In the end of June Chaoszine visited Rock Imperium festival in Cartagena, Spain. The three-day event was hot as expected, but the weekend was surprisingly pleasant and memorable with many kinds of bands and Spanish festival culture. Let’s see, what kind of festival and location we are talking about.
Cartagena is an old port city and is located on the Spanish coast south of Alicante. It is not a beach resort, although there are small beaches nearby. The beautiful old town offers something to walk around and explore for the festival-goer’s mornings. We stayed in a hotel that was located both near the old town and next to the festival area, which was convenient and encouraged us to explore the surroundings a bit.
We learned from a local man that there is some tourism in the city as more and more cruise ships come to Cartagena instead of Alicante for its historical attractions. The easiest way to get to Cartagena from Finland is probably to take a flight to Alicante and rent a car. Even though it takes a little arrangements we noticed that many Finns had found their way to beautiful Cartagena to attend the festival. Thank you everyone for the good chats!
Festival weekend started with finding a place we would get our wristbands from. Changing tickets to wristbands had luckily started already couple of days ago so entry was quite fast and easy. Weirdest thing we faced was the fact that you couldn’t take a bottle of water inside with a cap. We questioned this more than a bit because of very obvious reason. It was hot.
During the entire weekend, the temperature was approximately at the level that an average Finn can fry to a medium steak in an hour. Not being able to fill your water bottle and carry it around (other than keeping it on your hand all the time) was quite uncomfortable in that heat. We also had a little confusion at first whether you could drink the water from the water taps or not since it tasted terrible to be honest. I assume it was like that because of the chemicals that made it drinkable. However the water was very available and there was chance to buy proper bottles of water so all in all everyone survived.
One thing that made the whole weekend a bit exciting was the common language because most of the time there wasn’t one. This is probably something that the whole Spain is lacking since I’ve understood they don’t speak English very well. This is basically not a problem but I would think it’s good if the staff of the festival spoke some English if the goal is to get visitors from all around the Europe in the future. However, a big thanks and appreciation to the staff of Rock Imperium for being very nice and having a good customer service attitude even when we didn’t speak the same language.
The festival area was mainly grass. The field also led slightly downwards towards the stages, which is always good because then you can also see the stage from behind. There was (thank God) some shadows at the area, but not too much. Anyway they were very popular. All the shadows where you could see the stages from were pretty crowded but the atmosphere was always great and everyone fit nicely.
Via Dolorosa of the area was this huge staircase. This brutal element led from the main stage area to another one where you could spend some time in a proper shadow seeing the bands on tent stage or having a snack at the food are which also had some tents. I couldn’t help but think how the accessibility was handled with the staircase, but there must have been some kind of solution since I saw some wheelchairs at the festival.
What comes to food and beverage, it was very well managed. In this event they used a payment wristbands, which were surprisingly easy to use even as a foreigner. They also worked well. Food and drinks were very reasonably priced, to a Finn it was actually pretty cheap. Beer or local kalimotxo (0,5 liters) was 5 euros. With VIP-ticket you could have been able to see the main stages from above with very nice view. From media point of view I must say it would be good to have access to VIP-area with media pass (which didn’t actually include much) because it would be good for photographers to be able to get a few shots from the wall.
The line-up of Rock Imperium was an interesting package in which northern rock and metal bands had a big role. Especially more traditional rock seems to be a favorite in Spain while modern metal and more unusual genres seem to be still making their way to the Spanish hearts. Many interesting bands were performing on the tent stage to quite small audience which in fact we weren’t bothered by since we had room for ourselves. I could write as many reports as there were bands at Rock Imperium but let’s just pick some of them here.
One of the bands that had already got my attention before the festival was Norwegian Fixation which could have in all their sovereignty take the main stage and make it their own. The band is only releasing their debut album in September but is already giving the vibe of a very high quality newcomer. They have a good charisma on the stage and the audience is totally with them. The other interesting band on the tent stage was Venus 5, consisting of five gorgeous ladies from all around the Europe. They released their debut album last year and I really liked their energy and those catchy songs. Wishing them success and a possible visit to Finland one day.
