Friday, 31 July 2009

Download 09 - Sunday, 14th June, Donington Park

Download Festival - Donington Park
Sunday, 14th June 2009
Bands seen: Journey, ZZ Top, Steel Panther, Whitesnake and Def Leppard

To be honest with you I’m not really looking forward to doing this gig log. It’s not so much a gig log as a whole-day-of-a-festival log. Imagine how hard the whole weekend would be! Oh well. I shouldn’t have to worry about that until next Summer.

Despite this, I’m going to do it. I can hardly not, really, considering how close I came to not going!

Me and Steph had decided we were going to go right back when the headliners were announced. Parts of the line-up seemed pretty decent, so we asked around the rest of our friends. It soon became clear that we were the only two who really wanted to go. Well, Amy did, but she was too young to get in without an adult and Dad wasn’t going to go. This would be one show she’d miss.

However, where Dad and even Charlotte had thought this a really cool idea, Steph’s parents weren’t so clear. For weeks she nagged them and they kept giving her different responses. We had our hearts set on camping (even if Steph did have a slight issue with cleanliness there) but I don’t think they trusted us to do that.

In the end it got so complicated that I was on the verge of giving up completely. Until one day whilst shopping in Middlesbrough with Steph and Amy I saw an ad for day trips to each day of the festival. As I was wanting to see Def Leppard and Whitesnake most of all, I suggested going on the Sunday. Steph was doubtful - she said she wanted the whole ‘festival experience’. But I was so sick of all the messing about. I asked Laura if she wanted to come for the day, and she agreed because it was cheaper. The next Saturday I booked two places on this trip. Steph was still thinking about what to do, but I could finally get excited. I wasn’t bothered about missing a lot of the other bands: in fact, the only actual headliners I liked were Def Leppard.

So I started to get ready. This involved expanding my Def Leppard collection and actually starting a Whitesnake one. They’d always been one of those bands that I knew a couple of songs of, and liked these songs, but had never found the time to find out more about them. I mean, come on - there are so many bands like that, aren’t there? So here was my opportunity. Because there wasn’t a whole lot of time, certainly not enough to buy everyone’s back catalogues, I devised a strategy: I’d buy a classic album, the newest album, and a greatest hits album to cheat with. I already had Def Leppard’s ‘Best Of’ so I bought ‘Hysteria’, ‘Songs From the Sparkle Lounge’, Whitesnake’s ‘Best Of’, ‘1987’ (it was going to be ‘Slide It In’ until I found out that it wasn’t the one with ‘Here I Go Again’ on it) and ‘Good to Be Bad’. I started to do the same thing with ZZ Top, but once I’d played ‘Eliminator’ through I decided I probably wouldn’t get that into them so I gave that up there. I had a lot of material to go at, anyway. And so loads of intensive listening began.

Then Steph found out (pretty conveniently if you ask me - sorry Stiggy, but I’m still kind of pissed off at you over all that. We were gonna camp, man! It was gonna be a blast!) that her cousin lived really near to Donington Park. So she booked weekend tickets for her and her mum, and they’d stay there. Our plans hadn’t worked out, but at least I was going, and Laura was going, and Steph was going. We had something to look forward to after all our AS-levels (Laura actually had one the Wednesday after but let’s forget about that, shall we?)

However, all was not as it seemed …

Two days after my seventeenth birthday and six days before Download, I got a message on the answer phone from the travel company: the trip had been cancelled. No reason, no explanation, just cancelled. I burst into tears and spent almost the whole night crying. It was awful - I’d been so excited for weeks and weeks and it was all for nothing. Worse than nothing, in fact, because I’d almost had something and it had been taken away from me. Laura was annoyed but I was absolutely devastated beyond belief. I remember listening to ‘Rocket’ on my laptop and singing along really miserably. I went to sleep crying, practically. I just felt so helpless and in despair - it sounds pathetic now, but at the time it was totally appropriate. I told Steph the next day on the way to college and she was outraged. I had calmed down a bit but I was still thoroughly depressed all day. So in Media, Steph told me not to give up. She was going to do loads of research that night, and she WAS going to get us there.

So that night, she told me on Facebook that we could get a train from York to Derby, where her mum and her would pick us up and bring us to the festival. We were allowed to stay at her cousin’s house overnight and we’d come home on Monday. We’d get there a bit late, and we’d have to skive college on the Monday, but we would get to go. We ran the plan by Laura the next day and, after a whole bunch of money-sorting-out and debit-card-registering, we booked two Sunday day tickets. Whoo! (OK Steph - I’ll forgive you partially for all this you did. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be hanging from a rope in my bedroom or something. Well - maybe not. It wasn’t THAT bad … but still. I love you man! (The ‘man’ makes it not gay.))

I’d book the train tickets on Thursday, when I got paid. But that day Steph was kind of worried. Due to heavy rainfall, flash floods had stopped some of the train services from York to Derby. I started to panic, and decided to put ticket-booking on hold, just in case. Maybe we just weren’t meant to go …

After that, though, the weather cleared up. It got sunnier and warmer, and it was pretty certain that catching the train wasn’t going to be a problem.

Right. There’s the background story and the build up. Now I can get on with the day!

Dad came to wake me up just after seven, and I was shattered. I spent a few minutes lying in bed, trying to motivate myself with the idea of Def Leppard, but in the end I had to drag myself up sleepily. I had some of my stuff laid out so I wouldn’t forget it. I got dressed in the socks that have now become my ‘gig socks’, the purple stripy Fat Face ones, my black girl boxers with AC/DC on them and a plain black bra, my black cut-off jeans and the Maiden shirt I got from Twickenham. Steph had texted me on the Friday evening advising wellies, but it hadn’t rained for a while so I settled for black boots. My sleeping bag and pyjamas were already down there, so all I brought was a little HMV bag with more underwear, socks, deodorant, a toothbrush and a bunch of sweets Dad had bought me for the journey. I put on a bit of eyeliner and some Britney Spears Fantasy - Ellan’s preferred gig perfume which she’d bought me for my birthday. My nails were already painted dark blue. I put on all the hematite jewellery I owned, stuck my (Poundland) sunglasses on my head, gathered up the stuff I needed and headed downstairs. I had to cram a camera, a phone, two AA batteries, my eyeliner, a little notebook, (for autographs and/or note taking) a pen and some cash (Dad’s borrowed cash, actually - I’d been for a refund from the travel company the day before, but it hadn’t gone in to my bank account yet, to my sheer annoyance) in my pockets.

As I’d straightened my hair the night before I only had to give it a quick going over. Of course, as this was a gig day, I was way too excited for breakfast. I just got my pre-prepared bottle of water out of the fridge and had a quick drink before putting it in the HMV bag. I didn’t have a lot to do - the one thing I’d been worried about was remembering the batteries, and as I’d done that I didn’t have much else to worry about. At home, anyway. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put my toothbrush back in the bag, and I was ready. Dad and I set off at about eight, leaving Amy fast asleep.

I was quite excited. There was absolutely no trace of my standard pre-gig nervousness. Instead, I was feeling a lot of ‘oh my God I hope everything works out OK’ nervousness…

We picked Charlotte up first, so she could ride with Dad and, presumably, keep him sane whilst he drove two hyper seventeen-year-old rockers to York. She was out straight away and we doubled back towards Laura’s. Dad expressed his jealousy - he loved getting up early for things that weren’t work. I knew exactly how he felt. It always adds to it when you have to drag yourself out of bed at a ridiculous hour.

I got out of the car to get Laura. She was all ready in the hall with Morag and a whole bunch of stuff. She was also wearing a Maiden shirt, the one with Eddie giving the finger. We were a right pair of Maidenheads! We said bye to Morag before carrying Laura’s stuff over to the Land Rover. She had a smaller bag for the day, which she’d chosen deliberately to put people off stealing it, and other things for the night which we put in the boot.

Now we had everything, we could set off! The day was looking nice already and it was still only early. Laura and I chatted excitedly. Maybe everything was going to be OK after all!

