“Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” – Download Festival 2015 (10-14/06/15)

Headlined by KISS, Muse and Iron Maiden.

Download 2015 was an especially interesting one for me, with a change that had been a long time coming (if I may say so myself). I was to be the tour guide for some first-timers, friends Ffion and Alex, and a couple more new guys who joined them – Neil and Daffyd. They had been enticed by the festival in particular for the seriously poorly booked headliner Muse. More on them a little later.

I met the guys who I would be travelling with at stupid o’clock in the morning, to begin our trip on Wednesday morning. It was absolutely scorching as we queued by the gates (this was the first time that I had been at Download Festival before the gates had opened, since 2008), and there is a hilarious photograph of me looking extremely shattered and deflated already.

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Ugh, five days of this? It turned out that I should have been far more grateful for the sun, considering the drastic change of weather that we would get.

We got a decent spot in the hallowed Blue Camp, and miraculously, I managed to save a large enough spot to cater for Download virgin friends Ffion, Alex, Daffyd and Neil.  This was probably achieved because we were pretty much camped underneath the massive Air pendulum ride, and no one really wanted to hear “aaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaah!” non-stop.

Not the greatest lullaby ever but it would have to do. Besides, by the end of each tiring day, I doubt there was any noise that could prevent us from dozing off. We were also addicted to this ride, so to be camped next door was perhaps a bonus.

On Thursday, the weather wasn’t too bad, albeit a bit cloudier. Neil was still sunburnt though. It was on this day that Ffion would seriously regret plowing through a lot of a box of wine the night before. “I’m never drinking red wine again.”. Yeah, right. We played a drinking game that afternoon (although I sat out of the drinking bit), and we weren’t allowed to refer to each other by name, and we were instead the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was Leonardo. Unfortunately, there were five of us, and only four turtles. Ffion was unaware of the game, as she was lying down in her tent, and was seriously confused about how she was being referred to as ‘Master Splinter’. “Why are you calling me Master Splinter? Is it because you think I’m a prick?”. I cried with laughter.

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That’s me, second from right. I had taken just a day to look that much of a mess. Finally the fact that everyone keeps switching off their battery sucking smartphones off, has a plus – after Thursday there were no more photos of me.

This game was also depressing in how it interested me – the others were being a bit mean to Daffyd. They definitely ganged up on him a little during the game, as they ordered “Michelangelo” to take a lot of sips. This was a victim position that I was very familiar with.

And then came Friday, which began beautifully, in more ways than one. During the afternoon, we saw Lacuna Coil, and most importantly, at least for one of the guys, Cristina Scabbia. At least once per song, he would sigh variants of “holy shit, she’s hot”.

Slipknot / Download 2015
Rain + Slipknot = This… with Slipknot playing in the background…

Later, the weather took a turn for the worse, and I maintain that it may have been the worst rain that I have had to tolerate at Download (battling only with the Great ‘Cuntdown’ of 2012). During Judas Priest, the skies opened up and it hammered it down, and it would not stop for twenty-four hours. Corey Taylor suggested that we give the festival a new name – “DOWNPOUR 2015!”.

Come Saturday morning, I was sleeping in a muddy puddle, and all of my clothes were soaked. It was as though someone had poured a bucket of water into my backpack. My mother (who gave me a good telling off on the phone that morning) was correct not to believe that the rain had defied the built-in waterproof sheet – I genuinely didn’t know that my new rucksack had that feature. Oops. Unfortunately, this meant that we needed to head to the village and buy some new clothes.

It was here that I bought my ‘Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian’ and ‘Stop Picturing Me Naked’ t-shirts. It was genuinely quite difficult to find a cheap shirt that wasn’t profane. There was even ‘I’d Kick You in the Vagina But I’m Afraid I’d Lose My Shoe’. However, I did overstate the issue to Mum, so that I could get away with buying the ‘lesbian’ t-shirt. I just wanted that one.

Image ©Richard Johnson 2015

Saturday was the day of Muse, and depressingly, I couldn’t have cared much less. Before the timetables showed that it would be possible to see both, I had in fact intended to see the third stage headliner Andrew WK instead (“this next song is about PARTYING!” – Andrew WK, at the beginning of every other song). The setlist was pretty incredible, as we got some really obscure tracks – ‘Dead Star’, ‘Agitated’, ‘Citizen Erased’ and ‘Micro Cuts’. It was apparent that they were well aware that this was not the festival for them, as they dug out the heaviest tracks of years past. Unfortunately, they were obscure enough that virtually nobody there knew them. It’s an issue I had witnessed before when they performed Origin of Symmetry in its entirety at Reading Festival 2011. Alex said that he wanted to go nuts during ‘Dead Star’ but couldn’t, as everyone around him was deadly still. It was great, but it saddened me how I wasn’t blown away by it all. Years beforehand, I would have been ecstatic. Still, ‘Dead Star’ was the one song I hadn’t got to see, that I was disappointed not to have done before drawing a line under my fixation on them. With that out of the way, I’m done, I think.

As we left on Monday, Neil said “until next year?” to a couple of guys camped next to us. It is sad that not only couldn’t that be the case, considering that I was the only one of us to return the following year. I guess I didn’t win them over. Oh, and they didn’t like the line-up.

My brother picked me up from our drop-off point at Havant train station. I was pretty surprised to hear him say “I don’t know why you put yourself through this.”. Considering my laziness by comparison to his constant activity and fixation on sport, those weren’t words I expected from him. Ever. In my signature immature style, I deliberately wore my ‘Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian’ shirt home. I think that it is the Download version of the ‘instant hippie’ return from Woodstock. I took off my jacket as I stepped through the front door. My ten-year-old sister answered the door, and Mum was further down the hall, head in hands. She stared for a moment, trying to piece together what she was reading – “you’re a woman and you’re gay?”. Yes, Sacha. Apparently I can’t wear the shirt anymore, now that someone knows that I’m a lesbian.

It was hard work, but a great Download.

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