How quickly time flies. At the time of writing (Friday the 20th), it had been a whole week since I arrived at Download Festival with my friends. A week ago I was pitching a tent (at least, that’s what I told myself I was doing; in reality I was creating a disaster and a source of mockery), and now I’m sitting here, trying to work out how on earth one is supposed to wear a dress. This is in preparation for my Leaver’s Dance – a far cry from Download.
Although looking forward to the festival, I was at the same time dreading it – to borrow the over–used cliché and pet hate of English teachers everywhere, I was “nervous and excited”. Indeed, so nervous was I, I had actually contemplated not going, but faced with threats from my friends I found myself, at 9:30pm on Thursday the 12th, on the coach which would take me to Download. The only inconvenience being the 12 hour journey and the constant stopping to pick up new passengers – which meant the Blackpool Illuminations every time you finally managed to close your eyes. In all honesty the bus journey wasn’t all that bad; the seats were relatively comfortable, and the service–station stops did mean the chance to stretch our legs, so I’m very grateful that, after a few bus changes and having to rely on a sat–nav to walk from one station to another (not something I recommend!), my friends and I arrived at Download safely and not in agony from sitting on a cramped bus – it certainly got my weekend off to a good start.
The walk from the bus drop–off to the campsite did take a little longer than I’d have liked, but to be fair we were carting all our things in extremely warm temperatures; not only am I Scottish, I’m also ginger, so as well as the sun and heat being practically foreign, it’s also a danger to me when it’s around! The jumper I was wearing probably didn’t help either though… However, one thing I was very pleased with was how quickly we managed to find space for all our tents. I was expecting at least an hour to find space, and even then we’d be slightly separated due to a cramped area. Instead, it was maybe only 5 – 10 minutes after leaving the campsite village that we found a space large enough for all our tents (we were balanced on a hill, though, which certainly caused me problems later on…). When it came to actually putting up the tents, I was again proven wrong as it didn’t take very long at all – although in my case that’s probably because I forgot to beg down the outer tarpaulin. Regardless, we were soon ready to make our way to the arena to see our first band of the weekend (Crossfaith).
I reckon the walk from our tents to the arena took between twenty and thirty minutes, which was further away than I thought it would be – so when you’re heading, make sure you have everything you need, because you don’t want to get all the way there and realise you’ve left your money/phone/camera at the tent! On the Friday we got to the arena just about 1 in the afternoon and we didn’t leave again until about midnight – which meant we had some damn good views for most of the bands and it was well worth standing through the shit bands for (looking at you, Powerman 5000 and Skindred). The main arena was for the most part very tidy, which surprised me, especially considering the number of food and drink stalls and the sheer volume of people – and I swear I only saw about 4 bins (that said, I spent Friday through to Saturday morning complaining to myself about the lack of bins, before I suddenly realised I’d walked past one about 10 times).
One thing I ought to warn you about is the price of the food and drink there. A bottle of juice costs £2.50, with water at £2.00, so I definitely advise bulk–buying your refreshments before going – that said, after standing in a huge crowd for hours, buying an ice cold juice/water is far more enjoyable than the lukewarm bottle you’ve been carrying around for 3 hours. As expected, food prices were pretty steep too – it would cost about £4.50 for a regular burger, with some of the more filling ones costing upwards of £6.00. Again, I recommend bringing your own food where you can, just bear in mind gas isn’t allowed on site so your only feasible way of having ‘hot’ food is either through paying for it, or bringing some disposable barbeques. Despite the prices, I do appreciate that they were kept pretty much the same at all the stalls, so you didn’t have to trek around looking for the best price. Also, there are places where you can fill up water bottles, so make sure you either bring a plastic bottle with you or keep at least one empty bottle of whatever drink you’ve bought – that way, you can just keep refilling your bottle, rather than having to pay £2/£2.50 every time you want a drink – and from my experience you’ll want to drink frequently, especially if it’s hot weather.
As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty nervous about going to Download, and one of the things I was most worried about was the crowds. I knew there would be well over 50, 000 people there, and I’m somewhat claustrophobic so I was dreading being stuck in crowds and was convinced I would have a fair few panic attacks (my first concert was All Time Low in 2012, and I spent the entire support act staring at the ceiling and thinking about all the ways I was going to die there). As it turns out, I was absolutely fine with the crowds, although that maybe down to the fact that we were pretty close to the front for most bands – seriously, there was one row of people in front of us at The Pretty Reckless – so I didn’t feel that I was being surrounded and crushed by thousands of people. Even the mosh pits, which are drawn to me like a moth to a flame, weren’t all that bad; if you find yourself getting caught up in one, I think it helps to push back against the person on your other side and hope that they’ll see the fear on your face and hold onto you so you don’t get dragged into it. I’m definitely not talking from personal experience here, no chance… In all seriousness though, the crowds honestly aren’t that bad, and the majority of people there are very friendly so you do feel safe, and there’s always going to be people around you who don’t want caught up in mosh pits either!
Lastly, the toilets. I was a bit wary about them, what with this being a huge festival and having read some unsavoury reviews of them from last year’s festival. But when you consider the number of people there – not just the campers, but the day trippers too – then the toilets were actually very well–kept, particularly those in the main arena; probably because there’s be people there just for a day, so it was necessary to have clean toilets so as not to scare them off! The toilets were also easily accessible and as far as I was aware, the queues never took too long either – I had been half–expecting half hour long queues, just to be met with the most disgusting and un–useable toilet known to man, but that was never the case. I do recommend bringing some toilet paper with you, however, as they weren’t all well stocked 24/7!
All in all, Download was a fantastic experience, and the majority of the bands were just superb. I highly recommend going if you have the chance, because you’ll have a great time – it’s also a good value for money, especially when you consider the ticket prices to see ONE bands these days! The atmosphere is an enjoyable one, and in my group we had people who saw plenty bands and we had people who only saw a few – but we all had a great time, regardless of the bands we saw.