Its early on a Friday morning as me and Sam make our way to the train station for Download 2017 and both of us are still feeling the effects of the night before.
It was only meant to be a quick meet up and home before 9 but our annual pre Download drinks turned into something else as we met up with an old friend and three of us ended up making our way through 7 pints of cider, 6 porn star martinis, 5 sex on the beaches, 4 shots of prosecco and a large burger and chips before spilling our guts out in a shop doorway and dragging ourselves home at around 1.
This is not something the average body can take before a rock and roll festival, your body needs rest and a good strong meal because you’re going to be spending the weekend sleeping in a bag in a field surrounded by drunk/stoned rockers and you have no idea how the weather’s going to turn out so getting home at 1 in the morning drinking cocktails and throwing up could make it a very long weekend.
We manage to drag ourselves out of bed at 6, eyes glazed over and a head that feels like a metal bar is wrapped around it, we grab ourselves a quick drink and run for the bus at 7 and start making our way for the train station.
Standing on the platform we look around for other Downloaders and we can’t see any, last year the platform was full of long haired tired rockers and this year it’s just business men in suits carry briefcases looking at us and wondering whether or not we are homeless. We both wait for the moment one of these people throws change at our feet.
After a 30 minute journey we arrive at East Midlands Parkway at around 8:10am, the sun is shining down on us and we both hope that it stays this way for the full weekend.
We look around the station and we both notice that there’s not a Downloader insight, not even a hint of a rocker or a metal head, just taxi drivers and employees.
After 10 minutes of waiting for our bus Sam checks the time “We’re early” he says “It don’t get here till about half 9”
“So we gotta wait for over an hour?” I said
“Yeah, we will be fine, we can just chill”.
After 30 minutes of waiting a van pulls up at the bus stop, the side doors open and a group of rockers fall out, about 8 of them, all holding cans of beer.
They run into the station for what looks like a toilet break and they spend 10 minutes In there.
After coming back to their van one of them who’s wearing all denim and a Motorhead t-shirt turns around to us and says “are you lads going to Download?”
“Yeah” we said
“Well do you lads want to catch a ride with us? We got some space in the back for ya, you ain’t bought much stuff either so you won’t take up any space. It will save you money on the bus and having to wait for the fucking thing”.
Me and Sam just turn to each other and both of us say “Fuck it, why the fuck not”.
We jump in the back and the man who offered us the ride introduces himself as Chris and he offers us a can of beer.
We crack it open, toast all the lads in the van and we start making our journey to the festival.
“Any bands you looking forward to lads” Says Chris
“No one in particular” we say “maybe System and Aerosmith”
“Five finger I’m looking forward to, they deserve a better slot” Says Chris
“Yeah they do, I thought Skindred should have been on the main stage last year” Sam says
“Well we all saw them last year and everyone was saying the same thing”.
Half way into the journey we drive by a group of what look like stoned teenagers on the road holding a tent, booze and sleeping bags and they’re holding a sign saying “Drownload”. Chris turns to the driver and “says can we pick them up”
“No we can’t, there’s no more fucking room lad” he says”
“I’m sure we can squeeze them in somewhere”
“Well if you want to put them on the roof it’s up to you”
“Leave it then, we’ll just leave it”. And we just leave them standing at the side of the road as we get closer to the festival.
As we turn to pull into the festival the driver turns up the stereo and everyone In the van starts singing “burn mother fucker” by Five Finger and Chris puts the window down and everyone in the van starts singing the song, Chris puts his head out the window and yells the song at festival goers as they make there long walk to the entrance.
We pull into a parking space and depart the van and say goodbye to everyone “maybe we will bumped into each other during the weekend and we can grab a drink” says Chris, and we shake his hand and walk off and start making our way towards the entrance.
Maybe we will manage to find them during the weekend or maybe we wont, but if we don’t, we can go on and think about what just happened, it’s rare that moments like that happen and when they do they can change your whole life experience so you have to take it in and except that it may never happen again.
Our walk towards the entrance is a lot different this year, extra security, extra bag checks, extra cameras because of the events that have occurred over the past couple of months and it makes the walk a lot slower this year because of it.
We join the end of the line and begin waiting to be searched, all I have is a back pack and a sleeping bag so my search shouldn’t take long.
We slowly move forward, security continue to remind us about the check over the loud speakers that surround us.
We make it to the front of the line where Sam is searched first, they pat him down and take a quick look through his bag and move him along and then it’s my turn, they pat me down and ask me if I have any sharp objects “I have a hammer for the tent”
“No hammers” says the security man
“Well you can take it from me”. The man opens up my bag and removes the hammer putting it behind him with a collection of other hammers larger than mine and he offers me the chance to come pick it back up after the event is over but I refuse, so he closes my bag and we make our way forward.
They scan our tickets and walk towards a man with this years wrist bands, the man who looks like he’s just got out of school double checks my ticket and puts my wrist band on and says you can go through and I walk and wait for Sam to receive his band.
Sam shows the lad his ticket and puts out his arm to get his band and the lad smiles at first and then starts to laugh “Butlins 90’s reloaded, what the fuck mate” he says, Sam still has his wristband on from a lads holiday the year before. Sam says to the lad “Oh yeah mate, went last year and dressed up as power rangers and saw B’witched” and the lad just laughs and smiles at him. “And you’ve come to Download, you must be the only person to walk through these gates and say that, I hope you enjoy your weekend mate” that lad says and he tells him to walk on through and Sam walks over to me with a large smile on his face. “You just hear what he said” Sam says
“You should have kept you wristband on and then he wouldn’t have just said it to me”
“It’s all good fun mate, don’t worry about”
We’ve finally made it, the sun is blazing and it looks like there’s not going to be a drop of rain inside all weekend, the hangover from the night before has slowly gone away and now our weekend can begin.
We both look around and we both say “We’re home” and that’s what it feels like for a lot of people who come to this festival, it’s a home for them and for us, they play the music you want to hear, the sights and the smells are just as familiar as the year before and it feels like you’ve never left, it never feels like it’s been a year since the last one.
Not a lot of people can understand what you mean by “Home” unless you’ve have the chance to experience the festival for yourself, this is your chance to be who you think you are and who you feel like you are and for 3 days its the chance to forget about getting up for work at 5 in the morning and drag it out and feel like life is going nowhere, you can forget about the shitty news and all the fucked up things that are going on in the world right now and if you want to you can walk around dressed as a fish finger or a power ranger or a Pokémon if you want. Even though it’s just for the weekend, it’s your home and you feel like you’ve never left.