Category Archives: Gigs

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.

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“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.

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.

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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.

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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.

20150614_161416

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.

20150614_170027

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.

20150614_182708

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 😦 “

My Download 2015, Part 2.

Prev; Part 1. Next; Part 3. Epilogue.

SATURDAY

I woke up properly around 7:00 on Saturday and it was still raining, which was a good 12 hours of precipitation by that point. The sound of it pattering against the tent had provided some nice background white noise throughout the night, which meant I had slept more or less undisturbed. That is, of course, not including the time when I lay very still and ignored the officials who turned up outside, complaining about the huge tent that had mysteriously appeared next to mine. I am still not certain why they didn’t moan about where I had pitched mine, but I am fairly sure it had a lot to do with not actually being able to get hold of me. Rock up, pitch up, fuck off – there’s a lesson there for all of us.

While I sat hoping that the rain was going to subside, I rustled up some breakfast in the form of spicy noodles – which probably meant I was going to have spicy noodle flavoured coffee the next morning, but hey-ho.

Om nom nom.

Om nom nom.

Next on the agenda came the portaloos. Oh god, the portaloos. Since you’re here in my blog, you may already know that I am not going to spare you the details, but if you wish to skip forward a paragraph or two, frankly I wouldn’t blame you.

The portable toilet facilities were really badly designed in my opinion. In the past, I have been used to the toilet being a big plastic box with a big hole, and a toilet seat perched on top of it all. Grim, graphic, but does the job. This year the design included a built-in toilet bowl – a very shallow toilet bowl – with quite a narrow hole at the front for your DOINGS to get flushed into.

The fundamental design flaw became apparent when there was not enough water pressure on the flush, and your DOINGS didn’t go anywhere… Now, the toilet roll that I carry around with me when travelling has a load of polythene sandwich bags stuffed into the middle of the cardboard tube, from last year when I was out in the middle of the forest…

You can see where this is going already, can’t you?

YES. I had to put my hand inside a sandwich bag and encourage my own shit into the hole in the front of the portapotty bowl. They say childbirth is a real leveller; I am fairly sure this was pretty much up there, as life-events go.

I had been debating earlier whether I was even going to venture out to the arena that early in the day due to the weather. By this stage of the game though – with the toilet experience under my belt – rain was simply not going to be a problem. I left my hoodie in the tent because it wasn’t cold outside, and anyway, bare arms would dry quicker than clothes. On went the wellies and the plastic poncho, and I set off for the arena.

I was very clear that I had absolutely no intention of wandering back and forth from the tent like I had the day before, so anything I thought I might want went with me…

Geared up for the mud, complete with cowbell attachment...

Geared up for the mud – complete with cowbell suspended in a carrier bag from a belt loop.

The extent of the mud that had appeared overnight was pretty shocking.

Lovely weather for... erm, what likes mud again? Pigs? Pigs.

Lovely weather for… erm, what likes mud again? Pigs? Pigs.

Based on the lessons learned from the previous evening, I decided that I needed to buy a hat to hold the poncho hood down – and remembered one that had caught my eye the day before but I hadn’t had an excuse to buy at the time…

I genuinely love this hat.

Despite my expression, I genuinely love this hat.

As for the rest of the day, I had a full schedule marked up, of course kicking off with – and punctuated regularly by – pints of Tuborg. First up, the Maverick stage. [As usual, where I didn’t get pictures of my own, I have used other far better photos and linked the source page]

Chunk! No Captain Chunk! (11:55 – 12:25 Maverick Stage)

I went to see these guys on the strength of their name alone. They are young, French, and the singer knows how to work a crowd. Inoffensive – if I was 20 years younger I would probably really like them.

Mallory Knox (12:50 – 13:30 Main Stage)

I was a bit taken aback by Mallory Knox. I can only name one of their songs – Getaway, which is a total earworm, by the way – but I have a bit of thing for ginger’s and I totally fancy the singer now.

