Wacken Open Air

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Wacken Open Air
The burning skull as a symbol of the Wacken Open Air
The burning skull as a symbol of the Wacken Open Air
General information
place Wacken , Germany
genre Heavy metal
Period since 1990
Website wacken.com
Visitor numbers
1990 800
1995 5,000
2000 25,000
2005 40,000
2010 82,500
2015 84,500
→ Complete list

The Wacken Open Air (stylized notation W: O: A ) is a first time in 1990 barred heavy metal - Festival , which annually on the first weekend of August in the town of Wacken in Schleswig-Holstein is taking place and from the ICS Festival Service GmbH ( International Concert Service ) is aligned. Almost all varieties of hard rock and metal are represented at the festival. It is one of the largest heavy metal festivals in the world and one of the largest open air festivals in Germany. In the years 2011 to 2019, the number of participants was around 85,000, of which 75,000 were paying visitors.

The edition planned for July 30 to August 1, 2020 was canceled in mid-April due to the COVID-19 pandemic . As a replacement, an online festival took place where concerts were streamed and published for free.



The idea for the Wacken Open Air came about in 1989 when Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner visited a restaurant together. They made Wacken "the world capital of heavy metal", said Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Daniel Günther thirty years later when he awarded them the Order of Merit of Schleswig-Holstein in 2019 . Both lived in Wacken in 1989 and were friends, Jensen played the electric bass for the rock and cover band Skyline . Hübner was a disc jockey with a focus on rock music and heavy metal . Jensen and Hübner developed the idea of holding an open-air concert in a gravel pit in Wacken and also persuaded the Skyline drummer Andreas Göser and Jörg Jensen, Thomas Jensen's brother, to help implement it. Until then, the pit was also used by the 'No Mercys' motorcycle club as a venue for meetings with up to 3,000 people, so that it was ideally suited for the plans of the two of them and one also had the opportunity to inspire motorcycle fans with the idea. Right from the start it was clear that the focus of the event should be on rock and metal and that, in contrast to the one-day festivals that were common at the time, such as Monsters of Rock or Super Rock in Mannheim , an opportunity to camp should be offered.

Early years and initial development

Advertisement for Wacken Open Air 1990. Entry cost 12 marks .

The two-day festival took place the following year on August 24th and 25th, 1990 in the gravel pit and had barely 800 visitors. The performing bands were all from Germany, with the exception of the Skyline group that played 5th Avenue , Motoslug , Sacret Season , Ax 'n Sex and Wizzard . Entry cost 12 marks . The first festivals were mainly organized privately, with the technology being installed on a trailer borrowed from a local haulage company and the stage being built by the company.

Most of the tasks were also carried out in-house in the following years. For example, ticket orders were privately organized by Andy Göser's mother Regina Göser until August 1994, and security tasks were taken over by friendly motorcycle clubs until 1996. In 1991 the number of visitors increased to 1,300 and once again only regional bands were on stage with Skyline and Bon Scott, an AC / DC cover band from Hamburg, Gypsy Kyss, Kilgore, Life Artist, Ruby Red, Shanghai'd Guts. The skull logo was also designed by Mark Ramsauer in 1990 after the basic shape had already been determined by Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner. The cow skull refers to the cow meadow as an event location and to Jensen and Hübner as “boys from the village”.

In 1992 the program changed so that with Blind Guardian and Saxon internationally renowned bands appeared in Wacken for the first time and the number of bands rose to 26, including bands from Sweden, the USA, Ireland and Belgium. The organizers used a professional stage with lighting and PA for the first time and were able to win the Prince Denmark cigarette brand as a sponsor . In the DJ tent, a second stage was set up next to the main stage with the party stage, on which only cover and fun bands were to perform. Due to the increased space requirement, the campsite was relocated to the neighboring meadows of the farmer Uwe Trede, who in the following years became a central figure in the Wacken organization and at the latest since the film Full Metal Village became a cult figure of the Wacken Open Air. Among other things, because of the additional costs for the garbage disposal after the concert on the campground, where 2,500 paying guests were present and celebrating, and in particular due to the significantly oversized security, the organizers recorded a balance sheet minus of around 25,000 D-Marks this year .

In 1993 the Wacken Open Air had a special feature with the reunification of the band Fates Warning at the festival, and in the following years it made a name for itself with special band constellations and reunions. At the same time, interesting performances were organized with Doro Pesch and other well-known bands, which ensured a new visitor record of 3,500 paying customers. At the same time, the organizers tried their hand at being a local concert promoter and, with their Stone Castle Promotion, organized a concert by the band Motörhead for 2000 spectators in Flensburg, which, however, could not cover the promotion costs. A show for Dio / Freak of Nature turned into a disaster with only 167 tickets sold and together with the open air, which brought in another minus, the organizers owed around 350,000 D-Marks. As a result, Jörg Jensen and Andreas Göser left the organization team; Holger Hübner and Thomas Jensen remained and, for another two years, Jörn-Ulf Goesmann, who continued to run the Wacken Open Air despite the debts for which their parents took over guarantees. In the same year, Thomas Jensen's mother died and Holger Hübner had a serious accident - the year went down in Wacken history as the “epidemic year”.

