If ever there’s a British festival that’s frequented by tattoo enthusiasts, it’s Download. This year was certainly true to form, and so we set about the thronging crowds to see what dermal delights we could find. Upon our arrival on Friday, the sun was courteous enough to grace Donnington Park with its glorious rays, but we eyed the surrounding clouds with a degree of trepidation - if things went the way of the pear and a deluge was to occur, finding exposed ink would be trickier than selling sunbeds to the residents of Ocean Drive…
The tattoo gods must have been onside for us this weekend, and our first victim was an approachable fellow by the name of Ray. With his sleeves on show, our attention was drawn to what looked to be suspiciously like the fine cubist work of Bugs, which he confirmed with a grin and a hearty chat. As the rising temperature forcibly removed more items of clothing, tattoos appeared from all directions and we managed to snap some fantastic work by Derek Moore, Boff Conkers and Dana Nero from New York. It’s something of a cliché to say that tattoos and rock music go hand-in-hand but it certainly appeared to be a statement of truth here, and there were more Kiss tattoos than I’d care to remember! Whilst we’re on the subject of those legendary rockers, the weekend saw an attempt to break the record for the most people made up as KISS in one place. We’re still awaiting the results, but 444 faces were painted in less than two hours so it’s looking promising!
We caught up with Woody and his faithful crew from Woody’s Tattoo Studio as they served up free tattoos to any of those lucky enough to be milling around in the VIP area with a couple of hours to spare. It’s not a bad deal, all things considered; hang out backstage with rock royalty, eat real food and take advantage of alcohol on tap, and then mooch on over to one of the UK’s finest purveyors of tattooing finery to receive some grade-A work before playing to thousands of screaming fans through a sound rig that could deafen a glass ear!
Woody, Jammes, David, Manu and Jay were all in great demand and spent the majority of the weekend dishing out superb work - Jay is the High Wycombe-based studio’s latest recruit and his portfolio is damned impressive, as was the work that he completed over the course of the festival. Jammes also managed to get his photo taken with many of his metal heroes, including the legend that is Lemmy!
There were a few changes with the layout of this year’s Download; a clash with the Moto GP a week later meant that the arena was further away from the campsite than usual, which resulted in a fair hike to get about the place. A lot was also made of this year’s acts, and in particular the headline bands for Saturday and Sunday - having The Offspring and Lostprophets follow Friday’s triple deluxe of Motorhead, Judas Priest and Kiss was a touch ambitious, but with three stages to choose from, anyone would be hard-pressed to find a band that didn’t pique their interest.
Download 2008 was more of a year for the underdog, the unknown and as-yet unsung heroes in the making. This fresh blood was abound on the diminutive Gibson Stage and we caught some intense performances from Rolo Tomassi and Johnny Truant, followed by the more established (and quite awesome) Ted Maul – scorching metal served with a garnish of drum ‘n’ bass, anyone? We also managed to catch up with Charlie Holmes as he played one of his final gigs with UK death metal outfit Trigger The Bloodshed to snap his extensive and ever-growing tattoo collection…
The lager behemoths that are Tuborg put their name to the second stage, which saw acts such as Fall Of Troy, Cavalera Conspiracy (consisting of brothers Max and Iggor, reunited at last and formerly of Sepultura) and Pendulum. The notion of drum ‘n’ bass and metal sharing similar characteristics may well have been proven here (or perhaps the crowd were simply ready for something different), as Pendulum carved out a set that produced a small-scale riot. The ferocity and energy that they exuded struck a chord with the thronging crowd and proved to be one of the weekend’s surprise packages.
There was a moment where time stopped; the heavens parted and an eerie light bathed the path to our salvation on the baking hot Saturday afternoon…the Guinness stand nestled amongst the sanctity of the chill out area! After two days of stomaching gassy lager, that was quite possibly the greatest pint of my life and I swear I shed a tear of joy as the black velvet touched my lips. The selection of food was as awesome as ever too, with everything from Mexican dishes to the best sausages in the world. Ever. Fact!
For all of the nit picking and malcontent surrounding the choice of bands, Download 2008 was a resounding success and the sun’s favourable treatment of Donnington Park made it a fantastic weekend. The highlight? It couldn’t be any other than Kiss – regardless of whether or not you like their music, they are still without doubt one of the most entertaining bands on the planet and put on a captivating show. We’ll see you down the front for next year’s ruckus, and I for one can’t wait to see who’s there in 2009.