Monday 14 August 2017

Festival Review: BLOODSTOCK 2017 (Saturday 12th August)

Bloodstock 2017 ticket
This was my first ever Bloodstock. There are a couple of reasons that I haven't been before. Firstly, the line-ups have always leaned very much to the side of Extreme Metal. I don't expect a festival to cater to my personal tastes, but to justify the big costs involved in going to a festival, there has to be a decent number of bands that I really want to see on the bill. There are only a handful of Death Metal bands I'm into, and as a general rule I don't listen to Black Metal at all, so Bloodstock has never really been for me.

The second reason is that I've always been to Download Festival, and I'd have to be feeling pretty plush to go to more than one festival in a summer. Having said that, I managed to go to most of the Sonisphere Festivals in Knebworth, even if just for a day. It was cripplingly expensive though.

I consider myself a fairly seasoned festival goer. The first gig I ever went to was Monsters of Rock at Donington back in 1992. I was very young, but I loved it. Iron Maiden headlined, and it was an absolutely amazing day. I went to every 'Donington' Rock/Metal festival after that, whether it was Monsters of Rock, Ozzfest, Download or whatever. The only one I didn't go to was this year. 

For my tastes, Download 2017 was the most uninspiring line-up to date, with a dwindling number of bands that I care about, and the ones that I do have played several times before. For example, it feels like yesterday that Aerosmith last played, and to hear them being announced for 2017 when they have no new studio album, and no reason to be there other than as another nostalgia, 'psuedo farewell' cash-grab, I couldn't justify buying a ticket. 

Yes, I believe Download Festival is starting to suck. It's always been pricey, but it's getting ridiculous now. The last time that I looked, it was £25 to park your car in a muddy field, even if you're just there for the day. I'd expect Jack Bauer to be sitting on the passenger seat on guard all day for that kind of money. And it doesn't stop there. Everything is so expensive, you feel like you're being continually gouged, and there's nothing like feeling ripped off to suck the joy out of an event.

If you look at the history of Donington, well before the re-branding to 'Download Festival', it was seen worldwide as the ultimate Rock and Metal festival. Every band aspired to headline, and doing so meant that they were king. You saw bands work their way up the bill over the years as they were releasing what became classic records, and the headliners were always in their prime and at the top of their game, not old men in their late 60's mailing it in for a massive cheque. 

I think that in 2017, bands that should be headliners have become too big. They can command ludicrously high ticket prices, and people are somehow paying and are willing to pay. How amazing would it have been to see a re-united Guns N' Roses headline Download? Unfortunately they can sell out two nights in a row at the London Arena with ticket prices at something silly like £135 each. To a lesser extent Bring Me The Horizon don't need Download either. So we're stuck with less attractive headliners like System of a fucking Down. Do the price of tickets go down? Do they buggery! Personally, I'd have loved something special like a reunited Misfits, but c'est la vie. 

Anyway, I've nearly finished my rant. Honest! Missing Donington for the first time was actually a big deal for me. What was a pleasure became an expensive habit and an unfulfilling ritual. When you realise that you could book a week on holiday abroad for the same price as a festival, you have to really want to go. This year, I simply didn't. What was surprising was that Bloodstock had way more bands that I'm into this year than ever before, so I decided to go on the Saturday and see what the fuss was about.

If you read my blog, you'll know that I saw both Ghost and Kreator earlier this year, and I am a huge fan of both bands. I really liked the idea of seeing Ghost as a festival headliner, as their stage show gets bigger and better with every tour.

I turned up to my first ever Bloodstock at around 2pm, and managed to park for free. I think I was supposed to pay a ludicrous £20, but there was no-one there to take my cash or one of my kidneys, so I parked up and wandered over to the show with the glint of victory in my eye. 

I arrived in the arena to catch the last song by King810, It was proceeded by some video footage and commentary letting us all know how violent, murderous and generally shit their home town of Flint is, before bursting into a heavy, but un-catchy Nu-Metal song. The singer was jumping around like a steroid fuelled monkey determined to let all the other monkeys know just how tough he is. If you hadn't guessed, I can't stand King810 with their macho bullshit and their pro-gun rants. They're clearly thicker than a rhino toastie, and I can't see how this kind of chest beating nonsense appeals to anyone over the age of 14, or with an IQ higher than 3. I was glad that I did not have to endure these chodes for long.

Next up was Annihilator! I've liked them since I was a teenager, but this was the first time I'd seen them live. Jeff Waters was in fine voice, and his guitar playing was top notch. They crammed the set with some new material as well as classics like Alison Hell, Phantasmagoria and Human Insecticide. Brilliant.

Annihilator at Bloodstock 2017

I wandered over to the Hobgoblin New Blood tent and checked out a band called Ba'al. They were tight and super heavy with a big distorted bass sound. The vocals were basically a dude screaming. I'm not sure if he actually had any lyrics, because no actual words were being formed. I know there's a huge market for this sort of thing, but it's not my cup of tea. 

Ba'al at Bloodstock 2017

I went back out outside and had a look at the Jaegermeister stage, which is a small orange tent at the back of the field, and is just big enough for a small stage and a bar. Hard Rock band Spyder Byte were playing and they sounded great. I could barely see them play as the tiny tent was rammed, so I stood about six feet outside it for most of the show. They sounded a bit like AC/DC in places, and their upbeat, good time Rock n' Roll was a nice breath of fresh air from the dark twisted Metal I'd just been watching at the New Blood tent.

The Jaegermeister Stage at Bloodstock 2017

Spyder Byte at Bloodstock 2017
Municipal Waste hit the Ronnie James Dio stage, and were very well received by the Bloodstock crowd. They remind me of early Anthrax, and their show was full of fun and energy. Musically, they're very much '80's Thrash by numbers', but in a live setting like this one, they are exactly what the audience wants. They even managed to get over 500 crowd surfers during a song, which is pretty impressive. 

Municipal Waste at Bloodstock 2017

I went to the Sophie Lancaster tent and saw a band called Florence Black. They were really good, and not what I expected at Bloodstock at all. They had a Black Stone Cherry meets Alice In Chains thing going on. 

Florence Black at Bloodstock 2017

What I did think was particularly cool, and refreshingly different for a Metal festival, was the art tent. It showed off some amazing Heavy Metal related artwork from Bloodstock poster designs to band photographs, album covers and more.

Art at Bloodstock 2017
Art at Bloodstock 2017
Art at Bloodstock 2017
Art at Bloodstock 2017
Art at Bloodstock 2017
Art at Bloodstock 2017

Hatebreed were up next on the Ronnie James Dio stage. They were on fire, and their mix of Hardcore and furious Metal went down a storm, and ended on a merciless rendition of I Will Be Heard.

Hatebreed at Bloodstock 2017

Kreator delivered an amazing set. Like the show I attended earlier in the year, it was a good mix of new and old material, and showed how well the tracks from their superb latest album, Gods of Violence, stand alongside their classics. Kreator are as good as ever, and their stage show, full of pyrotechnics, TV screens and a humungous Satan head, was something really special.

Kreator at Bloodstock 2017
Kreator at Bloodstock 2017

After a rather smashing bacon and cheese toastie and a hot chocolate, I ventured back into the Sophie Lancaster tent and watched a bit of Xentrix. I have their Scourge album but haven't listened to it for years. They were pretty good, and certainly deserve to be remembered as more than that band that covered the Ghostbusters Theme. 

Xentrix at Bloodstock 2017

Headlining Saturday was Ghost. I fucking love Ghost. Totally and utterly. Their inclusion to the bill is what made me buy a ticket, and I was not disappointed. Their stage show was superb, and they proved themselves as the perfect headliner. They even had a full choir during the end of the last song, Monstrance Clock

Ghost at Bloodstock 2017
Ghost at Bloodstock 2017
Ghost at Bloodstock 2017
Ghost at Bloodstock 2017

All in all, I had a fantastic day at Bloodstock. What I particularly liked was that it was a smaller festival (I believe around 20K in attendance), so you could get around quickly and easily. I'm starting to think that the massive, over-priced festivals, where you spend a good chunk of your visit in queues, are coming to an end. Festivals the size of Bloodstock are far more enjoyable. I'm already tempted to go again next year.


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