Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Download Festival 2014

Last weekend I went to Download Festival at Donington Park for the first time, managing the Headphone Disco show in the Side Splitter Arena on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. 

Download is a quite different to other festivals I've been to and I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it might be a bit rough, like I've experienced with Reading Festival. At Reading there's always a bad feeling like something is about to kick off, especially on the Sunday night, when practically everything gets smashed apart, or set on fire in the campsites! I was totally surprised to discover that there is a fantastic atmosphere at Download, with a friendly crowd who are passionate about music and on the whole aren't there to cause trouble. 

Being totally rock and roll

Front Of House Wristband

After getting our wristbands and having fun with foam hands at the staff accreditation tent, I got to drive the van on the actual Donington race track! Sadly there's a 10mph site curfew, but it was still pretty surreal driving on the race track, even at snails pace!

What I really liked about Download, was the variety of stuff for people to do at night, after the main music programming has finished, which is missing from some other big festivals. This included a huge area called 'The Village', which was a central point between all the main campsites. This had the Side Splitter Headphone Disco Arena [which was a Comedy Tent on the Wednesday and Thursday nights for early arrivals], the Dog House, which had a great line up for DJs, a Cinema Tent, along with lots of food vendors, bars and fun fair rides. The Village and main campsites are about a 15-minute walk away from the main area and it works really well having two main areas of entertainment. 

I got to drive the van on the Donington race track!

The amount of work I need to do at a festival for Headphone Disco vastly varies depending on the number of headphones required and the number of nights the show is on. Download was a much more work-based weekend than some, but we still found time to see some awesome bands and have lots of fun. I really enjoy managing Headphone Disco shows anyway and I'm lucky to be able to do things that I enjoy for a living.

Friday was spent sorting kit on site and getting ready for the weekend shows, so I was really looking forward to entering the arena for the first time on Saturday. On Saturday we wandered between stages, with Bowling for Soup being the main highlight of the day. It was also lovely to catch up with my Uni friend Emma whilst watching bands on the main stage too. On Sunday we positioned ourselves up on the hill opposite the main stage and watched Joe Bonamassa, Volbeat and Steel Panther. My parents are big fans of Joe Bonamassa and I was really impressed with his fantastic guitar skills. Although they had a really gothic looking stage backdrop and props, Volbeat were surprising mellow, with lovely vocals and tunes. If you don't know Steel Panther, they're basically a touring Spinal Tap-esque band, who are talented musicians, but with a funny [and rude] songs and lots of funny [and ruder] banter on stage!

 The arena entrance

Having a stage picnic whilst sheltering from the rain!

 Get your knobbly knees out for the lads!

The Headphone Disco ran very smoothly indeed, with no headphones lost, despite us not taking deposits for headphones as we usually would. My whole crew worked very hard and enthusiastically chatted to festivalgoers as they came into the Side Splitter Arena. Lots of people came in with drinks in their hands, so the crew put them on for people, which looked pretty funny, but was a nice touch! The Headphone Disco was packed all weekend, hitting capacity and being one-in-one-out on the Saturday and Sunday nights. 

I'd have loved to have DJed at Download, but Rock music isn't really my speciality, so the very awesome DJ Jinx and DJ Damo rocked the party. They played a mountain of incredible tunes across two headphone channels all weekend and the atmosphere was amazing. Check out the video below of the huge Headphone Disco crowd passionately and loudly singing In The End by Linkin Park, who played a headline show on the main stage that day.

We had a surprising highlight to our day on the Sunday afternoon. We happened to sit near two guys who were playing pranks on people way back on the hill, opposite the main stage. At many festivals the bars give 10p back per paper cup that's returned, to help encourage recycling. Many people collect the cups and cash them in. Although this is an easy way to make money, I often think that it's a shame to pay to come to a festival and pay more attention to cup collecting than the music!

Anyway, these two guys tied a shoe lace to a paper cup and covered the lace in grass to disguise it. We watched in delight as so many people fell for it. More and more people were watching it going on as the afternoon went on, to the point where there was a loud cheer every time! Most people were really cool about it, but a couple of people got really angry. Check out the video montage below that my girlfriend Emily put together. Hopefully it's as funny to watch on here as it was to be there!

Our friend Sam collected 250 cups the night before we watched people being pranked. Luckily for him, he didn't get pranked before being in on the joke!

 Sam collected 250 cups, to get the 10p deposits. He claims it didn't take him very long!

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