Rock am Ring is over. The final (hungover) visitors have stumbled out of Nürburg with little left intact, the stages are well on their way to becoming fully deconstructed and the Nürburgring is very nearly back to its original state. Dates for the German bash’s 2020 edition may have already been pencilled in (5-7 June) by its eager Live Nation team, but first we look back one last time as we unveil our definitive Rock am Ring Top 15. These are the fifteen performances which stood out head and shoulders above the rest and left an impact on the All Things Loud team, all of whom covered a combined total of nearly 30 performances and spent the best part of the last two days arguing and deliberating about the end result.
15 DVTCH NORRIS
It’s not always opening an entire stage at one of the world’s biggest festivals, even less so when it’s a) the last day, and b) no one knows you. This wasn’t a problem for Belgian rapper DVTCH NORRIS though, who battled the troublesome crowd with his infectious mix of soulful rap and hip hop successfully. Taking to the Crater Stage just after 2pm, he managed to maintain a solid bout of energy over the course of his 35 minute set. Set highlight Toothpick – somewhat of a cult hit back in Belgium – certainly showcased his potential as a star of the future, even if the small crowd was nothing to go by.
What we said: “The first main attraction of the day came in the form of LA rockers Badflower, an energetic quartet who recently confessed to having grown up watching those famous Rock am Ring live videos. A full circle moment for them, you could say; a moment they cherished and used to their advantage once they kicked off proceedings on the SEAT Volcano Stage. Frontman Josh Katz is an untameable ball of energy, his bright blonde hair flying all over the place much like he did himself. Despite battling supposed jet lag, Badflower made for a strong start to the day during a forty minute set which centred heavily on debut album OK, I’m Sick.”
13 TENACIOUS D
The D are back! Jack Black and Kyle Gass returned last year with new album Post-Apocalyptico, a cartoon-based concept album filled with shorter, acoustic songs and traditionally wacky visuals. It doesn’t carry the same weight as prior releases Rize of the Fenix and seminal The Pick Of Destiny, but it’s still a nice addition to the comedy rock duo’s sprawling back catalogue. The live show places little emphasis on the new album beyond the opening ten minutes, opting instead to hurl crowd pleasers at full fields of revellers. At Rock am Ring this was no different, with the brazen Kickapoo (that classic riff), hilarious Fuck Her Gently and all-round anthem Tribute unsurprisingly making for the main highlights. Tenacious D never have to worry about creating another Pick of Destiny, because with a back catalogue as strong as theirs you’ll be sure to know that The D will never die.
12 I PREVAIL
What we said: “Sometimes a band comes along who just defy any and all expectations you may have had of them in the past. I Prevail are one such band, taking to the Crater Stage for their first ever performance in Germany. Not that you’d have expected, this, though; on the contrary, with a crowd as big, loud and enthusiastic as theirs you’d have thought that the American metalcore quartet were regulars. Despite garnering a massive following back home in the States, Europe hasn’t exactly warmed to I Prevail as much as you’d think, largely due to the fact that they spend so much time on the road at home. From the moment they kicked off their Crater Stage show, though, everything kicked off. Crowdsurfers flew over the barrier left, right and centre, with an early highlight coming in the shape of Scars, arguably their most recognisable hit. The tracks may border on the more predictable side of metalcore but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they absolutely rocking the stage for their second ever show on the European mainland.”
11 AGAINST THE CURRENT
What we said: “Pop rockers Against the Current took the rain in their stride and battled the hefty currents over on the Beck’s Crater Stage. Frontwoman Chrissy Costanza knows how to command a crowd effortlessly, parading around the soaking stage as photographers followed her every move on the somewhat controversial photo platform in front of the stage. Just ask the crowd, who spent most of the time between songs singing the phrase “Scheiß fotografen!” Lovely.”
10 DIE ANTWOORD
What we said: “The somewhat controversial Die Antwoord had some initial difficulty topping Slayer, pulling a decent crowd to the Crater Stage for their 1:30am rave session. Although the field seemed apprehensive at first, the likes of Fatty Boom Boom and Banana Brain managed to convince revellers that going apeshit was the only way forward. And with that, the second day came to a blistering end.”
