The second day at HELLFEST 2015 kicks off with a bit less suppleness and strength than on the Friday, yet we’re awake enough to get knocked back to the ground by a 12+ hour metal marathon on Clisson’s sunny plains. Are you in for the greatest moments of the weekend, as well as a spectacular firework to celebrate the 10 years of the festival? Here’s the write-up for a day on top of Heavy with the likes of ORANGE GOBLIN, BODY COUNT, BRANT BJORK, ASG, ELDER, MONARCH! (PHOTOS: Gaël Mathieu)
The day starts freshly with me pouring a bottle of water on my head. The night inside the Quechua may have been cold and damp, yet it’s now blazing hot at only 9 in the morning. As standard, we head for the Valley for breakfast, to see Boston’s much, much, MUCH awaited trio ELDER. One thing for sure is that their new album “Lore” has caused discussion: some people consider it as the best release of 2015, while others were expecting a “Dead Roots Stirring II” and were obviously disappointed by the result. With only thirty minutes to enroll the Valley into their world, Nick Di Salvo and his sidekicks deliver “Gemini” as an appetizer, then plunge straight into “Lore” with two new songs that seem to be electrifying the audience – who’s for the most part sobering up on the dry grass – to a limited extent… Anyway, Elder don’t fail to impress, and take us exactly where we’re supposed to be, thanks to their flawless technique and this sacred fire that makes their songs so brilliant. The set ends on a loud applause and some raging devil horns thrown to the sky. ELDER, man!
A quick phone charge later, and I’m already late to see my fellow countrymen MONARCH! on the Valley stage. The last few minutes of the show sound more crushing than the weekend’s 150+ performances put together: the Bordeaux outfit have the ways and means to crush your face like a doomier-than-doom procession, their frontwoman Émilie screaming her lungs out as if she intended to wake Satan up. If you ask me, The Valley just took a proper and totally unexpected sonic beating. “Satan is great, Monarch is super”.
For the first time this weekend, I wouldn’t mind turning my brain off for a few minutes, like, in front of any of the Main Stage acts. Northern Ireland’s hard rockers THE ANSWER are in the middle of their takeover here, so I make the most of this rock’n’roll break to put some sun lotion and snap a random guy in a kilt and flip-flops. In a very AC/DCesque vein, vocalist Cormac Neeson is restlessly moving about on the big stage, delivering powerful and high-pitched vocals while waving his gorgeous blonde main in rhythm. I don’t know, there is some sort of a dancefloor feel with all this… which is totally confirmed when he asks us to singalong “Red lips like strawberry wine/Her kiss says she’ll never be mine“. Nervous jubilation from yours truly. Well, that was exactly the full-on breakfast we needed, to get in the mood for the coming festivities!
After paying a quick visit to a few colleagues at the Extrême Market, plus a deserved Kronenbourg break, it’s now time for ASG on the Valley Stage. The North Carolina based skate rockers – perfect crossing between The Sword and Fu Manchu, and Weedeater’s neighbors on a more “tabloid” note – are the best outfit to kick off this perfect sunny day at Hellfest. Flogging our arses with “Horsewhipper” for a start, the band keep on, the royal way, by treating us to a nearly perfect setlist (including three song off the great “Win Us Over”). The sound is crystal clear, the performance is ballsy as a bull, and as always, the trio exudes nothing but positive vibrations. Too bad the crowd remains so passive, because ASG really have a an amazing live potential, and such a great on-stage energy! To be seen in a club to get a proper headbutt then.
I must leave before the end to interview Elder. Once at the press area, I also come across the Orange Goblin gentlemen, who all seem very relaxed. After twenty minutes spent interviewing the trio under a blazing sun, my colleague Gaël and myself join our fellow fuzzy journalists for an extended apéro (blame it on the Jack Daniels coupons and free Jäger) with legendary riot grrrls L7 as a music background, and which performance is completely ruined by recurring PA issues, followed by SLASH, whom main live asset now lies in his very talented – and handsome – vocalist Myles Kennedy. For want of showing you evidences of the drinking session, I’ll show you a very cool portrait of the grunge goddesses Mr Mathieu has managed to snap between two shots of Jäger…
Around 7pm, someone in the group exclaims “we gotta go, Brant Bjork is on!”. And you can easily imagine BRANT BJORK & THE LOW DESERT PUNK are about to make both the temperature and groove levels of the festival increase by +2000. The Valley has turned into a massive dancefloor on the desert prince’s hot riffs, hips are swaying more than heads are banging, we all get wreathed in a soothing warmth: Rock Elevation is near. Rarely, I open my eyes and realize that the best solos actually come from guitarist Bubba Dupree, the second most swaggery band member right after Brant himself. The Valley is under a spell. The Valley is high, laughing, tripping without even realizing. Brant’s music is good for our souls, and he seems as rapturous as we are right now. Hippie Hellfest FTW. But wait…
…A quick glance at my watch, and I understand that the hippie party’s over, for Body Count are on in about ten minutes at the Warzone. Gaël sends me a text: “give it up, it’s rammed”. I won’t give up, and I won’t miss Ice-T, because it is THE show I was the most looking forward to this weekend. After a hectic run through the Kingdom Of Muscadet, we arrive at the Warzone, which entrance has become a bottleneck. The only option now is to pass in single file, and let ourselves slip like human suppositories between the sweaty viscous bodies that are also trying to make their way in.
