Category Archives: Music

I am a mean-spirited old killjoy

Last night, I went to see Superheaven at The Lexington near Angel tube station in Islington. Superheaven are wonderful, and their last album – Ours Is Chrome – is one of my favourite records of last year. Please feel free to allow some of their good noise into your earholes;

My first visit to any new venue in London normally involves a fight with my piece-of-shit phone to try and get Google maps working properly, whilst simultaneously trying to look like I already know exactly where I am going. The whole tourist bellend bit wasn’t necessary last night however, because the Lexington is a really simple walk round the corner from the tube station.

The pub downstairs was nice but fairly standard, all high ceilings and old wood with areas that looked suspiciously church-like. The thing I enjoyed the most was the collection of old rifles and antlers on the wall – with silver and purple flock wallpaper because London.

I got there a couple of hours early, maybe because I fancied a few beers beforehand, maybe because I had no idea that the first band wasn’t on until 9pm… *cough* Doors opened at 8pm, so I headed upstairs to check out the venue itself, and I was one of the only people up there for the best part of an hour. Good effort, me.

While I was passing the time with my friend Bulmers Original, I noticed this young lad who also got there pretty early on. He attached himself to the front corner of the stage as soon as he got in, and he was all new band shirt and spindly enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm in itself, but it causes me to be suspicious about people, and generally marks them out as Needing To Be Watched. I am of course including my own insufferable excitement at the Warners Bros Harry Potter studio tour experience; I’d have merrily punted small children across the room, and laughed while I did it.

https://i1.wp.com/37.media.tumblr.com/09394af8f23d9dbda6df0ef9eafd24eb/tumblr_n95dc0PvES1s9362xo1_400.gif

“Out of my way, muggles!”

Anyway, back to the gig. Once the band started, it became apparent that this lad was one of those idiots that insists on stage diving in the face of all contra-indication from the rest of the audience. Everyone else was gently moshing about and then out of nowhere, this whirling mass of elbows and knees launched from stage left. Again. And again. And again.

When he wasn’t crowdsurfing, he was trying to stir up a moshpit, jumping around and punching the air like a deckchair caught in a whirlwind. Put 20lbs and a few years on him and he would totally be that crowd-killing prick at hardcore gigs.

Even though I was stood well out of reach by the bar at the back, I found myself getting more and more pissed off by him. Everyone is entitled to have fun at a gig, but he was just being a fucking nuisance. Since he’d been going unchecked for most of the gig, another lad joined in as well because, you know, monkey see monkey do.

I know that I don’t generally like people anyway, and can often hold excessive ideals of social conduct, but it genuinely wasn’t just me getting narked off with it; eventually the singer asked for everyone to please bear in mind that there were a lot of smaller people and girls up the front…

I didn’t stay to the end because the train times home were being changed due to scheduled works (I don’t know why I was surprised) and the fear of getting stuck in London overnight is real. As a result, I don’t know what actually happened after I left… however I have come to the conclusion that I am a mean, spiteful old spoilsport, because I know exactly what I hope happened, and it is perfectly illustrated by this panel that I found recently when re-reading Preacher:

Arseface Stage Dive Fail

A gloriously heartwarming thought.

Bowie

It’s taken me a handful of days to be able to sit down and put my thoughts and feelings into order following the announcement last Monday of the death of David Bowie. Over the last few years, there have a been a number of deaths of famous people who have touched my life in various and important ways, but I was not prepared for – have been completely taken aback by – the depth of my emotional response to this news.

David Bowie

There have been several striking deaths from the world of music in particular recently. There was of course the passing of the mighty Lemmy Kilmister over Christmas which, without feeling personal, was definitely poignant; the death of a true legend and – by all accounts – thoroughly decent bloke. Lemmy had lived the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for at least the last 50 years, and it had been easy to believe that he was in fact immortal. He always had his foot planted squarely on the accelerator of life, but after being forced to withdraw from a number of live shows earlier in the year, it seemed like the end was finally on the horizon. He always said that he wanted to die doing what he loved right up until the very end, and that is precisely what happened.

Prior to that was Scott Weilland, whose passing most certainly did have a personal edge for me. For many years, he had seemed to be teetering on the edge of an untimely death, but there was always a glimmer of hope that he might make it out of the other side of his addiction OK. I felt a great sadness, but also a sense of resignation, when his story ultimately ended the way I’d always hoped that it wouldn’t.