It was partway through being in a ginger-trance that I realised that the TeamRock cowbell-off was supposed to be happening. I hurried my arse on over to the TeamRock trailer in time to join in with enthusiasm to the end of what could generously be called “a fucking racket”. I did manage to meet JRock and Pete Bailey, who very nicely pretended to remember me from Twitter-spamming the station.

Then I came across my first scheduling dilemma of the day; Apocalyptica (13:30 – 14:40 Encore Stage) versus Emp!re (13:30 – 13:55 Jake’s Stage). On the basis that I already knew I liked Apocalyptica, and I had only heard of Emp!re on a list of 10 recommended drummers to see at Download, I decided I would head off to Jake’s stage to check out the band I didn’t know. I was not disappointed.

Vocals like a cross between Skin from Skunk Anansie and Benji Webb from SKindred

Emp!re; vocals like a cross between Skin from Skunk Anansie and Benji Webbe from Skindred.

I will very definitely be keeping an eye out for more Emp!re shows, because I liked them a lot.

Hands Like Houses (13:45 – 14:15 Maverick Stage)

Based on the running joke amongst my friends that I have massive man-hands, I thought it was only appropriate to check out Hands Like Houses. They didn’t set my world alight, but they didn’t upset my ears either.

Not much to say about these guys. Australian. Inoffensive.

Not much to say about these guys. Australian. Inoffensive.

Hollywood Undead (14:00 – 14:40 Main Stage)

Hollywood Undead are what we in the UK would refer to as a Marmite band; you’ll either love them or hate them. I always liked them, but thought that they were a bit of a joke band, sending up a lot of rap and youth culture. I think that’s still true, but I was impressed with the live show and I thought that a lot of the lyrics were quite clever and ironic. I have since discussed them with a friend who is also a fan, and his interpretation is that they are just showing off… I had of course been drinking for the better part of 4 hours, so perhaps best not to take my opinion too seriously.

I like Hollywood Undead and I don't care what you say.

I like Hollywood Undead and I don’t care what you say.

I then had a bit of time-killing until Rise Against, so I’d highlighted a few more bands that I’d only heard mentioned on the radio;

Upon A Burning Body (14:40 – 15:10 Maverick Stage)

Didn't leave much of a mark on my memory if I am honest.

Didn’t leave much of a mark on my memory if I am honest.

I was due to go and see Testament (15:20 – 15:50 Encore Stage) but I genuinely have no idea what I was doing. I did eat a lot of food that day, and I think that a vegetable burrito from Goodness Gracious Healthy Foods was probably involved. Followed by some chips. And an ice-cream.

Northlane (15:35 – 16:05 Maverick Stage)

I feel like I should have enjoyed these more, but without my full buy-in, the pain from my feet was really beginning to overwhelm my thinking, and I just ended out fidgeting my way through the set.

Again, nothing to really say.

Think I might give these another go at some point.

Rise Against (16:25 – 17:15 Main Stage)

Now this who I had been really waiting for. I saw Rise Against back in November last year for the first time ever, and was blown away. Despite being blinded by the lighting guy at Brixton Academy who has a massive hard-on for really bright sweeping lights, it was probably the best gig that I had seen in years – this was no less slick a performance. God, I love Rise Against.

Rise Fucking Against!

Rise Fucking Against!

Dub War (17:40 – 18:05 Jake’s Stage)

Dub War were basically the forerunners for Skindred, and since I had missed Skindred themselves at Camden Rocks a fortnight previously, I was looking forward to getting to see Mr Webbe do his thang at Download.

…not a fucking chance.

Packed out, this was as close as I could get.

Packed out, this was as close as I could get.

Bodycount (18:45 – 19:25 Maverick Stage)

Bodycount are dark as fuck. Heavy metal, rap, thrash, hardcore motherfuckers, and Ice T is a legend. Had to chip off early for FNM which was a bit of a shame.

Ice T...who also had his son on-stage. Thanks, because I didn't feel old enough as it was...

