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Henry Rollins: Metalheads in Germany

[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]

Two weeks ago, I left you in Germany at the start of the Wacken Festival. Now, we continue ...

Day 2, Show 1: The first show was scheduled for 1215 hrs. A 60-minute set. At 0900 hrs. a Wacken shuttle picked me up from the hotel and we made the approximately 90-minute drive to the site.

For the first hour of the ride, the view was almost uninterrupted fields of wheat, corn and cows. Then, suddenly, metal fans were everywhere. They hang from cars and spill off sidewalks into the street. Many were wearing Wacken shirts depicting the horned bull's skull logo. I noted a lot of Motörhead shirts. Closer to the site, there was a huge banner that said, "Welcome Metal Heads."

I got my pass, meal cards and laminate. I then was taken to a small tent to wait for showtime. I met a Chinese metal band from Beijing. One of the guitar players said things are getting better for musicians there and I wondered what the hell that means.

A few minutes before showtime, I did a short sound check. Moments later, the curtain opened and I was in front of a few hundred people. They regarded me with measured interest. I started talking. The hour passed quickly. I walked to the backstage holding area, transferred to the press tent, did an interview with local television, got back in the shuttle and headed back to the hotel. Almost the entire distance, the opposite lanes were unbroken lines of unmoving cars, as thousands of people arrived at the festival.

I got back to my room, nauseous from jet lag. I forced myself into the gym. Minutes passed like hours but I stuck with it. Tomorrow will be better.

Day 3, Show 2: The second show was scheduled for 2355 hrs. Sleep was thrown off again as I tried to wake up an hour before the 2100 hrs. pick-up.

I made it to the site. The weather was warm. I paced in front of my tent, trying to wake up and get ready, while several meters away, Rammstein shook the earth. It's an incredible amount of power they release.

At 2350 hrs. I was in place, ready to go. Minutes later, I was out in front of the audience. I spoke to them about music being the main current in my life and how I cannot imagine my existence being possible without it. I asked them if this was true for any of them and a lot of people responded. I said that I hope this festival is more than just a bunch of people watching bands, and the fact that music festivals happen all over the world shows that we music fans are onto something. While I am not a spiritual person, I do believe in the power of the festival, the gathering of people and what it could mean for the future, the one they will direct. This idea, along with road stories starring Ozzy and Motörhead and concluding with the request that they spread music wherever they go, comprised the meager one-hour set. I thanked them for their kind attention and exited stage left. I got back to the hotel around 0230 hrs.

Day 4, Show 3: A very hot day. The shuttle to the site was packed and it was a talkative journey to the site. That's one of the things I don't miss about being in a band, the constant close-quarters proximity of others and enduring multiple conversations.

Later I was onstage and talking to an enthusiastic and energized crowd. Jet lag falls away when I am onstage. The withering barrage du jour was about how, when choosing an alternative path for your life, there are a lot of hard knocks; one must not only strengthen one's mind and body against everything from illegal search and seizure to drugs, bad food and other sidelining toxins but also must cultivate the strength to help others on the trail when they are in need. I listed examples of some of the roadblocks ahead and reminded them that this festival is a gathering of multiple generations, sharing a century, and that hopefully we all find some meaning in that. The hour was up. I thanked them and took my leave.

After an interview in a tent/sweat lodge, I got into a shuttle with another group of loquacious musicians and back to the hotel we went. Auf Wiedersehen, Wacken 2013.

Day 5 -- Return: Early morning in Hamburg. Two flights to transition back to Los Angeles. On the longer of the two flights, I was in seat 30C. I fly coach most of the time. It gives the journey more meaning somehow.

Many hours later: Back in L.A. The flight was perfect, an economy-class dream. Seats 30D-G, the center aisle, was a five-person family. That's four seats and the perpetually crying child, who floated from lap to lap. Diaper change was not always prompt. The man in 31D reeked. The resulting odor blend could be substituted for waterboarding. Time passed slowly.

At passport control, it was discovered that my name was not on the flight manifest. All boarding passes and both picture IDs were produced. Finally, a supervisor's slight nod allowed me to come back to America and I soon was in a taxi.

The driver told me he is from Bolivia. At 55, he said, he is tired all the time but pointed out that the city is very beautiful and that I should enjoy my happy life. He said that body pain doesn't allow him to work much but that life is great and we should be very happy with how everything worked out. I gave him a large tip in an attempt to help out with the happy life thing.

I entered the house and nearly face-planted walking up a flight of stairs. These trips wear me out but they make me think I am putting a dent in something. Be happy.

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