I've done my share of festivals in the UK, but I've never been to Bloodstock. So, this was always going to be an experience.
We arrived on the Thursday to the friendliest of welcomes by the car park attendants and staff who along with being informative were pretty stoked about this weekends line-up. Now, before I go into details on the bands, the weekend and the overall experience that is BOA, I'd like to explain why this festival should be on your radar if it isn't already.
Bloodstock is pretty big, about 15,000 or so fans will make their way to Derbyshire this weekend. Now, while that doesn't compare with the likes of Download, it manages to be big-time and low-key all at once. The staff aren't intrusive, the fans are there for the music, the bands are there for the fans. There's nothing more to it than that. No pretences. No bullshit. This is a Heavy Metal festival.
The camp-sites are pretty close to the parking and more importantly, a lot closer to the arena. Believe me, a 10 minute walk is a lot more appealing at the end of a day than an hour. But that all goes hand in hand with the size. It's just my opinion, but I guess it all comes down to finding a balance. While other festivals have the biggest bands and the biggest crowds, they also miss out on the better experiences a festival can offer. Bloodstock manages that balance very well.
The arena area is very well laid out and there are plenty of amenities. The prices are what they are for a festival these days, which isn't ideal, but as was pointed out to me – with the advent of Peer 2 Peer sites & music piracy, the only way for bands to make any money anymore is ticket prices & merchandise stand. So, I guess there's an argument on both sides there. The overall feel of the place like I said earlier is that of a smaller festival. However, the organisers at BOA manage to (ahem) schedule the bands very well. You get your money's worth for the ticket price and the camp-sites are close enough that if you did bring your own food and some hexi-stoves or barbecues you don't miss out on much of anything.
Without question, the one thing that Bloodstock does do exceptionally well is diversity. I saw a T-Shirt on my travels around the site which read “Fuck Genres, It's All Metal”. A sentiment I've had for a long time. There's a lot of bands here a lot of people have never heard of. The 'New Blood' Stage offers bands from around the UK the opportunity to play here. There's a contest that is judged by fan votes and designated officials in every corner of Britain & Ireland – The Road to Bloodstock. The Jagermeister stage offers an exciting and eclectic blend of rock & metal. The Sophie Lancaster stage offering some fantastic newcomers, older bands, and those returning to the scene after an extensive absence. The Ronnie James Dio Main Stage, named after in honour of the Heavy Metal icon himself, home to some of the biggest acts in Metal for the next 3 days. Bloodstock will guarantee you this: If you like a mix of rock & metal, a little madness, a lot of drinking, and one hell of a party; you're not going to be bored.
I digress, let's talk about some METAL...
The festival got under-way on the Thursday night, however, due to setting up camp, food and meeting up with various friends and possibly a drink or two, we missed the majority of the bands. One band that I had been looking forward to seeing was Bull Riff Stampede, however, I'll be seeing them soon enough, which I'm pretty stoked about. What I did manage to make it into the Sophie Stage for, was Tragedy. Tragedy is the word I'd probably use if you missed it. I've seen parody bands, I've seen cover bands, I've seen tribute bands. I've never seen all three in one. Tragedy bring disco music to the metal masses. Yep, that's right, I said it. 70's disco music, heavy metal style. Utterly brilliant. From the Bee Gees to The Village People, this show had it all. More camp than Steel Panther, More metal than your average Disco-Ball, Tragedy absolutely owned their opening night headline slot... And the party is officially underway.
Bring on the Bin-Jousting...
There's a tradition at Bloodstock unlike any other festival I've been too. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Bin-Jousting. Bin-Jousting is pretty much what it says on the tin. Large dustbins on wheels are pushed toward each other by a group. Each bin is ridden on by one or more individuals, some dressed, some in costume, others wearing not so much, some nothing at all. They bump into each other, whoever stays on is the winner. Funniest thing I've ever seen at a festival camp-site ever. Genius in fact. Totally amazing. Hilarious, and albeit for one or two people, pretty safe. The smart thing about this is that everyone knows it's going to happen. The bins aren't chained down to anything to prevent anyone damaging anything to get to them. Security know it's going to happen, and it does for a while, but there's no drama, no fuss – a crowd chanting “One more go” respectfully denied in the interests of everyone’s safety. Awesome harmless fun. What you should get at a festival in my opinion.
