When I Got Downloaded (The Download Festival Experience) by Deepak Chennakkadan
For people who don’t know what Download Festival is, refer to: http://www.downloadfestival.co.uk/2011/index.aspx
When you are standing in between millions of people with their eyes on the magnificently huge stage where their favorite Metal/Rock bands are performing, you know how it’s like to be in a festival like Download. A lot of events witnessed during this 3 Day festival. It definitely was one hell of a festival with people coming from all nations, some dressed up as zombies, the others in their favorite metal outfits. A glimpse of the various people over here:
A totally different feeling you absorb in total.
Day 1, 10th June
2:00 a.m. My train from London stops at Derby rail station. And yes the whole train was filled with people who were going to watch the festival. Once out of the station, I took a taxi up to Day’s Inn, Derby. This was the hotel where I spent my nights. I regret this part. Download festival is famous for its campsite. But sadly I had to stay in the hotel due to a lot of restrictions/safety issues bombed down at me by my relatives staying in London. So once I checked into the hotel, I took a hot tub bath and slept off. In the morning, I got up at 9:00 and got ready. I went Downstairs and hogged the typical English breakfast: Boiled Potatoes, Fish and Chips, Bacon and English Sausages. A lot of variety though. All hotels in Derby were booked by the Download Crowd. This was quite a decent hotel. After breakfast I booked myself a cab to Derby rail station. Now there were regular official download shuttle buses from Derby Station to Donnington Park (That’s the venue). A two way ticket costed me 8£. It was a twenty minute ride. Amazing stretches of greens along the road. After twenty minutes the bus comes to a halt. Way too excited already.
Now to reach the main stage, it was a 3-4 kilometer walk. Although the walk was made interesting with huge masses of people singing loudly and screaming out for download. After around 15 minutes, I get the first glimpse of the Second Stage. A little more walking and then I saw the Main Stage within the depth of my vision. Now, Download Festival has a lot of stages. This time there were 5 stages. The Main Stage, The Second Stage, Pepsi Max Stage. Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage and the Acoustic Stage. The last 3 stages were indoor stages. The first two stages were HUGE. There was also a comedy tent with a lot of acts. Although I didn’t go inside the comedy tent as time was precious here. Now why was time precious at Download?
Its because various bands play simultaneously at all stages. And its you who has to decide which bands to watch/sacrifice. Also the stages were located far off from each other.
So how do I get to know which band plays when and on which stage? You don’t get any programme guides for free. You have to pay 10£ pounds for one. And I bought one. And without this I would have missed out a lot of things. So after buying this, I kept walking downhill towards the Main Stage. On my left I could see the Second Stage. Once I reached the Main Stage, I was forcing myself through the huge crowd to get a good spot. And I got a good spot indeed which was right in front of the stage. After a little wait, the first noise of Download 2011 comes from CKY, an Alternate Metal band from Pennsylvania. The entire crowd erupts as CKY starts off with their set. I liked a lot of riffs from the band. Although they lacked stage act. And also didn’t look very confident on stage. Go to
for part of CKY’s set.
After CKY I started rushing towards the Second Stage where D.R.U.G.S. was going to play in 10 minutes. Once D.R.U.G.S. started playing the entire crowd was moshing to their hardcore metal numbers. I kept my camera inside the bag and got into the mosh. The crowd wasn’t that active during their set. Refer to
This is how the set started.
After this I decided to stroll around the Festival Ground and check out various stores and food outlets. I wanted a break till Children Of Bodom’s set which was at 5:15. I had 3 hours to kill. So I kept moving around. Bought myself a lot of t shirts from the Earache Record’s Store. Also had tasted a lot of amazing cuisines from in and around the globe. It would take almost 15 minutes to reach either of the festival ends. After strolling around for a while I found the Kerrang Signing tent where people could meet their favorite bands. There was a queue being formed for people who wanted to meet Bring Me The Horizon’s band members. I joined the queue as I wanted to meet them in person. Although I don’t like Bring Me The Horizon’s new music. It has become whiney. Within minutes the queue became so long you could actually see it up to a couple of hundred meters. As time passed I got into the tent, And got signed by them. A few lucky people behind me got signed as well. And the whole queue had to break up as the signing time was up. A lot of people felt unhappy about this. I also met 2 members of Black Veil Brides. Next signing was by Children Of Bodom at 8:00. I kept this in mind so that I get to meet them.
