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Thirty Seconds to Mars 15Nürburgring, Nürburg, Germany
1st to 3rd June 2018
Rock am Ring Day 1 with Callejon, Babymetal, Jonathan Davis, Enter Shikari, A Perfect Circle, Thirty Seconds To Mars

When the mother of all festivals calls, you heed the call - that is the law. In this case - despite the unusually loud complaints about this year’s selection of headliners - the decision to go to “The Ring” was an absolute no-brainer, and a team consisting of Elena Arens (photographs) and Christian Beyermann (reviews) was dispatched to cover the event, which has been both the start and culmination of the summer festival season for decades for hundreds of thousands of people.

The arrival at the ring on Friday morning went surprisingly smooth. A challenge presented itself in the form of getting the right directions to the press accreditation, but that puzzle was solved after a while. Then the next challenge occurred: Initially it did not look like the weather gods were with the festival goers at the Ring. Heavy thunderstorms and torrential rains had swept over the area during the night and early morning and set tents and their inhabitants under water. This pattern seemed to continue as heavy rain set in during midday, right when we had found a dry patch on the press camp grounds, where we wanted to set up our tent. However, we were extremely grateful to proceed to the check-in at the press centre, which allowed us to get dry and warm again, and get ready for the band line-up.

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Callejon

First up on the pick-list were the five boys from CALLEJON. The band from Düsseldorf, Germany had the honour of having the second slot on the Crater Stage - the second biggest stage of the festival - a place which was bound to witness countless hours of inspiring and genre-defining performances mainly from the harder, guitar-oriented kind. CALLEJON were definitively up for the challenge, and they did their best to counter the negative effects of the short but effective rain setting in right before their performance, which left the attendants soaking wet once again. Miraculously, the rain dried up during the first minutes of the gig and CALLEJON went from 0 to full throttle by opening with the FETTES BROT cover ‘Schwule Mädchen’. Songs such as ‘Blitzkreuz’, or ‘Wir sind Angst’ kept the mojo working, and caused the first real tests, if the security personnel really would enforce the announced ban on “unsafe” activities such as crowd surfing and circle pit (Spoiler: they did not). With the ballad ‘Kind im Nebel’, CALLEJON submitted their application for ‘Bravo Hits Vol. 149’ (or whatever number they are currently on).

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The new interpretation of the DIE ÄRZTE classic ‘Schrei nach Liebe’ was clearly an attempt to woo over new fans, which is always a unique opportunity for bands and the festival goers alike. CALLEJON left a lasting impression, as singer BastiBasti took a clear stand against all forms of racism and fascism in a speech to the crowd, during which he encouraged the audience to stand up and fight against the rise of the right. The epic song ‘Porn from Spain 2’ closed out the 40-minute set and the members of the audience certainly felt much warmer afterwards. // https://www.facebook.com/callejon / www.callejonshop.com // Setlist: 01. Schwule Mädchen / 02. Noch Einmal / 03. Blitzkreuz / 04. Utopia / 05. Dunkelherz / 06. Wir sind Angst / 07. Kind im Nebel / 08. Schrei nach Liebe / 09. Snake Mountain / 10. Porn from Spain 2.

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Babymetal

The Japanese Metal sensation BABYMETAL was certainly one of the most anticipated acts in certain circles, and it is fair to say that the band (or is it a phenomenon?) single-handedly beat the already sky-high expectations. Literally no one of the approx. 20.000 people in front of the Crater stage was able to evade the ferocious charm of Japan’s hottest music export. The multi-dimensional, theatrical performance of the nine performers on-stage blew-up every bizarre-o-meter without actually compromising on musical and artistic quality.

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I personally would never have thought that this weird combination of Japanese lyrics, ancient uniforms, and artistic choreography would work in an open-air situation in broad daylight without the addition of any intoxicating substances, but I was proven wrong in the best possible ways. All of a sudden, RAMMSTEIN have a ferocious contender for the title of best immersive live experience. If you have the chance to see them: Go there! // https://www.facebook.com/BABYMETAL.jp / www.babymetal.com // Setlist: 01. In the Name of  / 02. Megitsune / 03. Gimme Chocolate!! / 04. Untitled / 05. Distortion / 06. Karate / 07. Road of Resistance.

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Jonathan Davis

Next in the line-up of the Crater Stage was the live manifestation of the solo project of the legendary KORN singer, who has released his debut album ‘Black Labyrinth’ in the days before the festival. The first single ‘What it is’ already made it very clear, the despite certain unmistakable similarities in the sound (such as Ray Luzier’s distinctive drumming pattern and the rolling base guitar), the musical direction would be more laid-back and down-tempo, allowing a far more nuanced presentation of JONATHAN’s vocal capabilities. This was totally reflected in the live performance, which called more for “woke” listening instead of mindless head-banging. The instrumentation underscored this perception, as the band featured a stand-up-bass as well as an electric violin.

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It was certainly a rare chance to gain an unfiltered glimpse into the artistic world of the highly-revered Mr Davis. However, at the end of the 45-minute I could not help but notice the slightly disappointed looks of some fans, who had hoped to mosh along to one or the other KORN song. // https://www.facebook.com/TheRealJonathanDavis / www.jonathandavis.com // Setlist: 01. Underneath my Skin / 02. Everyone / 03. Forsaken / 04. What you believe / 05. Final Days / 06. Basic Needs / 07. System / 08. Walk on by / 09. What it is / 10. Happiness.

