Woo, what a trip. OK, I’m sure Dawn’ll correct me if I miss anything out so I’ll ramble on about how good it was and how it wasn’t flooded out like Glastonbury and stuff.
It’s quite a drive down to Dawn’s and I was late setting off (for a change – utterly unlike me). Thank feck I went down the A1 rather than using the motorways as they were shafted, from what I could gather. A quick cuppa, some more head-shaving (got to have stripes for a festival) and then on to Stansted.
The flight to Eindhoven is a fairly short one – less than an hour from takeoff to setdown. The weather in Holland was still ludicrously warm and we sweltered our way to the hotel. Eventually. As tour guide, I opted to take the scenic route and meet the locals on the way. I thought this was a more enjoyable way to familiarise ourselves with the country and settle in than just, I don’t know, walking directly there. Dawn says we “got lost and had to ask for directions”. Don’t listen to her.
There were no shops or anything in the immediate area, so another stroll was in order. The nearest shop turned out to be a Shell garage maybe 2 miles down the road, which we reached while dodging a plethora of cyclists. It’s not a stereotype when people say Holland’s flat. It flipping is, and as a result there are a lot of cyclists. This is great if you’re an environmentalist, but shit-scary if you’re a pedestrian and can’t hear them coming up behind you. However, they always either gave us a wide berth or tinkled their bell. Even the motorists gave way to us at crossings.
A couple of beers were had at the hotel (nice and cold they were, too) and then our exhausted legs were given a breather for a few hours when we crashed out.
The morning was a bit of a rush as we had to ensure we were at the airport by 9:30 for the shuttle bus to the festival. If all else failed, we had the public transport route planned, but this was easier and cheaper. 10 Euros, one bus, return trip. It wasn’t difficult to see where to wait. Eindhoven Airport is rather small and there was a large congregation of long-haired black-t-shirt-wearing people near the bus stop. We joined them and waited.
And a bit more.
The bus which would “leave on time!!!” according to the tickets turned up at 10:20, and left at 10:40. We could have actually finished breakfast at the hotel. Dawn was already struggling as she’d only had half her morning coffee. Diddums.
The coach journey was only an hour or so, and shortly we were unloading again, wandering down a dusty passageway along the side of a building and into a field with barricades at one end. Here we remained for almost an hour, moving forward excrutiatingly slowly. Depending on which queue you ended up in, either your rucksack was searched thoroughly or someone just asked you if you had any gas canisters and took them off you (unusual as it was stated on the forum that these small canisters were allowed). Obviously, this searching really slowed things down. The temperatures were in the mid-30’s and the crowd over at one side were being sprayed with a hose (lucky sods), but we were through!
And into another queue. For another 45 minutes as they exchanged tickets for wristbands. But, eventually, we got through that lot as well and into the campsite proper. After a bit of a wander, we located somewhere and pitched up. Then blew up the inflata-bed. Then collapsed in the overwhelming heat.
Sustenance was required, as was locating the actual festival park. Unusually, you have to leave one field via a public road and enter another one a short distance away. The locals had taken full advantage of this and most had opened their gardens up (at a small charge) as mini bars with moderately priced drinks and cold hoses to spray water on you. What a great idea! Over here, locals tend to just moan about the traffic problems, litter, noise and so on. Stuff that – take advantage! Join in!
After a stop for some water (and beer), we followed the road round to the festival site proper. A quick argument with a security guard (“it is not a professional camera! Claim that to a proper photographer and he’ll laugh at you!”) and we were in. The first thing is that Graspop is a lot smaller than Download, Leeds/Reading and so on though it is plenty big enough. There’s a market, a “Metal Dome” tent (upcoming bands and DJs), two marquees, a main stage and all the usual concession stands and stuff. End to end, I’d put it at around 1/3 the size of this year’s Download. The scheduling of bands, though, is slightly different. With the exception of the Friday where the Metal Dome was being used for acts, there were no bands in any of the tents when someone was on the main stage. This meant, at worst, you only had to choose between two acts if things clashed. The sound quality on all four stages was great, on the whole. Someone forgot to switch Bruce’s mike on at the start of the Maiden set on Sunday!
The food was the usual sort of fare, and drinks were lovely and cold. After a good hard mosh, ice cold Coke tastes a million times better than at any other time ever. The first band I was really bothered with were Papa Roach and they played a slightly different set to that at Download (no “Scars” – Wah!), by the end of which I was as dust-covered as I had been two weeks earlier. And a lot hotter.
Over the day, we also caught Madball, H20 (who I’m looking out for now), Within Temptation (surprisingly good and a great stage show), Megadeth and Alter Bridge. Headliners on the main stage were System Of A Down, who pretty much played the same set as at Download, finishing around 1am. Kreator went on to headline of the marquees, not leaving stage till after 2! British festivals usually have a curfew of 11pm for, I presume, noise reasons. Not so here, where the Metal Dome went on into the early hours as well.
The tent was like a flipping sauna when we got back, though exhaustion set in quite quickly. We did take a trip to the shower tent, but this had closed for the day so we just used to the “troughs” in the washtent to clean everywhere. It’s a weird experience brushing your teeth and being careful where you spit in case you gob froth down someone’s foot. It looked like it might chuck rain down as there was very frequent lightning, but no accompanying thunder. Looks like it was just showing off about what it had done at Glastonbury.
I think we were up and about not long after 10 the next morning. Again, it was too hot to sleep in! Saturday was slightly overcast, though, which was good news for my sunburn.
