Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Download, Part 1. 'The Road I Must Travel'

           Download Part 1.

                 It’s fitting that whatever choice you make in life that there is at least one place or occasion that lets you know that you have made it to where you’ve always wanted to be. It’s not just choice, religions tell you to live your life well and you will be rewarded with a place in heaven. And that’s surely where all Christians want to be? So what has this random waffle got to do with anything at all? Surprisingly this is how I chose to start off my preview/review/overview of the Download Festival
           So if everything has its ‘Mecca’ where is it for rock music? All hands point to Donington and for me, Donington is the home of the music that I love. Okay this is for more reason than one, its not just me saying it, the place is swarmed with history. It is the home of the first rock/heavy metal festival, in 1980. There is significance in the line up that year for me; it was headlined by Rainbow, although by then without the phenomenon known as Ronnie James Dio. Also on the bill were Judas Priest, two giants who are no longer with us in reality, Dio’s tragic passing last year signaled for me the beginning of the end of the ‘Classic’ Heavy Metal that first got me into music.
           In just a few weeks Priest will play probably their last headline festival slot as well as play their final U.K. shows. It puts into perspective just how blessed heavy rock and metal has been with stars that were at the top of their game 31 years ago are going out with maximum respect.
           Further proof that Donington is the home of heavy rock and metal in the 1980’s and 90’s the site featured bands such as AC/DC, Ozzy, Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Metallica and KISS. Despite the festival growing in popularity, in 1997 the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival was cancelled.
           In 2003 heavy metal and rock came home to Donington, this time under the name of the Download Festival, the name chosen because it seemed to rebel against the term ‘Downloading’ which was and still is a dirty word to the music industry, the festival was meant to be ‘Monsters of Rock for the 21st Century, and featured a more varied line up including punk bands such as Murderdolls and Less than Jake, American Nu-Metal bands like Deftones and Disturbed, and also breaking through British bands like Funeral for a Friend and the Darkness. This was the first Download to be held over two days and hold two stages, over the years the ‘Download Festival’ grew in popularity managing to attract headline acts such as Metallica, Slipknot and to show that the festival had not lost touch with its roots, in 2005, the Saturday had been named ‘Ozzfest 2005’ and was headlined by Black Sabbath.
           So there is a brief summery of why this festival at this location is the place to be, but despite this, I have another reason, Download 2006, it was not only the first festival I’d ever heard of but it was also the first time I remember being desperate to go to, therefore its where my personal journey to Donington began. Looking back the line-up for me at least is still mouthwatering,
           Okay so I’m never going to be a massive Tool fan, however offer Metallica to a 13 or 14 year old metal head and their gonna wet themselves. (Its 2011, I’m 19, I’m going to see Metallica for the second time in a few weeks and that plays on my mind, so nothing really changes.) and to finish off the headliners, Guns N’ Roses. Okay with the benefit of hindsight, age and experience it wasn’t going to work for them, although despite knowing what I know now and knowing it this time last year, I was still busy making plans to try and see them at Reading. Its Guns N’ Fuckin Roses, you can’t argue with tracks like Welcome to the Jungle, Civil War and November Rain, even if ‘Fatty’ Rose does insist on trying to shit all over them.
           It wasn’t just the headliners, the under card featured most of my favorite bands, and it is interesting tracking some of those bands progress over the years, Both BFMV and Avenged played then and this year were both sub headliners, along with FFAF headlining the Third stage. It was Alice in Chain’s return of the UK. Since their reunion and have since released an album and toured the UK. Alter Bridge who headlined the second stage at the time is just about to start a massive UK. Arena tour, and there aren’t many rock or metal bands capable of that at the moment.