After ten minutes, we finally find a free spot, thus some fresh air. And then, the pleasure is immediate: ICE MOTHAFUCKIN T, BITCHES! BODY COUNT is like spoken word on top of a hardcore metal beating, it’s the street speaking up, something that would seem to be miles away from appealing your average metalhead, and yet… Body Count unites, and for good reason: the Warzone is on fire. Hellfest is exulting. It’s been twenty fucking years since the band last played in France, so when Ice-T speaks, we comply: singing along with fingers in the air, yelling “fuck you!!!” at every turn… The sun is still high in Clisson, I have no idea how many thousands of us are gathered in the Warzone right now (definitely more than it can contain), but everyone – even the kids – is having the time of their life. Ultimate bullet when the band delivers “Cop Killer” as a finale and the whole crowd chants “fuck police brutality!” in unisson. Unique and unforgettable.
Time to move on to our fave Brits ORANGE GOBLIN, who are co-headlining the Valley along with Triggerfinger tonight. I manage to settle on the left side of the stage, my ears and eyes all ready to get their dose of grandeur. OG on a stage is a bit like watching the four Horsemen of Rock’n’Roll in action: you’ve got Ben Ward, the 6,5 feet tall friendly frontman who can basically have any crowd eating out of his hand; Joe Hoare the riff wizard, frantic yet technical and very instinctive; Martyn Millard, the groovemeister whose fingerpicking mesmerizes many, always headbanging like crazy; then Chris Turner aka “how to pound your ears with some serious rhythms while still acting like a jazz drummer”. No matter if they chose to favor their new album “Back From The Abyss”, the crowd is 200% into it, to such an extent that a circle pit even forms, which has never happened before in the Valley! “You’re the biggest crowd we’ve ever played”, says Ben emotionally. It is the first time I see them being so rapturous, thanks to that unprecedented fiery atmosphere! “Scorpionica”, “Some You Win, Some You Lose”, “They Come Back”: Orange Goblin treat us to a sheer ROCK’N’ROLL PARTY, and prove again to be the bosses. Simply.
To keep up with that party mood, we now all head for the bar, where we casually share a beer with the Elder guys. An interesting chat and some shenanigans later, I find myself at the foot of the Main Stage for the end of FAITH NO MORE‘s performance. Not quite a FNM enthusiast, I’ll just point out that Mike Patton seemed in his element here, given he’s sporting one of the security’s yellow shirts.
Once the set has come to an end, electricity quickly starts to fill the air. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” resounds on the festival site, and some words from the promoters are being broadcasted on the screens. Clisson’s skies begin to sparkle with fantastic fireworks and pyros, while pictures of 10 years of festival make us go all emotional. And then… “Bohemian Rhapsody” echoes on the plain. 50,000 people start singing along. Massive goosebumps. This mighty present gets wrapped up with Slayer’s “South Of Heaven”. Probably the most rock’n’roll anniversary you’ll ever attend in your life.
Ok, I really don’t feel like watching SCORPIONS right now. Why? Two reasons: 1/ I don’t want to be disappointed by a band who’s been unable to bid farewell, whereas it is more than time for them to retire (I didn’t say it, they said it), 2/ I only like their first two records “Lonesome Crow” and “Fly To The Rainbow”, which I have very few chances to hear tonight. We end the night hanging at the VIP bar, while glancing at MARILYN MANSON‘s drip performance on the screens. No regrets. Especially since we can chill on the grass with a jug of beer, or frantically show our “air moshpit” skills on the DJ’s finest tunes the second after. Needless to say we won’t sleep much, once again…
Last modified: 25 August 2015