Tina Saul: Pictures by Judith Fisher
17th August 2011
As the hangovers slowly fade, it's time to look back on the seventh Bloodstock Open Air festival and round up some of the events that I had the pleasure of witnessing.
I couldn't get out of London until late afternoon and that, coupled with a nasty car crash on the M1, meant I pretty much missed most of the action on Friday. As I was pitching my tent I could hear DEVIN TOWNSEND, who I'd really been looking forward to seeing, playing in the distance. It did sound like a great show and I've heard good things from people that managed to catch it.
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I did make it to the main stage in time for the first headliner of the weekend, W.A.S.P. and what a great way to get the set kicked off than opening with 'On Your Knees' followed by 'I Don't Need No Doctor'. But there was something missing in the traditional flamboyance of their shows. I can remember walking away from their London LA2 gig in 1999 covered in white powder and feathers, but that all seems to be gone now Blackie has returned to his religious roots.
And there wasn't a glimmer of hope that they'd play 'Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)', due to him renouncing it recently. It was still a solid show, and Blackie looked and sounded great, as did the rest of the band, but not one that particularly excited me. The beer with ginger in it that I was handed afterwards did, however.
Up bright and not-so-breezy for Saturday at about 7.00am, largely due to the fact that it's impossible to sleep in a festival campsite, but also helped from drinking too much of the free Monster Energy Drink on offer the night before.
First band for me were GRAVEDIGGER. I've never been a huge fan before, but they well and truly won me over and I loved how they were piped on to stage by the Skeletor-looking character, AKA Hans Peter Katzenburg, that then went on to play keyboards. Shame about the sound issues though, and this seems to be a recurring theme at festivals this year.
Vocalist Chris Boltendahl kept seeking help from the Stage Manager and it looked like it was his monitors that were failing from what I could gather and he really didn't look happy for the first few songs. Once all issues were resolved they pulled off a great set, which really has got me interested in checking out more about them. 'Rebellion' and 'Hammer Of The Scots' were my particular favourites.
A quick check in at the Press to round up the troops to head to the Sophie Lancaster stage and see DRIPBACK, a five-piece from London, who describe themselves as Hardcore/Death/Grind Fury. They drew a fair size crowd and gave everyone a smack in the face as they hit the stage with their unique style. If that doesn't wake you up early in the day, nothing will. The crowd continued to grow throughout their set and mosh pits appeared, making for a great atmosphere. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.
Interviews were next to take priority but I did manage to have a wander round site and check out a few bands. Made it to the New Blood stage just in time to see PURE NEGATIVE and find out if their drummer Hellhog could pull off two shows so close together, after bashing the drums earlier with Dripback. And he did and this might just be another band to keep a look out for.
Wandering back through the site, I stumbled upon THERION. It was the Swede's only UK show of 2011 and I'm guessing one a few people were looking forward to. I'm not a fan of female Metal operatics and it all seemed very choreographed, which is not what you want at a Metal Fest. Actually it felt like I was watching a poor imitation of a West End show along the lines of Les Miserables.
But all faith in Metal was restored by the time ANGEL WITCH took to the stage. This band look they're going for the world record in number of personnel changes and with only Kevin Heybourne still in the band from the original line-up, they don't always get the best press. And of course a lot of people can only comment on one track of theirs. They didn't disappoint me and it was a set worth sticking around to sing along to 'Angel Witch' at the end.
Kevin Heybourne, Angel Witch
Then next up was something that really did provide some light entertainment: METAL KARAOKE. Some of the 'acts' were really lame, but provided entertainment nonetheless. However, there was one young kid that could definitely get a new career as a Jack Black impersonator. His cover of Tenacious D's 'Tribute' was fantastic and he got as good a cheer as some of the other bands who played over the weekend. That got everyone in the party mood and so it was inevitable that it wouldn't stop there.
And hence why waking up early for HELL on Sunday morning was made nigh on impossible. Armed with a few litres of water to hydrate my aching body and get me through the seven-track set, I was pleasantly surprised. It is a little odd to watch a vocalist with hands free mic for this style of music, but this band really helped kick the cobwebs from my alcohol-addled brain, and the rest of the crowd too by the looks of things. A great start to the day, personal highlight being 'The Quest'.
