By now the dust will have well and truly settled over Donington Park, formerly the home of the incredible Monsters of Rock one-day music festival. This was soon to be reborn as what we know as Download. Since 2003 Download has been home to probably the Heavy metal event in the UK and long may it continue...
This year the organisers have upped their game again and laid out the site in a more user friendly layout with two main stages (if that makes sense?) Anyway...
Arriving on the Friday in the Skin Deep love bus, things were already kicking and I could see many a tattooed music fan; most laden down with party packs of beer and tents like a procession of weird and colourful packhorses, all heading in the same direction. The huge campsite. After getting the obligatory press passes and duly signing my photographic life away (sort of a promise not to take pictures of any ‘star’ without their permission) I headed back to the bus to get my camera. Walking back up the hill I was pounced upon one of the many tattooists I would bump into over the three days, who were here for a weekend of music and debauchery. Kamil Mocet and crew gave me a big hug as they headed towards the stage and no doubt one of the many bars on site (Well it was a hot day...)
Although it is a rock/music show, Download attracts many tattooists and fans alike and it is really nice to catch up with these ‘demographic demons’ on a neutral turf. Wandering about the vast site I ran into Paul Naylor and the Indigo Tattoo Tribe from Northwich, where we all shared a libation or two whilst dancing our socks off to one of the many bands in front of the main stage. I then headed off to do some work (ahem) by photographing Prodigy on the second ‘Main’ stage. Mr Flint and the crew were on form and belted out many a kicking dance tune. Looking behind me from the relative comfort of the bear pit (caged off area in front of the stage; reserved for security, photographers and muso luvvies), there was not a single body in the thousands that stood in front of the stage that stood still. I defy anyone to not move when these guys get into their groove. Keith Flint was his typical manic self, leaping from one monitor to another. He must have Sanatogen multi vitamins on tap in his dressing room! (Other vitamins are available).
After the manic Prodigy and being in the bear pit where photographers are only allowed to take photos during the first three songs, I headed for the relative comfort of the Jagermeister tent (only because it was in the shade I’ll have you know!) where I ran into Tony and Hazel from Design 4 Life Tattoo in Liverpool, both enjoying the great weather and great sounds. It seems to be an unwritten law that when two or more tattoo fans/artists get together tattoos will be talked about and we spent a the afternoon or so chatting with the plethora of tattooed festival goers who were constantly passing our resting place.
Talking of tattoos, Sean Wood of Woody’s Tattoos had his usual set up in the ‘green room’ area behind the stage where he and his band of merry tattooists were heads down, hard at it tattooing the many musicians with a myriad of designs.
On the actual campsite itself the Silver Hand gang that consisted of Chris Jones, Lee Clements and Lee Woodmass were beavering away all weekend tattooing the masses. Rob, the owner of Silver Hand was on hand to offer some really good advice on aftercare to the freshly tattoo folk, as being tattooed at an event like Download where you don’t necessarily have access to clean washing facilities is vital.
As I mentioned earlier the weather was scorching but sadly I saw many tattooed individuals gently baking their lovely tattoos unprotected in the midday sun, which was a shame. I wanted to come over all motherly and go smother them in factor fifty sun block. Ok, it’s nice to sit in the sun and catch some rays considering just how little we get in the UK but please think about your ink and cover it with something to protect your precious tattoos. Saying that, over forty thousand bottles of sun cream were purchased over the course of the weekend so some had taken the time to look after their ink.
Each morning the site was completely cleaned of all detritus from the following nights frivolities, which must be a monumental task, leaving the site clean, ready for the following days fun. From eleven every morning, the live music kicked into gear and the sound of live rock filtered across the fields to the camping area, not so gently waking the masses and slowly the site came to life again.
Headlining this year was Faith No More on the Friday, Slipknot on the Saturday and Def Leppard on the Sunday, but if these musical behemoths were not to your liking there were many, many other live acts to shake your head to including; Marilyn Manson, Whitesnake, ZZ Top, Pendulum, Korn, oh, the list went on and on with over one hundred and twenty bands playing on four stages to keep even the most picky metal head happy. My favourite if the whole weekend was Five Finger Death Punch, boy, they were so good I nearly forgot to photograph them!
After a frenetic free-for-all running form one stage to the next to get there in time to be ushered in to take photos of the next act, I headed for the backstage area where a series of tepees had been erected, some housing hospitality areas for various radio stations and rock magazines. This was the place to see the many rock star wannabees and hangers-on hovered, hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes and I spent a wonderful afternoon sipping cocktails with friends and spotting many great tattoos on display. (Who said my job was hard?)
All too soon the weekend came to an end and it was time to fire up the ‘Skin Deep flyer’ and fight my way through the hoards all heading home with sore heads, many with sore body parts having been freshly tattooed and masses of sunburnt bodies, all with smiles on their faces from what was another wonderful Download festival.
I must say a huge thanks to Kate Etteridge for all her help over the weekend, this lady is priceless and nothing was too much trouble for her. Thanks again.
I can’t wait for next year!