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17 June 2006 @ 06:07 pm
DOWNLOAD 2006 - THE LONG AWAITED WRITE-UP  
Okay, here, as promised, is the action-packed Download 2006 update. It's huge, it's wild, it's full of drugs, beer, and HEAVY FUCKING METAL. If these things offend you... what are you doing on my friends list again? ;)

This will not be an absolute blow-by-blow account, but nor will it be a three paragraph ‘went, saw bands, had fun’. It will be as long as one of the best weekends of my life deserves. LET’S ROLL!

WEDNESDAY

We start our story in ASDA and where else – the alcohol aisle. After much pondering, Dave and I decide that two crates of Stella Artois, two bottles of Jagemeister and a bottle of blue Mickey Finn’s are all absolute necessities. After further consideration, we decide to add some food.

The original plan had been to head down early Thursday morning (the bands kick off 1pm Friday) but upon learning via a phone call to Palmer, who has already set up camp, that the place is already looking pretty packed, we decide to begin our journey that evening. After packing, tearful goodbyes to Dave’s girlfriend (who knows if we may ever return) the open road stretches way out in front of us. It has begun, my friends! For better or worse, it has begun, and there’s no turning back now.

Our companion on this journey (apart from the trusty bottle of Mickey Finn’s) is a AA.com route planner print-off, which details our 200 mile journey in five pages of highly confusing detail. Even so, we are fine until we reach the biggest blight on the face of our dear country: Birmingham.

Even as the signs point us towards our fate we desperately try to turn off, to flee, anything to get us away from that awful cesspit of a city, but it is too late. Birmingham drags us in like a horribly designed black hole, and as the smell of the Great Unwashed hits our nostrils I raise the Mickey Finn’s to my lips and drink deeply, trying to blot it all out. On later reflection, this was probably not the best idea. You know, what with me being the navigator and all.

Our estimated time of arrival creeps closer and closer. We are still in fucking Birmingham. Eventually, after waiting in a traffic jam for nigh on 40 minutes (at 12 o clock at night!) we manage to escape its gravitational pull and rejoin the correct motorway. Dave puts his foot down.

A few CDs later, we sail past a sign. DONINGTON PARK. Hmm, I think. Donington Rock Festival... Donington Park... Surely this is a good omen. Dave shoots this down.

“Nah,” he says. “Donington Park isn’t in Donington. It’s somewhere else. Ian told me.”

He will come to regret these words.

After another half hour of belting up the motorway, we see signs for god-awful, Northern places, the likes of which I should never wish to visit. It is clear we have come too far. We stop at a service station and ask a friendly truck driver. It appears that Donington Park is, in fact, in Donington. Furthermore, Donington Park is where Donington Rock Festival is being held.

Ah.

We turn around, me cursing Dave with fervour and violence, and head back the way we came. DONINGTON PARK. Excellent! We turn off the motorway and take another one. Dave remarks how much better the music sounds when you’re not lost. However, he speaks too soon. Abruptly the signs for Donington Park cut out. Vanish. The Gods of the Motorway mock us once more!

Completely disorientated, we pull into a service station to regain our bearings and take a leak. Inside, we spot a group of guys standing around looking lost. Long hair? Check. Metal tshirts? Check. Standing in a service station in the middle of the night? Check.

“Excuse me, are you boys going to Download?”

They turn to look at us. “Yeah, we are, but we got lost in Birmingham.”

Well whadda ya know. United by a common destination and hatred of all things Birmingham, we decide to combine forces. Upon learning they actually have a real map, this involves us following them as they burn, 90+, towards the festival. Fuck you, Gods of the Motorway! You cannot keep good men down!

As we pull into the Park, dawn has fully reared its head. We have actually driven all through the night. Dave instructs me to feed “Appetite for Destruction” into the CD player and we wind the windows down and blaze into Download with Welcome to the Jungle blaring from Dave’s considerable sound system.

The boys have arrived.

Unloading our stuff, we head for the campsites. Several calls to Palmer yield no results (asleep at 3 o’ clock in the morning? What a pussy) so we pitch camp in the first open spot we see, decide to find him in the morning, and after a few swigs of Jager and a spliff, fall asleep.

THURSDAY

I awaken to sunlight streaming in through the tent and the general hubbub of festival goers getting up and ready for the day. Download has begun! With a yawn I crack open my breakfast – a can of Stella – and shaking Dave awake, I recommend he does the same.

“Ughhh,” he moans. “What time is it?”

“About eleven?” I hazard.

Dave checks his phone. “Its seven-thirty.”