But Bowie was different. Bowie was pure, unadulterated loss – and completely unexpected for  everyone except those closest to him. A cross-section of my entire life had suddenly been sliced away. A layer of warmth and brightness suddenly absent.

David Bowie

I couldn’t speak to anyone at work on Monday morning, though to be honest, I’m not sure that my colleagues would have noticed; I am normally in a shitty, reclusive mood anyway due to being back in after a weekend of doing my own thing. I spent most of Monday dripping silent tears into my coffee, tucked down behind my monitor. I had my earphones locked in, immersing myself in the musical tributes on the radio, feeling wave after wave of emotion rolling up my spine, wringing my face into twisted masks and squeezing my chest until it burned and felt impossibly heavy.

There has only ever been one other occasion in the nearly 38 years of my life where I have experienced this level of grief at the loss of another being. Bowie was not family, he was not a friend, nor someone I had even ever met, and it’s hard to convey to people who don’t care exactly why it means so much. No he didn’t know me, but he had spent years talking to me, singing to me, playing music for me… Suddenly, for the first time in my life, there was no David Bowie and it hurt.

David Bowie 1983

I wasn’t born until 1978, so by the time David Bowie featured in my reality, he had already done his ground-breaking, rule-defying, scene-changing work. By that point, he had been accepted by the mainstream, and had achieved mass commercial success. This meant that while I can pinpoint the exact moments that I discovered Motörhead and Stone Temple Pilots, David Bowie was always just THERE; Fashion, Modern Love, Let’s Dance, China Girl, Under Pressure, Dancing in the Street, Labyrinth…

There was never any negative association for me with Bowie. He was just a talented, beautiful singer, who made excellent music and made me feel slightly squiffy as Jareth the Goblin King, in a way I couldn’t really have explained at the time.

Jareth

As I got older, I began to appreciate more of the history and legacy of David Bowie, the outstanding back-catalogue of work, the innovative progression of his music, and the stage characters – both human and alien – that he used to deliver it. He became an actual 3D personality who was always unapologetically himself in a way that I have tried to be but haven’t always managed.

Young Americans

I understand that there were a few dickish, coke-fuelled outbursts in his youth [which were all later rescinded], but despite these and his at-times controversial presentation and lifestyle, I have never heard or read about anyone saying that they hated David Bowie. I obviously wasn’t around for the more notorious and gender/cosmically ambiguous eras of his evolution so can’t speak with any authority, but I get the impression that he was SO different, SO unusual, that he provoked more confusion and bafflement than condemnation.

In the late 80’s, he turned away from the commercial focus that he had adopted and moved back towards being the Artist. While it didn’t bring him the laudits that he had earned in recent years, it was truer to his own sense of what he wanted to be as a musician and a person, and that was what was important to him.

Bowie Reznor

My experience of Bowie was that he always seemed to have been striving towards discovering exactly what it was to be the best version of himself; trying something out, taking the best of it and the lessons it taught, then discarding the rest and moving on. He always came across as good humoured, honest, thoughtful and utterly, utterly grounded.

Even into his 60’s, when he could quite justifiably relax and put his feet up, he was not a man to ride his previous successes. His musical style was constantly evolving, and in the 90’s he largely retired the back-catalogue of hits that he could have continued playing and flogging for cash; it wasn’t what he wanted, so it wasn’t what he did.

As someone who is increasingly uncomfortable with being valued on my looks and appearance, I have really tried over the last few years to steer away from using physical attractiveness as the measure of the admiration I have for other people. However, with Bowie it is frankly unavoidable. Especially early on, a massive part of the stage persona was all about the visual, and he was quite simply one of the most beautiful, striking, captivating men I have ever laid my eyes upon.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Since his death, I have learned that he twice turned down the offer of honours from the Queen, because he didn’t want them. They meant nothing to him and they weren’t what he was making music for. He requested that after his death, he should be cremated with no fuss, no ceremony, no family, friends or media around him.

All things considered, David Bowie was the kind of human being that I prefer to have around, and that I try to be.

He released a new album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday. I had no idea he had even been working on new music, so it was a delightful surprise. It’s since become apparent that it was made with the knowledge of his impending death, and based on the one track I have heard, Lazarus, it seems to also be his goodbye.

