So, let’s be honest. Going to a festival was NOT on my fuckit list. However, for reasons unbloggable, and because I love MrS so much (sick buckets are available in the corner over there >>) this Friday just gone, at the age of 45, I found myself on the way to my first music festival. And not just any music festival, but Download. A rock music festival.
Rewind to November 2013 and this happened:
And lo, over the past 18+ months I have come to love SOME of the music MrS loves. But to spend 72 hours in the presence of this music…? Let’s see…
Day One Friday
Hair Status – Freshly washed, straightened
Weather status – Sunny with a breeze
Mud levels – Non existent
This was MrS’s fifth year at Download. The first year for one day, the second year in a hotel and the last 3 (including this one) in a motor home. Look, I’m not going to defend the motor home decision. I have spent many holidays in a tent with small children. We’re 45 and 55, we DESERVE a motor home.
We rented the motor home from Amber Motorhomes in Luton. Because MrS was originally going with his daughter it was a 4 berth, which basically means that one double bed is made up permanently and the other needs to be made up each night by fiddling around with seats and tables.
So we set off on Friday morning with our hopes as high as the sun, which shone all the way to Castle Donnington, where the festival is held.
I was very nervous, never having been to a festival before, but also concerned that the music would be a bit heavy for my tastes. I had downloaded the app and picked out all the things I wanted to see (this is REALLY useful as there are 4 different stages so it’s easy to miss stuff). I knew a few of the bands playing so was confident in the few I had picked out and MrS is quite a good judge of my rock music tolerance levels now.
We were a little later to arrive than in previous years so we were quite high up the slope of the caravan/motor home area but we had a great pitch. I watched all the people lugging their stuff from the carpark to the tent area and was glad it wasn’t me.
We parked up, filled up with water, had some lunch and set off to the main area. I couldn’t believe how many people there were! The grass was green, the SUN was SHINING, the atmosphere was exciting and I was happy to people watch for ages while we waited for Cadillac 3, a bluesy rock band we’ve listened to for a while. AND there was free Wi-Fi. What more could one want, cider in a sunny field with live music and Wi-Fi.
When there was grass!
Cadillac 3 were great, despite having flown in from Memphis only to find their guitars hadn’t. They borrowed some from Black Stone Cherry and the show went on.
I knew that what was coming next was at the top end of my “heaviness radar” with Clutch and Five Finger Death Punch (see, the names just SOUND angry) but I was really surprised at how much fun I had. Yes, they sound like Angry Young (old) Men but they had a tune and a discernible melody (and of course I have absorbed some by osmosis over the last 18 months). At this point though it started raining. We made our way back to the motorhome for a bite to eat before MrS wanted to see Judas Priest (who he first saw in 1979…) followed by Slipknot and I was going to see Black Stone Cherry. By this time the rain was torrential. I mean monsoon like. After MrS set off I decided that, although I like them, I didn’t want to drown watching BSC so I remained in the van. At just gone 10 MrS appeared looking like a drowned rat. His Northface coat soaked through and his t-shirt underneath very damp. Welcome to June in the UK people. He just couldn’t stand it anymore and having seen Slipknot recently he threw in the towel.
I was thanking my lucky stars that we were in a motorhome.
Day two – Saturday
Hair Status – still clean, straight in morning, frizzing as day continues
Weather status – Raining. Pouring. Old man snoring.
Mud levels – Slushy, with hay, deteriorating to full on disgusting sludge by the end of the day
Every time I awoke in the night I had heard rain on the roof. Not just showers, torrential rain. The sky was black and the rain continued. As neither of us are teenagers, we had proper walking boots and waterproof coats with us but MrS also went in search of a couple of ponchos. Frankly I’m too old to give a crap what people thought of me (what’s that middle aged woman doing HERE?!), I wanted to be dry and warm.
I didn’t have anyone particular in mind to see on Saturday until Faith No More in the evening so we divided our time between the stages and caught Mallory Knox and Apocalyptica (metal cellos!) before we went to see Upon a Burning Body. Now this is “metal” metal and way above my listening levels but MrS wanted to see them so I stood at the back behind him while he enjoyed them and I made the most of the limited Wi-Fi (100,000 people and the Wi-Fi was taking a hammering). At this point I was glad to be somewhere dry (stages 3 and 4 were under cover!). After this we decided to go back and warm up, me slightly shell shocked from the previous show; WHAT are they so ANGRY about? MrS had to admit he wasn’t sure.
Notably for me at this point, this was the day I refused to go to the loo in what had previously been bearable portaloos. I tried 3 before I just decided to go back to the motorhome and use ours.
