24-25 June, 2016 | Dokkum – The 10th edition of Dokk’em Open Air in 2015 was nearly the last one of this great Frisian festival. Luckily the organization and volunteers did an effort to respond to the outcry of the Metal Minded visitors… and some effort it was! The new location was a bit smaller then the previous one, but had the same appearance with the Large Rockhand stage, a small party stage, a large bar, a food area on the side and a metal market in the back. All good ingredients for a successful Dokk’em Open Air 2016!
Day 1: Friday June 24th
Right before the first band started, it started to drizzle… Something which seems to be inseparable: Dokk’em Open Air and rain. It never rained cats and dogs this weekend, so there was no reason to stay away from the Large Rockhand stage to see the first band.
13 steps (NL)
This Frisian hardcore band 13 Steps had the honor to open the 11th edition of Dokk’em Open Air. In front of the Large Rockhand stage were merely a handful of people, but after a few songs more and more people came to have a look. The odd thing about this performance was the camera guy on the stage. He was all over the stage, 1 step behind the jumping band members. It was distracting and funny to watch the antics he had to do to keep up with them. All in all not a bad performance, but maybe a little less distraction on the stage will enhance the performance.
If you envision a lady with dark or blond wavy hair in a long Gothic dress when you think of the singer of a female fronted metal band, you got it all wrong with Bliksem. Peggy Meeussen enters the stage bare foot and wearing a short skull dress and bright red hair. Coincidence or not, but it stopped raining. It’s getting busier by the minute when Bliksem plays. It’s fast, it’s loud and it sounds terrific! Peggy kills this performance with ease, aided by a perfect performing band. Everyone present is impressed with the performance. Bliksem is an ultimate live band and the proof was given at Dokk’em Open Air!
This band form the forests of the “Veluwe” is pleasantly beloved in Friesland too. At Fortarock Heidevolk played a home match, but in Friesland they have a lot of followers too! Every song is sung along and it almost seemed that the Veluwe had taken over Friesland. At least the festival terrain in Dokkum! As usual with Heidevolk, there are a lot of fists in the air, but because of the sun and the now blue sky, these fist are filled with glasses of beer. A very well performance of Heidevolk.
One of the bands I came for is Raven. These old timers still have the energy of of teenagers. Right from the first second, Raven means business and the biting guitar riffs punish the audience. John is fumbling with his bass and tells the audience someone detuned his bass in the 5 minutes between sound check and the start of the show. He is promising this person a kick in the ass and wants the audience to do the same to him.
With the bass fixed the show is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s not the best show of the day, but hey…. This is Raven! A lot of the older youth is banging their head and having a blast! Vocally it sounds very well and this set came to an end way to soon.
Grave is some serious death metal and with a nice blue sky and a cold beer this band is very enjoyable. Death metal as death metal should be. There is some action on the stage, but the emphasis is on the music. Technically and musically it is extremely well groomed and there is a lot of head banging going on in front of the Large Rockahand stage. The fast songs are performed very good and the double bass drums are felt across the field.
Primordial was a band I was curious about. Singer Alan Averill (aka AA Nemtheanga) is the only one with an outfit and warpaint. The band was not happy about the delay on Schiphol, which nearly made them miss this performance. The lack of preparation or the unfamiliarity of the borrowed gear was never noticeable by the crowd. This professional band stepped on the stage and gave a stellar performance. The show was something to look at and musically it was awesome. The large crowd is head banging, moving and watching a memorable performance. Alan plays the crowd and gets generously rewarded. A superb show!
Another fast and complex band climbs the Large Rockhand stage. Playing after Primordial might be a disadvantage, but Soilworks brings their melodic death metal with lots of persuasion. Soilworks is slick, complex and technical and the crowed in Dokkum is enjoying the hell out of it! Some problems with the wireless microphone are quickly solved by the sound engineers of Dokk’em Open Air by connecting a wired one. Soilwork are obviously professional artists whom know how to put a show down.
Before Testament is entering the stage, some things on the stage are standing out. There is an enormous amount of extremely bright lights, incense in both corners and a lot of screens to hide the technics. This is going to be a blast! When entering the stage, singer Chuck had a microphone with a handle which emitted blue light. Testament didn’t waste too much time and the show started of with a blast. It didn’t last long unfortunately. Due to a power failure, the Large Rockhand stage went dark and silent. The band has some laughs because of the drummer keeps drumming some catchy tune and the band members dance to it.
