Metal Female Voices Fest III – Review

12/12/2005 § Leave a comment

Ah yes, the Metal Female Voices Fest. Or The Female Metal Voices Fest. The Female Fest of Metal Voices. There are only so many combinations of the name and I didn’t seem to be able to get any of them right over the course of the months before the event. It is, ostensibly, a festival whose name is variable, interchangeable and customisable depending on what you think makes the most sense. I pride myself to be very good with names, admirably good in fact. The amount of times I’ve met people at parties and have then been able to recall their personalities, faces, jobs and tie colour from somewhere inside my mental rolodex has been at the best of times, bewilderingly accurate. However, if the Metal Female Voices Fest were at a party and afterwards I had to remember what drinks it had and what kind of peanuts it favoured, I could still do that all the way down to the sheen on its spats, I just couldn’t remember what the hell it was called.

The Metal Female Voices Fest, for all its glory, has been hailed ever since its inception as the main Gothic Metal event of the year. The one event that all the bands want to play in. That doesn’t matter whether you’re the smallest, most obscure black metal band with female vocals sampled somewhere in your turbulent mix or whether you’re the biggest thing in femme metal overall. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. And what a pie it is. To be precise, a pie that can fit in 5000 people and play you twelve bands of the highest calibre in the space of a day.

I say a day, well, it wasn’t really a day seeing as the doors were cued to open at 1pm. However, for some reason known only to the management, they were open at 1pm but the doorway itself was pitifully small. The venue was a giant aircraft hangar of a structure, a semicircular tin which looked like a prop out of Full Metal Jacket, and though there was going to be plenty of metal going on inside it, the queue movement was not exactly of regimented efficiency. The queue trailed off somewhere remote and forgettable into the distance, a long thin trail of black insignificance. With the Oktoberhallen swallowing it up piecemeal it looked like some horribly fattened predator devouring a mamba.

We went up to the press queue which was incredibly small in comparison to the main line and it wasn’t too long before we were able to acquire our passes. There were sixteen million types of these available. Blue ones, red ones, yellow ones, and that was only when they’d exhausted the primary colours. In fact, there were so many colours that the organisers had to start identifying them by hex codes. Out of the lucky dip, John, my erstwhile manager, managed to get himself an AAA pass, otherwise known as an Access All Areas pass, which gave him the ability to do everything with the bands that he liked, whereas I was given a festively green photo pass which didn’t give me quite as much access, but then God only knows that I would be wanting to fiddle about in the band’s dressing rooms for.

It was at this stage that the Oktoberhallen had decided to open two doors, the second one as small as the first. Those people who were not British had decided that they could actually leave their queue and go along with everyone inside the venue while everyone else stood on their toes, peered over the long-haired heaps in front of them and then flopped back down dutifully into position. I, on the other hand, saw a coupe of people [I still don’t know who they were] beckoning us into one of the side entrances in which we bustled along with the roadies and runners and entered the venue proper without so much as a squeak from any official.

What an inside the venue had. It was properly huge and all we could see was a black stagelike blob in the distance shrouded in an unnecessary amount of dry ice. It wasn’t clear whether this was actually intentional or whether there was some poor roadie behind it tearing out what little hair he had left and pleading to the gods to sort out his dry ice machine before anyone got wind of the fact that it was buggered as the entire venue started to resemble one of the swamps from Krull. Still, it had a certain Middle-Earthly appeal to it and I did happen to notice in the midst of it all a hamburger stall which become very useful as the day went on. These people had either brought with them a scarily large amount of hamburgers or they were recycling them from somewhere. Either way, it didn’t bear thinking about, it’s just unsettling when you have to measure the amount of hamburgers on offer in cows rather than in packets.

It was at this stage that it became clear that the present arena didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment so we decided to make use of the passes that we had and go to the backstage area. There was a small cattle grid at the side of the stage through which the organisers clearly intended to separate the press riff-raff from the audience riff-raff, and after I had waved my laminate at the rather glum looking official, I was waved through to an area which gave me a good view of the back of the stage and all the roadies panicking at the last minute with their equipment.

The backstage area itself looked like the dressing rooms in Marks and Spencers. This time round they had divided it into two distinct areas. One, the press backstage area which was only admissible though a photo pass, and the band’s backstage area, which you were only admitted into if you were, well, a band, or someone who was important enough to have the privilege of joining the bands and irritating them. Those with press passes could not, in any way, go through to the band area [through an ominous red curtain] since there was another burley-looking gentleman who crossed his arms and would tell you in an overly-thick French accent that you couldn’t pass through, though if you spent long enough quizzing him as to why, he couldn’t really answer. However, they had thought of all the needs of those press agents who got hungry since there was, thoughtfully enough, a small window at the side through which the canteen area could sell you drinks. Yes, business was everywhere here, but we were going to find out that we were not going to conduct as much of it as we wanted.