Fuck. Still, the Stella has already been opened. There is no turning back. Slowly we rise, phone Palmer, and join up with the rest of the crew – Boris, Liam, Alex, and Adam, who left at 4 in the morning, despite being at the pub til gone 1. They’ve already pitched their tents, so we set up camp next to them and chill out with a few beers and a joint or two before setting off on a walk round the campsite to see what we can see.

Dave, however, who is already several Stellas to the wind, insists on asking everyone we meet if they can get any acid, pills, mescaline... If you’re thinking this is maybe a little premature, you must learn something about the way Dave approaches rock festivals. For Dave, a festival is simply an excuse to go camp in a field for 3 days and get absolutely out of his mind on anything and everything. If he manages to see a few bands along the way, all well and good, but the main thing is clubbing sobriety into submission with a very large stick.

Boris is also up for scoring, having formulated an ingenious plan on the trip down that will allow him to stay awake all festival without actually getting much sleep: he will simply take pills every time he starts to get tired.

And as I have never been one to turn down an opportunity to take drugs, our sight-seeing mission quickly turns into a drug-scoring operation. Give me 10 CCs of MDMA, stat!

People we meet along the way include Greg, and a Ozzy Ozbourne lookalike who fronts a Black Sabbath cover band, but we are out of luck until running into a 30-strong band of friendly Geordies. They have lots of pills for sale, they say, but need a place to set up their tents. No fear, we cry, simply follow us! We lead our mob of pill-popping Geordies through clusters of tents back to an open space next to our camp and go for a spliff with Ozzy while they set up.

Once the spliff is done, there is only one thing for it: score those pills. We do so, purchasing five of the finest Es Newcastle has to offer, and are faced with a conundrum. The Original Plan was to buy the pills now, chill with a few beers all day, then take them sometime in the evening. After some consideration the Original Plan is dropped in favour of the New Plan, which consists of dropping the pills now, pilling our tits off all afternoon, then buying more later. The New Plan meets with considerable enthusiasm, so we take two on the head and go sit in the sun and watch the world go by as we wait to come up.

About 20 minutes later, things are starting to happen. We realise we are very thirsty, and head up to the water place. While on the way, we really start to come up, and by the time we get there we are all buzzing like fools. Boris buys water, and we stand there, drinking it, grinning madly. The sun, however, is very hot, and Dave begins to look a bit off-colour. He is randomly chewing and his eyes are rolling back in his head, but this is all normal behaviour for Dave on pills, so we are not too worried. Soon, however, we catch him crawling under the block of portable toilets to get out of the sun and then throwing up everywhere. This is not so good. Boris and I decide the best option would be to take him back to the camp so he can sit in the tent and quietly pill his tits off in a more comfortable atmosphere.

Back at the tent the others see Dave and become very worried. Boris and I attempt to explain that this is pretty much run of the mill for a pilled up Dave and all he needs is some shade and some water, but they don’t listen, so we let them install him in the tent and fuss round him while we sit in the camping chairs and drink a few more beers.

The afternoon passes lazily. I get to know Liam, Alex and Adam a bit better, and discover they are all really awesome, together guys, and spend some of it in the tent with Dave, talking about anything and everything, as is usual for pills, and still more of it on the phone to anyone and everyone, again as is usual for pills. As the evening creeps up, I decide it is time to take more pills. And drink more beers. And, you know, smoke a few more spliffs.

In retrospect this is not such a good idea. My memory seems to fade a bit at this point, but I am informed that some gems came out of my mouth, such as this one, when Palmer and his girlfriend, whom he’d brought along, were just walking past where we were sat:

Rob (out of the blue): “I bet he ties her up.”
Everyone else: [shocked silence]
Rob: “What? I bet he does!”

I have literally no idea where that came from.

Anyhow, at length everyone decides to go check out the village – a group of shops, stalls, etc, in the middle of the campsite. Dave has passed out, and Boris has come down off the one pill he took and hasn’t done any more, so I am the only person currently out of their mind on drugs. This becomes evident when Boris and co reach the village, turn around, and think... “aren’t we missing someone?”

I have little to no memory of all this, but I do vaguely recall following some people for ages until they turn round and I realise I don’t know them. “Fuck it,” I think, “I’ll get to know them,” and proceed to make a few new friends. I discuss the upcoming bands with my new friends. We agree that In Flames will be amazing. My new friends light up a huge spliff. I begin to think my new friends are very good new friends indeed. Then my new friends bring out the amyl nitrates. I try to explain that I don’t really do poppers, not liking the high, but it is no use, and I end up taking a few huge whiffs. Everything goes blurry, and I decide I had better make it back to the tent before I pass out.

