Now, you might have read part 1 of this blog and though ‘Jimmy, you’re full of shit!’ but while that may be metaphorically true, biologically I managed to do what I though would be the impossible. My wife joked before I left for the weekend-long festival, ‘Have fun holding it in for three days’ and after the bio-hazard that was the toilet facilities at Festival Zand, I thought she was right, it would be hard to take nature’s call.
Let me be real here for a second. I have a strong stomach. I’ve worked in hospitals for years. I have washed the infected feaces out of a 70 year old woman’s prolapsed vagina and then gone and ate my lunch straight afterward without missing a beat. I have washed cadavers who’ve passed by choking on their own vomit and bile without having to crack a window. I have had more than one person spray bloody diarrhea directly onto my outstretched arms. I’m not a baby when it comes to the grosser side of life.
The toilets in Festival Zand were horrific even to me. They were a hole in the portaloo floor, baking in the hot sun, with a thousand used tampons and 1,000 liters of booze-filled puke percolating for hours to create a stench usually only smelled by the denizens of hell itself. You could almost see the comic book stink lines. Revolting doesn’t cover it.
My scheme for the good Download drop down was, instead of getting up in the camp and queuing forever to climb in on top of 2,000 fresh turds, to instead walk all the way to the arena, which had been cleaned and restocked overnight presumably, and walk to the furthest toilets away from the entrance. Clean and pristine, no queue, no problems. What a success. I’d recommend this tactic to anyone else who isn’t going to be too drunk to care. To be fair though, the actual toilets they used were way more high tech and less gross in general. Quite high quality.
ANY OLD WAY….
Where was I ?
DAY 2, The Bands Part 2
Oh yeah. Parkway-Fucking-Drive! Live! Parkway Drive‘s Ire album is one of my most listened to albums of the last few years. Their new album is almost as good. They have some really memorable classic material before that. I could not wait to hear them live. I had tried to see them live before, and missed out. I was not going to let that happen again.
My excitement was almost fever pitched when they hit the stage. The setlist was fantastic with all of my favourite songs from the two newest albums.They even played the slow atmospheric moody stuff which was pretty spine-tingling with all the dry ice. When they played ‘Writings On The Wall’ they got up on risers and elevated up into the air.
Speaking of elevating into the air, at one stage, they had the drumkit rotate a full 360 degrees so it was fully upside down, like Joey Jordinson or Tommy Lee. They even set the drum riser on fire at one stage. Speaking of fire, so much. More than anyone else I’d saw on the second stage. It was quite the spectacle.
You know the best part though? The performance. They absolutely crushed it. When they sang ‘Crushed by the fist of god!’ you felt it. It was an absolute battering of a performance. So fucking chunky and satisfying. The drums were so hard, the riffs were so powerful, the vocals were so savage. An absolutely blistering set. Even when they were playing the less outwardly heavy and more catchy stadium stuff, it was so uplifting and energizing. I loved every second of it. If you ever get a chance to see this band live, jump at it. There’s a reason the podcast calls them the best live band of our generation. Sure, one part of it is the inflatable palm trees and fiery drum kits, but 99% of it is how phenomenally they play live.
Overly satisfied and having got my money’s worth so hard I could have gone home there and then and felt I’d spent my money wisesly, it was time to run over to the big event.
Did I know where the fuck I was? I was en-route to the Jungle baby!
As anyone who likes rock music enough to read my stupid blog knows, this concert was a big, big deal. A legacy moment for the festival. They actually got Guns N’ Roses on their Not In This Lifetime Tour. The tour that has more ink on it than an octopus slaughterhouse. The most talked about tour of the past 5 years. Axl, Slash and Duff back together.
I decided there was no chance I’d ever get anywhere near the front, so instead of running straight there I stopped to get food, and right as I was handed my falafal, ‘Its So Easy’ came roaring out of the speakers. I turned, ate as I walked, and got as close as I could.
It wasn’t close. Last night, for the headliner, I could see the singer’s armpit hair. Tonight, for the headliner, I could see some red and white dots. I saw Axl and Slash with my own two eyes, but boy were they tiny.
Ever see the Father Ted segment about these cows being small and those cows being far away? That was what was going through my head. The previous day had reportedly had about 7,000 in attendance. With day tickets and all the 40-year-olds finally getting their chance to see GNR it was well over 10,000. The previous day, the crowd had been split between main and second stage. Tonight they closed the second stage during GNR. (Something that Bury Tomorow joked about during their stage banter).
It. Was. Swamped.
Luckily, they had giant screens, and fireworks and a big show to make you feel like you could see… something. Anything…
Oh well, I decided not to get too worried about it. I mean I listen to live albums, not just watch live DVDs. Music is music. So it was nice to get to hear (and sort of see) my first ever Guns N Roses concert. It was much talked about before hand. Other reviewers said the band were on fire. Everyone said Axl had his voice back, and more importantly actually showed up on time and didn’t piss everyone off with his antics. I was excited. I got a tour t-shirt before they even played a note.
