The Crawling have been fortunate enough to play some very cool festivals over the last few years, and 2017 has added Metal Days to our CV. Special thanks to Simon Hall from Bloodstock, as he selected us following our performance last year on The New Blood Stage. It was part of The Metal 2 The Masses initiative, where one band would be sent to play Metal Days in Slovenia; in this case – us. It all happened rather quickly, as we didn’t get word we would be playing until April 2017!
Initially Simon Hall, messaged The Crawling via our Facebook page. The whole band has access, but it was during the working day, so no one got seeing it for quite a while. I actually got word via several test messages, as Simon sourced alternative methods of contacting us.
“Dude – contact Simon Hall NOW!” …
“Check your facebook messages NOW!!!” …
That kinda thing. I had a shrewd suspicion what is was about, but always best to be 100% sure before losing the plot entirely. Dutifully i logged into the Facebook thing, and yep – we were set to play Metal Days 2017. Fucking nice one Simon.
Fast forward 3 months, we had everything in place and were about to head to Slovenia. The plan was head out Sunday, play Monday, head home Tuesday. We would like to have stayed longer, but work and family commitments prohibited such.
It was a ludicrously early start, or a late one; I couldn’t decide what I was happier with. Anyway, it was 3am on a Sunday morning when I trawled myself from slumber, and simultaneously shouted to drummer Gary to get his shit together.
We’ve gotten used to doing fly out shows, and as a three piece we have to travel light, mainly because we don’t have the luxury of a dedicated singer to carry extra stuff. The main issue with this show was, we had to bring tents. To combat the extra camping gear we drafted in Exposing Shadows photographer Kerri Clarke to carry the extra cases, drive, navigate, be guitar tech, drum tech, counsel, and maybe take a pic or two while she there. She was an excellent addition to the group.
So, all the gear and 4 adults was stuffed into the VW Passat, and we headed from Lisburn (NI) to Dublin (IRE) to catch our flight.
Travel time: 1 hour 45 mins
I always find the airport a little stressful, but this time I was a little more anxious as my hand luggage ‘may’ have been slightly overweight. However, we made it through security, got breakfast and waited at the gate. Excitement was kicking in, and we queued emphatically to make sure we definitely got on the plane. I ‘may’ have suggested said strategy to ensure I got to lift my own hand luggage into the overhead bin, and not alert the air stewards that it ‘may’ have been overweight.
Mission accomplished. We hurtled down the runway and headed for Munich.
Travel time: 6 hours 15 mins
I was jarred awake as the aircraft struck the tarmac, signifying arrival in Munich. I appreciate Munich isn’t in Slovenia, but that was our only option to combat the time constraints we had imposed on ourselves. Plus, driving across Europe is fun … right?
We abandoned the plane, made our way to the luggage retrieval and waited with bated breath for the guitars to appear. Of course we have our instruments flight cased, insured and all that good stuff, but it’s always a little nervy watching the rubber belt meander around the airport, my mind engulfed with visions of a random guitar pieces appearing one at a time. Needless to say the axes arrived, in perfect condition, and all was well with the world.
We needed a car.
German efficiency at its finest meant we had a Renault something estate in our possession in no time, and we enthusiastically crammed the gear in. It was tight, in fact, it was very tight. I don’t often relish driving left handed cars on the wrong side of the road, but when I looked at the human sardines stuffed into the back of the Renault something, I figured driving wasn’t a bad option.
Soon enough we were on the road! As we hit the main motorway in Germany Gary piped up from the back; “Britain has some of the safest roads in Europe, but this isn’t Britain this is the AUTO-BAHN!” Within 5 miles we were totally bored as road works and accidents totally destroyed any chance of breaking any speed limits, no matter what country we were in.
Travel time: 10 hours 15 mins
Having endured the slow stuff Gary took over for Austria, and breezed through it in under 3 hours or so. Still unconvinced Stuart decided it was safer for everyone if he didn’t drive, having already (hypothetically) killed a motorcyclist at the previous junction, whilst trying to anticipate where to turn if he was driving. We decided that was for the best, and Slovenia was spared.
