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Download Festival 2012 – Surviving The Mud (Part Five)

Surviving The MudIt’s a strange feeling when you wake up on the last day of a festival. As much as you know you have another day of quality music to listen to, you also know that your adventure is almost over. Breakfast today consisted of every bit of meat we had left, yet again we ate well and our stomachs were once again very happy. The plan was to watch Devildriver on the main stage at the ludicrous time of 11.50am, however once the first few ales of the morning had gone down this aim was never going to be achieved. The good thing was that we could see the main stage from our campsite, although the sound was poor. However we could see the size of the giant circle pits that the band created, as hundreds danced around as if bewitched by a medicine man.

I wanted to go and see Sebastian Bach, former lead singer of Skid Row. I have always liked Skid Row, and some of his solo stuff since has been quite enjoyable. We grabbed our walking beer and headed off to the arena. The thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is what a glorious day it was. The sun was blasting us with heat and the slight breeze just about keeping us comfortable, for once I didn’t have to wear wellies. We got to the second stage in plenty of time to see Sebastian Bach. His set was fine, unfortunately his vocals were not. He seemed more content to scream the lyrics than to sing them, such a pity as he has an excellent voice. He still did everything that people wanted to hear, 18 and Life, Slave To The Grind, Monkey Business and the always immense Youth Gone Wild, that song sounds great whether sang or screamed. Once he was done it was time to get some beer as I had a few beer tokens left and these couldn’t be wasted, that would be sacrilege. Next up were Ugly Kid Joe, a band I remember but didn’t know much about. Their brand of bluesy southern rock was a good drinking companion. I only knew about three of their songs, including Cats In The Cradle and Everything About You, both of which they sang.

Next up were a band I was really looking forward to seeing, Shinedown.  I had seen this band earlier in the year when they came to Newcastle and they were excellent, they didn’t disappoint today either. They set the tone straight away by opening with The Sound Of Madness, a heavy rocking song with a huge sing a long chorus. The set was one massive sing and clap along. When singer Brett Smith asked the crowd to raise their hands, about 40,000 people joined in. They pulled in a massive crowd, only beat by Slash on the Friday night in my opinion. They were the band of the day for me apart from the mighty main stage headliners. When Shinedown were finished it was time to head over to the main stage to see Megadeth. Megadeth are very good live, fairly static on stage but you cannot fault the music they produce, technical thrash metal at its very best. Some of our friends then went to see what was on the second stage, I wished I had of joined them. Instead I went to see Soundgarden. I was never a fan of Soundgarden the first time round, but thought i’d give them a chance. What they played, they played very well, that cannot be denied. I was very surprised at how many of their songs I knew, I was also surprised at how quickly I remembered why I didn’t like them. They are excellent at what they do and in Chris Cornell have an amazing singer, I just don’t like their music.

What happened next was sheer entertainment. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Black Sabbath.

I had never witnessed this band live before, but I hope to get the chance to again, they were brilliant. Tony Iommi looks drawn and thin after his treatment for cancer, but those riffs…………..Jesus they are good. Geezer Butler is still a menacing presence on stage, still all hair and blurry fingers.  Ozzy Osbourne is the funniest man in metal, and he doesn’t know it. Fairies Wear Boots, War Pigs, Sweet Leaf, Snowblind, Paranoid……………The list of metal classics this band played would put almost every band in the world to shame. Ozzy’s voice faultered once or twice but that is looking to pick faults. The thing is I’m not a massive Ozzy or Sabbath fan, yet found myself singing along and humming every tune. If you haven’t seen Sabbath before then you have to go and catch them whilst you still can. They are pure metal entertainment.  

Sabbath finished with a massive fireworks display, the words I heard uttered were “Well I’ve paid for it so I’m gonna watch it”. Again just like the band, this was an entertaining show.

It was time to leave the main arena for the final time. Annoyingly humming Iron Man all the way back to the campsite. A few more beers were drank as everyone within earshot were told how good Black Sabbath were, whether they had saw them or not.

Another Download Festival had been survived, lots of clothes ruined by the mud, lots of BBQ’d meat in the belly and a thouroughly good time had by nearly everyone. Roll on next year.

 

Download Festival 2012 – Surviving the mud (Part Four)

Saturday started off being a bit cold and very damp. The howling gales of the previous night had at least settled, the rain had stopped. There was much to look forward to today as there were many more bands that I wanted to see.

