As soon as I read Dorinda Duclos’ excellent poem about camping on Sally Cronin’s blog site, I remembered I had written an account of our own stay under canvas at the Download Festival back in 2010. So here below for your delectation and delight, is Stevie’s camping experience of 9 years’ ago (never to be repeated). We are currently entertaining relatives at the ‘van’ this weekend, and so will answer comments as soon as possible:
CAMPING AT DOWNLOAD in 2010, BY STEVIE TURNER
It was with some degree of heartsink when we were met on arrival at the West car park by possibly the same very amiable but charmingly persistent nun collecting money for her cause, who had also accosted us at the Isle of Wight festival the year before. Extracting ourselves from her clutches and two pounds lighter already, we asked directions to the campsite from one of the many ‘car park police’ dotted about. He pointed a finger and said it was ‘that way up the hill’.
‘Up the hill’ turned out to be an hour’s trudge to the Family Camping site lugging the last of the camping gear. Luckily Sam and Marc had set up the tents the day before, in order to bag a good spot not too far away from the festibogs (but not too near either). Marc had returned home as he and Lisa were attending the May Ball at Lisa’s college the next evening (they would return on Saturday), and Sam had returned home to collect the last of the gear and pick up Leon and I after we had finished work the following day.
The Family Camping site was described as a place for ‘People who want to enjoy the festival, but who also would like some peace and quiet’. It cost us a few pounds more for the privilege, but that suited us nicely. I looked forward to this island of calm and stillness in the midst of the usual racket of alcoholic and debauched festivity going on all around. Sam had mentioned that the previous night when he stayed in the tent, there seemed to be quite a few aeroplanes flying overhead.
Yes, there were. He was right. Somebody in their wisdom on the website failed to mention that the whole Download site was under one of the main flight paths out of the East Midlands Airport, a stone’s throw away. As we settled into our tent, every few minutes another plane came roaring over our heads, taking passengers away from the aforesaid alcoholic and debauched festivity going on below. Also, the Family Camping site was a short walk from the fairground rides that entertained 75,000 people into the small hours after the main arena closed. Peace and quiet? AI – DON’ – FINK – SO!!
Time to check out the loos. The festibogs were humming nicely in the mid-afternoon sun and pollulating with festeringness. An alarming festibug could gain entry to your unsuspecting digestive system with ease with only one visit to these gruesome establishments.
Nevertheless we were all set to enjoy the festival. Sam started pumping up the airbeds, and I looked around for my bag of clothes to find a pair of long trousers to change into, as it had suddenly become a tad chilly. It then hit me with a sickening thud that said bag of clothes and toiletries were still sitting at the top of our stairs ready to be packed into the car. I hadn’t brought them downstairs, and neither had Sam. Leon looked as though he wanted to be somewhere else, as he sensed a domestic brewing. It just gets better and better doesn’t it! Leon suggested buying some more clothes, but Sam kindly offered to go back and get them. I didn’t want to waste money on buying unnecessary clothing, so we made the decision to go back home after Motley Crue had played that evening, stay at home for the night, and then return with the bag of contention the next day. Leon would stay behind and meet up that night with some old workmates that were also attending the festival.
It was time to walk to the arena to see the bands play. It was possibly a half hour’s walk from the campsite to the arena, and we were joined on our travels by a few thousand new arrivals eager to check out the sounds. Young people seemed to outnumber us middle-agers by about 10:1. We came to the conclusion our peers either didn’t like the music, couldn’t do the walking, didn’t like camping, or maybe it was a combination of all three. The Isle of Wight festival seemed to attract many more middle-agers, but then there was a bit less walking there, and the music was less death-orientated. Perhaps we’re just unusual in liking Heavy Metal!
By the time we arrived at the arena at about 7pm, Limp Bizkit were just finishing their set on the main stage and Korn were starting theirs. Leon wandered off to meet up with his friends and watch Korn. Not being a fan of either band we weren’t too bothered – we preferred to watch Opeth and Motley Crue play on the second stage. We said our goodbyes to Leon as we wouldn’t see him until the next day.
Back at the South car park on the Saturday but this time with my bag, we looked out for the nun but she wasn’t there – she probably had had to go to the bank with a wheelbarrow to deposit her takings. Marc and Lisa were arriving soon. I gave Marc a ring to find out where he was. After quite a while a sleepy voice answered. They had slept through the alarm after partying hard at the May ball. He’d missed his chance to see Ripper Owens at 11am, and it would be some time before they saw any bands at all. We left the bag in the car, as we had previously booked a Travelodge room some months back for the middle night to have a bath and a good night’s sleep, being the sensible people that we were. I hadn’t actually slept in the tent yet, but hey, I couldn’t resist the pull of the bath and a bed over an airbed and a tent.
We arrived back at the arena just in time to witness the ‘awesome’ Five Finger Death Punch on the main stage. The poor singer was angry at the world and hated everybody, even himself. Nobody loved him, he knew. After a warning to the more timid front-of –stagers to move back, he then got on with a song which I think was called ‘I’m Taking it Back With my Knuckles’. This involved the entire mosh pit at the front punching each other senseless (if they weren’t already with the influence of several Jagermeisters) and shouting the aforementioned song title at the same time. The audience loved it, and the medical centre at the back of the arena was on standby. It was awesome to watch.
Not only did I not want to be in the front-of –stage moshpit, I actually didn’t want to be at the front at all. There was an unearthly pong all around the front of the stage area. People who were ‘lucky’ enough to get a spot stayed there all day. If they needed the loo, I think they did it there and then judging by the smell, which was coupled with the stench of stale beer and body odour. Beer bottles were used as receptacles for urine which were then tossed into the crowd. Am I making it sound agreeable enough for you? Sam and I agreed it was much better to sit nearer the back. You could still hear everything just as well as if you were at the front, but you were less likely to get hit by a bottle of urine.
