Rock Am Ring 2009: Rated!
Nurburgring, Germany - 5-7 June
16 June 2009
Overall - 7/10
An otherwise great festival let down slightly by terrible weather – almost British-style rain and freezing temperatures which were admittedly unusual for Rock Am Ring. The line-up was fairly decent but nothing on the big UK festivals such as Glastonbury or T In The Park. Acts consisted of predominantly US and UK heavy rock bands, comparable to Reading and Leeds. Being Germany, there was plenty of beer to be drunk by the 90,000 people attending this year. Bands started from an average of 2pm until about 3am, with the Centerstage finishing earliest. There were plenty of scheduling clashes between bands as expected. Lower taxes on cigarettes meant they were more than affordable, but the current weakness of the Pound against the Euro meant it was quite expensive for essentials like food and beer. On that subject, it's worth noting that any drinks are inclusive of a 1 Euro deposit for the cup, so it's worth returning them (or there are plenty of keen people picking up the empties!).
Getting There and Back – 9/10
Although in Germany, you couldn’t hope for an easier route to the festival. Under an hour to fly from Gatwick to Koln-Bonn and it’s really cheap by Easyjet, as much as you might pay for a train ticket to Glastonbury (depending on where you live). From the airport, it take about an hour by train to local town Koblenz (£30 return) which is the last opportunity to stock up on extremely cheap drink and food (25p a beer). There are plenty of coaches laid on by the festival organisers (£12 return) outside the train station which get you to the middle of the Nurburgring through picturesque German countryside and this takes an additional 50-minutes. Certainly not much of an effort. Getting home was just as simple, but you may appreciate the McDonalds at Koblenz train station a little more when going home than on the way out.
The Site – 8/10
Security was fairly heavy during the festival, then all but disappeared on the Monday. The campsite was fine, with soft ground making it easy to pitch a tent and floodlights making it possible in the dark. As with UK festivals there was music from various sources playing most of the night. The arena itself is on the site of the former Grand Prix track and is therefore entirely concrete, meaning no getting muddy even with the rain. Attendees get to run along the starting grid to get to in front of the Centerstage, past the pits, which was unique. To reduce the chance of crushing the main stage has three areas, with traffic lights telling you whether you could go further forward. The Suzuki Alternastage was at the opposite end of the track. The site was quite narrow, only just wider than the stages, so crowds stretched back until they met in the middle. Near the main entrance was the Coca-Cola Soundstage tent, which contained two stages that were used alternately to minimise downtime between bands.
Atmosphere – 7/10
Every single person there was drunk, helped in part by vendors walking through the crowd with beer kegs strapped to their backs, so you never had to go too far for a refill. The crowd was mostly friendly, approximately 98% German, 1% Swedish and then a tiny smattering of other Europeans (including about 10 English and Irish). Even still, the language barrier was definitely not a problem as English usage is widespread. The festival-goers were certainly no strangers to rocking out, clapping along happily whenever they could and forming circular moshpits at a moment's notice during any vaguely popular song. Some people started fires to fight the night-time coldness and didn't mind huddling together until the thick smoke from discarded food packaging got too much for some eyes.
Music – 6/10
Nothing out of this world but nothing worse than mediocre. The line-up consisted mainly of US and UK bands who are doing the European festival circuit this year – most can be seen on English stages this summer. There were some, but not many, German acts, however even then the majority sung in English.
Madness – 8/10
The small British contingent were all present for the London party boys, who effortlessly got the crowd going with some vintage hits such as 'It Must Be Love' and 'House Of Fun'. Suggs showed his veteran skills as a performer, cracking jokes between songs, such as “tell the neighbours to keep it down, we're having a party here,” before set highlight 'Our House'. They may act like a bunch of drunk uncles at a wedding, but these old hands have definitely still got the magic.
Kooks – 7/10
A slightly tipsy Luke Pritchard came out to a mixture of applause and dreamy sighs from the largely young female crowd. Kicking off with first album stormers 'Always Where I Need To Be' and 'Matchbox', they played an invigorating, mainly up-tempo set. One notable exception was new song 'Princess Of My Mind', played solo on an electric guitar by Luke. The frontman may have been sampling the local beers before hand as he stumbled over his words explaining that the rest of the band were in fact coming back. He dedicated 'Sofa Song' to "the pretty ladies down at the front," before scrambling in to join them. Security won the tug of war with the crowd and the band retreated to the relative safety of backstage.