I of course bought Blackstar. It’s been sat on the shelf under my PC. I am not even close to being ready to listen to it yet.

Goodbye David, you beautiful, glorious, most human of alien creatures.

Bowie 98

 

“If you should die before me, ask if you can bring a friend.”

Today I cried for a lost love. Not a lost love who ever knew anything about it, mind – but a lost love nonetheless.

Music is a funny thing, when you think about it. It doesn’t even really exist, except as a memory or an idea. When it is being played, it is simply energy, a vibration, waves of pressure changes being perceived by our brains. And yet, there is very little that moves me as deeply as music. It is not something that I just listen to, it is something that I feel and absorb. It soaks into my bones and it pulses through my veins. Whether it’s good or bad, it is always a powerful and emotional experience, and it often results in my forming powerful and emotional attachments to songs, and albums, and by extension the bands that create and perform them.

For me, as someone who struggles to invest in emotional bonds with real people, it’s an intimacy that nothing else can really come close to.

My first brush with Stone Temple Pilots was when they had a song featured on the soundtrack for The Crow in 1994. The luscious, golden voice of Mr Scott Weiland wrapped around me like honey, while the catchy, bouncy and at times dark music was perfectly tuned to how I felt about life at the time. It soaked into my brain and added a new shade to my thoughts and feelings. There is a section of my brain that will forever be Stone Temple Pilots coloured, and over 20 years later, nothing has changed about the way I feel listening to that music.

Needless to say, my little teenaged self was later delighted to discover that Weiland himself was an absolute vision to behold.

Scott Weilland

It’s easy to sneer at footage of young girls in the 60’s, shrieking and losing their shit over the Beatles, but I totally get where that passion is coming from. I was just a little quieter about it.

In the late 90’s, STP shifted direction musically and I found myself stepping away because they just didn’t resonate with me in the same way any more. I bought a solo single of Weiland’s when I was at college which I loved, and gave me hope for great things from him in the future.

Consequently, I was delighted to hear a couple of years later that Weiland was teaming up with Slash et al in Velvet Revolver… but when I first saw him in a new video, I was shocked into tears. I had never really been that aware of his drug problems prior to that, but the destruction wrought by addiction was instantly apparent, and was powerful and hard hitting.

Watching that gaunt, skeletal shade of Weiland, the reality of what he was struggling with was impossible to ignore. I couldn’t engage with Velvet Revolver after that; it was too painful to see what had clearly happened, and was in all likelihood continuing to happen. I have since seen interviews with him in recent years, and it was very clear that he was either still in the clutches of a problem, or that some real intense damage had been done.

This morning, I woke up to the news that Scott Weiland had been found dead on 3rd December in his tour bus in Minnesota. I cried then and there in my kitchen, and I have continued to do so on and off throughout the day. I have not heard – nor have I cared to look for – any further information on the circumstances. Was it a surprise though? No. Not to me, and I don’t imagine it was to anyone else. Does that make it any less painful? No.

This was a man that I did not know, and had never met. I genuinely cannot imagine multiplying these feelings up to the scale of the pain and heartache of having to watch family and friends go through this same tortuous fight. Not being able to help. Never knowing from one day to the next what news you yourself are going to wake up to.

This is a goodbye to a man who never knew the esteem I held him in. It is also an extension of my heart and my deepest, deepest sympathies to anyone who is fighting their own demons – but more importantly, to their people who are helplessly caught in the current.

That’s Not Metal!

That’s Not Metal Podcast – Soundcloud & iTunes

When I was a small child, I would get up off my bunk-bed after my mum and sister were asleep, put on my record player and massive headphones, and dance in the dark to More Than a Feeling by Boston. 30 years later, that song still makes me feel the same joy and childlike abandon, although I am less likely to bother getting out of bed these days.

Music has never been something that I just listened to; it’s something that I breathe in. I see songs playing in my mind. Music moves around underneath my skin, and touches me in ways and places that nothing else can – not even a double-entendre. There is no such thing as “background noise” for me. I find it impossible to tune bad sounds out; they make something in the middle of my head vibrate, and it drives me into a fizzing rage faster than anything else I can name. But when I hear something I like, wherever it is, it soothes me and draws me to it in the same way that the wafting cartoon smell-hand from a baked apple pie used to drag Tom the cat by his nose. I am, and always have been, deeply connected to music.

