While we were travelling there, the festival app warned those already there that heavy rain was expected in the night to Friday. By the time we got there, things had dried up a bit and it was fairly warm, but it was still very cloudy, and the threat of rain was ever present.
The rap group Neonschwarz opened the Blue Stage with a mix of hip-hip, rap and pop. The lead trio had great chemistry on stage with a general vibe of leaving behind responsibilities and chilling in the sun. Not saying I felt seen, but I did feel seen.
Juju took to the stage next with her high energy rap set. At one point the mosh pit opening up cleared most of the space in front of the stage and Juju invited anyone who could do the splits to come demonstrate. Later, during Hi Babe she came down into the pit for high fives. Her song Bling Bling featured a sample from Linkin Parks Numb and she performed a medley of her songs which normally have features, said features being played from recordings.
Unfortunately, half the sound was missing for Sondaschule at the start of their set on the Green Stage, the only thing we could hear in the front right was the trombone. They kind of fixed it during the first song, but it still cut out occasionally. The band wore matching black polo shirts with the band logo. Considering that crowd surfing is technically banned at the festival there was a lot of non-band-encouraged crowd surfing, possibly the same guy over and over again. It was great ska set, perfect for dancing and singing along.
Austrian band Wanda all came dressed for different events, one with clear 70s vibes in patterned waistcoat, ripped jeans and tinted glasses, one in a blank tank top and trousers and the lead singer in leather jacket, white shirt and jeans. The lead singer had a very chill yet passionate vibe about him; walking to the side of the stage to get his cigarette lit by a roadie at one point then throwing beers into the crowd and jumping in after at another. The last song seemed to include all crowd activities throughout: a mosh pit opened up near the beginning (promptly leading to the demise of some lost sunglasses), then later half the crowd sat down calmly while a circle pit raged over in one corner.
The sun was setting, and it was impossible not to move during Electric Callboy’s electro/metal fusion set. With pyro, lasers and mosh pits all the way to the back it definitely re-energised everyone for the rest of the night.
Bring me the Horizon followed on the Green stage with a fantastic set picking up the energy where Electric Callboy left off. The stage had a several levels made of screens and several songs were accompanied by two dancers in various costumes including hazmat suits for Parasite Eve and cybermen cheerleaders for Happy Song. Lead singer Oli Sykes came on wearing a skin tight long sleeve shirt and what looked like suit trousers and did a fantastic job hyping up the crowd, inviting people to come crowd surf over for a hug, leading to absolute chaos and a little crowd forming in the pit. The set ended 15 min early, which was a shame as the crowd definitely had more to give. The guy next to me caught a drumstick and was celebrated accordingly by the group around him.
In the interval before the Friday headliners, Kraftklub, the securities distributed water into the crowd, refilling bottles and cups that were passed forwards and back. Kraftklub came on in long black coats over their usual white shirts with red braces, as if to challenge the skies. The skies won, it was tipping it down by the end of the set. Not that that deterred anyone in the crowd. The band bought several new songs, but felt the need to play an old song in exchange for every new song because they didn’t know how the new songs would be received. They really did not have anything to worry about, the fans were with them all the way. Later in the set a fan was invited on stage to spin a wheel to decide between an old song, a new song of a three-minute cigarette break, a task that I would find far too stressful. The old song won but after enough crowd vocalising, they played another new song too. While encouraging mosh pits, frontman, Felix, also made sure everyone was ok and back up as well as specifically decrying people using mosh pits as an opportunity to molest people and called for anyone doing so to be reported to the securities.
We woke up to the continued patter of rain on the tent and several mysterious wet spots. Was it us flopping soaked into the tent last night? Is the tent leaking? Who is to say. It’s been so long I’d forgotten this part of festivals. Luckily the drizzle was light enough we could still have cereal and make coffee.
Marching band Moop Mama played the Blue Stage dressed all in red. The front mad thanked everyone for being here so early in the morning. It was 13:30. However the vibe was one of drowsy, content dancing in the mud across the field. There was a range of footwear choices on show, we had your classic wellies, trainers and bougie shoe covers. But we also had some who opted for barefoot or complicated contraptions of duct tape and binbags. As everyone woke up a bit more things heated up a bit with a big circle pit in the middle. And a two-man circle pit next to me. It was a great, energising way to start the day.