Travel time: 13 hours 15mins
Slovenia had some of the maddest roads I’ve ever encountered. 180 degree hairpin bends, on 30 degree slopes, on the wrong side of the road, at the peak of my exhaustion. It truly was a winning combination. As we navigated, yet another, treacherous corner we were greeted with the most amazing mountainous scenery. I made an executive decision to stop. I’ve travelled too many times and ignored my surroundings, so we pulled over to admire the beautiful Slovenian mountains. It really was breath-taking.
Then it was back in the Renault something, and slung it round more corners than I can remember.
Eventually, we saw the sign for Tolmin, and subsequent arrows for METAL DAYS. We promptly got lost, and had to complete another lap of the town, which I predominantly spent on the wrong-wrong side of the road. I was fucked; concentration was shot.
Finally we found the entrance to Metal Days, and were warmly greeted by staff, issued our passes, food tickets, beer tokens, and all relevant info we needed to enjoy our stay. A short trundle down a rough road, and we were at the VIP camping area. A couple of bent pegs later our tent was up and we could go and get a fucking beer.
Total travel time from Lisburn to Metal Days: 17 hours 30 mins
Navigating a festival is always difficult, but arriving in pitch black into a random field brings it’s own challenges. Undeterred, we headed in the direction of music and the hope of beer. Amazingly that proved initially quite difficult, but we managed to purchase a “beer card” and quickly enjoyed several bottles of a strange pale ale. Having learned from previous effort, I decided to draw it to a close at a sensible 1am to avoid dying a death and ruining the gig!
9am, we were up and at it. We had been provided with an excellent itinerary of where to be, when to be there, and who to meet. CMM, who were in charge of PR of the event, had kindly organised several interviews for us; all very cool. Over the previous few weeks I’d reached out to a few fanzines and magazine, so we had our own interviews to attend as well.
First things first – food. We headed for the production office, where we enjoyed a continental breakfast spread, proper seating, and even Wi-Fi. I took a wander around, including the backstage area. It was pretty cool to see names like Marilyn Manson about; he even had his own Wi-Fi network! Merch was first on the agenda, so we located the merch stall, handed over the shirts, and had an interesting chat with the MM merch guy.
Stage manager was next on the list. Metal Days is unlike any other festival I’ve attended, with almost ‘forest paths’ connecting stages, camping, market areas and the beach. Shortly we arrived at the Busko Bursac stage. It was fucking massive. I love playing a large stage, but the associated large crowd is also required; which is always a concern for a newcomer to the area.
Our artist passes got us back stage and I made friends with Matej, the production manager. He was awesome. Instantly friendly, he put all our minds at ease and, despite his busy schedule, immediately took time to give us a guided tour of both behind, and on the stage. We were shown our back stage room, with accompanying water cooler, fridge full of beer, comfortable seating, and power outlets for checking gear. Gary was shown his drum riser and kit, that he would be able to set up 45 mins before the show, and would be wheeled on 15 mins before we were due to start. He was more than amused.
Stu was happy with the almighty ashdown rig, but I found myself perplexed and intimidated by the mesa boogie rectifier. I’ve never used one, and would love a go, but Metal Days wasn’t the time. I asked about a 5150, as it was mentioned on the spec list, and I received (what would become the standard Metal Days response) – “I’ll take care of it.”
Happy at that, we headed back into the main arena and ventured towards the media tent. I introduced myself to Paul Sellier from CMM, whom I’d already been chatting with via email beforehand. Paul explained the set up, and volunteered Fiona to co-ordinate our interviews for the day. It was all very well organised, and we felt proper famous.
A short time later we met with Vicky from Ramzine to film a video interview on the beach. The beach was bonkers; I’ve never been at a festival with a beach. It had a proper beach bar, sand, picnic benches, and an icy beautiful clear river flowing alongside, not to mention the stunning backdrop of the Slovenian mountains. Glorious.
