Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tuesday's coming. Did you bring your coat...of Metal?

Yeah, I can see that reference puzzling a few people..
 Anyway, today's entries cover quite a broad spectrum, I feel.  Enjoy.

Battle Beast - Enter The Metal World

AES - Power Metal (1990)

Dreamer - Full Metal Racket  (1991)

Graveland-Black Metal War

Helix - Heavy Metal Love

Manowar - Gloves of Metal

Some more Christian Metal now;
Messiah - Heavenly Metal (1984)

The Lord Weird Slough Feg - Heavy Metal Monk

Thunder - Heavy Metal (1984)
Not the British lot in case you're wondering.

U.D.O - Metal Maniac Master Mind

I may put that on my business card.


In case you're wondering, the title quote is from here:

See you tomorrow.




Monday, 30 January 2012

It's Monday already? The weekend is over but we can still have some Metal.

Starting with another one of those bands that seem to have one "Metal" song per album, two if they think they can get away with it:

Sacred Steel - Heavy Metal To The End.
 

I think this next lot are Christian Metal - not that you'd know it from this song
Mass - Pedal To The Metal

A bit of an epic next: Breaker - In days of Heavy Metal(1982)

Raven - Mind Over Metal
 

And now a band who are clearly the bastard offspring of Priest and Manowar
Majesty - Heavy Metal Desire
 
Drunkards - Metal Fury broke Free (1987)

(Original vid removed so I went and found another version)
Ruthless - Metal Without Mercy (1984)
 
Blood Duster - Metal As ****
And that'll do to be getting on with. Same again tomorrow? 

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sunday - And on the Seventh Day you shall listen to Heavy Metal.

Here's today's selection. If none of these  get you headbanging then check your pulse. You may be dead. 
Cannon - Heavy Metal Style (2008)

Dismantle Satanic Force - Satanic Metal

Dream Evil - The Book Of Heavy Metal

Cruel Force - Leather and Metal

The very underrated Savatage-Metalhead


Vortex - Welcome to Metal Land (1986)

Vandenberg - Pedal To The Metal



Steelpreacher - We Want Metal

Wizard - Defenders Of Metal


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Another gratuitous women wrestlers post.

 Taking the hint, here's some more ladies trying to pull each others arms off. 
 Clara Mortenson squeezes her struggling opponent (1950s?)
 Britain - 1980s?-Busty Keegan has Leather Lena Blair in an awkward predicament
 Mexican luchadoras - somewhere in the 1980s
 More Mexican action - Estela Molina hoists up American visitor Vicki Williams
 Two German girls from the 1960s: Hanna Witkowski v Herta Beckers
 Princess Paula bends Tracey Kemp's arm in a manner it was not designed for.
 Unknown - Probably 1950s
Now I'm no expert but there's no way that isn't going to hurt.

Big D attempts to explain Heavy Metal genres.

