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Mud and Marilyn at Hultsfred

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18:02 CEST+02:00
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails at the Hultsfred Festival

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails at the Hultsfred Festival

Hultsfred Festival, Sweden's longest-running and largest music event, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a show which left both promoters and the audience satisfied, and ready for more.

Anyone who can picture over 30,000 people alternately baking under a hot sun or sloshing through rain and mounds of mud, weather depending, with access to only 279 portable toilets, might be able to see how a 3 day long festival atmosphere is not always idyllic.

But, according to a press conference held Saturday afternoon by festival management, Hultsfred '05 was an enormous success. The head of police, medical chief, and festival leaders spoke of the sold out show, new attendance record, and overall fantastic atmosphere they had witnessed so far.

The attainment of such a hit show could not have come at a better time; festival management were able to see they were on the right track in their production efforts. According to festival head JP Bordahl, financial problems had recently prompted the festival's promoters, the non-profit organization Rockparty, to make changes on an organizational level.

“The financial crisis of last year's festival started the changes, but after this year's record, and the anniversary festival, everything is great,” JP Bordhal said.

Hultsfred 2005, which took place from June 16 to 18, set a new attendance record, with 31,100 tickets sold.

“The display by the crowd shows the need for Hultsfred,” Bordahl said.

One clear attraction of the festival is that it caters to so many differing tastes. Swedish favorites Lars Winnerbäck and Håkan Hellström drew in loyal fans, while larger international acts Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, System of a Down, and Snoop Dogg drew crowds to the festival's largest stage.

Winnerbäck, due to his popularity, made an unusual three-day run of appearances on the show's 3rd largest stage. Every day at 5 pm, thousands gathered to hear his solo performance of vocals and guitar.

With more than half of festival-goers camping outdoors during their 3 day stay, weather can become an important factor in festival life. The weather managed to hold out, at least for 2 out of the 3 days, and when the rain and mud did come Friday night, it did little to deter the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Petter Jahnstedt, a festival veteran from Gothenburg and editor of the music magazine Zero, attending his 10th consecutive year at Hultsfred, did not see the rain as a setback. “This is the best weather I've seen so far,” he said.

Friday evening saw large numbers, many dressed in full rain gear garb – and some even taking advantage of their already soaked situation by plunging into the lake bordering the main “Hawaii” stage – come out to listen to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

By Saturday, the weather had cleared in time for one of the evening's large Swedish acts, Håkan Hellström. The singer failed to gather the same enormous, energetic crowd response as some of the larger international bands, but he did capture his own bright, wholesome atmosphere. The crowd was warmed up by Swedish folk music, and Hellström's own act inspired many to dance on the stage-front grass field.

American band System of a Down, marking their debut show in Sweden, played one of the final acts on the main stage, amid a spectacular backdrop of a setting sun, a bright half moon, and a glistening lake.

Between songs, vocalist Serj Tankian seemed to take it in, and yelled out to the crowd, “Sweden, what a beautiful place!”

Despite the stench of the portable toilets and the remnants of the previous day's mud, it was impossible not to agree with him.

Erin Earley

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