By Petra Leusmann, Rock At Night Germany Correspondent
Venue: Bang Your Head Festival, Balingen, Germany–July 16, 2016
The Bang Your Head Festival in Balingen (near Stuttgart) is said to be one of the festival highlights in Germany.
The festival is known and appreciated for its particularly down-home character where ten thousands hard rock and heavy metal fans from all over Europe gather in the peaceful meadows of the Swabian Alb.
The BYH concept purports “a unique blend of major event flair and relaxing atmosphere and the carefully selected mix of programming from the popular scene-Stars and handpicked cult bands for connoisseurs.” With this success, the festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious Heavy Metal Open Air in Germany – and as a popular alternative to mass production of the “greats” in which the motto “by fans for fans” is still alive.
This summer, it was time again. The popular South German event took place for the 21st time between the 14th and 16th of July – as usual at the fairgrounds Balingen–and again three whole days.
Lately the German festivals have suffered from massive thunderstorms and pouring rain, with even injuries and death. But the weather god seemed to be a BYH fan and apart from a first cold night it became hotter and hotter every hour.
Thanks to US Rockers Great White, Rock At Night was on the media list for Saturday, so I packed all my stuff and headed southwest. Due to a massive traffic jam it took me more than 6 hours to get there and when I arrived at 11:30 a.m. I had to face the fact, I wasn’t on the media list. It took me more than 3 hours in sweltering heat to get the problem solved but I finally made it in, thanks to the lovely security guys, a helpful production office staff, and a fellow photographer Martin Thatsmetal.
I had already missed a few bands (Girlschool, Delain and Tankard). With the long journey, the heat (which is not my cup of tea), the waiting for the media pass, and a terrible headache, my temper hit the ground when I arrived in front of the stage 10 minutes before Great White got on.
But as soon as the band started with “(I’ve got) Something For You” and I had taken the first photo shots of the guys, my mood cheered up again. Good rocking music is always a good cure!
At BYH every band has it’s own fan crowd and loads of people waited quite a long time to see Great White live in Germany–so no wonder the band was well received and people celebrated them.
The second and third songs “Desert Moon” and “Lady Red Light” were over much too soon as
all the photographers had to leave the pit. I stayed at the side to watch the rest of their show and I was not disappointed. “Can’t Shake It”, “Rock Me” and of course the classic hit “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” just had to be on the list and made almost everyone sing along. I personal had wished for more newer stuff, but of course, a setlist on a festival is much too short to put every good song on the list.
A great show and I really hope they’ll be back for a bigger European tour soon!
There was not much time to rest as it only takes about 15 minutes to change the set and Grave Digger was up. A friend of mine is their sound engineer and so I was very curious to see them live, as I had never before, which is a bit strange as they are actually from my area. As they are completely different to Great White, it seemed the crowd had changed completely.
Well, what can i say, I liked them much better than I ever thought. Great show and I do regret I have never dealt with them before. But from now on…
Next up was Uriah Heep. There is also really not much left to say, Uriah Heep are awesome whenever they take up their instruments. What I really like about them is they’ll never be their own cover band because Heep still writes new songs and releases new albums. Uriah Heep are classic and it always a great pleasure to see and hear them live.
At the same time Heep was on stage, Tyketto entered the indoor stage. This gave me conflict because I would have loved to have seen both bands so the compromise was to change location at half of the set. The indoor stage was, of course, much smaller and because of the inside heat I was much surprised to find it as crowded as the open air area. Tyketto will be touring Europe in late autumn and Rock At Night is hoping to cover one of the shows for you, as their show at BYH was promising.
What is a German Metal festival without Udo Dirkschneider? Udo started with a big bang and his rasping voice, which is alway great for metal music. Dirkschneider (with Udo’s son Sven on drums by the way) was for most people the highlight of the day, performing all the great Accept songs, he occupied the masses.
I then headed to the indoor stage again to see Threshold. On my way there I ran into Andy Eugster and Tom Balmer of Vanadine. We had a quick chat. Maybe you remember I met them the first time when they supported Soto on their European tour. So I got the latest news (they are working on the new album) and there might be a little tour ahead–but we won’t reveal too much! You can be excited…
But on to Threshold. They were excellent. But I probably was much too exhausted to appreciate their show as they definitely deserved. But I’m glad they are in Germany quite often so there’ll be more opportunities to come. They are on my bucket list.
So it seemed a bit as if Iced Earth had a difficult job to do, getting on after Dirkschneider at the main stage, but they got the audience under the spell pretty soon. I actually wanted to leave straight after shooting photos of them but stayed for another five songs. They were amazing and also here I’m hoping they’re back soon.
As a summary we can say that the Bang Your Head Festival simply is a must see. Even though there are different styles of Rock and Metal, they are all like a big family celebrating together. That was worth all the trouble, the long drive and the rest.
The festival is not only said to be a highlight, it is a highlight in German festival culture.
Bang Your Head, I caught the virus and will be back next year.
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I've always been into rock music and over the years hard, heavy and Metal have been added. Today it's a wide and wild mix from classic rock over to glam and powermetal from NWOBHM to melodic hard rock and blues.
As I was not very successful becoming a guitarist myself, but always wanted to be closer to the business, I started with rock music photography. I think I found my passion here. When taking photos at rock and Metal gigs I'm definitely enjoying every second.
Being German makes it sometimes hard to write in a language which is not my mother tongue.
But I find it cracking that rock music is an international language and is understood all over the planet.