Every single year this happens to me. UK festival line-ups start to get announced and I suffer a slight emotional and mental breakdown trying to decide which festival most deserves my hard earned money and holiday hours. I begin to weigh up the festivals’ pros and cons; comparing every little detail such as dates, acts announced, acts likely to be announced and even the likelihood of nice weather. This year there are two main contenders on my festival radar and they both sport fantastic line-ups and an impressive history.
I should specify that, for me, I do not mean Leeds & Reading here. As a northern gentleman, if there is such a thing, I lost my music festival virginity to Leeds festival in 2009. Ever since seeing The Prodigy smack 70,000 bitches up, I have been completely in love with the festival and the amazing party atmosphere that constantly resides within its smelly, muddy walls. I returned to Leeds for two years following 2009 and have yet to go to such a hard rocking party. The bookings at Leeds & Reading have, for a long time, fascinated me. The acts range from Dizzee Rascal (2010), to Arcade Fire (2010), to My Chemical Romance (2011) to Cypress Hill (2010). If you’re an all round alternative music fan, and want to see a shit tonne of bucket-list bands, L&R will suit you just fine.
Last year, I stepped bravely out into the fray. I abandoned the comfort of the gas cannister explosions and near death experiences at Leeds festival and travelled to Donnington; to Download 2012. I must admit, there is a little- well, a lot of metal head which resides within me. Now I have a problem with a lot of “metal heads”. Very many of them are hard to please. And my Download 2012 experience reflected this. To begin with (and to put it bluntly): it pissed down for three days. The festival was absolutely packed due to the spectacular headliners and line-up and the massive crowds had made the rain filled fields a chore to walk through, forcing festival goers to trudge through mud around 3 feet deep in places. Now, here’s my problem; I’ve seen this kind of weather at Leeds festival; the difference was the majority of people just didn’t seem to care. At Leeds, in the worst of weather conditions I would still see the same blokes in wedding dresses dancing in the mud and even a naked fellow being pushed along in a wheelbarrow by spider-man. For some reason, at Download I felt that spirits were much more dampened (tee hee) by the weather. Why do I want to go back this year you ask? Because I still had a fantastic time. My fellow seasoned festival buddies and I still had that same attitude we’d brought from other festivals and just got on with it. Who cares that I’m wet-through when I get to watch some of the best metal bands on earth including Black Sabbath (on my birthday coincidentally)! If only the atmosphere had held up I’d be certain to go to Download this year because once again the line-up is stunning with a good mix of proper old school metal (Iron Maiden) and a couple of great less-metal acts (30 Seconds To Mars, Queens of The Stone Age).
At this stage, I’m still not sure. Deciding which festival to go to has always been difficult for me, but I suppose what it comes down to is asking myself the question: “Why do I go to festivals?”. Some people, like myself, prioritize music over all else. Others simply go to be a part of the experience and get drunk in a field. Others can’t stand the thought of not showering for four days and instead of camping; book a hotel (I do not recommend this as you will miss out, I assure you). For me, this is always a difficult decision but one I love making as it is part of my yearly festival routine. Do I hope that the weather holds out and brings out the cheer in the metal fans at Download with Slipknot? Or do I return to Leeds festival and reclaim my seat in the promised land as I watch the return of Fall Out Boy?