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Small tale of Sun, Booze and Rock: Part 4.

Sitting down at the dodgems in quiet contemplation with a can and a breakfast sandwich thinking about last nights gig, neither of us hurting or aching like we did yesterday morning. I look around at the village and I can’t hear a word being said about last nights gig, no chatter or criticism or complaints about the band. The thought runs through my head, how big was the crowd for them last night? Did they get the same reaction as Muse from two years ago?
“We need to start thinking about tonight and hopefully we can finally see NXT” I say to Sam “We do need to see NXT, we missed it yesterday and i’m not missing it again, it will be a nice buffer before Aerosmith hit the stage”
“Ok dude, lets hang around and have a couple of drinks before we head off, need to rest today, its going to be a killer”
“You gonna be buying a shirt today?”
“I’m not leaving tomorrow morning without a shirt or a hat or a hoodie, I’ve gotta get something this year”.
“Well save it for the Arena, you can get it just before we watch the NXT show and don’t take all day trying to find something we don’t want to miss the show again”.
We take a walk around the village for the next couple of hours to kill time before we make our way into the arena for the last time and I look around at the crowd of people walking around us and I can see the exhaustion in their faces and the aches and pains in their arms and legs and I might not be the only who hasn’t been for a shit since arriving at the festival. When everyone leaves tomorrow morning there will always be that sense of relief that you managed to make out alive but the first conversation you have is who’s going to come next year? Who’s going to buy the tickets? And who’s going to headline?  We all do it and we always will.

After spending most of the day in the village, walking around and even have a quick 3 Jack and cokes in the bar we finally make it to the arena and the entrance was a lot easier to get through than the past couple of days, maybe it’s because we got here a little later than usual.
The first place we head towards to the store so Sam can get something, the old bastards dead serious now, he’s not leaving here until he gets a shirt of something.
“Wait out here you fuck, I won’t be long” he says to me while waving the middle finger at me, so I just stand buy the door with my hands in my pocket and wait for the twat to get something, and I stand and wait and stand and wait and for the next 15 minutes I stare out looking at people walk in and out with something in their hands and now I need a piss but I have to wait.
After 20 minutes he finally emerges wearing a Day To Remember hat, apparently they had to dig it out from the back of the store as they had none left at the front, instead of changing his mind and going for something else he decided to stick with the one he wanted so I had to wait 20 minutes.
I send him to the bar while I go and take a piss up the chain fence while and I notice the time on the board for the NXT show and we’ve missed it, for the third time I’ve missed the show and what makes maters worse is that I can here a group of lads near by talking about how great the show was. I want to put the blame partly on Sam but I’ll leave it and remain silent.
He returns with beers and point towards the sign so he can see the show is over and he just shakes his head “never mind” he says “we will make sure that we get to see it next year if it’s on” and I just look at him and think to myself that it better be on next time we come.

We walk to the main stage and see Alter Bridge finish off there set and we manage to find a space to sit down and rest for the next hour while Aerosmith get ready to play.
Moving forward we get as close to the stage as we can, I want to see as much as I can which is harder than you think being a short bloke and at gigs you always get those monsters who stand right in front of you without taking a look behind them to see who’s view they’re blocking, but everything works out ok, the crowd has filled up nicely behind and nobody can get through, expect for the odd person and I can see the stage and the walk way clearly.
Then they come on and I can see everything, even with my poor eyesight I can make out the band on stage but the monitors are down for the first 4 songs and everyone around has spotted it and commenting on the situation, but at this point I don’t care I’m watching one of favourite bands play Download and it’s possibly going to be the last gig they do over here.
The rest of the gig turns out to be somewhat blurry, the emotional feeling you get when watching one of your favourite bands for the first time has taken over but it’s ok, that feeling is not something you get used to and it’s not something that shows itself on a regular basis. They make their way through the songs I want to hear and the songs the fans in the crowd wanted to hear and they close the show with Walk This Way and playing it the way it’s supposed to be played.
And then it’s over, just like that and we all take that walk back to camp for the last time until next year, slowly shuffling our feet as the crowd slowly moves forward, backs aching, arms aching and necks aching and a slight chill in the air is forming, but every things fine we will all be doing the same thing tomorrow morning and that’s going home.
But what is it that makes people want to come to something like this every year? Why do we think it’s great to spend 3 to 5 days away from home sleeping in a large bag in a field along with thousands of other strangers and spending most of those days drinking warm beer and eating crap food and not to mention the lack of hygiene. It’s something inside all music fans especially rock and roll fans that want to do this every year and no one is ever too old to do it, maybe this is thing we all will do until we die.