           Throughout the years my desire to be apart of it grew, despite knowing I couldn’t go because of age issues and exams and such and such I would still openly debate the festival and its performers. The following year Download just fed my ambition to go by putting a live stream of the festival so you could watch the majority of the bands playing. It was sickening at times watching Machine Head put in the performance of a lifetime, Papa Roach destroy the place, Lamb of God change my mind on them completely, getting called a ‘Dork’ by Corey Taylor, Howard Jones of KSE getting into the crowd, and watching my favorite band Iron Maiden play songs I thought I’d never see them play. (Children of the Damned is still a tune)
           Anyone that knows anything about the 2008 Download knows it had a bit of an off year, well I figure that anyway, Still given half the chance I’d have been there singing along with ‘Between the Hammer and the Anvil’ (I don’t know if Priest played it but its still my favorite song). H.I.M Would have fuelled my gothic desires that I held at the time and nothing would have given me more pleasure than to destroy myself on Sunday watching Caverlera Conspiracy.
           Download 2009, not only for me, but for the festival itself, I had Sonisphere to go to, a festival that was out of the school term, away from exams, buried deep enough in the holidays that by the time it came around my bored would have doubled my enthusiasm to just go and do something. Download, to me at least, saw the beginning threat of Sonisphere and changed, no longer would it just be a music festival with a collection of alternative bands.
           From now on, the Download festival would be an event. Reuniting Faith No More and playing them on the same stage as Korn, KSE, and a returning Limp Bizkit. (I’ll admit, I’m not a massive fan but even I go Ape Shit for ‘Break Stuff’) also Slipknot, Manson, Down, Dream Theater and Def Leppard. This was perhaps Downloads greatest ever line-up and to add insult to injury, the Live Stream was back and I found it impossible not to watch every band that I’ve just mentioned. It became apparent after the Slipknot performance that this was the place where bands give there all.
           Last years Download continued with the Events, AC/DC? Yes please, just to say I have. Aerosmith? If you don’t mind, just to say I have, Rage Against the Machine? I think you get the picture. For me it wasn’t their greatest line-up, however you can’t argue wit those bands, nor bands like the Cancer Bats, Lamb of God, the Dillinger Escape Plan and Deftones amongst others.
           So what I’ve basically tried to do so far in my very lame way is try to show that this festival does actually mean a lot to me, as a person, as a sign of my musical progression, the bands it emphasis are some that mean the most to me in the world.
           So now it’s 7.30 in the AM on Wednesday the 8th of June 2011, and here I am, shaking with excitement, under prepared as ever, with a backpack that’s got everything in it that isn’t nailed down (a complaint at the time, as you will see, it just goes to show that your mother always knows best) sitting outside my local CooP to meet my mate and we’re going to get picked up and taken to Swansea to catch a bus all the way to Download. A trip to Swansea that was organized 8 and a half hours ago.
          I say I’m under prepared, that’s not really true, we do have a tent, two sleeping bags, beer, vodka, crisps a copy of Kerrang! and Metal hammer, one phone that’s unusable due to it having a smashed screen, one phone that’s being held together with insulating tape, and a pink backup phone which hasn’t been used in two year and lets you know about it when you try to use the fucker, therefore useless, shoes that have got more holes in them than the Albert Hall (Beatles anyone?), a patch under my chin where I missed shaving, my mums already had to take my mate back to his house because he forgotten his ID, I’m told she almost killed an old woman a disability scooter thing during the process and where waiting for a lift to Swansea that I organized my mate who I swear was drunk at the time.
           So not only am I nervous but I’m also apprehensive that he’s going to turn up, and when my quoted time of 8.25 leads to us sitting in the cold at 8.45 it really does nothing for my nerves. But things like these aren’t meant to run to plan, that would take away from the fun, if everything went to plan, then right there in my back pocket would have my crumpled piece of paper full of scribbled down stage splits and set times. Obviously its not there and Boom a car just parked right in front of us. I know it’s the car I’m meant to load my shit into yet, for some reason I remain sitting, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why I did that but that’s a side not, the lift turned up and it’s time to go.