But our first obstacle came not long after we’d set off. The car started telling Dad that the bonnet was open. Normally easy enough to fix by shutting the boot. However, this proved to be easier said than done. Dad and Charlotte both got out and tried tons of times before it finally closed. The strange thing was that Dad hadn’t opened the bonnet in ages.

Anyway, once this was sorted, we continued on our way. Dad had the radio on - luckily, I had anticipated this. I’d brought my headphones, my personal CD player and Def Leppard’s ‘Best Of’ album, so Laura and I listened to that for a bit. I knew I was going to see a good few bands, but Def Leppard were the one I was looking forward to the most.

We parked up in York at about ten to nine. The weather was still gorgeous and showing no signs of changing, which relaxed me. We walked down by the river, then over the bridge and to the train station. I’d never been anywhere from there except back home. So first things first - buying tickets. I wanted to use the machiney things so I didn’t have to waste my spending money on one but I hadn’t brought my card. Even so, I checked the ticket price on one of them. A one-way ticket to Derby was £35. What a rip off! I was gob smacked. I hoped that they’d cost less from the actual ticket office, but no such luck. We each spent half of our money for the day just on getting there. Charlotte appeared to be disgusted - she asked the man there if there was any way we could get them cheaper and he said we needed to have booked them at least two weeks in advance, which was useless because back then we’d thought we’d be going by coach. On the website the price had been £19 for the two of us, but that was without fees and at that point I’d been terrified to book them because of the train-floody situation. Dad said that if he’d know, he would’ve driven us there himself and we could’ve just given him some petrol money. But Charlotte said, quite rightly, that we hadn’t known so he should stop beating himself up about it. It was what it was.

Dad gave us another tenner each, saying he didn’t want us to be short, and this wasn’t like any other day out. Laura looked guilty, and I felt it too as we took his money. The money that Laura already had was what I’d given her for the ticket - pretty much the only money she had until she got paid at the end of the month.

We crossed over to the platform. There were quite a few people waiting there already. I noticed one young woman in a Download shirt with a bag covered in rock patches. I wondered where she was going.

We went to sit on this barrier thing to wait for the train. It was still sunny and hot. Laura decided to re-apply her sun cream - she said something about having hairy legs, and Charlotte said she didn’t, so that was one conversation I stayed out of. Charlotte also pointed out that I’d be boiling hot in my leather jacket. At first I insisted I’d be OK, but then I realised she was right. I stuffed everything from my jacket into my jeans pockets.

As we waited, there was an announcement. Our train was delayed because some turd had crashed into a road bridge in Leeds. I couldn’t have been more mad at the aforementioned turd. We had no idea how long we were going to be delayed for. I sent Steph a furious text (too furious for here) as Dad and Charlotte muttered darkly that the situation didn’t sound good.

At some point we walked back into the main part of the station so I’m guessing we may have found out the extent of the delay, but I can’t remember. Dad asked if it was possible to get a refund but we decided to just wait and see how things turned out. He bought me and Laura some breakfast - she had a croissant and I had a big baguette with nice sausages in it. Then they left us to it, scared that they would get a parking ticket if they waited any longer. So Laura and I said goodbye to Dad and Charlotte before they went, and we were on our own.

We headed back off to the platform to wait again. There were a few more people there now. One man had a UFO shirt on, which I started checking out – had Download been at any other time, I would have been seeing UFO at Newcastle Academy that night.

Delay update: the train was about thirty minutes late. No – forty five. I think. Yeah. No? I can’t remember. Well. It was some time late. But it arrived before it had said it would arrive. Laura and I rejoiced, whooping, as we finally got on the train. I texted Steph to let her know.

The train was really cool. I’d never been on a Cross Country one before, and I was surprised to see how modern and new it was. The seats had little digital displays over them telling you whether or not they were reserved. Laura and I settled at a table that was free for the first part of the journey so that we could do ‘The Puzzle’. This was a sixteen piece plastic jigsaw type thing that had multiple solutions, thousands of which were wrong. As the train set off I texted Dad, and we started on ‘The Puzzle’. I was amazingly bad at it. Laura was pretty good.

I was so relieved that we were finally on our way! The driver announced stuff to us, including the fact that he was going to try to make up some of the lost time.

We snacked on some of the snacks and things we’d brought as we attempted to solve ‘The Puzzle’. It was difficult.

When we approached Wakefield Westgate, we had to move because this was when our seats were supposedly reserved. We had to put ‘The Puzzle’ away because we moved to a couple of seats rather than a table, but I was glad – the damn thing had been driving me crazy!

The whole journey was about two hours, maybe a little bit less, so I can’t remember absolutely everything we talked about. The table next to us became occupied at one side, then at the other – there was a bit of confusion as to whether or not it was reserved, but it must have been OK because they all stayed there. We went through Chesterfield, and I wondered if Ste would be there but he wasn’t. Steph texted me at quarter past eleven: ‘So where are you now – nearest town? We just arrived at station.’ I replied: ‘Sheffield. Def Leppard country. We’ve just arrived now.’

I felt excited to be in the home of Def Leppard, even if it was only a brief visit.

There were a few tunnels along the way. Some of these were pretty long, and they were weird. Partway through one of them, Laura noted that it felt like we were moving forwards (we were travelling backwards). I shifted my mindset and saw she was right. But this was so confusing – my body was telling me one thing and my mind was telling me another and it was so trippy and scary and I started freaking out so I shut my eyes and tried not to think until we were out in the sunlight again. It was funny, though.

I took a photo of both of us, smiling stupidly.

I think we arrived at Derby just before twelve – the driver had managed to make up some of the time. The train started to slow down, so Laura and I stood up and headed towards a door. It wasn’t there yet, though. We were just waiting for another train to pass so we could pull into the station. We saw Steph and her mum waiting for us!

We got off the train and into the dazzling sunlight (I put on my sunglasses!) to meet them. We were all über-happy and smiley. Both of them were wearing the same Download t-shirt – it had a big skull on the front, quite different to the typical ones you generally see.

Steph advised us to go to the toilet at the station. She said there were two lots at the festival – one nasty one and one nice one, but it would still be better to use proper ones while we still could. The station toilets were really big and empty. We could hear each other clearly. Too clearly … it was actually pretty funny.

After we’d ‘made use of the facilities’ we returned to Steph’s mum and crossed the bridge out of the station. Steph started telling us some details: interesting people she’d seen, what the place was like, etc. We set off and Steph’s mum put the sat nav on. It had a rather amusing American female voice.

I tried out my (Charlotte’s) lighter on the way. My nails were too long to make this at all easy, but I managed to sort of do it with my thumb sideways. I love fire. It’s so beautiful …

There were some amazing über-roundabouts on the way there. We had fun counting the exits out loud to make sure we took the right ones.

Steph was on the lookout for ‘Download people’, and pretty soon I was too. When we arrived in Castle Donington, crowds of them emerged in their rock t-shirts and wristbands, drinking. Yes! The metal army was gathering! I love big crowds like this because you can guarantee a brilliant atmosphere.

We could hear the music as we approached Donington Park. The car joined a long queue of other cars, right beside the airport and lined up with other rockers, wearing a wide variety of interesting t-shirts and perfect for people watching! One person I particularly noted was wearing an AC/DC ‘Black Ice’ tour shirt.

Because we were going nowhere fast, I did a bit more lighter practice, waving it around out the window.

Gradually we approached the car park, passing Donington Park on the right and many more people in weird and wonderful clothes. Steph told us about various others she’d seen, including men in skirts and superhero costumes. Her mum added that it was an amazing variety of people - you get to see the expected rock t-shirts and other metal wear, yet other people wear all sorts of clothes. There were a lot in fluorescent pink and green clothes.

Eventually we were directed through the car park. We saw someone going the wrong way: Steph pointed this out - right before her mum did exactly the same thing! She’d seen a park and wasn’t going to miss it in favour of another one, further away, that she’d been instructed to go to. Because it was so packed it was a very awkward space to pull into, but when we had, Steph’s mum killed the engine and we were there!

