A mud-less Download Festival 2018

June 21, 2018

Yes you read that right, we had a mud-less Download Festival this year and the weather was amazing all weekend; barr a little bit of a shower during the night on Friday and a little drizzle but nothing crazy. I saw people with a t-shirt tan all weekend, smiling and happy to be sat in field at Donington!

My DL journey started early Wednesday morning and ended Sunday evening which was a first for us as we usually go home on Monday. I had a great weekend and even if the weather is bad at DL it's always enjoyable and a weekend not to be missed. I've already booked next years festival into my diary and that will be my 7th Download!

Setting off at 6.30am may seem extreme to some but it’s at least a 2 hour drive from the North and with traffic and a service station breakfast stop we arrived at Donningon Castle around 10am. We sailed through the security and wristband exchange which had opened earlier than the advertised 12pm. They had also moved the wristband exchange so once you was past the castle you was in and heading to camp. We’ve camped on Gold campsite for 4 years now so of course headed that way, we were shocked to see the site so busy already but still got a good tent spot and started to set up. A little while later we was fully set up, sat in our chairs and chilling with a drink in hand; just like a lot of the other campers by this time. We had a mooch around the village later that day to check out the stalls, merch tent, coop supermarket and food vendors. Wednesday is set up day, find our feet then drinks and chills ready for the busy weekend ahead but this year we got some sun-bathing in as well. 

After quite a noisy night on gold camp we was up and BBQing our breakfast early on before heading to the village again to have a shop plus grab a slushie to cool down, the heat was too much for me on the Thursday and I had to hibernate out of the way for a short while during the afternoon. Circus of Horrors were performing their Voodoo show in the Doghouse at 5.30 so we caught that show, CoH is always entertaining to watch and one of my favourite parts of DL each year plus my favourite performer was back again this year, Hannibal Helmurto. We re-treated back to camp to have more drinks and food then plan our first day in the arena using the Download App on our phones. 

The first proper day of the festival, the arena opened at 12pm and we headed down to watch Boston Manor first on the main stage; these guys are also from the North (Blackpool) and did an awesome job of opening the main stage. Just before heading down to the main stage for the opening act we stopped by the loyalty voucher desk to grab our vouchers; Download have rewarded loyal festival goers with vouchers and for each year you've been, you get a £10 voucher (maximum £50) to spend on DL merchandise or food and drink within the arena. Friday was probably our busiest day for bands and we had a lot to fit in as well as wanting to check out the Zippo tent, signing tent and stalls. After Boston Manor we headed to the Kerrang! Signing tent to meet Andrew WK, I was so excited about this and couldn't wait to watch his set on the Zippo stage later that day; Andrew was so nice and wrote a personalised note to everyone as well as grabbing photos with fans too. We caught the end of Avatars set then had a mooch around the site and grabbed some food before the next set of bands. We were soon back at the main stage to catch Marmozets who I have become a big fan off over the past few months then we headed over to the Zippo Encore stage to watch Andrew WK and his full band; we did have to leave Marmozets a little early to catch AWK full set but he is a favourite of mine so wouldn't miss it! After partying hard watching AWK we had a short amount of time before Bullet took the main stage, we managed to hear a bit of Volbeat whilst mooching around the street food area. Watching Bullet for my Valentine has been a dream of mine since being a teenager and I'm so happy I finally got to see them and in my favourite place, Download Festival! They put on a good set despite Matt Tuck appearing to have a sore throat or such. It was a quick dash back to the Zippo Encore stage to watch You Me At Six which again I was super excited to see after missing them at DL in 2012; they also performed really well and got the crowd going with excitement and played some fan favourites along with some new material. Finally to close the main stage on Friday, Avenged Sevenfold put on a fantastic show of music, performance, stage set's and continued love for what they do. This is the second time Avenged have headlined the Friday night at DL and they get better each time, they ended the set with fireworks and a huge crowd singing along to every word. 

