After a bitter fight in October to get tickets for the coveted Hellfest, a part of the Metal Overload team also applied for accreditation, which was accepted. This is how Délia, Laupi and Guillaume took the road (10h from Liège) to discover one of the most famous festival in Europe …

Summary :

The Hellfest experience seen by Délia

Overall, my first Hellfest went well, both as a festival-goer since I still enjoyed the festival as a reporter. Nevertheless, I have some small flats to emphasize. So I’m going to split my little report into two parts: my experience as a festival-goer and my experience as a reporter.

Let’s start with the festival side. I will begin by stating the positives and I will end with the negatives or suggestions for improvement.

The decor is indeed fabulous, as a friend pointed out to me it’s a little Disneyland for metalheads (which is not what everyone is looking for festival). It was really something to see from the roundabout with the giant guitar. And what a surprise in the Hell City Square. Everything is thematized around the metal universe and I felt at times transported in the video game Brütal Legend, for those who know. At the level of decorum, there is nothing to say.

The second thing for me was the extreme market that was not only stalls where we sell two three bullshits related closely or by far to the metal universe. I especially remember the stalls of “Les Acteurs de l’ombre” and Antiq, which are smaller labels and offer merch of bands of quality at affordable prices. I advise you to go for a ride on their website. So a point for the variety of shopping at Hellfest.

Regarding food and drinks. The drinks were not really on top and not super affordable. As a good Belgian, impossible to drink Kro, I did not want to risk dying (it’s humor). However, I loved the Muscadet bar. At the food level, it’s paradise: there is something for everyone. It’s expensive, but it’s the same everywhere and here the food is excellent so we don’t have too much to complain about it.

The programme, there was a big choice, a little too much, because some concerts were given at the same time as others. I think in particular of the afternoon of the Sunday where I had many hourly conflicts. The sound, on the other hand, was not always of very good quality, I think in particular of certain groups playing more in the basses in albums which were found with a sound too acute. Overall, beautiful programme, everyone could find his happiness, except the fans of Manowar and Myrkur.

Now let’s go to the negatives. Let’s start with the campsite: arrive one day in advance and be almost relayed to the last campsite, it’s a little bit fun. It’s sorely lacking water points, it would be wise to integrate one by color area. We do not even ask showers everywhere, but at least water tanks, especially by this heat. The dry toilets didn’t bother me, but it would be necessary to increase their number as well.

The biggest concern of the festival in my opinion: the QUEUE. No matter the need, there was a monster queue. And it is related to another problem, in my opinion: there are too many people per square meter. Impossible to go from point A to point B without being jostled or losing friends.

Let’s move on to the VIP side of this report. There are not so much, or not at all, negative points to say about the reception we received for the webzine. Two small negative notes in my opinion, then I tell you all the good that I thought of my experience of reporting at the Hellfest. First, the line to go into the press space and to receive his bracelets was an absolute horror. But the staff seemed completely overwhelmed, so we’ll forgive them. And second negative thing: again, queues for VIP toilets and too many people for such a small space.

The first positive point is the welcome we received as a small media. No more and no less than others. There was a reserved area where we could quietly attend conferences, use a computer … But most importantly : private boxes to make our interviews at ease.

The welcome was also top, thank you to the girls and the guy whose names I forgot who managed the allocation of boxes and, despite the heat and pressure, were always super adorable with us. You did a great job.

The press agents were super friendly and welcoming, including Blandine, Philippine and Elodie with whom I collaborated this summer. Thank you for giving me these moments of happiness with your groups.

The groups were all adorable and rich in discoveries. I hope they had a good time too and that they will be happy with the upcoming interviews.

The decor, again, was at the top. Hellfest heals his image to the end.

I will end by thanking the organization, especially Roger who gave us the opportunity to prove ourselves in the Hellfest press area.

Guillaume’s point of view

I lived this festival from two angles: on one hand, the one of a press / VIP of the festival and on the other, the one of a simple festival-goer. This will allow me to give you my opinion about those two very different worlds.

The arrival and the installation were complicated: we left in three separate vehicles, joined then by other friends of which we had the tents. So the first step was to find ourselves. Laupi, who arrived first, was waiting for the rest of the group on the P0 car park. First concern encountered: find how to access this parking precisely. Yes, the car parks were indicated but their names weren’t. There was plenty of places, however, and staff were present to indicate the available ones.

After 10 minutes of walking, the “Yellow camp” camping opened its doors. No luggage check at the entrance and a 70cm gap separated us from the road we arrived at. Dry toilets were waiting for us at the foot of a tower indicating the campsite. These have remained clean and well paper-fed throughout the 4 days of the festival and this, without any nauseating smell typical of the festival toilets. However, there was a lack of running water and showers where the lines could wait several tens of minutes, or hours to get there.