I got out, knowing I wouldn’t have to sit in some sort of vehicle for a long while. Making sure I had everything I needed, I shut everything else in the boot before walking around a bit to stretch my legs. Once everyone was sorted, too, we set off.

We’d been warned that it was a long walk. First, we walked out of the car park. Then past a roundabout., down by a road and towards some out-of-service pedestrian crossings now taken over by officials. Steph said they sounded like drill sergeants, and she was right. Some of them certainly did, although luckily ours was nice.

Along another bit of road, then over a fence onto grass. I could see people, tents, a huge ride and stages! It was all getting so exciting - I hung back behind for a moment to take a picture of the other three walking through the trees.

I can’t remember who it was, but someone described the whole thing as being like a mass exodus, and it really was. Everyone was trekking together along the dusty track. Steph told us that by the end of the day, our snot would be black.

I heard two men with Irish accents discussing AC/DC to my left, and it was absolutely hilarious - for one, I love Irish accents, but also they were talking about support bands, and I had to laugh when one of them said “The Answer and Tin Lizzy.” Even though, because Thin Lizzy are Irish too, I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be pronounced …

When we reached the ticket office, we were redirected to the other ticket office, another good five minutes’ walk away. Steph and her mum had been through a right palaver on the Friday, and they hoped we wouldn’t have to do the same thing. It would be a long way to walk there and back again.

On the way, I saw a couple of Steel Panther shirts and fell in love with them. I hadn’t even known they existed. There was also a guy in a swine flu t-shirt that I thought was rather amusing.

When we arrived at the box office, Laura got out her card, her driver’s licence and her booking confirmation e-mail so she could pick up the tickets. This was it: crunch time. What else could go wrong today?

But Laura got the tickets with no problems. When she handed me mine, I kissed it. It felt so good to hold in my hand - my Download Sunday day ticket with a great big Def Leppard logo in the middle. My ticket to get in! Finally!

I passed through security fine. They ripped my ticket and I was in. Sadly without a wristband, but I was in. I’d done it. After so much fuss, I was officially at Download. And so was Laura, once she’d thrown away the too-big water bottle she was carrying. Mine was an OK size and I kept it, hoping I’d be able to refill it later. I gave my ticket to Laura for safekeeping in her bag, and we met Steph and her mum again to walk on.

We’d missed Stone Gods, Tesla and most of Blackstone Cherry - three bands we’d wanted to see but, according to the timetable thing Steph was wearing around her neck, BSC were still on the main stage, so we went off to see them.

It was a whole lot to take in. Crowds upon crowds of interesting people … stalls selling all manner of food and souvenirs … the sound of music drifting from the four stages … it all merged together as we headed towards the main stage.

We reached the crowd watching Blackstone Cherry and hung about at the back. I don’t know much about the band, and I don’t think any of us did - they were just someone that Steph and I were quite interested to see. We only caught their last couple of songs; they were all right. Not that great, not really bad.

I kept saying ‘I am at Download’ to myself. It still hadn’t quite registered. Now I was in, I had nothing to worry about. Not even pre-gig nerves. None of that whatsoever. Looking back, I’m actually amazed, but I guess it was a totally different concert experience to what I was used to.

Journey were on next, another band that Steph and I wanted to see. Laura was all up for going to get lunch but we told her we’d do it afterwards - the next band any of us were really bothered about seeing was ZZ Top, and they weren’t on for ages.

Dissatisfied with our bad view, I moved forward through the crowd and ended up a lot closer, right on a metal fence. To our left was that big blocky thing, whatever it’s called, that I guess works light and sound.

There were two huge screens at either side of the stage, and they were showing adverts: for bands, their gigs and their albums, but also for other random things like Supernoodles … Steph said that that advert was on all the time, and she was sick of it.

Also on the screens was a scrolling display of messages: you could text your own in but I only saw the number on there once, and I couldn’t remember it. There were some really funny ones, though – ‘BUTTSCRATCHER!’ being one of them. This was a running joke all day and apparently all weekend. Someone else had texted in about how they didn’t get it. I did. I love ‘Family Guy’. (There was also someone who’d texted in with ‘Ooh, piece of candy! Ooh, piece of candy! Ooh, piece of candy!’)

I can’t really remember how Journey came on, but they must have done, because one minute they weren’t there and the next they were. I’m not a fan of Journey simply because I’ve never really listened to them. They were good, though. Further towards the stage I could see a sea of arms in the air, belonging to hardcore fans.

I recognized the singer, Arnel Pineda, and I was sure it was from a newspaper story I’d read a while ago. Were Journey that band who’d found a new singer from a tribute band or something? I asked Steph and she wasn’t sure, but she did some research later, back home, and found that Journey had indeed been impressed by the dude’s covers, and hired him).

He asked us if we were all all right, and I guess everyone was, because they cheered. He said that they (the band) were OK too, to which a guy next to me yelled “NO ONE ASKED!” Aw. I felt bad for the dude. I got the idea that some people didn’t like him that much, judging by the general attitude displayed.

I was amazed to discover that I actually knew two of their songs! The first being, predictably, their signature song ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and the second ‘Any Way You Want It’. Because everyone knows that song, don’t they? I was surprised when it started up – Amy and I had been listening to it a few days previously, and I had temporarily forgotten it was Journey until then. I was smiling all over my face during this; it was easy to sing along to, and a lot of fun.

Their set was over quite soon after this. Steph and her mum had really enjoyed it, and I had thought they were good too, but in a way I was glad it was over – I was hot, hungry and above all thirsty, so I was dying to get hydrated. It had come to that big stretch with no bands of interest.

We started walking back through the crowd, up towards the various stalls. I couldn’t get over how much there was to do. I’d loved to have gone in there with unlimited time and cash.

It was quite a long walk to the ones that Steph and her mum wanted to go to. Laura and I went to a typical fast foody type one, where I bought some chips. They’d run out of bottled water so I bought blackcurrant instead and drank all that pretty fast.

Steph and her mum bought some funky-looking vegetabley type things. I can’t remember what they were, but I was definitely surprised at the variety of food available.

We were sitting on the grass, right across the field from the second stage but I didn’t know who was on there. I took ages to eat my chips, even more ages than usual.

There was a huge queue of people a bit of a way from us. They were all holding huge towers of green Tuborg cups. Apparently, if you picked up a whole bunch of them off the floor and handed them in, you got free booze. Was it worth it, though? The queue really was immense…

Once we’d finished eating, I went for a quick look at some of the stalls but Steph needed to pee before we did anything else. There were apparently two sets of toilets: nice ones and horrible ones. The nice ones were in the far corner to the left of the second stage as you looked at it. We set off for those. On the way we passed the end of the very long Tuborg queue. There was a girl dressed as one of KISS but I’ve forgotten which one – she looked really cool but I bet it was bloody hot in all that make up!

We also passed a water bottle refill station which, like the recycling station, was extremely busy. It would be way easier just to buy another bottle.

The whole field was lined with stalls. Steph went to the loo and we waited, thinking about what we were going to buy. There was an ice cream van just near us – when we were done with the loos, we went straight there. Laura bought an ice cream and I bought another water bottle. There was a men-only toilet area right beside the normal toilets. I reminded Laura of her theory she came up with at Richmond Live, about the targets painted on the walls. One of these days we’re going to have to send a man in to tell us what it’s really like.

We started making our way back, this time via the stalls. There was so much awesome stuff I could have browsed for hours, but I had to restrain myself because I knew I’d never be able to afford everything I wanted. Indeed, in the first stall there was a whole bunch of vinyl. I immediately fell in love with some Bruce Dickinson and Samson singles. Next year, I am definitely camping – then I can buy tons of cool stuff on the first couple of days and lock it all in a locker.

There was all manner of rock shirts and alternative clothes. These were slightly easier to resist because the only shirt I really wanted was a Download one.

