As children we look forward to the summer because it means no school for 6 weeks. No more teachers, bully boy bashings or sadistically long cross country runs in PE. As we get older, we realise that we can look forward to other things during the summer breaks; for the wrestling fans there is Summerslam, there’s other sporting excitement in the Olympics, World Cups and Wimbledon.
For me, I have eagerly awaited Bloodstock each year since I first went in 2010 and a newer festival which some of you dear readers will have heard of called Beermageddon in 2012. Every year it is now the same, with repeated weekly - and in some cases daily - visits to their respective websites to hopefully find out more about who's playing, when they're playing and every other nuggets of information about the festival. 2013 was no different, and news of the bands playing was getting me quite excited, as well as the chance to catch up with some friends whom I only see at the festivals.
With more than 100 bands across 4 stages, throughout 4 days at Bloodstock, there are always a couple that you get to see, but haven't heard much of beforehand. These bands may or may not turn out to be the type of band that really gets you going and it is these surprises that make attending a festival so great. Before going to Bloodstock, I had read a little information on some of the bands as I attempted to work out who I really wanted to see, versus the bands I was happy to only catch half a set. With that in mind, part of my planning each year is to get a timetable of who is playing and try to work out my movements for the weekend. It is possible to catch a minimum of 10 minutes of every single set played, if you put your mind to it but that is a little bit too OCD for my liking. This year, there were a couple of clashes that made things a little awkward to catch all of the bands I wanted to see but I don't think it would be possible to organise things any other way, the organisers generally do a fantastic job of making sure that clashes are between bands that are quite different so there is less likelihood of fans having to pick which band to miss.
After too much waiting and anticipating, the time of Bloodstock was upon us and I had arranged to give a lift to some guy who needed a lift, who had seen the ad I had posted and we set off for Catton Hall. After we arrived, it was time for a few drinks before going to see Bull-Riff Stampede (the first of the eight bands playing that weekend that had previously played at one of the Pandemonium Club shows). They played an absolutely amazing set, that went down very well with a packed Sophie Lancaster tent.
As always, the Thursday night involved a little bit more to drink than my doctor needed to know about and of course, after I had written an article warning people not ruining their festival weekend by over indulging, it was inevitable that I managed to drink enough to fail to safely navigate my way through the maze of guy-lines around the tents. At this point, I must apologise to the poor sod who was rather rudely awoken by the drunken oaf who elbow dropped his way through the side of the tent.
On the Friday, there were quite a few bands that I wanted to see, many of which I had never seen before. I was admittedly not at my finest on the Friday morning and it was a bit of a struggle to get over to the New Blood Stage for Rezinwolf. An amazing set from a band that is making quite a name for themselves was gratefully received. Afterwards I spent time across all three stages trying to catch as many bands as possible until Dark Funeral were due on the main stage. After Dark Funeral, I continued circulating my way between all of the stages and rather ashamedly went for a bit of a nap after the previous night’s indulgences caught up with me. By the time that King Diamond had left the stage the festival was buzzing with the excitement of what lay ahead over the next couple of days.
Another day at a festival and another twenty bands to try to see. With our good friends in Beholder on the Ronnie James Dio stage and another former Pandemonium Club band playing the Sophie Lancaster Stage in the form of Sworn Amongst, there was another clash that I would have preferred not to happen. I opted to try to catch a little of both and was impressed by what I saw. Speaking to the bands later on throughout the weekend, they thought the atmosphere at both stages was absolutely incredible and that British Heavy Metal is most definitely alive and well. Also on the Saturday was a set by Hell that seems to be rated as the best set of the entire weekend. Hell had played on the main stage at Bloodstock a couple of years previously to a crowd that was highly entertained and impressed by such a show and this time they did not disappoint. Some people think that such elaborate theatrics somehow detract from what the band are playing and admittedly some bands do rely a bit too heavily on such showmanship, Hell are not that band. The performance is a whole, it is not a misplaced gimmick to cover up for poor musicianship and they are a band I highly recommend that everyone get to go and see at some point.
On the Sophie Lancaster Stage after Hell was Scarab from Egypt. Previously I had known nothing of this band, but after seeing their set I was really enjoying their take on Death Metal. I had a brief chat with a few of the members and they are hoping to be able to get to the UK for a tour in the not-too-distant future.
After Scarab on the Sophie Lancaster stage were Mael Mordha, whose Gaelic Doom Metal was very well received by a full crowd in the tent. After this set there was a bit of a power metal overdose with the next four bands across the Ronnie James Dio stage and Sophie Lancaster stage all being power metal. This is when I took the opportunity to grab some food and once again there was an extensive choice of vendors selling almost every type of food you could want. The caterers that I repeatedly enjoyed this year was one I hadn't seen before and it did lots of meat, pulled pork, pulled beef, bacon and if you wanted you could have all three in a large bap with a side of curly fries, coleslaw and a drink for £10.
Headlining Saturday night was Lamb of God, whose announcement received a mixed response from many fans who have been attending Bloodstock for many years. I wasn't interested in whether or not they are the type of band that falls into the category of what people want to see at Bloodstock, as far as I was concerned they were a band I hadn't seen before and wanted to see. Unfortunately losing my wallet half a dozen songs in kind of ruined things somewhat. I overcame the annoyance of this by getting drunker than I had on the Thursday and once again failing to negotiate the tents and guy lines. This time my antics on colliding with a tent were highly amusing to the people I was walking/stumbling back to the tents with as I decided against the possibility of hurting my hands by putting them out to break my fall and opted for the face first approach to landing.
Final day. Early (or at least it felt like it) on the New Blood Stage our friends in Kremated and NeonHalo were on back to back. Kremated played to a tent that was so full it was overflowing and I think possibly the best set on the New Blood Stage. The tent was so packed that there were people watching from outside. NeonHalo now had a tough act to follow but demonstrated why they had won the Kent area finals of the Metal to the Masses.
The next band that I remember were the brilliant Evil Scarecrow, who once again filled the Sophie Lancaster tent to capacity and then some more so that we could watch thousands of people joining in for the Robototron dance. I think that they were planning on recording the set for a DVD release. I still had Exodus, Devildriver, Anthrax and Slayer to look forward to. I had never seen Devildriver before and after checking out some of their set I will have to investigate some more of their stuff as I've only really heard two or three of their songs. Anthrax are another band that I hadn't seen before and not owning many of their albums I was quite glad that they played a set mostly of songs I knew.
Closing the festival were my all-time favourite band, Slayer; I have been a fan since I was about twelve and I learnt to play quite a few of their songs. Earlier in the year, like so many other Slayer fans I had been saddened by the loss of Jeff Hanneman and I was curious to how they would play with Gary Holt who had already played a set with Exodus. Unfortunately I had stood too far to the Kerry King side of the stage so that due to the panning of the sound I couldn't hear Gary Holt play as well as I would have liked to. Slayer played all the songs that people would recognise, but for me they didn't quite have the same energy as when I had seen them before. Even so it is Slayer and they are awesome! There was still more entertainment available in the Sophie Lancaster Tent with the four DJ's of the Apocalypse and more DJ's in the VIP bar, there was more drinking and merriment to be had until the early hours.
So to recap, four days of great music, great company, lots of food, plenty of beer and some silly memories that only occur at festivals.
Surely Bloodstock 2014 won’t be able to top that?
Article written by Pandemonium Tom, October 2013