I had my 18th birthday at a Download, leave the story at that, and hope they believe it was a more recent year (and make sure not to give them any clue such as the fact that Lostprophets headlined it). However, I do think now is better time that any to deliver a retort to a comment that was posted by a friend of a friend on a photo of me at Download in 2008. That came after my first ever music festival, and at the time I would have been absolutely heartbroken.
Eleven years on, I still don’t have the hair, the piercings or the tattoos, but I can say with satisfaction and confidence – Charlotte? Get fucked.Anyway, on the festival. First, the weather. There was very thinly-veiled panic as often seems during the week beforehand. While things were subject to change to a degree, the forecast was not good. In fact, every time I looked, it seemed to get worse. This was summed up well during the BBC’s weather forecast for the coming week – “The Midlands should expect a month’s worth of rain over the weekend”. Great. The Met Office issued a ‘yellow warning’ as well, as the Midlands would receive two month’s worth of rain in two days.
Oh, crap.To be honest, what I was most concerned about wasn’t the conditions while I was there, but the conditions that the site would be in when we arrived. I can take being rained upon and wading through sludge for five days, but the physical inability to actually put up the tent in a bog during a torrential storm would be a big problem. It did turn out to be a nightmare, but the campsite wasn’t quite as liquid as I had feared. Yet. By the end of Wednesday, even fifty metres away from the toilets do you start questioning whether you are wading through mud or sewage.
Spirits unfortunately received another punch to the gut as I realised upon arrival that something was very different. The village, which was normally the first thing you reach when coming through the main entrance, had been moved. Even if the weather had been gorgeous, we would have been irritated to have needed to walk that far, and judging from the online reaction, I am not alone in thinking that this needs to be reverted next year. It had gone unchanged since 2009 (by my memory. Correct me if I’m wrong) without issue. As a result, there were no visits to the cinema, comedy tent and most upsettingly, no fun fair. An annual tipsy ride on the Air pendulum ride is a Download rite of passage for me.
It could have been worse. I didn’t have to drag my luggage too far to find my campmates from the coach drop-off point. However, those who drove there were designated to an extremely distant car park. This meant that everyone’s favourite Blue Camp (because it was next to the village!) became one of the least accessible, and although we camped there in the end, it seemed counterintuitive. It apparently took my campmate two-and-a-half hours to get from their car to their spot in camp.However, once everything was set up, it was a joy as the eccentricities of ‘Camp Llama Land’ took off. We were were all very concealed and dry in a very enviable shelter – a perfect location to have a glow-stick fight and a cheeseboard. Really. There were no drinking games (just the drink). I missed the memo beforehand, but attendees were encouraged to bring different kinds of cheese and wine (someone also brought port with them). I am hardly a connoisseur in either cheese or alcohol, so I haven’t a clue how knowledgeable those around me really were on the subject. Either way, it was a surreal sight – pretentious comments on the subjects of cheese and sausages… which had to be messily torn apart after the knife was lost. It can’t have been sanitary.
The most memorable moment of our stay came on the last night. Some of those in Camp Llama Land had befriended a couple of the security workers, and they sat with us when off of their patrol shift. A drug dealer was overly rowdy when he was offering MDMA. We called him in to take him up on his offer, and the security were waiting for him. The dealer was so thick, that in spite of the visibility vest, he handed the drugs straight to the security worker. Our jaws dropped as the dealer eagerly awaited his money. The security explained themselves.
Dealer: “You’re jokin’ mate.”
Security: “Do I look like I’m joking?”
It sunk in that he was in trouble, and he visibly died inside when he actually put his hand out and had the desperate nerve to ask for it back. He was given the option of leaving it there and walking away, or being evicted. He chose the former and wandered off.
So, the music. Buying my Download ticket has obviously become a habit, and this was a line-up that admittedly didn’t really excite me. It might have been Tool’s first UK show in 13 years, but I hadn’t really cared much about them beforehand (but I do now. They were in credible). I decided that this year I was going to branch out and make discoveries as opposed to just visiting acts who I had seen before. For example, I turned down Whitesnake in favour of a ska-punk marathon at the third stage (Zebrahead, The Interrupters and Reel Big Fish). In fact, almost all of my Saturday was devoted to this frame of mind, as I saw The Beaches, Lovebites and Riding the Low at the smaller stages. Ever heard of them? Me neither, but they were all great. Admittedly, I only watched Riding the Low to save myself a spot for The Hu – the internet sensation Mongolian metal band. They were brilliant, but for a lot of their set, I didn’t get that good view I was hoping for, as an Asian assembly barged in front of me and held up a Mongolian flag.
Shortly after waking up, a few people were ready to head to the arena very early. I hadn’t intended to join them beforehand, but I’m very glad that I caught up with them, as they decided to see the early NXT UK show, during which a future episode of NXT UK was recorded. Although there were six of these shows over the course of the festival, we definitely chose the right one to go to, as we got to see Walter vs. Travis Banks, Shayna Baszler vs. Isla Dawn and most excitingly… ADAM COLE (BAY-BAY!) vs. Dave Mastiff.I went back to the NXT UK tent for the late show, as I had originally intended and stayed for the entire recording,(during which saw Rhea Ripley vs. Piper Niven, Moustache Mountain vs. Grizzled Young Veterans and Matt Riddle vs. Ilja Dragunov), so my lonely resting bitch face will be seen moving closer and closer to the ring as I stepped over rows of chairs as people left. Speaking of which, the later show had substantially fewer people present, as to be expected when bigger bands are performing later on. However, it really did get upsettingly sparse. I hope it doesn’t look too sad when it is eventually televised.
I went into the festival intending to keep a tally off all the political rants that the bands gave for cheap reaction. Incredibly, there was just one – Coldrain, who didn’t get as a loud a reaction to “fuck Donald Trump” as I think even they expected.
I was absolutely shattered by the end of the festival, to the point that I fell asleep while in the arena waiting for Amon Amarth to play. Normally, I’d take this as a positive as it means I have no difficulty nodding off when getting back to the noisy camp. Unfortunately, despite being tired, I was kept awake and distracted on one night when there was hilarious snoring coming from one tent, and a couple having loud sex in another.
Next year, I really hope that various problems are resolved, or at very least the weather is better, because the way I approached my timetable this year matched with actually using the facilities that I normally would, could make for an action-packed weekend. Fingers crossed that comes to fruition at Download 2020!
Oh, and one more thing. I am so sick of seeing Mads Mikkelsen in the Carlsberg adverts on the screens that I’m not sure I even want to see a new season of Hannibal anymore. Probably.