I’m the Big Bad Editor in Chief and I’ve been remiss in not doing my Bloodstock review as yet… Time to address that!
Everyone else has already done lengthy bits about bands so I’ll try not to focus on them, and instead bang on about what a great event it was. As usual! There are other things to talk about when covering Bloodstock, and one of them is the emotional roller coaster. How it feels to be there.
We got there on the Thursday in the late afternoon. Parking was easy, we unloaded the tents, checked in for our press passes and ambled to the campsite to find Ten Ton Slug had got there first. It was great to see the guys again, having last bumped into them in Slovenia at last year’s Metal Days. So a sense of happiness at seeing friends for the first time in ages. This is a feeling that would crop up a lot over the duration of the festival.
I left the guys to set up camp (I was staying elsewhere) and walked towards the festival proper where I was just going to miss openers Barbarian Hermit (feeling: disappointment). As I walked through VIP I waved “hello again” to a good handful of people who I see exactly once a year… right here at Bloodstock. Feeling? A sense of belonging.
At the SOPHIE tent I met up with about 8 photographers I knew, including one of our own who I’d not met before. Many happy and sarcastic greetings were made as I was informed that Barbarian Hermit had played “a blinder”. Update that disappointment to huge disappointment. I’m sure I’ll catch them another time! Blind River were great, Footprints were… erm… Footprints (feeling: somewhat nauseous when the mankini came out), Ten Ton Slug were fucking immense and Rotting Christ were (if I’m honest) going to struggle to top them.
A couple of us from different publications bundled off to Sean’s house for the night where we talked shop. No rivalry. We’ve helped each other out in the past and will always do so. Camaraderie would be the sensation here, and long may it last.
Friday was to be very, very busy for me. There were loads of bands I wanted to catch and I caught full sets from exactly two of them (Powerwolf and Sabaton), spending the majority of the rest of the time interviewing (mainly) the up-and-comers from the Jäger and New Blood stages. And Pär Sundström and Chris Rörland from the aforementioned Sabaton, who are two of the loveliest people ever. By late evening I was feeling knackered, but also “warm and fuzzy”. I asked all the New Blood bands about the M2tM competition and they all replied with something hugely positive, especially in relation to the way that the bands all supported each other. It’s great to hear that in what is a very competitive environment, people are still happy to help each other out.
While watching Powerwolf, I was tapped on the shoulder. Someone I don’t know had recognised my t-shirt and wanted to thank me for some coverage I gave his band a year ago. They sold a few more tickets for a gig they put on that he says were directly down to us. Sensation: pride.
The overwhelming sensation as we piled into Sean’s car that evening was exhaustion!
On Saturday I got to see The Wildhearts. They were staggeringly good (see Ross’s review, he’s nailed it [I know – Ross]) and was left feeling like I’d seen the best act of the weekend and I could just go home. Thing is, I also saw a bit of Evil Scarecrow where their teenage guest guitarist made an appearance (what an incredible kid), Thy Art Is Murder, Lock Horns, Empire Warning, Master’s Call, Foul Body Autopsy… Each one of them gave me a feeling that metal is safe and secure for at least another generation.
When I realised I was interviewing Thy Art is Murder, I had a mild panic. Their new album is great, they were superb on stage and an hour or so after their set I was to be talking to one of them. Eek. Thank you Wikipedia which gave me a few leads, and also thank you Sean Delander for being such a great and easy guy to talk to. Change my panic to relief!
Headliners Parkway Drive aren’t my kind of band musically, and never will be. However, anyone who reckons they didn’t deserve a headline slot after that performance (despite being hampered by the poor weather) is talking out of their arse. Brilliant showmanship.
Oh, and we had to deal with the weather going mental, something that the Bloodstock people handled calmly and professionally (at least on the surface – dollars to doughnuts they were shitting themselves behind the scenes).
You know I was exhausted on Friday? I was knackered on Saturday night.
On the last day I promised myself I would interview less and watch bands more. And I did. I caught a handful of full sets, and a lot of snippets. On the Jäger stage, Jackal’s Backbone rocked the place, Jailbirds were great and Womenowar were just silly, crowd-pleasing fun. It was a joy to see the tent rammed well past capacity and a huge audience watching every act I saw here over the weekend. It’s not a “small” stage (well, the stage itself is…) but a band here can play to an enormous audience.
Courtesy of the amazing and lovely Emma Bardill, I got to see 28 Double, Fallen Temples and Witch Tripper from backstage which was my first time doing this at Bloodstock. Anyone care to sort me out a main stage experience next year? Please? During Witch Tripper I got talking to someone who I won’t name who was the second person to randomly thank me for what our site has done for metal bands. Confession time – I actually burst into tears.
There have been several times when I’ve come close to jacking this site in. It takes a huge amount of my time, as well as that of a bunch of other hard-working people, and we get nothing out of it other than seeing our words and pictures join millions of others on the interwebz. It’s kind of one-sided, a bit of an ego trip. And then people thank you, genuinely, for what you’re doing and it hits home that we’re doing something worthwhile. And just like that I realised that we’re here to stay. It was almost a relief to realise that what we’re doing is more than just enjoyed, it’s appreciated.
28 Double were incredible, but what I enjoyed even more than their set was watching their singer literally vibrate when he came off stage. I’ve never seen anyone grin so much and I think it took hours for him to come down! Witch Tripper were superb, but they always are, and I forgot how much noise the mad buggers could make. Fallen Temples similarly impressed and I’m back to Saturday where I’m realising how many great bands we have coming through the ranks.
Golden Core blew me away. Like Parkway Drive, they’re not the kind of music I would usually listen to, but I was absolutely nailed to the spot as these two, young, massively talented musicians brought incredible darkness to the New Blood. LeadRobot were another highlight of the day with their eclectic mix of metal and the most massive drop beats of the weekend. Again, I was side of stage watching them and they were simply superb. Damim may not have been headlining the stage any more (technically) due to some bands shifting around to make up for weather issues the previous day, but they played a headliner’s set. Amazing technical musicianship.
I stopped by to watch a song or two of Dee Snider‘s set and stayed for the whole thing. You know what I said about The Wildhearts? Well Snider was also the best act of the weekend as well! Not just great songs, but an entertainer with no equal. Funny, charismatic and likeable – I really hope we get to see him again here or elsewhere.
While I’m no Scorpions fan, I enjoyed their set more for the company than anything else. I was with a good friend who is a massive fan, and who thought she’d never get to see them. She was very emotional and I just have to say – thanks for letting me share that amazing time with you. I felt… worthwhile, and honoured.
When the festival ended I, of course, felt a little sad. But with the band announcements being made, already expectant and excited for 2020.
But I have to finish with one band I’ve not mentioned yet, and one moment in particular. It’s not a main stage act. Or a New Blood one. Or SOPHIE. Or Jäger. They played the VIP stage.
Slay Duggee. But the moment doesn’t even belong to them. It belongs to the gorgeous little toddler who, from the start of their set, was stood at the front, trying to hand a pink balloon to a bunch of madmen dressed in furry dog outfits. I think the pictures I took of this are the best I have ever taken at a gig. It wasn’t just funny or cute or silly… it was heartwarming. It was perfect. It was the kind of moment that sums up events like Bloodstock. It’s the reason you’d need more than a pack of wild dogs (pretend or otherwise) to drag me away from next year’s event.
So I left feeling much as I did when I arrived. Happy. Welcome. Part of something huge, yet which manages to feel snug and cosy. Like I was waving goodbye to family who I’d see next year.
And I will. Roll on Bloodstock ’20!
Header image by Aidan Huxford of Hetty Images