A hidden jewel of a summer festival, with a rocking price
I've always been skeptical of free gigs; they generally consist of less than average bands playing far less than average music. Usually the only real bonus to them is the free entry but even then, the organisers will raise drink prices just to make themselves the profit they would like. With this all in mind, when I was informed of the Free and Easy Festival held at Backstage, I was far from excited to attend but in all honesty, I could not have been more wrong.
The festival, which has been running yearly for the past 18 years at Backstage, consisted of 5 separate stages, over 150 bands and 10 bars. Each stage has its own individual feel and vibe, ranging from heavy metal to reggae to drum and bass. And as you would expect from a German festival, each area had its own massive bar. The festival was spread out over a two-week period beginning the 21st July and ending 4th August, with music starting at 7 p.m. and the last band finishing at around midnight.
As I previously mentioned, when someone brings up the idea of a free festival you would usually expect only low level local bands to be playing, but this was not the case with Free and Easy. Bands such as Skindred, Agnostic Front, Sepultura and Anti-Flag were visiting from across the Atlantic to play this hidden gem of a festival, as well as many well-respected German bands who are currently on the circuit at the moment. Even with all these great artists on show, the main aspect of what impressed me most was the general ambiance of the festival; every area seemed like its own private party with its own welcoming feel. The way the organisers set up separations between the sections gave the perfect amount of room for socialising without overcrowding, and each bar selling slightly different drinks just added to the theme that went along with each area.
The festival has raised the bar for all other free festivals for me; it proves that you don't need to charge extortionate amounts to see great acts in an amazing environment. The only downside I found from this festival is that it was not all free, as might be assumed by the name. It was not until I tried to enter the main stage to see a headlining act that I was stopped for not having a wristband. But thanks to the kindness of strangers and a little elbow grease, my companion and I were able to enter problem free and see all the acts we wanted.
The sad part of this interesting and impressive experience is that it could quite possibly be the last one held, with reports of the venue being sold at the end of the year. This means that this could be the first and last time this reporter gets to experience the Free and Easy Festival. The 19 year old venue that has seen many great acts in its time, even hosting Eminem's first ever concert in Germany, mazy be done. Needless to say, it will go out with the respect it has built over the years.