          The ride up is quiet, I haven’t woken up before at least 10.30 in almost a year, adding insult to injury I don’t think I’ve woken up before 7.50 since probably my third year of secondary school, I wish I was joking, but nope. So needless to say I’m tired, I know my mates car that I’m in that he was out the night before so he’s not in the mood to chat. So 40 minutes of almost complete silence, which had me in giggles just for the awkwardness. Finally we get there, my mates mum drops us off and we camp in Swansea bus station talking random shit until the bus comes.
          Its arrival is met with what can only be described really as that scene at the beginning of the lion king when everyone flocks to see Simba, suddenly all these people turn up to look at the bus, getting stuff on these things is always fun, and today its even better, we have a bus gremlin, some guy who went in to put his stuff together is now being bombarded with other peoples bags, poor fella, yet rather him than me. Its at this time I should mention that during out ‘talking random shit’ period in the bus stop the guy that gave us the lift told us that he had to change his bus time to get on this one and has instead of having a ‘normal’ bus ticket actually has written out on a folded piece of paper, made funnier by the fact that his mum did it, and his words to the bus driver ‘yeah my mum did it, she told me it would be fine’ which I think is just cute, 19 and still dependant, I can’t say much as the night before my mum actually packed my bag. So it turns out he has to go on another bus so it’s back to the two of us for the next few hours.
          The journey is filled with random banter about McDonalds food, the expected cues to get into the campsite and my joke telling, which constantly falls on deaf ears because apparently my jokes ‘require to much thinking’ and when I refer to a collection of Emos as a ‘Isobar of Emos, because they are linked by their depression (yeah geography jokes ftw/stolen from Ed Byrne) I get told to just stop the rest of the journey is me sleeping and for some reason listening to Use Your Illusion. According to my Ipod, the bus stops about 3.05ish and were in the camp site by 4. Task 1. Get there—Complete, Task 2. Find the people we know begins. The first time this weekend the insulated ‘hero’ phone is used, why hero? You’ll again find out later.
          Again, no planning has taken part, so when were told there in the Red camp site, it really doesn’t help us at all, and just leads to disagreements of where the hell that site actually is, but eventfully we find it, I again ring to tell them that were by the Red camping sign only for them to say there by the Red camping sign, which is worrying, its only taken us like 15 minutes to find this one Red camp site and the prospect of looking for another one is enduring, but I decide to just run down the hill and happily find them. Its at this time out only laid plan of camping with my other mates falls apart as one of the guys we meet there refuses to sleep next to the ‘spider den’ named after he saw one solitary spider. So the new trio decide to try and find somewhere else, which we did, a pretty wide space with enough room for about 5 tents, luckily we have two, a two man tent and a one man tent.
          The tent putting up part may hinder folk, however we are now veterans to the tent putting up experience had gone through the exercise just days before to remember how to do it, because as soon as the poles are put in it starts to hammer down with rain. So the pegs are hurriedly put in my mate we’ll call him Greg, gets into the tent quickly followed by our two sleeping bags, 4 bags and my other mates (which we’ll call Ray), pop up tent which opens inside ours resulting tears streaming down my face. The rain soon stops and the sun comes out.
           We decide that a its time to look around so we took a brisk walk of the village and tried to make our way to the arena to see it and back again, a walk which anyone who has visited Download will know is shattering on your first run. We get back to our tents and my memory begins to get hazy I believe I went to the toilet and came back to find the other guys we were meant to camp with sitting around our tent, so drinking ensues. The already lack of food is apparent as Greg seems to be off after a few cans and a couple of mouthfuls of Vodka. Not to much is remembered after this point, although it was about 6.30ish at this point and I crawled into bed at 2.30.
          What I can remember is the ride that Greg made everyone go on, despite hating going on rides and not realizing this until the safety harnesses came down. The rock Karaoke, and Tuborg being only £3, ohh yeah and spending a shed load that opening night, I ended up back at the Karaoke tent listing to power ballads and dancing with some people to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart’ until the place closed at 2 in the morning. The last thing of that night I remember is getting back to my tent and seeing Greg asleep in my good sleeping bag. The night ends with him punching me in his sleep, which was seen as role reversal, as that was sort of my trademark thing of doing for a while.