I wanted to buy Amy a present. What, though? What would she like? And what wasn’t ridiculously overpriced? In one of the tents there was a display of colourful jewellery, looking particularly pretty under UV light. I bought her a big pink ring. I thought this was funny, girly pink jewellery coming from a rock festival.

Looking at all the stalls was fun, but an immense exercise in self-control.

We saw more dressed up people, this time as aliens from ‘Alien vs. Predator’. Their costumes were brilliant. But then, even cooler (for me) we saw a guy in a Bruce Dickinson tour shirt! I debated for ages over whether or not to ask him if he was good live. I totally should’ve done. But I came over all shy, and didn’t. I of course regret it now.

Eventually we reached one of the Download stalls. Steph wanted a hoodie as well so we all stepped up. I took a long time to choose, eventually deciding on a red shirt with Dog on the front and the Download 2009 logo on the back. I didn’t want to buy one with the whole line-up on it since I wasn’t there for the Friday or the Saturday. However, the small men’s ones had already sold out, so I switched this for a ladies’ one. Laura bought the one with the Download logo and the line-up, but this stall had also run out of hoodies. We walked a bit further along to the next stall, and they didn’t have them either. She bought a giant Download poster instead. I quite fancied a Def Leppard tour shirt as well, but I decided against it: when I had more money I could buy one from the Download site afterwards. (As luck would have it, the site sold Download shirts but not band ones. I do have a normal Def Leppard shirt, though, and I guess the Download one speaks for itself).

Laura insisted she wanted a henna tattoo. There were a whole host of designs, including band logos, but the bigger they were, the more expensive they were, so Laura chose a small, twirly design.

While she was queuing, I went round the corner to see the couple of stalls opposite the Red Bull tent. There were some sun hats for sale for £8. I chose a bright pink one for my sister - due to the fact that it was still extremely hot, I put it on. I must have looked like a crime against fashion - red shirt around my neck, pink hat on my head.

It was almost time for ZZ Top. They came on just before Laura was finished, so we missed the very beginning of their set but we could sort of hear it from where we were. I don’t know much about ZZ Top, so I’m afraid this part won’t be in as much detail.

I was pretty impressed to be looking right at ZZ Top, even if we were at the back again (we had to be this time, though, because we needed to leave a bit early for Steel Panther). Just to see them in all their bearded glory was a thrill. I can’t remember their set too well. They definitely played ‘Got Me Under Pressure’ and ‘Cheap Sunglasses’. Then, a bit later, we heard the unmistakeable intro that was ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’ and everyone went a bit mental. Who doesn’t know, and love, that song? Conscious of the time, I turned to Steph: “We should head off for Steel Panther after ‘Sharp Dressed Man’.”

You could tell everyone was really enjoying themselves. One shirtless guy to our left was giving it his all with the air guitar. I got a random high-five off a random guy with dreadlocks. Steph was jealous until I mentioned that perhaps he was just infecting me with swine flu.

Right after that, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ started up. Steph and I laughed, and set off rocking out once again to what was perhaps the last ZZ Top song I’d ever see live. It was so awesome - these two songs always seem to feature on each and every driving album ever made, so seeing them live was a lot of fun.

Once this was over, the four of us began to wander across the field to the Tuborg tent. I texted my dad: ‘Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man! Xxx’. He replied with: ‘Is that right x x x hope everything ok x x x’. Going sideways through a forward facing crowd: not easy. It took us quite a while to get across, and to the other, smaller field containing the Tuborg tent. In it, among other things, were some more stalls, that great big ride which you could see from all over the festival, and the tent. Which was packed. The band before Steel Panther were just finishing, and there were people standing all around the outside as well as in. We pushed forward but only managed to reach just inside the tent. You could barely move, or see - why are rockers so tall?

We watched roadies set up the stage. Every time someone came on they received a huge cheer. Some people down the front started off a rousing chorus of ‘Asian Hooker’ - clearly a fan favourite, if a little non-PC …

We can’t have been waiting that long, but it felt like ages. I was looking forward to this band almost as much as Def Leppard. I love them. They’re amazing and hilarious.

Soon before they did actually come on, some dude (I guess he was a roadie) with a phone came on and filmed us all screaming “Panther! Panther!”. It was a pretty impressive crowd, especially considering their album ‘Feel the Steel’ had only been released six days previously.

Their entrance was made slightly less exciting by our crappy view, but still I was ecstatic when I saw Michael Starr. He looked just like on the video! There they all were, my favourite new band. Michael, Lexxi, Satchel and Stix. I raised my camera as high up as possible for some photos as they opened with ‘Eyes of a Panther’. Their least rude song, probably! They closed this with Michael, Lexxi and Satchel in a Spinal Tap-esque pose.

They talked after this. Firstly about f*cking ‘hot bitches’ … then they introduced the band. They took turns, rather politely I thought. I can’t remember who introduced Satchel, but he introduced Michael, who introduced Lexxi, who introduced Stix. I think.

They played ‘Asian Hooker’ next. Singing along felt so insanely awful and offensive, but I love the song. Again, they played it brilliantly.

Then more talking! They’re very chatty, are Steel Panther, in a very good way. I couldn’t stop laughing. Because they said quite a lot of stuff I can’t remember some of it, but one of them said they’d had sex with someone in Slipknot’s girlfriend. Someone at the front caught Michael’s attention - I didn’t hear how, but he then said something like “Let’s see YOUR boobies, bitch!” I guess some chick showed them her boobs because Michael told us all to cheer for her boobies. I love the way they talk about this stuff! They’re so immature!

And their immaturity continues in their songs. The ballad ‘Community Property’ came after this. It was really something, hearing the whole tent singing along. All together now: “But my c*ck is community property…” What a song! It’s filthy as hell, yet it sounds so nice …

Their dirty conversation continued, and this time my camera was watching. Apparently Lexxi had been voted the foxiest guy on the Sunset Strip two weeks in a row. We were asked if we found him foxy: I whopped along with the other girls. Sure he’s old and kind of ugly, but I love him because he’s so stupid it’s hilarious. But then Michael put him down: “See? All the fat ones!” Then they went on (to Lexxi) about how you shouldn’t have sex with girls in their vaginas, because they could get pregnant, and you don’t want a baby, do you?

I didn’t recognised ‘Turn Out the Lights’ until the chorus, stupidly. Another fantastic but terrible song. Terrible in the good way.

And then more talking! This time about Michael Starr. Did you know he was fifty six? He looks amazing! Probably, according to Lexxi and Satchel, due to all the plastic surgery but still. I dunno if they were being serious but he got a massive cheer.

The penultimate song was my favourite: the Bon Jovi parody ‘Party All Day (F*ck All Night). Seriously, it sounds just like ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’, except ruder and better. Just as sing-along, though. I had an absolute blast.

And one last lot of talking. About their new video, so we all knew what was coming. They praised themselves in a big way, going on about the song and the video, until they launched into it. ‘Death to All But Metal’. YES! You could tell it’s their most famous one. Everyone went mental. Hearing the song uncensored somewhere other than on the CD added to it - screaming expletives and insults to pop stars and bad bands! “Where is Def Leppard? Where is Motley Crue?” we all pleaded, sick of the terrible waves of pop-punk that always dominate the so-called ‘rock’ airwaves. Motley Crue were yesterday, and Def Leppard were going to be coming soon! Don’t worry, Steel Panther! HEAVY METAL’S BACK!

I was satisfied when they left the stage. Of course they’d only had a short slot, and a lot of that had been taken up by talking, but none of this mattered. Who cares if they exist to take the p*ss? They are a genuinely fantastic live band - extremely entertaining and terrifically talented. I’d see them again any time, hopefully with my sister. I rang her during ‘Death to All But Metal’. The message I left her was really clear.

To ensure I didn’t forget the set list, I actually wrote it all out in a text on my phone and saved it as a draft. See? I plan ahead! (OK, I may be ever so slightly obsessed with these gig logs …)

And now for the trek back to the main stage for Whitesnake. Who had already started, so the crowds were going to be hell. I heard a guy somewhere near us talking about seeing some Whitesnake, and then some Def Leppard. This is a really pointless thing to have remembered, but it built my excitement.