You know how it was? It was ok.
There were some good points. They played ‘Shadow of your love’ and Velvet Revolver‘s ‘Slither’ which made it feel like they were doing something I hadn’t read about a million times already. They played ‘Double Talkin Jive’ which is one of my favourite songs and I didn’t expect them to play it. They played all the hits, with ‘Civil War’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ being done particularly well.
They played a few songs of Chinese Democracy which I was grateful for at first. I love that album, I played it to death when I was losing weight after years of being the fat kid and it holds a special place in my heart. Oh but boy, Slash can not play those songs. Greatest guitar player ever? Hmmmm. I know he may have been trying to but his own stamp on it, or play it how he originally did in the ’90s before the albums million year long wait mutated it into something else, or whatever other excuse, but to be frank…he sucked. It sucked.
You know what else was a bit lame? They played a cover of Pink Floyd‘s ‘Wish You Were Here’ which was completely unnecessary since a) Avenged already did a better version last night on the same stage and b) they played a way too high ratio of covers to begin with. Who the hell wants them to play ‘The Seeker’ anymore?
I know they have some great covers, like ‘Attitude’ especially, which luckily they did play. I know some of their big hits are covers (the tedious to me but much loved ‘Knockin On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘Live And Let Die’ which I could really live without but am not so unrealistic as to expect them not to play, just like you don’t expect Anthrax to skip ‘Antisocial’ ) but when you are adding in new covers like ‘Slither’ do you still have to play ‘Black Hole Sun’ ? I mean as a Cornell tribute near the time sure, but when I am going to see stadium rock megastars Guns N’ Roses I don’t want a trippy depressing semi-ballad from a Grunge band trying to be psychedelic.
You can’t complain too much about setlist choice when they play for three and a half hours though. It was sort of Rock and Roll history, sort of, and it was great value for money, sort of and they did put on a good show sort of. Its just, with the anticipation and everything, the hype, it could never live up to expectations.
Guns N’ Roses were pretty decent. It was a good gig. It was not flawless or magical or life changing. Avenged were better. Parkway were better. Hell, even my last solo gigs from Saxon and Machine Head were better. I almost feel guilty about it, like it makes me a bad music fan due to the universal agreement that GNR are amazing. Unfortunately, it is not 1987. Its not 1992. Its 2018, and I don’t feel like I should have to make excuses for not thinking they were the best thing ever.
Admittedly, maybe if you liked the covers more, or if you had a better view, or if you weren’t sleepless and exhausted and in pain from standing for 14 hours and walking something like 15-20,000 steps two days in a row; then maybe you would have liked it more. I bet if I google reviews of the show I’m probably in the minority of not loving. Then again, its not that I thought it sucked or was a waste of time, it just wasn’t as great (except for how Slash played the Chinese Democracy era material)… It just wasn’t the orgasmic cosmic revelation I feel peer pressured into calling it.
So that was it for day 2.
On my walk back to camp this time, the route I walked the previous time was closed. I got herded down a different route. I walked about 20 minutes further out of the way. I found out what that weird fairground thing was… it was the download village. There were pubs and food trucks and amusements and shops and ATM machines and showers (holy shit!) and I bought a pillow on my way home. It was cheaper than a drink.
I then walked back to my tent through a bak route and found out that there was fresh drinkable running water I hadn’t noticed before and even more toielts. I was impressed by the sheer scale of this whole download situation.
I found my tent again, got in shut my eyes.
And I got a peaceful uninterupted…….AH HA HA NO!
‘AAAAAAALAN’ ‘ALLLLLLLLAN ‘AAAAALAN’
Whatever. Only one day left.
DAY 3 – THE BANDS.
I got up, had breakfast and headed off to my previously discussed ideal toilets. I then sat myself in front of the main stage as per my plan. I hadn’t heard of the first band. When they were setting up, their banner was put up. Inglorious. In a spikey font. Hmmm. What would they sound like. Looked like a Melodeath band from that logo. Would they be like Arch Enemy? They were in the post GNR hangover slot. Would they be any good, or is this where you hide the rejects?
The got up, kicked out some jams, and really, really converted me. Attention fans of classic rock. Attention fans of Glen Hughes. Attention fans of MK3 Deep Purple. You need to check out Inglorious. Do you know what Airbourne do for AC/DC? Inglorious are like that for MK3 Deep Purple.
They dropped a good mixture of fast and slow, bluesy and rocking, soulful and ballsy. They got a lot of people clapping and dancing. They really impressed me. I highly recommend them! Apparently they had a very popular album with the Planet Rock crowd. They got a ‘fuck Gene Simmons’ chant going in response to the rock is dead saga. It was all very entertaining.