The Killers – 9/10
Brandon Flowers and his band of Las Vegas showmen performed a solid-gold hits set, demonstrating why the are now headlining every festival they appear at. It was hard to distinguish the brightest moments in such a glorious catalogue but 'Human', alongside old favourites 'Somebody Told Me' and 'Mr. Brightside' got the loudest cheers. There was scarce between-song banter from the normally talkative Flowers but who needs polite chatter when you have the crowd singing along to heavyweight anthems such as these?
Dragonforce – 7/10
Despite the fact they were relatively early on in the day, a huge crowd turned out to see the British guitar maestros. They did not disappoint, with lightning-fast fretwork and histrionic vocals from ZP Theart. Ladies dressed in nurse outfits were on hand to keep the band topped up with booze, but the neon "Tits Out" sign displayed during an apocalyptic 'Through The Fire And Flames' was completely ignored by the crowd. Nevertheless, they will surely be welcomed back next year by an appreciative crowd.
Placebo – 8/10
There is no denying Placebo's popularity in Germany and they were certainly one of the most-anticipated bands to play the whole weekend. Unfortunate technical issues arose in the middle of a set crammed with new material, leading Brian Molko to apologise. “This is a LIVE concert” he smiled with a Joker-like grin, presumably picturing exactly who was going to be fired after the show. Songs from latest (and heavily promoted) album ‘Battle For The Sun’ were warmly received, however it was the old classics such as ‘Taste In Men’, ‘The Bitter End’ and ‘Every You Every Me’ that really showed why we all cannot ignore them.
Little Man Tate – 6/10
Little Man Tate were the first band to grace any of the stages on the Saturday when it had rained heaviest. The towels on the race track may have been out in their thousands, but the festival-goers themselves were nowhere to be seen. Guitarist Edward Marriot could visibly be seen mouthing the words “ah fucking hell,” when noticing the dire turn out. “How'd you get a tan with weather like this?” shouted one wag, “I never thought we'd be heckled” replied Jon Windle. Not a bad set though, just the wrongs guys in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All American Rejects – 2/10
Absolutely abysmal pop-punk plop. With Tyson Ritter’s white attire covered in filth from his usual rolling around on stage the previous day at the festival’s twin site in Nurnberg, the only song which got any kind of positive response was 'Dirty Little Secret’. They then slowly got more and more hostile and by the time they reach the finale of 'Gives You Hell' (which everyone had come to see), Tyson consistently flipped the bird to the crowd and proceeded to walk off stage with all the haste of a French army. Good riddance.
The Script – 4/10
The lowest point of a miserable set was a diabolical cover of 'Heroes' which would have Bowie giving up the securitisation of his back catalogue in an instant. Guitarist Mark Sheehan tried to warm to the crowd by pointing out that German beer is the best in the world as it “doesn't give you a hangover”, only to be countered by lead singer Danny O’Donoghue to put his money where his mouth is. With conditions being frozen and wet and wind’s setting a chill in the very core of the crowd, The Script turned out to be a crappy cherry on a very shitty cake
Juliette Lewis – 3/10
Back with a new harder rock edge, Juliette Lewis and The New Romantiques were painfully out of depth on the main stage. Seemingly unaware of German custom, she asks the crowd “you guy’s don’t rock here till really late do you?” as if dumbfounded by the lack of response by her mere presence. These drunken Germans really weren’t interested in anything more than the Hollywood star that she used to be.
Middle Class Rut – 3/10
This American duo were hampered by the technical issues brought on by the ego within the group. MC Rut have over-gorged on the reverb stakes and thus creating songs which are mainly tuneless mindless cacophonies, indistinguishable from one song to the next in an open air environment. For the first few songs, drummer Sean Stockham repeatedly asks for his monitors to be turned up only to be ignored, making him increasingly agitated as their set progresses.
A man blowing a Viking horn whilst urinating against the side of an (unoccupied) portaloo.
Sid from Slipknot diving in to the crowd to get a round of beers from one of the vendors.
The tarpaulin on both sides of the Suzuki Alternastage fell down on the second day, knocking off the lights. Also the roof on the Centerstage looked like it was about to fly off most of the time but clung on by the one remaining support rope
A vicious moshpit during Deep Blue Something’s ‘Breakfast At Tiffanys’ in the club tent.
A group of six drunken Carebears making their way through the crowd with no sense of direction
Mistaking German chart act MIA (Musik Ist Alles) with our own MIA, of ‘Paper Planes’ fame.
By Neil Stone and Robin Card.