Because we’d come over from the Tuborg tent, we arrived quite near the front. Excellent!

The minute I saw David Coverdale, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I ran, hoping that everyone else would catch up in due course. I was a few rows from the barrier, but quite far to the side so I couldn’t see the drum kit. It’s quite a hard view to describe, but I was thrilled that Whitesnake were right in front of my eyes.

We’d arrived during the song ‘Best Years’. Which was lucky because, as I found out when I read the set list later, that was the first song. I shifted around and settled into position, the others still behind me but in my sight when I turned around. I highly doubted they’d lose me - I was still wearing the pink hat.

Seeing Cov was the nearest I came to being starstruck all day, especially as he was so close. I’m not exactly sure why it was him that did it for me: maybe I was thinking about how my mum used to like him, according to Dad. Or maybe I was looking forward to comparing him to Joe Elliott. You always hear Leppard versus Whitesnake debates, and I was more than ready to settle them for myself.

The second song was ‘Bad Boys’, with that “Ow ow ow owww!” at the start. He did a lot of ‘ow ow ow owww’-ing, which never failed to make me laugh. He’s so posh in his shirt, (which was PRACTICALLY a blouse) buttons semi-undone, yet he still has that total rock-star thing about him. He was a very entertaining front man, at any rate. I don’t understand why everyone puts him down all the time - he’s charismatic, very funny and he still has a great voice.

Another newie: ‘ Can You Hear the Wind Blow’, probably my favourite track from ‘Good to Be Bad’. I felt proud of myself for remembering how a lot of the songs went: I’d been scared I’d blank completely and, like a poser, only manage to sing ‘Here I Go Again’.

I really felt the atmosphere as they started ‘Love Ain’t No Stranger’. I’m getting cold shivers listening to it now - I don’t remember much about it except for the crowd all singing together.

And then for my favourite one: ‘Guilty of Love’! However, as I was still a relatively fresh Whitesnake fan, I didn’t take it in enough to remember it properly. I’m kicking myself now, I can assure you. But I did film quite a bit of it, to my delight on finding this out the other night. I do remember singing the chorus, though; in fact, I think Cov made us sing it ourselves, over and over again … which was great and all, but kind of tiring - and we’d paid to see HIM sing!

The next newie needed no introduction. ‘Lay Down Your Love’ … the first line is “Lay down your love”, for crying out loud! Then yet another song with the word ‘love’ in the title: ‘ The Deeper the Love’. Though with Whitesnake, that is not unusual. I wish I could remember more details about the songs! I’ll come to the ones still in my mind at the end.

If I have a least favourite Whitesnake song, I have no doubt that this is it: ‘Is This Love’. Listen to this: the first time I remember actually listening to it was in the car on the way out somewhere. I was right in the back so I couldn’t hear the radio very well, but what I could hear didn’t greatly impress me. “What’s this? It sounds like Whitesnake but gay,” I remarked about the current song. Of course, when it ended the DJ told me it had been ‘Is This Love’ by – aha - Whitesnake. Despite this, I enjoyed their performance of it. At least its ‘radioness’ meant that everyone was singing along. Cov (I just can’t call him ‘David’! He’s not a ‘David’! It’s either ‘Cov’ or ‘David Coverdale’!) came to the side of the stage right in front of us to direct us in some singing. I filmed a bit of it. He did this a lot, to my utter delight – lots of great photo opportunities and, of course, the possibility that he looked at me … he might have done … I did have that hat on, after all …

Looking back, I’m surprised at just how much stuff they played from ‘Good to Be Bad’. ‘Got What You Need’ followed ‘Is This Love’ but, try as I might, I can’t get back ‘in the zone’ and I appear to have forgotten seeing it live.

I can remember ‘Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City’ pretty well, though – probably due to the fact that Cov took this opportunity to lead us all in another über-sing-a-thon, draining the energy from our voices and from our waving arms.

‘Give Me All Your Love’ brought the tempo back up again, one of those rock songs that you can almost dance to, should the occasion arise. I liked this one - it was a fun live number.

And after this, it was time for all of the posers to go crazy to ‘Here I Go Again’. No edited-down compilation or radio versions here - this was, after all, the genuine article, so it was done properly with the cold-shivery intro that still chokes me up now because it’s so, so good. Of course, I mentioned before that I was a relatively new Whitesnake fan, so at this point this was still the song I knew best. I went mad. I’ve never been able to listen to another album of driving songs in the same way since.

Sadly, the next song was their last. ‘Still of the Night’, though, was a good one to go out on. I always find it really difficult to sing along to - for some reason I can never seem to get my mouth around the words - so I chilled, letting everyone else do the hard work and showing my appreciation by screaming the bits I could do properly.

The end! Whitesnake left the stage, their set over. No encore - I suppose festivals are on tight schedules, so you generally don’t get the chance to do one unless you’re a headliner. I guess that’s also the beauty of festivals - when a band goes off, you don’t have to be sad! Unless, of course, it’s the headliner … on the last day …

OK. I’ll admit that Whitesnake recount was shite, and did not do justice to their set, but there was a lot going on that day! You can’t blame me for missing some of the finer details!

Some of them, however, are here.

Everyone knows that David Coverdale is kind of posh. Yet I was still surprised by just how classy he was! When he spoke - and he did a lot of that - I kept smiling to myself. You’d never know he comes from my neck of the woods. I talk like a right scruff compared to him. (Mind you, I talk like a right scruff anyway!) At one break between songs we could hear music from the second stage. “Who’s that?” he asked, dancing; “I’m getting down!” He sounds even funnier when he tries to sound cool.

As well as a few photos I managed to get three videos - one of David Coverdale really near to us during ‘Is This Love’, one of the bass player, Uriah Duffy, doing the same during a slowie but I can’t tell which one, and the one I mentioned of ‘Guilty of Love’.

Cov talking! Yes … we’ve got to have some of that in here, haven’t we?

Before one of the ‘Slide It In’ songs - can someone drop me a line if they can remember which - he was on about the album, its anniversary and how they were “still sliding it in” after all these years. Somehow, the accompanying gesture he did here didn’t look that wrong. He can just carry that stuff off, you know?

I think he looks sort of like a cross between Alice Cooper and Roger Daltrey. I don’t know what anyone else thinks, but he’s sort of like … if men could have children … oh well.

I know tons of people reckon that Cov is past it and his performances are embarrassing. I can now officially wonder what the hell these people are on about. At some points I thought he was miming, but he swears he will never do that and after studying and listening hard, I noticed that sometimes the backing singing sounded quite similar to his so that was what probably sounded a bit strange. I honestly can’t understand why people put him down.

And when one of the guitarists needed to sit down with an acoustic guitar, he expressed his jealousy as he still had to stand up. A man near me joked about how he had probably put a hip out moving what he called the ‘good bar stool’ - and I laughed, kind of meanly, I guess. He’s not THAT old!

Overall, I’d rate Whitesnake very highly. I didn’t appreciate them as much at the time, but looking back I’ve realised how good they were. The only problem I had was a long guitar duel - no one loves epic guitar solos more than I do, but this just got ridiculous. Perhaps Cov was busy taking a … no. Aside from that, David Coverdale is a natural born showman. If I was a sophisticated yet rock ‘n’ roll middle aged woman, I could understand why people fancy him.

Someone near to me asked how long it was until Def Leppard came on. It would be a forty-five minute wait. “D’you reckon people will wait that long?” this woman asked. Her friend thought they would. I knew I would. I wasn’t giving up this place for anything! I could see the barrier … I counted the rows of people in front of me. I was five away from the barrier! In a festival crowd! And I’d thought I’d get stuck at the back …

I could no longer see Steph, her mum or Laura, though, which had me slightly worried. I checked my phone. The battery was scarily low. I had a text from Steph: ‘We’re heading over to second stage to see Papa Roach’. All right - I wasn’t bothered about missing them, more about losing my friends.