The festival-goers were welcoming and friendly: a few words exchanged and the beers are already starting to flow. If you like the night activity, you can enjoy the famous “caddies games” and waking up at 5am on the last day by a pack of festival-goers armed with flutes! In the activities planned by the festival, spaces are planned to extend the festival after 2am, but I didn’t have the strength to test them.

Since the yellow camping, we met a problem in wanting to join the festival: part of the campsite required a bracelet that we didn’t have yet. So we had to go around this part by an unmarked dirt path along a road to join the entrance. Once there, information stands and large signs told us where to pick our bracelets depending on whether we were VIP, Knotfest festival-goer, Hellfest festival-goer or both.

Despite the Knotfest, you could still access the Hellcity Square, a small town with various shops, partners Hellfest and a scene where groups could demonstrate their talent. This space announced well the color of the festival: sumptuous sets transporting you in the universe of metal and an atmosphere where the desire to have fun and to have a good time is what premium.

Opposite the VIP side that we had access, it was simply breathtaking! A wall marked “VIP Area” concealed from the entrance what was happening behind him. Once this happened, you needed a moment before picking up your jaw dropped 5 minutes earlier. Behind this wall, you could see a real size statue of Jack Daniels facing a huge pool of water that later turned out to be a swimming pool with a butterfly skull at his center. Above it stood the terrace of the bar where you could find a magnificent fountain of red water overhung by hooded men. The bar took the whole length of a building whose arches resembled dorsal spines and the chandeliers seemed to be assembled from bones and skulls. A large tent called “Press Area” contained an audience, a workspace with computers and electricity as well as 12 boxes where we could conduct our interviews. Hellfest welcomed us in the most beautiful way!

Once on the festival itself, some problems due to the large number of festival-goers surfaced:

  • Endless queues in front of food stalls, toilets and various merchandising stands (Hellfest and artists)
  • Concerns of visibility and sound for people who, like me, aren’t particularly fans of pogos, wall of death and other metalhead practices. Once in the back, the scene being below and surrounded by a small hill, was impossible to see. And if you success to see it, another problem happened: the Altar, the Valley and the Temple being very close, we heard more the sound that came out of those places than the Main Stage one.
  • The shows were relayed almost directly, it was very difficult to cross the crowd to join another stage without missing 10-15 minutes of the next show.

That sounds very negative, will you say? Yes and no, because despite these points, we had a very good festival:

  • The people are friendly and add to the atmosphere of the festival: many are costumed for the occasion and will not hesitate to sing, discuss and laugh with you.
  • The diversity of food allows you to eat on the festival for over a month without tiring and all at a relatively reasonable price, compared to other festivals.
  • The diversity of drinks: 3 to 4 types of beers served in 28cl, 58cl and even 1.5l! For lovers of soft drinks, you could find the full range of Redbull drinks, as well as water and even non-sparkling ice tea! This is very rare to get a non-sparkling drink festival other than water!
  • The sets … Impossible to describe them as they are beautiful, varied and impressive: a statue of Lemmy around 15m, a ferris wheel, stalls of merch in rusty containers, the Hellfest tree, pyrotechnic devices hidden everywhere and animating once the night there, … Your eyes will not know where to look.
  • The different styles of metal gathered by scene: the French on the Main Stage on Friday, the psychobilly in Warzone on Saturday, …
  • A programme made up of groups where you will get your money. It will be almost impossible for you not to make days ranging from 10h to 2h and constraints of two interesting groups playing at the same time will be more than possible.

At the level of the show, I didn’t see a lot of them and so I will only mention those who marked me!

The Rumjacks: It’s like being in an Irish pub! The beer was flowing freely and people were dancing, laughing and singing. The group, itself, seemed transported by the energy released by the public.

Ultra vomit: An exceptional show! A lot of guests jokes of Manard as bad as funny. An hour when you will not be bored! They covered the songs of “Panzer Surprise” but also many old ones. This concert is also visible on the Arte Concert website in full and I highly recommend it (french songs) !

Coilguns: But where does the singer get all this energy?

Shaârghot: A concert with a stage show and a story never seen! Special mention for the character with the panels “Break”, “Your Body” and “Again” which really bring me into a dream and which gave me a damn desire to dance! I highly recommend them if you like the mix of electro and metal.

