Graspop 2008 Day 3

Acoustic rock. Kinda.

The final day. We rose at a reasonable time and realised we were all out of beer. Hans walked off to see early bands while we kept on going on into down to find out that the small supermarket was closed on a Sunday. Argh. Fortunately, there’s another supermarket around a corner which we hadn’t used before. Popping round there, we managed to get the last of the – sadly low-alcohol- tinnies and lugged them back to the campsite.

I managed to miss Lauren Harris for not the first time. Mainly because I’ve heard nothing but scorn poured in her direction. I know her dad’s a rock god, but by all accounts her own band sucks. Besides, beer and food were more important.

I made my way into the festival area in time to catch Apocalyptica coming on and had a good listen. They’re OK, and certainly novel, but not on a par with Hayseed Dixie when it comes to doing covers. Each to their own. After them, I popped into a marquee to see Soilwork with Pete. They put on a great show, but there’s no doubting that their best material was from Stabbing the Drama.

More metal karaoke

As we walked out of the tent to meet everyone else, I saw a familiar face walk past. It was Melanie from the previous day – quite a coincidence as she was only walking past to find her mates. We hooked up again and she kicked around with us for the rest of the day. I guess Brits are more fun than Germans…

Bullet For My Valentine are hard to take seriously in their “We are metaaaalll… from the Valleys” Welsh accents so they were pretty much ignored. We headed back to the campsite to make the most of the beer rather than watch Avenged Sevenfold (I’d eat my own ears rather than listen to A7X) where we discovered that Melanie had much better beer than I’d picked up. Got to love those Germans – they do come in useful at times.

We did head back for At The Gates, In Flames and Arch Enemy. The latter did keep asking for updates on the football as the Euro 2000 final was on, and the lead singer is German. A good job nobody told her they lost…

Of course, the big band of the day was Iron Maiden. They drew the biggest crowd that Graspop has ever seen and justifiably so. Hans even sang along to some of the songs! The stage show was superb, the song choices excellent, the whole buzz of the crowd amazing. With a great mix of songs, predominantly from Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Seventh Son along with the obvious classics they rocked for around 2 hours before letting loose an enormous Eddie mummy.

Fancy dress

Show over and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life being sung by tens of thousands of metalheads as they made their shaky ways back to the tents. Partying continued late into the nights, though. Just because the bands were done, didn’t mean that the beer would stop flowing!

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Graspop 2008 Day 2

Today was more of a festival day. The sleep overnight wasn’t too bed all things considering – like the number of us in a tent and the lack of mattresses or padding of any sort. The earth underneath kind of fit round the way I sleep so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Plus I was tired!

As ever, Hans was on a mission to see as many bands as he could in one day. We headed over to the ground and caught Throwdown (a.k.a Pantera with different band members. And songs. But much the same sound) who were really entertaining. Apparently in the US they’ll play to small club crowds of a hundred or so. What a waste. Great fun, and incredible to watch a lead singer actually crawl onto the audience and do half a song kneeling down as they supported his weight. Also the start of the “biggest mosh pit of the day” competition.

Sabaton I won’t bore you with. Because they bored me. Nothing special, nothing new, nothing memorable.

Back in Marquee 2, Bleeding Through rocked almost as much as Throwdown, including an impressive clamber up one of the support columns by the guitarist who managed a solo up there. This time they went for a circle pit around the sound desk which turned into some kind of mosh doughnut. Weird, but impressive from another “small” band.

I wasn’t too fussed by many of the afternoon bands, and wanted more beer so I headed back to the tent where the rest of the gang were already chilling out. Marina had scrawled “FREE HUGS” on Dave’s back and he was having… limited success. From a large group of scary men who all hugged him, one guy who seriously looked like he’d rearrange Dave’s features if he got within 6 feet and a woman who told him in no uncertain terms “Do not come near me”.

While we were messing about, enjoying the sun and the beer and the people, I spotted my second Lawnmower Deth t-shirt of the festival. This one turned out to belong to a German girl called Melanie who we got talking to and sharing beer with. Time ticked on and it was time for more bands. Hans had already zoomed off and we walked back to the festival area to try and locate him.

By this stage I was rather merry having gone through a handful of cans of cheap Belgian lager, and most of a bottle of Jagermeister and a lot of Red Bull. We got to the arena just as Cavalera Conspiracy hit the stage and nothing was stopping me. The pit was it…

Frankly, I can’t recall many specific tracks from the set. I was too busy kicking lumps out of people. And having the same in return. Classic Sepultura, an oddball Nailbomb song and a few numbers off the current album. Absolutely superb. Despite being exhausted so easily the previous day I simply did not stop for the entire 90 minutes the band were on stage. Not once.