So I waited. Alone.

I’d expected more adverts on the big screens, but instead they started playing music, like at a regular concert. To my über-delight, the first song was ‘What Do You Do For Money Honey’. AC/DC! I whipped out my little notebook and wrote this down. I didn’t get any autographs, but I did make a list of these songs so I didn’t forget them later. A lot of people were singing along to this one. I heard some people discussing the merits of various AC/DC albums.

The next song sadly drew even more attention: Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Ruby’. I couldn’t believe that was being played at Download! Shouldn’t that be at Leeds or Reading? Still, I wrote it down. I must have looked strange to the crowds of people around me. There was a guy about my age next to me. (I’d moved even further across so I could see the drum kit. I HAD to see it.) He was really cool - he had long hair and an ‘Appetite for Destruction’ shirt.

There were bottles flying everywhere and various inflatables too. It was rather exhilarating to be right in the midst of it all! I’d only ever looked at it from above before. I’d never had to duck away from the damn things … and I’d certainly never JOINED IN! Yeah! That’s right, the cool guy got me to throw my first bottle in a bottle fight! He kept getting hit by them - in fact, I think his head was a bottle magnet - and he kept picking them up off the ground to throw back. I offered him mine - it was actually an excuse to talk to him (I can be quite shy, weirdly) and it was a means of getting rid of my empty bottle. But he suggested I do it, so I did! Badly … but I threw it! We laughed. I liked the guy. I wish I’d talked to him more. If you are that guy, please drop me a comment.

‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ was on next. Everyone knew that, so everyone sang along. The high notes sounded hilarious, attempted by a crowd of drunk men. Then it was, and I quote myself from my little notebook, ‘Something Zeppeliny?’ I didn’t know it. And I didn’t know the next one, either. But then they played a bit of classic Stones - ‘Start Me Up’. And then ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. A lot of people sang along to that. I was actually pretty impressed with the selection of between-band music overall, especially as I’d been expecting more adverts.

And I grew happier still when more AC/DC came on! This time ‘For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)’. I wished I’d worn my AC/DC shirt for a moment, until I reassured myself that singing along word-for-word to both songs was proof enough of my immense AC/DC fandom.

It was another great sing-along song. Everyone was ready to rock! I kept turning to look at the crowd - a hell of a lot of people but still no sign of Laura, Steph or her mum. Because my phone battery was so dangerously low, I actually wrote Steph’s mobile number in the little book in case I had to borrow someone else’s.

I was getting all geared up for the last part of the song: the part that has all the ‘for those about to rock - FIRE!’ lines in it. I think everyone was. It was a great song to play over the sound system. The ideal song, perhaps …

But then, right before we were all due to scream “FIRE!”, the music cut out. It drew huge gasps from us all. “WHAT?” we cried, outraged. We’d just been getting into it! It was just coming up to the best bit!

Of course, for a second none of us considered the reason why the music had stopped …

The lights on the stage darkened. The big screen behind the stage came on, showing a video. A very patriotic video, with loads of images of Britishy things and the band through the ages and song names, all set to ‘God Save the Queen’ … and then some really fast guitar into music! I couldn’t see too well from the angle I was at but I got the gist. It reached a climax with the words ‘The Sparkle Lounge’ written across red curtains as the band sprang on-stage.

“Guitar!” Joe Elliott yelled, “Drums!”

I freaked. Not only could I see Rick Allen behind the drums, they were also opening with my favourite song! How happy was I … hopefully it would set the mood for the rest of the night. I sang along with everyone else: “Ah-ah-ah, aah-aah-ah … ooh-ooh-oh, ooh-oh-oh …” I made absolutely sure I had my camera out to film a good deal of this. I adore this song. Absolutely adore it. Everyone else seemed to as well: on the line ‘satellite of love’, we all forgot about singing well and in tune for favour of singing as loudly as possible. As it was the first song, I also had a lot to take in … wow, Joe Elliott got fat … ha, Phil Collen never changes - ooh, he’s got his shirt off. He’s looking good … that was the sort of stuff going through my head. But, most of all, I was psyched to be seeing Rick Allen, perhaps my favourite drummer, live.

I was actually pretty sad when it was over. What could possibly follow my favourite Def Leppard song? Their version of ‘Action’, that’s what. I do like the original by Sweet but I think I prefer Leppard’s. It was clear that everybody was already having the time of their lives, singing and dancing along.

I noticed quite soon that Joe’s voice isn’t what it used to be, which is a shame. He’s hardly old, I hope it doesn’t burn out before its time. There is something he can do to improve himself apart from that, though - sort out his hair! He looks ridiculous!

The next song came from the Sparkle Lounge: C’mon C’mon . The screen at the back showed all the characters from the album cover dancing around to the music, sort of like all of us. I’m never sure how many ‘c’mon’s there are so I bet I looked like an absolute fool trying to sing along but it was a great song. Joe came towards us during this. We all leaned towards him like flowers towards the sun - there was a great big camera really near to us, filming virtually all through the set, and we were all dying to be on it as much as possible. Especially when looking cool in front of rock stars. I was very conscious of the camera at all times. And this song proved that, although bands change, their core awesomeness can remain. Leppard’s certainly does.

‘Make Love Like a Man’ followed. A song that always amuses me, and really cheers me up. I listened to it a lot the day after Michael Jackson died. There wasn’t a single person I could see without a smile on their face. “I’m a man - that’s what I am.” Is that the best Leppard lyric ever written? Perhaps it is …

Right at the end, Joe held on a second before singing the final line, so everyone sang it before he did. Hahaha!

This is strange. I found the set list on the Internet afterwards because I couldn’t remember it in order, and it says that here they played ‘Too Late For Love’. I don’t remember this - I don’t know this song and I’m pretty sure I knew all the ones they played. Oh well. We’ll skip that for now …

The big screen kept switching between band members. A few times, there were close-ups of Rick Allen’s feet - of course, he drums barefoot, so I freaked! As much as I love Rick, I hate feet. Especially giant ones right in front of my face.

I knew the next song, though. ‘Nine Lives’, again from ‘Songs From the Sparkle Lounge’, and one of my favourite tracks on the album. And, as the chorus is slightly more straightforward than ‘C’mon C’mon’ I managed to sing along more successfully. And then we dipped back into ‘Hysteria’ for ‘Love Bites’. (Laura told me afterwards that she’d yelled “YES! It’s the song I’ve had in my head all day!“ and this guy had laughed.) I’d promised myself I’d wave the lighter for this. In fact, this song was the sole reason I’d borrowed it off Charlotte. I pulled it out, held it in the air and prepared to wave it. Lighting it was difficult due to my long nails, keeping it lit was hard due to a slight breeze, and waving it was hard due to all the arms in the air. I didn’t want to burn anyone. So although I can now say I did lighter-waving at a concert, it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. Despite this, I loved the rendition of this epic rock ballad.

Sav stepped up for a bass solo. (I love him as well!) I’d read about this from last year’s tour with Whitesnake, but as the set hadn’t been the same so far I’d dismissed it. Of course, that meant that the next song was ‘Rock On’. I didn’t know it as such, but I knew of it so it wasn’t hard to pick up. I also knew it was a David Essex cover. I was surprised, therefore, that it was actually quite a good song.

Joe donned an acoustic guitar to join in for ‘Two Steps Behind’. He’d also changed clothes at some point before this - I have pictures of him in about three different outfits, including a red shirt, a darker shirt and what looked like a light blue denim jacket. And so began two chilled out numbers: the classic ode to stalkers, and then ‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’, my favourite of the two, made slightly more rock ‘n’ roll by the absence of the ‘g’ in the title. I love how Joe pronounces the word ‘taking’ as ‘tayking’ in this song too…

It was dark. It’s funny how it hits you, isn’t it? It happens so gradually that you don’t notice it, then suddenly you realise it’s night time. It was a nice temperature without the glaring sun. I took off my sunglasses - finally! - and stuck them on my head, under my hat. I kept that on. I didn’t want to hold it, and the camera was still rolling. I wanted to be seen!

