September 29, 2013

ROCKSTADT EXTREME FEST 2013: A Gonzo Report - Day 1

[Gherasim: If 12 hours of sleep don't fix it, nothing will. I woke up next to a Chester dressed in his now famous dollar print pyjamas. Still tucked under the blankets, we do some F5 and shitposting on various forums. This basic need fulfilled, we decide to get out of the room, in search of a local food store. After a hour, we return with water, coke zero, rye bread and a piece of ham. On the first floor of the boarding house we stumble upon a nice old man, who's taking care of the kitchen. It's a little too late to order a breakfast, but he agrees to help us with those instant ramen soups Chester brought from home. The old man sports a cowboy hat and a grizzled moustache. We're not sure where we've seen him before.]

The weather isn't very good - rain is announced later in the day. I'm off to meet a girl friend in Braşov, 15 minutes away from Râşnov, while Gherasim catches up on some writing. I catch a ride with some nice locals and after less than half an hour I'm in a rain-soaked Braşov, safely tucked away in a vintage-looking cafe, drinking cappuccinos and catching up with my friend. We spend two lovely hours together, after which we say goodbye in the hallway of the Braşov County Library, with the promise of seeing each other again in a month's time. 

Braşov - Council Square

There is no rest for the wicked, though. Jonathan lets me know he has arrived in Râşnov, so I head back there, after eating a huge grilled chicken sandwich and having the first beer of the day. I have no idea what G. has been doing while I was gone (probably jumping on the bed and blasting Pink Floyd), but we get dressed and head over to the festival site. 

[G: I must admit I sort of missed this festival feeling. I joined Chester on this trip with low expectations - metal of any kind is not my cup of tea anymore. Someone might link my presence here to a quarter-life crisis, but the truth is that I'm not getting that nostalgia vibe. I'm not feeling any younger or connected to my former teenager self. Nevertheless, the place is nice and I'm glad we're here at last. The sun is shining and all the people around seem to enjoy themselves. As Chester pointed out in the previous entry, the fest is smoothly run, and there's really nothing to nitpick on.]

The second band of the day, Code Red, is already hard at work on the stage. Somewhere nearby, we see Jonathan. Friendly greetings abound and we scoot over to a table, for some beers and talking inner TZEEEAC business. 

"Bă pulă..."

While we're sitting there and drinking, Romania's only viking-folk metal band, Bucovina, assaults the stage. I'm very familiar with Crivăţ, Luparu et al.'s music and I recognize many of the songs. Pretty serviceable folk metal about forests and the brave Romanian people who are fearless warriors. I wish they'd come up with some new material, though. It's getting pretty tiresome to hear the same songs over and over again, and I haven't even seen these guys for a few years. WELCOME TO ROMANIA HELL!

[G: When they started playing "Straja", sudden realization beamed on Jonathan's face: "Oooh, these guys. I hate them."]


The clouds gather over the festival site just in time for Carach Angren's performance. I take off my warm clothes and remain in just my t-shirt. You see, if there's anything watching countless Bear Grylls survival shows has taught me, is that wet clothes are a pain in the ass and lead to hypothermia. So I leave my stuff hanging on the umbrellas above the tables and we go near the stage, just as three specters take their places behind their instruments. The rain begins pouring after the first chord is struck and the mood is set for Carach Angren's gothic romantic stories of war, love and suicide. While I'm soaking wet, I can totally appreciate their theatrical performance and synth-laden black metal. Not to mention the excellent use of corpsepaint. No doubt about it, this was one of the most atmospheric performances of the entire festival, thanks in part to the gloomy weather.

[G: Thanks to Chester's quick reflexes, I escaped from the middle of a wall of death a few seconds before the clash. I didn't know they can do this on black metal. But it seems that at Rockstadt everything is possible.]

Carach Angren

With hypothermia close to onset, we move away from the stage and go back under the tents to dry off with beer, hot dogs and mititei. While we're gorging on meats, Last Hope take the stage and they unleash a brutal show of thugged-out hardcore, complete with baseball hats and tons of Varsity font. The response they get from the crowd is impressive and you can tell these dudes have been in the scene for a long time. Bulgaria hardcore, yo!

Last Hope

[G: My balls are frozen, but the audience enters a death metal party fever as Decapitated show up on the stage. I don't want to know how much alcohol pulses in the veins of the scantily clad chicks around us. Chester is tipsy enough: he's started pushing people into the moshpits that constantly pop up near us. When Decapitated announces the last piece of their set, he makes an OMG face, dashes through the rows of gone nuts metalheads and finally disappears in the middle of the hugest moshpit I've ever seen to date. Cya later shitlords, indeed.]

It's gotten cold as fuck as outside, but nobody cares: fucking Napalm Death have taken over the stage! I can't even remember anything from their show, except that it was wild: everyone was moshing like crazy and the Brits teared shit up, pure and simple. As they went back and forth across their discography, they upped the intensity more and more and destroyed everything in sight. The crowd was fucking wild and I fell in the mud several times, only to be picked by 20 people a moment later and thrown right back in the mosh pit. INSANE!!! It was my first time seeing this band and I'm really glad I did - they are truly a force to be reckoned with and living grindcore legends. Props to you, chaps!

Napalm Death

Sometime during the hostilities, Gherasim has left, so Jonathan and I drink one more beer (I don't even know how many I've had anymore...) before the main event of the evening. The anticipation is almost palpable and the excitement grows large, but finally it happens: Gojira are on stage! What followed was an outstanding performance and a lesson in the mastery of progressive metal. The guys were in top shape, they were very grateful for being in Romania for the first time and they delivered in spades. My only gripe is that there weren't too many songs from their latest album, but hey... it was an amazing show nonetheless and everything sounded great. They were the final ingredient that turned that Friday into a memorable evening. 


By the end of the show, both Jonathan and I are exhausted, disoriented and fucked up. It's dark and quiet outside and everyone is walking around like zombies, in search of a place to lie down for the night. I say goodbye to Jonathan and he crawls inside his car to sleep, while I trek back to the hotel through the woods, barely keeping myself up on my feet. I take a quick shower and once again I collapse in bed. Today was a good day.

                                       PHOTO GALLERY (Alex Csiki – Art Photo Studio):

False Reality
Code Red
Carach Angren
Last Hope
Napalm Death

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