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Small Tales of Sun, Booze and Rock: Part 3.

When we wake up the next morning we can feel the pain from the night before, legs are aching, back is aching, neck is aching from the head banging and both in need for an urgent piss. So we get dressed and we crawl out of the tent like cavemen gone through a hurricane and making noises like old men just getting up after a long night of snooker and talks about the war and we hobble over to the wired fence and see the line of men pissing up against it and you can smell breakfast being cooked in the air.
We open a can of beer and chill outside the tent and think about the gig last night and what we have planned for later in the day and everyone around us are doing the same thing, we listen to the lads in the tent next to us have a conversation over burgers and bacon about how they are waking up at Download for the first time and how they can’t believe they got to witness System of A Down the night before.
We decide we need food so we open another can and walk towards the village in search of our traditional first morning Chinese breakfast. I cant help but think with my aching legs how am I going to make it over the mountain. Looking around at all the festival goers walking around, all of them nursing a sore head and sore legs and everyone that I notice is carrying an energy drink and that’s new, last year everyone at this time of the morning was carrying cans of booze and walking around still pissed from the night before, has it changed this much in a year since we last been and when we get to the village are we going to see people walking around with small cups of coffee and hot chocolate and eating cornflakes, a combination of food and drink like that could kill you at a festival like this, you need hair of the dog and starchy burgers.
We make it to the foot of the mountain and watch everyone struggle to get over it and we know it’s our turn now but somehow we manage it, our manage not to give way as we pull ourselves over the top and someone behind us shouts “HAS ANYONE GOT A FLAG WE’VE REACHED THE SUMMIT”.
We walk through the village and make it to our destination, the Chinese stall and I order myself a Chicken Chow Mein and Sam gets himself Sweet and Sour chicken either one is the perfect breakfast to start the day, a can of cider and a Chinese it’s what you need to store up enough energy for the rest of the day, you might find yourself blacking out and waking up surrounded by guys dressed as giant dicks and with the lack of energy in your body you could start hallucinating about being carried through a crowd of life sized ants on the backs of men dressed in dick costumes, that’s why you need a breakfast like this to survive the day.
Looking at the line for today neither has interest in seeing a lot of the bands playing, only Biffy, so we decide that when we do we will go see NXT Wrestling something that’s been passing us by every year we’ve been and now we have the perfect opportunity to see the show before we get down and watch Biffy.

After knocking down 7 cans of cider between us we make it to the main arena and start looking for the NXT show but first we head towards the dog bar and wait in line for 30 minutes to be served, everyone around us are complaining about how they’ve been waiting for 40 minutes or 50 minutes for a drink and people who have only been waiting for 10 minutes have been served quicker than they have, the lines for beer at an event can turn people into savages and maniacs and if you were looking from the outside in you would think everyone in line was a crazed alcoholic willing to turn to cannibalism so long as they can get a damn drink. After waiting for 30 minutes finally get served I tell Sam to order 4 pints of cider so I don’t have to wait for another 30 minutes for a fucking drink, so he does and the woman serving asks him for ID and Sam with a face of confusion willingly hands over his ID while shaking his head.
Finally we have cider and we walk towards the NXT tent “Fuck” says Sam “I need to get a shitting shirt this year, every year we come and I’ve still not got a bloody shirt, not even a hoodie”
“Mate I know, we can get one tomorrow, we need to hurry before the bloody shows over”.
We see the big NXT sign over the stalls and rush with two pints of cider and then we see it, the shows over, we missed it by 15 minutes “Oh my god” I say “if it wasn’t for that fucking line full of drunkards we would have got to see the show”
“We can go tomorrow mate, there’s always tomorrow”.
In disappointment we leave the NXT tent and walk towards to the main stage and by chance we find some seats that we can rest and wait for Biffy to hit the stage.