After quite a while the power is back on line, but even with half the light and volume the third try is cut short by the power going off line again, but this time the basic lights on the Large Rockhand Stage stayed on. The band started chatting with the present photographers to kill the time and Alex Skolnick asked me if more bands had this problem, but they didn’t. They didn’t had a power outage on this tour either. Some in the crowd shouted they had to go to the party stage and Chuck asked us where this stage was. When he knew, he turned around and had a brief conversation of the organization and within 2 minutes the decision was made; Testament was going to continue on the party stage! A handful of visitors didn’t had the decency to be careful walking to the partystage. They had to run and push, while squealing like little girls. They knocked over 2 girls whom almost got trampled in the dark.
I have to hand it to the organization of Dokk’em Open Air. In the time of playing 2(!) Slayer songs, the party stage was cleared of present equipment and the back line of Testament was connected. Unfortunately there was only time left for a few songs, but the crowd went berserk! This performance, consisting of only a handful of songs, will be remembered for a long time… Awesome attitude of the organization of Dokk’em Open Air and Testament!
Day 2: Saturday June 24th
The day starts out reasonably well. With a pale sun and some blue sky I have my breakies and read on the site of Dokk’em Open Air, that Friesland’s most (in)famous weatherman ‘Piet’ predicts some clouds in the morning, but a sunny and dry afternoon. Arriving at the festival grounds, the sky is filling more and more with quite dark gray clouds which tells me it’s going to rain anytime soon.
Today another Frisian band is asked to put the day in gear and this time it is Kjeld. Their black metal is powerful and overwhelming. There is quite a little crowd forming in front of the stage to wake up with a beer and some brutal black metal. This band doesn’t perform a lot and the pale sun in Friesland is a bit of let down. This band should play in darkness. The lyrics are Frisian and tell stories of myths, rites, history and legends of Friesland.
On this day there is quite a big name early on the list, too. This time it is Dutch Izegrim who climbs the stage at half past one. A live performance of Izegrim is always a good, solid show like it is this time. I’ve seen quite a few shows of them and they never ever underperformed even a tiny bit. That alone is an achievement! Today’s set consists of some old and some new work and the crowd present is a bit tame according to Marloes and asks if they are hung over. After some encouragements, the next song is started and there is indeed more singing, banging heads and raised horns and fists to be seen. Again a good solid show and a lot of appreciation of the crowd!
Insanity Alert (A)
It states that this band is from Austria, but when introducing the band, there is only 1 Austrian in the band. They all have different nationalities; German, Slovak, Dutch and Austrian. This band is well known for their motto: “alles kaput in einer minut’ ” and their cover of Iron Maiden’s “Run to the hills”. In their version it is called: “Run to the Pit”.
Insane is the right word for this band. They play extremely fast thrash metal with punk influences and a lot of humor. It all starts with the Dutch front man Kevin entering the stage in a straight jacket, acting like a mentally ill person. In between songs Kevin has a hilarious sense of humor. With a serious tone of voice he announces “crucified by zombies” as a true story. Another song is annouced as: “Sometimes I work as a cleaner of offices. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I clean after the people go home and I get greeted by the janitor: “Guten Abend Herr Desinfector!” And immediately the band kicks in. Fast! Furious! Hilarious!
Even lobster claws and wobbly eyes are part of this insane performance. The band encourages the crow many times to circle pit and they are very willingly to perform! Much to soon the last song is played and of course “Run to the pit” must be it. On stage there is a mascot holding a sign with on one side: ”Run to the pit” and on the other side: ”Mosh for your life”. No need to say it was getting pretty wild in front of the stage. Especially when the mascot gave away cans of beer too.