A beginners guide to sub-genres
AOR: Not metal just looks like it sometimes. Radio friendly songs about love, love waiting to happen and love gone tragically wrong. Rock music your mum likes. Lyrics about cars and girls compulsory and at some point they will use the word ‘boulevard’
Hardcore. Not metal but punk with metal influences. Very angry about most things but especially politicians. Bands attempting to sing about cars and girls are ripped apart by a crazed mob.
Hard Rock All metal bands are Hard Rock not  all Hard Rock bands are metal. Bon Jovi, Aerosmith for example. To make matters awkward, bands can skip back and forth between Metal and HR over the course of a career or even a single album. Lyrics about cars and girls very common.
Nu-Metal: Metal that loudly proclaims it isn’t actually metal. Most traditional metal fans would agree with this. Lyrics about anger and alienation over downtuned, chuggy guitars. Beards and piercings a must.
Power Metal: Very popular on the continent, especially Germany. Overblown and frequently slips into the Zone Of Cheese but who cares when you’re having so much fun thrashing that air guitar. Lyrics often  fantasy orientated so if they sing about girls they will be riding dragons. One of the few musical genres that sings in praise of itself.
True Metal: A variant of Power Metal with extra studs and leather.
Epic Metal: Another variant of Power Metal with a dog-eared copy of Lord of the Rings in it’s back pocket. Big, big singalong choruses and frenzied keyboards. Invented by the Italians.
Eurometal. Metal from Europe (duh) An old term to describe bands that would nowadays be described as Power metal. Tended towards leather trousers and high-pitched vocals.
Neo-classical :Metal with delusions of grandeur. Blame Ritchie Blackmore who used to jam bits of classical music into all his solos. Then blame Malmsteen, who wanted to be Bach with a guitar.
Prog-Metal: Exactly what you’d expect. Think Metallica jamming with ELP. Long instrumental bits a must. Presumably the singer wanders off to lean on the speakers and wave a tambourine.
Thrash Metal: Metal with the accelerator to the floor. Also known as Speed Metal, Frash and (in the early days) ‘Bands that can’t play their bloody instruments’
Lyrics about Death, War and politicians being twats, although one German band devoted their entire career to singing about beer.
Death Metal. Thrash is Metal taken to the next level. Death is the level above that. DM bands have a lead singer that is trying to hack his lungs up while the rest of the band beat each other to death with their instruments.
Melodic Death Metal: Sounds like an oxymoron but a variant popular in Sweden. Has actual melody, fluid guitar solos and definite touches of Iron Maiden.
Gore Metal: Death Metal that’s seen too many slasher flicks. Trust me, you don’t want to read the lyric sheet.
Black Metal. Several different variations. Some bands are Pagans, others Satanic and a few are Vikings. All of them agree that the Catholic Church is the source of all that is wrong with the world. Except the few Christian BM bands. Somebody really got confused there, didn’t they?
National Socialist Black Metal: Music by Nazi twats for Nazi twats.
Necro :A sub-sub genre of BM. Not entirely sure what this is but I think the whole point is to sound like you recorded the whole thing on an answering machine in someone’s basement.
Hair Metal: So called because the bands involved worked out their stage outfits and their hairstyle before they wrote the songs. Rarely sang about anything else but cars and girls. Tended to have a lot of female fans because the band members were chosen for their cheekbones.
Funk Metal: The more inventive bands blended Funk, Punk, Rap and Metal into something wild. Others were Hard Rock bands that told their bassist to go away and come back when he could play slap-bass.
Industrial Metal. Imagine someone miked up the worlds biggest sewing machine. Then played the same two chords repeatedly over it while a madman barked random strangeness into a megaphone. Then imagine the headache you will get after an album of this.
Glam Rock: Akin to Hair Metal but the bands wore more makeup and their hair was much, much bigger. Sang about girls . While looking like them. Glamsters and Thrashers hated each other with a passion and fought a bitter war across the pages of Kerrang for many years.
NWOBHM: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (1979-1982) Metal’s reaction to Punk. Def Leppard and Iron Maiden became massive. Ethel the Frog didn’t.
Gothic Metal: Metal guitars, Depeche Mode synths. Female vocalists like to wear long flowing dresses. Sometimes sing about girls but only if they are vampires.
Atmospheric Metal A term that crops up sometimes , applied to bands that started off as Black or Gothic Metal but let their Pink Floyd influences out of the bag. Usually considered part of the Metal scene, their fans are frequently Metal fans but not really metal anymore.
Techno Metal: Not metal you can dance to but a variant that places great influence on technical proficiency. Lots of widdly guitars.
Rap-Metal :Got boring very quickly
Stoner Rock: Not actually metal but anything that worships Black Sabbath that much is surely in the right area.
Folk-Metal: Again, exactly what it sounds like. Metal with tin whistles and bagpipes. More recently some maniac introduced accordions into the sound.  
White Metal: Christian Rock. Dearie Me.
Widdly-Widdly There was a lot of this around in the late 80s, mostly on the Shrapnel label. Take one guitar hotshot, lend him a drummer and a bassist and put him in the studio to lay down an entire album of solos. Bought by other guitar hotshots and people who wanted to be guitar hotshots.
Biker Metal. Neo-Classical music with multiple interlocking themes and aspirational lyrics rich with subtext. Yeah right. Greasy, no-frills rock about beer and wild times performed by greasy rockers who drink beer and have wild times.
Pop Metal Not usually a compliment. Metal polished up for the mass audience. (Hello Def Leppard)  
Heavy Rock: Ancestor of Metal and the term most commonly used until the late 70s. Blues with the guitars cranked up.
Rock and Roll: A lot of Metal/Hard Rock bands describe themselves as this. They fool no-one.
Pirate Metal  Or rather Pirate-themed-sea-shanty metal. Conclusive proof that you can do metal songs about anything
Metalcore  Shouty hardcore-style vocals matched to Thrash Metal guitars with the odd chuggy bit for the pit ninjas to go wild to. There seems to be a lot of this stuff about at the moment.
Djent. I have no idea what this is, nobody will tell me and I am convinced that the whole thing is a joke that everybody else is in on. Bastards.
Visual Kei. A slightly unhinged Japanese combination of metal, punk, gothic, industrial, pop and sheer bloody oddness. Not really metal but can sound like it. Some bands tend towards costume choices that make Glam rockers look like brickies.