We sit on the seats and wait for Biffy to come on, we take in turns going to the dog bar while we wait.
A Day To Remember finish up their set so me and Sam hand over the chairs to a couple sitting near by and we go for a piss and go grab ourselves a beer before we make our move towards the stage.
We’ve now lost count with the beers, it could be our 8th beer or could be our 11th beer, none of us have a clue what number is but neither of us care we just walk towards the stage and join the crowd of Biffy Clyro fans. I can’t see behind me, I don’t know how big the crowd are for them, the reception for their announcement was mixed but I have a feeling they will smash it tonight.
The sun is setting  right behind the stage and i down my beer as the band walks on stage kicking in with Wolves of Winter and my eyes are glued to the stage for the rest of the performance, I don’t even notice if there’s any mosh pits forming or how people are feeling about them playing, not once do I turn my head to see what’s going on around me.
I was right, they smashed it, I didn’t think anything could beat last night with atmosphere from the crowd and the energy but I think Biffy proved themselves worthy headliners, I forgot how many great songs they have and I got chills at times when they brought our some of their best know tracks.
Taking the long walk back me and Sam don’t say a word to each other, both of us are surprised of how good the good gig was and how much it’s sobered us up, It’s one of those gigs that I won’t forget and we still have one more day left.

Small tale of Sun, Booze and Rock: Part 2

We make our way slowly through the village looking for a camp to pitch up our tent and we open up a can of beer to celebrate our arrival and we notice our favourite food stall, Ostrich Burgers, just a simple name lit up in neon lights and we both look over at it and I say “I know what I’m having later”.
We look around at the camp sites and everyone is full so we ask a young man in a yellow shirt and ask him if there’s any spaces anywhere and he points us towards the pink camp so we make our way over a what can only be described as a mini Everest that even seasoned mountain climber would struggle with so when you see men with long hair and heavy metal shirts make their way of the rocky hill while carrying tents and crates of beer it can be an experience to witness it unfold.
We try find a spot within the camp and I take a look around and I realise it’s the same camp we were in last year.
We pick a place to put up the tent as the site around us starts to fill up, a lady in a green vest yells at any campers trying to pitch a tent within the middle of the site, she tells them it needs to be clear for any possible emergency.
We get the tent up, lay down are sleeping bags and we take a look around the site, it’s filling up nicely, all colours of tiny little dome homes for three days, flags with band names on, jolly rogers and football teams, the smell of barbaque and burning burgers fills the air and heavy rock and roll that is providing the soundtrack for the weekend. “Fuck it” says Sam “lets open up a beer, walk to the village, grab some food and head to the arena” so we take a slow walk and make our way over mini Everest and into the village and slowly look around for a place to eat as we slowly drink our booze.

We look around the crowed village for a place to eat and I turn to Sam “Mate we’ll have to pick up another crate tomorrow, might be a little pricy but lets make the most of it”
“Yeah alright, lets go for cider, the weather looking good so lets get something fizzy”
“Any things better than lager” I say.
We spot a hot dog stall and we walk towards it and both get a jumbo dog with cheese sauce, i’m not much of a fan of the sauce and with a growing beard and no tissues to wipe with this is going to be tricky. The sauce covers my beard like a paint brush being dipped into yellow paint, this is not going to go well, in the weather we are having now a full cheese beard will turn a well fed dog away.
I manage to find some napkins sitting on a random table and I wipe my mouth, take a swig of beer and we make our way towards the arena and we both hope that the weather really does stay like this and not turn into the wash out for the third year in a row.
Walking towards the entrance to the arena a mass of people surround us, much larger and much louder than the year before and the dust of the road is blowing into every ones faces which is something far newer than last year, the only that the wind was blowing last year was rain.
So we stand in line and looking at large signs saying “YOU WILL BE SEARCHED, PEOPLE WITH BAGS TO THE RIGHT” so we slowly move forward. People all around us chatter and talk about the bands they want to see and some of them continue to put sun cream on with the hope that it won’t be washed off by 6’oclock.
We make it to the front and everyone is shouted at by a bald man in a black coat (the guy must be melting right now) “SHOW US YOUR WRISTBANDS” he says as he waves everyone through and me and Sam hold our arms in the air as we walk by him and he never even takes a look at us. And now the search begins, a small man who’s even smaller than I am starts to pat me down and he reassures me that he will not and he promises he will not slip me the finger. He finishes the pat down and lets me through and we can the sound of Motionless in White playing on the main stage as walk through the crowd to find the dog bar and that same feeling that I got last year when I made it to the arena and when I walked into the village, i’m finally back where I belong.

