Hellfest is surely one of the most legendary, iconic and desirable festivals for heavy music lovers from all over the world. Being there is considered a huge luck, and yours truly was one of those luckies who was on this 4-days-in-Hell adventure this year! So, now I’ll gladly share my own personal experience and festival tips with you, as well as the major info about what to be prepared for during the Hellfest, besides having the time of your life.
By the way soon there will be the second wave of selling 4-days ticket pack, so maybe, if you are still hesitating or waiting for a sign of the Universe wether to go or not to go to the Hellfest – this article will motivate you not to miss this adventure of a life time!
The festival itself is located in an incredibly picturesque old French town called Clisson, 6 hours from Paris by bus, at least that’s the way I got there. For those who are scared of literally not finding the festival – believe me, it’s impossible, as for the days of the Hellfest whole Clisson becomes the festival city, even the local supermarket Carrefour turns into a “metal party” spot.
Busses from all over France normally arrive to the bus stop close to the fest territory and from there you will be taken to the fest itself by a special free shuttle. Also cars and trailers are supposed to be left there on a huge parking place, so shuttle is the only vehicle way to get to the fest.
All these 4 nights can be spent either in a tent camp, or in an easy camp (with special accommodations), or in a car at the parking place(I know some dudes who did this). And here comes my first “be prepared” – be prepared to have very little sleep all these days, especially if you choose simple tent camping. From what I noticed – Hellfest is a 24/7 party! I was returning to my tent closer to the 2-3 a.m. after all bands’ sets and the camp place was the most direct opposite of the sleeping kingdom, full of cheerful (and, okey, pretty drunk) action. But you don’t go to the festivals to sleep, right?:)
I came to the Hellfest on the day 0, the day before the official start of the festival. The area with stages was still closed, but Metal Corner and Hell Square were already welcoming the first guests with all the entertainment possible. Food and drinks, merch shops, old game shop, small bungee jumping place, 80s-90s disqoteque, caraoke – everything you need to have fun. So I truly recommend coming on day 0 if you have such possibility to start absorbing the vibe of the festival sooner as well as to discover the major important spots of the festival, like toilets and showers, to install your tent without a rush and to fill your cashless bracelet with money.
Cashless system(no cash in hell!(c)) is an incredibly convenient thing that allows to pay for absolutely everything during the Hellfest – food, shower, wheel, merch – with the bracelet you are given at the entrance. So right after you are put the bracelet on your arm you can upload money on it, you can do it either with your card and a phone app or with a cash right on the place. To put cash you just need to find one of the multiple spots with “Cashless” written around the territory.
But if you upload cash money on your bracelet, and there’s no connection with your card – be prepared to loose your money if you don’t spend all of it and there’s something left by the end of the fest. As it’s just impossible to proceed it back into the cash. No such problems with the card though. Wi-Fi spots can be easily found both in metal corner and in the stages area. But be prepared that the internet connection will not be the best one. Imagine how many people still prefer being online instead of enjoying the show! Just kidding, but yeah, the internet was weak due to the amount of connections…
Also, be prepared that Hellfest, besides having fun at performance of the best heavy music artists, is a lot about the queues. Sad but true, but you will have to stand in the queues everywhere – to take a shower, to buy food, to go to the toilet, to get free water, to enter the main territory(depends on the time), to buy official Hellfest merch and even to move from one stage to another sometimes, mostly closer to the headliner time.
Queues to take a shower may start right after you exit the camp territory. There are two types of showers – the ones in closed cabins and public ones. So the choice is that you either stand in the huge queue but have some privacy(first option) or take a shower faster BUT everyone who passes by will see you naked. Choose wisely. If you have a swimming suit with you or generally free-spirited – public shower is a great thing. I myself was touched by the fact that there are spare shower gels at the entrance to the shower spot. Showers cost the fixed price of 6 euros per 4 days, the amount of showers is unlimited.
Shower Tip: Morning queue is unavoidable, it will get you at 10 a.m, at 8 a.m., haven`t tried earlier but yeah, you got my point. So if you desperately need a shower in the morning and hate queues – you better try after midday, when many people are already listening to bands performing.
