Dokk’em Open Air 2019 (Festival review)

Dokk’em Open Air 2019 (Festival review)

June 29th & 30th 2018 | Dokkum – AT LAST! Another Dokk’em Open Air!
I must say, that I really missed this festival a lot and with this event on the best location in Dokkum it all comes together. The weather forecast is great, the line up is awesome and the Frisian population is always fun to be around.

When I Arrive on Thursday evening, there is quite a line in front of the gate. The first cover band is starting to play, so the wait is not that bad. Once inside I explore the area and see that the main stage is getting buildup. The party stage is in full operating order and the cat-walk-like extension is great and the bands of this evening make gratefully use of it.
This year the party stage isn’t just for parties. Some nice gigs are programmed there too.
Today I use to talk and drink with friends and checkout the area. Tomorrow is still a long way away.

Friday

After a long evening and a short night, I drive with my host to Dokkum and the weather is perfect. In the sun it is quite warm, but in the shade there is a cool breeze. The meadow in front of the main stage has some scattered groups of metal heads before the first band walks on the stage.

Overruled (NL)
And what a band it is! The first time I saw Overruled was in 2015 and I was impressed. During the first song it is obvious that this band has grown pretty much since 2015. There is a lot of action by guitar player Ronald, but the rest of the band is visibly enjoying playing on a large stage at one of the most fun festivals of The Netherlands.


There is not a large crowd yet, but during their set more and more people come over and take a look at these young guns. I see a lot of heads bobbing and most of them are sober!
The old school thrash is appreciated a lot by the older part of the crowd and the cheers and applause when the set is over, is impressive for the amount of people present.

Manticora (DK)
These Danish guys play a pretty interesting set of metal. It is very melodic and it has a lot of twists and turns to keep one listening. On the stage there is quite some movement and fun. Singer Lars is not afraid to express himself. His face and body tell a story by themselves and is very entertaining.


Sadly the majority of the crowd who was present during Overruled left the meadow in front of the large Rock’em Stage. This doesn’t bother the band much. They play their set quite stoic and with precision.

Tankzilla (NL)
This two piece Dutch metal band is a bit different. The sound is blunt and raw and with Peter van Elderen (Peter Pan Speedrock) is making up 50% of this band, it is something to pay attention to.


Interesting it is absolutely, but the richness of the sound is rather thin. At times when Peter stops playing guitar, there is a void in the sound. That combined with the fact that there is not a whole lot of action on the stage, the people in front of the stage diminish during the first few songs and people walk to the bar or over to the party stage, but that was not the better decision.
I’ve got a bit of mixed feeling about Tankzilla, but the blunt and raw metal prevails over the lack of stage show and thin sound.

Enforcer (SE)
Enforcer gathers a crowd. Most people have their tent or caravan in place and trickle into the field in front of the Rock’em stage.
If there is something of which there is no lack of with this band, it is a stage show. Each and everyone is a show pony and there are a lot of stances on the edge of the stage to show off to the public.


Musically, it is pretty tight & fast and the double solo’s are impressive. There are a lot of singalongs and the majority of the people singing along, are not even half my age! It is good to see metal is still alive in Friesland!

Darkane (SE)
The gig of Darkane is a special one, as the play their first album, “Rusted Angel”, integrally. This album is already 20 years old but still kicks ass!
The album is live nowadays even a bit more heavy than on the record and although the gents gained some gray hairs, there is no sign of slowing down. The only difference is, that maybe the sharpness of the voice on the record from 1999 is a bit less sharp, but that is nitpicking.


With the sun still bright on the stage, singer Lawrence Mackrory tells his crowd that is almost too hot to perform and is happy there are some extensive solo’s on this record so he can escape the sun and stand in the shade.
Although the sweat is dripping from is head, there is no holding back. The set is relentlessly fast and a feast for the ears.

MaYaN (NL)
It is getting busy on the stage now and really busy on the grass in front of the Rock’em stage! Mayan is going to perform an extra long and awesome show with a lot of music of current and previous bands of the members of MaYan. This could get very interesting, as this contains work of Epica, Delain, After Forever, Stream Of Passion, Orphanage and of course MaYaN’s own impressive songs.


