100 Nights of Summer: The Nova Rock 2019 Recap

Under the wide blue sky of eastern Austria is Nova Rock, one of the largest festivals in the country. Metal, rock, and rap all have a home here in Pannonia Fields — along with 180,000 die-hard fans who are here to rage for four days. This is not a festival for the weak, so load up your festival wagon with cases of cheap beer and let’s check out what the scene is like at Nova Rock Festival.

Day #19 of 100: Festival #3 of 15

With a lineup that included Smashing Pumpkins, IDLES, Rob Zombie, and more, I knew that Nova Rock would be worth the trip. I’ve only been to one other festival in Austria and it was one of the crazier experiences I’ve had on the road, but Nova Rock blew it away. Make no mistake, this is a party festival.

PHOTO GALLERY: THE ARTISTS AND ATMOSPHERE OF NOVA ROCK 2019

1. Running the Numbers
2. The Scene
3. Musical Highlights
4. Stray Observations
5. Travel Notes
6. Final Notes

Running the Numbers

Nova Rock Stats:

Dates: June 6-8, 2019
Editions: 15
Attendance: 180,000
Artists: 85+
MFW Beer Index: €6.00
MFW French Fry Index: €3.00
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 30C/12C (86F/54F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes

100 Nights of Summer Stats:

Days on the Road: 19
Countries Visited: 5
Festivals Attended: 3
Festival Days: 8
Festival Days w/rain: 0
Days Camping: 5
100 Nights of Summer Festival #3 2015Bergenfest
100 Nights of Summer Festival #3 2016: Sonar
100 Nights of Summer Festival #3 2017: 
Maifeld Derby
100 Nights of Summer Festival #3 2018: NOS Primavera Sound

The Scene

The Venue: Pannonia Fields
Located under a surreal collection of towering windmills, Nova Rock is held in a sprawling dust filled field. Inside, there’s two gigantic main stages along with a smaller Red Bull stage. There’s no shade so when temperatures soared on Friday and Saturday, a haven to hide from the sun was difficult to find. The sprawling campgrounds are nearby, but so packed with festies that it took me a twenty minute walk from the entrance to find a free spot.

The Crowd: Austrians Like to Party
This is very much a metal and rock crowd, but it’s also very much an Austrian camping festival crowd, which means a chaotic and friendly experience back at the tents. Like the English, Irish, and Germans, the Austrians are terrible when it comes to trash. But on the other hand they’re very welcoming when it comes to strangers, frequently offering beer or the occasional beer bong.

The Music: Rock in All Its Beauty
There’s just about every genre of rock represented at this festival and for every hardcore metal band, there’s something a little more mellow to experience. Set times do overlap and the main stages are far apart, so there’s definitely some festival heartbreak if you want to see everything.

The Activities 
At Nova Rock, you’re either drinking at the campground or watching the music (and probably drinking). There are a few assorted carnival rides along with a bungee jump and some merch tents if you need to pick up another black t-shirt.

Music Highlights

Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them

  • Smashing Pumpkins
  • IDLES
  • Dropkick Murphys
  • Wolfmother
  • Me First and The Gimme Gimmes
  • Rob Zombie
  • Infected Rain
  • The Cure
  • Die Ärzte
  • Testament
  • Bonez Mc & Raf Camora

Festival All-Star: Rob Zombie
I’m not even a Rob Zombie fan, but hell, he does not put on a boring show.

Bucket List Artist of the Week: Wolfmother
I’ve always wanted to see these hard rocking Australians live, but they were on the same time as Rob Zombie so I found myself dashing in between sets. I still manged to catch most of their lengthy set. Nova Rock may have some overlapping, but they also have some longer than usual set lengths which is nice at a festival.

Best Up and Coming: Infected Rain
What’s does Moldovan metal sound like? Loud, with lots of dreadlock headbanging. I caught Infected Rain on the smaller Red Bull Stage thanks to a tip from our new friends at Partipipal.

Best Set: Smashing Pumpkins
I found myself front and center this week to see our new Dark Lord, Billy Corgan run through a similar playlist to Heartland Festival a few weeks back. Am I the only person who ends up enjoying repeat sets more than the original? The only downside is that for a second time he didn’t cover Fleetwood Mac.

Most Theatrical: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
The punk rock supergroup that only does covers seemed to have a bit of trouble connecting to the audience with songs by John Denver and Dolly Parton, but pulled the audience on board at the end with back to back Elton John followed by “Over the Rainbow”.

Stray Observations

Beer Jesus is the Best Jesus
On Sunday morning near the back fence, everyone gathered together for an impromptu church service with a beer swilling Jesus. After a few short sermons in beer (all ending in a long swigs), everyone lined up to be blessed by Beer Jesus pouring the golden liquid over their heads followed by a gentle kiss.

Insane Tattoo Weekend
From what I wrote last week at Sideways Festival: “Finland boasts the highest percentage of full sleeve quality tattoo art in the world, a statistic I made up after seeing so many incredible pieces over the weekend.” Nova Rock on the other hand had an almost overwhelmingly terrible collection of body art, all of it not small in any way. Props to the full back tattoo with the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus who is firing double sub-machine guns into the air.

Trash Bin Pose of the Week
I tried to find a trash bin, but they’re pretty much non-existent across the campgrounds. Most of the festies here prefer the scenario below where they just wallow in their own filth.
Most Crowdsurfing Ever
Speaking of made up statistics, Nova Rock has the highest per capacity of crowdsurfers in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but here’s a random shot during one brief moment of one song from one artist (Dropkick Murphys). There’s nine people riding the crowd down there and it was like this all weekend.

Most Patient Security in the World
With all that crowd surfing, security had a tough job ahead of them, but the crew here preformed like the seasoned pros they were, safely getting hundreds over the barrier along with those once-in-a-lifetime stories.

Word of the Week: Kalimotxo
This is actually a Spanish word I learned from a Slovakian girl when she suggested mixing red wine with Fritz Cola. I told her that it wasn’t a thing. It is, and as you might expect, it’s disgusting, and you absolutely should not drink half a bottle without eating and go flying around on any spinning amusement rides, or you may possibly vomit your guts out.

Practical Info

What’s the Prime Hours for Music? For Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, it’s pretty typical for the main stages to start up in the late afternoon and wrap up between midnight to one in the morning. Then the party tents open around midnight with DJs and late night dancing.

What’s the Weather Like? It was brutally hot at Nova Rock. A big part of that is it’s just an open field with zero shade. By Sunday, there was a little light rain along with some wind which kicked up the dust something fierce. You will want to bring a dust mask along if you go.

How to Get There? It’s about an hour south of Vienna and the national rail service runs a Nova Rock train straight from the city. There’s also buses that go straight to the festival. It’s Austria, so the transportation is well done and clean and air conditioned.

Where Do I Sleep? If the idea of camping in a sweltering field doesn’t appeal to you, Vienna is nearby with every type of lodging that can be imagined. This is a tourist city so it will be quite full during Nova Rock weekend even without the concert, so plan ahead.

Final Thoughts

There’s the stereotype that metal and rock festivals are hardcore in-your-face never-ending parties of debauchery. And Nova Rock did nothing to dispel that notion. If you’re looking to tear it up at a festival, this is the place to be during that third weekend in June.