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Enter Shikari

The concert of ENTER SHIKARI last December in Cologne had already prepared me for what kind of live experience I was about to expect, so I joined the thousands of people in front of the Crater stage waiting in anticipation of East England’s hottest music export. Turns out, I would not be disappointed. The band entered the stage during their characteristic intro and put the pedal to the metal music-wise by opening (as usual) with their song ‘The Spark’. Especially singer Rou Reynolds seemed to have indulged one or the other can of sugar-packed energy drinks, because he was bursting with energy, and literally did not stand still for long anywhere on the large stage. The ones who had to suffer from this restlessness were the stage hands, who desperately tried to make sure Rou would not strangle himself or others with the microphone cable (this guy could definitely use a wireless mic next time), while zipping from one side to the stage and back.

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Also our photographer Elena had an unexpectedly close encounter with the singer, as he jumped from the stage into the photographer area, right onto Elena’s feet. ENTER SHIKARI packed as many songs as they could into their hour of playtime, also including one of their infamous “quick fire rounds”, where they packed four of their songs into eight minutes, which left everyone breathless and with the hook-line of the song ‘Live Outside’ ringing in their ear. // https://www.facebook.com/entershikari / www.entershikari.com // Setlist: 01. The Spark / 02. The Sights / 03. Solidarity / 04. Anything can happen / 05. The Last Garrison / 06. Undercover Agents / 07. Destabilise / 08. Arguing with Thermometers / 09. Rabble Rouser / 10. Anesthetist / 11. Sorry, you’re not a Winner / Snakepit / …Meltdown / The Jester / 12. Live Outside.

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A Perfect Circle

The recently released album ‘Eat the Elephant’ after 10 years of radio silence from the band around the charismatic singer Maynard James Keenan catapulted the band back into the limelight. A lot of people seemed to have anticipated their return to a stage in Europe, as the place in front of the Crater Stage was packed. What spectators got to see was exactly the opposite of what went down so far on that same stage: Instead of hectic rhythm patterns and rap vocals, A PERFECT CIRCLE redefined the classical band set-up on stage, as guitarist Billy Howerdel and bass player Matt McJunkins took their places in the front of the stage, whereas Maynard James Keenan stood on an illuminated podium, next to drummer Jeff Friedl further towards the back. Despite the relatively static set-up, A PERFECT CIRCLE fascinated their fan base in a completely different way.

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Although guitarist James Iha was missing due to his commitment for his other band SMASHING PUMPKINS, the sophisticated soundscape captured the audience like thick fog. Keenan’s most eccentric part was his remarkable blue suit, as he limited his interaction with the audience to an absolute minimum. This reclusive behaviour, paired with the clockwork-like precision of the musical faction gave the gig a surreal, trippy feel, which did not fail to make its impression of the people present. Seeing A PERFECT CIRCLE live during sundown was definitely an experience to remember. // https://www.facebook.com/aperfectcircle / www.aperfectcircle.com // Setlist: 01. Counting Bodies / 02. Hourglass / 03. The Hollow / 04. Weak & Powerless / 05. Rose / 06. Disillusioned / 07. Contrarian / 08. Thomas / 09. Package / Noose / 10. 3 Libras Remix / 11. Fish / 12. Talktalk / 13. Doomed / 14. Outsider.

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Thirty Seconds To Mars

An Oscar winner at the Ring! Mr “Larger than Life” Jared Leto and his bandmates had the honour of headlining the first day on the main Volcano Stage at ROCK AM RING, and tens of thousands of fans heeded the call. The man of the evening took no prisoners and delighted the crowd with his fancy pair of shades and a seemingly water-resistant and colourful poncho (maybe from Balenciaga?). In terms of entertainment, THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS left few things to be desired. They played all their hits, the audience had every opportunity to sing along (“aaaahs” and “oooohs” preferably), and Jared pulled all kinds of people on stage (a crying Russian girl and flag bearers in particular). The audience got balloons, fireworks, confetti, and all other ingredients of irony-free superstardom in the course of the 90-minute set.

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However, witnessing this gig felt a little like eating at McDonalds: everything was nice and polished on the surface, but from a nutritional (artistic) standpoint questionable, and leaving you hungry for something else after a short while. Luckily, STONE SOUR played on the neighbouring stage… // https://www.facebook.com/thirtysecondstomars / www.thirtysecondstomars.com // Setlist: 01. Monolith Intro / 02. Up in the Air / 03. Kings and Queens / 04. Night of the Hunter / 05. This is War / 06. Dangerous Night / 07. Do or Die / 08. Hail to the Victor / 09. Pyres of Varanasi / 10. The Kill / 11. Rescue Me / 12. Walk on Water / 13. Closer to the Edge.

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While the welcome of the weather at the Ring was more than far too humid (and cold), the performances and the whole festival mood reminded me of the unbreakable spirit of these festivals, which make these so special and addictive experiences. The performances of STONE SOUR and MARILYN MANSON in the evening, as well those covered above made me oblivious of all the rain and mud and made me look forward to the coming days.

All pictures by Elena Arens

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