Monday, 15 June 2009

Download Festival 2009

This year's Download festival kicked off in fine style for me, with a Faith No More gig held at Brixton Academy the night before I was due to leave for Donnington. Even though Wednesday evening was the night of a strike on the Tube, my brother, Tom and I made it to the gig and back as smoothly as possible. I shan't go on and on, but Wednesday's return to their old stomping grounds saw Faith No More in fine form.

The journey started well enough around midday on Thursday, despite a small haze-induced mishap getting onto the M1. To our horror, some thoroughly selfish and melodramatic chap had decided to attempt suicide on the road itself near Birmingham, leading to a three-hour detour through East Anglia up to Donnington Park for us. Still, the irritation of nearly 6 hours of travelling was eased when Benj, Tom and myself met up with my brother and his friend Becky with ease by the campsite and pitched in for the evening. Rob's girlfriend arrived a bit later on bearing whisky and snacks.

After getting settled and getting suitably merry and red-eyed, we explored the extortionate fairground and Village, bought a few essentials and braced ourselves for a freezing cold night. My appalling lack of foresight saw me pack neither a bedroll or a pillow, so I spent the first night shivering in the foetal position using my rolled up trench coat as a makeshift cushion. Still, I was bladdered and so, naturally, content...

Friday began with a trip to the on-site supermarket to pay a stupid amount of money for tuppence ha'penny's worth of cooking stuff and we began the day with a barbecue and I braved the loos for the first and only time I spent at the fest. (Without wishing to dwell on the subject, to use a horrible cliche, you can't judge a book by its cover: a huge, long-haired bearded man emerged from the loo before me, bog-roll in hand and sweating, so naturally I feared the worst. Lo and behold, the Portacabin was positively sparkling!)

The entertainment kicked off, after a half-hour trudge to the arena, with a terrible band called The Blackout, who had the audacity to cover Faith No More's Epic. I couldn't understand the appeal but, m'eh, to each their own. We pitched up and opened beers, amazed by the blazing sunshine and the beards of some of our fellow revellers. Staind came next, so I spent some time getting into a Dutch sort of mentality.

I couldn't be bothered with the emo rumblings of Billy Talent on the main stage, so I abandoned our little party and went over to the Bedroom Jam stage to catch a band called White Man Kamikaze, who were really neat and seemed genuinely amazed at the size of the audience who'd turned out for them.

Killswitch Engage started on the main stage soon enough and sounded really tight. Again, they weren't really my thing being technical, rather than riff-based, but their set was pretty powerful, plus their rendition of My Last Serenade reminded me of countless nights spent in the Met Lounge in my younger days.

Not thinking I'd enjoy Limp Bizkit, I was quite surprised by how restrained they seemed and they genuinely gelled well. Korn, who followed, seem to have lost everyone but Jon Davis and Munky since I was last bothered about the band, but, again, they made me feel warm and fuzzy with nostalgia, so, m'eh, that was pleasant.

We headed down to the front of the stage during Korn's cover of 'Another Brick in the Wall' to prepare for Faith No More. I lost everyone else when I went off to buy cider but got in down the front by myself. The show, when it started, looked and sounded amazing and I loved leaping in unison with the crowd to From Out of Nowhere. Less fun was feeling my right leg to discover that my wallet had vanished. I looked in vain but the crowd was so huge that there was no way of fighting the tide. Thinking that action sooner rather than later would be the best course, I spent the remainder of Faith No More's set cancelling my debit card. I got back to camp alone and thoroughly annoyed that night, devoid of money or the means of getting hold of any more. Sleep was only possible after very heavy sedation.

Saturday started with my brother collapsing with heatstroke and so Tom, Benj, Beck and I marched off to the arena alone. Benj and Tom, being thoroughly lovely chaps offered to buy me the odd pint during the day and Becky bought me a pasta salad for dinner. God bless 'em...