In sharp, sharp, shaaaarp contrast to that funked out hard rock, came legendary British Gothified Extreme Metal merchants Cradle Of Filth. I was a big fan of them in high school but sort of fell away from them. I was excited to catch up. My best (non wife) friend is a gigantic fan and I wanted to see them almost on his behalf. Luckily, apart from one new tune (which was rather good actually) they played all material from the albums I own. They played literally each of my 3 favourite tracks: ‘Born In A Burial Gown,’ ‘Her Ghost In The Fog’ and ‘Dusk & Her Embrace.’ They were very enthusiastic, the sound-guys did a spectacular job with them, and the band looked the part. I never felt the need to go out and get tickets to a COF show on their own, but after this I might reconsider. They really nailed it. Even the vocals which I’ve read are patchy live, were pretty swish.
Then came Hatebreed. They were one of the bands I was most looking forward to all weekend. I saw them live before a few times and they utterly destroyed the place. I hold the band in extremely high esteem. A tween in the crowd turned to me and asked what kind of music they were as he only cared a out Manson and Ozzy, and I hyped the band up to no end.
They came on, there were a lot of crowd surfers. They dropped some of my favourite songs like ‘Proven’ and ‘As Diehard As They Come.’ They played a lot of new material. I did miss hearing some tracks like ‘In Ashes They Shall Reap’ …how can you skip that gem? But overall it was pretty good. I’ve saw the band before and it was better each time, so I guess this is technically the worst I’d ever saw them… and even at that it was still a 9.9/10 performance. This band are undeniable live. Jasta is one of the most enthusiastic and uplifting frontmen ever. They have some of the bounciest and most crushing riffs in the scene. I can’t say enough positive things about them. A band for sing-alongs and then some!
I’d never heard of In This Moment before, but on the second stage, German Thrash legends Kreator were on, so I ran over there and got there in time to catch the full set. They have released albums that were album of the year contenders for every release since way back of Violent Revolution, especially Hordes Of Chaos from 2009. Luckily, they played mostly new material live and they played the title track from Hordes Of Chaos (the best song on it by the way!). They had fire, the had banner and they got the biggest circle pit I saw all weekend (or in my life, but I am not an expert as I avoid them like the plague). They even had an unexpected confetti cannon. The crowd seemed really enthusiastic too. It wasn’t just some nostalgia crowd either all the kids were loving it too. I wish they had been given more time, they could have benefited from having the opportunity to drop some old school material live too (‘People Of The Lie’ would’ve went over really well). Apart from C.O.C (I still can’t get over how few songs they played!!!!) this was the most criminally short set of the weekend. Still, better an utterly perfect short set than no set at all. Man, I really got my money’s worth out of this fourth day already.
Then came the long, long wait for Manson & Ozzy. I had never heard Black Veil Brides or In This Moment, and I have heard and not liked Shinedown. I missed all but the last In This Moment song whilst off at Kreator so just saw the final track ‘Whore’ which the crowd really loved. Then figured out I had been dramatically sunburnt over the morning. I then put on a full length coat to hide my skin but it didn’t really help.
Black Veil Brides looked like Motley Crue but sounded like a less interesting, less inspired version of Killswitch Engage. A lot of people got their tits out for them. A lot of people sang along. A lot of people seemed to really love them. It wasn’t my cup of tea but like Asking Alexandria you can’t argue with how much the crowd liked them. The singer seems to be some sort of sex icon and judging by the way people almost knocked me over to get closer to him when he ran up the side of the barrier. I’m glad there are bands like this bringing in more fans, but I won’t personally be buying any of their albums off the back of today (unlike Volbeat for example; who since I started writing this, I have streamed at least 60 times).
The set was rather long, and for me it is all time that would be better spent on the likes of Hatebreed or Cradle Of Filth, but Festivals are not made for one person. Then came Shinedown. Their singer looks like Jamie Lanister. They have a lot of confidence. They have no songs I enjoyed. I mean fair play to them, they put a lot of energy and confidence into their very bland lowest common denominator boring radio rock, and they don’t seem cynical or contrived, but their music is not to my taste. I feel like this would have been a good concert to a fan though. I got the distinct vibe that this was a very strong performance.
Then came Marilyn ‘roll the dice’ Manson, who can be both the best and worst live band every and it just depends when you see him. There are videos of him being a jaw dropping larger than life megastar and there are videos of him rolling around the floor missing lines and looking like an intoxicated mess.
I feel like he didn’t put on much of a show compared to previous videos and DVDs. Compared to the other headliners and sub headliners even. He sort of showed up and expected us to be grateful. He climbed around a pulpit and changed costumes a few times but so had other bands that day. He did play a fairly decent greatest hits set and not too many tracks of his new album which is the first one I’ve ever disliked. Oddly though, instead of closing strong with a hit, he petered out boringly with a fairly dull cover of a song off The Lost Boys Soundtrack.