There is only one doubt I had during the complete set and that is that I am not sure who is having the most fun. The broadly smiling and joking pack on the stage or the singing, head banging smiling people in front of them!
The quality of this band is unmatched. Musically it is like clockwork and vocally it is just stellar.


George Oosthoek is probably having the most fun of everybody present, as he can be found on the edge of the stage on numerous occasions, firing on the crowd in front of him, while smiling broadly.
The set is indeed very long and it is great to hear this band play older stuff from their members.

Vortex (NL)
To be honest, I don’t know exactly how long it has been, but I guess it must have been more than thirty years when I first saw Vortex perform. In those days, metal was new and booming and Vortex was with Picture one of the leading metal bands of the low countries.


If I remember well, it was in Deventer in the venue “Het Burgerweeshuis”.
In al those years there is not much changed, besides the odd gray hair and a few pounds.
Singer Jurjen Tichelaar (at 69!) is still on fire and guitarist Martjo is strutting his stuff with bravado!
On the party stage the band is celebrating their 40 year anniversary and it is packed in front of them!
Jurjen has his well known face paint on and has his large ax with him.
This is not just a bunch of old farts reliving their youth, this is serious metal, but with a fun twist.


Guitarist Martjo is the personification of Vortex with Jurjen, as these two are often to be found between their admirers on the edge of the catwalk-like extension of the stage.
The joy is visible on all band members faces and the set is way, way to short!
With a new album coming up, there will be a party in October in the venue of “Vera” in Groningen with Picture(!). That is going to be awesome!
I know I will be there!

Demons & Wizards (USA)
This is the first time I am going to witness a concert of Demons & Wizards and when I see Joost van den Broek walk on the stage, my expectations rise quite a bit. Singer Hans Jürgen Kürsch is know from Blind Guardian and the live show of Ayreon and has an incredible voice in my opinion.


Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth, the other permanent member of Demons & Wizards, is having a blast in the meantime. He is making faces to the crowd and photographers and is impersonating the evil part of this band.
Jon has his goatee and mustache shaped in such a way that he does resemble a demon and Hans feels the need to say, that Jon is the demon and he isn’t. There is a chuckle going through the crowd, when Jon looks a bit surprised by this remark.
The stage is decorated nicely and it combined with the music it all falls in place. It is not the heaviest metal of the day, but it is well played and it is fun to watch.

Cradle Of Filth (UK)
The headliner of the day splits the crowd in half. You either love it or hate it and I must say, I was not a very big fan of Cradle of Filth, but as often a live show says more about the muscial capabilities of a band and these capabilities are very much present!
The light plan of Cradle of Filth is something different than other bands. There is a lot of horizontal light in the top of the stage and there is quite some permanent smoke on the stage.


During the first few songs the choreography look tight and rehearsed. The precise movement and position changes makes it look like clockwork and I must say that it is impressive. The crowd (and the photographers) getting to see almost everybody close up in a matter of minutes.
Singer Daniel Davey’s screaming singing style is something to get used to, but seeing him up close it is impressive to see how his whole body (which isn’t that tall) is used to push out the squeals and keeping sustaining them quite long.


Keyboard player and singer Lindsay Schoolcraft’s voice is a rather beautiful consonant throughout the songs of COF, but live it is even more impressive! What a great voice she has amidst this extreme metal band.
It takes some time to recover from Cradle of Filth and after a few beers it is time to get to bed, because tomorrow will be a long day and it is going to be very hot!

Saturday

It is already hot when my host drives us to Dokkum and when just when I passed the gate, a beer is pushed in my hands and a pat on the back of someone whom I talked to yesterday. Welcome to Friesland! A cold beer when it is already 25 degrees Celsius is not something I turn down and after finishing it, I get ready for the first band on the Rock’em stage.

Insurrection (NL)
The heat in front of the stage is pretty hefty already and most of the spectators present, are at a distance in the relatively cool shade of the trees, sound booth and merchandise tents.
Singer Pieter Oevering tries to move the people by promising a sticker to the one who can run the fastest around the sound booth. There is no one who’s willing to do so, so Pieter gets to keep his sticker.

