Download 2013

Back from Download 2013 today. I’ve washed the last of the blood from my face and checked the previously unnoticed bruising… I’ve made it through another year of abuse mostly unscathed…

Download was touch and go this year. The death of a good friend and festival-buddy in the days leading up to it hit me hard, but in the end the thought of spending a weekend with friends old and new won out over a miserable weekend on my own.

It was the start of that friendship that made the choice to carry on with my trip to Download easier. The people I was camping with this year were people I’d met for the first time in previous years at Download, just as it had been when I’d first met Sara during the Isle of Wight Festival of 2006 and ended up sharing a campsite with her for the next couple of years before her health started to deteriorate, so this felt right.

I turned up on the Friday morning to find that, as promised, a perfectly tent-sized space had been saved for me. Three old friends and three new ones to spend the festival with. Claire Danes was a bit of a surprise, though a welcome one. Who’d have thought she’d be slumming it with the likes of me but sure enough she emerged from one of the tents in our little group, obviously using a false name and doing a remarkably good Scottish accent. Thankfully it was the strong but sweet Stardust Claire Danes, rather than the on-the-edge, highly medicated Carrie from Homeland.

Then came the challenge of putting up that tent in front of an already alcohol-fuelled audience of appreciative Scots. My Rolf-Harris approach of careful planning and preparation followed by that “can you see what it is yet” flourish initially failed to impress, though the resulting final erection proved most satisfying (to me at least). By 11am the tent and the first cider of the day were successfully finished off. So far so good.

Another surprise guest was Bobo. Bobo the clown. I kid you not. Over the course of the weekend he was to provide some very good value entertainment. An amazingly large percentage of the Download audience suffer from Coulrophobia. No matter how heavily tattooed, or how much metal they had stuck in them… people were genuinely scared. Watching from a distance you could see people spot him and start to back off, if not break into a full trot! His ambling gate and passive demeanour failed to lessen their reaction. Imagine being told by a security guard as he backs off… “don’t come any closer or I *will* hit you, I f**king hate clowns!”. Zombies… pah! Clowns… AAAAARRRGGGHHHHH!!

So, Claire Danes, Bobo the Clown… oh yeah! And there was music… I’ve no idea who we saw first. Much chatting was done in front of some of the minor bands. Did I mention I’ve no idea who most of these bands are? I did recognise *one* of them… in my own words…”are they the Final Countdown dudes?”.

Korn I liked a lot, though standing there among the merry throng, enjoying the music and the occassion I did have a bit of a moment; shedding a few tears for Sara. It’s odd how, although you’re with friends and sharing this experience with so many other people, you can be totally anonymous and alone in a crowd of 90,000. So anyway, Korn get added to the playlist from now on.

I managed to miss all but two tracks from Bullet For My Valentine. I must remember to actually go and see the bands I know I like and remember why I paid all that money for a ticket!!

Then came Slipknot. Oh my. Another one for the Amazon wish-list. I love drums, and they had lots of them!

Saturday… a relaxed start and some experimentation. I can confirm, and I believe my fellow lab-rats will agree, that absinthe is a fine post-breakfast pick-me-up. It did nothing however for the cold I’d picked up during the week. On this weekend of all weekends I was losing my voice! In my head the new gravelly texture to my voice made me a rock god or a TV voice-over man.

More bands… I enjoyed Alice in Chains, missed Motorhead (idiot!) and thoroughly enjoyed the Queens of the Stoneage and of course Iron Maiden (more tears for Sara). I think, after seeing Metallica, Black Sabbath and AC/DC in recent years, that I’ve now done all the greats from my youth. No idea who they could have as a headliner for me next year?! On the downside was the fact that by now my voice had gone to the extent that I couldn’t physically sing along to the only band whose lyrics I actually bloody new!


Sunday. Time to Zombie-up. One advantage of camping with the people who run ZED Events is they carry spare make-up. Not the full-on stuff the use at work, but enough to produce that perfect “Sunday morning” look…

The group of us got a great reaction. My voice by now fitted the role perfectly, it was undead. I got asked for hugs and photos…!! I’m already looking for an outfit for next year…

I’m sure I saw other bands on the Sunday. I must have done. But none of them, NONE OF THEM, compare to the mighty gods of rock that were Rammstein! Crazy mofos all, the show they put on was the perfect end to the festival, I left the stage with a real high. It was also the night I finally got a bit closer to the stage. Not the spitting distance I got from Ozzie, or the touching distance from SOAD, but close enough to properly become one with the crowd. Chatting at work since then I’ve now decided how to work out when I’m getting old… it will be that point where I no longer want to barge my way to the front and throw myself into a mosh or a circle-pit. IT. IS. AWESOME!! Being 6’2″ and weighing 14 stone means I can more than hold my own, and even when the time comes that I’m older and frailer it will be the desire rather than the ability to wade in that will be my yardstick. Bring it on!

Lastly, a big thank you to Black Moth for providing some interesting entertainment interludes back at the tent… though perhaps not in the way they’d expect. Finally my voice is recovering. I’ve gone through various stages. The rock-god is no more… I’ve been told I’ve sounded like everything from the guy at the beginning of Independence Day who rushes to phone his mother to Baron Greenback from Danger Mouse… not the image I was going for!

So a great weekend was had by all. I’ll always have Sara with me whichever festival I’m at (though frankly I think she’d have preferred to see The Killers), and hopefully the new friends I made this year will remain a part of my life, and my festival experiences, in the future… until I just can’t mosh any more.

Let’s rock!