When you think about what European metal festival you would like to attend during your first European trip, the option of visit Hellfest in Clisson, France is very tempting and quite clear. With 10 years of existence Hellfest has become one of the major European summer metal festivals, with an attendance of over 100.000 people every year, and with a recurrent spectacular lineup in each of its editions, this seemed to be the best option.
Thanks to the encouraging council of a couple of friends that are Hellfest’s regulars, we started this crazy enterprise by blindly buying the 3 days tickets without any knowledge of the lineup, how to get to Clisson? or where we were planning on staying at?. We just bought the tickets the day they were out on sale last September and we took it from there.
After several months of planning, organizing flights, train schedules, and getting a place to stay which lucky for us it was located at only 10 minutes walking distance from the festival grounds. We were ready to experience Hellfest 2016, and so we traveled over 7000 kilometers all the way from the US to Clisson, France.
With it being our first time at Hellfest, we had no idea what to expect. It was our first time doing press for a major European festival, so we went in with an open mind ready to tackle what was needed. From our experience, everything ran smoothly and everyone working in the press area was very helpful in organizing and planning all of our interviews and coverage materials.
We arrived on Thursday, June 16th to Clisson, after we got set up at our Airbnb hosting place, we when to the festival grounds to pick up our passes and get an initial sense of Hellfest and Hellcity before getting ready for the festival.
On day 1 the first band that we saw was Delain, since we were pretty familiar with their show, (US tours, 70000 tons of metal) it was impressive for us seeing them at a stage double the size of the venues they regularly play in the US, and with an audience triple the size of what they get in the US. Quoting Charlotte Wessels ‘It’s a disgrace’ that we are not able to experience their full production in the US. Their show itself was 10.000 times more intense of what it regularly is and you also get to see a different stage presence from the band as their performance is bigger but richer in the sense that the crowd gets more into their set and much more out of the band.
It was my first time seeing All Pigs Must Die, and getting to photograph them was a lot of fun. We were extremely impressed. They brought a lot of energy to their performance and the crowd was really into their set. Each member was very active on-stage, which is something we love watching a performance. This also means they were a lot of fun to photograph! I hope this band rolls through Florida in the near future!
The next band I watched was Halestorm. I knew of them because they’re from the town in Pennsylvania my family lives in, but I never saw them live. I was extremely impressed by their set! Lzzy Hale is such a talented vocalist and guitarist. And Arejay Hale gave an exhilarating solo performance behind the drum kit! Overall I would totally watch this band again!
The next band we saw was Havok, the thrash metal boys from Denver, CO delivered an amazing show since they have toured non-stop with Megadeth in the US and then the European dates they are currently on. Their stage presence has evolved so much, and their sound definitely started a couple of mosh pits at the Altar stage during their set at Hellfest.
My favorite band of the day was Anthrax. Being able to photograph these thrash icons was insane. Seeing guitarist Scott Ian in my face was definitely something I will never forget. It was also my first time seeing them live, and they gave one of my favorite performances of the whole festival. Usually, after photographing bands we would have to rush and do something else, missing a large part of their set. But we realized we had nothing planned during Anthrax’s set, so after photographing them we ate lunch and watched them play their last few songs. They’re a band I’m going to catch live as often as I can!
After Anthrax was Turbonegro. I remember listening to this band when I was really young, but thinking I will never see them live. When I saw them on the Hellfest roster I was flipping out! Listening to songs such as “All My Friends are Dead” that I listened to when I was young was pretty crazy. I even introduced them to a couple of girls who were staying at our Airbnb! I, unfortunately, couldn’t watch their whole performance but it was much more than what I was expecting.
During this time I took advantage of the VIP area and the bar. I have to say, Hellfest spoils those with VIP access. A secluded bar, clean bathrooms and a beautiful outdoor art display? By far the best VIP treatment I’ve had anywhere! And the drinks were very reasonably priced; I got decent beer for 2 euros, so during those chill moments I took advantage of drinking a cold beer in air conditioning while networking with other people working press. Big thanks to Hellfest for hooking us up!
I did watch a little of Korpiklaani’s set, but I was really excited for Overkill. They headlined in Tampa a couple of years back, and I never watched a longer set in my life. I remember leaving the venue and being shocked they played for almost two hours! Well, they reigned again at Hellfest. It was my first time photographing them so it was awesome being up close to the action. There’s something about the vibes you get from major festivals, and Overkill were sure feeling those vibes. They radiated so much energy to the point where the crowd was enticed. There’s a reason why Overkill is one of the most legendary bands in thrash, and their performance embodies the fact that they’re unforgettable!
Another band from my childhood I was excited to watch was Dropkick Murphys. Finally seeing these Irish hooligans live was an amazing experience. I, unfortunately, had to leave their set early, I was super bummed out because I was having a great time watching how crazy they got onstage. But their set was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I had the experience to see this band live.
I had to leave Dropkick Murphys so I could shoot Testament. It was my first time seeing them live. I was really happy about this day because it was all of these amazing thrash acts crammed into one day. Well, Testament was the final one for that night, and their set was exhilarating. Being able to shoot them was also a lot of fun. I stayed after for the rest of their set, and I hope I can see them on a headliner soon!
I wanted to watch Killswitch Engage but they had to reschedule their set and I had no idea. Bummed me out big time.
The last band of the night was Rammstein. I only saw one song because the crowds were absolutely insane. Usually, for the main stages, I can see the bands on the screen, but there were so many people they even crowded the screens (doesn’t help that I’m really short). But from what I saw, they were really awesome! I grew up with songs like “Du Hast” ( the song I watched them perform) and being able to re-live my childhood memories while watching all of the pyrotechnics was really cool.
After the craziness that was Rammstein, we headed up back to the Temple for the last ritual of the day delivered by the one and only Abbath, Once again seeing Abbath live was not only a privilege but a total live experience, as the crowd even tired after a full day of metal, give their best to the Norwegian king of Black Metal. With a mix of songs from his new album and some Immortal jewels, his show was the perfect way to close up the night.
We walked away towards home while listening away to The Offspring delivering a nostalgic 90’s set at the main stage, We were impressed with the fact that we were able to clearly listen to their set from our Airbnb home. Seriously, there was nothing most pleasant to know that we were staying at a place so close to Hellfest grounds.
Overall, Day I was a success and we were really excited for the rest of the weekend!
Day II report is coming up next…