100 Kilo Herz were playing over on the Green Stage with the ever present “punk with trumpets genre” which we know and love. The first 10 minutes of the set were spent sound checking themselves, taking turns to sing and everyone who could hear them raised their hands. Once everything worked, they were off, playing a great set full off heart. During the show, the lead singer explained that he was invited to go to the last Highfield festival with a friend but was struggling too much with depression and financially to bring himself to buy tickets and go. But he wanted to say something cool, so he said he’ll go when he’s playing there. Luckily that worked out and it fantastic to see them perform together. Considering Giant Rooks cancelled for mental health reasons, I think it’s good that people are talking about these kinds of things and will take time out to look after themselves.
Provinz had a whole recording of a song playing before they came on stage. A simple set up, just the band and a banner with their name as backdrop. They still drew a large, enthusiastic crowd though, singing along to pretty much all choruses. Next to me, two girls banded together to lift a dude onto their shoulders for a song.
Donots were filling in for Bad Religion, funnily enough the same as they were in 2018. When frontman Ingo was orchestrating the biggest circle pit™ from within the crowd he chose a woman to lead it because she was wearing a bad religion shirt and was covered in confetti. Turns out she was also the circle pit leader in 2018. Antilopen Gang joined on the stage while Ingo was making his way back over the crowd. They managed to bring the sun back, even though it took up their whole production budget as they claimed. Huge energy and always welcome to fill in for any band.
Kraftklubs front man performed his last festival gig as his solo project Kummer on the Blue Stage. His previous show had to be cancelled during the 2nd song due to extreme weather so it was a good thing Donots stopped the rain in time. The general lighting for his songs was the blue of the album cover, for the Kraftklub songs he performed the stage changed to red and for Alles Wird Gut the stage was bathed in yellow. Provinz’s frontman came to sing on the latter. It’s a shame the project is over, but I’m very glad to get the chance to see it live after waiting since 2020 to do so.
Annenmaykantereit were the second to last act on the Green Stage, and while very very popular, you could argue that it’s a little low energy for a sub-headliner slot. As the masses moved over from Kummer they could hear the Annenmaykantereit set starting and got frustrated at the speed at which they could leave the crowd, luckily, they vented some of that frustration by singing along. It was a beautiful set that had people swaying together arm in arm with their neighbours. There were tearful hugs and long kisses in the crowd, it was very emotional. At the end, the crowd threw flowers into the crowd, some of which were gifted back to the security guards who stuck them in their hats. Immaculate vibes all round.
I’d seen Deichkind from further back in the crowd at a previous festival, so knew it was worth getting there early for a good spot. I was not disappointed. The absolutely chaotic energy of the show defies description. It started off with the band behind a white sheet, lit from behind as the beat built up gradually and sporadically. Several choreographed dance routines later things descended into (amongst other things too weird to put into words) office chair races, mini trampoline intervals and a giant barrel filled with the band being pushed through the crowd before the front row got a generous amount of alcohol via several tubes. It was a spectacle that I would recommend to anyone if they get the chance. The set also included a new song that had been teased in trailers on the stage screens throughout the intervals of the festival, which was cool, it was more of a lyrics than beat based song, still very good though. A chance to slow down for a bit. There was a kid next to me in the crowd and it was great to see that the securities made sure he and his parents knew how to get their attention if the crowd got a bit rowdier. The securities in general were fantastic during the show, cheering the crowd on and singing along themselves.
The sensible thing would have been to go to bed when we finally got back to the tent after 2am. HOWever. We could hear the Beach Stage playing absolute bangers from our tent. So that was the obvious choice. Also, sand is great for removing mud from shoes, right?
Sunday morning was the first time it felt safe to put clothes up to dry and the ground was solid enough to walk on barefoot. We could hear Casper and Broilers sound checking in the distance which only increased the anticipation for the day.
