By Matt Hermann
On the roadside leading to the entrance of the Nuerburgring race track, vendors do a good business selling ‘emergency’ supplies. That involves cheap grills, jugs of water, sleeping bags and the like for the tens of thousands camping at the Rock am Ring music festival.
Most years, the busiest trade is in rain protection. Umbrellas, ponchos, rubber boots – anything to fight against the legendary reputation the festival in Germany’s rural western Eifel region has earned for rain.
This year’s hot seller, however, was sun block – SPF 30. The staff at one of the stands, set up by the local branch of a large German chain of hardware stores, was selling so much of the white cream it had begun to make a game out of it.
“Every time we sell a bottle of sunscreen, we blow an air horn,” one man at the counter said. The game made sure it stayed loud.
Such impulse buyers were making a wise decision. A dedicated concertgoer at the 2010 Rock am Ring could begin watching bands before three in the afternoon, and stay watching until three in the morning.
With sunset in Germany at this time of year pushing well past nine at night – and with little shade available within the racetrack infield where the festival takes place – folks were certain to get a lot of sun.
The Friday night crowd that gathered at dusk for US rap superstar Jay-Z’s set seemed a little worn out form a long day outside, but by the time headliners Rage Against the Machine took the stage a little before eleven, they were ready to rock again.
Even the most experienced festival-goers were caught off-guard by the sunshine and temperatures in the high 20s Celsius (low 80s Fahrenheit).
Bernd and Klaus, two guys in their 40s who reckon they’ve been to more than 30 Rock am Rings between them, said it was the best weather they’d ever experienced at the venerable festival.
They said they’d had to buy wide-brimmed hats from a vendor on site to keep their faces from getting burned.
Bernd said what kept him coming back over the years – despite the often poor weather – was the atmosphere, one where he was overwhelmed with music.
“It’s a chance to see bands I like already, like Slayer or Motorhead,” he said, “but also to hear a lot that I’ve never heard of. Already I’ve seen one – Airbourne – and I had to buy their CD. They’re my new AC/DC.”
The new generation
Despite its age, Rock am Ring works to attract a younger crowd too, one who might not even know who AC/DC are. Outside the track, four friends – Philipp, Alex, Tino, and Caro (all 18) – said they had come down from Sprockhoevel near Dortmund for the festival.
Newer bands like German punk Billy act The Broilers, Welsh metal group Bullet for My Valentine, and punk rock favorites Rise Against were the draw for these kids.
But more than anything, it seemed, it was just a good chance for them to take a trip be on their own for the weekend. It was the first Rock am Ring festival for all but Alex.
They were duly impressed – not just by the music, but by the event’s physical scale. Alex reckoned they were yet halfway into a several-kilometer walk to the other side of the festival grounds, and was about ready for a break. “You really have to walk a long way to get anywhere. It’s hard.” he said.
It didn’t help that he’d been carrying a case of beer on his shoulder the whole way.
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