There were some other good moments, like how bouncy ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘Angel With The Scabbed Wings’ were. And after ‘Kill For Me’ he let a fan get up on the stage because she had a banner saying ‘I’d Kill For You’ which seemed human and grateful. The girls in the crowd were acting pretty crazy for him too. One barged past me and just bellowed ‘I’M SORRY BUT I’M IN LOVE WITH HIM’ and one got up on a guy’s shoulders and aggressively played with her breasts at him while making sexually suggestive faces for a surprisingly long time.
Manson’s vocals started off strong and got weaker as the show wore on. It was not a bad show, but it was pretty average. Guns N’ Roses were miles better than this. I have wanted to see Manson for years and years. I remember my non metal class mates in catholic school being disgusted and horrified when I did my French and Irish homework about him and had posters of him dressed in a corset and thong up on the classroom wall. I remember lifting a Marilyn Manson CD to view at age 11 and having two girls from my school tell me ‘Oh my god you’re going to hell.’ I remember buying his autobiography and the cashier saying ‘Why are you buying this, wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley.’ His autobiography is among the top 3 most read books I have ever read. I read it like twice a year every year for about 6 years after buying it and like once every two years since then. My first ever crush on a girl was on a girl who kept wearing Marilyn Manson hoodies all the time. Holywood is unarguably one of the best albums ever. His live album Last Tour On Earth is one of the best live albums ever. I got really jealous one summer when all my friends went to see him with Iron Maiden and I couldn’t go because of work.
Unfortunately, around 2005 onwards, people kept saying how much he sucked live and I stopped craving it so hard. Never the less, he is immensely important to my musical life and I was really glad to have got the chance to see him, even if it wasn’t the best.
One band to go. The one, the only Ozzy Osbourne. On his ‘No More Tours 2’ tour, his first ever appearance at Download outside of Sabbath. Reunited with the terrific Zack Wylde.
Now; I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say Ozzy sucks. That he is past it. That he is a doddering old fool. I wasn’t expecting much. Certainly it was an event, but like Guns N Roses, it was an event due to age, and age isn’t kind to bands apparently.
Zack was visible on stage for a crazily long time before the show started, but once it did start, there was a little video of historical Ozzy footage, then he came on stage. The set was mostly Blizzard’ & No More Tears material and Sabbath covers, with a few extra ’80s hits like ‘Shot In The Dark’ and ‘Bark At The Moon’ thrown in for good measure and a very, very, very long guitar solo section with sections of Zack-Era songs like ‘Perry Mason’ hidden underneath all the soloing. Zack played the guitar upside down, on his back, with his teeth, all that good showmanship. He got out in the crowd and marched up and down the barriers. There were some issues with his cable but it was very entertaining.
Tommy’s super powerful druming made tracks like ‘Suicide Solution’ and ‘I Don’t Know’ sound so hard and heavy. The lighting and stage show was very well done, the most tasteful of all the headlinerrs. There were lazers. There were lights and video screens and a big set of steps and cross that had visualisations on them. For example they were all psychadelic during ‘Faries Wear Boots.’
You know what else, even if Ozzy isn’t very physical on stage, his voice was way better than I expected. I hear such bad reports about the Sabbath reunion. I wasn’t let down tonight however. Even when an incredibly drunk set of teenage girls suddenly barged in front of me, swigging wine with their backs to the stage talking shit and ignoring the show, but getting their gross booze-stained hair on my arms and drunkenly stumbling back and forth into me, it couldn’t detract too much from the show, such was Ozzy’s power. In hindsight; Why were they here? Who goes to an Ozzy Osbourne show and doesn’t watch Ozzy Osbourne? Who has a conversation at a concert?
Luckily they left after one song. The rest of the evening was perfect. The encore of ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ had such singing along. He closed with ‘Paranoid’ and the biggest firework show of the weekend.
I thought it was fantastic. This show was absolutely worth the money. I really enjoyed it. I’d recommend it. I thought it was better than GNR. I wish I’d bought an Ozzy shirt too but money was an issue by this point.
So that was the weekend. 3 days, dozens of bands, two legends I’ll probably never see again. Two nights with hardly any sleep. A few good falafals. About £40 on cups of tea and bottles of tango orange. A few stealthy poops.
I walked the long walk back to the tent. The crowd were singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and The ‘Wheels On The Bus.’ I climbed into my tent, weary and ready to sleep.
….and that’s when I packed up my tent, walked about 20,00 steps to the car, and drove home for two and a half hours in the middle of the night.Ironically, when I got in bed I still heard someone yell ‘Alan’ but luckily it was just my neighbor’s wife getting his attention. Good night, download. Thanks for the memories.