We had a lazy morning and only wanted to be in the arena for 2pm to watch Bury Tomorrow on the second stage, we strolled into the arena and grabbed some drinks and was amazed with how busy the site was; Guns N' Roses really know how to pull in a crowd. Perching at the top of the hill in front of Zippo enjoying Bury Tomorrow's set with a cold drink in hand was the perfect start to our second day in the arena. Saturday was a slower day for us with less bands on our list. After Bury Tomorrow we headed for the Dogtooth stage to watch Shvpes which was on my list but everyone seemed to enjoy them, the energy in the small tent was high and everyone was jumping around; it was also nice to get out of the sun for a short while. Asking Alexandria were on the Zippo stage next and we caught most of their set, this was the first time I'd watched them and I would definitely watch them again. It was time for some food so I grabbed some 'Bi-Ella' (Paella and Vegan Paella) which was really tasty and only cost me £5.00 which I thought was pretty cheap for festival food. Due to our food pit stop we only managed to catch the last bit of Babymetal but still had a dance around to their high energy, fun and power filled songs. I was pleased to see Black Stone Cherry on the line up poster again as they are one of my favourite bands to see live and they deserved a main stage spot and was even GnR support. Singing along to all of their set is what I do best at a BSC gig but we also hung out at the Zippo tent during their performance; spinning the wheel for freebies and chilling on the comfy beanbags then something amazing happened... Zippo run #ZippoSessions throughout the weekend and these are secret intimate gigs which you need a pass to go to. If you buy a Zippo lighter in the morning on any of the arena days, you'll be given a time to pop back to the tent and then taken to a secret location for the #ZippoSessions gig. It was all very exciting, we were taken to a secret tent set up behind the public arena location and then Asking Alexandra came out and did a few acoustic songs for the small crowd; check out my Insta-story highlights to see the action. Next up were headliners Guns N' Roses on the main stage, we decided to watch from afar and sat down behind the tech stand and watched from the screens; it was good to watch such a big band and be part of the crowd for such a big headliner but their music isn't something I listen too often so after an hour or so we headed to The Avalanche Stage to watch Neck Deep, I'd watched these guys at Download before and there pop punk sound is more my thing than the classic rock on the main stage. I was able to have a jump around and I am already planning to watch Neck Deep again on their upcoming tour. 

Since we were heading home later on the Sunday evening our morning started by packing up camp and a walk to the car, the sun was out again which made the walk with bags, tent etc a little stressful but we made it and then was free for the rest of the day. My mate wanted to catch Cradle of Filth, we unfortunately missed them but was still able to watch a little bit of Hatebreed who were also on the main stage earlier in the day. We were lucky enough to attend another #ZippoSessions gig and this time Baroness were there, they played a longer acoustic set than Asking Alexandra and were in the Dogtooth stage later that day. Sunday was another slower day for us and we had some time to play with, we headed to the Kerrang! Signing Tent again to meet Rise Against, there was a huge queue and we wasn't sure if we would get in but we did and I'm super happy I got to meet the whole band, they were all so nice with everyone. I was able to hear Black Veil Brides playing on the main stage whilst I was in the signing tent queue so this was an advantage and I didn't technically miss them. Shinedown were next to play the main stage and were on my not to be missed list as I love Shinedown and their music is always on my Spotify playlists. They played for an hour and played all the fan favourites as well as a couple of new songs from the new record which was great to hear. On a whim we went to watch A on the Avalanche stage to mainly listen to 'Nothing' which was the last song but I actually recognised a lot more songs than I thought. We mooched back to the Zippo stage to catch a bit of Alexisonfire's set whilst grabbing some food and drinks ready for the Encore stage's headliner. Once Alexisonfire went off Less Than Jake started 5 minute later on the Avalanche stage so where we were sat we could hear the set whilst chilling; hopefully I'll be getting tickets to see them in Manchester so I've not missed out altogether. Our Sunday ended with Rise Against, we headed right down the front for their set and was really close to the barrier, they really put on an awesome show and pulled in a big crowd even though a lot of people were waiting for Ozzy to start on the main stage. We hung around at the end of the set and I managed to get a guitar plectrum which was bonus and ended my Download Festival beautifully!

The drive home is always filled with talks of next year's festival, predictions and plans as well discussing the epic weekend we have just had and I suppose talking about that warm shower we going to have when we get home then sleep in our own bed. I do have some predictions for next years festival and I would love to see Foo Fighters headline Download since the have headlined the Download Paris this year, us UKers need them on that main stage. I'd also love to see Paramore at Download, maybe they could headline the Zippo stage?

You can watch all my insta-stories from the weekend which are on my highlights on my profile, find me by searching @gemsupnorth on Instagram or click the icon at the top of the page.

How was your Download weekend? Who did you see and will you be going again next year?

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