Ice T…who also had his son on-stage rapping with him. Thanks, because I didn’t feel old enough as it was…

Faith No More (19:05 – 20:15 Main Stage)

I saw Faith No More for the first time last year. I spoojed about it in another blog so I won’t go on, but this gig was better – felt a lot more like they were being themselves, where I get the impression they were told to behave a certain way last year… for whatever reason, as good as they were musically, there was an element missing that was only apparent seeing them again at Download. I fucking love FNM.

Faith No More being Epic. Hahahha, see what I did there?

Faith No More being Epic. Hahahha, see what I did there?

Marilyn Manson (21:00 – 22:10 Encore Stage)

This was probably the biggest clash of the weekend for me. I had to decide between this and Muse (21:05 – 10:50 Main Stage), and while I know they put on an awesome show, I’ve seen them before where I hadn’t seen Mr Manson.

I wasn’t able to get very close, but I don’t think that made much difference in the long run. I was actually quite disappointed. There were a lot of lights and noise and fanfare at the start, and he flounced out seeming very pleased with himself. Oddly though, the stage kept going dark and silent between tracks; I don’t know whether he was off powdering his nose, or having a self-congratulatory wank between songs. It seemed very much about him celebrating himself, without any crowd interaction that I noticed – yes Marilyn, we’re all here because we like you, but it needs to be a bit more of a two-way exchange for my money. It might have picked up later, but at the best of times I have all the focus of a 5 year old child drinking blue Panda Pops.

The stage kept going dark and silent. I don;t know whether he was powdering his nose, or have a self congratulatory wank between songs.

Not as impressed as I wanted to be.

I very quickly wished I had gone to see Muse instead. There was a stone-baked pizza stand facing the Encore stage, and I wandered off for yet more food while I was watching. Once the Margherita was gone however, I had run out of things to keep my attention. I did stick my head around the corner at the other stage, but there was no way I was getting close at all, and I decided it was time to pack it in for the night.

The blister I had picked up the day before had grown and was now working its way up between my toes. The urgent message from my feet was that I needed to sit the fuck down, as soon as realistically possible, and I was inclined to agree.

My Download 2015, Part 1

Next; Part 2. Part 3.  Epilogue.

First of all, let me set the tone for this blog series by telling you that the single most comfortable point of my whole weekend was taking a shit, on Sunday afternoon, while Lamb of God were playing. The Portaloos around the main arena were astonishingly clean, inside was dry and out of the wind, I could hear the music from the Encore stage…and it was the first time I had got to sit down all day. Bliss.

And for those of the TL;DR persuasion – rain, mud like I’d never seen before, shitty Portaloos like I had never seen before, aching feet like I had never felt before, **take a chair if you ever go to Download – seriously**, the most epic of bands IMO were Clutch, Emp!re, Qemists, Evil Scarecrow, Rise Against, Faith No More and In Flames.

You’re welcome.

FRIDAY

I have been excited about Download since I booked my ticket, to the point that I had been little more than a whirlwind of SQUEEEEEEEE for about a week and a half. The weather forecast had been swaying between baking hot sun all weekend, and out-and-out monsoon rains. I did the only sensible thing when packing for any British festival.

...because you genuinely never know.

…because you genuinely never know.

As soon as the stage times were released, I sat and put everything into an Excel spreadsheet to work out who I wanted to see, where I wanted to be, and to agonise over any clashes.

'potant bidness

‘potant bidness

I knew that on the Friday, I needed to be at the main stage for 13:45 to see Hell Yeah. What with Donington Park being not much more than an hour’s drive from me, I planned on leaving at some time between 8:00 and 9:00 to give myself plenty of time for setting up the tent and my bed, and to sandwich a few beers into the afternoon.

I actually left at 9:10 which was tardy by my usual standards, but even factoring in the massive expanse of 50mph restrictions on the M1, and not pushing my car over 60mph any way, I still got there by 10:30. Parking was really straightforward, the stewards were friendly, and the sun was shining. I had too much stuff to realistically carry in one trip, so I loaded myself up with the tent and the inflatable mattress et al, and would come back for my clothes/water/sleeping bag/pillows once everything was in place. And yes, I like to be comfortable when I am camping, don’t judge me.