What we said: “As the night slowly reached its end and German cult heroes Die Ärzte careered towards the finale of their two and a half hour set, plenty descended upon the Crater Stage for Slayer‘s final ever show at Rock am Ring. The American thrash metal legends are calling it a day once and for all, having just embarked on their final string of European festivals. It was the band’s fifth appearance on the Ring, doubling up as their best in the process. A spine tingling Repentless opened the show, complete with all of the fire and flames you could ever wish for. Sure, a lot of Slayer songs sound the same, but that’s the essence of thrash metal and something you shouldn’t blast the band for. When they pulled Raining Blood out of the bag near the end of the set, you’d swear that the gates of hell had opened somewhere. It was dark, it was grisly, and it was most definitely SLAYER.
8 WHILE SHE SLEEPS
What we said: “Another band whose most recent album is not as memorable as the rest is While She Sleeps, who seem to have peaked on 2017’s incendiary You Are We. That’s not to say that this year’s SO WHAT? is a bad album, but just that it isn’t as spectacular as You Are We. Then again , that was always going to be a hard record to top. The live show remains powerful as ever though, with Loz Taylor ensuring that the crowd did not stand still for a minute. Crowdsurfers made their way over the barrier faster than your average Brexit deal rejection, with the odd wall of death and circle pit adding that extra bit of intensity to the way-too-small Alternastage.”
7 DROPKICK MURPHYS
What we said: “If you’ve ever been to see a band with a large live production, you’ll be aware of the fact that they tend to have dozens of crew members scurrying around stage trying to get their jobs done as fast and efficient as possible. Although this was clearly the case for the seasoned veterans in camp Dropkick Murphys, it seemed as though having a good time was also high on the list for the American band’s crew. In a good way, of course! Banter among soundchecking crew before the set made for some laughs from the crowd, including one moment where a technician told someone offstage that they “smelt like shit”. With such a happy tone set by the crew alone, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that Dropkick Murphys’ own show on the main stage was nothing short of absolute craic. From the moment the Boston collective took to the stage, one thing was clear: they’re here to have a good bloody time. Over the course of nineteen songs, Al Barr and Ken Casey served as the perfect pair of frontmen (they’d be great pub landlords), raising hands on Cadence to Arms, diving into the crowd on The Boys Are Back and ensuring no one stood still during big hits Rose Tattoo and I’m Shipping Up To Boston. The latter closed out the entire show in rousing style, allowing for Dropkick Murphys to leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth. If it didn’t want you to go find a Guinness, then nothing ever will.”
6 BRING ME THE HORIZON
What we said: “Back on the main stage, Bring Me the Horizon marked the first massive crowd of the day. New album amo is a big departure from their previous output, serving as the perfect sonic progression for a band who have never been afraid to switch things up in the studio. This time round, they’ve also switched things up live, upping the production value with tons of TV screens, walkways, creepy dancers and the like. Frontman Oli Sykes wears a red suit emblazoned with newspaper cuttings off mass murder verdicts (including the Manson cult), his vocals a mix of snarling growls and serene cleans. People have given him shit in the past for not delivering live, but it seems to be the case that he’s cleaned up his vocal act for the better. Set opener MANTRA (complete with the aforementioned dancers) set the tone instantly, hitting hard as co2 blew across the stage like a mushroom cloud. A frenetic House of Wolves followed early on, turning the intensity up by a few notches before the restrained medicine turned it down a touch too many. The 75 minutes long set served as a perfect time capsule, focussing on everything the band has done so well in the past whilst also providing doubters with a glimpse of the future. Shadow Moses and wonderful life produced the pits, with Grimes collaboration nihilist blues starting a mini rave on the Volcano Stage. It wasn’t until set closer Throne that everything came together though, with the Sheffield quintet absolutely tearing the house down in what should serve as their best Rock am Ring appearance to date. It’s going to be a busy summer for the band, but at this rate it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a strong one.”
What we said: “Foals followed back on the Crater Stage, nearly matching the memorability of Cage the Elephant in their own, refined way. Frontman Yannis Philippakis is a seasoned veteran, commandeering the crowd at the click of a finer. New album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1 served as the focal point of the show, with lead singles Exits and On the Luna both proving to be highlights during the show. They’re a lot slicker than Foals’ earlier output, ditching the raw intensity for a sense of wonderful danceability which earlier cuts nearly lacked. The show’s peak came on older track Providence, which marked Philippakis’ first descent into the crowd. He repeated this during later tracks Inhaler and What Went Down, ending the night nestled in and amongst a happy crowd.”