Queue Tip: to avoid food and toilet queue, and generally in order to have some, I’d say, room to breath you can take a Vip ticket. Vip area has own foodcourt, own toilet and generally appears to be less crowded. It has a roofed bar and a TV where the Mainstage is broadcasted, without a sound though.
At the Hellfest be prepared to make choices of a lifetime. For example, this year Arch Enemy performed at the same time with Myrath, As I Lay Dying played along with Sum 41 etc If you are a devoted fan of some band – there’s no issue about that, yet if you equally would like to see both bands live – you have to choose. Getting from stage to stage takes some time though.
Hellfest is a safe space. No, you still can accidently get a sun burn/ heat wave attack, get hurt in a slam/moshpit, fall down during crowd surfing BUT the whole atmosphere is extremely friendly and cheerful, not a single drunk fight, not a single case of harassment, you know what I mean. Indeed there’s a feeling like you’re with a guest crowd of your good mates. By the way, leaving your stuff in a tent is safe too, at least I left my photo gear there several times to go party free-handed and my gear is still with me.
Be prepared to get free water from the spots next to the toilets. And it’s completely fine and healthy, the cleaning system is on the highest level, so don’t be embarrassed. Me and thousand of other people were drinking this water for 4 days and all is OK. However if it is unpleasant for you for some reason – you can buy water for 1.5 euro(approx). Though the bottle cap will be taken away, these are the rules. Tip: by a soft flask, thus you will be able to always have some water with you.
There’s a saying that there’re only two weather conditions for festivals: heating sunshine and the rainstorm. I witnessed both during the Hellfest, so don’t forget to have a light raincoat with you just in case and be prepared to kill your shoes in the swamp-like puddle after a rainstorm; as well as don’t forget to use the sun screen daily, even if the sun is behind the clowds. I forgot once and was a tomato colour next day, so yeah..
As a media representative I had my additional queue – the one for photographers, thus I sometimes had to make even harder choices and to dismiss some artist totally in order to make pictures of two others. I’ve already published my huge photo-reports from the Hellfest 2023, so here I’d rather put not really a report but rather a truly subjective opinion about some certain performances. Let’s divide them into categories:
My greatest musical discoveries:
Aephanemer. This is straight up the French Children of Bodom with a girl on vocals, singing in French. Super mighty, super authentic. I truly reccomend!\m/
She Past Away. If only you knew how awesome it was seeing how all those brutal people in the crowd with Pantera and Behemoth t-shirts were vibing to their post-punk songs, you know, dancing as if no one was watching.
Blackbraid. Native American black metal? I’ll go for it!
The shows I liked the most
Myrath. They brought the whole theatre performance with them, with fire-sword fighting, belly dancing and levitating. I got a massive burst of positivity from their performance, and I sincerely think they deserve to be on the main stage next time!
Behemoth. The full time metal black mess with a blasting and fiery energy and I don’t think you should read it as a metaphour.
Skid Row. It was the first time ever when I heard Eric performing all my favourite Skid Row songs live, all those I grew up on…If you want to know if he was good, I will say that good is a massive understatement.
Papa Roach. During these guys’ performance the stage was on fire literally and figurally. Hearing them performing the cover of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” was and pleasant huuuuge surprise, and Coby’s interaction with the audience was one of the most captivating ones.
Halestorm. Lzzy Hale’s voice is a force of nature. Period.
The biggest disappointments:
Kiss and Motley Crue. It’s nice to see that these guys are still loaded for rock-n-roll, but the vocals were horrible. Both had mind-blowing shows: MC had laser effects and girls in bikini, Kiss had their legendary costumes and their legendary explosive fire show. I respect these bands for their legacy, I understand that you cant’t have the same voice in their age as you had when you were young (while Bruce Dickinson would disagree here), but it was hard for me to get distracted from the bad vocals.
Alter Bridge. Dry and emotionless performance, I saw them live in 2016 and I’m telling you – something was missing. While all the buttons were hit properly, Myles’ voice is still crystal clear and stunning. But I didn’t get enough energy from stage.
So, in conclusion I will say in plain and simple words that Hellfest 2023 was one of the best things that happened to me in my entire life, I hope I will be able to make it to the Hellfest 2024 and I wish you all the same!