Bloodstock 2014 was my third festival of the summer, and arguably the one which I was most excited for. It was my first time attending, and I enjoyed myself so much that I wanted to outline my experiences below.
First of all, I think it’s important to give some context of what my expectations were. As a proud mess and maker of ill-advised and spontaneous decisions, I held true to form and didn’t even buy a bloodstock ticket before I left. I bought a train ticket to get me there and spent the 4-5am period of the 8th August wandering around my local 24 hour Tesco gathering supplies (mainly rum) for the journey, and later bought my ticket on the door. (It would later transpire that the ticket on the door is £3 more expensive than on the website. Appalling, not because that’s too expensive – £140 for the quality of festival is a steal but because that’s 2 spring rolls out of the window and you can find out how I feel about that here).
That is not all. Due to financial dire straits and a complete inability to responsibly manage my own life, I realised that I did not have anywhere near enough money to buy a festival ticket, let alone to survive the festival. Unfortunately, I did not become aware of this until I had already boarded the train. A moment occurred where, in the grey early morning fog; picturesque film-noir rain trickling down the window of the London Midlands train within which I was now lamenting, I locked eye contact with a strange man on the platform of Euston station. A morose look overtook me as I was absorbed in the moment as the train pulled away.
He, with his best Casablanca imitation. I, with my debt. Then I did what any reasonable human being would do and took out an enormous wonga loan and increased my overdraft limit.
(Me enjoying Obituary on my way to
irreparable damage to my credit rating Bloodstock.)
I arrived at Catton Park on Friday morning and was met by some friends. It was nearly midday by the time I got there and wanted to jump straight into the action so I just dumped my shit (a technical term, I think) in someone else’s tent for the time being. I was excited to start the music at the New Blood stage where I promptly headed. As I arrived there, No Sin Evades His Gaze were setting up. For midday on a Friday the crowd was impressive even before they’d begun playing. No Sin are a band garnering a lot of attention in the metal world right now, with performances at Les-Fest and Tech-Fest in recent months. Now, moving on to perform their biggest show so far, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to see if they could live up to the hype.
They opened their set with monumental force in the form of Biometric Alchemy, a track off of their debut album which was incidentally released that same day. No Sin are full of big aggressive riffs, and are basically loud and good and that’s about as verbose as I’m willing to be. Seriously, they’re fucking great and they’re totally bridging the gap between the world of tech-metal and the wider heavier music world, and doing so in a really creative way. And if that’s not enough, the bassist Moat looks like an enormous angry frog on stage, so go and see them for that reason. Cracking set, cracking songs and the tent was full. Good things on the horizon no doubt.
Next, I decided it was a sensible move to go and set up my tent. However, after milling around and eating and chatting and such and although I had only been there two and a half hours, I was already disgustingly drunk. It was at this point that I realised:
With the help of some excellent friends, and the LOTR symphony playing on classic FM, we managed to erect something that looked a little like a tent and that was good enough for me. So, we headed off to see De Profundis on the Sophie stage. As another band that I hadn’t really listened to previously, I was excited to discover new music. It was upon arriving at the stage that I realised that my mate Paul was in the band and that I really should have known that. It was later on in the set that the singer announced it was my mate Paul’s birthday and I really should have known that, too. I am not a clever man. Anyway, basically they were great fun. De Profundis’ music is a particular blend of Progressive/Power-y Black/Death Metal.
Whilst maybe not for everyone, it is pretty interesting. The band had a few small sound issues with some feedback and sound balancing, but it didn’t stop them putting on a damn good show. Lots of wiggly guitar solos, timing changes and fast, heavy technical playing. I’d definitely go to see them again and I recommend you do, too.
Next on my list was Prong, who I was excited to see because – as my mate Aidan puts it – “They’re a great band to get stoned to”, which is definitely true. Of course, drugs are bad and that would be unprofessional, so shame on him and shame on you for agreeing with him and shame on me for just lying to you through the written word. Sadly, when I got back to camp to have a drink before Prong I ended up falling asleep, so that sucked. But I did wake up nice and refreshed in time for Triptykon. I am so glad I did. For anyone who hasn’t seen them live, I can only really describe them as about as heavy as balls, which in my experience are pretty heavy. So slow, and so doomy and thick, like a big black slug just gooing all over you and you’re kind of suffocating to death but you’re loving every minute of it because you’re into that kind of thing.