For the fifth year of existence in 1994 the financial situation could be stabilized and the festival did not turn out to be negative. The line-up remained professional with a great number of internationally known bands in the metal scene . A total of 4500 tickets were sold; In addition, due to the rising costs of garbage disposal, tickets had to be bought for entering the tent areas and pre-orders were rewarded with a free T-shirt. Also in 1995 the income and expenses could be stabilized thanks to the engagement of bands like Tiamat , DAD , the Pretty Maids and Angra , but profits were still not made with the approximately 5,000 visitors. This year, however, national media also became aware of the Wacken Open Air for the first time, above all the magazine Rock Hard and the newly founded TV channel VIVA with the heavy metal program Metalla .

First successes and growth

Ticket sales for the 1996 festival started again very slowly, despite the headliner Kreator and numerous other internationally known bands such as The Exploited , Gorefest and Crematory . The management tried to prevent another disaster by further commitments, and finally they managed to win the Böhsen Onkelz for a performance. At the same time, the controversial band's engagement also led to criticism and individual bands canceled their appearance in Wacken this year. The Cologne band Brings announced their appearance at short notice and offered their fans to refund the money for the tickets.

Due to the large number of visitors who flooded the place, as a result of the success in 1996, voices were heard for the first time in Wacken, who spoke out against an event of this size in the community's own gravel pit. Uwe Trede offered to move the festival area to his land and the areas previously used as a campground and took care of the acquisition of further areas. The organization team grew to include Thomas Hess as production manager, who was previously active as tour manager for Böhsen Onkelz, as well as Sheree Hesse for the care of the artists and VIPs. With the WET-Stage, a third stage was set up for 1997; as the “Wacken Evolution Tent” it was intended to be made available primarily to newcomers and bands without a record deal. This year, for the first time, a visitor number of 10,000 was reached, with the appearance of Rockbitch with its erotic stage show causing a stir.

Further development of the festival

40,000 visitors came to W: O: A 2005.

Over the years, the size of the Wacken Open Air has grown steadily, now dozens of bands and tens of thousands of visitors. Although, according to the organizers, “the limit of what is feasible” should have been reached in 2006 with 62,500 visitors, changes were made to the structure of the festival site in the following year by allocating a larger area to the “Party Stage” side stage. In addition, tickets can no longer be purchased directly on the festival site in order to reduce the number of spontaneous or ticketless visitors. In 2007 and 2008 the festival was already sold out due to ticket sales; for the W: O: A 2009 the sell-out was already reached at the end of 2008. The tickets for 2010 were also sold out months in advance.

The festival originally only took place on two days, but for some years now the performances have been from Thursday to Saturday, i.e. over three days. Thursday established itself as the "Night to Remember", where "classic" heavy metal bands such as the 2006 Scorpions perform . Younger and more modern bands should play on the actual party stage, as a contrast to the “Night to Remember”. In addition, the event is accompanied by a rich supporting program, in addition to a dealer mile - which is mandatory for music festivals - a beer garden has been in operation since 2000, in which the music train of the Wacken Volunteer Fire Brigade ( Wacken Firefighters ) opens the festival before the official start. In 2007 there was also the “Hellfest Stage” for the first time on Thursday. Since 2009 there has also been a “Medieval Stage”, on which mainly medieval and folk metal bands play.

The fact that many well-known bands, such as Scorpions, Saxon , Twisted Sister , Dimmu Borgir , Slayer or Helloween , have already recorded live DVDs on site shows how appreciated the open air is now . Also in 2004 the Böhsen Onkelz played an extra long appearance on the W: O: A in the run-up to their farewell tour.

A special train, the so-called “Metal Train”, has been running since 2002 at the beginning and the end of the festival from Zurich via many large cities to Wacken and back to bring fans to the northern German village with a suitable supporting program. From the Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden , but also from Austria Bus tours are organized every year, which are used by several hundred fans.

The "W: O: A Soccercup" has also been held annually since 2002. This soccer tournament, which started in 2002 with nine teams and always takes place on Wednesdays, has established itself over the years and has been held in World Cup mode with 32 teams since 2007 (only 36 teams in 2011). The teams, some of which are international, register in advance and are recruited from among the festival's visitors. For the 15th anniversary of the tournament, a band appeared for the first time in 2016. Serum 114 participated with some fans as teammates and were able to win the tournament directly. Even though it is a purely fun tournament in which creative outfits and names have priority over athletic performance, the award ceremony has been taking place on one of the stages following the tournament since 2013 and there are prizes to be won.

In 2013 the "Full Metal Church" took place in Wacken for the first time. For the 150th anniversary of the local church, the organizers of the congregation organized a concert with the band Faun , which was framed by two readings and sermons by the Volxbibel author Martin Dreyer . Both the concert and the church services were completely overrun by the festival goers.


Alice Cooper at Wacken Open Air 2017

The festival is one of the highlights of the year within the metal scene. Today around a third of the visitors, some of whom arrive some time before the official start of the festival, and the majority of the bands come from abroad. According to the organizers, visitors from more than 80 nations took part in the festival in 2018.