MrS’s PA was at the festival too so we arranged to meet up with her at the Faith no More gig
later. She had spent most of the afternoon queuing to meet Corey Taylor, the lead singer of
Slipknot, (dedication to the cause) and the fact that her festival tent had flooded the night before was a mere inconvenience. As an aside, those festival tents look cool, but they’re not. Spend the extra £20 for a one man, two layered tent, and don’t get flooded out! By this point the mud was Very Very Bad.
The real MrS's PA with the Not Real Corey Taylor
If you only know Faith No More because of their cover version of Easy, I can tell you now that this is not indicative of their usual musical style. They were pretty amazing as a live show though and when the only song people really sang along to was Easy, they took it on the chin.
But Saturday night for me, even in the tipping down rain, was all about Muse. It was without doubt the best gig I have ever seen. They performed for nearly two hours without pause and their show was amazing. They proved wrong the doubter who felt they weren’t a suitable enough fit for Download. They were, in a non-ironic sense, epic. The lights, effects and pyrotechnics were what you’d expect of a dedicated stadium performance and were all the more impressive for their temporary festival nature, a theme consistent on the main stage, whoever was playing really.
I can’t tell you how glad I was to get back to my heated and dry motor home that night though. No, I’m not sorry.
Day Three – Sunday
Hair Status – Washed in motorhome shower – left to own devices, put in ponytail, then finally covered with hat
Weather status – Sunny with a breeze fooling us early, by time we left motorhome, chucking it down again
Mud levels – The Somme with added straw
Sunday morning was like Night of the Living Dead. Everyone was covered in mud, on their last remaining clothes and not really caring what they looked like. Except the Kiss fans, who were walking around from 11am with full Gene Simmons make up. Over the 72 hours we were there we encountered many, many, people dressed up – in ironic fancy dress or total fanboy replicas.
Our first band of the day was the Von Hertzen Brothers, who we saw in Kentish Town a few months back. To be honest they weren’t as good as they had been then but it was freezing and they had a tough audience (wet, cold, hungover). As we were wandering over to the
main stage we met Chris and Eddy… with Carlos. Carlos the huge yellow, beer-filled duck, obviously. They asked us to take a photo and we chatted with them for a while.
Then in return we asked them for a favour…
When I asked why they were so clean they admitted to only having a day ticket and had arrived just that morning. (cheats)
We wandered around between stages, watching the Darkness (well, MrS did, I couldn’t see a damn thing) and then the Sunday highlight for me, Slash, featuring Miles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Miles Kennedy sings with AlterBridge, a band I have really gotten into and this is a side line he has with Slash. They were amazing and Slash shows up all imitators with his fantastic playing. They did a load of their own tracks but also Sweet Child of Mine and Paradise City, just what we all needed because by now we were frozen to the bone.
MrS and I even went back to the van afterwards because we were so cold, coming back in time for Motley Crue. I have to say that Motley Crue were possibly the most traditional 80s rock band there at the weekend. They were certainly the only band to have scantily clad backing singers but they also put on a great show. The closing act was Kiss. I only know one of their tracks to be honest, and even MrS said he only knew 2. They were very underwhelming, and Gene Simmons sticking his tongue out every five seconds soon wears thin. At 9:45 we decided we were festivalled out and too cold to watch something we weren’t enjoying and packed off to our van to defrost.
There was over 100,000 people there this weekend. We only saw two incidences of (single) people being removed from the crowd. I wouldn’t say it’s a family friendly festival, mainly due to all the mother***ers being bandied about, but everyone was friendly and there to enjoy the music. It’s easy to look at the person walking towards you covered in tattoos, piercings and metal and form an instant opinion of them. If it needed reinforcing, the point is you should never judge a book by its cover. It’s easy to look at the bands and think your mother would probably have a heart attack if you took one of them home to meet her (actually my mother would). If you saw MrS and I, and to be honest, 75% of that 100,000 in the street you would have no idea of their musical tastes. There were groups of young lads, couples, and people our age (and older!). People tattooed and pierced to within an inch of their lives, people who looked like they’d wandered in from hill walking in the Derbyshire countryside (i.e. like me!) and a couple of people who looked like they’d followed Kate Moss to Glastonbury and taken a wrong turning (a pale suede fringed handbag in THAT mud?!). There was also a Sonic the Hedgehog and a man wearing the top half of a female police officer outfit and no pants on but hey…it takes all sorts.
Did I enjoy my first festival?
You bet I did. The weather was absolutely dreadful but being 45 I wasn’t afraid to dress for it. Of course it would have been better to sit in the sun whilst enjoying the music but it didn’t stop us having fun.
Will I go next year?
You try and stop me. Several people told me this weekend that a festival was their idea of hell. A few months ago I would have agreed with them. But I went with an open mind and had a great time, which just goes to show that you don't know until you try it. Although I did tell MrS that if I’m going to Download with him then he can come to Latitude with me.