For the concert-going crowd, summer is synonymous with big music festivals. Although we live on the edge of Europe, in a little country that fails to draw the big name bands, we are close enough that each of the last two years D has managed to find a way to attend the Frequency Festival, held in a small Austrian town half an hour outside of Vienna.
As last year, D tried to balance attending the 3-day festival with touristing and spending time with S and Munchkin. Unlike last year, however, this time our friends were in Vienna as well, providing an extra incentive to skip parts of the festival. Given the line-up, this proved simple enough to do.
Of the more than 65 bands that played on three stages, D only recognized about a dozen names — a sure sign of growing older. On the other hand, many of those were bands D grew up with and absolutely adores. Bad Religion. The Offspring. The Prodigy. Linkin Park. There were enough big names on the marquee to make D really excited that he managed to carve out the time to go to Austria for the festival.
D’s friends joked that he would be out of place. Not only does D speak no German, but the crowd would surely be filled mostly by teenagers. They were partly right. D befriended a couple of hilariously drunk Germans, and the difference in age did lead to some amusing conversations. One concertgoer said she couldn’t fathom being married, having a small child, and still going to music festivals.
Another asked D if he liked Bad Religion shortly before the band took the stage. “Are they heavy metal?” — he asked after D told him they were one of his favorite bands. “No, punk. How old are you?” The kid was seventeen. When D told him that the last time he had seen Bad Religion perform was fifteen years ago, the kid’s jaw dropped.
D wondered whether he should feel old or young at heart. But then Greg Graffin walked out on stage. Since founding one of America’s seminal punk bands in 1979, he has completed a PhD at Cornell and has taken time off from writing and performing music to teach life sciences, paleontology, and evolution at UCLA and Cornell. Fifty years old, bespectacled, with tufts of grey hair around his bald pate, and still as punk rock as ever. Age really makes no difference as long as music still makes one’s soul hum.
D caught four bands on the first day, starting with Chuck Ragan and the Camaraderie. It was an enjoyable set, and only later did D make the connection that Ragan is the frontman of Hot Water Music, a punk band D used to listen to in the 90’s. After Bad Religion, D suffered through an-hour long set by an Irish teenybopper pop band called The Script. The payoff was worth it, however, as Alt-J took the stage next. D had heard the buzz around this band but had never listened to a single song of theirs. Their set was a revelation, and their debut album has now been playing on repeat at our house for the better part of a week.
The second day D stayed at the festival grounds from 2:30pm until well past midnight. The Offspring would headline the smaller Green Stage stage that night and D got himself a front-and-center spot at the railing. After four enjoyable sets, the highlight of which was Irie Révoltés (a German hip-hop/reggae band whose two frontmen mostly sing in French), D was forced to abandon his enviable spot. A german dance band called Frittenbude took the stage and they were so atrocious that D could not imagine listening to them for an entire hour.
Instead, he wandered over to the bigger Space Stage to watch Simple Plan. The pop-punk of their early years, when D saw them last, has given way to more of a rock sound as their popularity has grown over the years. D timed his return to the Green Stage to coincide with a break between sets, and with a little bit of effort regained his front-and-center railing spot before the Offspring went on. The Offspring played a little more than an hour, stopping before their allotted time had lapsed. Like everyone else at the festival, they seemed excited to go watch the Prodigy’s set on the other stage. D left halfway through the Prodigy, and still did not get back to the apartment until 3:30am.
The last day of the festival, we took a trip out to the Wachau, Austria’s wine region, which was not far from the festival grounds. Concert fatigue was beginning to set in, and D snuck away to the festival just to see two bands — Against Me! and the Mad Caddies, the latter being one of the acts that D most wanted to see. Linkin Park headlined the final night, but D had already seen then perform multiple times and he would have had to listen to almost six hours of bands he did not know to make it to Linkin Park, which did not seem worthwhile.
Instead, D ended his festival on a high note with the Mad Caddies. It was clear that the crowd did not quite know what to expect from this ska-punk band, whose songs occasionally veer into polkas and sea shanties. However, it was also equally clear that by the end of their set they had become one of the crowd favorites.