If you’ve read my recent posts you’ll know that I recently spent five days camping at Download Festival, Donington Park. This was my first festival camping experience and it was an interesting and exciting one at that. Exciting for the music, interesting for the mud.
Download is now in its tenth year and it is as popular as ever, selling out completely this year. I was accompanied by my boyfriend Tom and my former housemate Will who’ve both been to Download before so I believed I was in safe hands but I didn’t count on the weather being so bad. It rained a lot and with rain comes mud. I’ve dealt with dirty festival conditions before when I went to Glades festival for the day during the July floods in 2007. The difference was I lived around the corner and could get away when it got too much. This time I had to stick it out.
We arrived just before the first of many rain clouds rolled in but as we struggled to get all our kit from the car park to the camp site the rain began to come down and things quickly went from tiring to exhausting. Still we hoped that this was a one-off and that by tomorrow it would clear up. We got our tent up, had a few beers, made a BBQ and went to bed.
Baby wipes and dry shampoo quickly became my most valuable possessions. The wind had brought in even more rain and it was then that we opted for a gazebo which we tied to all our tents to save it from the wind. The blue sky came out for roughly 10 minutes before hiding again and then a wind storm began. I don’t think I slept at all that night but if I thought it wasn’t going to get any worse…I needed the loo. I bravely went out into the cold and mud which had now turned into a mud river. Some unlucky folks had already lost tents to the poor conditions and even if I did make it to the toilets, it wasn’t a pretty sight. Some people miss really badly!
Instant BBQ were only so good in the wind and rain. It would have been better to just save up loads and buy food from the many food stalls in the festival village, no matter how expensive. The festival village had everything you could want from a whole fun fair to food and clothes to camping gear. This came in handy when the wardrobe I’d brought began to fail me.
Or as I like to call it, the good part. Download has five stages and a line up of over 50 bands. Despite the music being more Tom’s thing than mine, I actually knew a few of the bands and looked forward to seeing them.
Day one got off to a rocky start with a long delay getting into the arena due to weather meaning the first two bands on every stage were cancelled. Then to add to this Europe didn’t make it to the festival so I never got to see ‘The Final Countdown’ performed live. The first band I saw on the main stage was Machine Head. I’d been well versed in the heavy stuff thanks to Tom so I was ready for it, apart from when I somehow ended up in a circle pit by mistake.
Then I got to see one of the bands I wanted to see. Nightwish. They were good but I wish I’d gotten to see them with the original female singer Tarja Turunen as well. Then I made a quick dart across to the main stage to see The Prodigy, my favourite group who I’ve been dying to see for a very long time. They were fantastic, even if they did make us wait ages and Keith Flint was brilliant.
We got there nice and early on day two to see Halestorm, the only band at the festival I’ve seen before. They were even better this time and the lead singer Lzzy Hale is probably one of the best female singers out there right now.
I then went to see a band called Steel Panther who I’d never heard of before but they are very funny and topless women (not me) seem to be drawn to them. The laughing was a good warm up for the next band, Tenacious D!
Tenacious D were hilarious and played most of their well-known songs including ‘Tribute’, which we’d already been singing around the campsite a few days before in preparation.
We then went on to watch Killswitch Engage, who Tom loved, and then we went to see Metallica, however, I was distracted during this set by the massive circle pit in front of me which resulted in one guy being carried off to the medics.
On the third day the sun finally came out. When Tom and Will went to go see Lamb of God I went off to the Red Bull stage on my own to see Kopek, a new Irish band I’m fast becoming a big fan of.
The highlight of the day was of course Black Sabbath, led by Ozzy Osbourne. It turns out you can enjoy Black Sabbath at any age and that was proven even more when a 12-year-old boy and his dad stood next to us. Half way during the performance I heard the boy tell his dad “Dad, I’ve waited my whole life for this!”
When the music had finished and the stages cleared, we headed back to the tents. This was when I learned that on the last day the main reason most people leave early is because the last night gets a little crazy. Tents were set on fire, small tents were being thrown across the site and one guy, who thought it would be fun to roll around in a tent in the road, came moments from being squashed by a fire truck. The only thing to do in these situations is find an abandoned air bed, take a seat and watch the night unfold. We did just that.
The main question here is would I do it again? Yes to the music, maybe to the camping. I need a few years to recover first. About as long as it’ll take to get my boots clean again.