As per normal, breakfast was a total meat fest. Sausage, bacon, and anything else we could find found it’s way on to the BBQ and then either into wraps or pitta bread. For a while, my stomach was my best friend. We wouldn’t be hanging around the campsite too much this morning as there was a full program ahead of us. We helped our breakfast to digest with the odd beer whilst looking over the main arena, which we could see from our site. We could see that mountains of hay had been put down to try and soak up the mud. Hopefully the rain would stay off today and give us the chance to really enjoy the bands.

We grabbed a few beers for the walk, rounded up the troops, and headed off towards the main arena. Some of us were perfectly ok, some of us were suffering from a slight hangover, some were totally dying. I love not suffering from hangovers, allows me to give a great deal of sympathy to those who do. As we walked towards the main arena it became obvious that some others at the festival had attempted to kill themselves with alcohol. Much merryment was had at their expense.

As we approached the arena we could hear the strains of Fozzy floating over the air. Fozzy’s frontman Chris Jericho polarises opinion, you either love him or hate him. I personally find him quite entertaining, he isn’t the greatest singer on earth nor is he the worst, however, his in between song banter can sometimes sound like a link he would do as a wrestler on the WWE. We entered the arena as Fozzy were ending their set and headed straight to the main stage for the mighty Saxon. Saxon are a excellent live band and really deserve a better spot on the bill than a noon start. Today they roll out a greatest hits set and hit the spot with every song. When your belting out anthems like Wheels Of Steel to 100,000 people, the adrenaline rush must be immense. The crowd were enjoying every second of it, to be the ones playing the music must be the greatest feeling ever.

Next for me was the acoustic stage to see Gun. Gun in my opinion are one of the most underrated rock bands of the last 20 years. Their acoustic set drew a good crowd as songs like Better Days, Taking on the world and newbie Last Train From Central were aired. Even a broken acoustic guitar didn’t dampen the spirits of a muddy, damp crowd. The band ended their set, told us to see them on the third stage and disappeared, 25 minutes gone in a flash. Next on the acoustic stage were Soil, who gave us a half hour of drunken silliness. Totally unrehearsed, completely drunk and utterly brilliant. Next it was over to the main stage to catch a bit of Trivium. These young lads know how to play festivals and in the few minutes that I watched, were sounding very heavy. For me, it was time to head over to the third stage to see Gun’s electric set. This was one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend, as I’ve always been a massive Gun fan. The acoustic show was just the starter as this set delivered the main course and dessert. Better Days, Don’t Say It’s Over and Word Up came at us like an express train that even a broken lead mic couldn’t derail. They were one of my highlights of the weekend.

Gun finished in time for me to get to the main stage to witness the spectacle that is Steel Panther. If you don’t know who, or what, Steel Panther are then you are missing out. These boys are true 80’s hair metal with obscene lyrics, they also have the banter in between songs that would make Chubby Brown blush. Community Property, Just Like Tiger Woods and Death To All But Metal (with Slipknot’s Corey Taylor) all had crowd joining in a massive sexist sing-a-long. Brilliant. Once Steel Panther had finished it was up to the second stage to see Theory Of A Deadman. I had seen Theory Of A Deadman a few months earlier at Northumbria Uni in Newcastle and was quite impressed with what I had seen. Today however, they bored me to death, so much so that I walked away to get food and check out Tenacious D. As I was checking out the food stalls I can honestly say that I didn’t recognise a single song that Tenacious D played. Not, that it was bad as it wasn’t, it made good background music for me to eat my overpriced noodles to. I had finished my food by the time they sang Fuck Her Gently and Tribute, two songs which brought the whole crowd to life. Once they had ended their set it was back to the second stage, find the group and get ready for one of the most energetic bands of the weekend. I’m not a massive fan of Skindred’s music on CD, but live it makes perfect sense. The whole place was bouncing, dancing and singing, if this didn’t make you smile, you must have been dead. Skindred are a must see live band, amazing. After Skindred it was time for Killswitch Engage. The departure of Howard Jones and reinstallment of original singer Jesse Leach has been a great talking point for fans of the band. Howard Jones was seen as one of the best singers in the genre, could Jesse match him and do the Howard era songs justice? The answer was a massive HELL YEAH!!!!!!!! Killswitch Engage decimated the second stage, giving any of the doubters no food for thought.

I left just before Killswitch finished as I went to get my place for the biggest heavy metal band on the planet, Metallica.

The anticipation for a Metallica show starts building long before the actual gig. You have people who have never seen them before getting overly excited, people who have seen them once or twice before talking excitedly with their friends about how good they are. You then have the Metallica veteran, those who have seen Metallica that many times that you are happy to stand back and just enjoy the show. The usual AC/DC song, It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock N Roll) signals that the band are ready to come on. Then the music from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which has served as Metallica’s intro music throughout their career, hits the speakers and the place goes mental. The band opens with Hit The Lights and from then on it’s game on. The black album is played in it’s entirity, backwards. The rest of the show is a greatest hits set. Truly magnificent from start to finish. To make things even better, the rain stopped and things started to dry out. What an end to a fantastic day.