Whitesnake: Some people complained that David Coverdale had lost his voice. I admit I didn’t pay attention, as I sang on all the songs … In any case, the setlist was very well organized and I was not disappointed by this concert that I had been waiting for a few years.

Alien Weaponry: A haka as an intro announced the color and despite a public always asleep, the group has needed only two songs for it to be as hot as for a headliner.

Partially-viewed concerts that were really good: Dagoba, Dropkick Murphys, Diamond Head, Within Temptation, Def Leppard, ZZ Top, Clutch and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

This festival is full of future and I can’t wait to see what it will become in a few years. They are constantly improving and very attentive to their visitors … Seeing the press, it’s a pleasure to see that you’re well received and that you can work in almost optimal conditions (small flat for the heat in the press tent which, at times, was very trying, both for the interviewee and the interviewer). I keep a very good memory and I highly recommend you go there if you have the opportunity!

Special thanks for:

  • Roger, without whom this discovery would not have been possible and for all the interviews he gave us.
  • HIM Media for their welcome, their good mood and all the interviews they managed to plan us.
  • Romain L.O Communications, for his help throughout the festival.
  • Blandine from “Les Acteurs De l’Ombre”, for her motivation and her enthusiasm, as well as planned interviews.
  • Jessica from Season Of Mist for her sympathy and the interview.
  • All groups and their managers who trusted us.

The press conference given by Ben Barbaud, creator of the festival. Only part of the questions are present in this article.

Good evening everyone. Thank you for coming for this 14th Hellfest and this first edition of the Knotfest which took place on Thursday. I will let you ask questions afterwards. I know anyway the first questions that will be asked.

Once again, we have been blessed by the gods for six years with this extraordinary weather that accompanies us year after year. It’s nevertheless between the gates of the Vendée and the gates of Brittany. It’s still quite exceptional that we can have conditions like this every year. You will all want to move here thinking there is sunshine all the time but that’s not true. I live here and it’s not always the case.

Before I talk about things that have not happened and for which you are going to ask me questions, I will talk about things that have happened and are still happening. I feel like repeating the same things year after year. For a number of years now, the teams have been extremely well-honed and finally I realize that I am becoming more an observer than an actor of what is happening here. The way the festival is organized has become extremely professional. I am very surprised myself.

As you could see if you walked around the site we still worked hard to improve the conditions of welcome of the festival-goers: the new restaurant area, which had been a little reproached for years past, the wood has been redone … Various small improvements like that. And it’s true, we are always in the same state of mind to want to continue investing. I can’t say it enough: the Hellfest, we are proud of it, is organized by a association of law 1901 (Non-profit organization). Obviously, it has become a big machine, I will not hide it from you. It has become, in terms of turnover, the first festival in France with more than 27 millions euros in turnover. But we are extremely proud that this particularity allows us to invest for festival-goers. I think we can’t blame us. Actually the Hellfest is expensive, I’m well aware but I hear a lot of people come to me saying “yes but it’s worth it”. It’s worth it because you make available to the public, artists, everyone, … conditions that are really professional and appreciated. So we will continue to do that because we really like it.

This 14th edition, as the 13th, as the 12th, as the 11th, is obviously still synonymous with success: it was sold out. 180,000 people on the Hellfest edition and we were 37,000 on the Knotfest edition with our friends from Slipknot. Today, there is no forecast of development of this brand.

We did it once with them because, as I had explained to you, there had been a combination of circumstances that meant that we couldn’t not propose a date to Slipknot in France on such a festival . We already had our headliners, we had to find a way to program them. So there was this idea of ​​Knotfest and it went really well. Finally you will tell me what you thought after.

The first time, even for us, we are completely confused. We opened the festival on Thursday and we thought the next day was Saturday because it is extremely disorienting for people who work here, who have habits, one more day. Even for you who work, I suppose, it has to pull a little more on the paws than usual. This is a good experience but it isn’t an experience that is bound to be confirmed year after year. I also confirmed to the guys at Slipknot that there was no such thing on our part.

Today the terrain, which is mounted here, and our DNA is 100% Hellfest. We were super happy to welcome the Knotfest. I think there are plans that will be made so that they can actually try to continue their adventure elsewhere. We were able to start the movement and I am very happy. In addition, Slipknot and the other bands were super happy. So that was the novelty of this year. There are many others and, despite the fatigue, we are all happy to have you.

I will let you ask your questions. Who will ask the first question about Manowar?

I saw the affluence yesterday and there were a lot of people. Do you think about expanding the site? What size is it currently?

So the concert space is exactly 14 hectares.