There was a breakfast tent on site which did various simple meals so we headed there after washing up. The bacon was a bit weird – it was in little “bits” rather than slices, but hungry people can’t be choosers so I whacked it in a roll and munched it down. Copious amounts of water followed as it was in free supply on the campsite. No such luck at the festival end – no bottles could be taken in, and there was nowhere to fill them up anyway. The only flowing water was in the toilet area and that wasn’t drinking water. Oh, while mentioning the toilets… wow. Comfy, water-flushing, well-lit, fully stocked with loo roll, clean. Amazing. Best loos ever at a festival. Partly the initial quality and partly the fact that wankers didn’t try and smash them up over the weekend as would be the case in the UK.
Saturday was a little busier bandwise. Soilwork, Sick Of It All, Pro-Pain, Hatebreed, Anthrax, Slayer and Slipknot were all on my “to see” list, though we also caught Peter Pan Speedrock (their German cover of Ace of Spades is superb), Accept (good grief – they’re like Priest fronted by a screaming German dwarf), Kamelot (not my thing), and Epica (fit lead singer). Slayer’s crowd was huge. I’ve never seen them play to so many people, though this was probably expected by the way people wearing their shirts outnumbered just about everyone else short of Maiden. We weren’t too far back, and the crowd was right up to the food vans on all sides. I’d honestly say Slipknot had a smaller crowd.
Anthrax were amazing, and I think Dawn’s favourite band of the weekend. They played a marginally longer set than at Download, including a short burst of Pantera’s A New Level before leaving the stage far, far too early. I rather enjoyed Soilwork – think I’ll have to get some of their older stuff as I only have the current album. Fingers crossed they reach the UK sometime soon.
Between bands, we rested in the beer tent for a bit. Basically a huge hall with benches. And mad Dutch people racing wheelie bins up and down (sometimes with people in them), much to the annoyance of the cleaning staff.
The cooler weather made sleep a little easier, too. The guy deciding to sit outside our tent with his radio on full tilt, however, didn’t. Hey ho.
Sunday was “lie in” day as there wasn’t too much on the bill we were bothered about – predominantly just Nuclear Assault in the late afternoon and Iron Maiden closing things off late in the evening. As such, we decided to take a walk into Dessel itself. Well, it was a nice day for it. There wasn’t much to see (some houses, nice pubs and a shop) but it made for a pleasant plod before we headed festival-wise and caught Nuclear Assault.
Amazingly, I still remembered half their material despite not having heard it in years. Hey, they did Hang The Pope, so I was happy. I’ve still not figured out what all this “White Toyota” crap was that the singer kept going on about…
Lazing around on the grass, we also caught. Dio (OK), Dream Theatre (yawn), and Yngwie Malmsteen (twat – why have one note when you can fit in 73? widdle-widdle-widdle-WANK). I also read virtually the entire book that Anni had loaned me.
All praise be to Iron Maiden, however. With a set based firmly on the first four albums, a simple yet effective stageshow, a crowd who knew virtually every word, news of a new album and tour in 2006 and a cracking fireworks display to end it I was – for those 90-or-so minutes – damn proud to be English. OK, our festivals have crappier toilets and worse weather, but our bands know how to fucking rock!
A moderately early night was had (the coach left at 11:00 prompt the next morning – apparently) in another sweatbath.
On Monday, my NUFC shirt was officially retired. Much as I love it, I wasn’t going to be able to sit next to someone on an aeroplane wearing it because it kind of minged by then. Tents were packed, food eaten and grass sat on as we waited for our bus.
And a bit more.
Sensing a theme here? The people round us were just as restless as 11:00 came and went. Someone asked the police – the only buses they knew of were the shuttle buses to Mol which left from the festival entrance, not the campsite. I ran down and in the distance could see two coaches that looked like the ones from the airport – parked about 1000 yards down the road from where we’d originally been dropped off. Arse. By the time I’d run back and told the 20+ people waiting, the coaches had buggered off. Not good.
Well, we’ve all heard how good European public transport is meant to be, so we went for it. Free bus to Mol. Train from Mol to the outskirts of Lommel, with a break for lunch. Minibus from there to Lommel proper, and a coach into Eindhoven where we picked up the airport service (after stopping for a wander). Total cost was around £6, with the majority of that being the coach to the airport. The coaches and train were spotless. The staff were, without exception, massively helpful (and spoke English, apart from one old guy at Lommel). The minibus driver squeezed two people on that he shouldn’t have so we wouldn’t be split up, and then phoned up the coach ahead as we’d normally have missed it and had an hour’s wait for the next one. The coach waited for us and not one of the passengers complained.
Un-bloody-real. And utterly fantastic. A real eye-opener. I don’t use public transport in this country because it’s overpriced, overcrowded, slow, unreliable, difficult to get information on, inconvenient and generally just a complete fucking mess. A short hop over the sea and you get a system that runs like clockwork and at a realistic price.
Another thing I didn’t see much of was overweight people. Again, back to the bikes I think. At Eindhoven station, there were literally hundreds of bikes in the cycle racks – and barely 10% of them were locked up. The streets were clean, cyclists well catered for, food and drinks cheap, people amazingly friendly and helpful…
Here’s my resolution. I intend to go back next year, only by then I’m going to know enough Dutch to get around. Not much – I’m realistic and crap at languages – but I’ll be able to order my beers, food, travel tickets and so on without resorting to English. Amazingly, my GCSE French came in useful at one point (that was so well worth the two years I spent on it…), but given how utterly wonderful the Dutch (and north Belgian) people were to us, I think it only fair that I should make the effort.
Oh, and in case you’re reading Andy – the chicks were hot. Damn hot. You can take all your trendy women and chuck them. No matter where you go in the world, rock chicks are by far the fittest. There’s no better way to spend a lazy afternoon than lying flat on your back on foreign soil, decent music blaring from a stage nearby while your mirrored shades let you gaze happily up the short skirts that float past.
What an utterly great weekend. And thanks to Dawn for being mental enough to go with me and not kill me at any point. Bruce’s slime is in the post!