Easier said than done.

After wandering around for what feels like hours, completely lost and even more completely wrecked out of my mind, I give up and collapse by the side of the nearest tent. Snuggling up and using my hand as a pillow, my last thought is how lucky it was I brought my sleeping bag with me...

FRIDAY

I wake up very confused. Where the fuck am I? Slowly last night seeps back in. Well, some of it.

Gathering my sleeping bag around me – still confused as to how I managed to bring it – making me look like some sort of hungover Indian, I head back to the camp and stumble into the tent, much to the surprise of Dave, who thought I had been there all night. The question of the sleeping bag is also answered, as my sleeping bag is still in my tent, where I left it. So apparently I stole someone else’s to crash out on last night. Resourceful.

I also discover that I am very sunburnt. Spending all of yesterday with my top off, while delightful for the ladies, no doubt, was very bad for the health of my skin. Still all these problems, and more, can be remedied with one simple thing: beer.

Regrettably, however, we are running out, having gone through an entire crate yesterday, so Dave, Boris, Alex and Adam are dispatched to the local Co-op to buy more. Dave returns with a 12 pack of original Budweiser –straight from Czechoslovakia – which cost him 12 quid. 12 fucking quid. Festival goers are milked for all they’re worth – we also discover later that a pack of 20 cigs sets you back 7 squid. What a fucking rip.

The bands on Friday are pretty shit, but Alex and Adam can’t get enough of the crappy hardcore/nu-metal bollocks that Kerrang jerks off over, so they head down to the main stage while me, Boris, Dave and Liam sit around, doing nothing, getting drunker and drunker. The ladies around our neck of the woods are particularly dogging, most believing that no-one will notice they look like the back end of the ugly bus if they hang enough metal off their necks and dress in clothes you’d find in a pink and black pantomime. There is, however, one exception.

This foxy little minx has been parading up and down in front of us all day, wearing a tiny skirt and even tinier top. She is legitimately stunning, and will hold eye-contact with you for an indefinite length of time before finally looking away coyly. The only problem? She looks about fifteen.

Time for the beers. The afternoon went much like this:

[random guy from our camp drains can] “Where is she? Ah, over there. Nope, still looks too young.”
“Quick, pound another beer!”
[cracks open another can] “Okay, here we go.” [drains it] “Shit, no, she STILL looks too young!”
[hands him another can] “Quick dude, get this down your neck!”

Fortunately, the bands we wouldn’t mind seeing roll around before any of us is drunk enough to commit a crime under the sex offenders act, and over the next few days, she is nowhere to be seen. We make bets on whether she has been abducted by a paedophile or whether she was in the pay of the cops to lure unsuspecting young men into prison.

The main arena, when we get there, is pretty crowded, and the Deftones are on the stage. We watch them for a while before agreeing that they are utter bollocks and retiring to the bank on one side, where we play the game where you point out random chicks you would fuck from here to Picadilly. Playing this game with Dave is interesting, mainly because his standards are about as high as a diving submarine. Finally I suggest that it may be more worthwhile for him to point out the girls he wouldn’t do, however hard it may be to locate all five of them.

Eventually Boris busts out the pills he saved from last night, and we drop for the second day running, just as Tool come on. Tool are great, but since none of us really know their songs after about half an hour we leave, because Boris is getting cold and I, very unfortunately, need a shit.

[SIDENOTE: If you have never been to a festival and thus have no idea what the toilets are like, count yourself lucky. Very lucky indeed. The word cesspit does not even begin to describe it, I am convinced even Medieval peasants would balk at the sight of the fucking Download bogs. How everyone did not catch dysentery I have no idea. But I digress.]

Back at the camp we have a few beers and decide more drugs are in order. We need a hookup, our previous Geordie dealer having sold out hours ago. But first we need some cash. On the way to the cashpoint my sharp ears detect a familiar word amongst the general festival hue and cry.

“Excuse me, but did I just hear the word pills?”

My eagle ears have sorted us once again, as these fine young lads are indeed scoring some pills, from a bloke with dreads and pupils like saucers who happens along in a minute or two. We grab his number then set off to the cashpoint. Shut. Fuck. Ah well. Resourceful as ever, I borrow £20 from Boz and score six of the best from this Ben character. We drop them, quickly finding out these are the trippiest pills ever – very possibly MDA rather than MDMA. Boris mistakes the tent for a huge fat woman waddling towards us, and Dave keeps telling us over and over about the dinosaurs he can see right over there.

