Words by: by Dave Lowney
Pictures : Olga Kuzmenko
Ok before I start this piece, I have to admit I’m not a massive metal fan; I was well into metal in my teens (Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost, Obituary…) but then myself and the boys kinda parted ways, no acrimony, just drifted apart. I still occasionally listen to my old faves, but I’ve completely lost touch with the current scene.
Anyway fast forward a number of years and my mates asked me did I want to join them at Bloodstock 2017, and I said why not? Could be a laugh. Obituary was going to play and I always had a soft spot for the Tardy brothers and co.
Our journey properly started on Thursday morning with a quest for the perfect service station on the M6, I’m a Bloodstock virgin, but apparently, this is a very important pre festival ritual for my seasoned companions; I didn’t ask them whys or wherefores. As it was a festival I cracked my first can of cider at 10 am, so Thursday’s recollections are a bit hazy. I remember plodding up and down muddy tracks trying to find my friends’ campsite, I remember having a bet with a girl in the entrance queue regarding how long we would have to suffer queuing (ever the optimist, I lost), I remember my mate and his tipsy wife help tipsy me put up my tent (my un-tipsy mate did all the work) and then it was just roaming around the festival site, soaking in the atmosphere and getting ready for the festival proper.
Friday morning called for a shower and another queue in which I met a girl from Cork who filled me in on the metal scene in Cork – Fred Zeppelins is the place to go apparently. The rest of the day was a blur, some food (God, I need something fresh and green), plenty of booze and more music. Rounded off the day catching Lionize who I really enjoyed, just good old heavy bluesy rock with a gold lamé onesy to help keep everyone’s focus. After Lionize it was over to the main stage to see Amon Amarth, a band totally unknown to me. While I can’t say I was mad for their music (reminded me of mid-eighties Iron Maiden), I did appreciate the show they put on, as did the crowd, raising their drinking horns joyously and indulging in a bizarre “rock the (long)boat” tribute. Good times! Then straight to the VIP area to continue the night, some good laughs with some Irish bands (zhOra & Na Cruithne) that were over playing and then straight to bed to be nice and fresh in the morn. Except I didn’t get straight to bed; on my way back to my tent I met a Wolverhampton Wanderer who suggested we keep the night going, and why not? Cue a comical search for the right tent (“It’s this one!”… “Oops, sorry to interrupt you”… “It definitely wasn’t that one”) which I’m sure everyone has experienced in a campsite – I’d hate to be the people who go to bed early to try and get some rest. When we eventually got to our destination, I got the shock of my life – the Wolverhampton Wallopers had a stray spaniel in their tent! This particular spaniel was a curious cross-breed of annoying but entertaining. Anyway, the process of trying to ignore/humor/train this spaniel took the rest of the night and most of Saturday morning before I gave up at 10 am and staggered back to my tent.
So sleeping most of Saturday, I wake at 8 pm with a lot of increasingly worried texts on my phone and set out to catch up with my mates. The only band I caught on Saturday was Ghost. Again a totally new band to me, and I was surprised how poppy (and if I’m honest, popular) they were. Not to sound too much like a dick, but I think their music might be aimed at teenage girls – which is fine, just not for me. Plus I got a bit of background info on the singer which didn’t warm him to me (Mark E. Smith performed those antics years ago with more panache). Still, I did like the mask things the backing band was wearing; reminded me of ancient Greek statues meets the Twilight Zone, cool and creepy. I did worry about how hot they were getting under there though. So déjà vu, back to the VIP area for a silent disco; my first! A thoroughly enjoyable experience. So funny listening to half the crowd screaming “Battery!” and pumping their fists while the other half sings “Whiskey in the jar”. And I got back to my tent at a reasonable hour. Result!
So Sunday, up at a decent hour, showered, shaved and ready to actually see more than one band on the last day. Met up with mates for Brujeira, who again, surprise, surprise, were new to me. I thoroughly enjoyed them. It’s a style of music I will always have a soft spot for, not exactly grindcore, but lives down the road from grindcore. Short, to the point, dirty with no needless guitar solos, just fecking brilliant. I didn’t understand much that the band had to say between songs (I wasn’t walloped, they speak Spanish), but I did get the impression that they dislike Trump and like a smoke or two. They rounded off their set with an interpretation of the Macarena, except it was all about grass. Really good band, and if they ever make it to Ireland, I’ll definitely go see them. The must have festival accessory for 2018 is not a drinking horn but a Brujeira machete!
Then it was Obituary. This was something for me; back in 19XX (date has been censored) I bought a ticket to see Obituary in McGonagles in Dublin, but they had to cancel for some reason. I was gutted at the time. But now I was going to see them, and they did not disappoint. I was worried that they would play a lot of songs off later albums that I wouldn’t know, but the majority of their set was from Slowly We Rot and that ground breaking album, Cause Of Death and it was just fantastic. To wait nearly 20 years to hear ‘Chopped In Half’, ‘Turned Inside Out’ and so many other classic tunes is hard to describe. It was very emotional, I’m man enough to say that I did shed a tear. Plus the band clearly were enjoying themselves also, which truly made it special. Yes, I know I saw feck all bands, but Obituary was my highlight band wise. Then it was Hell (I was surprised that this band name had not been used before, but there you go). Again I wouldn’t run out and buy their albums, but my god, what a show; flames, self-flagellation, and 15-foot goat trousers – there was something there for everyone. I couldn’t help thinking that their show would have been even better at night and that they were so much better than Ghost.
Refreshments called, and while queuing for a pint I ran into the Wolverhampton Wanderers again, way-hay! They quickly convinced me that as it was the last day we all had to get walloped, so double Krakens and coke it was. It was a cool way to end the day, getting smashed in the sun, listening to Skindred and talking complete mince with really sound people (I think The Gizzard is the place to go in Wolverhampton for good music). Except we all got too smashed and missed Megadeth, but that’s what festivals have always been about to me; see a few bands, but more importantly meet new people and have a good time with them.
Monday reared its ugly rainy head and it was time to go. While waiting for my mates I reflected on the weekend and realized that I had had a truly brilliant time, met some really good people, heard some great music and just did something that I never do, and I was so much happier for it.
Next year we’re thinking of going over in a camper van…