I am back from the annual weekend of excellence that is known as Download Festival.
This year was my first year with disabled access. I did not book in time to receive viewing platform access (sadly), but had use of the charging facilities and disabled access toilets. I also had a carer ticket.
After last year's shenanigans, I ended up in a Premier Inn in Loughborough. Two good friends, Mel and Az, stayed in a Premier Inn in Hucknall, and that is where we booked to go this year. I cannot praise Premier Inn highly enough. I have stayed in several sites now, and they are faultless. The beds are outrageously big and comfy, the duvet is soft and squidgy, they have a choice of pillows and the blackout curtains are ace. The bathrooms are always spotless, the heating controls are idiot proof, and the prices are so reasonable, especially when compared with other so called 'budget brand hotels', which don't even come close to the luxury you get from a Premier Inn. I honestly wouldn't consider another hotel brand now. You know exactly what you're getting, at a very good price, and with excellent service. We checked in early, and the staff went the extra mile to make sure at least one of our rooms were ready so we could leave our luggage and not take it to the festival. I cannot recommend Hucknall highly enough. My disabled access room was bloody ENORMOUS! The bathroom echoed! And most importantly, it had a bath that I was able to use. My bath is my sanctuary, and not being able to get up the stairs to it since February has been a real low for me. I took my Fortune Cookie Soap "Unicorn Farts" toiletries with me, and I had some truly special bath time. Music ringing in my ears, body aching from cold weather and lumpy bumpy ground... just getting into the water was absolute bliss, but being able to smell bloody amazing as well was perfection. Happy Download Bathtime!
So on to the Festival...
The weather for the Friday and Saturday were, to say the least, unpleasant. Friday had sunny spells followed by heavy showers, which cycled on throughout the day. We got utterly soaked through within a very short time of arriving on Friday. By evening, it was so very cold. The best thing I took with me was my woolly hat. It's my favourite hat ever, and I only took it at my Mum's suggestion, so she gets the kudos points for that. Saturday almost broke me. I had left my scooter in the car over night, and the cold weather had discharged my battery without me realising. I just about got the scooter onto the site, with a lot of help from Az. We got to the disabled platform at the Main Stage, and the stewards allowed Nikki to ask the customers there if they had a spare charger. A very lovely man (who had an EPIC braid in his beard!) kindly let me borrow it, so we trundled up onto the platform and plugged in. It gave us a brilliant view of the stage... but being up higher meant the wind cut through me like a knife. We then experienced the most unpleasant rainstorm I have ever had the misfortune to be caught in. The wind and the rain were lashing through me, and I felt like my body was on fire. Nikki went to ask a steward if she could go and get me a poncho, and the lovely lady gave me hers, and also gave me a roll of clear plastic bin bags. She tore one off and wrapped it over my knees, and I instantly felt warmer. The wind couldn't get to me anymore (other than my face, which is spectacularly windburned!). The storm stopped, and it was like we were in the eye - the wind totally stopped, the rain ceased... but the clouds were heading closer towards us. I took the opportunity to actually climb inside the plastic bag, which was the best thing I did that day. I completely insulated myself, and I feel that if I hadn't done so, I would have had to go back to the hotel. The storm then lashed us once again, but after that, we had very little rain. Sunday was far far better. No rain. Still fairly breezy, but the sun shone for a while, and made it far more pleasant.
My big fail of the weekend, was that my phone managed to absorb the water from my poncho into the screen, and my insurance does not cover water damage. RIP HTC. I will miss you. I went on Sunday morning to find a cheap replacement until my contract is up in Oct/Nov. It isn't too bad, and will be good for future festivals.
I have to give a special mention to the access steward at the viewing platform for the second stage. Being down so low meant that in terms of view from my scooter, I was very limited. I was absolutely desperate to see Black Stone Cherry (which meant missing Slipknot - DAMN YOU ANDY COPPING!), and I noticed the platform was practically empty. I asked if the platform hadn't filled by the time they started, could I go up? She said that she wouldn't usually be able to do so, but the fact that it was so empty and that I was so desperate to see the band meant that she would bend the rules slightly - on the grounds that if the platform did get busy, I would have to move down. I thought this was amazing of her, and the platform stayed empty. I was over the moon. I had the perfect view, and loved every second I was up there.
So now... Bands I saw, and reviews of the best!
Black Stone Cherry
Dir En Grey
Hang The Bastard
Black Star Riders
Alice In Chains
Papa Roach (Part Of Set)
Queens Of The Stone Age
Thirty Seconds To Mars
The Gaslight Anthem
Slipknot (Part Of Set)
Motorhead (Part Of Set)
Five Finger Death Punch (Part Of Set)
Black Stone Cherry are the first band to ever make me cry during a performance. I actually sobbed. They performed a song called "Things My Father Said", and dedicated to a friend who recently lost his father, and also sang it because it was the first time the lead singer had been away from his son since his birth. The crowd sang it alone, and it was utterly beautiful. The band were crying, the crowd were crying, I was crying... phenomenal. They played a bloody amazing set, and also a song from the album they are working on at the moment. If it's anything to go by, the new album is going to be a corker.
