I go to Download Festival quite a lot. I write this in May 2017, and am still pondering over whether to go this year. I haven’t given this much thought into going since my first Download, but as a heck of a lot of my funds are being fed into two trips abroad over the next couple of months, I need to be a little careful. It feels strange. Since 2009, I have just gone. And why ever not? Download Festival 2009, as of yet, is the most memorable, and probably my favourite Download ever. I don’t want to miss another Download like this.
That said, to a point, this sort of atmosphere will never truly happen again. This was my second Download, and I was now far more comfortable being at music festivals (by comparison to the worries of 2008), but inexperienced enough be blown away by the whole experience. Eight Downloads later, I suppose I’m a know-it-all by comparison. However, even with that frame of mind, such a chain of events would be just glorious. Everything, at least for me, seemed to go right. For starters, besides a grey sky on Wednesday, the weather was uncharacteristically of British music festivals, gorgeous.
DAYS 1 & 2: THE PARTY BIT
If there is any difficulty that did stand out, it was that due to both the lateness of our coach, and the size of our entanglement of friends (and friends of friends) had to have added up to at least 15. Maybe 20. A bit much to squeeze into the very little leftover space in the hallowed and now packed Blue Camp. As a result, we camped in the very farthest corner of Red Camp. It would be an uphill struggle that was a bit of a pain at the end of every busy day in the arena, and for that matter, just the trek back from the main village.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to Camp Clunge. Really. It was so called because one member of the team had a fixation with the word. It rolled off of his tongue perpetually (Well, the word did anyway. I don’t know whether that was the case literally. Ugh… I should be ashamed of myself…). In fact, I can recall it replacing “Good Morning” one day – unzipping his tent, and ceremoniously stretching his arms, coming to his feet, inhaling, before a monolithic “CLUNGE!”.
That said, it would later don a less profane, but not especially mature either, name. It became Camp Motley Shrew. Why? The fact that somebody found a shrew nearby where we were, and Motley Crue were on the bill. ‘The Motley Shrew’ was allegedly spotted on three different days. I would have thought that it being the same one, would be open to question. But no. It’s Download. Stuff logic.
On one of the first two nights, an incredibly intoxicated man (heavily resembling Slash, due to his massive black hair and nose piercing) stumbled alone into the middle of Camp Motley Shrew, aimless, before collapsing into one of the campmates’ camping chair, and passing out.
I returned from the village to find several friends standing in the middle of our circle. It took me a while to realise what was going on. They were playing ‘Human Buckaroo’ with poor “Slash” (or rather, on him), stacking as many empty boxes onto him as possible. That’s enough for tonight. The music begins tomorrow.
DAYS 3-5: THE MUSIC BIT
Rumour had it that there was music at this music festival. Indeed there was. Here were a few of the most memorable moments.
Limp Bizkit (Friday): While many talk about Slipknot (more on them shortly), Limp Bizkit’s performance on Friday might have been my favourite performance of the weekend. The best performers? Perhaps not, but what an experience. The entire performance (in highly pixelated form) is in the video above. Remember how for years, it was shameful to state that one had any admiration for Limp Bizkit. However, despite being third on the bill, they got the biggest non-headliner audience of the weekend. The other stages were pretty much abandoned, as tens of thousands of nostalgia-clad nu-metalheads descended upon the main stage, myself included, starstruck. I was so happy by how well they went down, and was full of memorable moments. Opening on ‘Break Stuff’ was ingenious (5:30 for the big “break your fucking face tonight”. The video does the volume no justice), fooling the crowd into starting to go nuts for the heavy middle section of ‘My Generation’ only not to play it (9:20), and everyone waving their hands for ‘Rollin” (39:20, if you can differentiate the video from pink static).
Faith No More (Friday): Surprise! Admittedly, I didn’t know that much about Faith No More at the time, even feeling disappointed when they were first announced. A friend at college was incredibly excited about their reunion, and I didn’t really know why. I didn’t care a lot. That was until I saw them at Download. Mike Patton screeches and growls as ballistically as ever. They played ‘Chariots of Fire’. They were all in suits. It was barmy, which is me all over. Enough so that I was compelled to catch them at their own show in 2010 in Brixton, and were similarly awesome.
