Sunday morning dawned after the shit night’s sleep that I had been expecting since I arrived. A group of kids a few tents down woke me up around 03:30 shouting and singing, and then proceeded to keep doing the same thing for the next two hours. I don’t have a clear recollection of being that young, so I am not sure whether it was just alcohol and youthful exuberance, or whether they had simply discovered amphetamines.
I managed to drift off, but was woken up again shortly after 07:00 by one of the officials walking past and talking loudly and deliberately into his walkie-talkie. I swear he was only doing it to piss off the people in the Arsehole Tent next to me. The sun then decided to make an appearance and the inside of my tent was immediately unbearably hot. I had no choice but to get up if I wanted to live.
Not complaining too much mind, because this was the view…
Even my little nest looked more cozy in the sunshine.
As nice as this all is to wake up to, there is something about sleeping in a tent, in a field full of other people sleeping in tents, that will really make you appreciate the little things in life. Like walls. Good grief, some men make the most revolting noises…
A lot of people around me were packing up their own tents in anticipation of either leaving that evening, or spending the night in the vehicles that they had been unable to get into the caravan parking on Friday due to space restrictions. I spent a bit of time weighing up in my mind what I could get away with taking back to the car today, and when I realised that it would have to be an all-or-nothing job, I abandoned the idea, had a can of Tuborg for breakfast instead, and admired the industry happening around me.
There was a real sense of camaraderie that morning as everyone offered out surplus beverages, helped clear pitches, and shared stories of mud-and-alcohol related mishaps from the night before. The shitbag kids were quiet by this stage of the morning – I hoped they were suffering horribly in the sun, because I’m like that.
I had another full schedule up for the day, with a few acts that I was genuinely excited to see, chief of which being Evil Scarecrow. There was a lot of hype surrounding the main stage with Slash, Mötley Crüe and Kiss, but I was all about the supporting stages for the last day.
I left my tent at around 10:50 with my rain-poncho in my pocket and my awesome hat on my head. Despite being clear of rain since yesterday evening, it was due again for the afternoon and I was determined to be prepared. One thing to be grateful for about camping at the arse-end of the site; no through-traffic, so the grass was largely intact around the tents where I was staying. The mud situation across the rest of the site however was getting progressively worse.
Navigating the mud involved a combination of high-stepping to drag my wellies from the slurping clutches of the ground, and sliding across the surface with the same side-to-side sweeping steps that you use when ice skating. The general strategy for dealing with the mud at Donington was layering straw over the top of it, which was an excellent idea… for about 20 minutes. After that, it promptly then got trodden in and converted into the same stuff that I believe they used to build huts with before they discovered bricks.
I made it to the arena again after successfully avoiding tipping myself into the mud. I grabbed myself a beer, and settled in. Everything would have been great if not for the nagging realisation that my feet were already really hurting me, and it wasn’t even midday yet. It didn’t bode well.
36 Crazyfists (11:50 -12:20 Main Stage)
I’ve been a fan of 36 Crazyfists since around 2004, which was personally a great year for me, so their music always sounds like happy times. Also, they were one of the first bands I went to see after exiting a crushing and miserable relationship a couple of years ago, which altogether makes them a true symbol of happiness for me. Plus, they’re good. There’s that too.
I saw Sophie K at the TeamRock trailer, and insisted on saying hello and thanking her for the introduction to twenty one pilots, and also the heads up on Code Orange, who were on the bill for later that day. She was amazingly enthusiastic for how hungover I was fairly confident she would be.
I headed off to the Maverick Stage early because I wanted to make sure I was pretty close to the front. I wandered under the tent – and was immediately overjoyed! The band hadn’t started sound checking yet, and over the massive speakers someone was playing Solitaire Unravelling by Mushroomhead – which just so happens to be one of my favourite songs, by one of my favourite artists. They then proceeded to play the rest of the album, and I was fairly delirious.
Evil Scarecrow (13:00 – 13:30 Maverick Stage)
Evil Scarecrow were one of the bands that I was most excited to see, and I really was not disappointed. They arrived on-stage on a rocking horse, and entreated the crowd to help their budget-restricted pyrotechnics by lobbing around handfuls of whatever it was we could find on the ground on the command of ‘BANG!’. They encouraged everyone to take 3 steps forward to get as many people in under the roof as possible, and at the end of the gig they looked genuinely delighted and a little bit overawed by the crowd response. All of this was underpinned by splendid musicianship, with tracks that I recognised off their last album Galactic Hunt amongst others that I am yet to familiarise myself with.
It was truly an uplifting experience, and this gig was one of the high points of the entire festival for me – I forgot for the entire time that my feet were even bothering me.
Code Orange (14:00 – 14:30 Maverick Stage)
Code Orange were a band I was interested to check out. I had heard some pretty brutal things about them, which was followed up by a track on the radio a few days prior to Download and I was genuinely intrigued. They seemed like a interesting group, and they were as hard and heavy as I was expecting. I want to check out more of their music, but I must admit that I had to retreat in the face of the onslaught from the speakers. I have noticed recently that I have a constant hissing in my ears whenever it is quiet, so now I’m all about minimising the inevitable effects of tinnitus in my old age…
LTNT (14:20 – 14:45 Jake’s Stage)
I’ve seen LTNT a few times now, and they always deliver a good performance. I’m not familiar enough to pick a stand out track, but you’ll not go far wrong with these guys.
Godsmack (15:20 -15:50 Encore Stage)
Godsmack were pretty good, but they sounded like they take themselves very seriously. It might be unfair, but since Evil Scarecrow had set the standard for the day, everyone else was going to have a lot of work to do.