Everything about Download this year was so well organised; there was a cashless payment system implemented throughout the site, there was an app which you could use to set up reminders for your own personalised schedule, to link up with your friends, and there was also a site map linked to GPS so you could always find where you were. The biggest genius feature for me was that it allowed you to put ‘pins’ in the map – really handy for marking where the hell you left your car.

Bottom right is my car, top left is my tent. About as far apart as it was physically possible to be.

Bottom right is my car, top left is my tent. About as far apart as it was physically possible to be.

To get from the south carpark to the gates, there was a bridge that went over the A453, and by the time I has reached the top of said bridge, I was beginning to get an idea that I might have made an error of judgement. My tent (about 7kg) does not get the chance to get heavy between my front door and my car. Schlepping it uphill through a grassy field and over a road bridge by decidedly uncomfortable handles however is a very different story.

The last time I was at Download was 2004, and I wasn’t camping – entry had been as simple as walking up to the main gates, through a bit of hairpin queuing and then in. Not so much this time. I joined the back of a mass of people with tents and trolleys and backpacks and cases. I say mass, because there was no suggestion of any sort of system. There was a section of the approach road, maybe 10m wide, which had been separated with metal barriers, where we all stood in the dust and the sunshine and waited. And waited. And then waited some more. I had assumed that the corral would funnel down with people going through and having their tickets exchanged for the cashless wristbands, but there was no indication of any movement.

This, with a few more sleeping bags.

This, but with a few more sleeping bags.

There was a forward surge of people around 11:30 and then it all stopped again. Just before 12:00 there was another wave of movement and I was close enough to see that they appeared to be letting people through in staggered groups rather than a steady trickle – security were checking all bags and cases, and it was taking quite some time.

By the time I got through security, I was hot, sweaty and dusty. I had CRYSTALS forming on my face. One thing that you don’t get from the map on the app (ha! Map on the App…) is the actual scale of the site. You only truly appreciate that when you’re having to walk it, laden with bags… in the beating sunshine… in trainers that you KNEW you should have thrown away after the last trip to Norway…

To get to the campsite, I had to walk through the camping village just north-east of the circuit… and then over hills and fucking dales. I am not even kidding. Walking downhill between the Gold and Black sites was so steep it was dangerous – there were people falling over, carts tipping stuff all over the ground, and I was struggling to understand the gravity-defying angles that some of the tents were pitched at.

When I turned the corner at the bottom into the Yellow camping site, a lovely, well laid-out space unfolded in front of me. Well laid-out – and also FULL. The place was heaving. There was a metal ridged walkway in place diagonally through to the Quiet camping at the back, were I was booked to be staying.

Which was also full.

Throw in a couple of flags...

Throw in a couple of flags…

I walked around the entire space and there was nowhere to fit anything larger than a one-man pop-up tent. One of the edges of the Quiet camping that I walked up was so steep that I struggled to get up it with the tent and also the general sweaty-tired-my-feet-are-broken-ness I was experiencing. I got to the top corner, as far away from where I started as it was possible to get, and was gutted because there was STILL no space. What the hell was I supposed to do? I had PAID to be here, but there wasn’t a HERE to be at.

Each camping zone was marked out with white painted lines on the ground that indicated the area inside which everyone was supposed to pitch their tents. However, there was nothing anywhere that said you had to be inside the white lines, so me and three couples in the same position shrugged, said “Fuck it.” and set up camp over the lines. I tried not to be an arsehole to the people who already had their tents up, but it had reached the point where I was so pissed off and grumpy that I would have fought someone if they challenged me. AND I STILL HAD ANOTHER LOAD OF STUFF TO BRING FROM THE CAR.

By this point, it was just gone 13:00. I knew I wanted to be in the main arena in 45 minutes, so I decided to down tools, grab a beer, and get the rest of the stuff later.

It's not very often I can say that I earned my beer...

It’s not very often I can say that I earned my beer…

Again, I didn’t really understand the layout of the festival, and to get to the arena I had to walk all the way back to the main gates and then walk parallel to the race circuit itself. I know from experience that when walking across different gradients, I can cover 3.3 miles in 57 minutes. It took me 40 minutes from tent to arena, which I worked out to be about 2 miles. It was about the same distance to the car. Holy fuck.