              Day 2 and I am awoken by Grass sitting at the end of the tent and offering me a croissant, I passed but could hear Ray laughing, so I got out of the tent and got told that the reason that Grass was in my sleeping bag the night before was because he had come back to the tent and couldn’t find his croissant. In which I got the blame for not being there, and he figured as the perfect revenge he would sleep in my bag. Only to find the quassone’s in the morning. An entertaining start to one of the funniest days of my life, and getting out of the tent and sitting in the grass outside it with the sun out seemed like the instant cure for my hangover, which I usually get bad, this weekend just dissipated within an hour. Its Thursday so there’s still no music being played today so again we have nothing really to look forward too, Except for the 6- A Side football tournament at 11ish ( my memory fails me of the exact time) but we’ve got three hours until then so I leave to go to the toilet. Along the way I walk into my mates boy-friend who after a few good mornings asked me if I got punched last night. Then the memory comes flooding back to me. Turns out I did by Grass in his sleep. A story instantly spread amongst his camp. So I went in search for there camp couldn’t find it so returned home.
             I can’t remember what happened next but I remember grabbing a can and going to watch the football matches. A section of this is getting written 3 months after Download so some memory’s are blurry. I think there were 20 teams. A mixed of people who had been entered into this 6-A side football game. We turn up about half an hour before the tournament beings so whilst they do there ‘warm up’ consisting of kicking the ball at the keeper all three of us decide to choose a team to win, my decision was already made for me the night before. I had got talking to a guy who was playing in an Inter Milan style shirt who was playing for a cancer charity. So we all had teams.
              Again only some parts of the tournament are remembered, like how small the goal posts are and how some teams have taken is ‘seriously’ with proper kits, shin pads, socks, shorts… headbands. Whilst others have blatantly just woken up. Wearing ¾’s a band shirt and a hangover. It has the potential to be a messy morning and to be fair the standard isn’t great but it’s enjoyable. There are three really stand out teams, one in whit kits who’s captain has taken it really seriously and come to the tourement looking like a rat, I mean Lee Bowyer, a team called ‘Gayfist’, wearing mankinis, definitely something Arsenal should take note of, and finally a team we can’t remember nicknamed by us  as team ‘Feed The Fuckin Rhino’
           Well there is obviously a point to this story, and its conclusion is this, during the second round of games. Team ‘Feed The Fuckin Rhino’ are playing. This team need/deserve a description. Firstly they got their name from their captain, a ‘built’ guy with long hair, wearing a ‘Feed The Fuckin Rhino’ t-shirt, yes that’s how they got that nickname so there are other members always but none more memorable than a guy we have now nicknamed, the ‘Immortal’ Father Time. ‘again I came up with that nickname, I’m not bragging, but if I ever write a Sonisphere 09 review you’ll understand the nickname significance) So you may or may not have figured that ‘Father Time’ is an elderly gent, shall we say, he’s I’m guessing in his late 50’s, long hair, in  shorts and t-shirt ready to play football. When we first saw him we decided he was going to play in goals, nope the trooper was like a Paulo Maldini, or a errr, David Weir at the back line of their defense.
          So that team managed to get into the second round of games. Now throughout this game and the previous one ‘Father Time’ has yet to move out of defense. All this was about to change, A poor cross field ball from the opposing midfielder drifted the ball into the path of our hero, who gathered the ball, and looked up and from where we sat could see his eyes light up with excitement as he realized, here he was on the right side half way line, with the ball, with no defenders in front of him and only the keeper to beat. The atmosphere around the pitch changes and suddenly there is excitement as the old-timer seems destined to score, he dribbles forward and the crowd begin to egg him on. I’m not going to lie, it’s not a Rooney style sprint, more Berbatov when he has to go back and defend. Anyhow he’s one on one with the keeper as he breaks into the little keeper box from the right, and now the keeper comes out and the chance is wasted.