But a few years ago, I lost my way in life and in the process, I let massive parts of me drift away.

I got into a bad relationship. The details aren’t necessary, beyond the fact that I isolated myself away from everything that was important to me, and rejected a lot of the things that I was quietly steered into believing were bad about me. I cut myself off from everything that made me who I was, and I ended out as simply a mannequin with a bad wig. Except the wig was actually my real hair.

The weight of reality eventually caught up with me, and the relationship – belatedly – ended. As soon as that happened, I began the process of reclaiming myself. I spent most of 2014 grovellingly apologising to friends, ridding myself of a load of unhealthy ideas, and going to an obscene amount of gigs, catching up with the music that I loved. I began to breathe again.

Christmas 2014, and some little shitbag cut the cable from the old Sky dish I was using to pick up free channels. It was no loss, since I hardly watched TV, but it did mean I had to find something to fill the space left by BBC Breakfast. Enter TeamRock and Stephen Hill.

That radio show opened the door to a world of music that I had been missing. It was like going back in time to when mates would send you new songs on MSN messenger every day because they thought that shit was awesome and that you should listen to it too. It brought bands like While She Sleeps, Marmozets and Blood Command into my world and I loved it.

But then, September 2015, and the That’s Not Metal podcast – featuring Messrs Terry Bezer and Stephen Hill – turned up and kicked that recently opened music-door off its fucking hinges.

Beez and Stephen Hill have the same passion and joy for music that I have, but they have it squared. And fuck me, do they know what they are talking about. Between them, they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music, and whenever Stephen starts enthusing, I sit with a notepad scribbling down the band names that come tumbling out of his brain. He has forgotten more about metal than I will ever know.

What I also love is the spewing venom and hatred for bad music, that only comes from people who truly and deeply care. Honest, unbiased, intelligent debate over music, mixed with the sheer power of anger and disgust over musical charlatans and cynical money grabbers.

I think one of features I like the most is the Album Club, where each week they sit and talk about their personal thoughts and experiences with a particular classic album – good or bad – and I get entranced. I could happily listen to them talking for hours.

Of course there’s the swearing too. You all know how much I love swearing.

That’s Not Metal has very quickly become one of my favourite things, and I get excited about listening to the new podcast every week – I don’t normally get excited about anything that isn’t beer.

Whether it be stuff I had on tape but never got round to getting on CD, bands I have never heard of before, or albums that had simply passed me by, this podcast has filled my life with music. I drifted for a long time, and I genuinely cannot remember the last time I felt happier and more connected to the world outside my front door. I’m not actually kidding about the amount of music either – I have bought all of these CD’s in less than two months, off the back of the podcast:

Goodbye, Disposable Income

Goodbye disposable income

I offer genuine and heartfelt thanks to the That’s Not Metal boys, and a massive endorsement from me to everyone else; if you care – and you should – you need to get on this Podcast.

You’re welcome.

Vans Warped Tour UK, 19th October 2015, or “OMFG Frank Carter”

I haven’t been a fan of Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes for very long; I heard Juggernaut on TeamRock radio not two months ago and I was absolutely smitten. The album, Blossom, was reviewed on the That’s Not Metal podcast a couple of weeks later, and I bought the CD on the strength of the review. I was not disappointed.

Last week, I was looking for tickets to see them, and I noticed that they were part of the Vans Warped Tour in 7 days’ time…

uk-2015

I ummed and ahhed for a bit. Most of the lineup meant nothing to me… but I saw Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag, so figured there were going to be at least 3 bands I knew that I liked. I bought a ticket after not more than a few minutes deliberation, then sent an email to myself at work to remind me to book the day after as holiday. My boss has come to realise that holiday request = another gig.

So, Sunday rolls round and I rock up at the train station, where I am confronted by two immediate concerns;
1) there are a remarkable number of buses and staff in high-vis vests outside, and
2) I forgot to pick up my earphones on the way out of the door.

As for the buses; there were planned engineering works around Northampton, meaning a replacement bus service – but only as far as Milton Keynes, and in theory it should all have been completed by 7pm, well before I was due to come home. I was sceptical, but I’d cross that particular bridge when I got to it. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to get a taxi home from Milton Keynes because of London Midland trains.

