Bloodstock Open Air- Day 1: Confessions of a man (mad enough to live amongst mullets).

Three days in a field, surrounded by hessians, booze and burger vans. Is this hell? No. It's Derby. Metal as Fuck attended the Bloodstock Open Air festival and got its face blasted to bits by metal. Read on!

 

I’d always thought I was a relatively metal looking fella, on account of the fact that I'll occasionally stick on an Electric Wizard t-shirt. I’ve got a wallet chain too. That’s a metal accessory isn’t it? I’m also growing my hair. I'm metal right?

One minute into pulling up at the Bloodstock festival site, I realise that I'm about as metal as a bubble bath. It’s like the world’s stupidest funeral is taking place. It’s just so… black. Black t shirts, black trousers, black dresses, black shoes, black hair, black frigging everything. Turning up in a green check shirt and a brown jacket with a sensible haircut leaves me standing out like Harold Bishop at an Eastern European sex party.

One of the most sensibly dressed people I met.

Anyway, this isn’t a fashion article, it’s a music feature. But still, I couldn’t help myself. It was the biggest gathering of self-willed freaks I’d ever seen. And the tattoos! By crikey. There was so much body ink flying through the air that you'd end up getting tattooed by osmosis.

After my initial awe, I got my necessary junk together and made my merry way to the campsite. I had a press pass around my neck, a song in my heart and a spring in my step. I’d set up my tent in twenty minutes and be off to the stage area to meet people and watch some Hessians play music.

Or so I thought.

Twenty minutes turned into thirty. Thirty minutes turned into forty five.

Shit. I hadn’t thought this through. I’d purchased a cheap tent the day before, nonchalantly thinking I could put it up quickly and efficiently. I hadn’t counted on the instructions being as gleefully confusing as they were. For the best part of an hour, I’m messing around with poles and ropes and feeling very bloody stupid.

As you can probably understand, I’m getting a little red faced by this point. Around me people are setting their tents up with ease, and there’s despicable middle class townie me, fretting shamefully over mine, clumsily trying to look productive when I haven’t got a pissing clue how to put one up.

Thankfully though one girl takes pity and gives me a hand. She can’t have been more than 16, but after 2 minutes of her magic touch (steady on), I have a dwelling. I sheepishly say thanks and wish her well, whilst she merrily bundles off to her own immaculately set up mansion of fabric.

With my tent set up and my shame on the wane, I make my way to the main area, and wander about the site. After my titanic struggle, I feel I owe myself a drink, and buy a pint in preparation for the first band.

As if on cue, Blitzkrieg show up.

I’m pretty unfamiliar with the band, due to the fact that I’m not a hundred years old. After witnessing them live though… well I think I’ll stay unfamiliar. If I’d been around during the NWOBHM (You’d think they’d come up with a snappier acronym wouldn’t you?) I’m sure they’d have sounded just dandy, but nigh on thirty years later, it’s like watching your uncle dance at a wedding, and your uncle has just had a stroke. They’re a tight musical unit, and they give it their all bless them, but they’re obviously hampered by the early slot. They’re also dull. Dull dull dull dull dull. Dull.

Thankfully though, they’re only allowed to be dull for half an hour, and it’s over in a flash.

It’s 20 minutes ‘til the next band, so I hunt for some food. The choice is staggering. Burger van, burger van, jacket potatoes, burger van, doughnut stall, burger van, burger van.

Looks like I’m having a burger.

Anyway, the next band up is Million Dollar Reload (or Million $ Reload, as their annoying logo dictates), and I won’t lie to you… I hate them immediately. Think Guns N Roses and Aerosmith. Apparently, they’ve toured with Alice Cooper and Black Label Society, so maybe this kind of shite goes down well with people with neck beards and no taste in music, but to a self confessed metal snob, they are an abomination. Just like Blitzkrieg, they hearken back to a time that I have no desire to explore. They even make the mistake of trying to gee up the crowd by doing the old ‘are you looking forward to (insert band name here)?’

I’d have been looking forward to a cactus enema after another minute of this retro pish.