We spend the next five hours walking around the arena drinking beer and getting closer and closer to the front of the main stage and then Prophets In Rage hits the stage and we hold our fists into the air and Sam leans over to me and says “I’m watching Tom Morello on stage”.
The crowd is going mental and the band are smashing it up and near to the end of the set they even do a cover of Jump by House Of Pain which is a odd song to here at a rock and roll festival but right now I don’t think anybody gives a shit everyone is just jumping up and down.
They close the set with the popular Rage song Killing in the Name and the crowd of drunken Rage fans lose their shit and jump and mosh pit all around us, it’s the perfect ending to a perfect set and they leave the stage and I think to myself they have only been together for a year, not a lot of super groups usually pull of a show like that, what ever happened to that Mick Jagger protect?
We grab ourselves a beer and make our way close to the stage ready for System “what’s that smell” says Sam
“I don’t know mate, I’ve been smelling it all day, it might be the new drainage system, don’t worry about it Sam wise we’ll be smelling like this come Monday morning anyway”.
The crowd has pilled up nicely and everyone is ready for System to hit the stage, you can feel the tension and the excitement in the air, everyone is bracing themselves and so am I.
They walk on to the stage and the crowd goes wild, they start off slow and the tension builds and a small serge moves forward and back and me and Sam know what’s about to happen and then they kick into the first song a large mosh pit forms around me and Sam and we caught in the middle, I cant even recognise the song that’s playing because the awesome chaos that’s happening around me. Sam has disappeared from sight all I can hear along with the loud music is a loud screeching noise moving around me saying “Ste! Ste!”. Then Sam appeared in front of me ready to drag us out of there but a large man three times the size of him pushes him of the way and on to the floor and the same man picks him back up as I manage to get to him and we manage to pull ourselves our there. But everything around us is mayhem, the crowd is moving back and forward, mosh pits keep forming around us and me and Sam are jumping up and down and neither of us can still name the songs that a playing.
Half way through the set I notice that Serj is struggling to sing and he’s passed off the main vocals to Daron but with the excitement going on I don’t think anybody really gives a shit.
They finish the set with Sugar and the leave the stage with no encore but I don’t think anybody has really notice, everyone is exhausted and ready to make their way back to their camps and carry on drinking.

We make our way to the village after taking the long walk back and this time for the first time we are dry.
“Food time mate” I say to Sam and walk towards to the famous Ostrich Burgers stall, the neon lights are the only thing that are standing out to me. I get myself a meal, burger and chips and it costs me £10 which at any other time would be a live robbery but I don’t care right now after that gig I need to refuel and get some energy back before I make it back to the camp, I’ve got a mountain to make it over after all.
I wolf down my burger and continue walking towards are camp, people rush by us looking for more booze and a tent to party in.
We barely make it over the mountain as we make it back to out camp, half way over our legs could have gave way and it’s only the first day.
Standing outside the tent drinking a beer outside the tent I look around at the camp and I listen to music being played around the camp, I even hear a tent near to us playing Barbie Girl.
The first day is done, we’ve made it through System, the weather has been better it than it has been the previous two years and the food is as good as it ever has been. The only downside to this year is and I noticed it on the walk back from the arena and now in the camp nobody has shouted Alan or Steve or Dan or Hodor or Backscratcher yet but there is another two days to get out of the way yet and if we don’t hear it by Sunday I’m sure me and Sam can get the chant going.

Small Tale of Sun, Booze and Rock: Part 1.

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
“Every word”
“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.