The more pressing issue was the lack of earphones. I genuinely do not cope well with public transport, without the ability to surround myself with a shield of my own music. It called for an immediate trip to WH Smiths inside the station to buy another pair. I have an ongoing issue with poor short-term focus, one of the direct results of which being that this is the 7th pair of headphones that I currently own. Eventually, I suspect that I will have bought so many emergency pairs that my existence will be saturated with earphones. At some point it will be impossible for me to not have a pair with me at any given time.

20151018_113458

Ignore the gold paint on my fingers; I made a fake poo out of hot glue the night before. Yeah.

So, equipped with new earphones, I hopped onto the bus and found a seat that was so covered in glitter that it looked like a fairy had spoffed all over it. I can’t imagine what type of person would leave that kind of detritus behind them. Well, actually I CAN, and I don’t think we could be friends.

After taking a disproportionately long time to get to Milton Keynes – given that’s it’s only 15 minutes away – I eventually got onto the train to find no spare seats. While being by no means unusual, that still surprised me for a Sunday. I got to stand by the doors with people who smelled like they had been rolling in fried onions and smoking their little hearts out all night. Both of which things were entirely possible I guess.

To London! Alexandra Palace is a pretty straightforward journey from Euston; three stops north on the Victoria line, and then the W3 bus from outside Finsbury Park station right to the front doors. I unfortunately hadn’t paid attention to the actual stop I needed, so ended out getting off as soon as I saw ‘Alexandra Palace’ and had to walk the rest of the way.

Alexandra Palace – this is not my photo

I’d never been to the ‘Ally Pally’ before, and I was really quite taken with the building. I’m a simple creature, and impressive architecture makes me go a bit squiffy. I walked up the main stairs to the Palm Court entrance… and was confronted by a sea of people queuing to get in. Doors were supposed to have been at 2pm, so I was expecting everyone to already be inside. I of course did the common sense thing – I found a bench to sit my arse down on and wait for the queue to disappear.

I’d done a bit of investigation around some of the bands I wasn’t familiar with, and had come to the conclusion that I was likely to be at least double the average age of the rest of the audience. I wasn’t wrong. The throng of people waiting appeared to be an even mix of teens and pre-teens, and their parents. It was 90% tight black jeans (with and without knees), red and black plaid shirts, and anime haircuts.

The doors eventually opened at around 14:45, and after the herd had thinned out, I finally joined the back of the queue and got in a bit after 15:00. The inside of the Palace was amazing, and looked very much like something out of Bioshock.

Minus the Splicers, of course.

Minus the Splicers, of course. Also not my photo.

I had wondered how they were going to get through that many bands in one venue, but that question was answered as soon as I got the stage times listing, which had a convenient map on the back.

Warped Map

Handy floor plan, which cleared nothing up until you saw the timetable.

The two main areas had a pair of stages each, where bands would essentially tag-team in for a 30 minute set, while the next band were setting up beside them. I felt it worked really well, the venue inside was really clean and spacious, and was a thoroughly pleasant environment. It didn’t smell like piss at all, which did wrong-foot me for a while.

Lineup

I pretty much dismissed the two main stages.

I marked up who I wanted to see, and as it turned out, I had no real interest in what was going on in the Great Hall, besides walking through it to get the food court. While I was establishing all this, I had a major Fail. Over the last year or so, I’ve dropped my phone so many times (including into the bath) that I’ve become complacent and kind of assumed it was indestructible. Turns out, that’s not that case, and dropping your phone face first onto concrete is really not the one.

*sigh*

Bollocks.

Apparently not the end of the world though; 4 minutes and £8 later and I had a new screen coming from Amazon. I do not know what I would do without the internet.

Back to the music. All of the earliest sets seemed to be running a few minutes late, so there was a lot of trying to guess who I was actually watching at the start. I think the first set I caught was Twin Wild, but they had pretty much had finished by the time I got in and got my hands on some beer. Priorities.

There was a nice little side stage in a bar area away down some stairs, where I was able to capture a picture which I think encapsulates a large part of gig experiences for many;

View

Standard.