Visitors at Wacken Open Air 2011

The number of participants rose again in 2008 to 75,000 participants, including 65,000 paying guests. In 2008 the festival was sold out twice (in spring the W: O: A 2008 and on December 31, 2008 the W: O: A 2009).

As usual at festivals of this size, there was also criticism at Wacken Open Air about the hygienic conditions, the prices, the folders, the overcrowding and the commercial orientation of the event. Attempts were made to improve these points of criticism by making further substantial investments in the fixed and mobile infrastructure of the festival. In 2008, the organizer also contributed 1,000,000 euros to the expansion of the local open-air swimming pool in order to make the festival even more attractive for residents and visitors of Wacken.

Since 2006 the festival has been running an internet radio station called Wacken Radio , which plays metal music around the clock. It has been operated in cooperation with RauteMusik since the beginning of February 2014 .

For the 23rd Wacken Open Air, sales of the “X-Mas-Package” started on Monday, August 8th, 2011, shortly after the end of the Wacken Open Air 2011, which was already sold out after 45 minutes. Between 2006 and 2015 the festival was sold out ten times in a row. The tickets for the Wacken Open Air 2015 were already sold out after 12 hours, on August 4th and thus only a few hours after the end of the W: O: A 2014. The XMAS tickets for the W: O: A 2016, which cost 10 euros less and whose buyers are entitled to a free T-shirt, were completely sold out only 20 minutes after the start of advance sales. The servers of the only ticket agency , Metaltix , were busy. In the minutes before the start of advance sales, the pages were no longer accessible; after the start, the data traffic was limited by queues .

The prices for festival participation have risen and are currently at a similar price level as other major rock festivals such as Rock am Ring and Hurricane Festival . After the successes in recent years, in which the festival was sold out within hours, the first 60,000 tickets for the festival of the following year were sold in mid-2016. The 55,000 tickets were sold within the first hour. By the end of April 2017, the festival was almost sold out, apart from a few remaining tickets. For 2017 the price for the festival ticket was 220 euros, but there was no fee for the early arrival of the campers, who move up their partly elaborate domiciles before the festival starts - also to get the best seats near the stage area. In addition, all toilets and showers were free in 2017.

In the years 2014–2016, the festival was always sold out within a few days. The last tickets for the 2017 edition were only sold after 309 days, around 2 months before the start of the festival, although there was a remaining quota of only 10,000 tickets after the first day of sale. There was initially a lot of speculation about this fact, among other things the changed security situation or the price development were considered as reasons. Regardless, the festival was sold out for the 13th time in a row in 2018.

On April 5, 2018, Thomas Hess, the long-time production and former security director of the festival, died. He joined the festival management in 1996 as tour director of the Böhsen Onkelz and was considered one of the most important managers on the part of the festival, alongside the remaining founders of the festival and the Trede family, who organize the camping areas and the camping supervisors as subcontractors. He was instrumental in making the W: O: A so well organized, peaceful and successful.

Wacken Open Air 2018 was named the best major festival at the European Festival Awards 2018 and at the Helga! Awards as best festival. For the W: O: A 2019, all 75,000 tickets were sold in the first four days after sales began, making the festival the 14th time in a row that it was completely sold out.

Wacken World Wide

As a major event, the 2020 festival was canceled due to the Covid 19 pandemic . As a replacement, there was an online festival called Wacken World Wide , where concerts were streamed and published free of charge.


Sanitary facilities on the camping site with illuminated " French fries fork ", Wacken Open Air 2011

The organizers of the Wacken Open Air founded the Stone Castle Rockpromotions in 1990 for the implementation of the first festival , derived by name as a direct translation of "Steinburg" from the Steinburg district to which Wacken belongs. Stone Castle remained the company name until 1996. Until 2014 the company was based in Dbodstedt ( Schleswig-Flensburg district ) and then moved to Wacken. The name of the company has been ICS (International Concert Service) GmbH since 1999 . The company includes a. also the label Wacken Records and the mailorder Metaltix .

Since 2007 there has been an up-to-date festival newspaper every day that reports on what's going on on site. The Thursday edition is also included free of charge in all newspapers of the Schleswig-Holstein newspaper publisher .

In 2014, the internet radio station RauteMusik took over the implementation of the official Wacken radio. Every year, Wacken Radio has its own container on the festival site and reports live.

During the W: O: A, until a few years ago, the official place-name signs in Wacken were dismantled and replaced by plastic signs with the local title Heavy Metal Town , or at least tightened , as they were often stolen by souvenir hunters. Black cloth bags are now available in some shops that show the Wacken town sign on one side and the words “I can keep this town sign” on the other.

A lawsuit brought by residents before the Schleswig Administrative Court for exceeding the permitted noise limits ended in January 2013 with an out-of-court settlement. If the festival exceeds the limit of 70 dB on average, the organizer pays an amount of 1,000 euros to the community, which donates the money to charitable purposes.