The only way forward, we decide, is to crack on with the beer, and Boris, who has taken about three times as many pills as the rest of us, is mainlining the Strongbow like there’s no tomorrow. He ends up totally, completely, and utterly fucked-in-half, babbling incomprehensibly about nothing anyone can understand. We eventually pass out about 5, exhausted. And today was only day one.

SATURDAY

If you’ve never woken up from getting about 3 hours sleep after a night on the ecstasy, there is only one word for it: scattered. Your brain feels like its been hit by a large and very confusing slice of bafflement pie, and there is only one cure: beer. So for the third day running it’s a full Belgian breakfast as we crack open the Stella and head back to the car for some much needed refuelling.

Once there, I discard my sweat-sodden tshirt and jeans in favour of the white combat shorts of power and the motherfucking blue shirt of ultimate doom. A few more beers and I feel ready to face the day. I even feel ready to tackle the queue for the cashpoint.

Big mistake. The queue goes on for, literally, about three hours. We even end up missing the England game it goes on for so fucking long. By all accounts though, we didn’t miss much, and after a quick lap round the racecourse (the main arena is built on top of the Donington motor-racing track) we stagger back to camp to get out of the sun and shoot the shit before the main event of the evening: a little band from California called Metallica. This is also the time that Dave, in the space of five minutes, manages to call Alex’s dad an idiot and his sister a slut. This display of tact becomes a running joke for the rest of the festival.

Korn are playing when we finally get into the main arena, and I am very impressed, despite Jonathan Davis not being there because he caught the AIDS or something. Korn are fucking tight, and play some powerful, catchy songs. They are, in short, everything the Deftones wished they were last night and weren’t.

Eventually the boys from Bakersfield finish and we begin the long wait for Metallica. And it is a long wait. I have never seen so many people in one place before, and before long they start to get restless. A few bottles had been thrown around during and immediately after Korn, nothing too serious, but now it starts to escalate. A few people throw bottles, the people who get hit throw them back, and suddenly it just blows up. The sky is filled with bottles, the people on the bank are bombarding the ones in front of the stage, and you can’t move without getting hit by a bottle of some description. Some are half full, and these are the nasty ones – the guy standing next to us had his nose completely bust open, blood streaming everywhere. There are even plastic petrol cans sailing through the air. By a combination of sharp eyes and quick feet we manage to avoid most of them, but towards the end one catches Boris smack on the head. He is having a rough time of it anyway – he has hayfever and his eyes have been streaming all day, and Alex has to literally hold him back to stop him rampaging into the crowd in a hayfevery beered up rage.

At last, though, it all dies down. A strange hush fills the air, and through it cuts the majestic swellings of The Ecstasy of Gold. That’s it for Dave. He breaks down, tears in his eyes, as the big screens come on and Metallica take the stage. They are looking in fine form as they launch into Creeping Death, then Fuel, then Wherever I May Roam.

Next up is a new song – nothing too impressive – followed by The Unforgiven, but the it all quietens down a bit. We wait to see what would happen next, and on the big screens a presentation starts to play...

20 years ago we created an album that is still regarded today by our fans as one of the greatest we have ever written. This album is a longtime favourite of many Metallica listeners, and to celebrate its anniversary... we will now play... in its entirety... Master... of... Puppets...

I go wild. My favourite thrash metal album... Puppets... They’re going to play the whole of fucking Puppets! The big screens start showing a video which sweeps over the inside of a recording studio filled with Metallica memorabilia, ending on a CD which slowly starts to spin. The words on it: METALLICA – BATTERY.

And it begins. The lush spanish guitar washes over us... and then the crunching speedthrash begins. Everyone goes crazy as they power through it and straight into the title track, possibly my favourite metal song of all time. I have never moshed so hard as I do now, feeling the music empower me, flow through my entire fucking body.

Next up it’s the chugging power of The Thing That Should Not Be, followed by the mysterious energy of Sanitarium. Here they take a bit of a break, and James takes the opportunity to talk to the crowd.

“Hell yeah,” he screams. “So, who bought this album?”

I can’t resist. I simply can’t resist. I take a deep breath. “I downloaded it!” I yell.

I hope Lars heard me.

The set continues with... well, you know the tracklist (at least, you should). And as the last notes of Damage, Inc die away, the lights go off and they leave the stage.

I am slightly disappointed. I know they will come back on for an encore, but I figure it will be about three songs long, and there are so many thumping tunes they haven’t yet touched...

I am even more disappointed when they come back on and launch into Sad But True. The Black Album is great, but it aint Metallica’s best. I want more of the classics! You can’t argue with Nothing Else Matters, though, which comes up next, and everyone gets their lighters out, ignoring the fact that its way too windy.

