Many see Fortarock as an early kickoff to the Benelux festival season. And in fact it is. So we descided to snif out the admosphere in the Dutch city Nijmegen.
As usual the festival site is situated on the grounds of the beautiful Goffertpark. Where you can easily picknick outside the festival gates and still have a very good listening experience. And you therefor see a lot of people coming by bike with a basket of food enjoying the beautifull surroundings.
around 13:00 we arrive at the festival and spot the press booth right next to the main entrance. What struck us was the open manner in which we were welcomed. The press entrance was like a white party tent where you walk in. Placed on a solid wooden floor which was covered in red carpet. It made you feel right at home. Which probably was the intention too. After reporting ourselves at the desk we where guided friendly by the person in front of us. After thats done we enter the festival site and wander around to see what is there and navigate pretty quickly to the nearest foodstand.
The festival site as a whole is centered uniquely around a center area which gives a spacious but still cozy impression. The 2 side stages forms a triangle with the main stage and between each stage are food and drink stores together with large sun-covered seating areas. The central shop/beergarden area is positioned between the 2 side stages in front of the main one. Its a bit unusual because the main stage does not really feel like main stage. Its almost equal to the other 2. Yes it is a bit bigger, but visually its nearly the same. We later heard rumors at the bar indicating tickets where not sold out. And therefore the organsation redesigned the site to allow much greater comfort and a relaxed atmosphere. After ordering a tasty bowl of fries and taking place at one of the seating area's. It was time to see Godsmack enter the stage.
The public was not quite warmed up but that(s expected at this time of the day. Still the guys from Godsmack managed to get a circlepit going, which gives credit to their performance. What struck me was the wild mad movements of the drummer. I am still surprised he did not hit himself in the eye or the face, madly swinging his drumsticks around. We only saw a part of their performance but nevertheless it was an enjoyable show.
Next up is FLOTSAM AND JETSAM. This was one of the surprising acts of Fortarock 2015. I had never heard of them but they performed above average and certainly above expectation. The crowd seemed to love it as well.They have been around since the 1980's. And this is clearly noted by their mature music and seasoned performance attitude. Their style can be described as slightly high pitched guitars with clean rocking vocals. As was common at that time. The band always stayed true to their original sound and matured greatly in it over the years. With over 30 years of experience they still have not passed their time.
We skipped Papa Roach to walk around on the festival and explore more food options as well as the small metalmarket. What really stood out: everywhere on the festival you can see advertisement of Ilovemyyears.nl. Indicating Fortarock and the company behind the advertisement really wanted to push the message to protect your ears. But when you looked around, you only found 1 shop where you could buy expensive custom made earplugs. The several staff people we asked about it seemed to be completely unaware of this. And where unable to point us to cheap generic ones. In Belgium you pass a bowl of cheap earplugs that you can grab for free in almost every venue or festival. After really searching far and wide in the Metal-market, we where able to spot 1 shop who sold them. This is a big missed opportunity for Fortarock. As they at least could have provided some spots around the site where you get them for a minimal payment or for free.
Lamb of god is a rising success. But due to the lasting wind-gusts wich have plagued the festival all day. The sound gets disipated and looses a big chunk of its power and quality. Upfront this effect is minimal, but far at the back the band sounded really bad. This was especially true during their performance. Which produced just noise if you where standing in the vicinity of any shop and not 10m from the stage. On cd the band has a rock solid sound and can really deliver. But i guess today frontman Randy Blythe had a bad voice day. As it was not really stable and in tone some of the times. This combined with the wind issue, downgraded an other wise splendit performance.
Due to the schedule and the approaching dinnertime. We decided to skip the next bands and grab a good meal. Next up is epica after we devour our evening meal consisting of spare ribs and tai noodles. The ribs were prepared in front of our eyes and really where of top notch quality and tastyness. Next to the regular french fries(wich is a Belgian invention by the way, who thought up that name!)and regular fast food. You can also grab a bio burger with fresh vegetables and meat from meadow grown cattle. Its obvous part of the growing trend of festivals serving healty high quality fresh food.
Epica is celebrating their 12 years existence with the Quantum Enigma tour of last year and ongoing this year. They also just announced their own festival. This is apparently one of the bands many where waiting for. As you needed to drum for place long before the previous bands where done. Fortunately our good timing landed us on front row. What struck me with the banner-work behind the band. Is their usage of sacred geometry and the flower of life. Kudos to them for researching that so deep. This is a show that you can expect from Epica. Simply very solid and engaging. It was heartwarming to see Simone addressing the crowd with a short speech in Dutch. But it would be better for the foreign people from Germany and other countries, If she would do the same in English. Beside that, it was enjoyable from the first note to the last. From Sensorium to The Second Stone. Not really party metal but just very high quality serious gothic symphonic metal. The climax of the entire show was the all known Cry For The moon. The angelic voice of Simone really did right to the song and made it really stand out. Epica also made clever use of the installed pyrotechnics.
Afterwards we decided to grab both Venom and Parkway Drive at the same time. A tricky decision which means you cant get a good spot on any of them. Although Venom is a living legend, they failed to really convince. Also for such a small stage the pyrotechnics and firework where a bit over the top. You mostly found lovers of old school metal or people who wanted to see the band once in their lives.
Parkway drive delivered a monstrous tight show with all their known hits. Being popular with young hyperactive kids. The attending crowd was remarkably more enthusiastic and where frequently engaging in fierce moshpits. I have never seen both bands but both had some appealing things. Although i prefer Parkway drive for their energetic show. The classic sound of Venom stood on its own. These legends still should get the respect they deserve.
But all people naturally came to see Slipknot. thus many wisely waited at the main stage instead of the other two bands. Therefor we did not had a chance to get really close. So we watched a part of the show from a distance. The stage featured a large elongated high part with a stairs and in the middle an enormous demon figure holding a large mirror. Like befitting for such a big band, the stage is very impressive. And Corey is in very energetic shape, both physically and vocally. From the start Slipknot puts on a very strong performance with the needed slipknot spectacle. They play some songs from the latest cd. But just about all of their popular songs and hits are performed. Wait and bleed, Psychosocial, Spit It Out, Duality. With each new song the public gets more excited and wilder. The grand moment was Corey having everyone in front of the stage sit down. And on his mark everyone just jumps up and lose their minds. A impressive sight to be seen. After a hot day the evening ends rather chilly but with a massive bang with lots of Slipknot pyrotechnics.