My worst fear about going to a festival is rain. And mud. And basically all of the associated icky, cold, not fun, wet parts of bad weather. It’s hard to get excited about anything in the rain.
Last year at Download it was glorious. Which made sitting around, watching bands, having drinks and chilling out on the grass all lovely and nice and how summer should be.
This year I was determined to remain optimistic in the face of adversity – despite all of the weather reports that were saying otherwise, I was sure it wouldn’t rain. At most it might be cool and, even if there were showers, it had been so dry in the lead up that the rain would just drain away.
Wrong. The heavens opened on Friday night like someone had turned a tap on. It bucketed down! And by Saturday the whole of Download was churned up into a big squelchy muddy field.
I learnt some stuff this weekend. I learnt that wellies are much more comfortable than I ever remembered (I haven’t had any since I was about 8). I also learnt that it’s kind of fun splashing around in puddles when you know you’re protected. I learnt that paying £100 extra for a guest area pass is most definitely worth it if you want to sit down under cover and not queue ages for a stinky muddy toilet (although I seriously hope the drinking water and toilet water came from separate sources!)
The lesson that jagerbombs and Sambuca shots will lead to a whole body hangover that lasts almost as long as the festival was a harder one to handle.
Most of all, I had fun. The kind of fun that makes your sides hurt with laughter. The kind of fun that you only truly have when everyone is on the same wavelength. Daft fun, sing-a-long fun, screaming til you start to lose your voice fun.
I didn’t see as many bands as I expected to, which was partly due to the weather (we had to abandon Judas Priest and missed all of Slipknot on Friday) but also partly because Download is about more than that. It’s about catching up with friends, hanging out, talking crap and soaking up life. Also because it was always mainly about the Sunday line up, for us, and we knew that’s when we would find a spot and barely move.
Friday started off badly due to poor organisation – collecting our wristbands took 2 hours this year, when last year it had only taken 10 minutes. The set up just wasn’t equipped to deal with the number of people and the process (the festival organisers had introduced a cashless system this year which meant that each wristband had to be uploaded with the pre-paid cash on arrival and there was one person at one computer doing it). We missed a couple of bands as a result just catching the end of Lacuna Coil.
Marilyn Manson on Saturday was as weirdly brilliant as ever (although I’m hearing conflicting stories that he was terrible, so maybe I was really drunk!)
Our Sunday started with Backyard Babies on Stage 2 – kicking off with their new song and delivering a corking set. Billy Idol was brilliant (and looking fab; my childhood crush doesn’t abate!) Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators was as cool as expected (throwing in a couple of GnR classics too – brilliant!) Motley Crue delivered the goods more so than expected considering the car crash from Sweden Rocks the week before and the stage show and pyro made up for Vince’s missing vocals.
Kiss were a blast of noise and fire and make up and everything you would expect – sounding and looking great.
What I will say for Download is that it’s an incredibly friendly festival. No attitude, no trouble – just like minded people with no alternative agenda enjoying themselves and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the action. And fair play to the organisers for having a shedload of hay on hand to try and make up for the mud – it certainly helped! In spite of the fact I originally said I wouldn’t be going next year, there’s a very real chance that in 365 days I’ll be rounding up my 2016 highlights – hopefully with less hangover.