Saturday Axe Attack

Greetings brothers and sisters. The time has come to post more tunes of might and glory and...
Oh dear. It's happening again isn't it? Nurse! My pills! And my emergency Teddy Bear!
I've decided on a few rules for this project;
1 - No instrumentals.
2. No covers, metalized theme tunes or bedroom projects (unless I like them)
3. No NSBM. Because I will have none of that Nazi shit on my blog, thank you very frigging much.
4. Obviously the idea is to post metal or at least Hard Rock so any country songs about Pedal To The Metal are somebody else's problem.
That still leaves a zillion songs to play with so let's get to posting. 


 Exciter- Heavy Metal Maniac (1983)

Fireforce - Born To Play Metal (?)

Adam Bomb - I Want My Heavy Metal (1985)
Black Virgin - Heavy Metal Mad (1986)

TNT - Deadly Metal (1982)
Ironsword-Burning Metal (2002)

And yet another Manowar Song - The Gods Made Heavy Metal (1996)


Mystica Girls - Metal Rose (2011)


Oro- Metal (1983)

Alestorm - Heavy Metal Pirates(2008)


Atomik Cocktail - Metal Rages On (1991)


 That's it for now. See y'all tomorrow.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Big D goes to Bloodstock again (2006)

2006 was the last indoor festival before Bloodstock went on to bigger and better things as an outdoor event. Since I don't particularly like camping it's also the last one I ever went to.
 Anyway, this is what I wrote when I got back home.
Bloodstock 2006
The Bloodstock Festival has been running for several years. I’ve been to the last three and had a great time at every one. So this year I took a risk and booked my ticket before the lineup was even close to finalised.
  As it turned out, the 2006 festival was to feature a significant tinkering with the usual formula. Headliners for the Saturday night were to be Yorkshire Doom merchants My Dying Bride. This raised a few eyebrows among the forum regulars, many of whom prefer their Metal a tad livelier. “Not to worry” quoth the organisers, “The Special Guest will be someone a bit more to the liking of the Power Metal crowd.”
 Not surprisingly, when Swedish Marilyn Manson clones Deathstars were announced the reaction was …not exactly euphoric.
(Now there may be some among ye heathens that are asking “Wherefore the problem? It all sounds the same anyway.” To which I would reply “Imagine you were waiting to see The Who and Spandau Ballet turned up instead. Now wait there while I get the rope.”)
 So, this year‘s festival had the definite potential to be underwhelming. The Friday lineup was a strong one but Saturday had two bands I wanted to see, three I planned to check out because they might be good and at least two who were going to have to pull something special from the hat to stop me wandering off to the bar. 

And now: The festival itself.

