Words by: Roel
Pictures by: Ingrid
Party San Open Air is my mandatory festival experience every year. I have been going for many years, stretching back to the old location, but this year I went with low expectations. I wasn’t that excited for the line-up (too much death metal for my taste), the year has been long so I have been tired the entire summer, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the (after)parties at my previous festival (see Dong Open Air) and our camp was further back than we normally would have been. Still, we hoisted ourselves in the car on Wednesday at 09:00 to get to the camping site for the first party.
After a gruelling long time (longest drive towards Party San in my honourable Party San career) of sitting in STAU and even coming across a Wrong Way Driver (cost us an hour at least) we finally got to a nice long waiting line of cars at the festival (something I have never encountered before, but which can be explained because one of the ways to the festival was blocked). Thankfully me and Ingrid had to go to the backstage to get our tickets so we could cut the line a little bit.
And so, we arrived at the festival. At this point my earlier low expectations and mood got beaten down and got replaced by excitement as we arrived at our spot and got told that we had a lot of space for our camp. It wasn’t as far away as my imagination had made it seem and we still arrived as one of the first groups.
Apparently, it had rained in the morning, but at the moment of arrival (around 16:00) the sun was shining, and the sweating had begun. We put up our tent and welcomed all the new arrivals of our camp during the next few hours. Normally some Party San Olympics would take place, but we weren’t the only late arrivals, so we skipped those and just went to the exchanging of pleasantries and beer. Following those nice moments, the Wednesday party in the tent started and we quickly went there to dance to the same old songs as we always do (time for a new metal play list?). After many beers, the tent closed and the afterparty got extended at the campsite. As we are all getting older every day, it thankfully didn’t take too long for everyone to get tired and go to sleep. Our age means we can’t handle our alcohol as well as we used to and we need to have a strict sleeping schedule. A schedule that only got pushed out a couple of hours (0500).
Yeah, getting up in the morning after a party is always hard, but on Party San it always seems to be harder. The sun is always shining and warming up those tents till you can cook an egg on them. Thankfully this year it wasn’t that bad as the average temperature was a little lower than the last couple of years. Still the warmth got to me and after some suffering I did get dressed, smeared some sun lotion and started on breakfast after which I soon felt a lot better (the brunch beer might have helped to halt the malaise and push it towards later in the day). Thankfully the wait wasn’t too long to see the first few bands of the festival.
With my Spandex on I went to watch the first bands. Mentor, Orbit Culture and Jade did their job perfectly. They got me well adjusted to the noise, the area, the food and the (awful) beer again. Especially Jade had a good show in the tent. This might be because the tent always allows for a bit more shade and darkness, which usually tends to create a better atmosphere. This allows the haunting vocals to actually resonate in blackness. The way the vocals get used by Jade does get old after a few songs, so I went back to our camp to get some early dinner and to keep that sleeping schedule going (Ingrid brought a fresh and black tent for some good old shut eye during the day).
BALMOG was the next band I wanted to see as I needed some black metal before a long night of death metal. Their sound was good and the CO2 canons did their job to get the crowd going. The style is nothing new, but the vocals are as haunting as those of Jade.
Weirdly enough I missed Destroyer 666 and most of Morbific which were the next bands on the stages. I must have been talking to people and eating as this was my general vibe of that Thursday. Tribulation I did see and got thoroughly disappointed. I used to be a big fan of the band (having watched them many times at Party San as well) and even have merch of them at home. Their show lacked the magic that it used to have. Maybe it is me, but I think the band started going downhill after the leaving of Jonathan Hulten on guitar. It just lacks the energy it used to give off on stage. It could also just be the fact that they were playing in broad daylight.
Thankfully the bands after Tribulation made up for the disappointment. Graveyard had a decent show and actually got my head bobbing. Nile had their weird take on death metal (which isn’t for me but is technically so hard) and PostMortem was THE band for some of my fellow campees. After which it was time for the big two closing acts on the main stage. Deicide absolutely smashed the stage with EXCELLENT vocals and a very powerful Glen Benton. The songs being played rapid fire and technically close to perfect. They were followed by a BRUTAL Obituary. Their slow and crushing style of DM absolutely rolling over the many bouncing heads at the festival area. I’ve seen many bands that have been together as long as these two death metal giants. But I have only seen a few that so obviously enjoy playing the shit out of their own songs. Both bands got me to reconsider my earlier negative feelings about this line up. Which is the biggest compliment I can give them.