In addition, I liked the Spanish Lepoka, during whose set people clearly had a lot of fun. Lepoka plays folk metal, and I would also like to see this band in Finland sometime. Lepoka really put people dancing and moving, which I had expected from the Spanish people for some reason. Actually, I was surprised by how restrained and moderately moving people were mostly at the gigs, maybe a bit more than I had imagined. Maybe the heat was too much for the locals too?
There were two main stages of the same size next to each other. Security guards (I assume) between the stage and the audience watered people in the front row from time to time with a water hose, which was always enthusiastically received by the audience and which certainly made it easier for those standing for long periods of time in the scorching heat. On the grass field in front of the main stages, there were many families having some picnic from day to late at night, and I saw even very small children at the festival. Some people could even be seen taking a nap on the big festival field, which I would never dare to do for fear that someone would walk over me drunk. On the other hand, I didn't see a lot of drunken rambling, although people seemed to drink all the time. On the main stages there were several bands representing Finland like Steve 'n' Seagulls, Lordi, and Stratovarius as the headliner one night. Having been to fewer foreign festivals, it was great to witness the performance of Finnish bands to such a full audience. What comes to Lordi, I was terrified for the members because of them performing in direct sunlight with their costumes.
Among the other performers on the main stages, Swedish Evergrey, whom I had been looking forward to seeing live, must be mentioned. The band, which took over the afternoon slot very well, exuded a relaxed and good vibe, and I also happened to hear other english speakers praising the band. Of course, the Swedish bands don't end there. Among them, H.E.A.T should also be mentioned, whose singer Kenny Leckremo performed with incredible energy, regardless of the sweat stain growing on his chest. The set was amazing and got really "under my feet".
Of the so-called big acts, Deep Purple probably caused the least feelings of any kind. After a long set with plenty of solos, Soen, which performed in the dark Spanish night, convinced me more, even though the band had been a bit distant to me until now. Blind Guardian and Helloween were nice to witness, because I hadn’t seen either of them myself. It is actually possible to see both of them in Finland in August at the Hellsinki Metal Festival, and let’s only reveal that “The Bard’s Song” was one of the highlights of Blind Guardian’s set, because the whole crowd singing together caused some serious chills.
Judging by the band shirts seen over the weekend, many had expected KISS the most. Admittedly, this was the first time for me too that I finally got to see the band, so it was so sweet when the KISS sheet finally dropped and the band came from above of the stage with tons of pyros. I've heard some talk about the live performance of the band, so I had tried to keep my expectations realistic. That's why it was a positive surprise how good the set sounded in the end (wheter there was background tapes or not). The show was great, there was some cool elements, band flying over the audience and onto the ceiling of the stage, and the fireworks at the end of the show were probably greater than I've ever seen in Finland.
After the KISS concert, many people left the area having given their all. However, the evening wasn’t finished, because the last performer was Skid Row, towards whom I felt a huge sympathy, because it can’t be an easy place to perform after the previous show. However, Skid Row has been on tour with KISS this year, so presumably this was a so-called standard set for the band. However, a commendable number of people stayed to listen to Skid Row.
Some moved to the front of the stage to give what was left of themselves, and the rest of the grass field was one big night picnic. The performance going on stage was really wild, as usual for the current Skid Row. This is because Erik Grönwall, who rejuvenated the whole band with his presence last year, is one of the best stage performers I've had the chance to witness. Grönwall, who was previously active in H.E.A.T, kept the atmosphere amazing until the end.
Like any three-day festival, this was an intense experience, with the Spanish heat as an extra spice. The Rock Imperium organized for the second time was a great entity and left the feeling that I could come again. Everything had been made relatively easy for a Finn who don't know Spanish, and the friendliness of the people helped forward and was heart warming. The wide range of performers made it possible to discover new interesting bands in addition to seeing big names. Rock Imperium has already announced that they will return next year, so we'll be waiting for band announcements with interest. Thank you Rock Imperium and a beautiful city of Cartagena, muchas gracias!