This article originally appeared on VICE Alps
The sign at the head of the narrow gravel road we are driving on reads "Nova Rock—no entry". Seppi* drives our Seat Toledo exactly in the direction we're not supposed to go. Despite the fact that I have a valid ticket for Nova Rock – a music festival in East Austria that takes place every year around the second week of June – I'm tagging along with a group of skilled festival fence-hoppers. From where we're driving, you can only barely make out the green haze of a laser show in the distance. Red lights are blinking on the tops of the wind turbines that line the side of the road. I see a bunny hopping around in the field, but that's about the only sign of life around here – the drunkenly dancing masses are still far away.
It's about 23:00 on the Friday of the festival when we park the car near the festival terrain – opposite of the side where the official entrance is. Across the field, I hear Marco Wanda of Austrian indie pop band Wanda sing "Gib mir alles, baby" in his raspy voice. The day's programme is nearing its end. Seppi and his friends don't want to see any particular bands that evening – they say they just want to have a look around.
Over the years, breaking into Nova Rock has become a tradition for them. They've learned from their past mistakes – from the deep cuts and bruises inflicted on their skin by sharp fences, from being chased out by security guards. There's more tact and strategy to what they're doing now. Seppi and his friends aren't necessarily the criminal types, it's likely more of an adrenaline thing for them. They live near the festival site, so Nova Rock is an obvious choice. That doesn't mean they haven't practiced by sneaking into Frequency Festival or Two Days a Week Festival too. Only Surf Opening in Podersdorf, they say, is hard to get into.
There are guards at the backstage entrance – the spot from the guys sneaked into the festival last year. The group decides to follow the fence to the back of the Red Stage. There, a small group of people sitting on foldout chairs are filming heavy metal band Disturbed on their cell phones through the barriers. They seem happy enough with the compromise but Seppi says he feels sorry for them.
We follow the fence further, but end up at a dead end. Seppi notices that two fence panels aren't properly fixed together. We get through and cross a well lit field in single file to another fence, which borders the camping grounds. Nobody notices us unhitching the fence – we've successfully penetrated the first layer of security. We're on camping grounds.
The official way to the festival site is through the camping grounds – guards at this checkpoint check the wrists of everyone who comes through, so there's zero chance of getting in without a wristband. The crew follows the fence separating the camping grounds from the festival site and find another couple of lose fence panels – these are bound together with a tie-wrap. One of the fences is bent, leaving a crack open. We all get through without being noticed and celebrate with a round of beers we brought with us. We ride the ferris wheel while Austrian band EAV play a late night show on the main stage. When the show ends, we leave through the normal exit – nobody bothers to check festival-goers on their way out.
The next day, we sneak in after dark again. Same gravel road, same car but this time, when we leave the car behind, we hear Alice Cooper playing Poison in the distance. Seppi's friend Rudi is in a bad mood – he really wanted to see Alice Cooper live so he's annoyed that we're late. They tell me Rudi is a master in the art of sneaking into a festival. Two years ago, he went in and out of Nova Rock unnoticed several times on the same day, because he kept forgetting stuff from his car.
Rudi impatiently runs a bit ahead as we make our way around the long bend behind the main stage. Then he suddenly sets off, sprinting over the field like the bunny I had seen the day before. He's spotted a big hole in the fence next to the Red Stage. The opening is blocked by a container – which seems like a smart move on the security's part, but it actually enables Rudi to jump over the fence more easily.
The others aren't too eager to follow his acrobatics and decide to continue on for now. A guy who calls himself "Phillippunk" and someone named "Mike the Brit" have joined us. Phillippunk's brought alcohol and some tools in case we encounter a tie-wrap that needs cutting. We don't need his tools – like yesterday, we are able to just squeeze through an opening in a fence.
We get in just in time for Alice Cooper's School's Out and go see Cypress Hill after. And all on a shoestring budget, partly thanks to Phillippunk's booze supply.
Sunday is the fourth and last day of the festival, but only the second time after getting my wristband that I enter the festival through the official route. You may have noticed by now that Nova Rock is a pretty relaxed festival – there's a lot of security, but not so much that you feel like you're trying to party in a police state. And not so much that Seppi, Rudi and their friends aren't able to slip in. But the fact that they are, doesn't tip the atmosphere to the other side either: It doesn't feel there should have been more security.
That night, Phillippunk calls me and we plan to meet up at our usual parking space. I leave the festival site to meet them and sneak back in. When I'm halfway there, I get another call. Phillippunk tells me they're already inside. If I turn around and go back in through the official entrance it would cost me another 10 minutes, so I decide to try my luck. The path behind the main stage is unguarded, so I make my way to the Wavebreaker stage unofficially and undisturbed. I hurry, because the festival is winding down, and I want to see the end of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' gig.
On my way there, I finally notice that all the fencing from the festival was provided by a company called "EU Fence". Which somehow feels very trendy.
*The names of the festivalgoers in this article have been changed.
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