By 2pm the show hadn’t started yet and many of us were wondering what was going on. People were starting to fill the main section of the hall and there didn’t seem to be a lot of noise coming from the stage apart from people rolling boxes on and off. It was clearly time for something to happen, so rather unceremoniously some scruple decided to let the bands free from their leashes and the first band, Anachronia, came onstage.

Unlike last year I got to watch an awful lot of the show, plus the size of the hall gave me the opportunity to wonder round and have a look at what was going on from every side of the stage, as well as being able to buy a few too many of those hamburgers which I had to pay for, again, with ridiculous currency. This year I had to hand money over to a small white man in a small white privy-esque booth who would give me paper tokens which I needed to exchange for beer. I would wonder over to the beer section where there were men trying to distinguish who, out of the clamouring multitudes baying for alcohol, they should serve first. It wasn’t difficult to make the choice for them and shout an order while holding on orange token. They would then turn round and pick a pre-poured plastic cup from a trestle and hand it over with the forced smile of someone who knows that the rest of their day will be just as unfulfillingly dull as the moment just passed.

I missed quite a lot of Anachronia’s set and buzzed back and forth between the press area and the crowd, waiting for an interview to be scheduled. Last year we were given a timetable at the backstage area but this year nothing of the sort seemed to be happening. Instead, there was just a general kafuffle without anyone really being able to tell what was going on. I took this opportunity to browse through some of the useless merchandise stalls and wonder whether I had spent €40 on a new microphone for no reason.

The first band who I paid serious attention to were Midnattsol, who I had been looking forward to seeing live for a while. I realised that technically I did have a camera in the form of a phone and could take pictures while John hogged the main unit. At the beginning of each new band’s set all the photographers would congregate at the front areas of the stage. However, due to the ‘three-song rule’ we couldn’t stay past three numbers, though it wasn’t hard to push my luck and stay beyond the allocated three songs until the Metal Organisation crew had to physically usher me away from the front of the stage which they must have got quite tried of doing.

By now the hall was quite seriously starting to fill up and I kept checking the backstage area to see what was happening about the interviews. There was a Metal Mind scutter wandering around with a large piece of paper and marker, a la Rolf’s Cartoon Club, hastily scheduling interviews. However, none of the interviews ever seemed to materialise. Nearly all of the bands spent most of their time in the “band’s area” with only occasionally a few of them daring to venture beyond the dreaded red curtain. I had a brief opportunity to talk to nearly everyone, as well as being responsible for Carmen Elise missing a portion of her sister’s set, but as to where the interviews were was anyone’s guess. My only guess was that because certain bands were not having too great a time of it backstage in the dressing-room area, things were veering quite seriously off the scheduled plan.

However, it did give me the opportunity to catch the marvellous sets for Epica, Lacuna Coil and After Forever, who played the best set of the evening by a long way, also being fortunate enough to hear the strains of Leaves’ Eyes and Midnattol in the background, who had taken to sitting on the carpet in the backstage area and busking with an acoustic guitar.

By the time that Lacuna Coil had wrapped up their set, the majority of fans were making their way to the wings of the venue. I have never seen people leave a place so quickly with 4000 people swiftly dwindling into a paucity of Goths sweeping up bottles. The entire venue area was now a pitted scar of plastic, with various bottles and wristbands left all over the place. A lot of people had actually left towards the end of LC’s set, rather than waiting for it to complete.

I sat and watched people clear up for about an hour afterwards, waiting for my ‘ride’ back to the hotel. I watched people sweep and hydraulic trucks take sections of the stage apart. It was very strange to see something which had taken so long in its planning being dismantled so easily.

I went outside and stared at the Oktoberhallen which nobody seemed to need or care for anymore – there was just a small group of people waiting on the ground and a closing canteen who were kind enough to sell me a bottle of Vittel between scowls. There were no cars, no lines, no people, but what was left was the memory and the knowledge of a fantastic evening had by all. Metal Organisation had outdone themselves again. MFVF3 was a triumph over last year, with a fuller array of bands, more quality music and a superior venue. This festival goes from strength to strength.

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