4 THE 1975
What we said: “…that enthusiasm seemed to be present elsewhere, in particular for The 1975‘s set on the Crater Stage just before midnight. New album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationship is an intense and captivating piece of work, possibly their best. The accompanying live show on this run, for which Rock am Ring was the first European date, allowed Matt Healy and co. to incorporate shitloads of LED screens and two backing vocalists/dancers, all of which added to the millennial charm of The 1975 in 2019. Set opener Give Yourself A Try set the tone without little hesitation, and Healy was most definitely up for it. There aren’t many bands around right now who can pull off what The 1975 are capable of, and you really have to applaud them for that. Live, they’re an unbeatable force of nature, especially when you consider the likes of punchy single TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, stadium-ready Love It If We Made It and the classic The Sound. An all-round great set from an all-round great band.”
It’s been a long time coming, but Slipknot are finally back (with a vengeance)! New album We Are Not Your Kind is due in little under two months (August 9, Roadrunner), with lead single Unsainted serving as the perfect reminder that Slipknot are back on top form. And if you needed more than just one song as a reminder of their newfound impact, then their headline set on the Ring should be more than enough. With a new production (and percussionist) in tow, Corey Taylor and co. set the main stage on literal and metaphorical fire over the course of ninety intense minutes. Opening on the brutal one-two of People=Shit and (sic), the Knot managed to turn Nürburg into a scene from the deepest pits of hell with little difficulty. Taylor is back on top form (aside from the odd vocal mishap), and his bandmates once again all bring something very special to the table. The unnamed new percussionist works a treat alongside Clown, with DJ Sid Wilson wearing what is perhaps the most unsettling mask Slipknot have ever produced (we won’t even go there). Then again, that’s what Slipknot are all about: unsettling you to your core, sonically and visually. A fast-paced Psychosocial and the double-whammy of All Out Life and Duality made for ultimate highlights, before a blistering Surfacing saw more than 80,000 revellers get down on their knees and jump up in unison. Only one song from We Are Not Your Kind may have appeared during the show, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Slipknot’s comeback is one of the year’s most exciting.
2 CAGE THE ELEPHANT
What we said: “Cage the Elephant proved their worth on the Beck’s Crater Stage in the early evening, instantly elevating themselves to a level of quality which was not matched by a single other artist appearing at Rock am Ring yesterday. Frontman Matt Shultz entered the stage dressed in what you could honestly mistake for a cycling uniform, were it not for the hyperfuturistic one-band sunglasses and obscure shoes. Walking along the front of the stage almost robotically, Shultz and his older brother Brad (guitar) hyped up the crowd before kicking into new track Broken Boy. Broken Boy is one of the more hyperactive cuts on recent album Social Cues, which the band leant on heavily during the course of their hour onstage. Not that the attention was entirely on the music, though, with the Shultz brothers leaving no stone unturned in their quest to conquer every single facet of the stage. Brad made his way into the crowd numerous times, with Matt engaging in so much contact with everyone and everything around him that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was insane. A one-two of the bouncy Cry Baby and raucous Spiderhead followed, with the rest of the set packed with unforgettable moments. Social Cues may not be Cage the Elephant’s most memorable records, but once Teeth closed the show all people could think was: “what the fuck did I just witness?”. In a good way, of course.”
1 THE FEVER 333
What we said: “So back to the beginning, which in this case is around 2pm. A man comes out onstage dressed in black overalls, a bulletproof vest and bag over his head. This is Jason Butler, the far from outspoken frontman of politically conscious punk maniacs The Fever 333. They’ve got the tough task of opening proceedings on the Crater Stage, using their time to demonstrate exactly why they’re one of the most sought after rock acts of the minute. From the moment that Butler removes the bag from his head, shit absolutely hits the fan and he goes off. Set opener Burn It is the perfect tone setter for today, allowing Butler and his bandmates (Steven Harrison on guitar and Aric Improta on drums) to lose their shit and ensure the crowd follow suit. It’s a powerful track to open on, but then again everything The Fever 333 do is built on immense power and a sense of reckless abandon. The frenzied We’re Coming In marks Butler’s first foray into the crowd, and it takes him all the way to the sound desk, from where he delivers an impassioned speech about the state of America whilst looking down over the crowd. It’s a special moment in the set, and it puts Butler right in control of everything. Throughout the rest of the 9-song set, Butler has the crowd in the palm of his hands, not letting go until the very last second. Rock am Ring was The Fever 333’s own little playground, and we were just the kids watching in awe. As day openers go, this was something special, and also something which couldn’t be topped.”
Rock am Ring 2020 takes place from 5-7 June 2020.