You can’t help but just constantly grimace whilst watching them, and I mean that in the most positive way. A million out of ten. I can’t over exaggerate how much I enjoyed their set. Well I can, but I’m not. Trust me – I’m a first aider and I wouldn’t lie to you. Or Would I?
Next up on my list was a 2 hour window of unmitigated hedonism. Unfortunately, this is where my “thinky” memories end for the day and are replaced by “feely” memories. I was effectively a non-entity for the rest of the day, but hyped to see some more music. So I picked myself up and floated back over to the arena to enjoy Dimmu Borgir. I bumped into a few pals over there and we picked a spot, ready for the band. Or at least I think that’s what happened. Here’s what I looked like at this point.
So there I am, watching Demon Burger, thoroughly loving life and with great people around me, in the world’s bestworst (which is like bratwurst, but bigger and webbed) hat. Everything should be wonderful. Due to some technical stuff, Jimmy Burger had their set chopped down and rearranged and they were getting visibly upset about it. Shagrath snapped a little at the end of their set and ended up saying before their penultimate song, “Sorry for all the technical bullshit, that’s what happens when you work with incompetent people”, so that was a bit of a prissy move and now I’m going to refer to them as Dimmu Bourgeois. I don’t know whom exactly he was referring to, but assuming it was aimed at someone in the production crew that’s unfair.
Don’t do that. Silly. They’re working very hard to make you sound as good as possible and sometimes shit goes wrong. Naughty Shagrath. Also he kept doing this irritating thing where he swapped between his grim black metal speaking voice and regular pleb speaking voice, so that was odd.
Even so, I felt their performance was a little lacklustre, and although that is just one inebriated vegetable’s opinion, most of the guys I was with seemed to feel the same way. Good try, Dimmu, but not today.
Once Dimmu was up, I headed back to Hel camp with some friends, where we continued to indulge. Some faded faster than others, and most of them ended up staying at camp for the night. However, I knew that after all the rum was gone, there was one person I could rely on to enable me even after everyone else had realised that what they were doing was wrong. No surprise – he’s Scottish. So Kev and I wandered back into the arena to watch a bit of Down. They were loud, and groovy and fun as hell. That’s all you want from Down. You’re watching Down to bop your head, and they delivered.
After a few songs, we walked to the bar. Worst decision ever, as upon reaching the bar, we hear the opening riff of Pantera’s ‘Walk’. Kev and I look at each other with a sober despair, reminiscent of that same feeling I got from Euston train guy. This can’t be happening. We grab our whiskies, turn around and head back towards the front of the crowd where we came from. By the time we got there it was all over. I’m still not entirely convinced that I didn’t hallucinate the entire thing. Down closed the night with about 5 minutes of heavy riffing accompanied by Venom’s Antton Lant on drums, which was awesome – a great positive vibe to end the night on.
Aside from all the music there are a few things and first impressions I’d like to mention about my first experience of Bloodstock. First of all, the crowd is socially incestuous. Everyone seems to know everyone which makes for a really charming community vibe. I loved that and it’s not a feeling you get quite as strongly at every festival. Secondly, the layout of the festival site is incredible. It takes literally 10-15 minutes max to walk from one side of the arena to the furthest point of the furthest campsite.
Finally, bloodstock seems to be doing more for unsigned and entry level bands than any other festival, but the quality of acts they select is still top notch. The New Blood stage is something the management should be enormously proud of and I hope they keep investing their faith in it. We, the audience, really respect and appreciate that.
In closing, my first day was a fantastic one. Thank you, Bloodstock, for being so welcoming and putting on such a show for me and giving me an environment in which it is socially permissible to not even know what my name is during daylight hours. On to Day two…
Bonus: On the journey to Bloodstock, I had an hour long chat with a fellow bloodstocker named Adam. He and I created a mythos in which all sins on earth are punished in public travel in the afterlife. We therefore decided that limbo could only rationally be a perpetual train journey to Crewe. You never arrive. You are always in transit. Being in Crewe is bad enough, but always being on the way to Crewe is worse. May we be cleansed of our sins so as to avoid this mobile fate.