I eventually got to the arena at 14:10 so I had pretty much missed all of Hell Yeah.

Vinnie Fucking Paul!

Vinnie Fucking Paul!

I didn’t really know any of their music, but I did know that it was Vinnie Paul on drums so that marked them as a band I wanted to check out. Watching them, I was scratching my head and thinking that I knew the singer. A quick Google search proved that it was in fact Chad Gray from Mudvayne. Definitely one to add to The List, and probably wouldn’t have appeared on my radar if I hadn’t seen them on the bill here.

I had been quite keen to check out At The Gates (14:35 – 15:05 Main Stage) and Blues Pills (14:50 – 15:25 Encore Stage) but I knew that I still had to get another load of stuff to the tent and Friday was all about Clutch (16:40 – 17:25 Main Stage) and so I needed to get there and back before that time.

And so I began the whole round trip again. It was even more hard work the second time, but I knew that once it was done I could settle in and not worry about it… OR SO I THOUGHT. As I reached the top of the epic slope in Quiet camping, I could see two officials in high visibility vests talking to one of the other people who had pitched their tents outside the lines earlier. I could hear them saying that basically they weren’t supposed to be there, and they would need to move a few guy ropes… I opened the front of my tent, threw the rest of my stuff in, closed up and walked off the other direction as quickly as I could. If I needed to move the damned thing later I would, but I refused to miss Clutch, so didn’t have the time to deal with it right then.

This time, I got back to the arena sufficiently early to grab a beer and get to the stage before Clutch started. I didn’t get any pictures of my own, so you’ll just have to accept this far superior image instead.

Clutch were amazing, and one of my favourite acts of the whole weekend. There was some impressive Cowbell work going on, and I was taking tips due to this…

Crowd funded cowbell, splendid.

Crowd funded cowbell, splendid!

Moose and JRock (TeamRock DJ’s) had started a crowdfunding campaign to get a load of cowbells at Download. Long story, but I was always going to be a part of that, let’s be honest. I collected my very own instrument and was mightily pleased about it. There was a planned cowbell-off for Saturday afternoon, and it was bound to be both epic, and ridiculous.

I had wanted to see Modestep (16:50 – 17:30 Encore Stage) but HELLO Clutch – I am sure I will get the opportunity to catch up with them in the future. I had my first true clash of bands that I was struggling to decide between with Sylosis (17:45 – 18:25 Maverick Stage) and Corrosion of Conformity (17:55 – 18:35 Encore Stage)… however by that point, I was so worried about getting back and finding my tent had been moved, that I decided it was better to go back and deal with the situation then rather than later in the evening, and didn’t end out seeing either of them.

Back I went to the campsite…to find my tent exactly where I had left it, and no officials to be seen. Fuck. Also good. But still, fuck.

So, once more headed back to the arena, and my feet were throbbing. I had taken a handful of painkillers but I very obviously had a massive blister on the ball of my left foot, and I’d be lucky if I hadn’t got one on the right as well. I got back in time to see the start of Judas Priest (19:20 – 20:20 Main Stage) and they were brilliant. I have caught up with a few old school metal bands in the last year or so and I am consistently surprised by how good they still are.

By this time, it had started to rain reasonably heavily, so the phone (therefore also the camera) was staying firmly in the pocket. As good as Priest were, I was cold, wet and grumpy; I had a plastic emergency raincoat and wellies that I had brought with me, but I had been seduced by the hot and sunny weather. All of my appropriate gear was consequently still in my tent. I ended out – along with half of the arena – flocking to the stalls and buying another plastic poncho.

My trainers were soaked, my hoodie was wet, my hair was dripping. The hood of my poncho kept falling off my head so I had to hold it in place with one wet, cold hand. I worked out that I had walked in the region of 16 miles that afternoon. I had an hour to wait for Slipknot to start.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I had seen Slipknot in February, and I was so over the day that there was no way I was standing around for another two hours before then having a 40 minute walk to get back to the tent. I fucked off early and bought some beers from the off-licence stall. I never ended out drinking them, but it’s nice to have a comfort blanket.