I floated around between the stages for a while and caught bits of sets from Tigress (I don’t normally groove to female vocalists, but these guys were pretty good), Forever Came Calling (seemed like they could have been good, and I am curious to check them out some more), Fearless Vampire Killers (would have been considerably improved had the singer’s mic been turned up enough to hear him. Or perhaps not…), and Metro Station (sounded good, but fairly generic to me). Later on I caught some of Beautiful Bodies set, and while I don’t really like to criticise, the singer sounded like an enthusiastic dog had gotten hold of a squeaky toy. Bad noise.

Something struck me while I was pottering around; there were a lot of tiny, tiny people there. I am by no means the tallest person in the UK, and there’s a fair chance that a lot of the kids there still hadn’t done their GCSE’s, but still. I stood in the queue for the ladies, and I felt like a giant. I had to resist the urge to fist-bump anyone who I could actually look in the eye.

The first band on my list that I really wanted to check out from a recommendation were Roam, but I couldn’t stay for the set because of the fucking lights. Seriously, lighting techs, will you knock this shit the fuck off?

No Need

Absolutely no fucking need.

Instead, I went back downstairs where I think Boy Jumps Ship were playing. They had been warming up since after Tigress finished, which suggests that Allusondrugs didn’t actually play their set, though I’m just guessing.

I headed back up later for Chunk! No Captain Chunk! who I’d caught before at Download, and I actually quite like. This was the second time they’d played somewhere I was already at, and they’re bright and cheerful and seem to be having a lot of fun. Also, their cover of Smashmouth’s Allstar is just infectiously happy.

Chunk! No Captain Chunk!

Happy bouncy French boys.

Next on my ‘to see’ list; back downstairs again to see Creeper. I’d recently bought an E.P., also on the recommendation of That’s Not Metal, and was particularly looking forward to hearing them playing a track called Novena. It was a great set, but punctuated by a very drunk ‘friend of the band’ – who’d already collared me once upstairs – who decided to make close acquaintance with a guy stood in front of me… and then subsequently with the floor, taking the guy’s pint with him.

Creeper4

Creeper – more gash photography.

Once more upstairs to catch a bit of Moose Blood while hovering excitedly by the stage where Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes were going to be up next. I have to be honest, Moose Blood left no impression on me whatsoever. They can’t have been bad because I would have remembered, but clearly my fizzing anticipation overruled any interest in what they were playing.

While we were waiting, I spotted this dude who is clearly in the running for Dad of the Year.

Winning.

Kzzinsky-Approved Parenting.

And then Frank Carter happened. I cannot say enough great things – I have a far better vocabulary for things that are awful – but this is definitely in the running for my favourite gig of the year so far. Frank’s energy, and venom, and getting properly stuck in with the crowd… I was fucking delighted when I found the following picture on my phone;

Frank Carter

Absolutely outstanding.

If you’ve been here a while, you will know the usual lamentable quality of the photos that come out of my phone, so this was an absolute joy. Also, check out the majestic sweep of the mohawk on the bottom right.

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Just fucking wonderful.

That was right before he kicked off a massive circle pit, which he stood right in the middle of, inciting his willing minions into the fray like an angry God.

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Here is a man who had his audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

Absolutely buzzing. If you could harness rage as an energy source, Frank Carter would be a fucking generator. The Rattlesnakes ended the set with “I Hate You” which is a beautifully angry, hateful, sweary ode to loathsome idiots. Glorious. Brought an absolute swell of delight to my heart.

There was no way that anyone was going top that for me, and I wandered off in a bit of a haze. Obviously the other stages were still running a bit behind schedule, because I was able to catch the end of Reel Big Fish, who should have finished before Frank Carter.

Reel Big Fish

Reel Big Fish

Anti-Flag were due to be on at 21:15 but I decided that given that my evening had already peaked, plus potential rail problems, I’d rather make sure I got back to Euston and make my way home a bit earlier.  I got out the front of the building and realised that this was probably where I should have gotten off of the bus on the way here…

The clues were subtle.

The clues were subtle.

Straightforward trip back to Euston, where I bagged a couple of ciders for the trip home – which was remarkably smooth, with none of the delays I had been anticipating. On the journey back, there was a notification on Twitter that Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes are playing at Dingwalls, Camden, in November… tickets go on sale Wednesday morning at 10am…

Well, it would be rude not to!