The best part was being recognisably the oldest person in the pit. So people listened to me. Oh yes. I was in charge. Bwahahahaha! People pushed back to make it bigger. Fallers were helped up, circles started, bodies flew overhead as the “no crowdsurfing rule” was roundly ignored, though the security staff didn’t mind one bit. I had a great surf to the front myself, but after the set finished was even better. I was knackered and fell backwards against a load of people… who picked me up and surfed me out of the crowd in the direction of the bar! Something new at every festival…

In the fun I’d misplaced Melanie which was a shame, but I caught up with the other guys at our usual place by the Belgacom tent. Sustenance was needed to after giving My Dying Bride a chance – about half of one of their over-long, slow numbers – we headed outside to the burger vans and scoffed away. Hans and I returned to see KISS while the rest made their way back to camp.

Now the last time I saw KISS was on the “we’re back in make-up” tour and they were headlining the last Donington Monsters of Rock Festival. I’d guess around 12 years ago? This time around they were promoting the 35th anniversary of the Alive album and proceeded to play all of the thing – possibly in order – for well over an hour. With very little stage theatrics and not a lot of songs that I or Hans knew.

Hand on heart, I was toying with walking off for an early night. I’m glad we didn’t as eventually they started playing some more recent material and pulled out all the stops on the fireworks and gizmos. The show got ten times better and they rekindled the memories I had of them from the last time.

As the lst fireworks dropped out of the sky and the guitar chords silenced, we made use of the extra exit and staggered back to the tent where the cold, hard earth awaited my bruised and battered (and aging) body.

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Graspop 2008 – Day 1

We’d arranged to meet Marina outside the festival campsite around 11:30, so we had plenty of time to grab some food and get packed. The train station is only a short walk up the road from the hostel and within 20 minutes we were sat on a train (filled with long-haired people in black clothes) heading north.

One quick change and second train pulled into Mol on time for us to run straight onto a shuttle bus to Dessel. This year, even those with e-tickets (like us) qualified for free transport within Belgium. A superb addition to an already well-organised festival.

So there we were, bang on time… and no sign of Marina who’d got there the night before. I tried to SMS her and got no reply. Tried to blip her phone… and she picked up just as I was cancelling my call. Then I ran out of credit. Grargh.

Finally, after an hour, she located us. She’d been waiting at the wrong bus stop. As this is my blog, it is therefore all Marina’s fault. So there. Regardless, we all (Dave, Pete, Marina, Hans and I) walked through to the campsite. This year, no annoying rummaging in rucksacks by security staff looking for gas canisters or bottles. We felt trusted. Also no need to change our e-tickets as yet. We could get settled and do that later – again, an improvement on previous years.

Marina had brought a big tent with her, enough room for her and Dave in one segment and the rest of us in another, plus all our luggage. Not a bad spot either, round the back end of one of the shower blocks and with some Germans next door having moderate success with their “Show boobs for beer (pretty ladys only)” (sic) sign.

Hans wanted to catch as many bands as possible over the weekend, so we dropped him off at the festival area while we walked into town for a beer and some shopping (which may have involved more beer…). The first supermarket we arrived at was all out of beer, except for that in bottles which isn’t allowed onto the campsite. Fortunately, there’s another supermarket in Dessel so we made our way round to that one.

Armed with two crates of Jupiler and some munchies, we stepped out into the sunshine to begin the walk back to the site. A BMW with a very attractive young woman in it pulled up and asked uus how to get to Graspop (twice – the first time in Dutch). We volunteered directions then Dave stuck in “if you’re heading that way, any chance of a lift?”

Cheeky. But it worked. She drove us about half way as she had to detour to collect some kit for the stall she was working at. So “thank you” mystery lady! At the entry to the festival area, I handed my stuff over to the others and went in to find Hans as we were running late. This also saved me carrying all that beer back to the tent. Convenient.

I caught up with Hans outside the Belgacom tent, where free internet was on offer. He’d seen Tesla (not so good) and Behemoth. While we were stood around, Yngwie Malsteen insulted our eardrums until Saxon came on and pretty much rocked the place. Not bad for some old guys who’ve been playing since I was three, and much better than I was expecting. Sadly no Ride Like The Wind, though – it’s the only song by them I know.

The others hadn’t appeared by the time Saxon finished and we wanted food and beer, so opted to walk back to the tent. We picked up some grub from one of the local houses that had become a cafeteria for the weekend then strolled into the campsite. Where we couldn’t find the damn tent. Anywhere. And we were missing Def Leppard. So not all bad, then.

We gave up after a while and walked back to the festival site where we found the others before running into Marquee 1 for Testament. I’ve been waiting to see these guys for many years and they didn’t disappoint, although the sound quality wasn’t great. I can now say that I’ve moshed and crowdsurfed to every one of the major Bay Area thrash bands. Finally. I can also say that I destroyed my £7 trousers which I’d hoped would last me all weekend. Small price to pay.