The site covers more than 240  hectares , which are cordoned off and subdivided with more than 45 kilometers of site fence. The inner area with the main stage has a size of 43,000 square meters . There are more than 1,300 mobile toilets and almost 500 showers available for the 75,000 paying visitors  . For the whole festival, 2,200 trucks with material are needed. The stage set up and dismantling takes 7 days and 5 days respectively. For this purpose, 75 articulated lorries of stage material (1,000 tons), 10 articulated lorries with audio technology and 27 articulated lorries with lighting technology are used.

The installed electrical output has been 12 megawatts since 2014, which corresponds to the needs of a district town with 70,000 inhabitants. In addition, 40 diesel emergency generators are required. 25 electricians are responsible for the power supply.

600,000 euros were spent on building sewage systems and improving the power supply on the festival site. Likewise, drains worth 700,000 euros were laid on the main square in front of the stages in order to improve the drainage of the water masses during heavy rains. In addition, the most important routes were paved with 10 km of mobile heavy-duty roads to facilitate access for rescue vehicles.

A total of around 5,000 employees work for the festival, including 1,800 security staff and stewards, 150 cleaning staff, 70 construction and dismantling helpers, as well as 400 police officers, 250 fire fighters as well as 900 paramedics and six emergency doctors every day.

In 2017, a one-kilometer-long beer pipeline was used for the first time, supplying ten high-speed dispensing systems. With this construction it was possible to pour 10,000 liters of beer within an hour at full capacity.


Wacken Open Air 2018 Faster / Harder Stages

The Wacken Open Air now has eight stages for musicians and a supporting program. The most important stages are the Faster Stage and the Harder Stage, which are designed as connected twin stages and have a shared loudspeaker and lighting system. These two stages are together with the only slightly smaller Louder Stage in the so-called infield (the holy ground). All three stages are also equipped with video walls so that a view of the musicians can also be seen from distant positions.

Up to and including 2016 these three main stages were called Black Stage, True Metal Stage and Party Stage. After Wacken 2016, visitors were encouraged to suggest new names for these stages. From these suggestions, the best ideas should be asked for voting in a survey. Instead, however, the slogan "Faster - Harder - Louder" was used as the basis for the names of the stages and the three stages were renamed accordingly.

Two further twin stages, the WET Stage (Wacken Evolution Tent) and the Headbanger Stage, are located in the large tent called Bullhead City Circus . The Metal Battle will also take place on these stages on Wednesday and Thursday, with regular band appearances on the following days.

While the large stages and the tent stages are open to all genres, the remaining stages are theme-based. The Wackinger Stage is located in the medieval area of ​​the festival and is primarily played by bands from the folk, pagan and medieval genres, while the Wasteland Stage, which was set up in 2014, focuses on music with an apocalyptic touch. The Beergarden Stage is slightly based on typical folk festival stages and also accommodates Wacken permanent guests like the Wacken Firefighters and Mambo Kurt .

Event space

Wasteland - Apocalypse at Wacken Open Air 2014
Festival site Wasteland at Wacken Open Air 2016

The event area of ​​the Wacken Open Air is divided into several structurally separate areas. Since 2014 there has only been one major security check when entering the site, after which only checks of the festival tapes take place.

Special features of the W: O: A are the Wackinger area, which is set up like a medieval market and contains special food and drink stalls as well as the Wackinger Stage, on which suitable music is played. There are also various walking acts that entertain the audience. The site is adjacent to that of the Wasteland Warriors designed Wasteland , where a post-apocalyptic world and a stage (Wasteland days) in Mad Max- style is built.

The Wacken Center is the forecourt in front of the main stages and contains the Bavarian beer garden as well as a large shopping mile called the Metal Markt . Also at the Wacken Center are various food stands, the Wacken Foundation Camp, ATMs and the Movie Field, where heavy metal documentaries and films are shown.

The most important stages and thus the focus of the festival are in the so-called infield, which can only be reached via the center. In addition to the stages, there are also stands for food and drinks here.

Camping ground

Since Wacken Open Air only sells 3-day tickets, the majority of visitors spend the entire festival on site. The largest part of the more than 240 hectare area is accordingly allocated to the camping areas on site. Camping is possible from Monday and has been included in the ticket price since 2017. In previous years, however, you had to pay extra if you arrived before Wednesday.

The camping site has showers, flushed toilets, drinking water points, Dixi toilets , small supermarkets, food stalls and information boards and is patrolled by the police, fire brigade and security services at all times. A garbage disposal also drives across the site and collects full garbage bags.

For orientation, the individual places, called campgrounds, are provided with identification letters. Campground A and B are the areas for visitors who arrive without a car, while Campground Y and R are for campers and other heavy vehicles. On Y you can rent complete caravans, tents or even a power supply for your own caravan. Large groups of 50 or more people can reserve an area free of charge at Campground U.

Since the large number of people leads to capacity bottlenecks in mobile communications, some operators will set up mobile base stations for GSM , UMTS and LTE +, for example, during the festival .

medical corps

The medical service required at a festival of this size is called the Wacken Rescue Squad . Hundreds of helpers from various aid organizations from all over Germany travel here every year to prepare the medical depot before the festival and to take care of those in need. The operations management for the medical service is carried out by the DRK -Ortsverein Kaltenkirchen .

