Fourteen years ago this month, I went to my first Download Festival, and it affected me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Growing up in the Midlands with little money and no access to seeing ‘big bands’ without travelling an hour or more to Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield etc, the idea of Download was like a dream. A hundred bands, none of which I’d seen before, all in one place with my mates. Yes please.
While Reading & Leeds is seen as the go-to festival for those who’ve just finished their A-Levels, Download is the real ‘rite of passage’ festival for those who like it heavy (sorry Franz Ferdinand, but like hell was I missing Metallica). But we hadn’t even finished our A-Levels, we were 16 and still studying, and as you’d expect from a four teenage boys left unsupervised for several days, we went feral.
Two crates of beer each, the odd bottle of spirits… and that’s about it. We had one fork between us, which was left standing up in the dirt overnight and dutifully babywiped clean each morning. Three of us crammed into one supposedly three-man tent, which swiftly developed a huge tear after my friend Spud ripped his way in one night frantically trying to find a condom. You might think this would leave us open to theft, but we realised that rock fans are the nicest bunch of people around. We left full, unopened crates of beer out overnight and woke up to find them untouched. Maybe our neighbours took pity on us for being so uncontrollably excited about the festival, but with good reason. It was during this weekend I learned so much about my relationship with rock music.