I can’t remember ‘Switch 625’ either. At all.

I remember ‘Hysteria’ though. In fact, it’s stuck in my memory better than most songs. Because I’d recently been thinking about how awesome it would be to have it as the end-credits song in the inevitable movie adaptation of my amazing yet unfinished novel, I couldn’t get two of my characters out of my head. Which was sort of annoying but it didn’t stop me joining in loudly and enthusiastically. It’s one of my favourite of their ballads, if you will. Maybe it’s a bit too rocky to be one of those, maybe not. Whatever it is, I filmed some of it, and loved it.

I filmed some of the next one too: ‘Animal’. They were getting into all the well-known stuff, which more often than not means that a set is coming to an end. Consequently I was determined to enjoy myself even more. During the video I made here, this thing that was probably a woman but looked a bit like a man started crowd surfing. (S)he was passed over the barrier where the security guards took care of him/her. I’m not sure how, though …

And then it was ‘Armageddon It’. Another great one to scream the chorus of. I noted an observation about one of the lyrics. Does anyone else find this strange …? Before the chorus, there’s the line ‘Gimme all of your loving’. Whitesnake have a song called ‘Give Me All Your Love’. And ZZ Top, of course, have ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’’. Coincidence?

I felt a bit sad when it came to the part where, on the album, Joe said “C’mon, Steve, get it!” (Or rather “C’mown, Steve, geddit!”) I paid close attention to what he said instead - I think he went to Viv and said “C’mon, boy …” Aww. Poor Steve.

Another classic: ‘Photograph’. When I listen to Def Leppard now, this is the song that reminds me most of Download. I just remember it so clearly: singing “Photograaaph…” with the crowd. I can see the guy who was next to me now, in my head. (He was so cool! Why didn‘t I befriend him?)

An unmistakable opening line: “Love is like a bomb …” Sure, it’s the opening on the ‘Best Of’ album as opposed to ‘Hysteria’ but who cares? It echoed as the guitars joined in, and so began arguably their most famous song. I’d promised Amy I’d ring her during it, but try as I might I couldn’t get a signal.

OK. It’s time for me to write about something I haven’t mentioned yet, but probably should’ve. A while before Download, Laura and I decided we totally had to pour sugar all over each other during ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. So Amy gave me three little sachets for easy carryability, and they had been waiting in my pockets, crumpled and squashed, all day. For their moment in the spotlight. For their time to shine.

Of course, I was alone. No Laura, no Steph, no Steph’s mum.

So what the hell did I do?

I poured sugar … on myself.

Yep, you read it right. You can’t imagine how much of a retard I felt - filming the chorus with my camera balanced in one hand while emptying three small packets of sugar on myself with the other. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it like mad afterwards. I mean, I still regret not dancing like an Egyptian to ‘Powerslave’! So I did it. And I’m proud.

A little later, a random guy from the other side of the barrier started handing out free picks. Oh, the joys of being down the front! I got a thing from a concert! The pick was one of those ‘Chicks on Picks’ ones, with a picture of a girl and the words ‘drop dead sexy’ on it.

Then after this, Joe talked to us! This was strange, because as he confessed, he doesn’t do much talking on-stage. I’ve listened to this speech so much since that I should know it by heart. But I don’t. So I’m listening to it again as I’m writing.

“We don’t really say much when we’re on-stage, we just let the music do the talking,” he said, “But it occurred to me the other night when we were starting the tour off in Dublin, where we’d actually been, and where we’d actually arrived at. And it’s twenty three years since we last played here. Where we were third on the bill to Ozzy and the Scorps, and we had the great experience of playing with people like Motörhead and Bad News.”

Rick punctuated this with a couple of whacks on the drums.

“But, er - what you’ve got to remember about what happened twenty three years ago is this. Rick Allen.”

Oh my God. Of course, everyone knew exactly what was meant by this. Also - he was talking about Rick! I got really excited. I absolutely love him and so jumped at the chance to show him some extra appreciation, as did everyone else. Joe let us cheer him for a bit. Where I was, chants of “Rick! Rick! Rick!” started up. The reaction was immense. Every single person there was genuine in their applause. You could tell just how loved he is.

“You see the hairs on my arms? They’re up, man, just like they were in 1986. It was one year before we released the ‘Hysteria’ album. There we were, we weren’t really sure what was gonna go on. But he’d fought his way back from a terrific injury. And everybody here - which we totally appreciate it wasn’t everybody here, but this was the spiritual rebirth of this boy at the back.” More screams. “It’ll always be Donington to us. Make some noise for Rick Allen, will ya!”

So we went insane. Again. Screaming for perhaps the most inspiring and courageous person in rock, standing behind the drum kit and taking in the thousands of people who were there for him. I looked behind me. It was a hell of a lot of people …

Pretty soon, he sat down. “Stand up again, man, this is never gonna happen again, come on!” Joe urged him, so he got to his feet once more, smiling out at the still-going-beserk crowd. It looked as though the sheer emotion of the whole thing was starting to get to him, and I have to say, it was no surprise. I still feel honoured to have been part of such a special moment. It was very moving - definitely the closest I’ve ever come to crying at a gig. “It’s the human spirit winning over anything,” said Joe proudly, as Rick was projected to the whole festival on the giant screens. He looked as though he was fighting back tears. Which, we soon discovered, he was: after a moment, he started wiping his eyes. “Aw, he’s crying, bless him!” cooed a woman in front of me to her friend.

Bless him indeed. If I was in that position, I’d be in tears too. Imagine - seventy five thousand odd people supporting you, yelling your name, because they’re on your side and they simply worship you.

“So before he starts f*cking blubbing all over his cymbals …” Joe said finally, clearly having not noticed what was going on behind him. He turned around to look at his drummer, “Which I think he already is doing - I’m sorry Rick, I had to do it, mate - he’s gonna introduce this next song. And it goes something like this.”


It took us about a half-second to join in with this intro. It was funny - it sounded like Rick had said it, but obviously Joe had meant he was introducing it on the drums.

So, deep emotional moment over, we went all rock ‘n’ roll again for ‘Rock of Ages’. Rock of ages … still rolling. And it’s never going to stop, if we have anything to do with it! What an anthem to close such a massive rock gathering - yep, close it. I think after this song, they all gathered for a photo. “Smile!” Joe told us, as they turned their backs to the crowd. Then he told us we looked lovely, and they left the stage. (But this might have been some other time, I’m unsure.)

If I’d had a watch and a bill, I would have known that they were coming back for an encore: it was quarter past ten, and the set was due to end at half past. As it was, I had neither so I could only guess. I based my guess on the fact that they hadn’t played ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. How could they leave without doing that?

Even so, I was pleasantly surprised when they returned to the stage, as you should be at encores. (You have to remember this was my first festival, and I wasn’t sure how they worked yet!)

Joe welcomed keyboardist Dick Decent to the stage before they started up again with the (actually quite nice) ballad ‘When Love and Hate Collide’. However, the sound was down, so getting him on seemed pretty pointless…

When Dick left, Joe said he had one last question to ask us. We knew what it was. We asked it with him.

“Do ya wanna get rocked?”

THERE we go! The set was complete! We got down for some hard rocking again, singing along to all the words for what we knew would be the last time. Still, singing about getting rocked was possibly the most appropriate song to finish on. For those few minutes we forgot what was coming the next day. We forgot about work. We forgot about school. Screw mowing the lawn, walking the dog, taking out the trash, and tidying our room. It really did feel like a seven day weekend.

“See you next time - and there will be a next time - “ Joe assured us, before Def Leppard exited the stage for the second and last time. We knew that this year’s Download festival had ended on a real high.

And now to find the others …

The masses were starting to move. The panic settling in, I turned round. How the hell would I be able to see them in all this?