During the festival days, vehicles and material will be provided by the traveling and local aid organizations. These include in particular ambulances and two-way radios for communication. Furthermore, quads are used in Wacken due to the road and path conditions and foot strips are mostly used in the vicinity of the treatment center. In addition to the medical service with around 270 people at peak times, the rescue service cooperation in Schleswig-Holstein is represented on the field with over ten emergency vehicles ( ambulance and emergency doctor vehicles ) and the overall operations management.

In 2013, around 3,300 people received medical care from around 500 paramedics.

Crime and accidents

Despite the size of the festival, no serious security problems have arisen so far. There are seldom confrontations among the visitors, in 2011 20 complaints of assault were filed. The main problem is a few hundred reported thefts per year. In 2011 the police were able to arrest three gangs of thieves. In comparison, the festival is classified as safe by the police.

There have been four deaths and some serious injuries to date:

  • In 2005, a heavily drunk 37-year-old crashed into an ambulance moving at walking pace and died of head injuries in the hospital. To support his family, the organizers organized a fundraising event; the W: O: A 2006 devoted a minute's silence to the dead.
  • In 2011, a rampaging fan in the village was overpowered by security forces and subsequently died of cardiovascular arrest .
  • In 2012, a 22-year-old festival- goer went to sleep near a generator and inhaled the carbon monoxide that had escaped . He could not be resuscitated.
  • In 2013, a 52-year-old visitor from Poland died of natural causes in his tent. In the same year, a fan was seriously injured when the cartridge of his gas stove exploded for an unknown cause.
  • In 2016, two men were injured when one of the men set off "Polish firecrackers" brought along illegally and the other tried to stop him. Reports that one of the men had an ear torn off turned out to be false.
  • In 2017, a 16-year-old was seriously injured when he tried to refill a camping stove with denatured alcohol .


The winners of the Metal Battle 2017, the Mexican band Jet Jaguar

Metal battle

The W: O: A Metal Battle is an international band competition that was first held in 2004. At the Metal Battle, newcomer bands compete against each other in national preliminary rounds and finals, the respective winner from each country then competes against the other finalists at the Wacken Open Air in the grand finale.

An international jury also selects the best bands in the competition. In previous years, the winner of the competition was offered a recording contract, and now there are prizes in kind and cash for the best five bands.

Wacken Foundation

The Wacken Foundation was founded in 2009 and is a non-profit foundation of the festival organizers. The aim of the foundation is to support up-and-coming bands from the heavy metal genre.

Specific projects such as the production of a CD or the implementation of a tour are always funded. In addition, the foundation provides information about its projects at many European festivals in the summer. With the start of the 2017/2018 season, the Wacken Foundation logo can be found on the jersey of the third division club FC Carl Zeiss Jena . This was made possible by jersey sponsor Heaven Shall Burn , who only advertises on the sleeve of the jersey. It was agreed with the association that part of the proceeds from the sale of shirts will go to the foundation.

Wacken Music Camp

In 2014 the Wacken Music Camp took place for the first time. One week after the end of the festival, young people from all over Germany were invited to write and play their own songs under the guidance of professional musicians. The young people were accommodated in the so-called Kuhle, the venue for the first Wacken Open Air.

Donating blood

The organizers regularly call for blood to be donated together with the festival team . The donations take place in the Itzehoe Clinic and the entire blood donation tract is decorated in the W: O: A style and filled with heavy metal.

DKMS typing action

Since the W: O: A 2014, visitors and musicians can have themselves typed for a bone marrow donation at the German bone marrow donor database. In 2014, 2700 visitors took advantage of this opportunity.

Strong against cancer

Under the slogan Strong against Cancer , the festival cooperates with the organizer of the Wattolümpiade in Brunsbüttel. The festival team relieves the organizer in the logistical area.

Network - W: O: A as a brand

Tower with Wacken symbol, Wacken Open Air 2011

In addition to the festival itself, there are a number of other events that are planned and carried out by the organizers. A wide range of merchandising has also developed over the years . In addition to the festival's own T-shirts and a wide range of CDs and DVDs, the festival was also published in print media. The history of the open air up to 2005 can be read in the W: O: A history book. The book The Truth About Wacken (Oidium Verlag 2005, new edition Verlag Andreas Reiffer 2011), written by the satirist Till Burgwächter in collaboration with the comic artist Jan Oidium, on the other hand, which is also available as an audio book with three CDs, illuminates the festival in a more humorous way. The publication of a metal cookbook shows how broad the merchandising is now . The ever more extensive range of merchandising led to increased criticism, as it a. is viewed as purely profit-oriented action by those responsible. The increasing coverage of the festival, especially in the aftermath of the documentary film Full Metal Village , is perceived as a sell-out in the traditional metal scene.

In 2005, for the first time, an “own” type of beer, the Wacken Premium Pils , was offered. It was made in the Bavarian Maximilians brewery based in Chieming . This beer was also available at the W: O: As 2006 and 2007, but it came from the Flensburger brewery in 0.5 liter swing top bottles . However, the large number of broken glass forced the organizers to switch to 0.5 liter cans.

