1 hour away from Vienna, in the fields of Pannonia, lies the small city of Nickelsdorf next to which the Nova Rock festival is hosted. It started with a good impression as the transport to the festival area from Vienna was well organised, with frequent trains and buses waiting to pick up the travelers and take them to the entrance. And it was cool to pay only 15 EUR for a train ticket valid for 4 days, while one way with the bus was 3 EUR. My first train left with 1 hour delay though, but well, still enough time to catch a lot of music.
The festival area is rather huge. There are two main stages, a tent and a tiny stage that I am not sure where it's located. I noticed a small stage where covers of famous hits are played and then a van on top of which I saw few young bands entertaining sun burnt people who were resting nearby. The interesting thing for me, since I haven't seen these before at a festival, were two bungee jumping cranes and two or three amusement parks machineries that lift you up in the air, spin you, together everything that has made its way into your stomach by then. The camping places are surrounding the area festival area, making it accessible from two points (unless someone in a hurry managed to split apart some of the fences). Even if the roads to go around are wide and you don't need to queue to pass, it seemed like forever between the two stages. Yet, the distance is a win for the quality of sound since you don't get the music mixed. It was very hot for the first day and the amount of dust in the air was insane, hence the moshpits would lead to a huge dark 'cloud' in front of the stages.
Food seemed to offer decent choices and what I tasted was quite delicious and never spent too much time in the queue. Beerwise, I had a big surprise when I was told the spicy price for a glass. The choice of beverages was quite wide. What was funny though was that they were selling sangria buckets with really huge straws and occasionally you'd see people sitting in circles around the bucket and the straws coming out of it like branches from a tree. It wasn't always easy to get the info needed right away due the fact that some people wouldn't know English, but in the end, when it came to the main points of interest, especially for the press, that wasn't a problem.
The first band I got to see on the Blue stage was Dredg. It really wasn't the best start of the musical day in that unexpected heat. The music sounded too mellow and for the first two songs at least they kept looking at each other and at the sound technicians in disappointment. Thumbs up though that they decided to focus on the show and tried to have a good stage presence for the audience.
Even if I could have used the energy of Sick of it All on the Red stage, I stayed at the Blue one out of curiosity to check out the Germans from Guano Apes. Not a bad choice, at least from the point of view of entertainment. With a rather elegant dressed singer, their music was really appealing to the day's crowd (who, btw, seemed to have an average age of 15). With the Lord of the boards performed at the end, everyone went mad and seemed satisfied.
On the Red stage it was time for the Swedes from Hammerfall who, as they said, had 65 minutes to play pure heavy metal. So they did, in the applauses of the crowd, applauses that in return caused the singer's hammer to stand up in his pants. The band played quite many songs from their new album, had a come back with Hearts on fire, a new song and then ended with Let the hammer fall. They took the chance to announce an upcoming tour with shows in Austria and advised the kids to leave their grandmothers at home. I really loved the band's performance with a lot of energy on stage and a really powerful voice.
I was aiming for In Extremo next, but out of curiosity I decided to go take photos at 30 seconds to Mars to see why all the fuss about this band. Well, due whatever reason the band might have had, that was not possible, so I ended up missing most of In Extremo. The last 5 minutes I saw of it made it look like the action stage was pretty incendiary due the pyro effects. Before that though I watched few songs of 30 seconds to Mars. This way I found out the singer is the main actor in Requiem for a dream. The stage props and the light show seemed impressive, the voice was not bad at all but I can't even remember what they sounded like musically. I guess the photo decision was a big turn off at that time.
Next on the Red stage I enjoyed In Darkness' performance. Really funny band to watch live. They seem to adore the spotlight and each gesture they make plus each piece of 80s like clothing, the mustache, the haircuts contribute to this idea. They hardly stand still, switch guitars all the time, have pretty nice riffs and I left from the stage in a much better mood.
Headliner of the day on the Blue stage were the Americans from Linkin Park. That probably explained the average age mentioned above. And who almost made it impossible to walk around the area for a while. Yet it brought up another 'premiere' for me at a festival - the screaming coming from the crowd was no longer deep masculine pitched. The main guy's vocal skills are rather versatile, being able to scream melodically, sing softly and sound good no matter what. I haven't kept track of their music after their first 2-3 hits, and I can't say I feel like I missed much because I am not a fan of the electronic aspects, but I did enjoy the amount of mini solos they have in their songs and the keyboards. They used 'Carmina Burana' as background music for their stage appearance and the backdrop had projected images at all times.
Because Sisters of Mercy is a band with history I convinced my legs to take a last trip to the other stage. I was warned that they are impossible to photograph and 1 minute before the show I understood what the guy meant with 'lots of smoke'. It was insane, I can't imagine how the guys breathe on stage. I honestly didn't even see if there was a drummer on stage or not. The result was that in between chocking, cleaning my eyes and trying to convince the camera to ignore the smoke and get me few decent shots, I noticed little of their gothic music. The main thing I recall were the screams of the singer and the deep pitch of his voice. Overall I got the feeling of the same song played all over again with few variations so I left rather quickly to recharge my energy levels for the days to come.