My Download 2015, Epilogue

Prev; Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

MONDAY

Monday dawned clear, dry, and reasonably warm. It ended out staying that way all day. You know, the precise weather that would have been ideal for any other day of the festival…

The clanking of tent poles and the smell of breakfast being cooked on bbq trays greeted my awakening. I took great pleasure in lying stretched out on my super-comfortable inflatable mattress and enjoying the gentle sunlight while I heated the water for my coffee in the porch section of my tent. How marvelously civilised.

All I had left to do was to take my tent down and head off home, but before I did that, I needed to embark on the last toilet experience of the festival – there was no way I was going to try and negotiate the mud and a tiny stinky cubicle with a tent and a rucksack. By this time on Monday (which could potentially have been the 6th day of use for any of these little shit-boxes) the Portaloos had reached Critical Mass. The entire block of toilets closest to Quiet camping, which already had been distinctly unpleasant the day before, had now been completely cordoned off.

Biohazard

The stewards were pointing everyone around the corner to Pink camping, where there was a row of 12 or 14 Portaloos, with a queue of about 20 people at either end. Tired looking campers clutching toilet rolls and Wet Wipes were working their way along the row of toilets, in turn opening the door, shuddering, and moving along to the next one.

In total, there were 2 toilets at my end of the queue that were actually being used. After 15 minutes of not moving very far, it became apparent that it was going to take a very long time to reach the only acceptable Portaloos. Also, given the volume of people who had to go before me, there was a good chance they were going to be just as bad as all of the others by the time I got there.

Emboldened by the ease of dealing with my toilet drama the other day, and having quite a strong stomach anyway, I asked everyone else in the line if there were any objections to me jumping the queue and trying one of the shitty, minging toilets that everyone else was rejecting. No-one minded, and I walked past a wave of awed and horrified glances, headed straight for an empty Portaloo.

Now, I say ’empty’… with all the layers of shit and toilet paper, it was like someone had dumped an industrial sized Tiramisu into the bowl.

Just add peanut butter and sesame seeds...

Just add peanut butter and sesame seeds for the full festival toilet experience.

There was no way a mere sandwich bag was going to help me out of this one. However, I had committed to this, and had to find a way to deal with it. I cast my eyes around what is a small, enclosed and normally barren space, but the Fates had conspired; I spotted a discarded Fosters can on the floor.

Yup. I used the empty can as a rudimentary plunger to slowly squeeze the mass of faeces and paper as far into the Portaloo cavity as possible, to make enough space for my own shit on top of it. I cannot think of a time in my life when I have done anything quite as unbelievably foul.

Afterwards, I used the last of my own roll of toilet paper to cover the entire mass, in much the same way as the emergency services cover expired car-crash victims with a sheet. I exited the toilet, and announced to the remaining queue, “Well, I wouldn’t recommend that…” and then strolled off with a nonchalance that I feel like I had genuinely earned.

I headed back to the tent and began the task of breaking camp. I knew by that point that I was simply not going to make two trips to the car to take all of my stuff back. I would have to consolidate as much as I could, and then go through the process of culling the things that a) I could do without, or b) wouldn’t cost much to replace. The first things on the cut list were my trainers.

Realistically, I had known since I came back from Trondheim that they should have already gone the way of all things, but on top of that they were still damp from Friday, and had also gathered a collection of snail trails inside the heels over the weekend. Thank you for your service, you are now dismissed.

I also decided to leave the double blow-up mattress, since I had another two at home. Also, by comparison to everything else, it was surprisingly heavy and most awkward thing I had bought with me. I really don’t like throwing anything serviceable away, but looking around the site – which was now just some vision of a dystopian future – there were tents everywhere that had just been left; one of the guys the day before had mentioned that a lot of the abandoned stuff gets given to charity after the festival, and that appeased my conscience a little.

Over the course of the last three days, I had become used to the sight of men taking a piss anywhere that someone else wasn’t already standing. While I was packing the tent up however, I saw something really rather impressive – a man taking a piss… and brushing his teeth at the same time. Get after it son! Check out your bad self.

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A definitive answer to the “Men and Multitasking” debate

Finally I got everything into a portable state. I rolled all of my bedding together and tied it to the top of my rucksack with a load of string that I just happened to have in a pocket. The only problem with that arrangement was that my little rucksack was in no way designed to carry additional loads in that manner.

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Fully – and badly – loaded

Within minutes of setting off, with my tent in one hand and a carrier bag full of pillows and a footpump in the other, the straps of my over-burdened rucksack started tearing into my shoulder blades like someone trying to over-enthusiastically help me out of a jacket.