 I arrived in Derby ahead of schedule so took advantage of the extra time to grab a pint and a bag of (underwhelming) chips before checking in. Freshly bathed and having laid on the deodorant with a trowel I set off into town, possibly trailing a sweet smelling cloud behind me. After side-trips to the bank (to collect beer tokens), Reveal Records (to collect shiny things),)  and a couple of nearby pubs (to spend  beer coupons and eat meat in a bun) I came at last to the Assembly Rooms.
 The first band on in the Darwin Suite were youngsters Awaken. Unfortunately they were still trying to sort out their sound and by the time they started I was almost due to be somewhere else. Still, what I heard sounded OK so better luck next time.
 The last time I saw Midlands Power Metal veterans Marshall Law was in a tiny pub in Stafford. It was a gig that’s still in my top 5 thirteen years later so my expectations were high. Not just me. The mad Jocks next to me started a chant of “Marshall! Marshall! Marshall ******* Law!” that was quickly taken up by those around them.
 As it turned out, the Law took the theory that rock is best served by young whippersnappers and stamped all over it in  big heavy boots. Like Raven last year they played an absolute blinder.  Easily my favourite band of the day despite some very stiff competition. 
 Next up were the first of the overseas contingent. Sweden’s Majesty might have a frontman with a definite muffin top thing going on atop his leather strides and they may be all too obviously in thrall to mightier names (Manowar and Priest, mainly) but they put on a great show. It helps that their songs tend to be punchy anthems to the glory of Metal.
  Power Metal bands do seem to have a fondness for side-projects. In this case Savage Circus features, or featured, assorted members of Iron Saviour and Blind Guardian. To be honest the CD was OK but nothing special and unfortunately the live set was…OK but nothing special.  I can’t quite put my finger on why they didn’t inspire me. Admittedly after the first two bands of the day they did have a lot to live up to.   
 I decided to give my crumbling knees a break and watched German/US Ritchie Blackmore fans Axel Rudi Pell from the balcony. Mr Pell (the guitarist, don’t’cha know) has been very prolific over the years, releasing a steady stream of albums since the early 90s. Only two of these I actually own so that could have been awkward. Luckily Mr Pell and his band (hyperactive singer Johnny Gioelli, peripatetic drummer Mike Terrana and two Germans clearly chosen for their prowess rather than their looks.) put on an energetic show that seemed to hit all the right notes with the faithful down the front. Special mention must be made of the keyboard player’s fondness for picking up his rig and wandering around with it on his shoulder while playing. Despite unfamiliarity with the material I was impressed. 
  Last year there were some complaints that the Saturday bill was over-heavy on female fronted bands. Possibly in reaction to that,  there were only three on this year’s bill. One of them was Friday’s headliner in the small Darwin Suite. To-Mera. I stuck my head round the door  to give them a listen and was less than impressed. Let’s leave it at that, shall we?
 Last time I saw Primal Fear the Germans played a superb set that came very close to stealing the show.  Would they be able to replicate that or would familiarity breed contempt? Yes, they could, in fine style indeed.  As with a lot of bands, material that doesn’t really convince on CD comes alive when performed by a band firing on all cylinders and when surrounded by enthusiastic metalheads throwing the horns at every opportunity. Actually owning a PF CD this time around helped a lot.
 My last port of call before returning to the hotel was the local KFC. Where the staff managed to give my order to the wrong people and give me the wrong drink. Oh yes, then there was the cheeky get who wandered over, looked at my book and said “That far into it? You’ve had a good festival haven’t you?”