I did however hear Thunder doing Love Walked In on the walk back, which is the only track of theirs I can name, so that was nice.

My first tent-related adventure of the year

To my chagrin, I ran out of holiday allowance from work last November. While waiting for the holiday year to restart in April, I got very excited and booked up to do a load of things once I was free again. It helped to pass the time and even marginally eased my itching feet with the anticipation of Doing Stuff. It seems that for 2015, at least 50% of those things I decided to go and do involve camping.

The first of them occurred on Friday, and in it’s simplest form; I went to a pub somewhere to watch some dudes play some music. Now, let me elaborate on that to make it a little more exciting.

Back in February, I was playing music videos on Youtube on a Saturday evening, as I often tend to do. This particular evening, I started playing some Squeeze, and got totally caught up for a few hours. Now, you will either immediately know who Squeeze are, or you won’t, and that is more than likely going to be dictated by how old you are. Even if you don’t immediately know the name, I can pretty much guarantee you will know some of their songs. Here’s a few to jog your memory, with the last one being the particular video that started this little adventure;

Now, Squeeze have always been really good at layering bright and happy music over the top of surprisingly deep, heartfelt and sometimes bleak lyrics. This is the collective genius of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook. However, due to a lack of on-demand video services in the 80’s, this was the first time I had actually seen the videos, and a couple of things struck me;

  1. I totally fancy Glenn.
  2. Squeeze seem like exactly the kind of people that I like to spend time with.

“A shame then,” I thought, “that I’m not 20 years older!”, because I get the feeling that their gigs must have been a blast. But that got me wondering… a load of older bands are still touring… and enough, with not too much digging about, I found that there were indeed a few select dates where they were playing this year! After ruling out most of the later dates due to distance and other commitments, I decided that sod it, I was going to go to one of the two warm-up shows – either Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire or Ilminster in Somerset.

Henley-on-Thames, while being much closer, screams ‘posh’ and given my tendency to look like I slept under a bridge last night, that made me feel a little uncomfortable. The venue in Ilminster – the Square & Compass pub – not only looked much less like a place I would get refused entry to, but also had a place to camp for £12 a night.

Deal well and truly done.

So Friday 8th May rolled around, and I had booked the day off work to allow for the travel. It’s a 350 mile round trip, and with the best will in the world – and a car that I don’t like to push much above 60mph for fear of tripping out a fuel sensor [happened before, not fun] – it was going to take me more than the 3 hours Google maps suggested to get there.

The other thing that makes me nervous about going on long trips with my car is the tendency for the clutch cable to sheer off at the hook from the underside of the clutch pedal. That happens on at least a biennial basis, and it’s about due to go again by my reckoning. However, fortune favours the brave so I figured what the hell – worst case scenario, I have Green Flag recovery and rescue…

Based on the very good chance that my car might at some point during the trip be fucked, I’d rather not be on the motorway, so I chose to travel via the more minor roads; A43/M40/A43/A303.

You're welcome.

…you’re welcome.

Now, for those of you who have never experienced traveling on this particular route, there is something that you need to know. Somewhere buried deep under Oxford, there is an ancient and wholly evil entity. It slumbers still, but it’s very presence distorts time and space in a radius of about 25 miles in any direction. The journey from Towcester to Newbury is about 60 miles but always takes twice as long as it realistically should. I hate the A43/A34 combo.

R'lyeh; not in fact in the southern Pacific ocean, rather, central southern England...

R’lyeh; not in fact in the southern Pacific ocean, rather, central southern England.

Speaking of evil, I also had the A303 to content with. The whole section of road that goes past Stonehenge is a absolute piece of shit. There is a massive stretch of dual carriageway which for reasons I have not been able to fathom, suddenly gets filtered down into one lane, and has never failed to leave me stuck in traffic for an inexplicable length of time. Also, normally in a car that doesn’t respond well to being stuck in traffic.

