Right right right… where do I begin?
My first big festival out of my little island, and it had to be freaking DOWNLOAD!
For those of you who live in a cave – or who just do not give a flying f…flamingo about Rock or Metal Music genres – Download Festival is a British rock festival annually held at Donington Park in Leicestershire, in England, since 2003. Four stages, more that 50 bands performing over a period of 3 days starting at around 11 in the morning and finishing at around 11 or 12 at night. A WWE NXT tent, a humongous space called The Village full of food and drink stalls, essential services and entertainment, a stand up comedy tent, ferris wheels, an inflatable castle and a variety of pleasure seeking activities you could seriously hurt yourself on if not in a complete sober state. There were toilets and water available all over the campsite area, as well as showers. I even spotted a room full of mirrors and hair dryers where anyone could retouch their heavily “kohled” eyes.
Download had always been for me one of those faraway dreams that you just know will never come true. When you’re 15, from a tiny tropical island in the middle of the indian ocean and you love heavy metal, you make lots of stupid promises to your little self. Like how you’re going to see your favorite band live one day, or how you’re going to make sure you earn enough money to make it to Download, Hellfest, Wacken or Faericon!! It’s a dream that seems so far and untouchable you can only keep it as a fluffy little cloud in the back of your mind. But even R.L Stine wrote “be careful what you wish for”.
My little “Download” dream came true thanks to meticulous planning, money saving and never ending convincing methods by one of my friends at work (yes Rob, I’m talking about you!). My fluffy boyfriend Shaun, and me made it our big summer project and embarked on a journey of festival shopping and organising. We decided that we would go on this adventure by means of public transport. God did we not know how much of an obstacle course this would have been! There we were, a Mauritian hobbit with a vivid imagination, as excited as a hobbit starting a new metal adventure could be, and a fluffy bunny excited mostly about all the guitar solos that were about to blow his face off. Ready to make use of all of our bunny and hobbit muscles to carry the following devices essential for our 5 day trip:
The train journey was the longest, most tiring but exciting ride ever. We spent at least 3 hours train hopping from Wigan, to Manchester, to Sheffield, to Derby, to finally reach the promised land of Donnington Park. There, we had to grab a coach, and start a tedious trek with all of our stuff but the festival excitement made it all worth it! Lost in a sea of long black or multicolored hair, of peolple pulling crates of beer, carrying heavy tents, oceans and oceans of bands’ t-shirts, smiles, and people practicing their growls… A place where all the misfits fit. A place where people do not give a shit where you’re from, what you look like. A place where music is the ultimate and only god.
People bullshit so much about metalheads and associate our lifestyle, dresscodes (or lack of), and the music we listen to, to negativity, satanism, and all kinds of ridiculous issues. I am not going to dive into this very interesting but lenghty subject as I have already picked upon this on my french blog here (for the bilingual ones amongst you) a couple of years ago. But those 5 whole days reinforced my love for metal, hardrock, rock and roll, and all of its genres and subgenres and even more for it’s community of wild crazy and ridiculously real people. So many little things that happen and make you smile when you look back on them, and just make you think “This is great! Life should just be about being a massive festival!”.
Waiting in front of the rows and rows of portable toilets and sharing a fag and small talk with a green haired stranger, making friends and camping with people you barely know and finding yourself discussing the death penalty and sharing burgers with them. Laughing your head off when you hear a newly made mate shout at 7 in the morning “Guys! Has anyone seen my druggie bag?” Whatever that means! We were walking into the arena, when I released one of my grossest (and most epic in my opinion) burps! The guy walking in front of Shaun and me turned around and his eyes darted quickly from me to Shaun, and from Shaun to me. When I whispered “I’m sorry” obviously embarassed after what I thought was a feat, he laughed his head off and said “Aaaah don’t worry! This is the perfect place for that kind of behaviour!”
No words can describe the feeling of watching metal royalty like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. I’ve got no appropriate words to tell you how it all felt. This feeling of attending a dark mass led by the ultimate dark priest when Ozzy walked on that stage. Or how much admiration and love I felt when Maiden were on. The passion, the energy, the moshing, the talents, the brotherhood and bond these bands share with each other. This adrenaline rush in the mosh pits mixed with the joy of seeing bands you’ve been listening to since you were a kid, it’s surreal, it’s indefinable! They are not role models, they are only people, full of flaws and imperfections. But it is that humanity, that sense of reality and the heaviness of all those riffs and lyrics that just smashes your heart, and pleases your ears in waves and waves of emotions. Blood brothers live and the speech made by Bruce Dickinson before the band played it was probably one of the highlights of my whole life!