Anyway, I lost interest in the band near the end of their set, and spotted someone from another site I do some stuff on. I said hello and tried to be as amiable as possible, but this person didn’t seem overly open. She found another friend who was equally warm and welcoming, and after fifteen minutes of stilted conversation, we all made our way to Insomnium, like the raging party animals we are.

Insomnium were an immediate step up from the previous bands. They didn’t sound old, and they’re much better at the audience interaction thing. Fair enough, it didn’t get any wittier than ‘FUUUCK YEEEAHHH BLOOODSTOOOOOCK,’ but at least they have the chops to back up the banter. Insomnium are your archetypal melodic metal band. I have no interest in this kind of stuff really, but after being subjected to a deluge of eighties inspired claptrap, they're as refreshing as listening to Boards of Canada or something. I can’t comment on their setlist, as I’m completely unfamiliar with their works, but they provided forty minutes of fun, that gave the first true glimpse of what the festival had to offer. Also, they have a guitar player who looks a hell of a lot like the actor Mark Heap, which I found strangely mesmerising. Overall it was a solid set, only marred by the headbanging douchebag in front who kept flicking his stupid long hair in my face.

After Insomnium finished, I decided to split from this pair I’d bumped into. If I was to have any fun at this weekend, it wouldn’t be with them. They took their metal far too seriously. And not in a good way. They didn’t even want to piss around at guitar hero on the Sophie Lancaster stage. They fail at life.

Next up were Die Apokalyptischen Reiter (this’ll be the only time I say this name, as it’s a complete ball-ache to write). Put simply, they were ruddy ace. Their music is immediately more fun, and their stage set up is gloriously perverse, consisting of a child’s swing commandeered by a man in a gimp mask. The music isn’t anything new, but it’s the most immediate, rousing sound of the day. It’s a mad mix of death and folk metal, with grunted German vocals and histrionic melodic bits. If Conan were in a metal band, they'd probably sound like this. The band have the crowd patter down pat, as they cheekily flirt with female members of the audience and have a good old time. Well done German fellas!

By this time, my whistle was well and truly whet. I’d met up with a nice bunch and was having a merry old time talking utter bollocks with them. The sun was shining, the music was fun, and I’d purloined a cheap Stetson from one of the stalls.

I thought things couldn't get that much better, but then Municipal Waste popped up. And were a bloody riot.

The Waste stuck out like a sore, dismembered thumb at the weekend. With a bill dominated by widdly wanky European melodeath, it was bloody brilliant to have some honest to god dumbass American thrash. And they’ve only got bloody Dave Witte on drums (for those unaware, the man is a fucking beast behind the kit. Burnt By The Sun ring any bells?).

Frontman Tony Foresta is pretty adept at speaking to the inner dumbass. ‘This is a song about a FUCKING SHARK’ he constrains, much to the delight of the denim jacketed denizens in attendance. And by Christ do they reciprocate. ‘MUNICIPAL WASTE ARE GONNA FUCK YOU UP’ is chanted like some thrash metal gouranga mantra. They also manage to get an obscene number of crowd surfers. I was tempted to have a go, but remembered my one attempt at crowd surfing many moons ago resulted in a bloody sore backside after some frail goth couldn’t hold my weight. Aaaaaanyway…

Municipal Waste were a hard act to follow, and when the act following is Katatonia, well… ergh.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Katatonia. But after the mayhem of Municipal Waste, the change in pace was a bit drastic. However, for the short time I watched them (I needed to go and interview Die Apokaliptischen Whatever) they held their own competently, if not spectacularly. I dunno, maybe they were apocalyptically awesome after I left to do my interview, but I’m not sure I missed much.

Anyhoo, after a babbled interview with Die, eh… Germans, (I ended up missing most of Sodom because of it, so apologies for not talking about them, but journalistic duties prevailed) I bought a pint and readied myself for  Saxon.

Christ, they’re shit.

