10 o'clock this saturday 22nd of June, we were waiting for this date for a long time… Indeed we are at the Hellfest, for what is promised to be a programme fit for a king in the biggest of the festivals in France. From the opening, a dense crowd moves forward and enters the great plains that host again the festival in Clisson. The festival will receive during 3 days near 112 000 métal fans. Few changes since last year, we get quickly our bearings again. We examine the programme also very dense and we go to Main Stage 1 to see an old French band : Attentat Rock... After some tries since 2008, in différent places and also by the name of Pink Rose, the the band seems to want to put a stop to a quarter of a century of split. Apparently the rock conserves, because the energetic performance was the most likeable, a first good surprise and a good introduction to the affairs. Let's hope that behind this successful appearence at the Hellfest, the musicians will feel like extend again this kind of good time.
Just the time to have something to eat after Audrey Horne's very good performance, tinted with a sound Thin Lizzy colour in its most on the edge moments (Thunder & Lightning...), here is still on Main Stage 1, the just as talented Swiss band KROKUS shows itself, with its three guitarists side by side and its singer whose voice reflects a musical inspiration close to the one of AC/DC. And here we go for a well-established and gloves off set, old style but very effective. Again a very good moment despite a noteworthy imbalance in the mix between the two lead guitars. It's a pity, because the band really delighted the ears of the audience. Truly, the Swiss men make it, and have with Gotthard two major bands on the European stage.
We had hardly the time to recover and 3 Doors Down appears followed by the excellent Down, the band of Phil Anselmo former Pantera's singer who paid tribute to the guitarist Dimebag. Down's drummer wears a superb outfit with a nice confederate flag, but we have to admit that Down's music doesn't have much to do with our dear « Southern Rock ». If we are still looking for the bluesy side plugged by the official programme, it should be noted that this music hold water and that the band occupies the stage in a great way despite some quiet tricky musical parts. Well in place, technically on point, the band will even take the liberty to make a jam with its fans and during the last minutes to let them totally the instruments ! Amazing moment but nice spirit...
After Down, we decided to cross the whole Hellfest site, to go under the huge tent called The Valley. Here, Red Fang, a terrific instrumental duo (like the White Stripes) hammered us a powerful and inspired stoner rock. This band was for us a real discover and absolutely deserved the success brought by its impressive show. If you have the opportunity, don't hésitate to have a listen.
Back to our favourite stage, here we are already at the announced feast with the Germans of Accept and their classical but effective hard rock. Tradition on this stage, it really kicks ass and the seasoned veterans (by this name, the band dates back to 1971!) show that there is still fuel in the tank. Wolff Hoffman, still a tremendous instrumentalist, confirms that classical music continues to be one of his passions. Here is one that haven't lost any of his qualities ! Here again, we can only appréciate the set, remarkably on point and in place, and, advantage of a long career at the top, the enthusiastic audience join in without breaking with the more known titles. Accept can leave the stage with top honours while we are looking for an appropriate place to eat.
21 o'clock and here are those that allowed the Hellfest to break all its records, namely the bearded of ZZ TOP. The crowd is more and more squeezed to see or see again those who are with Point Blank our favourite Texans. Despite Billy's health problems, the show of the bearded will be able to enjoy their old fans, happy to see them on stage once again, and those who came to admire the legend for the first time won't return disappointed and will be put into orbit from the first title (« Got me under pressure »), delivered like during the golden age. The gimmicks are still here, the world both musical and visual that the band created run flat out with the help of many videos and deft lights on a quiet basic decor. The band gets down to basics and don't wander with ham actings, and personnally we prefer, it plays, it simply plays, and the crowd appreciates. The main leading songs of the band come forward (« Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago », « Gimme All Your Loving », « Sharp Dressed Man », « Legs » with the white fur rectangular guitars...) and as usual, Billy pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix. This time, it's « Foxy Lady » that has the honours of our trio. The beat would let us stamp our feet if we are not so squeezed, and the captivated audience asks for more. Surely, the band hasn't the 80's ardour anymore (the musicians are like us, they have some more years on the clock), but a ZZ Top show, it works remarkably and that's still impressive, with always some amazing moments, and the band keeps this precious power to make its audience happy. As it finally stops, as usual with « La Grange », where the band is unable to help needing persuading -ham one day, ham always!- and where it tries a mix with « Sloppy Drunk » and « Bar-B-Q », and « Tush », it's very difficult to leave our three musicians and we reflect that it would be nice to see them once again.
The ZZ TOP show barely finished, we feel a crowd pushing us like a huge hand. Indeed the KISS fans come and take place in front of the stage while the show will start more than an hour after, it's completely mad, the Kissmania really exists. Only little problem : the happy ZZ Top fans, already installed in considerable numbers, have an incompressible side, and some don't want to lose their place because they like the two bands. Fortunately, all goes quietly and with a real conviviality, but right in front of the stage, people must have a good idea of what the sardines feel in their boxes. In the end, everyone gets his place for the big show that is going to be, and we can tell you that it's really very impressive. What more can we say except that KISS will put on its great circus like it knows how to make it for nearly 40 years with a great professionnalism ? Nothing to say, it's just incredible ! Some will regret that the show has priority in relation to the music, some other will go and get lost in the crowd and bawl « Shout It Out Loud » with the multitude. but KISS always divided the opinions from this angle. Overall we were relieved to escape to the discoïd « I Was Made For Loving You » during the encore where we noticed on the other hand the presence of « Black Diamond ». We do prefer...
Clisson's rendez-vous is become essential for a lot of metal music enthusiasts, but we understand quickly why once we are over there, even if we can't sadly follow all the performances. What do you want, we are real music enthusiasts, we are avid, and we would not be so if the quality was not at the rendez-vous... Thanks to the whole Hellfest team that goes out of your way to organise this superb festival every year.
Philippe Archambeau / Yves Philippot-Degand
translate by Yves Philippot-Degand
Photos: Jeff Lescene http://www.wix.com/colocado/jefflescene