one of their last gigs ever? Hellfest.
6. It has six different stages but it’s simpler than you think
If you think you’ll need to walk ten miles a day_ _from one stage to another, rest assured. Each scene has been carefully crafted to satisfy every metalhead’s guilty pleasures. Feeling like praising the Goat? Head over to the Temple to watch Watain, Gorgoroth, Impaled Nazarene or 1349 and you’ll get your wish. In the mood for some stoner vibe? With Electric Wizard, Monster Magnet, Clutch and Unida, The Valley will be your playground for the whole weekend.
7. It offers good value for your money
With approximately 170 bands and a three-day-pass at 185 euros (a little less than £150), with Hellfest you get to see bands for less than a pound each. Bargain!
8. It gives conservative Catholics an occasion to put on a good show
What metal festival would be complete without a bit of controversy? Every year, some conservative Catholics try to bite Hellfest’s ankles. In 2011, one group exhorted the locals to practice an exorcism to ‘cleanse’ the ‘unholy site’, while last year a more cautious lot launched an online petition to condemn an event that ‘openly promotes Satanism among the youth’, citing Behemoth, Slayer and Tsjuder lyrics.
9. It’s much closer than you think
If you’re based in London, it’ll take only 75 minutes by plane to make it to Nantes, which is less than an hour’s drive from the site. This is probably why the Brits are the most represented foreign group there, so don’t be surprised if you hear a Cockney accent or two…
10. It’ll allow you to “Rise above, rise above, we gonna rise above!”, literally
One of this edition’s novelties is a giant Ferris wheel, a perfect way to cure your morning hangover. Face it, how more metal can it be?
_Hellfest takes place this weekend. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. _