After the insane fast and wild show, Entrails is next up with their death metal. Although the band is playing very well, there is no click between the band and the audience or within the band. There is no fun on stage and the band looks even tired. Musically and vocally there is nothing wrong with this performance, but there is no chemistry. The fans in front don’t care much. They enthusiastically bang their heads and sing the lyrics to the songs of their hero’s and they are right! While Entrails is playing, it is starting to rain…
Entombed AD (S)
These veterans know how to put down a solid performance and that’s exactly what they did. The sound was set perfectly and everyone was enjoying themselves; on and off stage. The rain is getting a bit heavier, but never that much, that the crowd must seek shelter, like other festivals this and last weekend. Most of the audience don’t give a rat’s ass, but the other part is putting on their rain capes. Entombed AD is doing what is does best and even in rain capes the audience moves and shake heads.
With Moonspell the energy is back on the stage. It is slick, catchy and very professional. With quite a sense for drama, these Portuguese get the attention of the crowd and never let it go until the last cords faded away. There are lots of position changes and interaction with the people in front of the Large Rockhand Stage and everybody is enjoying themselves. It’s even raining a bit less! Moonspell gave an incredible show with perfect sound and a large crowd.
Of all bands this weekend, DragonForce has the most followers on social media of this weekend and it shows! It’s very busy in front of the Large Rockhand Stage minutes before DragonForce is starting. When it starts, it’s fast and complex what this band puts down. But even during the most complex parts the band members have time to joke around or play their instrument in a special way. Guitarist Herman Li even plays his guitar with his tongue! Even the most complex riffs made look easy by Herman Li and Sam Totman. This band knows how to get their fans involved. Playing on the edge of the stage and interacting with them guarantees enthusiastic fans. Good to have a band of this magnitude on this festival!
Next up is Doro. The grande dame of heavy metal takes her time to sound check and the audience is muttering when they eventually start 45 minutes late. What strikes immediately is her heavy German accent when she’s singing English and the enthusiastic special effects guy (by judging the amounts of smoke generated). After taking pictures, I am standing next to a group of German, who are insanely enthusiastic about Doro. I have to admit; it sounds great and the show is very professional, but to me Doro does a lot of overacting. Now and then it’s just too much. The show is cut short by the available time, so Doro is only playing a little short of an hour, instead of the hour and a half. Of course her most famous tracks were played in this cut short set and the audience loved every minute of it.
The closing act of the second day of Dokk’em Open Air is the Finnish band FinnTroll of whom I recently watched a live concert via Internet. This was a feast for eyes and ears so I was very curious what kind of a show they would make in Dokkum. Visual it was huge let down. The special effects guy probably tested the smoke machine for FinnTroll during the set of Doro, because the machines were now blowing out huge quantities of smoke. It looked like a swamp with the green lightning, and you only could see the silhouettes. Only an occasional small gust of wind blew some of the smoke away and you could briefly see the band members.
After putting my gear away I went for a last beer and saw Methusalem playing on the Partystage. This Frisian band has Dokk’em Open Air organizer Jort Visser on drums and is fronted by Nick Holleman of Vicious Rumors. Instead of going back to FinnTroll, I decided to pick a strategic point so I could see FinnTroll (just to check when the smoke would clear) and see and hear Methusalem too. This was a wise decision, I noticed the smoke over at FinnTroll didn’t diminish and Nick Holleman’s voice was again incredible.
During the entire festival the second, smaller, stage at Dokk’em Open Air is reserved for fun and games. Next to the food stands and tables it is fun to watch the activities. Don’t think you can sit and eat a quite meal or have a lengthly conversation. It’s quite loud over there, but the activities are sometimes extremely funny. “grunten voor munten” (“grunting for coins”) was funny and of course the every year success games: “hammering the nail”, Metal Karaoke and the Wheel of Steel (fortune) got lots of attention from the visitors. The famous Dragon Girls were a blast too! Every year it’s extremely busy when these scantily clad girls show their skills with fire breathing, steel grinders and dance moves.
This year there was an attempt to get in the Guinness Book of Records with the most people simultaneous playing air guitar. Sponsor Large even made a few hundred inflatable guitars to support the attempt, which was a big success!
The 11th edition of Dokk’em Open Air was a huge success! A very well organized festival with great bands, nice staff (cheers to the volunteers!), who had quite a challenge in organizing this festival on the 6th location in 10 years! Despite the rain and the long drive, Dokk’em Open Air is still one of my favorite festivals and I hope there will be many repetitions!