As I lay down in my tent after these shows (no after party today) I considered the day and got to the conclusion that I enjoyed more bands than I thought. The sound had been excellent in the tent and at the mainstage at night (as the wind had died down). And the festival was better attended than last year. A good day all in all.
After a short night because of a sunny morning, it was time to get up for another day of fine music. As always on Friday we start with a nice bit of grindcore namely Brutal Sphincter. It was fun to watch this band, but I was sincerely enjoying the quality of it as well. This was probably one of the most technical grindcore bands I have seen on this festival in years. They got the day off with some nice standard circle pitting; standard, if you include a massive amount of special outfits, gadgets and funny people (I SEE YOU OLD MAN WITH WALKING AID), an only female circle pit and a circle pit around the PA. It was fun to sweat in these pits and have our mandatory first beers.
Following Brutal Sphincter was Be’lakor. Be’Lakor was recommended by a friend who saw them at Wacken Open Air this year and I was full of anticipation to see them. The anticipation got rewarded and I saw an excellent show of melodic death metal. Showing me again that I can still enjoy the various styles of death metal. The long numbers weaved together well, carrying me away on a nice journey in my head.
After Be’lakor I noticed the dreads, I was slowly forming on my head, so I went for a nice shower. This was a good decision as there was no line. The showers were well thought out and were better than the previous years. All the stuff regarding hygiene was better arranged with better showers and more normal flushing toilets across the festival area.
The shower did mean I miss some bands, but I rejoined the action with another bunch of bands. With Kanonenfieber, Urgehal and Concrete winds making up the midday to dinner time. Kanonenfieber played a similar show as on Dong Open Air. The show is still awesome, but I wasn’t enjoying it as much as at Dong. Urgehal was fine but didn’t impress as much as I had hoped. Plus, they did a vocalist switch during the concert and I just couldn’t enjoy the second singer as much as the first. Concrete winds did surprise me. Their style being an unrelenting wall of sound with loads of fast guitar solos over hard hitting drums. The one thing that dampened the mood a little bit for me was the intense heat the tent was generating at that point making me glad I got to water down my spandex every once in a while at one of the cold water shower points on the festival area.
After a bumming out at Midnight (these guys are just not for me). I decided to get some dinner at our tent encampment and enjoy some stories and laughs with the people there. This being very fun made me miss a lot of bands but gather a lot of spirit. Rejoining the festival around Grave Miasma who got the spot of Mantar. Sadly, I have seen Grave Miasma play better on smaller stages. So even though they had the pyrotechnics and fog guns going, the chemistry to fill that entire big stage just wasn’t there. This couldn’t get my spirit down though as I watched Dying Fetus after them. Dying Fetus were able to fill up the stage well and got me headbanging again. At this point my head started hurting a bit from it. Hanging around with friends banging our heads of and screaming in each other’s ears was something I didn’t do while Hypocrisy was playing. The band being a highlight for some, didn’t do it for me. They had problems at the start and just couldn’t get it back on the rails again. So, I decided to not remember them and have the leaving song of Dying Fetus as the end track of the live portion of the Friday (Kool and the Gang all the way!).
As always Friday is a party day again, so we went to the afterparty in the tent and did some dancing there. Being bored quite fast and deciding we were done with the (comparatively cheap) beers, we decided to get the party started at our campsite. We got our little dance lights and sound boxes going and had a big party (Imagine 30 people under one party tent of 3m by 3m). People got drunk, people got sexy, and it got late. After sunup the party ended, and it was time to sleep yet again.
After a really really short night (I slept an hour). I got up, not feeling well. Dang it, a hangover. Something that is absolutely deadly at my age (😉). So, after laying on a blanket under the party tent, trying to cool down and get some rest (which I didn’t), I decided it was time to not be a wuss about it and just get the day going. I had some breakfast (didn’t help) and went to the festival area (wrong idea) as I didn’t want to miss a lot of the earlier playing bands and I wasn’t going to let a little hangover get me down.
And so, the day started on a bad note. Which progressed during Spectral Wound. The songs they played were great, but the technical difficulties they had during the show were a big distraction. One of the guitarists couldn’t get sound out of his setup and couldn’t fix it for several songs. Taking up all my attention and not letting me focus on the otherwise good set list. The fact that I didn’t feel well did nothing to help the band as well.