It was then back up to the media tent to meet Fiona, and she took us by the hand, and introduced us to various radio stations, webzines and magazines. Interviews done and dusted, we got some lunch, relaxed for a bit, then our backstage time arrived and we made moves.
We picked up the Renault something, removed anything we didn’t need for the gig, and drove to the backstage parking bay. Gear was easily moved to our dressing room, where Stuart and I tuned up and checked the pedals had survived the journey intact. Gary busied himself on the drum riser making select choices from the plethora of available drum shells and hardware.
Backstage just felt amazing. Matej checked in to make sure all was well, and explained a 5150 was available; I guess he did take care of it. I warmed up, stretched, bit of vocalising, drank a beer and focused myself for what was our biggest show to date.
16:00 was upon us. I slung my guitar over my shoulder, grabbed my pedal board, left the dressing room, and the black curtains that shielded the stage from behind the scenes parted, and I strolled onto the largest stage I’ve ever seen. It was fucking enormous. Amazingly I was more excited than nervous.
I started plugging all my stuff in, then noticed the amp was a 5150 II, sadly incompatible with my footswitch. I asked the guitar tech if they had the dedicated footswitch, to which he replied “No.” I was perplexed and ran through every scenario as to how I could play without one. A moment later the tech simply stated. “It’s ok – I’ll take care of it.” I replied by saying not to make an fuss, and I would use the mesa, but he declined and repeated, “I’ll take care of it.”
From out of nowhere some young guy sprinted off, and returned several minutes later with the 5150 II footswitch. The tech set up, checked it was working and smiled; “Don’t break it; it’s from the main stage.” Star treatment, I was dead impressed. We did a quick line check, then the monitor sound guy gave us the nod. It was time.
Stuart hit the sampler and our intro started. I looked out, and the crowd was ok, especially for the time of day. I gave Gary the nod, 4 hi-hats and we were off. We played well, and i soaked up every minute of it. With every passing minute the crowd grew and by the 3rd track we had a pretty decent crowd that appeared into the music and we enjoyed plenty of horns and applause as the tracks concluded.
All too soon I announced our final song, “The Right To Crawl,” and 6 minutes later it was all over. We posed for the statutory ‘from the stage’ photo, gathered our gear and made way for the next band. It was a tremendous feeling, and we were all truly elated. We played well, had a good crowd, people were into it, and most of – we all fucking enjoyed every second.
In our dressing room we celebrated with a beer, already looking back on how awesome playing Metal Days was. As we got changed and packed our stuff away, the sky turned black. Within minutes thunder clapped, and torrential rain followed. Then the music stopped. Stage hands systematically covered exposed electrical cables, swept water off surfaces, and pulled the drum riser back stage. The festival apparently had come to a halt, as Dool had to cut their set short, and main stage act Na Cruithne (a fellow Irish act) were interrupted as well. I asked a tech what the plan was, he just replied, “It happens. Should ease inside the hour, we can re-shuffle bands if necessary.” That’s pretty much how it was managed, as an hour later everything was back on track, just a bit damp.
With our gig done, interviews completed, all we had to do at that point was drink beer and enjoy the rest of the day; and we did just that. We had a few beers in the tent as the rain subsided, grabbed some chicken wings, then headed to the main stage to enjoy Iced Earth and Marilyn Manson. Post Manson it was back down to the second stage for Bathuska, a visit to the beach bar, and finally Venom Inc finished me off for the night.
Back in the tent, I managed a solid sleep before a 9am alarm had us packing tents and hitting the road for the 15 hour journey home; and the bastards checked my hand luggage on the return flight!
Playing Metal Days was simply outstanding, a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one I would like to repeat. The treatment we received, and organisation of the event was second to none, and a credit to the staff. We would like to thank everyone involved for making it such a great show for us, and hopefully we can return some day.