Summer Sounds: Rock and Pop Festivals in Germany

German band Donots perform at the "Southside Festival" Enlarge image German band Donots perform at the "Southside Festival" (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The stage throbs with stomping beats and heavy guitar riffs as young fans thrill to the music of this year’s top acts. Gripped by festival fever, thousands of fans are flocking to Germany to attend the more than 800 open-air events and spend a whole weekend partying to good music. Designed to appeal to all age groups, the festivals cover a wide range of musical styles: from indie to electro, from heavy metal to reggae – they offer something for every taste. Every weekend a different festival draws the crowds. While album sales are in decline, the demand for festival tickets continues to grow, underlining the attraction and enduring popularity of live events. Several of the largest and best-known festivals, including Rock am Ring (Rock on the Ring), the Melt! Festival and SonneMondSterne (SunMoonStars), are sold out within minutes.

Woodstock, perhaps the most famous music festival of all time, celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. It was an event that gripped the imagination of young Germans, as it did that of young people across the world, and helped a culture of rock, pop and jazz festivals to take root in Germany. Since then, though, the German festival landscape has seen a number of changes. Thanks in particular to professional organization, better sanitary facilities and the provision of sufficient security personnel, the element of chaos has disappeared from such events. Which means that music fans can devote their attention entirely to the fantastic selection of first-rate bands and DJs appearing, enjoy a carefree celebration and thoroughly savor the special festival atmosphere.

Fans enjoy the sun at the "Hurricane Festival" Enlarge image Fans enjoy the sun at the "Hurricane Festival" (© picture-alliance/ dpa) The biggest events in terms of numbers are the twinned festivals Rock am Ring and Rock im Park (Rock in the Park), featuring 90 bands from different musical genres and drawing a total audience of 142,000. On offer is a good mix of hard rock and softer sounds. Close behind and worthy runners-up are the Hurricane Festival with 60,000 and the Southside Festival with 50,000 visitors.

Every summer tens of thousands of "metalheads" trek to the small village of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein and blanket the bucolic fields surrounding it with colorful campsites. They all come ready to rock at the annual W:O:A - Wacken Open Air - metalfest. The Wacken festival began as a small event for local German bands. By the late 1990's it had become the major festival on the European metal calendar, featuring bands from across Europe, North America and Australia. Wacken attracts metal music fans from across the globe, including fans of black metal, death metal, power metal, thrash metal, gothic metal and folk metal. And they all seem to get on pretty well on the verdant northern German lowlands.

Those more into electronic music are better served by the techno-oriented Nature One festival, which draws an audience around 61,000. But dancehall and reggae can also be heard at German festivals, such as the Chiemsee Reggae Summer – set against the spectacular backdrop of the Alps – or the Summerjam in Cologne. No wonder, then, that fans are spoiled for choice!

German band Deichkind at the "Hurricane Festival" Enlarge image German band Deichkind at the "Hurricane Festival" (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Also very popular – and closer to the original festival idea – are smaller festivals that often come up with music’s next big thing. One example is the Taubertal Festival, which promises its 12,000-strong audience a program of cross-genre music; another is the Haldern Pop Festival, whose 7,000-odd music-loving visitors can enjoy not only Britrock but also rising stars in the musical firmament.

That small festivals soon get bigger is demonstrated by the Melt! Festival held not far from Berlin, which presents an incomparable blend of electro and indie. Other small festivals offering a unique atmosphere are Highfield, Immergut and Rock am See (Rock on the Lake).

“Open-air and free” is the motto of a number of festivals that receive public funding or have private sponsors. These include Olgas-Rock Festival and Rheinkultur (Rhine Culture), whose line-ups definitely need not fear comparison.

Festivalgoers at the campsite Enlarge image Festivalgoers at the campsite (© picture-alliance / dpa) Enjoying the music is, of course, the main thing, but environmental awareness is also taken seriously. Tickets for the Chiemsee Reggae Summer festival, for instance, include the rail fare to and from the event.

For many music fans, three days of festival life mean a weekend getaway from everyday routine. It’s a chance to get together with their friends for a couple of days and party while listening to good music; a chance to see their favorite bands live and meet people that are on the same wavelength. This unique feeling has a fascination for an ever increasing number of people, so each year is sure to see fans flocking to the festivals again by the thousands.

© Young Germany

Rock and Pop Festivals

Rock am Ring