The first time this happened was 20 years ago – in a big old beige Cavalier that overheated horribly if you dropped below 5 miles an hour for any length of time at all. This time, in a Fiat Seicento which (in addition to all the previously mentioned potential issues) loses the ability to get into gear, in increments, as it heats up. Sit still in traffic for a couple of minutes in the sunshine, and you can say goodbye to 1st gear. I have at one point in the past had to pull away uphill in 4th because it was literally the only gear I could get.

Anyway, swearing, frustration and sphincter-clenching fear about something breaking any-time-now aside, the journey was otherwise really straightforward and the pub was dead easy to find. It was a lot smaller than I expected, and once I arrived, there were signs directing all cars to park in the field to left. As I pulled in, there were a couple of motorhomes in the top left corner, and what looked like it was probably a tour bus up in the top right.

The pub itself was shut but I wandered around the back and found a nice lady who I paid for the camping, and who instructed me to set my tent up somewhere near the others.

And there began the fun of actually putting my tent up. I had last done so around 3 years ago, and I remembered it being surprisingly easy, which to be fair it was… it’s just… BIG. Those of you with a lot of hair will understand the nuisance of sleeping in a small tent and waking up with a cold, wet head where your hair has made contact with the sides in the middle of the night. Also, there’s that floor area thing, where all tents seem designed by what I can only assume are very small people with no issues about personal space.

With all that in mind, I bought a 4-man tent from Costco a while back. It’s absolutely marvelous… once it’s up. I realised immediately that there were more tent-poles than I remembered, and way less tent-pegs. I approached the task with confidence, but eventually conceded that it was all going wrong somehow, and had to back-track and reassess the structure of the tent. I worked out where the fourth tent-pole came into play and it all started coming together. As for the missing tent-pegs, I had to root around in my car and apply some ingenuity.

Marvellous.

Marvellous.

No, I don’t know why I had a coathanger in my car. I also don’t know why there was a belt and broken pair of sunglasses under the passenger seat either, but I snapped the arms off the glasses and used them as substitute pegs on the inside of the tent where they wouldn’t be quite as subject to the elements.

I had also brought a double inflatable mattress, because I could. I am not one of those hardcore, bivouacing types; I bought a sheet for the mattress, pillows, and if I’d realised it was going to be as cold, I’d have thrown a sodding duvet in the car as well. I have a foot pump for inflating the mattress, but since I was inside a tent and couldn’t stand up, I had to operate it by hand. Imagine giving CPR to a wheezy yellow triangle and you’ve got the picture.

Eventually tent, bed, snacks, water and new camping stove thing for morning coffee were all in place and I felt proper chuffed with myself. All done 5 minutes before the pub opened. Magic.

I could actually get used to this.

Bed here, pub 30 seconds away. I could totally get used to this.

Inside, the pub was pretty much devoted to food, which meant lots of tables, but nowhere to sit if the barstools were occupied. I perched my arse on the piano [sue me] and observed. The Square & Compass was a very nice little place, and very much the quintessential British pub; horse brasses, plates and Toby jugs suspended from the ceiling, paintings of horses in various stages of movement, a black and white photo of the pub back int’ day, and a pleasantly worded threat;

Much nicer than

Much more traditionally British than “If your fucking dog shits in the garden again, I will shoot it”.

An hour later, the hall at the back opened and everyone retreated for some much needed breathing space, plus hopefully a seat. It was a reasonably big space based on first impressions of the pub, and the perma-bunting and fairy lights suggested it was often a wedding venue. I grabbed a pint of San Miguel and retreated to the corner. There were a few of these notices up on the walls;

Wow.

Wow.

Glass?? Gives you an indication of the usual clientele; I don’t remember the last time I went to a music venue where the patrons were trusted with anything more dangerous than nerve-wrackingly flexible plastic.