I headed over to Kaffkiez who were filling in for Montreal who were filling in for Turbostaat. The band was one of my recent spotify discoveries and were well worth the effort of heading over a little early. The crowd was a consistent mosh pit and it was a fantastic way to start the day.
Afterwards we headed to the beach for a swim as the sun was clearly trying to make up for something. Vaguely refreshed we headed back to see Montreal who played the last Highfield in 2019. Their set included a few covers, including one from an album they had recorded over lockdown, celebrating bands that don’t exist anymore. Madsen’s drummer joined for one song, while their own drummer went and had the front row’s beer.
For a bit of lighter sunshine dancing, Joris was the perfect choice on the Blue Stage. The singer songwriter was accompanied by a large band and performed a song on only instruments made out of drinking glasses or bottles.
Back to a little more chaos, Die Orsons filled in for You and Me at Six. One of the four at the front had a fish on his belt, which I don’t think was ever explained. They share the stage with an inflatable winged shrimpy-seahorse creature which flailed wildly for some songs. There was wild waving of whatever-you-had-on-you and asking everyone to put on their mobile phone light in broad daylight.
Leoniden were surprisingly rowdy on stage for their music. Kicking over cymbals and wildly swinging guitars, the energy rubbed off on the crowd as the set went on. The percussion stand was taken into the crowd at one point, who made room for the drummer to come in, but he did have to crowd surf back, clasping it between his legs for dear life. The band covered Watershed by Giant Rooks as a tribute since they could not make it due to mental health reasons which was a lovely gesture.
Clueso’s set was stopped after a few songs due to an approaching storm when he last played at Highfield in 2017. This year he thankfully managed to get through the whole set. He was accompanied by a band including a brass trio which gave all the songs a funk spin. Great for dancing. The set span Clueso’s catalogue, with a wonderful rendition of Cello, the intro ironically played on trumpet. There was the usual everyone-sitting-down crowd antics, but this time everyone got up in a wave, back to front. That was a new one to me and genuinely felt link when you’re in the sea and a wave builds up towards you. As one of the mosh pits opened, a girl, having misunderstood the assignment, sat down in the middle to start rowing. Luckily her friend pulled her up just in time for the mosh pit to collide. The group I was standing with managed to reunite a gentleman with his wallet as he dropped it while walking past, so our good deed for the weekend was also ticked off.
Casper followed Clueso on the Blue stage and the crowd stayed pretty full between the acts, normally things did empty out a bit more. Casper appears to have lightened up a little since his last album where the general vibe was barbed wire, angst and nihilism. Instead, the new album has a more flowery, hopeful feel. The stage was covered by a pink curtain before the show and opened to reveal a meadow of flowers across the front. I loved the way the way the spotlight shone through the colourful petals. The set was divided into three acts, each being introduced on the screens with a single word and a dictionary definition. The acts were “doubt”, “rage” and “hope the songs that followed shared those themes. There was a beautiful crowd chorus at the end of Hinterland, with Casper directing the two sides of the crowd, playing them off against each other to see who could be the loudest. Clearly our side won.
Broilers were stepping into the headliner slot for Limp Bizkit who couldn’t make it. The stage was covered with a black banner proclaiming “Nobody left behind” while If the kids are united by Sham 69 was playing. The excitement was building. Then the banner dropped, and we were off. 90 minutes of punk bliss followed. Continuous mosh and circle pits. Crowd surfing. It was fantastic. The crowd etiquette was on point, people protecting anyone when needed to bend down to tie shoes or look for something. Helping each other up before falling over together. It was a wonderful way to end the weekend and definitely a much need catharsis after three years of abstinence.
We started our drive home after the headliners, being directed out onto the road by security guards with glow sticks. It was incredibly smooth and well managed, and we were out in no time. Every rest stop we stopped at for the next 4 hours had a gentle trickle of tired, happy people with Highfield shirts and wristband trickled in for supplies and toilet breaks.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend at a much-missed festival. The organisation was great, the bands were clearly having a great time being back and the crowds welcomed them with enthusiasm. I can say with, with considerable confidence: Same time next year?