Held on the famous Nürburgring racetrack in the Eifel mountains, Rock am Ring (English translation: Rock at the Ring) draws more than 80,000 people rocking out to more than 80 international acts.
Rock am Ring is actually one of two events—its twin, Rock im Park (English translation: Rock in the Park) is held over the same weekend in Nürnberg. Both events have mostly the same line-up and are often regarded as one event: all the acts play one day at Rock am Ring and another day at Rock im Park. Combined, these two events create the largest music festival in Germany.
The Nürburgring venue is a motor-sports complex around the village of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate. It is located about 43 miles south of Cologne, and 75 miles northwest of Frankfurt. It features a Grand Prix race track built in 1984, and a much longer old “North loop” track which was built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains.
Rock am Ring started in 1985, intended to be a one time only, two-day concert to celebrate the inauguration of a newer, shorter version of the motor racing track. However, with a who’s who of musicians—including U2, Joe Cocker, Foreigner, Rick Springfield, Marillion and many other artists performing, its commercial success was so high (about 75,000 attendees), that it unsurprisingly became an annual event.
However, in 1988, attendance plateaued so dramatically that the festival took a two-year hiatus. In 1991, Rock am Ring returned with a new, more rock-oriented concept and opportunities for lesser known up-and-coming bands to perform. Some of the little-known artists who got their start at Rock am Ring and have gone on to achieve commercial success include INXS and Alanis Morissette.
For several years the festival drifted across various venues—from Vienna, the disused Munich-Riem airport and the Olympiastadion in Munich, until it finally settled in its current location in 1997. The festival has hosted a list of performers that would make any rock music aficionado swoon—Kiss, Rolling Stones, Rammstein, Slipknot, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Iron Maiden have all played over the years.
Until 1995 there was just one stage, however over the years stages have been progressively added to cater to more rock bands and broader musical tastes. The Alternatent was added in 1996, which is almost as big as the main stage and has hosted established. In 1999, the Talent Forum was added for newcomers, while in 2006 the Club Stage was included to incorporate indie, electronic rock and even house music acts. In 2007 both festivals sold out for the first time, with a combined attendance of over 150,000 people.
Helga and the Science Experiment
Rock am Ring has had its share of quirkiness over the years. In 2007, the festival was used in a science experiment to test the effects of large bodies of people simultaneously jumping, to try and calculate the result if the entire Chinese population were to jump in unison. The experiment concluded no significant results from the theoretical event.
There’s an interesting tradition at Rock am Ring to yell the name “Helga.” Apparently one year, a man had lost his girlfriend in the crowd and he ran around calling her name for entire night in his quest to locate her, disrupting many festivalgoers’ sleep. Now “Helga!!!” is an unofficial Rock am Ring motto.
Camp Out to Rock Out
The Nordschleife (Northern loop) is the historic part of the Nürburgring racetrack. During the festival the track is used as a campsite, where festivalgoers can camp next to their cars. The campsites officially open the day before the festival (Wednesday) at midday. It takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to walk to the festival grounds from the campsites. To be able to camp with members of the same group, you will need to arrive at the same time.
Free drinking water points are around the festival arena site, with festivalgoers allowed to take up to one liter of drink into the festival (glass and cans are banned). Gas cookers are allowed on campsites.