Now I started running towards the Second Stage where Bodom’s Set was going to start in about 20 minutes. On reaching the stage I pushed myself towards the front where I could get a good view. Now there was lot of crazy things happening within the crowd. People made balloons out of condoms and threw it in the air. And they were floating helplessly above us. It was kinda funny. And then people started throwing plastic bottles from one end to the other. Watch the bottle fight here:
Eventually a few Beach Air Balls came up. And people started playing beach volleyball within the huge mass of people.
Everything halted for a sudden. The intro started playing. And then from the backstage arena, members of Bodom go onto the stage. Within seconds the whole crowd started screaming out for Bodom. They played their classic titles. The crowd was in awe whenever Alexi Laiho and Janne Wirman synced the song solos. Alexi indeed attacked the crowd with a blaze of possessed fretwork that shook the early download cobwebs. Bodom’s set started of like this:
It’s with the arrival of Bring Me The Horizon though which really shifts Download into its appropriate gear. The crowd launched into a ferocious, skin-bristling headbanging mass when the first breakdown struck. When BMTH started playing their song ‘Chelsea Smile’ they called upon a fan who was dressed as ‘Pikachu’ from the Japanese cartoon ‘Pokemon’ to bark the lyrics of the song. BMTH had crazy breakdowns. And few of the biggest circle pits. Oli Sykes, Vocalist of BMTH was asking for a bigger pits every now and then. And the crowd allways heard him right. Although the only thing I didn’t like about BMTH’s new songs were the whiney vocals Oli introduced in some songs. The rest was crazy. BMTH’s madness over here:
They ended the set. Crowd wants more and more but sadly timings were strict and bands have to complete their set within the allotted time.
It was 7:10. Bodom’s signing session was going to start at 8:00pm. So I started walking downhill towards the Kerrang signing tent. Luckily I reached there when the queue was as small as 15 people. Within minutes it became huge. I had to stand in the queue for almost 50 minutes. I made a few friends over here and asked someone to click photos of me with Bodom’s members, as I was alone. Sharp 8:00, I entered the tent. Excitement was gaining its nutrition from what lay ahead of me. 5 Meters away sat all 5 members of Children Of Bodom, Alexi Laiho, Roope Latvala, Janne Wirman, Henka Seppala, Jaska Raatikainen. Alexi Laiho was ranked as one of the 50 fastest guitarists in the world according to Guitar World magazine. I felt thrilled to meet all of them. Talked to each one of them. Children Of Bodom might be touring India sometime this year or the next year as Alexi told me.