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After Metallica, the short walk back to the campsite flew over. Everyone was in amazing spirits as we sat and drank beer. Before we knew it, it was nearly 3am and time for sleep to prepare for the last day.

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Download Festival 2012 – Surviving The Mud (Part Three)

Friday started off pretty much as expected, driving rain and strong winds. Even though reports of the desperate conditions were reaching national news, it didn’t deter new festival goers from continuing to turn up in their thousands. They were still turning up on the campervan section ready for a weekend of good rockin’. Today the music started in the main arena. The BBQ was lit as the rain decided to show a little mercy, and talk turned to who everyone was wanting to watch that day. If memory serves me right then I think that we enjoyed a mighty breakfast of pork steaks, lamb and mint chops, sausage and bacon. Something to set you up perfectly for a solid day of loudness.
There was nothing that I was too interested in seeing until mid afternoon, so I was ready for a good mornings drinking. As the beer started to flow, word came through that the main arena had delayed it’s opening for two hours in an attempt to try and dry up some of the ground with hay. Conditions were that bad that this must have been done on the instructions of some health and safety enforcer. Health and Safety reps always get a bad rap, but I don’t know if I would fancy the responsibility of making sure 100,000+ people were all safe and sound. As we got to the arena, we could see that what was once a luscious green field was now a never ending sea of mud. We could hear the music of the opening bands, it kind of draws you in and gives you a little adrenaline boost. We made our way to the second stage, which is huge and the area must hold around 30,000 people. The first band I was interested in seeing was the mighty Europe. Before Europe and currently on stage were Terrorvision. They were thoroughly entertaining everyone with their brand of pop-rock. I decided it was time for a beer and then pick my spot for Europe, who are awesome live. The stage was set up for Europe to come on, their equipment and large backdrop all ready to go. Imagine my utter disbelief when it was announced that the band had not been able to make it due to weather. Completely gutted. Still next up for me was Little Angels, a band I had wanted to see for many years, since I’d seen a Toby Jepson solo show. I wasn’t to be disappointed either, all the hits from the late 80’s – early 90’s came flowing out. Too Much Too Young, Radical Your Lover, Young Gods, Sail Away etc all still sounded fresh as they did when I was a teenager, at least to my ears they did. Here’s hoping they tour soon. After Little Angels it was straight to the monstrous main stage for the mighty Machine Head. Machine Head are one of the strongest metal bands out there at the moment. They have the songs in abundance and are one of the finest live bands you will see. I am Hell, Davidian, Locust, Old, Imperium etc all somehow got the mud weary crowd jumping again, I think I counted five different circle pits going at the same time, tremendous stuff. My intention was to then go and see Nightwish, however due to unbelievable toilet queues, I missed everything bar half their last song. Chase And Status and then The Prodigy were laying down the dance beats to close the main stage, however I had absolutely no interest in them at all. For me, the headliner was closing the second stage, Slash with Myles Kennedy. I can’t confess to being a huge Guns N Roses fan, but give the guitarist a singer he gets on with and the results are excellent. Myles Kennedy has the rock voice to make anybody bar Freddie Mercury jealous. He sings the Guns N Roses songs played tonight with consummate ease. Rocket Queen, Sweet Child Of Mine, Civil War, Mr Brownstone and Paradise City are sang with the passion the original singer lost many years ago. Also in the set was a stunning performance of a new song called Anastacia. A stunning intro, another amazing Slash riff and a great vocal melody make this song a total winner. This was an excellent set, set of the day for me, no one left unhappy. There was a little rain during the set but nothing to dampen spirits. After Slash had finished there was nothing left to do but heave weary legs back to the campsite, drink a few beers and discuss the days proceedings. Roll on Saturday.

Download Festival 2012 – Surviving The Mud (Part Two)

After a restless nights sleep due to my air bed deciding it was a good idea to deflate every two hours, we awoke on Thursday morning to the joys of the Great British summer. The rain lashed down, the wind was picking up, and there was a stench of stale mud in the air. That was just in the tent. The air bed was inflated for the umpteenth time and a couple more hours of sleep ensued.