            Anyone who watches football knows that sometimes players collide or just avoid each other by mere inches, well the keeper goes down to gather the ball, unfortunately ‘Father Time’ doesn’t have the reaction’s to avoid him and they both clatter in to each other, in almost cartoon like effect as both bodies spiral and roll around on the floor. It was something that had to be seen to believed and as I already mentioned, my sense of humor lead me to burst out laughing, happily I wasn’t alone, it was a minute after when I consoled myself that I noticed ‘Farther Times’ Raised in the air, I guessed  that he had just had the air knocked out of him, unfortunately not. The poor fella’s knee was three times the size it normally was and I could see that half-way across the pitch.
          A mixed section of the story, I laughed at the time and still do, but I realize how gutting that must have been for the old guy to have glory snatched away from you in a horrible twist of fate, and end up leaving the campsite in the back of a paramedic buggy. That said he did have a standing ovation and even milked the applause a little, and deservingly so.
             So after the football ends the usual hunt for which substance is going to make our bowls collapse begins. This year we found wedges to be particularly deadly. So we returned to the tent and then heard a massive scream, I’m not joking, a woman behind us heard it. Ray came screaming out of his tent, we first thought he’d been stung by a bee or wasp, but no, it was plain to see the problem, his leg was raw red with sunburn and it prevented him from sitting down properly, an early warning sign for the rest of the weekend. Either way our kind neighbors offered him some cream for it, and just to make sure he took a handful. We later found that they felt pity for us cause we seemed sorta useless, which isn’t too far from the truth, and so the rest of the afternoon was spent sitting there, by the tent chatting to each other and drinking.
          The afternoon also brought along another problem. No Beer. A tragic moment that turned into something special. We decided to buy festival beer because Tesco’s was miles away and didn’t want to lug the beer all the way back. Happily Download’s beer was… Tuborg. So we had drunk it the night previous but we weren’t in the right state to remember what it tasted like, so when we opened can number 1. And since that moment has become choice number 1. We went back to our tent and met some girl who told me that Wednesday 13 the band suck, but Murderdolls were good, a personal insult however made funny when she mentioned that Murderdollls were good cause Joey was in the band and he was hot. So obviously she worked for Kerrang! And I decided to be nice to her.
         Now, induced by alcohol we decided we were gonna so searching for some other mates and this started a tour of the campsite which lead to being hugged by morph suit men, getting into a debate about Maiden and Metallica and Greg telling everyone he could about going to see ‘TRC’ then starting a chant of ‘The Revolution Continues’ The hunt failed however it did include my first dropkick of the weekend (a little trademark because I have no body mass it’s just easier for me to do that) followed by the People’s Elbow to Ray, and the guy had no idea what was happening. The hunt was called off when we found someone who went to my university and we decided that was the best that was going to happen. We got back to the tent and ended up talking to people near us and then all I remember is sitting at a table singing Stone Sour’s ‘Through Glass’
                  I was awoken a few times during the night but the best awakening was from Greg talking in his sleep, when I listened fully I heard him say, ‘Yeah we’ll go down at like 1, Aint to fussed about CKY but Bring Me’s going to be class…’ I shit you not the boy was talking about the Friday plan in his sleep. I don’t remember much about Friday morning until I brushed my teeth. It was a fantastic feeling, and anyone who was at the fountains doing it instantly felt more alive. Then we embarked on our long as fuck trek to the download arena. Which we got to an hour early and decided to pass the time by playing the A-Z game. Where you pick a subject and think of an answer beginning with that letter, for example if the subject was fruit A would be Apple, and then someone else would have to think of a fruit beginning with A. 7
              For some reason we choose countries a task which did last 45 minutes and my G.C.S.E in Geography failed me. The game ended when grass started laughing and pointing, when we turned around we say three guys dressed up, one as Ghostface, one as Captain America and one as Iron Man. When they got close laughing ended but Iron Man kept walking and kicked me right in the back. Obviously worry hits me and I begin to think if I’ve offended him some-way. But my troubles fade when he takes off his mask to reveille it was the guy who gave us the lift to Swandea. He would later be acknowledged by Duff McKegan.

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