All photos by the author
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
Let's face it, no one outside of the ageing metal media has really cared about Download for a while now. But, I always make an effort to attend, because I enjoy watching Slipknot on drugs, and I like gushing incomprehensible saliva based sounds at the heroes of my adolescence in backstage areas while they look nervously at their publicist.
I'd already set off when the news broke about all the surveillance technology designed to make our lives that little bit more terrible would be getting rolled out at the festival this weekend. The government's New World Order had finally arrived in the realm of metal, and in a big and weird way. Firstly, the police were using facial recognition technology to identify criminals by cross-referencing a giant European baddy database for the first time at a UK music festival, and secondly, they started using a cashless paying system via a little computer chip threaded onto the un-removable wristbands.
Download's an odd place to bother surveilling, don't you think? There were 90,000 adorable metal nerds who attended the festival, and I reckon the most depraved thing any one of them has ever been summoned for is a parking ticket. Who were Leicestershire Police looking for? The T-shirt bootleggers? They were standing outside the gates, not inside. And, trust me, I can assure you, as an exhaustive attendee over the years, there are no drug dealers at Download.
While we can all agree that the surveillance is weird and gross, I couldn't help but go 'meh' and think that it serves us all right for wanting to go to giant corporate festivals—sponsored by Tuborg, Pepsi Max, Zippo, and more—in the first place. So I was able to attend Download in the peace of mind that I was both a contradiction and a hypocrite, and also a big enough Slipknot fan to not care. And I took some pictures to document the weekend.
So, here's my buddy Jack. How's that for a metal festival outfit? All white everything, plus a t-shirt of a Napalm Death/Fear Factory side project that only sang about Mexican drug smuggling cartels. And he didn't change all weekend! Well done Jack! 10/10.
And how's this for a festival whip? Didn't mention we took a fucking Winnebago yet did I? You know they cost like 100 quid each if five of you go in them right? Consider this: you might spend 40 quid on travel and 60 quid on camping equipment most times you go to a festival. Or you can go in something that has central heating, a toilet, beds, and a fridge. It was a total game changer and has extended my festival-going career by at least another five years (or until I have a child, because it's weird when people take children to festivals—although if I'm still going to metal festivals in five years I doubt I'll have found anyone who would consider me an appropriate mate).
On the first night, of course, we saw Slipknot—we got there late, sorry guys—it was brilliant. I can't pretend it was anything but brilliant. Do you want me to lie just to be contrary? They're the best live band in the world. It's musical theatre with blastbeats and it feels great on drugs. Try watching them on drugs. Is it gross that I said that?
Isn't one of the things about the government's New World Order that they can control the weather and stuff? If they'd wanted us all to be compliant, docile citizens this weekend, why didn't they sort out this fucking bullshit? It cost me a pair of near mint Reeboks.
This guy was from Wales and he didn't half bang on about it.
It rained a lot. I cannot express clearly enough how glorious having a Winnebago at a festival is. It changes the whole experience. It's like being on the set of a tiny sitcom, in which the main joke is that you're all trashed by 9 AM every day.
I bet this glum looking fella didn't have a winnebago.
…Or this distraught looking young lady. There were still two more nights to go at this point, and I imagine she was painfully aware of that.
These guys were in good enough spirits to have probably had a Winnebago.
Despite screwing up the weather control, one of the good things about the New World Order entering Download Festival was the cashless paying system. Apparently it fucked up royally on the first night, and some people went to bed without dinner, but I don't really care, because when I arrived it was working and it felt like the future. It worked using the same technology as the Oyster system they have on London transport, except on a tiny card attached to your luminous wristband. It blows my mind that no one thought to call them Rock Oysters, but they sped up bar queues x10000. Long live the New World Order!
Some dickhead tried to ruin it by pointing out they were also probably selling your purchasing information on to marketing firms or something too, who could then figure creepy things out about you based on the fact you ate three Piggie Smalls hot dogs in four hours. Again, another 'meh' and a 'serves you right for only wanting corporate sanctioned fun' is probably in order.
As I sat munching my fourth Piggie Smalls, I couldn't help but wonder, as it rolls out over other festivals, maybe all this surveillance stuff will force us back to a place where we have to find ways to make our own fun, instead of demanding our weekends be packaged and served up to us with the full cooperation of security firms, banking technology, councils, and the police. Punk is 40 years old next year—it was meant to make us all reclaim pop culture for ourselves—and if you're not doing it yourself yet, maybe this stuff will be the nudge you need.
Anyway, on the second day I saw Parkway Drive. Parkway Drive are clever because they took the funnest part of hardcore—the breakdowns—and just went "that's enough for us, we'll construct songs out of that and that alone" and then got an upbeat, enthusiastic Adam Levine-alike to front the band. Now they sell more records than God and have sex 20 times a day. Great business plan.
Here's a pretty solid rock/winnebago pun. Or maybe you could come up with some better ones in the comments? That's fun. Are we that sort of website? I'm not sure.
We saw Marilyn Manson on the Saturday night. Muse were playing at the same time and apparently they had drones spraying fireworks, but I think that sounds corny. Marilyn Manson was at least genuinely subversive and shocking in his heyday, although at one point he had Ice T come onstage and said something about black people and white people and stuff, it was semi-embarrassing.
By Sunday, Jack's sense of humor for Download was beginning to flag.
Morning cocktails did not help him.
And if a hog roast covered in both apple sauce and ketchup doesn't cheer you up, then you're done for. Jack went to bed after this.
Speaking of hog roast and apple sauce, have you seen these before? I saw them all weekend and couldn't work out what they were because I'd missed the rental induction with the winnebago. It turns out they're full of human shit and piss, and when you empty them you usually end up with five other people's human shit and piss on your hands.
By the end of Sunday, everyone was sad—we were partied out, we had run out of "fruit and flowers," the fridge wasn't working, and it was dawning on me I'd have to write something about this festival and I hadn't watched enough bands. But even in my low state, I still felt at such a level enough to feel pity for the guy who has to do Axl Rose karaoke in Slash's vehicle band.
At the time it depressed me a lot, but it dawned on me as I arrived home Monday morning, stressed, tired, and semi liable for a broken petrol pump we'd driven into on the way home, that actually Slash and the Axl Rose singer guy: they were 50-year-old men, doing exactly what they want to do, and probably will until they die. The joke is on me. He's having a fucking blast and I work in an office. Rock and roll is the best, and we're lucky to touch the hem of it's muddy garment for three days once a year. Roll on 2016, I'll be in one of these bad boys.
This was written by the worst guy in the office (Bob Foster). Find him on Instagram here.