In addition to Faster, Harder, Louder, the phrase See you in Wacken - Rain or Shine has established itself as the festival motto . In addition, the festival advertises with the phrase “Louder Than Hell”.

Full metal cruise

Cruises with heavy metal bands on board within Europe have been taking place under the name Full Metal Cruise since 2013 .

Hamburg Metal Dayz

The Hamburg Metal Dayz indoor festival runs parallel to the Reeperbahn festival and sees itself as a hot spot. In addition to the concerts, there are panels with musicians, managers and other experts from the metal sector, but also workshops and a question time with the W: O: A organizers are on the program.

Wacken Roadshow

Grailknights at the Wacken Roadshow 2014
Martin Semmelrogge at a reading at Zum Wackinger 2017

At the Wacken Roadshow, several bands tour Europe under the Wacken Open Air banner. The concerts complement the warm-up parties organized in many places.

Metal Monday

In the summer of 1990, Metal Monday took place for the first time in Knust, Hamburg . For five years regional, national and international metal bands such as De la Cruz, 5th Avenue and King Køng played in Knust every Monday . After a break of almost 20 years, Metal Monday was revived in 2014 by the organizer of the Wacken Open Air in cooperation with the Knust, Seaside Touring, All Access and Hamburg concerts. Under the motto: "Always three bands - always smaller entry", metal, rock and folk rock bands perform once a month. In addition to regional bands, international newcomers are always invited.

To the Wackinger

The former Landgasthof Zur Post in Wacken from 1919 has been the linchpin for the village and the surrounding communities for decades. In 1990, the then bartenders Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner laid the cornerstone for today's Wacken Open Air. Today it is used to feed the employees and for business purposes. The “Zum Wackinger” series of events also takes place here, with artists from the fields of music, comedy and entertainment performing at regular intervals. The two-day medieval feast with jugglers and bards has been taking place here since 2016.

Metal Church

Dark and beautiful in the Metal Church at the Wacken Winter Nights

The Evangelical Lutheran Holy Spirit Church (Village Church) in Wacken belongs to the Lutheran community in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany . It becomes the Metal Church during Wacken Open Air and Wacken Winter Nights . The metal service is held there at these festivals and bands from the folk and medieval scene perform in the church.

Wacken Winter Nights

The Wacken Winter Nights (WWN), a three-day folk and medieval open-air festival, took place in Wacken for the first time in February 2017 at temperatures of −2 to −6 degrees. The first edition of the festival was sold out a few weeks in advance with over 3500 visitors, most of whom stayed overnight on site on the camping site. A second edition of the festival took place from February 23 to 25, 2018. Due to the development of the previous year's campground, the overnight accommodations were relocated to parts of the areas that are also used during the regular open air. The walk lengthened to about 15 minutes. With 4,000 visitors, the 2018 event was also sold out. At the third event in 2019, the festival area was significantly enlarged and 5000 visitors took part. The fourth WWN are planned for February 14-16, 2020.

year Bands paying
Sold out
2017 3500 69.00 Yes
2018 35 4000 Yes
2019 34 5000 89.00


The Fisherman's Friend StrongmanRun took place for the first time in April 2016 on the metal festival grounds in Wacken. With the debut in Wacken, the StrongmanRun season was officially ushered in. About 3,000 partly colorfully costumed participants took part in the run over the 20 km long route with 40 obstacles. In 2017 the StrongmanRun took place on the festival site.

Wacken Rocks

In the past, several open air festivals took place under the name Wacken Rocks, which were supposed to transport the flair of Wacken Open Air to other areas.

Full Metal Mountain

Snowcat as an advertising medium for Full Metal Mountain 2017

Under the name Full Metal Mountain , an annual ski trip for metal fans to the Austrian Nassfeld took place in winter 2016, 2017 and 2018 . Numerous bands and artists were on site. For 2019 the festival was canceled without replacement.

Full metal holiday

A vacation trip under the title Full Metal Holiday - Destination Mallorca for metal fans to Mallorca to the local beach with metal concerts is in planning and preparation , which took place for the first time from October 14th to 21st, 2018. The event was originally planned for 2017 in Ibiza , but was then postponed to 2018 and Mallorca. In 2019 the second edition of Full Metal Holiday took place in Mallorca and in 2020 there will be another from October 12th to 19th, 2020.

Development of the W: O: A in numbers

The graphic and the following table show the development of prices, visitor numbers and the number of bands at past festivals published by the organizer. The prices refer to a 3-day ticket (including parking and camping) in advance sales (without additional fees).