As the last chords die away, everything goes black once more. Is this it? Sure, this can’t be it.

BANG.

The sounds of guns and explosions fill the air, and everyone cheers, We know what’s coming. Motherfucking One, baby!. The pyrotechnics during this song are simply unbelievable, much like the song itself, and after that it’s straight into Sandman.

And that’s it. Or is it? After a period of blackness ‘tallica race back out! These boys just won’t quit! They get some audience members and a few of the Trivium guys to help with Die, Die My Darling, and then it’s time for one last song. Seek And Destroy. Even though I can think of at least three betters songs they could have played (come on, what better to finish with than Fade To Black), I am so happy for the guy right behind me, who has been shouting “SEEK AND DESTROY” after literally every song. He must’ve been over the fucking moon.

As the final notes die we walk away from the stage, starstruck, unable to believe the spectacle we have just witnessed.

“So,” I say to Dave, adopting a puzzled look. “Who were they?”

There is a grin on everyone’s face as the crowd flows out of the main arena. We cannot believe it. We have just seen Metallica. And boy, did they put on a show. Puppets in its entirety. And nothing from St Anger. You could almost believe the abominations of the past fifteen years never happened.

We head back to camp and get pissed, but for once tonight I am first to bed. Big day tomorrow, I feel. A very big day.

I’m not wrong.

SUNDAY

I awaken in a panic. What time is it? Have I missed Dragonforce? Luckily the sun is again deceiving and its only very early, so I doze for a bit then breakfast on Stella until Zebrahead are due on at 11:45. Unfortunately, we run out of Stella at 10. This forces me onto the Jagermeister, which in turn means that I am very very drunk by the time I head down to the main arena. Too drunk, in fact, to find the Snickers stage. I spend fifteen minutes queuing only to find that I am now in the Snickers Bowl, which is a shitty BMXing place. Bollocks. Ah well. I amble on over to the bar, pay a ridiculous price for a bottle of Grolsch, and settle down to watch Dragonforce.

Its 12:25 by the watch of the guy in front of me, but there is a distinct lack of power metal. My drunken self is getting restless.

“Give us the Force!” I cry. “We want the fucking Force!”

At last my cries are answered as Dragonforce take the stage. Their first few songs are marred by fuckups in the sounds system, leaving the bass about three billion times louder than everything else, but that is soon sorted out. Confusingly, however, everyone seems a bit disinterested. In fact, in the entire area around me, the only people feeling the music are me and this girl standing next to me. She is short, fat and about 10 years old, but we bond over a mutual love of cheesy power metal.

After racing through to the end of the set, ZP pauses. “This next song,” he says, “kicked everything off. Sing along if you know the words! It’s Valley... of... the... Damned!”

“FUCKING YES!’ I scream, jumping around like a lunatic and spilling Grolsch all over the guy in front. He turns to look at me. Whatever, fuck him, serves him right for not liking Dragonforce. The girl and I are going crazy, screaming the words as loud as we can, holding our hands up to the sky like people possessed, until at last its all over and DF exit the stage, leaving us breathless, sweaty, and spent.

That, I say to myself, was fucking awesome.

I consider hanging around for whoever is on next, but eventually decide to go back to camp and top up my inebriation. At 3 quid a pint I cannot afford to carry on getting drunk in here.

The rest of the afternoon passes pretty uneventfully. I catch In Flames, who were something of a disappointment, playing just two songs from their older catalogue and filling the rest up with garbage from their last three albums. Oh well. Fuck ‘em. The Swedes are wankers, anyway. He was, he said, going to make a crack about Sweden beating England in the World Cup, but since their miserable 0-0 with Trinidad and Tobago he couldn’t even do that. I laugh at the Swedes pathetic inadequacy. Serves them right for being bloody commies, I think.

Back at the camp again I actually fall asleep at one point, taking my sleeping bag out under the gazebo and catching a few winks in the shade. After all, I need to be absolutely fully rested for the main event tonight, which I have a feeling will be something extra special. I am not wrong.

I get back into ze arena just in time for the Prodigy. Luckily, this time I am sober enough to find the Snickers tent. The Prodigy are awesome – I spot so many people who had to be on pills – but regrettably I have to leave before they play Funky Shit, as their set overlaps with the highlight of the day, Guns n’ fucking Roses. Before heading towards the main stage, I stop off at the bar and get three pints, carrying them down the path carefully. I giggle, because everyone watching probably thinks that I am getting these for me and my mates. Little do they know my mates have been lost long ago and these beers are mine, all mine.