After getting photos clicked with them, I walked out of the tent way too happy. I checked my programme guide and then check my watch and got a little disheartened as I had missed half of Korn’s show. It was 8:10. Korn started playing at 7:40. I literally ran till the second stage. Korn was playing ‘Blind’ when I came. ‘Blind’ used to be my favourite song at one point. And watching it live was a totally amazing experience. A lot of boob flashes witnessed over here. Now what are boob flashes? This video will give you an idea:
A lot of girls get on top of people. So whenever the video camera faces them, they let loose of their clothes so that their boobs get exposed. There was one hilarious incident that I can recall. While a lot of girls did this, one dude who was sitting on top of a person showed his bare chest to the camera in order to mock the girls. The whole crowd burst into a mass of a laughing fit. Korn’s next song was ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ which was a well-known cover of ‘Pink Floyd’. Everyone knew the words to this on title. ‘Get Up’ got the crowd moving so hard. Everyone was jumping to the tunes. Korn finally stopped after playing quite a rad set. Korn’s part of their set:
Now my mind got stuck. Def Leppard or Pendulam? I wanted to watch both. After a long thought, I chose Pendulam. As I wanted to have a change in the music genre. They played a mixture of Electronica with Alternative Rock. The skies were getting darker. And I needed a cup of Hot coffee which costed me 2£. I was walking within the area as the cold winds creeped past me. In a while I was back in front of the stage with Pendulum’s Set almost ready. A lot of surprising acts were awaiting me. In minutes Pendulum’s ‘Warning Intro’ came up. The crowd cheered. And the massive LED screen behind them broke into a cluster of videos relating the songs they were playing. Their stage set had amazing lightwork, lasers and all other Illuminative Devices. They had set Download Festival alight! And I had my camera out. While capturing the first photo, the whole crowd moved with a massive amount force. And my camera would have gone to the skies above if at all I didn’t keep it in the bag on time. Overall Pendulam was amazing. Met this girl who offered me some booze (haha) and we talked on and on. And then after a while the crowd forced us apart. Nevertheless I continued enjoying the heavy-trance-rock-dubstep-dancy music. Had a lot of fun. The final song made the crowd cheer so loud. Watch this:
Now getting out of the arena was a tough job. Its dark with a few flood lights here and there. And people were walking like penguins. After about half hour I reached the main road where I caught hold of the shuttle bus. I was so exhausted. I slept off in the bus for about 20 minutes. Then took a cab from the rail station to Day’s Inn hotel. Had some ham sandwiches and slept off.
Day 2, 11th June
Today was the best day when compared to the other two days. Why? Well because it was sunny. And System Of A Down was headlining the day. And my 11 year old cousin wanted to watch SOAD live. So I got him along. We kinda got up late.
The both of us got on to the shuttle bus. And just like the previous day, reached the venue. But not on time. We reached around 12:00. We missed Devil Wears Prada. I walked up to the ticket counter for getting the little kid a ticket. A Kid’s Day Ticket costed me 30£. Grabbed it and we started running towards the main stage where All That Remains already started off with their set. Now I had full responsibility over my cousin. So I had to make sure nothing happens to him. I told him to stay near the right hand side of the stage and watch the act from there. I went and jammed myself into the center of the stage.
All That Remains was playing ‘Six’ when I entered the crowd. The intro made me throttle like a furious hedgehog. And then the chorus was as sweet as the recording. They also played ‘The Air That I Breathe’, ‘Chiron’ ‘This Calling’ and ‘Two Weeks’. The songs stirred the crowd into fast circle pits. And I knew all the songs. Everyone knew the words to ‘This Calling’. They were very tight and managed to impress the crowd. Also some crazy Crowd Surfing during their songs. View it here:
After All That Remain’s breath taking set, I walked towards the right hand side of the stage where my cousin was waiting for me. He was upset because he couldn’t get to watch them properly. I was struck with confusion. Should I take him into the crowd along with me or should I let him stay at the same place? I had to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. I decided I’ll take him into the crowd. He was grinning happily like an idiot now. Escape The Fate was up next. We got ourselves a good a safe spot to view. He kept complaining about the tall people around him. So when the show started I lifted him up so that he gets a better view. I didn’t like Escape The Fate’s music somehow. Although the crowd seemed to love it. Watch them here:
After their set, the crowd seemed to get bigger. Skindred was playing next. I havn’t heard of them. But the amount of people hooting surely made me want to watch them. So we didn’t budge from our spot. A lot of people were surprised to see a little kid in between the crowd. And were asking me to take care of him during the show. And I definitely had a tough time holding him as the crowd was strong. Now I rate skindred for having the best stage act among the other bands. They came up with a lot of innovative things. Skindred has a very unique style of music. They call it ‘Ragga Metal’. This is produced when Alternate Rock, Heavy Metal, Reggae, Drum and Bass and Hip Hop meet. Quite different. After a lot of moshing, crowd surfing, jumping up and down, Vocalist of the band, Benji Webbe screams out to the crowd “I know the security is having a tough time handling you motherfuckers, But play safe. Don’t hurt yourself and others. So will you all be good?” The crowd screams out “No!”. He replies with a “Good!” and starts off with another song making the crowd go crazier than ever. During one song he asked everyone to remove a part of their clothing from their body and swing it over their head on the count of 3. Imagine all of download doing this. It was indeed a spectacular thing to see. He also introduced some robot dancing during the set. He was the perfect host for a party with constant grooving. It was a fun set to watch and participate with the crowd. Watch the Cloth swinging action here:
and the robot dance over here:
Skindred ended their set by 2:00. Me and my cousin decided to have some lunch. Got ourselves some bacon sandwiches. Also went to an Indian food counter and tried a samosa that costed me 2£ and I swear It tasted better than the samosa’s we get here. Also there was one interesting thing I noticed. People were collecting beer cups for some reason I didn’t know. I approached one particular person who was doing this and asked him the reason behind this. He said “We fucking get paid for this man” and pointed out to the counter where people get paid for bringing the beer cups. This was one of downloads ‘Cleaning up’ Strategies. 10 cups and you get a pound. I bought some more tee shirts and coincidently met a person from Delhi who recognized me. Was a surprise indeed. We talked for a bit and then went towards the mainstage to watch Down.
Down’s lineup included Phil Anselmo on vocals (Pantera’s Vocalist). I got into moshes, was banging my hand to their Groovy-Pantera-Influenced metal. Phil had a good time joking with the crowd and doing his part of various songs. Down also dedicated a short blast of Pantera’s Walk as a tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell. After the song ended a fan threw his Dimebag tee shirt which was shortly caught by the vocalist. There was a sad tone in his voice. Download went on a minute’s silence to pay respect to the legendary guitarist, Dimebag. Down invited members of Ghost onstage to help them finish their set by playing their last song, ‘Bury Me In Smoke’. Down was one of my favourite acts. Watch them on:
Mr.Big was playing next on the second stage. We couldn’t move to the centre of the stage this time. So we decided to stay on the right hand side. If at all Download was offering an award to the band with the most musical notes played, Mr. Big would have definitely won this award. This is due to the amazing-stretchy-fast guitar and bass solos by Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert. The guitars were on fire overlapping the Rock N’ Roll vocals of Eric Martin. A lot of hip rolls, happy dancing and waist jiggling action. Watch Mr. Big at
Avenged Sevenfold was next on the Main Stage. Their stage was amazing. They had placed cemetery gates all over their stage. Within minutes, they started off with their set. The crowd sang to ‘Bat Country’, ‘God Hates Us’, ‘Critical Acclaim’ and all the other songs as well. The cemetery gates exploded with fire in one of their songs which gave the entire stage an amazing look. Dark Clouds were spread across the skies. Although there was no rain. As soon as A7X started playing ‘Afterlife’ which was a tribute to Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, the skies got clear and the sunlight shone upon the whole of download. It was surprising at the timing and the major nature coincidence. Watch A7X’s ‘Critical Acclaim’ over here:
