Henry Rollins: Wacken 2013 or Bust

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See also: Henry Rollins: Treating Our Citizens Like Dogs

Almost every summer for the last two and a half decades, I have been performing at European music festivals. I try to get onstage at as many of them as I can. I never get as many as I want, but I am grateful for what comes my way.

One of my favorites is the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, otherwise known as the Fringe. It takes place over the entire month of August. I always ask for shows over the entire month, but my far more sensible agent reels me in, and I end up doing a few nights in a big place or a week in a smaller place. I was hoping for a weeklong run there this year, but I was told that I have been there so many years in a row that I need to give it a rest.

Last year around this time, I wrote you from Germany, where I performed two of the three nights of the mighty Wacken Open Air festival outside Hamburg. The festival is massively popular for all the right reasons. It is extremely well run and was created by metal fans, for metal fans.

Every year, after the festival, tickets for the next Wacken go on sale. There are no bands booked at that point. You, the consumer, are left to buy your ticket on the strength of Wacken's integrity. As the years go on, the festival sells out (75,000+) faster and faster.

So last year I was at Wacken, and on the day of my last show, I saw on the small trailer's wall a poster that just said Wacken 2013. I remember being filled with second-hand optimism that they were already planning the next one. This also meant that 2013 was actually going to happen, and the world was not going to explode. Then I remembered that Wacken 2013 and I had no conjoined future, and tamped down my enthusiasm a bit, but I was still happy for them to have something to look forward to. I had a great time there and started missing it as soon as I was going back to the hotel postshow.

At the beginning of this year, I was informed that Wacken had requested me to do shows on three of the four days. Of course, I said yes. So, in a few hours, I will head back to LAX and on to Frankfurt International Airport for the second time in a few weeks.

As the years go on and I keep returning to these festivals, I appreciate them more and more. They are, to me, a great civilizing and socializing experience. You are going to see bands and meet people. You are going to have experiences at these events that you will remember for years after.

Perhaps it's because I am such a music nut that I think some of the best possible moments of a human life would have music in them. That's how it's been for me, anyway. Music is how I mark time and process life. I feel damn lucky for the shows I've seen and am pained by the ones I missed. I don't think there can ever be too many live-music opportunities. How could anyone ever get tired of going to see a band play?

No matter how bad things can get, no matter how much I must endure the bombast of cowardly pundits, states that want to go backward and a political system that seems only to waste time, I know that music and progress will win out. Fox News will one day come to an end. Led Zeppelin will not. It's as simple as that.


I am perhaps naive, but I really think these summer festivals go hand in hand with peace and progress and have quite a cultural impact. The more often young people get together at live-music events, the better things get.

I think Perry Ferrell put independent music on a very good path with Lollapalooza. By performing at these festivals, I am, in a small way, a part of that.

Next day. Finally in Hamburg. Two flights and not much I can recall from either of them. We were packed in there today, but the screaming-child count was low.

Take this travel tip from this frequent flyer: If you are ever tasked with changing planes at Frankfurt's city-sized airport, you might want to stretch before you get started on your damn near-half-mile trek. It is one of the most seemingly endless transitions in modern travel. London Heathrow is almost a boutique by comparison. About 10 sweaty minutes in, the A gates take on almost mythical stature. Signs with the letter A with an arrow appear every several meters, but the gates never appear. Down flights of stairs and then back up, several moving sidewalks later, and now that you are sweating through your shirt and smell like a goat, you finally reach a gate whose number is within 10 of yours. The gates seem to be almost a city block from one another. Keep walking. Finally you arrive at your gate just in time to get on the next plane. You find your seat and notice you are surrounded by incredibly upbeat people. I have never understood happy-to-be-in-a-really-small-seat guy or we're-super-into-traveling-together family, but there we all were, smashed into the back of the plane that brought me here.

I have never experienced that kind of happiness. I mean absolutely never. I look at these people with wonder and slight contempt. I really don't get it.

It is midafternoon. My brain is screaming for sleep. Tomorrow is my first show, a morning set with television press afterward. The ride from the hotel to the site is about two hours each way. It's going to be a long day. It's not a problem because, as field-stripped as this kind of schedule makes me feel, at least it makes me think I'm not just hanging around. For me, relaxation has always felt like failure. Wacken 2013!

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