Insurrection is here to do business! The sound is loud and the drum kicks are even louder! I feel that the ultra low sound vibrates the air in the air pockets in my shoe soles!
There are quite some hangovers present at the field listening and a fresh breath of metal shakes the hangover away and after a beer or two, most of them bang their head again.
Insurrection is doing a great job opening the second day, which will going to be a bloody hot one!

Insanity Alert (AT)
When you say “Insanity Alert”, you say “punk thrash party!”. It helps that singer Kevin has Dutch roots, so addressing the rapid growing crowd is simple.

With his silver wig he enters the stage and the band is furiously going at it. Where Insurrection couldn’t move the people, Insanity Alert doesn’t have to ask anything. There is a large and pretty wild circle pit and Kevin is encouraging them to go wilder.

On the stage there are smoke machines who make large smoke columns and Kevin wants smoke up his pants, but that seemed harder to do then he thought it would. He is late 2 times and then he asks who is in charge of the smoke machines and explains his plan.

His shirt goes on the ground and with his trouser leg wide open, he gets his blast of smoke down his pants.
Insanity Alert is known for, besides their fucking fast songs, their signs during gigs. On the stage there are two permanent signs with the texts: “Alles Kaput in einer minut” (everything destroyed in 1 minute) and “Why the fuck is this thing here”. But at various moments 2 aides holding up styrofoam boards with various texts.

David Guetta gets a full load before the song “Why is David Guetta still alive” is played, but the moment everybody is waiting for is the last song of the set: “Run to the pit”. This cover of “Run to the hills” by Iron Maiden has an altered text; “Run to the pit, mosh for you life” and it is about 10 times as fast!
The crowd explodes! There are even signs in Frisian “Run nei de Pit” on the stage and the entertainment level is 100!
Maybe it is an idea to make Insanity Alert the house band of Dokk’em Open Air?

Evil Invaders (BE)
It is getting even more busier now, even though the sun is blistering hot. Even when you just stand still in the shade, you’ll sweat.
Evil Invaders is the thrash sensation from Belgium and with Insanity Alert just before them, the crowd perfectly warmed up, if the weren’t hot already.
The heat doesn’t slow Singer Joe and his companions down a bit. He is as always all over the stage, but he is not alone. Max and Joeri also run about and are firing up the crowd even further.

Drummer Senne is the only one who has to be in one place, but lays down the ultra fast path for the band, while smiling all the time.
Above the crowd there is a pretty large dust cloud rising up, form all the circle pits and mosh pits.
Damn what a rush Evil Invaders is… every time!

Carach Angren (NL)
And now for something completely different….
The horror metal of Carach Angren seems a bit out of place in broad daylight, but the band can lay down a dark atmosphere even on a bright and hot day like today.
It is great to see, that the act of this foursome is getting more en more expanded. Where masks were introduced some time ago during one song, Ardek (keyboard) wears his the entire show now.

Seregor is all over the stage, acting out the story he is telling. The ritual of slaying the doll on the stage and the squirting blood is pretty cool. The blood almost gets to the people in the first rows and hits a photographer in the face.
The guys on stage sweat profoundly, but the make up is holding on pretty good!
I really love this kind of horror/concept stories and the way it is brought is just awesome! Even on a hot, humid day!
With the last song of Carach Angren I decide I need a break and go over to the campsite to have diner with friends. Sadly I had to miss out on the performances of Dool and Pestillence, but I can’t skip For I Am King!

For I Am King (NL)
The party stage was perhaps a bit too small for Alma and her men, but with the large crowd gathered there, it was a bit like an open air club show.
There was a lot of shade at the party stage, so that was a nice coincidence!

Half way through the set, Alma stepped a bit back and 2 Dragon Girls enter the stage and danced and twirled with metal sticks with fire on them.
A few spectators in the front rows almost got there brows burnt of by these fiery ladies, when they wanted more than an eye full.
Sadly the set is a bit short, but it is always great to see them play!

Vivaldi Metal Project (IT)
I was very curious about this gig and it was a bit of a deception when it appeared that the orchestra was not physically present.
The stage is filled to the brim with beautiful women, who all sing exceptionally well! There is one guy singing and he is impressive! What a vocal range en power does he have!