The area around the main stage is packed, more bodies there than Metallica. Undaunted, I find a spot which is not full of sweaty teenage metalheads and down one beer straight off. This leaves me with a pint in each hand, a position I am extremely comfortable with. I take alternate swigs from each one and yell random insults at the stage. Suddenly, much sooner than I expected, everything goes quiet. The people sitting down stand up. There is movement.

Then a gigantic cheer goes up as Axl Rose and his Band of Merry Musicians appear, and play the first few seconds of Welcome to the Jungle. Then stop. Then the first few seconds. Then stop.

“Come on you fucking pricktease!” I scream. “Give us the Jungle! We want the fucking Jungle!”

And here it comes... Welcome to the Jungle in all its glory. I hold my arms aloft, pint still clasped in each one, throughout the entire song and into Its So Easy, which is followed by Mr Brownstone and Live And Let Die. This is amazing. Guns n’ Roses, live. There’s no Slash, no Duff, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter. These songs are so good they transcend whoever is playing them. They are true classics, and Axl Rose, to his credit, is doing them justice – his distinctive voice flowing over the area, pervading every ear and leaving the crowd in no doubt as to just who they are listening to.

I finish one of my pints just as the opening notes of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door begin. I am awestruck. The evening sun is visible behind the stage, bathing the arena in a soft, golden light, and I feel tears spring to my eyes. This, my friends, is what its all about. This. Right here.

Little did I know it was only going to get better.

A few more songs into the set Axl and co abruptly leave the stage, citing “technical difficulties”. Hmm. The equipment sounds fine to me. I suspect these “technical difficulties” are more Axl coming down from the metric fuckton of cocaine he has consumed and going backstage to refill. Still, I seize this chance to do some refuelling of my own, making my way out of the crowd to grab two more pints. Squeezing past everyone makes me feel like an absolute dick, even though whenever I had been previously watching a band, I had to make room for people coming by at least once every two minutes. Eventually though I make it out, purchase the beer, and fight my way back in. My old spot has long since been overrun, so I find a new one, and chat to some girls about how much of a wanker Axl Rose is until Guns see fit to come back on.

This opinion of Axl, I find out, is incredibly. I don’t really know enough to make a judgement, but the constant slagging of one of the great rock vocalists of the late 80s/early 90s only serves to put me firmly on his side. And when I learn later that many people avoided the main arena all together because they thought Axl was such a dick, I can only feel sorry for them. But I digress.

As we wait for Guns to come back on and resume their set, I notice for the first time the guy in front of me. He has dreads, looks a lot like a typical modern hippie, and has a girl on each arm. I find this interesting because although the one on his right is clearly very into him, he very obviously wants the one on his left. She, however, is having none of it, and Girl-R attempts to seize her chance. HippieDude, however, is not about to give up yet. As I watch he feels Girl-L beer and spliffs, all but ignoring Girl-R, whose hands are wandering all over him, and gradually Girl-L gets more and more into it, until at last they are practically all over each other. Girl-R sadly gives up, defeated. This little romantic performance amuses me greatly, but amusement is not getting me stoned, and so I tap HippieDude on the shoulder and politely ask if I may partake of the gigantic spliff that he has on the go.

“Sure thing, man,” he says, and indicates to Girl-L that she should hand it to me after she has taken her fill. She does so, and we get talking. He is enjoying the set, but not the huge technical breaks, and I offer my theory about Axl and the cocaine. This amuses him, and the conversation turns to drugs. I mention that I’ve been looking for some acid all weekend but have not been able to find any, and his eyes light up.

“You want some acid, man?” he says, delving into his pocket.

My eyes grow wide as he pulls out a small sheet of tab, tears one off, and hands it to me. I am unable to believe it. We have spent the entire weekend looking for someone to sell us LSD, the holy grail of illegal narcotics, and now this dude is giving me some for free. I thank him profusely and munch the tab. The taste that comes off it is liquid awesome.

During this time, Guns have re-entered the stage, and as they rip through their set I can feel things starting to happen. The sky looks... different, and a cluster of trees to the side of the arena is starting to remind me of a giant caterpillar. I turn to HippieDude to talk to him about this, but he is gone. Vanished. Possibly he was an apparition, an angel sent down from heaven to ensure I got to trip on LSD. Either that or, you know, he went for a threesome with those chicks.