Wacken statistic German 2019.png

year Bands Attendees paying
Sold out
1990 6th 800 N / A 6.14
1991 7th 1,300 N / A 7.67
1992 26th 3,500 N / A 17.90
1993 32 3,500 N / A 23.01
1994 29 4,500 N / A 19.94
1995 33 5,000 N / A 20.05
1996 32 8,000 N / A 25.05
1997 47 10,000 N / A 35.28
1998 71 20,000 N / A 35.28
1999 82 22,000 N / A 40.39
2000 69 25,000 N / A 40.90
2001 79 25,000 N / A 50.62
2002 80 27,500 N / A 50.00
2003 61 30,000 N / A 50.00
2004 62 48,000 N / A 68.00
2005 65 40,000 N / A 79.00
2006 56 48,000 N / A 79.00
2007 75 72,000 60,000 99.00 339 days
2008 71 75,000 N / A 109.00 221 days
2009 80 77,000 N / A 130.00 149 days
2010 123 82,500 75,000 130.00 247 days
2011 125 85,870 75,000 130.00 187 days
2012 137 85,000 75,000 150.00 121 days
2013 135 84,500 75,000 150.00 47 days
2014 132 84,500 75,000 170.00 43 hours
2015 158 84,500 75,000 170.00 12 hours
2016 157 84,500 75,000 190.00 23 hours
2017 170+ 85,000 75,000 220.00 309 days
2018 197 85,000 75,000 220.00 346 days
2019 218 75,000 221.00 4 days
2020 1 0 0 0 239.00 21 hours
2021 2 0 0 0 239.00 k. A.
1The festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
2Due to the canceled 2020 festival, numerous tickets were exchanged for tickets for the 2021 festival and there was no official advance sale. Even before the planned online event for the regular 2020 festival date, the organizers announced on July 28, 2020 that the tickets for 2021 were sold out.

Documentation and reception

V. l. To the right: Director Cho Sung-Hyung, presenter Bernd Stölting and characters from the film at the preview in Wacken: Uwe Trede, Klaus Plähn, Ann-Kathrin Schaak, Lore Trede, Irma Schaack

Since 1999, various documentaries have been made about the W: O: A. The first documentary about the festival, Metalheads - the official documentary , was made in 1999 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary and was released by Rock Hard in 2000 on VHS . The film team lived on the site for ten days until the actual start of the festival and documented the work of the people who were responsible for the construction, the farmers like Uwe Trede, the villagers, the fans and the organizers. Although the film shows excerpts from performances by individual bands and interviews with the artists, it sees itself more as a behind-the-scenes documentary. The film was produced with the simplest means, a professional Hi8 and a mini-DV camera and a three-person team, and at that time was seen by the organizers as a kind of “test balloon” on the subject of film. According to the organizer, a total of 10,000 copies were made and sold. For the 15th W: O: A the film Nordland was shot, but only used for internal promotion. Both films are by Thomas Greiner .

The 2005 documentary Metal - A Headbanger's Journey by Sam Dunn reports on the Wacken Open Air. The festival is referred to here as the Mecca of heavy metal. The film Full Metal Village by director Cho Sung-hyung , made in 2005 and 2006, portrayed the way the people of Wacken deal with the festival. In 2006 he was awarded the main prize of the Hessian Film Prize and the Schleswig-Holstein Film Prize “Best Documentation”. In 2007 Full Metal Village was the first documentary ever to receive the Max Ophüls Prize for Young Filmmakers. The WDR-Rockpalast portrayed the festival in 2006, 2007 and 2009 in a two-hour documentary. The broadcaster DMAX was also there with a camera team and produced a one-hour documentary about the construction of the W: O: A 2007.

The ZDF turned on the Wacken Open Air 2008, the half-hour documentary A Village and 100,000 rock fans .

The above productions are almost identical in content; they let the visitors, organizers and the citizens of Wacken have their say and present the festival positively throughout. However, it is gradually being criticized that the fire brigade band is being pushed too much into the foreground. In the three Rockpalast documentaries the focus is more on interviews with the musicians and the performances of the bands.

The low-budget production Metaller who stare at breasts (title based on men who stare at goats ), who turned five festival participants off during their stay at Wacken, offers a different perspective . The "Open Canal Bad Offenbach" is named as the official producer. The film shows the festival from the (subjective) point of view of the filmmakers and comments on the events in the style of New Journalism . In contrast to other documentaries, the focus here is on the fans. The question of whether this is still a documentary in the true sense of the word or whether the film is purely for entertainment is disputed. The filmmakers themselves avoid this question and classify their work in the “trash documentary” genre. The film had its cinema premiere on May 5, 2011.

Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Peter Harry Carstensen ( CDU ) said at the opening of W: O: A 2009: "I don't come here to hear the music, but I identify with the festival".

Selected concerts from Wacken Open Air 2014 were broadcast live in an online stream. The cooperation between Spiegel Online and Arte also made some appearances available as video on demand .

For the 30th anniversary, the Norddeutsche Rundschau published an extra supplement that provides an insight into the organization of the Wacken Open Air. There is also a special exhibition in the Prinzesshof district museum in Itzehoe for the 30th anniversary.

Awards / honors

At the award ceremony on March 11, 2008, W: O: A received the Live Entertainment Award (LEA) for the best festival of 2007.

In December 2019, the founders Thomas Jensen and Holger Hübner were awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Schleswig-Holstein .