This wave of emotion that just crushes you and makes you feel like you’re part of something big and that your little self matters. Just like all the other little selves around you. A space where you’re free to be whoever you are or want to be – a knight, The Wall, a bearded guy with a wedding dress, the Power Rangers, the Night’s Watch! The last episode of Game of Thrones had only just been aired back then and “HOLD THE DOOR!” could be heard anywhere, anytime! Walking in line to enter the Arena and somebody would shout “Hold the door!”, near the toilet area it became the general overly used joke. Toilets that I have to mention you’ll barely want to use after the 3rd day of camping! We even saw a half naked man with a life ring around his neck followed by a group of people yelling “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME” – Game of thrones fans will get the reference. We witnessed a proposal that went completely wrong when a King and his Knights (yes, yes, you read it right! A king and his knights!) stopped their royal march in front of a tent, looked at the couple sitting in front of it and yelled “My Lord! She is already bethroned! OOOooh the tragedy!”
The ‘camaraderie’, the overly friendly community, the jokes that everyone gets, the songs that everyone knows. Finding yourself singing all the songs from Pick of Destiny sitting around all muddy in a circle at 4 in the morning downing never ending crates of beers. Dancing, headbanging, moshing and tripping with complete strangers in the inflatable castle, or in a ‘club like’ tent that only played the heaviest music! Singing along, anywhere, anytime and with anyone. Sharing food, drinks, warm clothes, showers, cigs, and other festival paraphernalia! Download what a beautiful beast you were.
Here’s a list of my favorite band moments throughout the whole festival:
Avatar were definitely one of my pleasant live surprises. Johannes Eckerström is one dynamic and charismatic frontman! I definitively joined the Freak Show, more please!
Amon Amarth were riding freaking dragons by the end of their sets. That’s enough said. We had so much fun downing rhum to warm up because of the rainy weather and headbanging to some awesome vikings solos! Johan Hegg was drinking some mysterious beverage from a horn. Process the majesty of this information!
Rammstein were impressive; I had never seen a show like this… FIYA, so much FIYA. Theatrical and grand!
Gojira were everything I expected them to be, and so much more. Heavy, classy, very technical, BRUTAL! It really is a shame they were in a tiny tent and not on one of the main stages. They however blew that tiny tent off.
Rival Sons made me dance; a lot!!
Megadeth were brilliant but Mustaine comes off as a total prick, so that put me off. It is by going to live shows that I started to realise how the vibe and atmosphere a band creates matters. Looks and personality do not matter – but what emanates from a band matters a lot to me, and if I do not click or vibe with someone, I’ll pass. And I passed on Mustaine.
Periphery were different, but interesting.
BabyMetal were very cute but confusing as hell and probably one the most WTF moments of these 5 days.
Floor Jansen is gorgeous and ooh so tall – I like her more than Annette. Nightwish were really good. See when I was a tiny winy (and whiny!) teen, I was all about the Tarja times! But I have to say after seeing them live with Floor, I fell madly in love! She was like a Queen Amazon warrior, she completely stole the show!
Saw a bit of Disturbed (Gojira were on at the same time, no choice to be made there); Draiman looked very bored to be there but they apparently did “Killing in the name” with Breaking Benjamin’s frontman Ben Burnley. I was oh so gutted I missed this, but you know Gojira!
I was pleasantly surprised by Killswitch Engage as well! Very tight band! They opened the main stage on one of the 3 days and did one hell of a good job! It was one of those gigs you do not want to end!
OOooh Graveyard!!! That was good!! It’s a shame the rain kind ruined the end of their set.
There was so much to see, to listen to, so many bands! I know I must have missed a lot of them, but I had the most fun moshing my life away during the Korn and Skindred sets. Benji Webbe is an effing beast!! They put on an amazing show. This guy knows how to make a whole crowd go mental and moist! Shaun and me almost choked to death in the moshpit during Korn’s set, but at least we would have died with a blissful grin on our faces.
The body aches, and lack of normal hygiene for 5 whole days were definitely worth it.