It doesn’t matter, though, because Guns n’ Roses are steaming towards the end of their set, and everything is looking mad. Everything is sounding mad. November Rain is absolute bliss, an exquisite six minute plus slice of aural pleasure, and the big screen behind Axl is starting to leap out, to swim, to merge. This is amazing. I am going crazy, leaping up and down, clapping my hands wildly, screaming my delight and generally rocking out. People I don’t even know are grinning and giving me the thumbs up. I make friends with most of them.

The set seems to go on forever, and by now I am full on tripping my balls off. I have never seen anything like it. There is only one thing missing...

“PARADISE CITY,” I scream. ‘OH PLEASE GOD GIVE US PARADISE CITY!”

The set flows on for longer and longer, song after song, solo after solo. Rocket Queen. I Used To Love Her. Finally the guitarist does an extended soloing session, and some of it sounds vaguely familiar. At last he stops...

It must be... It has to be...

The opening riff of Paradise City fills the arena and I go absolutely wild.

“PARADISE CITY OH MY GOD ITS PARADISE CITY OH MY GOOAAH...” – the words fail me.

People I met from earlier who have heard my cries for this perfection in song form are coming over and nudging me, grinning. I grin back, a smile so wide it nearly splits my face in half. I am screaming the words, jumping around like a man possessed, unable to tear the pure happiness from my face.

Each new pyrotechnic burst sends me into paroxysms of ecstasy. I cannot believe how good this is. I am standing, legs apart, arms in the sky, frantically trying to draw everything about this into me, the lights, the sounds, the atmosphere. This is as good as it gets. This is the defining moment of my life. At that instant I am there. Simply there. I fail to see how anything can possibly top this.

Paradise City goes on forever, it seems like – it just doesn’t stop, but finally it dies away to massive applause, none louder than from me, and at last I sink back, utterly exhausted. At least, I should be. But I’m not. I’m still full of energy, still at the height of my trip, and after bidding my latest new friends goodbye I dart off into the crowd, even now unable to believe this is happening to me.

The Download Village is incredible. Lights everywhere, buzzing everywhere, people everywhere. I literally don’t know where to look. I spent about 10 minutes staring at the Legal Highs Stall, which is all fluorescent bongs and trippy signs. I congratulate the owners on having a “stall that is absolutely fucking mad to look at when you’re tripping on LSD” and move on. The fairground rides hypnotise me – all the flashing lights with their twirling and their swinging and their swirling...

Finally I tear myself away and decide to head back to camp to tell the others of my adventures. On the way, however, a familiar song opening hits my ears from way across the village. Is that...? It is!

I sprint across the field to find out where Slam by Pendulum is playing, locating it coming from the speakers in the middle of a clothes shop. Undaunted, I position myself in the middle of the two speakers, which is also in the middle of the shop, and fucking let loose. The music takes over me. I am Slam. The girls browsing the clothes to my right stand and stare, gobsmacked that anyone could release so much energy all at once. What a fucking tune.

Eventually it finishes, and with a cry of “ONWARD!” I make my way out of the arena and back into the campsite.

Finding our tent is very, very hard. Last time I took acid I freaked out, and a bit of me wonders if someone like that could happen again, but nothing seems further from the truth. I feel so deliriously, wondrously happy that nothing could possibly spoil my mood. I start randomly laughing, giggling to myself. This is awesome.

Back at the tent I find the guys sat in the circle, drinking beer. I explain, as best I can, what has happened to me – in short, how I am tripping my nuts off on LSD. They do not seem very impressed. Whatever, fuck ‘em. I grab a top in case I get cold and start out on my adventures once more.

Wandering around the festival is quite simply amazing. I had forgotten what happens on the last day of a festival – everyone gets absolutely fucked and goes fucking wild. There are people everywhere going mental. I feel amongst friends.

Heading back towards the main area I spot someone who looks familiar.

“Hey man, are you the dude who sold me pills on Friday?”

He shrugs. “Probably. You want some?”

I consider. My original plan had just been to say hi, but hey, I haven’t become a irresponsible drug user by not taking illicit narcotics when they are offered. I buy twenty quids-worth and chat to Ben for a while. I learn that this is his first Download, too, and also that he hasn’t slept since he got here. Apparently he found a big bag of speed on the first night, and has been using that to keep himself awake. I check out his eyes. They are basically all pupil.

Wishing him a very happy festival I aim for the main arena once more, but stop dead as an incredible sight meets my eyes. Coming out of the gates is a huge mob of festival goers, lead by one man at the front carrying a huge flag. They are chanting and shouting. I decide that this is where I need to be.