Day two started with a visit to BHS to buy socks and breakfast. Thence to the Assembly Rooms. 
The Boy Will Drown had bemused the denizens of the Bloodstock forums on their addition to the bill. A name that was decidedly Emo-esque and a lack of sound samples on the website had led to expectations being very low indeed. As it turned out, the handful of punters that wandered in when they started playing saw a band that play an unusual brand of prog-jazzy-WTF?-Death Metal that’s not really my cup of tea but seemed to be played well.
H.O.S.T.I.L.E are easier to sum up: - The bastard offspring of Lawnmower Deth (Rampant silliness) and Three Inches Of Blood (Galloping, epic songs. Two vocalists). Possibly the first, last and only time you will ever see a Hobby horse on stage at the Bloodstock festival. I rather liked them but certain reviewers clearly didn’t get the joke.
Since I wandered into the Main hall when Illuminatus were finishing the last song, the first band I actually saw on the Main Stage were war-painted Italians Spellblast., who I watched from the balcony. Like a lot of bands at the moment they mix traditional sounds into their brand of Metal. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it jarred. I described them elsewhere as Hey Nonny Nonny Power Metal which should give you the rough idea. Not bad but the next band in the Darwin Suite showed how to do this properly.
I knew I was in for something spectacular when Irishmen Mael Mordha trooped onstage dressed like Brian Boru’s bodyguard. Their imposing, bearded and berobed lead singer declared their presence with a blast from his warhorn and then the mayhem began. There was absolutely nothing  pastoral about this. Rather, Mael Mordha’s brand of folk-metal is wild-eyed and coming downhill swinging a bloody big axe. Awe-inspiring.
 Since Melodeath is a subgenre I am only vaguely interested in I decided to forgo Finland’s Omnium Gatherum in favour of a wander round Derby, possibly involving a pint or three and a plate of curry.  Curry I found not at all but I did investigate an art gallery (displaying pics of Israeli pillboxes. Hmm) and had a rather nice plate of Cajun chicken (In a pub down a side street I shall probably never be able to find again)
 Tourette’s Syndrome had the honour of being the first Australian band ever to play Bloodstock. 
 They also had the unfortunate honour of being the first band ever to be relegated from the Main Stage to the Darwin suite. Due to transportation problems they were stuck on the motorway round about when they should have been playing. Since the original spot was during my midday walkabout this meant I would have missed it anyway. The new, later spot in the Darwin suite gave me the chance to see them after all.
 I can’t say I was really getting the point of what Tourette’s Syndrome were trying to do. Their tattooed frontwoman had energy to spare, throwing in the odd bit of aboriginal dancing when not screaming into the mike, but their brand of aggro-metal was a bit too”Kerrang” –esque for me and I wandered off after a song or two.  
(Why is being a Kerrang-esque band a bad thing? Just mention that magazine to any Power Metal fan and wait for them to start foaming at the mouth. Turncoat, media whore bunch of arsehamsters that they are)
 There seems to be an unwritten law that Bloodstock must have at least one Finnish band per year. This year there were two; the afore mentioned OG and Machine Men.
 One welcome trend for this year was that due to more careful planning I managed to get significantly closer to the stage than I usually manage. Since the flash on my camera is only effective at point blank range this was quite handy.
 Anyway…
 Most reviews of Machine Men tend to mention Iron Maiden at some point and the likeness is close enough to invite DNA testing. A solid performance but cut short for some reason. Still, it gave me an extra ten minutes in which to hit the bar.
  And now to the band many Power Metal fans considered to be the real headliners of the day.
  I first encountered Germany’s Brainstorm via a Wacken festival DVD and, being rather impressed, went in search of more. Attempts to pick up a few songs via Limewire being hampered by a 70s jazz-funk band sharing the name. (And wasn’t that a fun listening experience…) I gradually acquired, via more licit means, some Cds and put them on heavy rotation.
 Right from the start Brainstorm came out with all guns blazing. Their frontman, the energetic, eversmiling  Andy B Franck, was easily their most effective asset . Granted, he did have to get the audience to sing a chunk of one song but that was because he was laughing his head off. Clearly he was having a great time, even cajoling the crowd into a chorus or two of “Rule Britannia” and leaping into the photo pit to get up close and personal with the diehards in the front row.
 It also helps that Brainstorm songs tend to be muscular singalongs at the thrashier end of PM, powered by a thunderous drummer.
 The highlight of the day, of the festival, very nearly the year. After this, things would slide downhill a bit.
(Incidentally,  wouldn’t it have been nice if they’d brought some t-shirts with them?)
