With last year’s debut proving to be one of the highlights of the year, Download 2004 had a lot to live up to! It wasn't without its fair share of problems, but all in all, we thought it was a great success!
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For many, Download 2004 began on the Friday, when the campsites opened. 'Open' is a broad term, though, especially when it involves queues of up to six hours just to get through the gates! Still, standing in line so close, yet so far, to the hallowed rock turf of Donington only added to the excitement, and after the weekend was over, this organisational glitch was a long way from the forefront of anyone's memory.
The lucky entrants were blessed with a rocktastic fairground (£1.50 for 30 seconds on a dodgem anyone?), but, as always, the party was being had in the vicinity of the Joe Bananas stall, at least until the Kerrang! Club (or was it Club Kerrang!?) cranked into action, and became singlehandedly responsible for more hangovers than the Aftershock stall, as it rocked into the small hours.
On entry to the 'festival proper' on Saturday morning, there was one landmark dominating the main arena, and the campsite gossip - a huge effigy to 'Velvet Revolver' [new band of ex-Guns N' Roses blokes]. Could it be that Slash & Co. were this year's secret band, like Metallica were last year? Sadly, it was not to be, but it made for excellent speculation.
In other news, traffic problems were leaving a nasty stain on the running order, with both Soil and Static-X unable to arrive in time to perform. Grown men were seen to shed tears in the absence of the X, but luckily Soil singer Ryan McCombs was able to blag some stage time on Sunday, guesting with Drowning Pool. The band you love to hate - that'll be The Hives - turned up, though, and deflected missiles and abuse with humour and style, much to the fury of the humourless and styleless metallers who had wasted good piss in those bottles.
Iggy Pop and his Stooges cheered them all up though, by inviting about 300 of them - including VF - to share his stage during a fun rendition of 'No Fun'. He had, however, neglected to clear it with security beforehand, and the most comical episode of the festival took place as the hapless guards were forced to check each invader for a stage pass, before lobbing them back into the mosh pit at the end of the song.
Electric Six were up next in the Game On Tent, the dilemma being: No piss left to throw at them. Cue Steve-O and his Wildboyz to the rescue. He didn't have any piss either - he'd used all of this in his stage show - but he did have eggs. One for every member of the front row or two! Splat indeed. Strangely, the Six were none too happy being a surprise Jackass sketch, and an almighty ruck kicked off backstage later that night, the casualties being three trashed dressing room portacabins, a hospitalised singer and a broken hand. According to one eye witness, "It was horrible. There was blood, piss and glass everywhere." In fact, Steve-O and his friends had to be incarcerated in a portacabin by security, until they had 'calmed down', before being ejected from the site. Typical - you get 70 of the world's baddest rock bands, and it's the 'cabaret' act that causes trouble!
The next day was nice and sunny, and the traffic problems had not let up, plunging the bill into complete chaos. Bands were swapped with other bands, on other stages, and it all became very random for a while. People stopped smiling briefly when rumours started circulating that Slayer might not perform. Thankfully they did, albeit in the Game On tent (and not the Main Stage, where they were meant to be), but everyone who was fortunate enough to squeeze inside raved that they only benefitted from the more intimate setting.
But little did anyone know the drama unfolding backstage. Yes, that's right folks - Slipknot had a new set of masks! No, That's not it (although the masks were really scary). Metallica had only gone and left their drummer in Germany - doh! He'd fallen out of the plane, or had a fight, or a poorly tummy, or something. Regardless, he wasn't here, and they were meant to be headlining. Some wise guy was even heard uttering the outrageous suggestion that a high proportion of people had only come here to see the Tallica!
It was all exciting stuff, especially from VF's crafty vantage point, hiding on the side of the stage, whilst 70 odd thousand kids chanted, "You're shit!" in ignorant bliss, as the band persisted in not appearing. You'd think that after the queues on Friday night, an hour and a half would be nothing. Right bunch of moaners, these Download kids. All the while, Metallica were playing their smallest gig for 23 years, inside a tiny dressing room portacabin, with a bunch of replacement drummers all pretending to be Lars. Slipknot's Joey was so embarassed to be selected for the subsequent main stage gig, that he wore a mask throughout, lest he should become associated with these people that leave their bandmates in Germany.
Still, the eventual performance made it into the rock history books - it was Metallica's shortest gig for 23 years! Facetiousness aside (we're only trying to get into the spirit for Glasto), Download 2004 was a pretty damned special festival, and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Roll on Download 2005 - we'll see you in the mosh-pit (unless Iggy returns, in which case we'll see you by the drum riser)...