I didn't manage to catch any of PRIMORDIAL due to clashes, but I did hear about front man Alan Nemtheanga losing his voice part way through their set. There has been an official statement now released from him about this:
"Firstly I have to thank everyone for their support and dedication during a very difficult show at Bloodstock on Sunday, we were all deeply humbled by everyone's response and hearing your voices loud and clear singing our own songs back to us was moving.
The simple fact is from one line to the next my voice completely disappeared. From feeling perfectly normal within seconds I could not even whisper. This has never happened to me before in my twenty years of singing. Slowly my voice came back and if we had another hour left I would have been able to sing again. It seems to have either been an allergic reaction to something I ate or drank that morning mixed with a complete dehydration of the vocal chords."
Next up was my favourite of the whole festival EVIL SCARECROW. I caught a little bit of their set at Hard Rock Hell IV and thought they were entertaining, which is why I was so keen to go and check them out properly. Well come on, any band that starts their Myspace bio with "Introducing the scariest thing to come out of Nottingham since Torvill and Dean..." has got to be worth going to see.
As soon as their set started the tent started to fill and what ensued next was forty minutes of the craziest Parody Metal I've ever seen, certainly giving Steel Panther a run for their money. They have found a real niche in what they're doing and where their music is firmly stuck in the comedy genre there is no denying that these are a talented bunch.
A cover of Thunder Cats theme tune made the entire tent grin and then who could not be caught up with the synchronised robot dancing during 'Robototron'. They finished the set with a very alternative version of 'The Final Countdown' where their guitarist even ran to the back of the tent and jumped on the bar to play the solo. There's some footage here for you to check out for yourself below and see just how much fun everyone had and if you ever have the opportunity to see these guys live, do it. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
As we reached the closing few hours of Bloodstock, the next band was one I'd been looking forward to, and I don't know if it was the sheer joy of watching Evil Scarecrow, or the late night/early morning combo, but I just couldn't get into HAMMERFALL.
So onto probably the biggest of the thrash bands outside of the Big Four. Bay Area thrashers EXODUS were as blistering and brutal as ever. They powered through classics including 'A Lesson In Violence', 'Blacklist' and 'Bonded By Blood', as the crowd moshed and pummelled each other with relish. Finishing with the epic 'Toxic Waltz', they proved beyond all doubt that they are still a massive force to be reckoned with.
So this is probably why POWER QUEST didn't go down too well afterwards. I enjoyed the set, but the atmosphere was extremely flat in the tent, with hordes of people streaming out while they played. There were die-hard fans at the front that stayed with them, but the lack of crowd really put a dampener on their show for me.
And so after realising that my body can't live on a liquid diet, it was time to grab some food and check out the festival stalls. The shops themselves were replicas of the ones found at all the other festivals, so there was nothing new to find. Shame really, as that's one of the things that takes the sense of individuality out of the smaller festivals.
And as the day began to draw to a close, it was time to see the final band of the weekend. MOTORHEAD opened up with 'Iron Fist' and launched into a fourteen track set with vigour. But that was sadly lost in the process of their performance and song by song Lemmy seemed to mutter between tracks and lose the crowd. A complete contrast to Sonisphere where they started off low, due to the announcement of the death of Würzel, and build up to a cracking show.
There were of course high expectations for the encore and 'Ace Of Spades' was a good way to kick it off. But that was it! The set was cut short ten minutes prematurely and the crowd were left there wondering where 'Overkill' had gone.
It seemed such a shame that Bloodstock ended with a level of disappointment but as a whole it was a great success. The festival has grown year on year and it seems that there may be plans in place to up the size for next year. I'm not sure this is a good thing, considering we already have Download and Sonisphere to tick the box of the bigger boys.
I personally preferred Bloodstock three years ago, when it was far more relaxed and less focused on the commercial elements, but I understand that they need to think about the future and of course make ends meet. I hope they don't grow this too big and instead focus on what makes it one of the most fun weekends of the year: a family run festival, with a family run atmosphere. This is what makes it so special and the reason why people flock back to it year after year.