Download – Day 1

I slept like a log, thanks to the first room to myself since I was in Jordan. And utter exhaustion. Anni called me at around 8:30 and we arranged where to meet, Lyse made me a farewell cuppa and I scarpered off to catch the train from near her house up to the end of the line where Anni awaited in her dinky little motor. Lyse – a huge thank you for your hospitality, comfy bed, internet access and chicken curry! You are a star amongst stars!

Using Anni’s new birthday toy – a satnav system – we managed to not find the hotel we’d booked. Instead we resorted to the decidedly low-tech but much more accurate technique of asking someone. The Ramada decided that we couldn’t be refunded for the night we didn’t want to use despite the booking centre selling Anni the room on the condition that the dates could be altered. Anni will be taking that up with them next week. Happy puppies, we were not. Plus, our room “wasn’t ready” despite several people in front of us getting into theirs easily enough. We ditched our luggage, sorted day bags and legged it.

“Breakfast” consisted of a sausage and chips from a chippie near Asda in Derby. Hey, I’m only here for a few days so I’m treating it as a holiday – it’s indigenous food! We loaded up on snacks and drinks from Asda then headed Download-wards.

Parking was swift and I swear the walk to the main entrance was shorter than last year. As ever at a festival, I was wearing a Toon shirt so I got talking to the guy putting the wristbands on – and queue-jumped as a result. Once inside, I met Talia from Bristol for the first time. Nice to meet up! She was with a friend of hers, Hazel, and the four of us threaded our way to the Dimebag Darrell tent for the first band of the weekend, Turbonegro.

As would be fairly common for the bands in the tents, we ended up squished outside with a passable view of the stage. Some of the bands playing the smaller stages over the weekend were hugely popular so gathered quite a crowd despite the space (or lack of it) available. Turbonegro were pretty good, playing decent no-fuss rock’n’roll. I definitely need to look out more of their stuff.

Next up, though, were the mighty Megadeth on the main stage. Oh, yes. Almost dot on time, Mustaine & co. trod the boards to a huge welcome and launched into “Sleepwalker” from the new album. The ladies stayed up the slope and watched while I did my usual and vanished into the middle of the crowd at ground level to beat merry hell out of a bunch of strangers. I wish I’d taken my camera in with me. As well as a very attractive girl who hit like a man (kudos) there was a one-legged man in the moshpit! I poop you not. One leg, two metal crutches, mental attitude. Further kudos.

Megadeth, of course, rocked. I’m still not that sure about the newer stuff, they scattered in a handful of older songs most of which were from Rust In Peace, though I think the biggest crowd-pleaser was “Peace Sells…”

Injury count: impressive bruising of both forearms, gouges on my right wrist (I think from studs on someone’s jacket), cuts on left elbow, very sore right elbow from crushing it twice. The usual.

The set changes on the main stage were managed swiftly and around twenty minutes after the ‘Deth exited, Dragonforce replaced them. Woah! I didn’t catch these madmen at Graspop a couple of years ago – I must have been watching someone else – but I’m glad I caught them here. Their rules seems to be “why play one note when you can play 27?” and they must be one of the fastest bands right now, taking the term “speed metal” to its extremes. Superb vocals, great fun, women getting their tops of on the huge video screens to huge cheers. Rock and f’ing roll, indeed.

A potty break was called for and we wandered aimlessly trying to locate the wrong ones (we headed for ones we could see within the campground that Anni and I couldn’t access) until we got our heads around how the site was laid out, slightly differently from two years ago. Free drinking water was used to refill all the bottles we had on us, then we waddled back into the main area to watch Wolfmother. By now, Hazel had wandered off to collapse in her tent as their group had been awoken at 4am by some kiddie playing System of a Down at full volume (until someone kicked his stereo to pieces).

Wolfmother were pretty good, but we really just sat and watched them. Anni got ripped off £5.50 for an admittedly decent burrito and then the rotting remains of Guns ‘n’ Roses took to the stage and pretended they were still good (translation: Velvet Revolver came on). They were the first band of the day to come on stage late, which is typically primadonna-ish of them. We tolerated this for a while as there wasn’t much else to do before dividing up. Anni went to watch Korn in one tent while Talia and I headed for the Tuborg stage to get a decent spot for Hayseed Dixie.

On the way we popped into the “turn up and play” tent. It’s kind of an overgrown karaoke where random bands are created from people who want to get on a stage, playing cover versions. What we saw was pretty good and I was amazed to see Krusher, formerly of Kerrang and some dodgy rock TV programs, doing the compering. He looked about as drunk and wasted as I ever remember, though much older. I swear the guy’s barely 45, but he looks 70. Mind, I doubt anyone’s enjoyed their life (and all possible excesses) as much as that man!

We snuck to somewhere near the front of the Tuborg tent and watched Hayseed Dixie set their stuff up – no roadies for this bunch. Ten minutes early, John walked to the microphone. “Well, we’re not supposed to start for fifteen minutes, but you’re here, we’re here… We’ve been sat backstage trying to figure out how to get this down to 40 minutes, so let’s make it 55!”

The crowd erupted. I’ve seen this lot maybe eight or nine times and I honestly think this is the best performance in terms of atmosphere I have ever seen. The crowd spilled outside of the tent, everyone knew all the words to every cover version, their own material is short enough to grab attention without boring those who don’t know it and the reaction to “Duelling Banjos” was beyond belief. Punks danced with women dressed as cowgirls; skinheads pogo’d with their arms round hairy rockers; hands were raised, clapping like mad. I don’t think there was a single person in that tent – the band included – without a huge grin on their face.

And just to think – some people preferred to go and watch Velvet Revolver instead. Frankly, they stink worse than the poop I keep in a jar (Hayseed reference) at the best of times, but when compared to HD they simply don’t come close to cutting it.

I’m really glad we got an extra fifteen minutes from Hayseed Dixie, it’s only a shame it wasn’t an extra hour or so.

Talia had never seen them before and I think she’s now a convert. And as a huge bonus I bumped into Neil and Jane from Bradford on the way out of the tent. Neil’s someone I seem to just “find” at festivals so I’ve not seen him since this time two years ago. I can’t even remember when I last saw Jane. I think we ran out of hugs, it was so good to see them again! See, this is why I wear the Newcastle shirt. Neil asked where I’d been and after about two minutes I managed to get through the list. With any luck, I’ll get an email from him next week. If not, I’ll track him down again!

The final band of the day, My Chemical Romance were on the main stage by the time we walked out. Much as I find a lot of their fans annoying (emo kids really do need help, frankly) the music’s good and they put on a good show for the short time they lasted. Their set was scheduled for 90 minutes, and they wandered off – with no encore – half an hour early. Well, if you only have two albums to play off…

And time to go home. I swapped Talia one of my jumpers for her mobile phone (she was cold and her phone needed charged), said goodnights, and Anni and I headed for Asda to stock up again. And then to a pizza place for a late supper. Nice pizza as well, though I had “eyes bigger than mouth” syndrome. Shame.

The shower at the hotel when we finally checked in was hugely appreciated and we collapsed in bed. Anni complaining about how warm it was while wrapping herself in duvet, me just lying on top of the covers – something I’ve only really “learned” how to do while I’ve been travelling. Before I left the UK, I had to have some kind of sheet over me, even on the warmest nights.

Tomorrow looked set to be more violent fun…

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