Bloodstock Open Air 2009: Rated!
Catton Hall, Derbyshire - 14-16 August
Greame Johnston - 18 August 2009
Overall – 7/10
Fans were willing to accept teething problems when the event first left its Assembly Rooms home to venture out into Catton Hall, but with half a decade of outdoor experience there’s now no excuse for this to be anything less than a near-perfect event.
While Carcass et al were fantastic and the alternative entertainment varied (DJs, Jagermeister shots, motorbike stunts, Viking battles, metal karaoke), the campsite revelry was seriously dampened by a ONE crate of alcohol only rule mixed with Norwegian beer prices at the bar.
Mother nature thankfully never followed through with her promise to wash the event out entirely, but high winds played havoc with the main stage sound all weekend leaving many bands sounding far from impressive for fans anywhere but directly in front on the speaker stacks.
And one idiot, one cricket-ball sized gobstopper and an injured Cradle Of Filth guitarist, Paul Allender (who had to be receive medical attention after the missile was thrown from the crowd, resulting in the gothic metallers set being cut short) shouldn’t tarnish what was otherwise a good natured event attended by more than 9,000 friendly fans, but it certainly left a bitter taste in the mouth for all concerned – not least the organisers who made a statement about it HERE.
Getting There and Back – 8/10
With a map and a Tom Tom, there’s no excuse for not finding Catton Hall in Walton-upon-Trent with some ease. Buses are available and there’s enough information on the Bloodstock website that even the worst navigator can cope, if the loud booming bass audible many miles away wasn’t a big enough clue already.
Still, there’s always going to be one drunken tramp in a Trivium t-shirt staggering along the roadside with a lost look and this year was no exception.
The Site – 8/10
Much like the festival itself, the site cannot be rated in black or white. The layout is fantastic, moving between stages is simple, the variety of entertainment, shops and facilities on offer is excellent, no-one once grumbles about the toilets and the campsite has been divided into two sections allowing a ‘quiet’ site for the more genteel Bloodstockers. Where the organisers have let themselves down is again in the confusion of the one crate rule. Punters pass from the car park to the arena before ever hitting the campsite (there is no direct route from the car park to the campsite). This, despite the fact that cans are not allowed in the arena, results in fans innocently walking around the arena with cans which are then militantly stolen from them by roaming guards – this while others are refused entry with cans they are entitled to bring, and more fans fail to re-enter the arena with a plastic cup full of beer, purchased as advised from the arena bar, because they’ve crossed “the yellow line” between camping and the site.
Atmosphere – 6/10
Perhaps due to the schizophrenic “four seasons” weather, the lack of readily available cheap alcohol, or the intimacy lost in an outdoors event, Bloodstock ’09 never at any point had fans commenting on the atmosphere.
There were shenanigans to be had, such as random games of “Forky Forky” (don’t ask), unexpected crowd surfing during the late night DJ set and campsite space hopper races.
Overall though, fans didn’t feel like they were at a weekend-long party – even the Saturday night, famed at UK festivals as the moment everyone decides to leave their senses and get truly smashed, was oddly quiet. Over the weekend bands were also quick to comment on the crowd not being as loud as expected.
Music – 8/10
Bloodstock upped their game this year with a host of solid names, a quick glance at Saturday’s mid card; The Haunted, Entombed, Candlemass, Enslaved, Kreator and Apocalyptica was enough to make any metalhead startle in the night to find their boxers damp and despite some sound issues over the weekend, the majority pulled it off on the live stage too.
The eclectic mix of headliners saw extreme legends Carcass, Cradle Of Filth who are far more mainstream (while not fighting Lady Gaga for any Number one spots), and the surprise addition of Europe… “Duh-du-du-du…” also worked as well as could have been hoped for in a Manowar-free billing.
Carcass – 9/10
On the top of their game, Carcass piss on any other extreme band in the live arena. They hit us with ‘Buried Dreams’, ‘Corporal Jigsore Quandary’, ‘No Love Lost’, ‘Reek Of Putrefacation’, ‘This Mortal Coil’, ‘Incarnated Solvent Abuse’ – other bands are left wishing they’d penned even one of these tracks.
Anathema and ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ – 10/10
Stunning musicianship, a setlist full of great tracks, guest appearances by Martin Powell and the awesome Nick Barker behind the skins –Anathema were just perfect. Few would argue that the highlight of the weekend was a very unexpected cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Phantom Of The Opera’.
A band of Anathema’s calibre don’t strike you as the type to throw in a metal classic, but it becomes such a huge singalong that the sizeable crowd swells as seemingly every single one of the 9,000 punters joins the fray. Amazing.
Kreator – 8/10
If the prospect of a set of German thrash wasn’t enough to make you weak at the knees, then Millie’s ridiculous banter certainly held your interest. He regales us with the tale of how a journalist once asked if he really meant his incitement to kill each other. “No, there’s nothing but peace, love and understanding when we play” was his answer. Then with a smile he crows: “I lied to the motherfucker!”, before tearing into another breakneck piece of evil thrash.
Sabaton - 8/10
Appearing on stage in a pre-noon slot you’d have forgiven the battle-loving Swedes for being a little sluggish but instead they deliver the power metal set of the weekend and whip the crowd into a morning frenzy. And they can’t thank BOA enough for the pleasure…
The Rotted – 8/10
“You could be watching Germans singing about dragons and magic but you’re right here keeping it real with us…” enthuses The Rotted front man Ben McCrow, before launching into another pit inducing slab of punk tinged death metal. Why would we be anywhere else?
Battlelore – 4/10
Seemed to fare worst with the sound problem as the poor female vocalist’s softer tones were completely wiped out of the mix, in what could have otherwise been an enjoyable morning set.
The one crate rule
If Download don’t do it, Sonisphere don’t do it, hell even V Festival don’t do it… Why does the festival ‘for fans, by fans’ need to?
The idiot and the gobstopper
BOA can’t and won’t grow if more mainstream bands aren’t able to be booked without fear of being bottled off stage. This particular fool obviously preferred it when a tenth of the crowd showed up to see Edguy prancing around Catton Hall.
The main stage crowd being parted like the red sea to allow contractors in with heavy machinery to put the roof of the stage back together had a few fans checking to see exactly what was in their pints, but a well done goes out to the crew for noticing the problem before someone was skewered with a length of steel.
Unfortunately, it’s probably not all that random at Bloodstock, but to most folk outside the “metal brotherhood” seeing grown men in a collection of tight lycra, chain mail, full body paint, furry boots and fake blood takes a bit of getting used to.