 One overpriced pizza and beer later I took station in the balcony for Bristol thrashers Onslaught, newly reformed after over a decade’s absence. This was the pre-Steve Grimmett lineup so no “Shellshock” no “Welcome to Dying” and certainly no “Let there be Rock”
 The band themselves seemed OK. Granted the guitarists were a bit static but the  vocalist  and (especially) the bassist more than made up for it. At one point they squared off for a spot of gut-barging. Later on the bass-player was bounding around the stage like Tigger with a firecracker up his arse.
 The reason I wasn’t paying full attention to the band was that something absolutely fascinating was going on in the audience. For the first time ever I got to see a full-on moshpit in action.
 Let me take a moment to explain moshing. There are subtle variations but loosely it consists of a section of the crowd pushing each other around to the music. Think an after pub playfight with a thrash metal soundtrack. The “pit” part comes from the space that quickly opens up around the people doing this.
 While the people in the pit were having a great time those around them were not always so happy. One particular mosher came very close to getting thumped after he bounced off a spectator one time too many.  Truth be told, he won himself few friends by his confrontational behaviour all through the set.
 And now on to the most controversial band ever to play Bloodstock.
Deathstars  
Within Temptation and Amon Amarth had not been universally popular choices for last year’s event but that was nothing compared to the storm that erupted when this lot were confirmed.
 I rather enjoyed them.
 There were some things I could take issue with, it has to be said. The onstage shape-throwing seemed somewhat over-rehearsed and the lead singer’s patter was woeful.
 Here comes a lecture.
 Part of a lead singer’s job is to engage the audience and just generally get them onside. Most of the singers on display put a fair bit of effort into this but aside from a few mutterings about his broken zipper and ‘would any of the girls in the crowds like to help him out?’ there was little rapport to be seen.
 And Deathstars needed all the help they could get. A sizeable segment of the crowd was openly hostile. I’m not sure which annoyed them more. The sample-heavy music or the band’s make up and generally camp stage manner. (I’m fairly certain no other band has brought a feather boa onstage at this particular festival) When the singer slid up behind the guitarist and gave him a wee cuddle certain Bloodstockers made their displeasure known in no uncertain terms. Shouts of “**** off” and “Gay! Gay! You’re Gay!” were hurled at the stage along with a plate of food and at least one bottle. Rumour has a bag of shit airborne at one stage too.
 The set itself I enjoyed but the ugliness that came with it I could do without ever seeing again.
 I could have done with some good old-fashioned fist in the air, glory of metal, singalong Power Metal to pick things up.
 What we got was a band that came onstage and launched into a plodding dirge.
My Dying Bride were clearly not the draw the promoters had hoped for. From my balcony seat I could see that the hall was barely half-full. To put things in perspective there were less people present than had been in the room for After Forever’s halfway-up-the-bill slot last year.
 I had promised myself that I would give them a fair chance to impress me. “I shall give them five songs” I declared beforehand. “Then I shall decide whether to stay or go.”
 Two songs in and I was already contemplating an early exit. The lead singer clung to his mike and droned on over leaden, funereal riffing. Behind him the guitarists ambled around the stage and when the female keyboard player wasn‘t fiddling with her boob tube  she was just looking bored.
 “Maybe I need to be down on the  floor  and soaking up the atmosphere for this to make sense” I told myself and wandered downstairs. Nope. More mike-hugging, more material lumbering along at snails pace. For one brief moment, as the fifth song started, my hopes were raised by a burst of faster Paradise Lost riffing. Then it slowed down again and I had had enough. For the first time ever I walked out on a headline band. 
 The evening was not yet a total loss though. There was still the Sitwell Tavern, a noted biker pub, to investigate. It lived up to my expectations in being an old school rock pub playing old-school rock music (Including 70s proggies Curved Air) and being full of old-school rockers. My kind of place really. I wished I’d stayed longer. I also wish I hadn’t got lost trying to find the exit and wandered into a cupboard. ..
 It would certainly have been a better idea than moving on up the road to the First Floor rock club. Which was full.  Of indie kids. Listening to indie music. Waiting for the indie band setting up to play their set.
 Not that I have anything against Indie kids but this wasn’t what I had expected and not only had I paid to listen to music I didn’t like but I could not get bleeding served! After 15 minutes of hopeful looks at the bar staff and mounting claustrophobia I used my countdown trick. ( I count down from 100 and if I haven’t been served I sod off. Think of it as giving the universe an ultimatum) It didn’t work so I flung my free-drink ticket on the bar and stomped off into the night and back to the hotel.

