Review: Rockavaria 2015

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It is not every day that you come across a festival that has a splendid mix of rock, punk and metal. Rockavaria promised exactly that, and how they delivered. Spread over three days, Rockavaria was held for the first time at the Olympiastadion in Munich, the venue for the 1972 Olympic Games. The Main Stage at the Olympic Arena used to be the home ground for FC Bayern Munich until 2006; the Olympiahalle was used as a smaller, indoor venue and the Theatron (Amphitheatre) was used for a few underground bands. With the weather playing along, Rockavaria certainly pitched its case to be one of Germany’s best new festivals, if not Europe’s.

Day One’s proceedings started off seemingly early at 1:45 P.M. with Money for Hope at the Theatron and Orchid at the Main Stage, but thanks to the ever reliable Deutsche Bahn, we didn’t get to Munich until 3PM. Having missed more than half the day’s proceedings and having had a little bit of a hard time finding the press accreditation area, we finally made our way just about in time to catch Paradise Lost in the Olympiahalle. It must have been the acoustics in the hall, or it could’ve just been my lack of knowledge of Paradise Lost, but they sounded little off key. Having watched half the set, it was time to rush over to the Theatron to watch Orange Goblin with their masterful blend of doom, stoner and punk can never do any wrong. Orange Goblin was followed by Saint Vitus and Kvelertak with Babymetal and Limp Bizkit were on at the Halle. Never really understood the hold that Babymetal has over an audience but we wouldn’t find out for ourselves because the Olympiahalle’s doors were closed to prevent more people from entering what was an overcrowded hall. Unfortunate turn of events, but that meant we were free to go watch Incubus and Muse at the Olympiastadion.

That was certainly not the worst thing to have occurred because Incubus and Muse, having started off as bands hugely influenced by metal and even exploring the metal sound to quite an extent, delivered strong and spectacular performances. Muse is not a band every metalhead listens to, but the performances Muse put up is nothing short of art. Quite a mesmerizing two hours later, we headed back to our accommodation, happy at not having missed more of the day. Disappointingly, we missed Truckfighters, in what was supposedly a very energetic performance (we caught them later on at Wacken Open Air; review coming up soon)

Day Two saw lots of punk/hardcore bands play at the Theatron, whilst heavy metal big guns Judas Priest and Kiss were slotted to perform later in the night. The Theatron came to life with La Dispute, an American post-hardcore band. Moving to other venues was not on the cards, as La Dispute was to be followed immediately by the brilliant and explosive Ignite. Our Darkest Days has to be one of the masterpieces of hardcore and the album that defines melodic hardcore. Ignite does justice to that album every time they play songs from it. We could’ve just gone home after Ignite, because nothing else was going to match their show on that day. Hellyeah and Five Finger Death Punch were on at the main stage but in my honest opinion, they cannot hold up against Ignite on even their best days. Crowd surfing in an amphitheatre is usually discouraged, but quite a few bodies were steadily being sent in the direction of the band throughout their set. Mad Caddies were a much needed respite from the proceedings because the active and politically outspoken Anti-Flag were up next. Anti-Flag have a reputation for being very provocative and standing up for everything/everyone that has been wronged in this world. Homophobia, Racism, Sexism, Communalism, you name it, they’re against it. If it isn’t the music that gets you hooked, it should be the message this band sends out.

Judas Priest was up on the Main Stage and delivered hit after hit after hit. Sadly, it must be said that Rob Halford is no longer the vocal force he used to be, letting the audience do most of the singing on Painkiller and other high pitched songs. However, Priest always delivers a good show, no doubts about that. Sick Of It All followed Anti-Flag at the Theatron, to cap off a feisty day filled with hardcore and punk madness. Sick Of It All have never had a bad show when I’ve watched them and on this day, it would be no different, whipping up the crowd in a moshing frenzy, even though there hardly was space to even stand. Airbourne, the AC/DC heir that almost no AC/DC fan wants to watch, were the last band to play. Sometimes a little bit of over-the-top showboating is exactly what you need after a long festival day and Airbourne were at their entertaining best. With the band’s roadie also doubling up as the guitarist’s horse, a quick tour of the audience area was done with a very long and winding guitar solo.

Judas Priest - Rockavaria

Day Three was the real day of metal, with the Main Stage packed with thrash. On a day when Exodus, Hatebreed, Testament, Kreator and Metallica were slotted at the Main stage, Decapitated, Gojira and Meshuggah were performing at the Olympiahalle.

At the Olympiahalle, we caught only the last track Spheres of Madness from Polish death act Decapitated’s set, having stayed on to watch Hatebreed to their very last song at the Main Stage. ‘And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’ is a band that most certainly is not suited for festivals and this was propounded by the fact that most people left the hall just before they began. They sounded off from the first song on and unfortunately so, because they usually are a band that you would pay to watch at a club gig. ‘Gojira’ were on next and this band is one that never fails. Big stage, small stage, moving trucks. Give them a drum kit, some amps and they’ll blow your mind. Short sets are the bane of such bands’ existence. When a band like Gojira plays for just half an hour odd, it leaves you feeling miserable because this is a band that deserves a much longer time slot. Not because they have so much material, but because even if they play the same song for the whole set, you’d still want them to play more. Anathema playing between Gojira and Meshuggah was a little bit confusing, given the drastic change in styles. Meshuggah took stage at around 7 P.M. and as is with their crowd interactions, the lesser said the better: Perfect.

Meanwhile on the Main stage, Exodus started the day’s proceedings with their brand of bay area thrash. Steve Souza’s recent return to the band has been one of the best bits of news I’d heard in the recent past and watching the band play classics like ‘Toxic Waltz’ and ‘Piranha’ but also tracks from the new ‘Blood In Blood Out’ album was a treat. Hatebreed were on next, and they have their live act down to a T. I’ve watched them a bunch of times and they’ve never disappointed; that Sunday was no different.

Hatebreed - Rockavaria

The rest of the day was a thrash metal assault of Testament, Kreator and Metallica (Faith No More was a blur that I barely registered). I must state here that I am a little biased towards Kreator because they are one of my favourite bands have I’ve never seen them play a weak show. I’d have enjoyed the experience better if I was part of the mosh pits, in the sweat and energy of the crowds rather than in the seated area, but no complaints. Between the 3 bands, you have almost 100 years of thrash metal experience and there was almost no note out of place.

Testament - Rockavaria

Kreator - Rockavaria

Metallica gets a lot of flak for their new music and Hetfield is half the angry, pissed off man he was but taking the show in objectively as a one off experience, Metallica were great. They did their job of playing the classics (including Lords of Summer) and sent the crowds home happy, a fitting end to the inaugural Rockavaria. Within Temptation were on at one of the smaller halls but at the end of a 3 day long weekend of metal debauchery and beer, we decided to skip them and head home.

Metallica - Rockavaria

Overall, the festival was well organized and a pleasure to visit. A good offering of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, loads of few food stalls too for every palette and good merchandise (a tad bit overpriced though). Location was ideal and the access to the venue was easy, with security being a pleasant bunch of people. Minor changes need to be made but as is the case with festivals, you cannot get everything right. Hopefully next year, the press will have much better access to the stages, since not being able to watch a band because the public area is full, is well, disappointing. And perhaps a little more thought when the running order is being finished. Having said, Rockavaria is certainly a winner in our books and we’ll definitely be back next year, especially with the latest announcement that Iron Maiden have been confirmed as headliners!

Danke schön, München! Danke schön, Rockavaria. See you again next year.

Written both by Madhav and Manaswi Gundi