The actual gig didn’t start until 9pm, so there was some time to kill, and I found my self happily singing along to a soundtrack of my early 90’s;

Paul Weller – Wild Wood
Crowded House – Weather With You
George Michael – Heal The Pain
Beautiful South – Prettiest Eyes
The Connells – 74/75
Crash Test Dummies – Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
Del Amitri – Driving With The Brakes On
Aztec Camera – How Men Are
World Party – Is It Like Today?
The Wannadies – You & Me Song
Sheryl Crow – Run Baby, Run
Cranberries – Linger
The Levellers – Julie
Radiohead – High & Dry

I was thoroughly enjoying myself just standing around drinking, listening and singing. Something became massively apparent very quickly; besides one of the barmen who couldn’t legally have bought his own alcoholic beverage, I was the youngest person there by quite a stretch. I was clearly looking at a whole different generation in front of me. Which I guess made sense, given that Squeeze were initially doing their thing between 1974 and 1982, and I wasn’t born until 1978. I didn’t feel out of place, or even uncomfortable, but it was very obvious that I was way off the curve – even more so than I am used to.

Time ticked by and the venue slowly filled up, and when I say filled up, I mean it. It was truly packed. I know it was sold out, and I would hazard a guess there was probably 250 people there… given the tickets were £25 a pop, I would say a decent amount of money changed hands that night.

20150508_204911

Nice venue actually

There was a guy stood near me who I would swear was Ralph Ineson, who played Chris Finch in the office. I kept trying to get a good enough look to be sure, but he kept looking back in an odd way – I couldn’t decide whether it was a ‘Yes, I AM that guy, what of it?’ look or a ‘…why is there a girl in combat shorts and a hoodie here?’ look.

Sans 'tache.

Sans ‘tache.

When Chris and Glenn took to the stage, there was a wave of joy and adulation that rolled through the crowd. There was such a good atmosphere, and I hate to say it – I think I might be getting old; I genuinely appreciated that everyone just stood around, singing and enjoying themselves without being drunk dickheads.

I don't know why I still bother trying to take photos at gigs...

I don’t know why I still bother trying to take photos at gigs…

These guys were honestly amazing. Album perfect vocals and guitar, and I genuinely remember thinking at one point, “…what did the rest of the band actually DO?” That wonderful interplay of Tilbrook’s vocals and Drifford’s lyrics worked it’s magic over us and everyone sang along the whole evening, enchanted. They knew how to deliver exactly what their audience wanted, and it was one of the most enjoyable gigs I have been to.

I would thoroughly recommend that if you get the chance to see them at any of their other dates, do so. When the rest of the band join them later on in the year, it will only add to the awesome.

I made my way back to my tent after the gig, and to my delight it was still there. That mattress is exceptionally comfortable. The only downside – it was fucking freezing.

As a rule, I don’t get cold, especially when I have had a few beers. In fact, I am fairly renowned for being a bit of a radiator. All of that said, I woke up after an hour or so and my skin was cold to the touch. I got up and got dressed again before climbing back into the sleeping bag, and was still borderline uncomfortable. I think because this tent has two layers, the wind was coming in under the waterproof outside layer and straight through the mesh of the inner one. Ah well, lesson learned for Download!

I did however manage a solid 6 hours sleep – which for me is almost unheard of; must have been the fresh air. I woke up and dozed for a bit, before getting up and breaking out the new camping stove.

Perfect.

Perfect.

My sister bought me a load of survival bits and pieces for Christmas, and this fancy-pants cup was part of the pack; I have caffeine sensitive migraines, so getting coffee down my neck is a genuine need for me. The sweetheart not only bought me the cup, but a jar of coffee to go in my survival pack too. I love her.

I bought myself a little fold-out camping stove, and paired it with a heatproof plate that fell off of my ironing board years ago. Altogether, I had a freshly brewed coffee to start my morning with, and then to top it off, the sun came out.

Glorious.

Glorious.

On my way home, I stopped in to visit a friend in Yeovil who I haven’t seen in probably 5 years. I had been toying with the idea of crashing with her that night, but after almost literally freezing my arse off the night before, I was craving a hot bath so headed home a bit after 4pm.

I made it back to Northampton with nothing breaking/falling off of/combusting inside of my car, with an awesome Friday and Saturday under my belt.

Bring it on Festival Season, I’m ready for you!