My favourite band of the day were The Answer, who we had also seen at the Isle of Wight festival the year before. They followed Static-X, another good band, and were due to play at 4.25pm on the second stage. We’d met up with Marc, Lisa and Leon by this time, and we all got as near to the front as we could (without being knocked out by the smell), as I’d previously told them about The Answer and they were all keen to see them. Leon and Marc were wearing tutus, but nobody took any notice; anything went at Download. Two steel barriers a few feet apart separated us from the VIP’s right at the front of the stage who had paid twice the amount for their tickets. This chasm was supervised by the ‘arena police’ who stood with their backs to the stage watching us, in case anybody dared to vault the barriers and join the VIP’s.
The Answer are from Belfast and had obviously grown up listening to Led Zeppelin’s music. The singer even looks like Robert Plant with his long blonde hair. However, their songs are their own. Marc picked up their influences straight away, and Leon, Marc and Lisa rocked away until it was time for them to run round to the main stage to see Pendulum, then run back to the second stage to see The Prodigy (they had some unwanted attention in their tutus in the Prodigy’s mosh pit), and then they would hopefully get back to the main stage in time to catch the last of Slipknot’s set. Before Slipknot we managed to meet up again and catch Thunder’s set on the Tuborg stage. Unfortunately Thunder were to be no more after Download, so we made the most of it, singing along to ‘Love Walked In’ and their version of ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ amongst many others. Saturday night was also our chance to live in the lap of luxury at the Travelodge. The next night it would be the tent for me, and the festibogs.
Sunday was the best day as far as I was concerned. Sam took our overnight bags from the car back to the tent before all the best bands started on the main stage about 2.30pm. The ‘campsite police’ searched in my bag (yes, the bag of contention) and found a strange metal object which they wanted Sam to take out for their inspection. To his embarrassment it was my hairdryer (Travelodges have electricity!). Now why was this man taking a hairdryer to a tent? Sam didn’t have an answer either, and cursed the ****ing bag under his breath all over again. The ‘campsite police’ let it through, as there was no way he could use it for anything!
Just look at this lineup on Sunday afternoon; 2.30 Journey, 3.35 Dream Theater, 3.55 ZZ Top (are those beards real?), 6.35 Whitesnake, and to top it all at 8.45 there was Def Leppard to headline. I was in Rock heaven and so was everybody else. I particularly remember hearing the audience erupt as Dream Theater came on stage and went straight into ‘Pull Me Under’. Yes. It was worth sleeping in a tent for this. Lisa had to return home on Sunday evening due to work commitments, so it was decided that I would sleep in Marc and Lisa’s small tent, and the three boys would share the big tent. I didn’t fancy sharing a tent with three blokes who had been on the beer all day (you know – winds moderate to gusting /disgusting and all that…)
On the way back to the campsite at the end of the festival, we passed the ‘Comfy Crappers’. We had passed them on the Friday and Saturday, but now seemed the right time to check them out as the festibogs had started making Marc and I retch. Leon was using a nearby tree /fence, and Sam just wanted to wait until he got home before doing anything at all. The blokes all seemed to be using the fence opposite our tent for a wee, and Lisa had been quite dismayed on joining the early Sunday morning festibog queue to be last after 30 blokes, each holding a loo roll. She returned to the tent announcing she would ‘wait a while longer’!
There was a bit of a queue for the Comfy Crappers, but not too bad. Sam and I joined the queue whilst the boys went back to the tent. The Crappers are composting toilets and do not smell. I was all for that. Each person in the queue paid £2.50 and was given a wooden spoon. You can imagine the conversation Sam and I were having as to the purpose of this instrument. I came up with the idea that as the loos were composted, then once you had done your business you dug some earth out of a well-placed bucket and covered your traces. Sam’s brain raced away and his ideas are probably best left unsaid.
For my £2.50 I expected a virtual state-of –the- art flushing toilet. What I got differed wildly from what I had imagined. The long handle of the wooden spoon was used to put into two holes in the door to ‘lock’ it, and there was a wooden box with a hole in it on which you sat to do your business. Granted you had loo paper, but that was it. At least there was no pong to the loos though, but I wouldn’t actually say they were ‘comfy’. You were given some hand sanitizer on exiting.
Now then, I couldn’t put it off any more. It was time to sleep in Marc and Lisa’s pygmy tent. How they both managed to get any sleep in it baffled me terribly. Sam had put one of our airbeds in it for me, and the higher end of the airbed was facing me as I unzipped the tent. I crawled over it and tried to make myself comfortable. A plane went overhead. Snoring came from our neighbours on either side. The fairground was in full swing. Rain pitter-patted on the plastic outer cover. I wanted my Travelodge room. I was still in my clothes because I knew I would need the festibogs again sometime during the night. Another plane went overhead. This sucked already and I had only been laying there for 10 minutes.
I must have dozed off eventually about 4am, and was woken at 5.30 by our neighbours packing up to go home. This seemed to wake up the rest of the campsite, and most people were up and packing up by 6.30. A plane went overhead. The ‘tent police’ patrolled and made sure everyone was awake. Another plane took off. One tent was still upright with no sign of life. The ‘tent police’ unzipped the cover and looked inside. Had somebody died of alcoholic poisoning overnight? The tent was unoccupied so they started to take it down. The poor owner might have gone to the festibogs and wanted a Monday morning lie-in afterwards! No such luck. It was pack up and go home time. A plane went by overhead. We Rocked. See you there next year?