 So, the conclusions.
 Despite Saturday night ending in a feeble whimper rather than a bang I still had a good weekend. I enjoyed the vast majority of  the bands and hope that the significant downturn in numbers is not repeated next year.
 I picked up a lot of shiny things, discovered an energy drink that caused me to twitch and hear the voices of the dead and got to see many, many interesting people wandering around the building.
 I await news of Bloodstock 07 with interest.

  Obviously that never happened. Early announcements had Blind Guardian confirmed but with the Outdoor festival up and running, the promoters decided to concentrate all their efforts on the new event and that was it for the indoor festival.
  I hung around the Bloodstock forums for another five years before realising that I didn't really belong there anymore and walked away. Another chapter closed.

Friday. It's The Metal That Matters

 And today it's all classics.

Accept - Metal Heart

Blue Oyster Cult - Heavy Metal:  The Black and Silver

Judas Priest - Metal Gods

Venom - Black Metal

Manowar - Metal Daze

Dedicated to Tommy Vance. A true radio legend and a champion of Heavy Metal. RIP

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Big D Goes to Bloodstock Festival (2004).

This is something I wrote  just after going to the old Bloodstock indoor festival back in 2004. This is the first time anybody I'm not related to ever gets to see it. Hope you like it.

 BLOODSTOCK 04

  For me Bloodstock began at St Pancras because it was here that I first encountered other fans in Metal t-shirts. Naturally the train to Derby had a strong Metalhead contingent too.
  I had booked my hotel several months ago and even then came perilously close to leaving it too late. Apparently Derby is busy most weekends anyway and the influx of 2,500 extra bodies (plus bands and crew) had added to the strain.  Thankfully my hotel was within easy walking distance of railway station and venue (Especially important when staggering back at midnight.)
 Having got myself unpacked, bathed and changed I then broke out my trusty Derby street map and tried to remember the way to the Assembly rooms.
  I stopped off en route to poke around Derby city centre, being pleasantly surprised, and managed to track down a couple of likely sounding shops discovered via the net.
  It was at this point that I began to notice the large numbers of black t-shirts roaming Derby. So did some of the residents. While getting a quick pint I ended up trying to explain to an amiable granny why all these strange folk had suddenly descended upon her city and what Heavy Metal actually was anyway.
(As an aside, perhaps I was lucky but all the locals I spoke to were very pleasant. Even the homeless guys asking for change were friendly)
  The square outside the Assembly rooms had effectively been colonised by Metalheads. They were lounging on the grass, moving to and from the various bars and, most noticeably, stretched across the entire square in a great black line. Metalheads like black and there was a lot of it about over the next two days. One patch of colour was provided by the group midway up the queue who had donned plastic Viking helmets and armed themselves with toy swords. It seemed to make sense somehow.
 Once inside I took a quick swing round the market area, picking up a Bloodstock program and t-shirt before venturing into the Darwin suite to check out my first band of the day.
  A new feature this year was the Femme Fatale theme gathering together four unsigned female-fronted bands. The first of these was Super Massive Object.
 They were a little more modern sounding than I usually care for but put on an energetic performance, leading me to  pick up the CD later on. Also, the guitarist wore the first of many kilts on display this weekend.
  I missed the first band on the main stage completely but arrived mid way through Illuminatus, a young British band. Not familiar with their material at all but they seemed to go down well with the crowd and I was quite impressed. After playing a storming cover of ‘For whom the bell tolls”’ they then started their final song only to discover that they were out of time.
 The next act to take the stage was…the roadie for Sinergy who may have been nonplussed at the size of the crowd watching him set up. A chant of “Roadie, Roadie” broke out for a while.
 I had an album by Sinergy for a while and couldn’t really get into it so was interested in seeing if they worked better live.
Sort of.
 Kimberley Goss and her Finnish sidekicks-including husband and current Children Of Bodom guitarist Alexi Laiho-were certainly enthusiastic enough and knew what they were doing musically but I felt they didn’t really have the songs to match. Still, not bad and the crowd seemed to enjoy them. And there were a couple of entertaining moments, notably Kimberley and Alexi taking turns to wear the Viking helmet that arrived on stage and Alexi introducing one song by stepping up to the mike…and then projecting an enormous gobbet of phlegm across the stage.
 I think it was around this point that I decided to investigate Invey in the Darwin suite. Fought my way through the crowd to get in. Listened for a minute or so. Fought my way through the crowd to get back out.
 Thankfully the next band turned out to be the highlight-for me-of the day.
Threshold are that rarity , a British prog-metal band and although I’d heard great things of them my acquaintance with their music was only slight. I was expecting a slightly heavier Marillion. Boy was I wrong.
I took a seat up in the balcony, trading a closer view for the chance to rest my aching feet –a problem throughout the weekend - and so I was  a little nonplussed when someone in a blouse and skirt marched onstage to take up the mike. Had their singer decided to perform in drag?
 Nope. Yet another kilt, a big one.
 Any doubts I had were erased by a dynamic performance. Special mention must be made of the drummer, who put on a virtuoso performance of stick twirling. And although the lead singer’s name escapes me for the moment he prowled the stage ceaselessly, delivering his lines with power and precision.
 Not surprisingly, Threshold went to the top of my list of bands to check out. At least until Saturday night, but more of that later.
 Sticking with a proggy theme Season’s End were the headliners in the Darwin Suite and judging by the press of bodies, eagerly awaited. (This may have had something to do with their blonde, buxom lead singer). I wandered in after their set had already started which was a shame as they sounded pretty good in a Lacuna Coil gone prog kinda way. Promising.
 Gamma Ray. Yet another band I knew mainly from the odd compilation track. Still, I’d  paid to see them so I was damn well going to get my money’s worth.
 Couldn’t say I was massively impressed. OK I suppose but their material didn’t really do it for me, and their performance dipped into the Zone Of Cheese a few times.  And I’m sure there was some sort of gay thing going on between the lead singer and the bass player.