The vocals are very classic even to opera-ish and the combination with the classical metal music is interesting. I do not have enough knowledge to say that the performance is typically in Vivaldi style or not.

Cannibal Corpse (USA)
It is getting later and the shade is over de stage know and it is getting cooler. It is still very humid and a small breeze is blowing across the field which makes it feel it is a bit colder than it really is.
Next up is reigning World Champion Headbanging: Canibal Corpse singer George Fisher. His neck muscles are impressive as ever and throughout the gig he demonstrates regal skills. Awesome!

Cannibal Corpse is not a band with an impressive stage show, but god damn what a thundering train this band is! If George isn’t singing through his wet hair, he is headbaning or windmilling on stage like there is no tomorrow!
Lyrical it is not my cup of tea, but the way they play and how this band is crushing their fans in front of the stage with their thundering sound is mighty impressive.


The dust cloud above the meadow is reaching new heights and density and is fucking impressive. Not a single person in front of the stage is standing completely still. They couldn’t even if they wanted.
I must say, for a band with little stage show, I am impressed how entertaining they are.

King Diamond (DK)
Time for Desert, with a capital “D”!
It has been a few years since I have seen King Diamond and then it was in a tent at Fortarock in daytime. Now, finally, I get to see him outdoor, in the dark with all stage props and a full show!
Singer King is grateful that everybody present has stayed during the heat of the day, but then again, who would want to miss out a fucking King Diamond show!


The stage is impressive! A three story house is build on the stage with on both sides stairs and on the second floor there is space for the drum kit and singer Livia Zita. The guys on strings are on the ground floor with King.
The set begins with King laying on a mobile bed with an IV on the ground floor, when he suddenly wakes up. Starts fiddling around on stage to get his distinctive mic and then the band walks down he stairs and the first song “The Candle” is started.
There is always a lot to see at a King Diamond Show and this time is no different. The band is active and are as brilliant as they are modest on the stage. The limelight is reserved for King and he acts the scenes out to perfection.


The burial, that precedes Arrival is pretty eerie, but so is most of the show.
Halfway the set “Helloween” is introduced and even it is still hot as hell in Dokkum, there is a roar going through the crowd and the lyrics are sung along loudly with King.
Gigs like these are always way too short and since I am a fan since 1982, I would have loved it if he went on for the rest of the night.
With the “Black Horsemen” as the last song the set of King Diamond is over and ends another fucking great Dokk’em Open Air!
“That’s the end of another lullaby, time has come for me to say goodnight”

Conclusion
Driving home after King Diamond is not a punishment. With the unofficial playlist of Dokk’em Open Air playing on shuffle on my car stereo, all the highlights pass by again and I am home before I realize it.
Dokk’em Open Air was nothing short of awesome. The organizers did a superb job, the volunteers were kind and worked hard. There were no problems with visitors, even though there were a lot of people present, it was very hot and the beer was flowing fast.

A very intriguing part was the Buhurt Arena, where knights fought 5 against 5, last man standing. This is not a game, but a brutal sport with real possibility of serious injuries. The knights fight with real weapons of metal, with the only difference with the old days is; the weapons are not sharp.

Nonetheless when one get struck with an ax or a sword, it hurts, even through the protective clothing. The scorching heat has his toll on the knights in thick costumes as a few are brought to the first aid post because of suspected heat stroke.
The fights are pretty respectful in my opinion and the referees (without any protection, only armed with a yellow flag) only jumped in every now and then, or if the fight is over.

Maybe one of the best parts of this weekend is the announcement of the 2020 version of Dokk’em Open Air. The location stays somewhat troublesome, as the municipality of Dokkum consider to add the current festival grounds to the local sport center.
Chiel Visser, one of the organizers of Dokk’em Open Air, urged the municipality of Dokkum to keep the Tolhuis-location as a permanent terrain for events and I agree wholeheartedly with him. I’ve been on several locations in Dokkum and this is just the best location.

About the author

Marc is concert/festival photographer and reporter for PitKings in the northern and eastern part of The Netherlands. On occasion he's also writing album reviews. Besides PitKings he also has his own photography company called Loud Images.

View all articles by Marc van Kollenburg