Indeed when we have, on a day like yesterday that is, we will not hide it, a day a little more public with world famous artists such as Kiss, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, etc. .. we have twice more of guests. We work with many partners: volunteers, people who work, etc. Saturday is, historically, the easiest day to travel, to make yourself available more than a Friday or a Sunday. Many people go back to work the next day.

We had this idea of ​​enlarging. Yes and no. We already have ideas on what still needs to be improved: the merchandising at Hellfest which requires a lot of time, … We hope we can actually enlarge a little. After, revolutionize to really meet the demand … We must realize that today the demand for Hellfest is almost double. We could do two Hellfest if we wanted compared to the number of people who would be really interested to come. We do not have the vocation to do this and to enlarge the land to make 120,000 people a day. It would be absolutely insane logistics and we could not afford it.

On the other hand, we try to move some things on the ground to make the management of flows and expectations a little less problematic and a little less disturbing for people. We work there every year.

After you, as you have seen, Clisson is vineyard: there are more vineyards than land with cows or land with crops. It’s not easy for us to find lands. You have seen the brothel that it’s on the campsite. We arrive at Clisson, the cars are parked everywhere. The Mayor doesn’t sleep at night. It’s complicated. We try to adapt to the peculiarity of this small town. Clisson: it’s 6000 inhabitants only. Finding solutions is not always easy, you don’t snap your fingers and say: “Here I take this land, I take your vine and I tear it off to put a parking lot on it.” No, it’s not so simple. We must respect the activities that are historic here. If tomorrow there is no more Muscadet in Clisson, we agree, it would be problematic. So there is a job to be done.

Be sure that all the team, I think we proved it, year after year, work continuously in the interest of the festival-goers by improving what can be improved according to our means. We will continue like this. We are well aware, indeed, of having a festival a little too much, especially on the last hours of evening, “overpacked”. We think about that.

So I’ll ask the question we don’t dare to ask. There are Manowar fans who discovered that Sabaton was replacong Manowar. You don’t have communicated on it at all. The questions are simple: Why did Manowar cancel and why didn’t you communicate at all when the group itself took initiatives on Facebook which are besides a peak of obscure language that nobody has understood anything? There is still a mystery around that. This isn’t the first time you have groups that cancel. You had Korn in 2007 for example.

You know me: I am not someone who use an obscure language. But actually we come into spheres where there are contractual problems that affect the organization and the artist.

Everyone is free to make their own truth based on the statement made by the band Manowar who clearly accuses us. I saw it well. We had done everything and I think that today a lot of people, having read a number of comments, asked themselves the question by saying: “The Hellfest is used to having artists of a certain level, there has never been a problem with these artists. ”

So obviously, I will not go into details because I expect a long process. There will be many truths. I thought I read in their statement: “Be sure the truth will come out”. I don’t know in how many years. But well short, there are contractual problems that have led the artist to leave the site. The artist was really on site. We did everything we could to get the artist to play. The artist felt that it was not enough. We didn’t manage to agree. They left.

It’s obscure what I say but I will not go into details. These are details that do not interest people. And so today everyone will make his truth. This is the first time that this happens to us so much. Today I think that Hellfest had made a nice gift to Manowar to propose to be the headliner of such a festival. We are obviously extremely disappointed, very sad, for people who have come from far away. We had people, who had bought packages to meet the band, who arrived here and who could not even enter. They were told : “Enter anyway.” Because indeed, the package, sold by the artist, provided that there is access to the festival and, when they arrived, there was nobody. People from far away. It’s obviously very sad that we come to a point like that when today, everyone knows, the concert could have been done.

The artist has decided to leave and I am the first to regret it.

It was to prolong the question a bit, not so much about Manowar, but about the fact that it was Sabaton who replaced Manowar: a band that wrote a song called “Man Of War” in tribute to Manowar. Sacred irony. How was it done? Do you think it’s this type of band who are the future headliners of Hellfest?

So how was it done? I’m going to be honest because here I do not need to be obscure and I can’t thank the band enough.

The guys from Sabaton had booked their Friday to stay here, at Hellfest, look Manowar. They are fans of the band. They had certainly refused dates that they could have taken by saying: “No we want to stay, we play Thursday at the Knotfest, we want to stay on Friday because we are fans of Manowar”. When they actually heard the news, they came to us and said, “Listen, here we are, who better than Sabaton could stick to the cancellation of Manowar.” We said to ourselves: “Of course it’s finally obvious”. We agreed quite quickly with them. It was done that morning in an hour in an office. We were excited. It would have bothered me not to offer compensation to the public because we are well aware that there are still people who came to see Manowar, who paid to see Manowar and who are disappointed not to see Manowar. We thought it was the right opportunity. I would not have thought of it. I thought, “No, the band played last night, I’m not going to ask them to play.”