I kept telling myself “Suck it up, Princess, you’ve got to get to the car to get home. It was a mantra very similar to the “Suck it up, Princess, you have to get to the campsite if you want to sleep tonight” from Friday. As difficult as it was, I made it through Quiet camping, through Pink camping, and up the steep metal track to Black camping before stopping. I am glad that the mud had dried out somewhat because I just dropped my bags at the top, and leaned against some metal fencing to let it take the weight of my rucksack.

It took a good few minutes to stop sweating and for my heart rate and breathing to slow back to somewhere approaching normal. I then did another leg through Black camping itself and into the main camping village. Here I had to stop again, and I decided that my bedding arrangement simply wasn’t working and needed an immediate review. I also remembered that I had a leftover can of Tuborg, which was clearly adding extra weight to my rucksack.

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It’s important to keep hydrated in hot weather.

I untied the bedding roll, added that to the hand with the pillows and footpump, and as much as the string from the bedding was then cutting into my hand, it was way more comfortable than what had previously been happening on my back.

All around me, there was a sea of people all drifting in the same direction, similarly loaded up, or dragging trolleys (more than a few that had actually lost wheels to the mud), limping, wincing and generally looking like that had been at a festival all weekend. I felt marginally better about myself.

Just after passing the main entrance, I spotted a discarded tent-pole bag lying in the dust. HAVING! I picked it up, folded it, and held it in my hand as a barrier between my tender flesh, and the carrier-bag handles/packing string that were trying to eat their way through it.

The road bridge over to the carpark was infinitely more daunting than it had been on Friday, but I pushed through and as soon as I got to the top, I could see that the parked vehicles had thinned out, and my trusty steed was in sight!

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I can see my car from here!!

The last stretch was definitely easier now that I could physically see the end point, but I still had to stop halfway to shake my hands out and catch my breath. One thing that had struck me on the walk was the sheer volume of dead shoes everywhere. Wellies, trainers, boots, sandals, there were quite literally pairs discarded every few metres.

…there was also a whole smashed up watermelon in the car-park, which was a little more confusing.

I finally made it back to my little baby-car, stuffed everything onto the passenger seat and kicked my wellies off. I don’t think my driving seat has ever been more comfortable.

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All done!

Download 2015 was a festival of two extremes for me. The music was fantastic, but the physical experience was shocking. The musical high points of my weekend;

  • Clutch
  • Faith No More
  • Evil Scarecrow
  • The Qemists
  • In Flames

Bands I’d like to follow up on/see live;

  • Emp!re
  • Code Orange
  • Rene LaVice
  • Lamb of God
  • Enter Shikari

Things I need to do for next Download;

  • Get a campervan
  • Wear suitable shoes
  • Get there really early
  • Bring a chair

…holy fuck, I’m actually getting old.

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Bedraggled, sweaty, dusty, exhausted… and old.

My Download 2015, Part 3

Prev; Part 1 Part 2 Next; Epilogue.

SUNDAY

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…

Wonderful. Look, there's deer and shit.

Just look at it. Look! There’s deer and shit!

Even my little nest looked more cozy in the sunshine.

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Let’s be honest, this is the tidiest any bed of mine has ever been.

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…

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Also, I watched a fly do a shit on my tent. For real.

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.

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“When there is no peril in the fight, there is no glory in the triumph.” “Bollocks to that, I wish I’d bought less stuff…”

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.

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Main arena stayed navigable for considerably longer than the camping areas.

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.

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Brock Lindow ❤

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.

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Absolutely glorious!

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.

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Robototron personified.

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…

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They do look like a bunch of kids who’ve just wandered out of garage somewhere, but wow…

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.

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Also, good hair.

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.

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Another band that sound like 2004 to me.

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.

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Still as good a performer as always. And frankly looks no different either.

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've adjusted the contrast to give you the full impact. God I love big hair.

I absolutely salute anyone who has hair wider than their body. Amazing.

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.

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Energy and passion for days.

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 just cannot fucking abide Myles Kennedy’s voice.

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.

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Sorely tempted to go and dive into the pit…

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.

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Commanding.

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.

Written in mud on the back of the door,

Written in mud on the back of the door; “NO TOILET ROLL. R.I.P SOCKS 😦 “