Fictional place-name sign at Wacken Open Air 2014
The silo of the Raiffeisen main cooperative in 2013, visible from afar



There have been numerous documentaries of the Wacken Open Air from recent years on German television in particular. The following list is therefore incomplete:

Live recordings from Wacken

Official videos and DVDs for the Wacken Open Air

The organizers of the Wacken Open Air have published an official live DVD every year since 2003:

  • Metal Overdrive: Wacken Overdrive , 2003
  • Armageddon Over Wacken 2003 , 2003
  • Armageddon Over Wacken 2004 , 2004
  • Armageddon Over Wacken 2005 , 2005
  • Wacken 2006 - Live at W: O: A , 2006
  • Wacken 2007: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2007
  • Wacken 2008: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2008
  • Wacken 2009: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2009
  • Wacken 2010: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2010
  • Wacken 2011: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2011
  • Wacken 2012: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2012
  • Wacken 2013: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2014
  • Wacken - The Movie , 2014
  • 25 Years of Wacken: Snapshots, Scraps, Thoughts & Sounds , 2015
  • Wacken 2014: Live at Wacken Open Air , 2015
  • Live At Wacken 2015 - 26 Years Louder Than Hell , 2016
  • Live at Wacken 2016 - 27 Years Louder Than Hell , 2017
  • Live at Wacken 2017 - 28 Years Louder Than Hell , 2018
  • Live at Wacken 2018 - 29 Years Louder Than Hell , 2019
  • Live at Wacken 2019 - 30 Years Birthday Harder Louder than hell , 2019
Live albums from various bands

Numerous bands recorded their performances at Wacken Open Air and published them on audio CDs or DVDs. The following list only contains full live albums and not albums that only contain individual live tracks from the festival:

  • Hypocrisy - Hypocrisy destroys Wacken , 1999
  • Rose Tattoo - 25 to Live , 2000
  • Tygers of Pan Tang - Live at Wacken , 2001
  • Grave Digger - Tunes Of Wacken , 2002
  • Twisted Sister - Live at Wacken: The Reunion , 2005
  • Bloodbath - The Wacken Carnage , 2005
  • Scorpions - Live at Wacken Open Air 2006
  • Emperor - Live at Wacken Open Air 2006
  • Dimmu Borgir - The Invaluable Darkness , 2007
  • Rage - Live in Wacken 2007 (bonus DVD for the album Carved in Stone ), 2008
  • Mambo Kurt - The Orgel Has Landed: Live at Wacken , 2008
  • Avantasia - The Flying Opera , 2008
  • Die Apokalyptischen Reiter - Tobsucht (Reitermania over Wacken & Party.San) , 2008
  • Atheist - Unquestionable Presence: Live at Wacken , 2009
  • Exodus - Shovel Headed Tour Machine - Live at Wacken , 2010
  • Grave Digger - The clans are still marching , 2010
  • Immortal - The Seventh Date of Blashyrkh , 2010
  • Rage - Live in Wacken 2009 (bonus DVD for the album Strings to a Web ), 2010
  • At the Gates - Purgatory Unleashed: Live at Wacken , 2010
  • Heaven & Hell : Neon Nights - Live at Wacken - 30 Years of Heaven & Hell
  • Running Wild - The final Jolly Roger
  • Motörhead - The Wörld Is Ours Vol. 2: Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else , 2011
  • Saxon - Heavy Metal Thunder - Live - Eagles Over Wacken , 2012
  • Sacred Reich - Live At Wacken Open Air , 2012
  • Degradead - Live at Wacken And Beyond , 2012
  • Megaherz - Götterdämmerung: Live At Wacken 2012 , 2012
  • Gorgoroth - Live at Wacken 2008 , 2012
  • God Seed - Live at Wacken , 2012
  • Atrocity - The Godless Years - Live In Wacken , 2012
  • Ministry - Enjoy The Quiet: Live at Wacken 2012 , 2013
  • Airbourne - Live at Wacken 2011 , 2013
  • Nightwish - Showtime Storytime , 2013
  • Alice Cooper - Raise The Dead: Live From Wacken , 2014
  • Circle II Circle - Live at Wacken (Official Bootleg) , 2014
  • Deep Purple - From the Setting Sun… In Wacken (recorded 2013), 2015
  • Sabaton - Heroes On Tour , 2015
  • Savatage - Return to Wacken , 2015
  • Europe - War Of Kings Special Edition, DVD / BluRay 2 Live at Wacken , 2015
  • Danko Jones - Live at Wacken (recorded 2015), 2016
  • Judas Priest - Battle Cry , 2016
  • Unisonic - Live in Wacken , 2017
  • Hansen & Friends - Thank You Wacken live , 2017
  • Arch Enemy - As The Stages Burn! (recorded 2016), 2017
  • Status Quo - Down Down & Dirty at Wacken (recorded 2017), 2018
  • Accept - Symphonic Terror - Live at Wacken 2017 , 2018

Further reception

In the two crime novels Death in Wacken and Der Teufel von Wacken , the author Heike Denzau relocates the crime and investigation location of her stories to the Wacken Open Air and describes both the location and the festival and its visitors in this context.


Web links

Commons : Wacken Open Air  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  20. At a press conference in 2006 (source wanted)
  21. News on the official website
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  37. Wacken Open Air 2014
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Coordinates: 54 ° 1 '42.2 "  N , 9 ° 22' 2.4"  E