It had started to rain by this point, and I could feel every little bone in my feet grinding against every other little bone. Standing still was simply not an option, and sitting down was out of the question too – I had been looking around for a stall that sold shorts, and if I’d have found one, I would just have plonked myself down in the mud. That didn’t happen though, so I spent most of the afternoon swaying from foot to foot and wandering around restlessly.
I overheard a little bit of Rene LaVice (16:00 – 16:25 Jake’s Stage) as I was walking around after Godsmack, drum and bass which I wasn’t expecting and it sounded like really interesting. I could have fought to get into the tent, but then my ears caught the strains of Billy Idol and I was a bit like a rat around the Pied Piper.
Billy Idol (16:00 – 16:50 Main Stage)
I hadn’t been all that interested in seeing Billy Idol while I’d been looking at the lineup, but as soon as he started playing, I was immediately transported back to being given a vinyl copy of his eponymously titled album by one of my Mum’s friends, back sometime around 1986. I couldn’t help but be drawn in.
It was while I was watching Billy Idol that I clocked this girl with the best hair I had seen at the festival so far. I genuinely love big interesting hair and this was spectacular. I’ve adjusted the contrast on the picture to try and deliver its full awesomeness.
I did take a few minutes out to wander off to see Three Days Grace (16:15 – 16:45 Maverick Stage) but the crowd outside was probably the biggest that I had seen so far, so I turned on my heel and went back to catch the end of Billy Idol.
The Qemists (16:50 – 17:15 Jake’s Stage)
The Qemists delivered the joint high-point of the festival for me. They did not stop for the entire set, and neither did the audience. From where I was inside the tent, it was about 50-75% mosh pit, and from what I understand, it was kicking off outside too. Outstandingly good, and they know how to work a crowd too. Everyone was grinning their tits off the whole time, and I actually found one of the few positive sides to having put on a load of weight in the last year; it makes you a bit more sturdy bowling around in a maelstrom of bodies.
Jumping, bouncing, leaping, whirling, and not once did I notice my feet. At one point, Bruno Balanta had everyone stop and crouch down, to then explode back up on queue when the bass dropped. I would genuinely love to see some footage from the gig because I bet it looked even more awesome than it felt.
Slash (17:20 – 18:20 Main Stage)
Slash was another big name who I wasn’t all that bothered about seeing. Call me a savage if you like, I know he’s a legend and all but…
I stuck around for a bit but very quickly decided that I wanted to be somewhere else. The rest of the evening was all about the Encore stage for me so I headed off around the corner.
By now, my feet hurt so much I was really quite distressed. I knew I badly wanted some painkillers, and that there was a small pharmacy stall back in the camping village. The idea of doubling back from where I was to get to the arena entrance and then back along the road seemed way too daunting. Then I noticed there was an exit to the camping village on the far east edge of the arena, not far from where I was! I hadn’t noticed it before, but I was so happy to finally find it. I went to walk through – but was denied. Apparently I had the wrong type of wristband, but for the life of me I couldn’t see why.
I nearly cried, and I am not even joking. Miserably, I asked the guy if he knew of anywhere in the arena itself that sold painkillers. Turns out, he thought there was, next to the First Aid stand. And he was correct! I happily paid £6 for a box of Ibuprofen and immediately necked 4 – which is red-alert, migraine-level painkiller consumption for me. I spent the rest of my time that evening rolling in circles from my toes, round the sides of my feet, to my heels and back up to the balls of my feet to try and keep the pressure moving.
On top of everything else, it was getting really cold. There is one thing I know that is guaranteed to get my central heating working and that’s caffeine, so I actually took a break from the beer to get a strong black coffee down my neck.
I got into a really nice spot for In Flames, and this very drunk middle-aged Welsh guy called Simon decided to come and talk to me. He was borderline incoherent, but we stood chatting about old festivals and bands for about 20 minutes. He kept finding excuses to show me his belly (from being unable to put on weight, to getting a tan due to Italian ancestry) and it occurred to me after he wandered off that he may have been flirting. I really am not very good at picking up on things like that.
In Flames (18:25 – 19:10 Encore Stage)
This was another band I was really excited to see for the first time ever, and they did not disappoint. I do love the Scandinavians at the best of times, and the singer Anders was being a thoroughly mischievous scamp, which I am not sure the security team were enjoying quite as much as the crowd. Also, there is nothing like a bawdy singalong to keep the spirits up.
Over the next half an hour, I noticed a spike in the number of people dressed as nun’s with a variety of different anti-theist slogans and themes. I have to confess to not being overly familiar with Lamb of God, but I used my super deductive powers to work out that the two things were linked.
Lamb of God (19:40 – 20:30 Encore Stage)
Lamb of God were genuinely impressive and came across as proper metal titans. I am not entirely sure how I had managed to avoid them over the last 20 years, but it must have taken a good deal of effort on my part.
As impressive as they were, I had reached the limits of my endurance. I was cold, damp, miserable, and in agony. I really wanted to see Enter Shikari (21:05 – 20:15 Encore Stage) but the idea of standing around for another hour before they started was just overwhelming. I was gutted to be missing one the bands I had been most looking forward to, but it’s not like they were on a farewell tour, and I decided to add them to the list of bands I was going to make a beeline for in the future.
Throughout the day, I had noticed that the portaloos in the arena itself were kept surprisingly clean, so I decided to avail myself of the facilities once more before walking about to the tent… and oh my god, it was amazing. It was warm, dry, out of the wind, and I could still hear Lamb of God loud and clear. Above all else, I was sitting down and taking the pressure off of my feet for the first time since 10:00 that morning, and the relief was unbelievable. I don’t remember the last time I felt so contrastingly good.
There was no toilet paper, but that was no issue since I always had a roll in my pocket. Thinking back on it now, if I had sat there for the next hour, I probably could have been able to take getting back out there and watching Enter Shikari… ah well, I will add that to the list of things to consider for next time.