Hellfest 2023: Stories and Pics

Hellfest 2023: Stories and Pics

Held from June 15-18, 2023 in Clisson, France, this year’s Hellfest show surpassed everyone’s expectations as one of the biggest heavy music festivals that the world has to offer. ESP once again had the pleasure of being the festival’s official guitar sponsor, so we were there for the entire event… from interviews and signings at the ESP Showroom in Hell City Square to being there to help out the many performing ESP artists who took over the various stages throughout the fest.

A graphic at the ESP Showroom in Hell City Square.

We have a few great stories to share from our time in France, but none is more amazing than that of Crisix, a band from Spain who we got to know and brought into the ESP artist family at last year’s Hellfest. Crisix wasn’t even scheduled to perform at the festival this year; they were there to rock a special mini-show outside of the ESP Showroom. Ten minutes after they got done, one of the band member’s phone rang.

It was one of the main Hellfest organizers, letting them know that Incubus unfortunately wasn’t able to perform at their scheduled slot on the main stage, and asking if Crisix could do the gig instead… right now. Immediately, they started packing up their guitars and pedalboards, and a short while later were just killing it for a crowd of thousands. It’s the kind of opportunity that every band dreams of, and it was cool to see it happen for this great band, who have a lot going for them.

Albert Requena of Crisix, surprised to find himself on the main stage at Hellfest

Crisix came to Hellfest 2023 just to play at the ESP booth and ended up rocking the main stage for thousands.

B.B. Plaza of Crisix keeps his calm while doing a massive gig they didn't know they were doing just minutes beforehand.

Another cool tale from Hellfest 2023 was that of Slipknot’s Mick Thomson, who officially joined the ESP artist family just a few months ago. While making his way to the festival, he stopped by a great ESP dealer, The Axe Palace in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and bought himself a new axe to rock at Hellfest. Many people saw pics of Mick holding his new ESP Original Series FRX in Liquid Metal Silver finish on his way to the show.

Mick Thomson (Slipknot) picks up a new ESP at The Axe Palace on his way to Hellfest 2023. Photo courtesy of Nicholas Yoffe.

Another of Mick's guitars, this one an ESP Custom Shop Arrow, backstage at Hellfest.

Mick Thomson's guitar boat backstage at Hellfest, chock full of killer ESPs.

We spent a good portion of our time at Hellfest keeping things rocking at the ESP Showroom in Hell City Square, where we held signing sessions with members of Behemoth and The Ghost Inside. There were lots of performances in and around the booth, including a spectacular shred demonstration by ESP Signature artist Ken Susi, who’s currently touring with As I Lay Dying. It was great for fans to be able to get up close with Ken at our booth, and then see him headlining one of the stages that night.

In addition to the signings and meet-and-greet sessions at the ESP Showroom, we were doing interviews with some of the dozens of ESP artists who were playing Hellfest, including Reba Meyers (Code Orange), Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy) and others. We’ll be spotlighting those interviews as soon as we can get them ready for you.

Ken Susi of Unearth, holding his LTD Signature Series LS M-6 EverTune, was playing Hellfest while on tour with As I Lay Dying.

Ken rocks out for the crowd gathered in front of the ESP Showroom in Hell City Square...

... which was pretty jam-packed throughout the festival.

Plus. he hung out to greet people afterward, which is always cool.

Aaron Aedy (Paradise Lost)

Alex Skolnick (Testament)

Nergal, Orion, and Seth (Behemoth) doing a signing at the ESP Showroom.

Buz McGrath (Unearth)

Chris Davis and Zach Johnson (The Ghost Inside)

James Barnett and Ryan Hernandez (Cane Hill)

Lord Ahriman (Dark Funeral)

Orion (Behemoth)

Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy)

Reba Meyers (Code Orange)

A few notes from the stages themselves. ESP Signature artist Lars Frederiksen and his band Rancid did a kick-ass show closing out the night on June 16 at the Warzone Stage, with Lars playing an ESP Custom Shop version of his Volsung signature guitar in Oxblood finish. Another notable performance was by Mongolian folk metal band The Hu. The band has garnered so much global interest that the stage they played was jam-packed to the point that not one more person could have possibly squeezed in. They are definitely on an upward trajectory and we love being here to see it. Yet another performance of note was that of Sum 41’s Tom Thacker, who played his ESP E-II Eclipse for the entire headlining show that first night of the fest.

Backstage at Hellfest, a few of Lars Frederiksen's ESP guitars.

Lars tearing it up onstage with Rancid.

Jamba (The Hu) 

Tom Thacker (Sum 41)

There are always more stories to tell from a festival like Hellfest, including some we can’t repeat for reasons of good taste and various possible legal repercussions. Regardless, it was a great experience for ESP and our artists who enjoyed the huge responsive crowds and the overall atmosphere of one of the world’s best heavy music tests. Special thanks go to ESP’s distributor in France, Algam, for their excellent work in making Hellfest 2023 as good as any big festival we’ve ever attended.

Petru C.

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Dubuis G.

very nice stand at hellfest2023. a pleasure to try instruments of exceptional quality. who won the instagram photo contest guitar?