Now the best part was coming up. System Of A Down, Headliners of Day 2 were about to play with the next hour. One hour suspense of what’s going behind the stage as there was a Huge White Blanket covering the entire stage. In a while part of the blanket came out from the top. Technical Problem. One problem we had was that we didn’t get a very good spot during SOAD’s set. We were standing behind. And also my little cousin’s cell battery was on the verge of dying so I had to stick with him since it was already dark. Suddenly they started playing ‘The Prison Song’. The White blanket was still hiding the stage. But the synchronized lights behind the white blanket revealed the band’s shadow during the intro. And right after the main part of the song started, the whole blanket fell off revealing the Band and their huge banner. Every single person knew the words to every single song. They played ‘Chopsuey’, ‘Radio Video’, ‘Toxicity’ and other classic titles. Serj Tankian expressed his views on War, Terrorism, and Nature through his amazing-confident-heart-shaking Speeches. In one of his statements he says “And we have failed the Earth. When I say ‘nature’, you think of yourselves? NO! You know why? Because we are the cunts of nature! We’re the one’s that have fucked it up, Fucked ourselves up, Billions and Millions of people doing this for centuries. Happy Holocaust Day, Happy Genocide Day Motherfuckers! No! But we are more than that. We’re part of the spirit that moves throughout things in life. We are God! God is us! I don’t believe in your flags, I don’t believe in your departments, I don’t believe in your Prime Ministers, I believe in you! (A surge of electrical impulses went through each one’s spine when he said this). My Brothers and Sisters, This world is ours and we must treat it with respect.”. Right after he said this they start playing ‘Holy Mouintains’. This song was about the Aarat Mountains that were taken away from Armenia in the genocide. In between the song, their banner falls off revealing a huge white mountain within the stage interiors. This was the best band performance I have seen in my life. Inspired me a lot. Watch Serj’s speech over here:
and the Starting of the set over here: Front View
This was the end of Day 2. The best day of Download. Like yesterday, It was a long walk to the shuttle bus. Throughout the journey I reflected on the various events that happened during the day. It was sadly the end of an amazing day at Download.
Day 3, 12th June
I missed half of the shows this day. The rain and the cold weather made this day horrible for me. I was just wearing a Tee shirt and a hood on top. When I left it was only drizzling. And it wasn’t that cold. As soon as I got off the shuttle bus, I was battling against the cold and rain. Trying hard to reach the festival arena. While walking towards the arena, the Download Security was performing regular security checks and checked my ID proof and camera bag. I kept walking in the bitter cold. Reached the venue. I had missed Suicide Silence because I had got up late. My hood was wet. Everyone was in their rain coats. I didn’t have one. I was having a tough time in the cold. I was shivering all over.
I walked towards the mainstage, where Malefice was going to play. There were a few hundreds of people only as many didn’t turn up because of the cold and rain. Malefice looked disappointed due to the rain. There wasn’t much energy and noise in the crowd. The cold had sucked it all away. Although Malefice pulled off a good set. The new songs were technical and sounded very tight. The songs were groovy and I wanted to mosh so bad. Although the water-filled-muddy surface kept everyone so still in their places.
After Malefice’s set, I might have had 4-5 cups of hot coffee to warm my body up. Although it didn’t help me much. I went to the Loud Clothing store and was checking the merchandise they had over there. The store protected me from the rain, but not from the cold. I might have spent an hour over there. I was trying to contact my friend who was staying in the camp. Couldn’t reach him. After a long wait he finally called and asked me to reach the main stage to watch Bowling For Soup. I met him and his brother after some crowd search. Now these guys were the most hilarious act of Download. Everything they did cracked us up so bad. My friend’s brother could see me shivering so he handed me his jacket. It warmed me up a bit. But I was still trying to bare the severe cold. Now Bowling For Soup had two giant Balloon Sheeps on stage. And somebody from the crowd had a huge dick shaped balloon. Now the funny part is Jaret Reddick of the band decided to get the Dick Shaped Balloon and stuff it into the Balloon Sheep’s back. This got way too hilarious. Although the embarrassing lack of response to the sing-along spots suggested that a lot of people came here for the side-boob glimpses alone. Watch them stuff the sheep at:
This was my last show at Download. I gave up. The weather was too harsh. I decided to go back to the hotel. On the way I grabbed myself some Hot Noodles from a chinese food outlet. Now that got me a little warm. But what a crappy day. Nevertheless overall Download Festival 2011 was an amazing experience. The Management was perfect, The Crowd was perfect, The bands played their shit tight. I enjoyed every moment of it. (Except the cold weather on the the third Day) and I have each and every memory of Download registered in my head.
PS: The photos I have attached have been captured by me.
(Article has been cross published on Facebook)