Hellfest is the most epic, metal, party-y, drunky, European, happy, good times music festival in existence. The 11th edition just closed this weekend, and luckily I was #blessed to attend for the 4th consecutive year. I am now filled with a post-metal-coital glow and bliss; but I am also sad because I miss my metal friends :(
You see, that's the thing that makes this festival particularly special to me; the beautiful people I get to share this collective experience with. Without the people, the festival is nothing. The bands always tell the crowds that (they kind of have to), but it's really true here. It's an experience unlike any other I have ever had. The closest thing I think could come close is probably the Gathering of the Juggalos but I haven't attended that festival (yet).
Hellfest can be described very succinctly, with straightforward and descriptive phrases such as:
"big dumb stupid metal festival"
"drunken heavy metal Disneyland"
"three days of stupid fucking shit"
"heavy metal summer camp"
Or maybe just: Heavy. Metal. Fucking. Party. HMFP. I need that printed on a shirt in impact font!
The lineup is excruciatingly high-quality and famously diverse. 50+ bands play per day on one of the many stages; there are the main stages, the punk/hardcore stage, the stoner/noise stage, the black/folk metal stage, and the death/grind/insanity stage, so there's literally something for every type of metal fan. Even kids! There are so many kids and babies around I always have to remember to be on my best behavior, as I display here by helping my friend get his fireworks out for the light show:
And yeah, that lineup; just to name a few bands, I saw Rammstein, Abbath, Napalm Death, Entombed A.D., Vision of Disorder, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Unsane, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Dark Funeral, Turnstile, Hatebreed, Fu Manchu, even Jane's Addiction and fucking FOREIGNER all at the same fest, among others. I have no problem telling you that Disturbed played an incredibly-energetic and fun festival. If you hate fun or take your musical preferences too seriously, well, you will absolutely hate this festival. There is no bad set, you can and should have fun at every single one of them! You simply need to embrace it all and let the music carry you away.
Note: honestly, the "best" band was probably the dudes playing Nirvana and RATM covers under an ancient town square whilst locals sipped wine and ate cheese, nodding their heads to the jams—but Disturbed was a close second.
Friendliness: everyone at Hellfest is extremely friendly and really just wants to have a good time! Lots of people offering free hugs, lots of people more than happy to share their naked, filthy, yet beautiful bodies for all the world to see, and, oh yeah, the Nutella tartine is to DIE for.
Food: lemme just tell you about how goddamn awesome the food is there. Coming from an extremely spoiled Brooklynite, I can honestly say that this is by far the best food at any metal festival in France. I mean, it's France, after all, so you should expect nothing less from the masters of fine cuisine! Each year I devour beaucoup de steak, ham and cheese tartines, aforementioned Nutella things, and lots of ice cream. We dine very well there!
Here's a photo of one of my pals having lunch:
The locals: The festival takes place in a lovely town called Clisson, near Nantes, or as the locals call it, "NON". This picturesque village has its own little castle, and everyone opens up their arms (and yards) for the festival. Literally every person in this town embraces all that is metal for this weekend, and makes us all very comfortable and welcome in their home!
For example, this local photographer embraces and specializes in super-fucking heavy metal photography around the festival, as evidenced by this hard-as-fuck sample:
Friends: Every year, I get to go hang out with my metal best friends I've met there before, and make new best friends! It's really a rockin' fun time, and everyone is so friendly and eager to share their stories and beer and food—and even more importantly, are the most photogenic people on the planet, so I get to take pictures with all my buds and document our friendship forever!
Here I'd like to introduce you to a few of my Hellfest metal best friends. I can't wait to get back next year and see them all again to relive the memories!
Casual drinking is the name of the game at Hellfest; no binge drinking here! Take my friend here who obviously engaged in some completely reasonably tame drinking behavior.
Some of my friends bring their pets to the festival!
There's even a red light district in Hellfest in case you are into that sort of thing!
Contrary to popular belief, black is not the most metal color of them all, it's NEON, duh! Here, one of my newest friends and I discuss the pros and cons of neon headwear.
My buds are also really good at #fashion, as exemplified by this guy's excellent haircut that he is very proud to show off!
Also, contrary to popular belief, metal people are actually really really smart! Here is my friend being creative when he needed a pillow.
Sometimes we just enjoy relaxing.
We really do just like to spread our wings and fly!!
Listening to metal all day tho and having so much fun with friends is really tiring. Sometimes you just need a moment to mellow out and praise the Lord.
Here is me and two of my BEST new friends. My pink friend is kinda angry though :(
Check out a few more of Tommy's precious Hellfest memories below: