Music / Travel

Music Festivals Part I: Donington, Land of the Heathen

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What?   Download Festival 2010
Where? Donington, Leicestershire, United Kingdom
When?  11th-13th June 2010

Music festivals are a hoot and a half. No, seriously, my first time at a music festival, I got off the bus, looked around at all the other unclean hobo-esque people around me, and said to myself – “Rinnie, this is a hoot and a half”. That music festival was the indomitable and the monstrous Download Festival.  The festival, formerly titled Monsters of Rock, has been around for nearly 30 years. Steeped in rich rock n’ roll history, this three-day extravaganza is held at Donington, a small green sleepy town in the UK.

2010 was the year I attacked Donington with great vigour; or so I thought before embarking on my journey. After hours of traveling in coach, train, bus and finally trekking to the campsite with heavy backpacks, I decided I earned the right to collapse and crash. Pitching the tent with the zeal of a zombie, I envied those around me, with perfectly pitched tents, lawn chairs, and cold beer.

The weather was lovely, the sun was shining and I was snoring inside my tent, getting pleasantly baked by the sun. After being energized, I woke up; now ready to take on the festival. Getting ready in a tent presented me with the first challenge. Here’s a tip for everyone who is eager to camp – horde wet tissue wipes like they are treasure, guard it like it’s gold. You’ll need it for everything from wiping mud from your legs to requiring it’s assistance in the portable potties, and above all using it to clean yourself instead of having a bath, cause bathing sometimes really isn’t an option.

At the main arena, Them Crooked Vultures were playing, a band I didn’t have much interest in, so I laid on the grass, enjoying a meal of greasy stall food. Looking around I sensed a development of a strange bond with all the thousands of people around me. It’s like a secret organization. We think, “How awesome is this! And how much more awesome it is that the world outside has no idea how awesome and huge this is!” Well, of course the world knows, but it just doesn’t care.  Let them chase the Jonas Brothers and the Pussycat Dolls of the world.

I was lying down on the grass, basking in the environment of the aforementioned awesomeness, when a highly inebriated guy approached me. This is what he slurred to me:
Yew are gorejuss, whattaya doin’ amongst these c*nts?

Needless to say, all I could do is just stare at him, not sure how to react to such a unique compliment. Thankfully, his friend dragged him away, apologizing profusely.  I oddly blushed; thinking that I’m in the non-c*nt category gave me great happiness. Words of a mad man, but then weren’t we all mad to begin with?

The headliner, AC/DC, blew my mind away. Literally. Age is just a number, old is just a word, but it’s still amazing to see on people on the wrong side of fifty, kicking ass. Their stage production was fantastic – Rosie with giant tits, hell’s bells, fire here, fire there, it was awesome.  Cue in the fireworks and it’s time to call it a night.

But the night didn’t end there. All the sunshine of the day had evaporated, only to be enveloped by coldness. And then there was the trek, a much longer route led by organizers to the camp. “A concentration camp”, was all I could think as thousands of exhausted people along with me were huddling through the narrow pitch dark roads in near silence. It took us twenty minutes to reach, and for the second time that day, I crashed.

Three things are important must haves if you want to stand in the front row at a music festival – Patience, Cunningness, and above all the art of being Friendly. Patience is required to wait till the gates are open and reach the railing first before others. Cunningness is required so you can tactfully push people away as you run to reach your ideal spot. Being friendly is the most important. You must be friendly to people around you, so that they don’t try to push you around, protect you from moshpits if necessary and also it gives you someone to chat with during the incredibly long band setups.

I did not do any of these on the second day.

I was lucky nevertheless, I was in the 10th row or so, and I could see the stage clearly. The highlight of that day for me was Megadeth and Rage Against the Machine. It was Rust in Peace’s 20th anniversary and in that honour, I tunelessly sang along to all the songs Megadeth performed. I might have also jumped up and down in an undignified fashion, but how else would you react if you saw Dave Mustaine for the first time?

On the last day of the festival, it rained. It rained like in the Bible. Remember the one with Noah? It started from 10 am and didn’t stop till 7.30 pm. Ironically, that was also the total length of time we were standing in the crowd, without any respite. I was also expecting sunshine so I had donned a bikini and a skirt, with just a regular jacket. It’s not wardrobe malfunction; it’s wardrobe insufficiency.

A lesser woman would have given up, but I was driven to see Stone Sour, even if it meant standing in the rain tolerating bands like August Burns Red and Steel Panther. Steel Panther made very clichéd attempts at glam rock n’ roll by calling 16 year old girls from the crowd and crudely asking them how much of the bass guitar could they take up their vagina. Yes, I tolerated them for Mr Corey Taylor, Stone Sour.

The very awesome Aussies, Airbourne, rewarded me for my patience. Joel O’ Keefe, briefly being possessed by  the ghost of Sir Edmund Hillary, scaled the scaffolding of the stage, reaching the very pinnacle of the stage. All this he did with a guitar strapped on in the pouring rain.

Stone Sour came, the crowd surged forward and my heart got crushed against the cold railing. With a makeshift plastic bag poncho, I held my ground, deterring anything trying to pull me away from my position. I sang, I screamed, I high fived people around me, I helped crowd surfers reach the railing; I even scratched a woman trying to crush my ribs. I felt victorious.

After their set, the rain had stopped but there was mud everywhere. I didn’t care. Slipping and sliding in the cold mud, I reached the campsite. My tent floor was wet, my sleeping bag was wet, my blanket, extra clothes, everything was wet.  I shivered hopelessly and tired to sleep. I must have caught fever, which made me delirious, as I imagined murders being committed in the campsite and people screaming. Donington drove me mad, you see, I wasn’t born this way.

I was not ready for my first music festival. No matter how many “how-to” guides you read, no one ever prepares you for one. Experience is the only thing that can get you prepared. Which is why I ended up having a whole lot of debauched fun the second time around!


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