Hang on -


Laura was right there! Holding out her arm towards me somewhere behind me, to my left: I pushed through the crowd to grab her hand and when I reached her we hugged, screaming and high on Leppard loveage. Steph and her mum were right behind her and together we set off.

Moving felt really strange, having stood and watched two bands. Especially as I’d spent half of the last one staring at bright lights in the dark, and now my eyes were adjusting to the night properly.

‘We’ll Meet Again’ was playing over the sound system. Despite not having had any booze all day I felt weirdly drunk, and sang along loudly.

We passed a random guy peeing on the floor. Yeah, right on the ground. He was just half-kneeling, in the middle of the field, with everything on display. It was rather disgusting.

We talked a bit about the bands we’d just seen. I asked them about Papa Roach but they hadn’t got near enough to see them properly, making me still more glad I’d stayed where I was.

I chanced turning my phone on to text Amy: ‘Last band just off. I nearly cried at def leppard. Joe made rick cry. It was so funny but really sweet. Xxx’ and Dad. He’d texted me asking if I could see anything of the track. I replied: ‘No, all the signs but no track and no spitfire. Def leppard were amazing. Just on the way out now. Xxx’.

As we reached the dusty road, random cheers erupted and kept sweeping through the crowd like Mexican waves. I can’t think of any reason for this except that we were all so happy. One of the guys in fluorescent yellow yelled “Did you enjoy it?” We cheered. “Are you all coming back next year?” We cheered again. Try and stop me! I’m saving up already!

It was that long walk again, with a few differences: we were going the wrong way, we weren’t sweating in sweltering sunlight, and there were even more people. We talked Def Leppard virtually the whole way.

One of the first things we did when we got in the car was blew our noses. We all shut up for a second, our chatter replaced by snorts - until we realised how funny that sounded and started laughing. True to what Steph had said earlier, my snot was flecked with black. Ah, the dustiness of Donington …

Conversation, as we set off, turned back to the show. Steph’s mum asked about the whole Rick thing - it happened years ago, why was he crying about it now? Laura and I, both huge Rickfans, started cooing over it, and explained why in our own words.

Leaving was hell. Complete and utter hell. We were sitting virtually stationary for an insanely long time. It was just so difficult to get out of the car park, when everyone else was trying to do the same thing at the same time. And everyone was out for themselves! By the time we were finally on the road, we were sick of selfish drivers.

Cruising along (fairly slowly at first - it took a while for the business to subside) in the car was pretty hot - it had been in the sun all day, after all - so we wound down the windows to let in some of the fresh air and what was left of the atmospheric buzz. Posters for Sonisphere lined the road out, no doubt trying to attract the Download crowd. No chance for me - Metallica were headlining and I can’t stand them. Plus it’s at Knebworth. How dare they try to outdo the mighty Donington, anyway?

We were heading to Loughborough now. When we got there we passed the university where Laura’s brother Stuart was at. I asked why he hadn’t been at the festival - a while ago, me and him had actually reprimanded Laura for not liking Def Leppard (How people change, eh?) - and she replied that he was a student, and probably couldn’t afford it.

I was just getting comfy in the car when we arrived at Samantha’s (Steph’s cousin’s) house. Her family were all in bed, so we had to chill out a bit and keep very quiet.

The four of us were sleeping downstairs in the kitchen/living room. My sleeping stuff was all there waiting for me, and Samantha had very kindly put down airbeds for me and Laura. I got changed inside my sleeping bag - Steph took a photo of me looking like a giant red sausage - before creeping upstairs to use the loo. I was so tired, and frightened of disturbing anyone, that I didn’t wash or brush my teeth or anything. Consequently I felt extremely mucky as I settled down to sleep. I’d taken a wipe to my face in the car, but my hair was all stiff and sticky and I was dying for a shower. Not that I really cared. I felt so rock ‘n’ roll.

Although Laura and I whispered about Def Leppard for a few minutes, we soon fell asleep. I was hoping to dream about the festival but I didn’t dream at all, which was a shame. I’d thought I would, though - I couldn’t get the image of Rick Allen welling up with emotion out of my head. Except for a few interruptions from the (gorgeous and extremely fluffy) cat, Sidney, I slept well.

I woke up once when Samantha’s husband, Alex, came downstairs and left for work, but fell asleep again before we had to get up for real.

And that’s sort of it. However, because for me Download was a whole trip, I’ll finish it off properly.

Samantha was really nice. We met her, her daughter Daisy and briefly her son Sky. We didn’t stay very long though; it was, of course, a Monday, and we were about the only people in the country not going to work or school. I hope to see them again - it was a shame we didn’t get to talk for very long, because Samantha was a very interesting person. Once we were ready, and had said goodbye to everyone, we set off. I was wearing my new shirt. The red did not go with the dark blue on my nails …

Steph’s mum had the idea of going to Sainsbury’s for breakfast, which I liked very much. Steph took ages to decide what to have. She was being hilariously fussy. All she wanted was hash browns, so she got a vegetarian breakfast and ordered an extra one with it. I had a sausage sandwich and juice. And, when I ran out of juice to wash down the breadiness with I grabbed a couple of little milks. Instead of plastic pots, they were in tubes called ‘Dairy Sticks’. Me and Laura found these hilarious.

Steph’s mum told us about the song ‘Rock On’. She said she’d thought their version of it was really good - she thought the song was a good one, but according to her David Essex couldn’t sing! (I’m only not agreeing with her because I’ve never heard him!)

I had ‘Rocket’ in my head, and kept singing it. This transferred it to Laura and Steph, who told me it used to be on Formula One, and whenever she heard it she thought of race cars.

Some people with Download wristbands passed the window. As did a woman in bright green jeans, who somehow managed to make them look really boring … I would have rocked them so hard!

After breakfast, we left. For home for real, this time. Steph plugged her mp3 player into her radio unit and we listened to her eclectic variety of music - Jimi Hendrix, Sean Paul, Gwen Stefani, Bob Marley, Guns N’ Roses, Hot Leg and Love were all artists that featured. We saw a car pass us with a Download camp sign, an Eddie Stobart truck (but I can’t remember what its name was!) and a whole bunch of traffic cones. Steph wants to steal one one day. I must admit, it would be cool …

I was dropped off first. It felt so dull and dreamy back in grey, miserable N------------ as I said goodbye to everyone and thanked Steph’s mum for breakfast. Waving goodbye, the depression settled in. Life is not a concert. Not for ordinary people like me, anyway. Nana was inside, with Auntie Pat. I said hi to them, explained where I had been, why I wasn’t at school, and went off upstairs to shower and start to adjust to normality again. Even though I was skiving school, I had to go to work. Things just felt so strange. It didn’t help that it started raining too. From a sunny festival to the dreary real world. Eurgh. Still, I had a lot of things to tell my family and friends, virtually none of whom had been to a festival before. So I kept the magic going.

Since Download, I have realised just how fantastic a band Def Leppard are. I know it was a big day, with a lot of bands, but they are the one that stuck out the most for me. I was a fan before I saw them, (of course, otherwise I wouldn’t’ve bothered going to see them!) but now I am an über-fan. They climbed several rungs up my ladder of favourite bands that night, and are there with the likes of AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses. Even though my musical horizons were greatly broadened with the variety of top class rock acts available to me, Leppard’s performance was the highlight of my day.

And there was a highlight of Leppard’s performance that I will never forget.

Rick Allen, you are a living legend. It’s people like you who make rock the superior music genre.


* I finished the first draft of this on Thursday, 30th July and the second draft on the Friday. Only took me forty-six/forty-seven days, then …

* We later found out that Brian May and KK Downing watched Def Leppard from the side of the stage. I think I might have seen them.

* On the big screen there was also a texted-in joke about ‘bad rope liquorice’. Hehe …

* I got a few photos of Joe Elliott when he came across to where we were. I can’t remember when exactly, but it was dark and he was dark and he was wearing a red shirt.

* I don’t endorse Steel Panther’s opinions, I just love their music.

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