We met up with the rest again, and Marina offered to take me to the tent to grab some beers. It meant missing Whitesnake, but hey ho. There were better bands on over the weekend. It turns out that the tent had been moved from where it was originally which why Hans and I couldn’t find it – not our fault at all [may contain traces of outright fib].

Beered and snacked up, we walked back to the music area in time to hear the ending notes of Still of the Night. We split up as we wanted to see different bands in the tents. Hans headed in the direction of Marquee 2 for Morbid Angel while Dave and I went to see Ministry. I have to say that if this really is their last tour then it’s a hell of a loss to live music. Hans wasn’t so impressed when he came in halfway through (he got bored of Morbid Angel), but Dave certainly liked them.

And on to the headliner of the evening – Judas Priest. Currently touring on a huge concept double-album, it was always going to be a worry that there was too much new stuff. And also that frontman Rob Halford is 56. Soundwise, they were superb. Note perfect and Rob’s vocals are as good as they ever were. Atmospheric on the new songs, melodic on “Angel of Destiny” and screamy as you could wish for on “Painkiller”.

However… physically, he’s definitely struggling. Most of the set, he was sat down or singing entire songs while bent double. When he did move, it was very slowly as if he was struggling to gain any momentum.

Overall, not a bad performance and a decent mix of tracks including most of the old favourites. A small crowd for a headliner, though. Still very enjoyable.

The walk back to the campsite was aided by the secondary exit put into the festival area, so no bottlenecks as in previous years. We were all pretty much pooched after the hot weather and milling around so we had a comparitively early night. And again I was glad for my earplugs. No car horns, but several hundred stereos and several thousand drunk metalheads singing and screaming into the night.

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Download – Day 3

When I woke I felt like my right elbow had been cramped for a week, but at least the swelling on my left one had gone down. Anni looked like I felt (with less bruising) but we gathered our thoughts and packed up before emptying the breakfast buffet of pig parts again. We checked out and re-tried Asda (which was open on a Sunday so all the staff and customers will probably go to Hell) so Anni could get a camping chair and I could get some books. OK, the books were an accident. Anyone who knows me knows what I’m like when I see cheap books.

Courtesy of a nearby Sunday market (more hellbound souls) we were a little late getting to Download but in time to catch Chimaera and Papa Roach – more dents and gouges on my anatomy. Coby of Papa Roach gauged the crowd with “Who’s looking forward to the other bands? Mastodon! (cheer) Lamb Of God! (cheer) Stone Sour! (big cheer) Killswitch Engage! (very big cheer) Evanescence (even the tumble weed didn’t bother booing) Oh, right… Iron Maiden! (even the staff in the food tents quarter of a mile away cheered)”

Another great but too short set. Mastodon were OK and I skipped Lamb of God and Stone Sour (both on at Graspop in 2 weeks) to watch Paradise Lost and Napalm Death on the Dimebag stage. I’d not seen PL in years. In fact, the last time I was any of them was when I tried to talk Aaron out of buying an iMac when I worked in PCWorld.

Back at the main stage, Anni was nestled in her comfy chair when Killswitch Engage came on. Ah well, it’d have been rude not to go in the pit. Scariest man of the weekend was in there – naked except for a pair of David Hasselhoff underpants and a pair of trainers.

I needed a rest after that and thankfully Evanescence were so awful I could safely ignore them. They moaned their way through a dreadful set and failed miserably to ignore the hecklers. Instead of sounding put-upon, they came across as thinking they were better than they really were. And they’re not that good to start with. Finally they left. Thank you, good night and ____ off.

The field filled. Human pyramids were built. Plastic bottles were thrown at them until they collapsed again. The sun began to consider setting.

Maiden came on.

This is a band that really makes you proud to be British. From rousing songs like “These Colours Don’t Run” to classics based on history such as “The Trooper” this band (and 2 of its members) have been going for around 30 years now. The Number of the Beast is 25 years old this year, and they’re still going. Bruce revealed – subtley – that they’ll be headlining Download again next year as well, and concentrating on the Powerslave era. Oh, wow.

The only let-down was the lack of a post-show firework display. The enormous Eddie in a tank was eye-opening, though. I can only assume the missing sparklies was due to being unable to get permission from the nearby airport as planes had been flying over the main stage all weekend. Here’s hoping we get a display at Graspop at we did 2 years ago.

We said our goodbyes and as T & H headed tentwards, Anni and I followed the crowds to the carpark. It took us over 2 hours to get onto anything remotely resembling a road and gone 3am by the time we got to Anni’s.

Kit was dumped, a wash put on and I collapsed in bed with KK snuggled under my arm for the first time in 15 months. I think my cats remembered me. I like to think they did.