Quickly I push my way into the throng of people and join in the chanting. The feeling is something else. This is mob rules. We are invincible. Nothing can stop us. With a roar we descend on the centre of the village. Someone starts a fire, and suddenly everyone is grabbing things and throwing them on. Literally everything is thrown onto the flames. Someone starts a chant:

“DOWN-LOAD DOWN-LOAD DOWN-LOAD!”

Someone upends a steel barrel and starts thumping out a tribal beat. People rip off their tops and dance around the flames. I have never experienced anything like this. It is primal. It speaks to something deep within each of us, brings out a side which does not often see the light of day. It is fucking carnal.

But festival staff wielding fire extinguishers are running over and putting out our blaze of glory. We boo. They are spoilsports. Someone starts a new chant:

“WAN-KERS WAN-KERS WAN-KERS!”

While the festival staff’s backs are turned, someone manages to restart the fire. We cheer madly. The fire burns again! But the bastards put it out once more, and we turn away, looking for something new. Directly in front of us is a wood and brick hut that sells ice-cream and soft drinks during the day. Some people have already climbed onto the roof. Suddenly everyone is running towards it, clambering up onto the top, while others try to rip down the lamposts around it.

The people on the roof start to chant again:

“DOWN-LOAD DOWN-LOAD DOWN-LOAD!”

Everyone cheers. This is fantastic. Then someone cries, “HEADS UP!”

We whirl to see a squad of about 25 security guards racing towards the hut.

“GET DOWN OFF THE FUCKING ROOF!” they scream. “GET DOWN OFF THE FUCKING ROOF RIGHT FUCKING NOW!”

While screaming they grab the legs of the people standing on the roof and hurl them six feet onto the floor. I take a step back. Never in my life have I see such unbridled aggression. The guards at the back are taking out their batons. I decide this may be an opportune time to leave.

Back in the campsite people are climbing the poles that hold up the strings of lights like King Kong and swaying from side to side, leaping off at the last second as they fall. There are fires everywhere, those who don’t want to take their tents back with them are hurling them onto the blazes, making massive flames lick the air. Every so often an aerosol will blow up, and when this happens the cheers echo around the fields.

The teams of festival fire staff are sprinting around the campsite, trying desperately to keep it under control, but for every blaze they put out another one springs up. People throw beer cans at them and are rewarded with a burst from the hoses.

I continue my way around the site, staring at everything, soaking up the atmosphere. There have been several people shouting “TIMMY!” in the manner of South Park so far, but now, right here, it really takes off.

“TIMMY!” yells someone.

“TIMMY!” yells someone else.

“LIVALIELIVALIELIVALIETIMMYYYYY!” I cry.

Suddenly everyone is yelling “TIMMY!” at the tops of their voices. It is brilliant. The entire festival is united in the spirit of Timmy. I tell this to a random person, and he gives me a glowstick. RandomPerson is now my best friend. I love my glowstick, and take extra special care of it. I spend what seems like forever just staring at it, then hold it in front of me and follow it round the campsite, randomly yelling “TIMMY!”

At last my glowstick takes me back to the camp. Everyone is still sitting around in exactly the same positions, apart from Liam and Boris, who have gone to bed. They are all drinking beers, smoking spliffs, and doing poppers. I try to convince them once more that they should seriously go and check out what’s happening at the rest of the festival, but they do not seem very interested. Alex wants to destroy my glowstick to get at the goo inside. I object strongly.

Over in the tents next to us they are having a competition to see who can hit each other in the face the hardest. My money is on the Irish guy dressed as a leprechaun. Yesterday, in a drinking competition, I saw him down three cans of Strongbow, one after the other. The people chanting “CHUG CHUG CHUG” actually got tired of chanting before he stopped chugging. I found this very impressive.

The campsite as a whole, however, is starting to die down. All of our camp has gone to bed. I take one last look around the festival, at the slowly-dying fires, at the still-glowing neons, at the drunken people stumbling around, huge grins fixed to their faces. It aint been bad, I think to myself. It aint been fucking bad at all.

Roll on next year, motherfuckers.
 
 
 
beyondthislife on June 17th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
This, is fucking awesome. :D
maecenasmaecenas on June 17th, 2006 06:08 pm (UTC)
This is easily the most entertaining thing i've read in ages. This rocks. Man i've gotta get drunk...
(Deleted comment)
aimee01 on June 19th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)
For a nazi emo you're rather funny. I feel like getting wrecked after reading that.
Gazgajita on June 19th, 2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
Sounds like they should rename it to Drugload :P.
stlidl on February 17th, 2013 05:09 am (UTC)
Find friends with benefits and Be Naughty! Go Here dld.bz/chwZR