Look, this kind of NWOBHM crap may well have been acceptable about thirty years ago, but so was Margaret Thatcher. That doesn’t mean I’m going to suck her toes and frig her rotten now does it? I’m pretty sure I would have found this stuff crap at the time as well anyway. And they look ridiculous. Again, I’m not turning this into a fashion supplement but these chaps are what, fifty odd? If my Dad went out looking like a member of Saxon, I’d probably have him assassinated or sectioned or something.

It goes down well with the crowd and they probably play their stuff note perfectly, but when the stuff in question is crap anyway it’s about as useful as bathing a dead dog. It’s maybe me though. I’m probably just a miserable wanker, too young to appreciate it. But at least I’m a miserable wanker that'll never have a grey mullet. Unlike most of the Saxon fanbase.

Saxon managed to put me in a bad mood for the next band, who happened to be Arch Enemy. I kind of wanted to retire to my gloriously uncomfortable tent and stick some sleepy music on the ipod, but I didn’t. I watched them for you dear readers, because I’m such a great upstanding citizen. So shut up.

Again, Arch Enemy are a band I’ve never really liked. By the time they were coming into prominence, I was already into Meshuggah, Cannibal Corpse and other ridiculously manic stuff. Listening to Arch Enemy after getting into the aforementioned lot is like going back to Readers Wives after spending years watching starving Asians gangbanging on the internet. It’s a real big fucking drop off. 'But maybe they'd hold up well live.' I thought.

As I suspected, Arch Enemy were ok, but that might just be because they’d come after Saxon, and Scatman fucking John would sound good after an hour long Saxon set. And he’s dead.

They’re basically the very definition of Work(wo)manlike. There’s little in the way of stage banter and there’re plenty of shapes getting thrown around. From what I heard, they played their stuff to studio standard and got a good reception from their myriad devotees.

To a casual observer though, it was like watching paint dry. And the paint occasionally grunts. And plays bitching guitar solos.

However, I had the good fortune to stand next to a group that were equally unimpressed. Readers, I take great pride in revealing that my new found companions and I engaged in some sexy dancing during Arch Enemy’s set. It was like the spirit of Michael Jackson’s zombified corpse had entered us and urged us to make our own entertainment. We skanked. We did the can can. We did the robot. If monster voiced vocalist Angela Gossow had pulled us up on stage, we would have been a revelation.

Alas, it was not to be, and they continued on their generic melodic death path.

After Arch Enemy’s set I hung out with these people, who lovingly christened me ‘Biggles,’ as I allegedly looked like their friend Giggles.

I never met Giggles. If we had met, who knows what could have happened. We could have been married. We could have fought to the death. Maybe our meeting would have summoned a Chthulu. Who knows? We’ll never find out now.

Anyway, fuck all that, as I’m about to deliver my verdict on none other than Carcass.

sexy

 

And they were… well they were fucking ace weren’t they? Need I say more? Jeff Walker is a funny bastard. ‘Form a circle pit, or do a wall of death or whatever you crazy kids do,’ he dryly intones. Here’s a man who knows you don’t have to constantly shout out about beer or tits to win a crowd. They’re spot on musically too. Easily the heaviest band of the day, with an equally intense lightshow, it made all the previously heard music seem tame. The set initially concentrated on their later, deathier material, but they still managed to throw in their earlier stuff like Genital Grinder and Reek of Putrefaction. Basically the set had something for all the family. If your family are the Mansons.

Every crushing blastbeat could be felt, as could every roar from Walker’s mouth. And that’s not all! They had fireworks. Ok, they went off at the wrong time, resulting in a bit of a ‘Tap’ moment, but it really summed up how explosive and entertainingly crushing Carcass were. Let’s hope they do a new record. Band of the day. By a mile and a bit.

And so ended the first day of Bloodstock. After realising my legs had stopped working properly, I bid farewell to Giggles’ entourage and after a few drinks at the bar, made a hasty retreat to my little tent, which I was becoming somewhat attached to. Suffering from severe metal fatigue, I decided I wanted something a little gentler and scrambled around for my ipod to stick some Leonard Cohen on.

I then remembered I’d left it at home.

Bollocks. Bollocks bollocks bollocks bollocks bollocks.

Tune in next time for Day 2. It’s even sexier.