When I woke the rain was still coming down but nothing could dampen the spirits today, as today was the day of the Boardie BBQ. This is where the organisers of the festival give the forum members something back, as the forum is a great place for help and info. We also save the organisers some time by answering a lot of the questions that people ask. As a “thank you” we are given a free BBQ and a few free beers. It is greatly appreciated by all that attend. It’s also a great way of meeting fellow Boardies, many of whom you know by name but wouldn’t recognise if they walked into you.
It was around half nine in the morning when I got up, and I could hear that the BBQ was being prepared for breakfast. The wellies were pulled on and I went to join the lads, just as slabs of meat and sausage were put on to cook. There is no other thing better in this world than to wake on a cold, damp morning and get the smell of fresh meat sizzling away. Breakfast went down a treat, what a great feeling to start the day with a stomach full of good, filling, tasty food.
After breakfast was done and dusted it was time to visit other campers to make sure everyone was up and about, also to check that no one had died of alcohol poisoning. Well, we couldn’t have their beer going to waste could we? Sharing a laugh as a group is great as you get a massive picture of what the previous night was like for everyone, even though it is remembered through a drunken haze. As we shared stories and a few ales more and more campervans were still arriving, bringing new friends to the party. As fresh beer reinvigorated everyone’s senses it was time to head off to the BBQ. A case of beer was commissioned for the afternoon and a couple of cans taken for the walk to the meeting point, which was at the music arena entrance. The rain had ceased to attack us for a couple of hours so it was just a case of ploughing through the shin deep mud once we got out of the campsite.

As we walked past the festival main entrance, festival goers were piling in, in their droves. Totally unaware of the terrible state of the campsites they were going to spend their weekend in. This led to much laughter on our behalf as our campsite had held up brilliantly, as only a certain amount of people are allowed on it. We reached the meeting point and joined the throng of fellow Boardies. As we did this the rain decided we had had enough of a breather and decided this would be a good time to bombard us again. It seemed to take forever for the organisers to come and get us in the lashing rain. At last four hundred soaked Boardies were summoned and we started the walk around the out side of the arena to the third stage, where the BBQ is held. It gives us a chance to have a look at the main arena before the music starts the next day. As we walked down to the third stage we were getting a good drenching, and trudging through increasingly deep mud.

Terminator

Once we got to the third stage we queued for our burger and beers. The way it had been set out this year was excellent and the queues dispersed fairly quickly. With our burgers we were offered salad and fruit, I got possibly the biggest orange I had ever seen, grand stuff. We found a place near the stage to settle (see top pic), demolished the burgers and set about the case of beer in a vigorous manner. I was with a few of the very popular Boardies (PastySmasher, FrostyIsASnowman and terminator) and lots of people came to chat and have a drink with us, everything was so friendly which was great. Everyone bonding through their love of Rock/Metal. There was a DJ spinning some tunes, some excellent, some unknown and some sublimely ridiculous. Before we knew what had happened a few hours had flown by, and it was announced that a nearby bar had been opened for us. We sat and laughed as we had brought our own, which was diminishing at a rapid rate.
As time passed, the beer started to take over and we had the biggest game of pass the orange I have ever had the joy to be involved in. Oranges were being pitched baseball style, being bowled cricket style or just being hurled at each other. If you didn’t catch the orange then you were subjected to severe abuse. We managed to get through six giant oranges before our supply was exhausted and a form of normality returned. As time continued to pass at a rate of knots we were lucky enough to meet more and more Boardies. We met people from every corner of the country, literally from the Shetland Isles to Hampshire and everywhere in between. Towards the end of the BBQ, as people started to drift off, we found ourselves chatting to the guy from the Shetland Isles once again. He was telling us of the monstrous journey he had undertaken to get from the Shetlands to the festival. This involved many hours on a ferry, drinking beer and throwing up. We took complete pity on this poor chap, then informed him that it was completely his own fault for living in the Shetlands. We were then informed that it was time to leave, had a quick look around to discover that there was only us left. Something we are used to as Geordie’s. We began our trek back, through the torrential rain, wind and mud.

We got back to the campsite and headed straight to the tent to dry of and change clothes. We sat for a hour, caught our breath then our thoughts turned to food. There was no way the BBQ could be lit in the weather we were having, that wouldn’t stop us. Frosty knocked up the most amazing Thai Green Curry I have ever tasted on a small hexi stove. I would never condone using a hexi stove in the porch of a tent but we needed hot food, and we needed it there and then. We made the stove as secure as possible, and the most amazing food was knocked up. The only problem we had was the condensation which formed inside the tent due to the heat. A few friends came in out of the cold to share a can or two in our porchway and every time the wind got up we all got sprayed with the condensation.

Do not feed the Pasty smasher

Download Festival 2012 – Surviving The Mud (Part One)

Before you start reading this, please be aware that this is the Download experience from my point of view. It isn’t a review of only the music, but one mans tale of the full 5 days camping experience.