Pendulum (Saturday): The aforementioned Faith No More fanboy was particularly angry about the booking of Pendulum, whose electronic output was apparently out of place, and they were bound to fail to win anyone over. As it turned out, things not only turned out OK for Pendulum, but brilliantly. They pulled a massive crowd to the second stage, and their best known hits (especially the infamous ‘Propane Nightmares’) made everyone go nuts. Not because they had destroyed ‘Smoke on the Water’, but because they were great. If there was anything that did seem especially out of place, it was the band’s MC Ben Mount, shouting at a mad crowd who really didn’t need encouragement. If anything, he probably slowed things down, as it got irritating very quickly.
Marilyn Manson (Saturday): The day that will go down in history as giving us the best and worst performances at Download. Ever. Let’s get the worst out the way – the legendary pile that was Marilyn Manson. At the time, he was touring Eat Me, Drink Me, which sold well, but was the least that mainstream media had really cared about them in about 15 years. This ruled out much interest in the new singles and especially not into the album tracks. The setlist was extremely poor, at least for a festival crowd – full of unfamiliar album tracks. This might have been OK at his own show, because his tours have been highly conceptual shows, a heavily choreographed experience and spectacle. Here, second on the bill, without his stage show, in front of a crowd who didn’t recognise his songs, were going to be hugely disappointed.
That’s not to say that he didn’t try to bring the concept along with him. ‘Celebrity’ and money were recurring themes of this album, and he seemed somewhat in character as halfway through most songs, he would stop singing and stagger off of the stage, seemingly drugged up to the eyeballs, with the band continuing without him. Why? So that people would put more make-up on him, and give him a gas tank to breathe from. To this day, people bicker over whether this performance was deliberately so to fit with the concept. Either way, it wasn’t clever. It was pretty insulting, and a miserable experience. To put this into perspective, Manson performed at Download again in 2015 (to much more acclaim), and this was discussed on the temporary radio station which could be heard over speakers around the site, all weekend. In spite of being an official Download broadcast, they were still discussing how hilariously awful he was last time, six years beforehand.
Slipknot (Saturday): But then, Download was cheered up by the performance that was awarded a Golden Gods award by Metal Hammer, in 2012, as the greatest Download performance during its first ten years. I’m not sure that I can argue, because this was an amazing show. I think that it was somewhat “definitive” of Slipknot, as it felt like a full retrospective of a perfectly lengthy career to that point – beginning with the opening tracks of their debut self-titled album (‘742617000027’, ‘(sic)’, ‘Eyeless’ and ‘Wait and Bleed’. I admit that I had to look the name up for the first one), before a montage of instantly recognisable singles, inevitably ending on the infamous “sit the fuck down” and “jump the fuck up!” of ‘Spit it Out’ (1:25:00 on the video above). Slipknot would go on to release this show on DVD. Good choice.
DAY 6: THE “BURNING CAMP CLUNGE TO THE GROUND” BIT
The most memorable non-musical moment of the weekend came with its rather spectacular closure. In the corner where we were camped, there was a crater-like area which was impossible to camp in, and as result, became everyone’s favourite spot to throw their rubbish. Not just that of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Motley Shrew, but everybody camping around it. It became the communal bin for hundreds, and their inevitable thousands of cans, and Shrew knows what else. This was all relatively harmless until a doughnut from another camp decided that he would set light to it. As the flames grew, hundreds more people arrived at the scene to dump more onto it. You know, harmless things like alcohol, batteries and aerosols.
And running through and jumping over it. And when the firemen eventually arrived, ran a huge circle pit around it to prevent them from putting it out. I cut up a few videos of the spectacle, to show how the night unfolded.
I haven’t had a Download quite as playful since 2009. It was the kind of Download that I miss the most. That needs to be sorted. As a whole, it was a union of old college friends who I really miss seeing, but have since been selfish enough to get married, have babies and get jobs. How dare they?!
All joking aside, RIP Camp Clunge (2009-2009)