With the sun out, the first day in full begins with an exceptional return from early 90's metallers Earthtone9, and then the Ronnie James Dio stage gets in full swing with the return of San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Legends Dark Angel. Like I said earlier the one thing that Bloodstock is scheduling and while the likes of Ex Deo, Dark Funeral, Firewind, Municipal Waste, Voivod, and Accept dominated the main stage.
The Way Of Purity, Absolva, Bloodbound, Shrapnel, The Prophecy, Skiltron, Cypher16, Xerath, Xentrix, and Scar Symmetry entertained the shade seeking masses in the Sophie tent, while The New Blood Stage hosted the likes of This is Turin, Cruel Humanity, Rezinwolf, Sheol Afterlife, Left Unscarred, Warpath, Nocturna, Prosperina, Karybdis, Second Rate Angels, Fahran, Craniation, and Mair plied their trade to the interested.
I can't stress this enough. When it comes down to value for money, Bloodstock has absolutely nailed it. But inevitably each day is about the Headliners. I've never really been a huge fan of Black Metal, or King Diamond – but the sea of faces painted white and black in honour of the Great Dane was awesome. From kids to some of us who are slightly older, everyone managed to somehow get involved on some level. If you weren't a member of the undead, you certainly were talking about it. With an epic stage show and theatrics to rival any grand opera, King Diamond delighted those who had waited all day in the heat to see him. I watched out of curiosity mostly and then went and watched two Welshman defile each other in the Sophie tent before the party turned to sing alongs & dancing with a Rock Disco. Heavy drinking is the order of this festival, which must be obeyed.
Saturday morning can only be described as bleary eyed and grey. A bit of drizzle kind of reflected the mood around the campsite. One of sore necks, pounding heads and the thought that 'that last one, I could have probably done without'. It's all good. This is Metal, and you can't keep a good Metal-head down long. Stormbringer got things underway, followed by an almighty performance from Beholder who I will credit right here for single handedly waking up the crowd and the weather just in time for 3 Inches of Blood, Hell, Kataklysm, Gojira, Sabaton, and Avantasia all setting the stage for the most brutal of returns to the UK shores from Virginia's own Lamb of God. A lot's been made of frontman Randy Blythe's troubles and rightly so. It's highlighted something that we should talk about. Safety at gigs. A lot of people go on about how bands & performers don't care about their fans. Wrong. When the barrier had an issue, they stopped. When the barrier broke, they stopped & requested everyone step back. I know that there are some folks out there who'd say something about just getting on with it. At the end of the day, everyone’s there to have a good time. The bands, the fans, everyone. After ripping, and I mean ripping the stage to bits. Lamb of God left no doubt in anyone's mind about Bloodstock. This is Big Time.
Now Sunday was always the day I was looking forward to the most. You've gotSlayer, Anthrax, Fozzy, DevilDriver, Exodus, Amorphis, Sacred Mother Tongue, Whitechapel, and Gama Bomb on the Main Stage, Fury, and Line of Fire on the New Blood stage, the campers were all about one band today: Evil Scarecrow! I don't know how this has happened, but a parody band from Nottingham, changed the entire feel of a festival. I don't have many criticisms of this festival, but suffice to say, if Evil Scarecrow should never have been in a tent. There simply wasn't enough room. It's just my opinion, but when a band that's on in the middle of a Sunday afternoon gets a bigger turnout than the previous two nights second stage headliners, they should probably be on the Main Stage...
Suffice to say, Sunday didn't disappoint anyone. With the sun blazing on the final day, the stage was set for an historic ending to a most amazing weekend.
Following the tragic and still recent passing of legendary guitarist Jeff Hanneman, I was and remain curious as to how things will go with Slayer. The band paid homage to their fallen brother during their set, and very little else was mentioned about it. Will they continue on? Will this be the last time we see Slayer in the UK? None of which were answered and respectfully weren't asked either.
Slayer were brilliant, but quiet in their repose. This is a band that's been through a lot, and is probably still hurting from their loss. They came, they lived up to their word, they performed, they left. Simple as that really.
What I like about Bloodstock is it's simplicity. They don't overthink it, they don't over do it. This is a festival about the fans, for the fans. Theirs no appearance of Corporate Ownership, there's no branding or labelling, simply BOA. With Emperor headlining Saturday 2014, I'll be much looking forward to heading back to Catton Park Derbyshire to do it all again!
See you next year!!!
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