Queens Of The Stone Age were well worth the wait - I've wanted to see them for a long time. I sometimes get disappointed with how different bands sound live than they do on a recording, but QOTSA didn't let me down at all. A very good performance.
Stone Sour are just brilliant. Corey Taylor knows exactly how to get a crowd going, and he has them in the palm of his hand everytime he performs, with SS or Slipknot. They played some of my favourites - 30/30-150, Made of Scars, Through Glass and Bother. Bother was another spine tingling moment, similar to BSC's Things My Father Said - the crowd were singing the lyrics to him, and it sounded beautiful. He then jumped down from the stage and ran along the barriers singing to people during the finale, which was awesome to see. A girl at the front had a badge saying "It's My Birthday", and he wished her happy birthday - the poor thing had utter hysterics. Such a great gesture.
Thirty Seconds To Mars were my real surprise of the weekend. We weren't originally going to see them, but we had a good spot for Rammstein later on, so Nikki and I stayed there whilst Az and Mel went to see Airbourne and A Day To Remember. I wasn't expecting anything special, and this only increased when Andy Copping announced their set - no other band had this, and it just seemed like total and utter arrogance. However, Jared Leto is an actor, and he played rockstar to the max. He sang well, he made jokes, they sent balloons everywhere, giant inflatable fish appeared... and then for the last song, he randomly asked people to join him on stage. There were about 50 people up there when he said they had enough. He asked a girl her name and where she was from, and she was in total meltdown. She stammered out her name, which was either Holly or Pauline, it wasn't very clear haha - then tried to tell him she was from Scunthorpe. He then turned to another guy and asked him the same, "but in English". The guy was from Sunderland (or Sunland according to Jared), and was booed very loudly. When asked why he was being booed, the guy said because he was a total legend, which cracked me up, and impressed Jared a bit. They finished their set and announced a tour... and I would actually consider going to it if I had the money. They were very good and I fell a little bit in love with them. Wasn't prepared for that at all!
Hang The Bastard were a band I was really looking forward to. My friend Simon is their drummer, and I couldn't wait to see him up on that stage! They did not disappoint at all. They were bloody brilliant! The tent they played in was rammed and rocking so hard. I was incredibly proud to see them being watched by so many people, and with the news that they have been signed for a worldwide record deal, I think they are headed for very very big things. I couldn't be more pleased for them. Check them out!
And finally... Rammstein.
They are a band that have divided the Download fans for years. You love them or you hate them. I saw them live at the o2 last year, and they put on a fantastic show. Very theatrical, lots of pyro, and very loud.
The sound quality at the main stage had been a bit iffy at times, but they got it spot on for Rammstein. The show that followed a very loud soundcheck was IMMENSE. It was the loudest set of the weekend. In the 5 years I have attended Download, I had never heard the crowd sing so loudly that they drowned out the music. I have now. Du Hast came on, and at that point, a festival which had probably belonged entirely to Corey Taylor had a new set of Gods. Download was Rammstein's bitch. They utterly blew every other performance I've seen at Donington out of the water. As the show went on, the crowd got bigger and bigger. More and more people were being captured by Rammstein. People who didn't like them before did now. Totally mindblowing, and the perfect way to end the festival. I really don't know how the organisers will ever top that performance. It was totally off the hook, and was the third spine-tingling moment of the weekend for me. To all those fans who had called for Rammstein to headline for several years - THANK YOU. Your faith was spot on, and produced the greatest show I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
Finally, some random funnies from the weekend:
"Are you sure? I thought it was a Prius..."
"You were right, it IS a Civic!"
"I went blind for two days once..."
The long wait in the carpark on Saturday, where we ended up in hysterics
The Minions we got from McDonalds with our first breakfast
Driving past the service station we were due to meet at, calling Az and Mel, and whilst on the phone to them, they did the same
"THERE'S A BAAAAAATH"
Being shaken half to death on the gravel
Running the man over who cut in front of me before I could stop
People getting stuck on the zipwire
The guy in the dress with the massive rack made of who knows what
The granny trannies with the rape alarms and handbags
It was a brilliant weekend, and I am very sad it is over. It has left me very broken, battered and worn out, but I bloody loved it, and it was worth every ache and pain. I refuse to not do things because it will hurt later on. If I did that, I'd never leave the house. And that's just not who I am. I take as many precautions as I can to minimise the effects, but I cannot stop them completely. I will continue to do things until I physically cannot.
The Download Blues are well known, and there are many of us feeling deflated and bleh right now. It's such a strange feeling. You end up listening to the slower songs by the bands you've seen, looking at everyone's pics, checking the early reviews and wishing you could rewind time. The wristband doesn't come off for a while (although mine is loose enough to be slipped off for showers and then be put back on again). The discussions have already begun on who will be playing next year. You're already planning for it, even though there are 360 days to go. It feels like forever away. But you know that by the time you get to less than a week away, you're going to be as hyper as a kid that's eaten all the blue smarties. And that makes it a little bit better.
And tonight, I get to see my Uberman again. And that makes all the blues go away.