As normal, the download experience starts long before you set off for the festival. There is meticulous planning into everything, almost with military precision. Food, clothing, sleeping arrangements and five days drinking are all planned well in advance. This year we were lucky enough to have made arrangements so that we were able to pitch our tent on a friends pitch in the campervan section. Indeed arrangements had been made for all our gear to be took down to download for us by said friend. A pre festival drink was arranged the week before and all festival gear was loaded up and took away.If you ever get the chance of someone taking your rucksacks and tents for you then grab it without haste. As we had nothing to take to the festival on Wednesday, we concerned ourselves with which beverage needed to be consumed on the train journey from Newcastle to Derby. Now I travel with one of the best lads I’ve ever met and I trust his alcohol selection. Once again he came up trumps as ale and a lovely medium swet perry emerged from the drinks bag. As normal the Newcastle to Derby early morning train was once again packed to the hilt with festival goers, all enjoying the first drink at just after nine in the morning. To the other passengers on the train, it must have been a strange sight as by half ten most of the festival goers looked like they were returning from a festival and not just embarking on their adventure. We found our seats and settled for the near three hour journey to Derby. We struck up polite conversation with some “normal” passengers, and indeed passed on some useful tips about hair colouring. Half way through the journey we recieved word that our friend with the campervan had indeed broke down and was awaiting a tow back home. Fortunately he had hired a transit van and all our goods had been transferred into that. This however, presented us with a small dilemma. Should we go straight to the festival or should we go to the pub and assess our options over a pint. With us being Geordies it really was a no brainer and the pub was entered. With news that the hired transit was making its way to Download, and was indeed almost there, it was decided that another beer was called for – one for the road. We made our way to the shuttle bus for the festival, there is something slightly smug and satisfying about seeing everyone trying to lug a weeks worth of drink, food and clothes onto a bus whilst we were carrying only a few needy supplies. We have only missed one Download, so we have paid our dues. Whilst on the bus the rain started to lash down, this slighty dampened (pardon the pun) the atmosphere on the bus. The Geordie duo took upon themselves to lighten the atmosphere by drinking more perry and dishing out some good natured abuse to other festival goers. Mentions go to the man who can’t grow a moustache, a delightful, young South African girl who tried to poison us with some unnamed bottles of sweet spirit and the bus driver himself, who whenever slowed the bus down came in for torrents of abuse.
We arrived at the festival in good spirits, and made our way to the place we had arranged to meet other friends. on our way to doing this, yours truly dutifully slipped in the mud which was already covering our feet. this led to a full on cartoon fall, legs high in the air and splat on the back. A massive thank you to the burger van owner who brandished cloths so that the mess could be cleaned up a bit. There was nothing else to do but laugh and carry on, you can imagine the sympathy that I recieved from fellow drunken Geordies and a giant Cornishman when we got to our meeting place. The place that we had chose to meet was the cafe at the entrance to Donington Park, as they serve decent cold beer. As we met, the rain started to come down in waves. It was decided that we should stay there under the large umbrellas until the rain abated. This would not be for another two hours, and there was nothing left for us to do except drink beer. Conversation rarely rose above the gutter level. We got our wristbands in this time, and already people were struggling with the conditions to get that far with all their gear. I helped carry a bag for a young lad who was clearly struggling. As I got my wristband I had a look at the Village, which was already a sea of mud, this was gonna be one messy festival.
The rain eventually stopped long enough for us to go to the campervan section. We found our pitch and began to put the tent up. As the tent was being constructed ( this is one huge tent ) the BBQ was being built, ready to be lit. You don’t realise how hungry you are until you actually think about food.

Campervan Boardies
We had a lovely BBQ Steak dinner, strange at a festival but so nice. Now in the build up to the festival we have been regulars on the Download Forums and had managed to arrange that some of the forum members were parked together. This led to instant and hopefully lasting friendships forming. The rest of the night was spent making new friends and drinking beer, until it was decided that a venture into the comedy tents in the village was needed. When we got to the Village we decided that a drunken go on the dodgems was the order of the day. That is always great fun until you get off them and feel like you have had a good kicking in the back. It was then decided that a few of us should go on the big stupid spinny ride. I don’t have a clue what the ride was called. The only way to describe it is like the twister but in the air. A good bit of comedy later and we decided to head back as the mud was ridiculous. So it was back to the campsite for more laughter and the odd  nightcap. As we got to the campervan section the tracks that the vans were using could no longer be passed due to the mud. A few drinks later and it was time for bed.