Anyway, we kicked off the day with Devildriver, who managed to dish out the word 'motherfucker' with such carefree abandon that it ceased to mean anything at all by the end of their set. Mind, their riffs were neat and their gimmick for the day involved inviting the Guinness World Records people to witness the world's largest circle pit. From my vantage on the hillside, I could see this pit open up like a crop-circle and watched the dust start to fly. The band made their record comfortably.

Hatebreed gurned their way through a set of gym-metal before Down came and smoked out the whole arena with their icky-sticky riffage. Phil Anselmo looks just like he did in the video for Cowboys From Hell again these days and the band were just anthemic. Bury Me in Smoke simply blew me away.

Considering how hard my friends had been laughing about DragonForce, I was thoroughly amazed by their musicianship. If they'd been around in the 1980s, they'd have been one of the biggest bands in the world. I've never heard shredding like it.

We left the main stage after DragonForce to catch Lawnmower Deth on the Tuborg stage, who were hilarious. Song titles like Did You Spill My Pint?, midlands-accented stage banter, instrument destruction, a 'fish dance', 'Deth had it all. They also showed us how to combine the devil's horns hand sign with a closed fist to make a snail, which was nice of them.

I staggered over to the main stage again with the others for Marily Manson, who was simply abominable. To call his band the worst act of the entire festival wouldn't be going too far. Manson finished just as Prodigy were due to start on the second stage, so I hurried over with a fresh cider in hand after my brother had lent me £20.

Prodigy were astoundingly good, if a little quiet, and their recycling of the Breathe guitar riff to make a 'Breathe Version' made for entertaining listening. After about half an hour the band launched into Firestarter, which bores me to tears so I made the best decision I made in the time I was in Leicestershire: I went to see Anvil.

Anvil, stars of the recent movie Anvil: the Story of Anvil, were simply incredible. Their riffs were monstrous and pure, no-nonsense heavy metal. Lips' voice was powerful, his between-song banter endearing and the band's drummer was astoundingly talented. The band introduced ' a song about our favourite strand of pot' called White Rhino, which made me smile. Metal on metal sent me into a frenzy of windmill headbanging which barely ceased until the band had wrung the last out of their set's ending. Simply perfect, Anvil were my band of the festival.

I had just enough time to catch the end of Slipknot's set and hear Corey Taylor taking exaggeration to its logical conclusions as he urged us to sing along so loudly that 'the whole fucking world' would hear. Yes, quite. Still, I was gonzoed enough by this point to hurl my hair along with them with glee before heading back to camp.

I'd only got £4.75 in my pocket by this point and needed £5 to buy a 4-pack of cider so I did a bit of begging and scrabbling around for change, which was thoroughly embarrassing, before having to scrounge coppers from my tent. Mind, when I returned to camp, the others had arrived and were chatting and drinking. Callum, a chap who lives 'round the corner from me, stopped over for a couple of beers and we lit a barbecue for warmth. It was a heartwarming evening, even if my voice was utterly shot by this point.

Sunday began with cider for breakfast and a jaunt up to the Domino's pizza stand with Tom and Benj for £30(!) worth of pizza, which we scarfed in short order. Tom and I then headed to the arena in search of my wallet and some 80s metal. We wondered over to the Jaegermeister truck, which was a sight to behold, surrounded as it was by giant, inflatable bottles of the rancid stuff.

Tom and I had just enough time to catch the end of Tesla and a bit of Skin's set, both of whom were far heavier than I imagined they'd be, before queueing up for what seemed an eternity at Lost Property. Eventually I retrieved my wallet, minus my debit card and cash, and headed back to camp to meet the others who were packing up, thanks to the folks with cars having to work early on Monday. Tom and I bumped into our old friend Tobias as we were leaving, which was totally unexpected as we'd not seen him for years and was a nice way to end the festival. We all humped our piles of stuff along for what felt like an eternity and made off into the Leicester countryside, sun burnt, ravaged, sweating but happy, chattering about Lawnmower Deth and Slipknot's stage show...


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