Thankfully I could sit down after Spectral Wound as the enormous shitpile that is SkitSystem got on stage. It was horrible to listen to, even at 100 meters. Thankfully we had a place on one of the 3 beer gardens (2 covered and 1 in the open) and could talk straight through it. I was burning up at this time and was considering going back to the tents to get some sleep. BUUUUUTTT my research before Party San made me stay to watch Tabula Rasa. And boy did that pay off (AWOOOOOOOOHOOO AWOOOOHOOOOO). The sound was great, and the strange danceable music got some spirit back into the graveyard that was my body. If only these German bands wouldn’t talk so much during their sets!
The energy I got of the concert did get me through to the next band as well (another one that was on my list), Ellende. Ellende played a great show and the little shower of rain that fell down during it, only made it better.
After Ellende I felt like collapsing so I wanted to go back to the tent. I got talking to some friends and then noticed that I made it to Stormkeep. The last of the bands I hadn’t seen before and did want to see. The early 2000’s fantasy black metal completely connected with me. The strange outfits on stage (a breast plate and witches’ hat being among them) and the throwback to the times that Dissection and Windir reigned kept me going and I thoroughly enjoyed the 30 minutes they played (if only they had had a little more time). After this I collapsed and went back to bed.
Sidenote of our Photographer Ingrid:
One of the disappointments of the festival came in the form of Endstille. We were quite anticipated to watch them, because we’ve seen some pretty straightforward shows of them, but today they were a complete mess. Their singer seemed quite off, all over the place and got distracted every now and then. I couldn’t connect to them at all this day and left after a couple of songs.
I got some well-deserved sleep (4 hours of it) and still felt like shit, but I did get back in my clothes again to watch Borknagar. This was a good choice as it was the best show, I have seen of Borknagar (okay maybe the show of Borknagar at Inferno 2012 was as good) in my life. ICS Vortex was spot on with his vocals and the songs just blended from one into the others. I completely spaced out to the music and the crowd enjoyed it as well!
After Borknagar it was back to survival mode. I was still feeling like an absolute turd of a human being, so I watched some Heretic, the Ruins of Beverast and Kataklysm from afar. Especially during Kataklysm I got the idea again that the festival had sold a way bigger number of tickets than the year before. The field was full, and people were cheering, and as much as we love Enslaved, they were the true headliner of the day. We might be even bold enough to say they were the festival headliner.
Little side note from our photographer (Ingrid):
No other band this year had such a huge, wild, headbanging and crowdsurfing audience as Kataklysm had. Their show was spot-on and they presented us with one huge wall of sound during their entire set. Even though we loved hearing familiar songs as ‘As I Slither’, ‘Crippled and Broken’ and ‘Taking the World by Storm’, this was a good celebration of the release of their new album ‘Goliath’, that was released the day before.
Thankfully the 3 bands above ended and the last and (for me biggest) band of the festival could play a special set. I have seen Enslaved many times in my life, but I have never seen a rendition of Vikingligr Veldi. This was not that wondrous, as they hadn’t played it outside of Norway yet. They started the set and the waiting crowd got blown away. This was a seminal album of the genre, and they played it to perfection. Sadly, I had to go to bed after 40 minutes or so. I just couldn’t stay awake and felt like I could pass out at any time. I went back to the tent and sat in a chair for a bit after which I went to bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
The next day we packed up and cleaned our campsite. I got home after a normal drive back (oops I did scratch the car), did a corona test and tested positive, I was in bed for 4 to 5 days with a big ass fever. Explaining the horrible feeling I had during the last day of the festival. These days I did have a lot of time to look back at the festival. I concluded that I thoroughly enjoyed this edition of PSOA. It was fun, the weather was great (though I did get a little sunburn), the people I went with enjoyed themselves, the music was great even though my expectations weren’t that high, and I partied like I was 25 again. I was thinking of making this my last Party San, but I rescind that decision. Next year I will probably roll out towards Schlotheim yet again. Especially as the following bands have already been confirmed to play:
BEHEMOTH, SODOM, ANAAL NATHRAKH, LEFT TO DIE, KRAANIUM, ENTHRONED, LEGION OF THE DAMNED, SULPHUR AEON, BEWITCHED, BROKEN HOPE, DARKEND NOCTURN SLAUGHTERCULT, NECROT, KONVENT, OBSCURITY, MEPHORASH, VARATHRON, ULTHA, HELLRIPPER, STILLBIRTH, GRIMA, HERETOIR, IMHA TARIKAT, REGARDE LES HOMMES TOMBER, WILT, ROPE SECT
A line up that is more up my alley and hopefully just as good live as the acts this year.
So I’ll see you next year Party San!
If you want to get an impression of shows in the tent stage look up Zugabe TV