I think that they have gained sympathy with the public, towards everyone, because to succeed in doing that … despite the vocal problems that the singer had. They really did an epic concert. Really. “Will it tomorrow be the groups that will be the headliners?” : it was already a headliner. Finally, when they’ll come back to the Hellfest, it will obviously be of equal importance. I hadn’t seen their Thursday show being stuck in problems you know and I could really see it on Friday. Kiss did an amazing concert yesterday in the American way with colossal means but I think that there are really things that happen behind: groups that give themselves the means actually to impress the public. We are really happy to accompany them on it and Sabaton is one of them.

Is it true that it was because Manowar could not do his scales on Thursday that the rag started to burn?

It’s a lot more complicated than that. It’s a series of things, and I’m not going to give you details because these are things, you realize, that will be analyzed by both parties. It’s complicated in this kind of thing: everyone has their truth. As the group says, “be sure the truth will come out” and I hope so too. There are visions: there was theirs and there was ours. They say they did everything to play and I would say that I did everything for them to play but it didn’t happen.

So rather than finally talking about things that have not happened, let’s talk about things that have happened. There are some big artists who nevertheless, despite everything, played. I will not give you the details of the issues that oppose the group as the group will not give you the details either. It will be managed as it will manage.

Are you worried about future investments because of this lawsuit or not at all? Are you comfortable?

There is not to be comfortable or not.

It’s because there is a dispute with a group. There is a dispute. We are on, anyway, an artist who is important. We are on a festival that is important. On some subjects you have to know … we must keep a cool head as we say … and I prefer to keep a cool head than to say that I am worried about the consequences of the thing. No no no. I don’t have to be worried. Everything had been set up for the Hellfest to welcome the group in good conditions, I told you again. I even think that today the Hellfest had really offered the artist an opportunity that few festivals in Europe offered him. It didn’t happen. He finally decided not to take it and not to do this concert. That’s it. We have already been able to mount very large artists.

I have a question about the program. I have seen bands like Sisters Of Mercy, Dark Rock bands, psychobilly bands as well, which have been programmed this year. What I find very interesting because I feel that the lover of metal is not necessarily just a metal amateur but he also likes many other things. Is it something that you see more as an experience or something you want to continue in the coming years?

We always did it. The real challenge and the real strategy for us organizers is to renew ourselves.

Today, you aren’t without knowing that we hear a lot: “Still Slayer, still Megadeth, still a thing and still something …” We try, actually, at least on artists a little less famous, to have a significant turnover. When people tell us that it’s still the same bands at the Hellfest, that’s wrong. Each year, we make a point of renewing at least 50% of our program with groups that have never come.

So yes, certainly, the very important artists who are noted in bold on the poster are groups that come back regularly. There is also a part of the public who wishes to see them again. I know fans of Hellfest for whom we would program Slayer every year, it would be fine.

As I also know a part of the public who, if they want to stay faithful to Hellfest, needs groups that are out of the ordinary. We need to renew ourselves. Manowar started from this principle: it was a headliner that people didn’t see often. The Addicts, Sham 69, Sisters of Mercy, … groups like that are not necessarily groups that are connoted to participate in a festival where Kiss is the headliner. But it’s important for us to try to continue to find this kind of small UFOs because these UFOs allow us to continue to retain a part of the public, music connoisseurs, who really appreciate the novelty … I have lots of friends who have been listening to this kind of music for 40/50 years. They have already seen everything but we still manage to put things where they say: “That’s something I had never seen”. There are people who are thirsty for discovery and there are people who only come to see what they like.

We, our job is to try to do both. As long as there is always this demand we will continue. I thought I heard: “Sisters Of Mercy, it was great last night.” The Addicts, that was great too. So, that kind of little UFOs we will continue to go on.

The Hellfest 2020 will take place on the 19th, 20th and 21st. It’s always the third weekend of June.

There will also be a new project that will open normally in October in Paris: a Hellfest bar that takes the place of the formerly named “Doctor feel good”. It will open and it will be a new adventure for us, for all the actors of the festival. You’ll have time to go … We didn’t talk about it earlier because we couldn’t officially announce it before today. It’s a little thing, I thought we had to talk about it. So here it will be an anchor and meeting for fans of the Hellfest in Paris. I will be there from time to time. It will be called “The Hellfest Corner”.

There is no group announcement tonight. No no no. And ads for the sale of places, either. We do not know anything. So it will be substantially on the same dates as usual: September / October. Thank you to all of you.