 Once we’d been ejected onto the streets of Derby I decided to investigate a pub I’d seen flyers for. Now if you post a flyer at a Metal festival  you would naturally expect to find a Metal-friendly pub at the end of the journey wouldn’t you?
 After asking directions of a couple of friendly bouncers I finally found it (No, I can’t remember what the bloody place was called). I paid my £2  and strolled in. To be confronted by a pub full of guys in shirts and Indie-kids. Oh bugger. I hurriedly doffed my denim waistcoat and deciding to make the most of a bad job, got  a pint. The pint was fairly horrible and the DJ was playing the Stone Roses so after a brief circuit I departed. Still, at least I know not to go there next year.
Arriving back at the hotel, increasingly footsore and weary, I had a bath to sooth my various aches and crash out. Judging by the noise out in the carpark an awful lot of people were unwilling to end the night  so early (1am ish)
And someone was trying to kick in one of the doors further down the corridor.

Saturday started with a groan. Mine. I am not good in the mornings and especially not today. A nice hot shower made life a little more pleasant, followed by a nice unhealthy breakfast in the shopping centre café.  How can you start a day of Metal mayhem on a bowl of muesli and a glass of orange juice. Can’t be done. Grease and strong tea my friend.
Intense were the first band in the main hall. Quite respectable but nothing really sticks in the mind as I write this. Next I checked out SevenYears Dead in the Darwin suite. Now the way it usually seems to work is that the bands in the small room tend to be heavier/thrashier/blacker than those in the main room. At least from what I gather, as this lot were the only Darwin band I managed to catch today.
  Like Super Massive Object yesterday, this lot were a lot more Kerrang friendly than I usually bother with but they did put on a good show. Special mention must be made of the lead singer, throwing shapes like a seasoned pro and possessed of a fearsome throat. I was trying to work out who he reminded me of until I decided he bore a vague resemblance to Chris Jericho. For the final song he demanded a mosh pit and two young fans duly obliged, finding a clear spot at the back of the room and challenging all comers. Suddenly guys were charging in from all directions and there was a widening circle forming with a maelstrom of flailing limbs at its heart.
 Then all of a sudden it was over and I wandered off in search of a pint and something meaty in a bun.
 Metalheads like their pint so it was no surprise to find the pub I chose full of fellow rockers, with a handful of regulars looking bemused. To my delight I discovered the jukebox was one of the new ones connected to the net and promptly put Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” on.  Even at £1 a song it was worth it. After all, how often do you get the chance to hear “Temples Of Syrinx” in public? I also got the chance to chat to someone who’s seen Nightwish on their recent tour. Jammy sod.
Suitably refreshed  I trotted back to the Assembly Rooms in time for Edenbridge who have been  described as Nightwish-wannabes. This is not massively far of the mark as they played a set of melodic power metal with high, clear female vocals.
  Can I just mention that one of the more pleasant trends in recent years has been  a resurgence in female vocalists that actually sing as opposed to the anguished screeching hitherto favoured; by the Americans especially. Sermon over.
Again, quite respectable, if needing a little more stagecraft. The lead singer seemed a little awkward, especially when talking to the crowd. The stuff off the next album sounds promising mind you.
 I had originally planned to find a seat in the balcony for the next band. Unfortunately  Evergrey were making their debut in the UK and a lot of people wanted to check them out. Not only was there a dense crowd in front of the stage but the balcony was full to the extent that people were having to lean on the wall behind the seats.
 This was the first of tonight’s pleasant surprises. The black-clad Scandinavians opened with one of the few songs I knew (Blinded) and proceeded to kick ass.
 The vocals could have been a little clearer in the mix but they rolled over such petty problems with aplomb. Put it this way, I have every intention of picking up some Evergrey next payday.
 The crowd thinned out noticeably for Balance Of Power, another homegrown outfit and possibly the band I was most familiar with and also the only band I’d seen before. This may explain why they didn’t really do it for me this time round. Not that the band did anything wrong and lead singer John K gave it everything he had.
  The next band also found their way onto my list to investigate. Nobody told Primal Fear they were only third down the bill as they powered through their set with all the assurance of headliners, even taking time out to introduce the band.
 As muscle-monster lead singer Ralf Scheepers put it “We have five albums, 60 minutes, we’re in a good mood and we have you.”
This was another set I caught from the balcony, almost doing myself a mischief scrambling over the wall to claim a vacant seat. They promised to come back in 2006 and I plan to get down the front for that one.
 Finland has been producing some good Metal lately and the final two bands both hailed from the land of lakes and forests. Sonata Arctica  had the misfortune to be afflicted by sound problems, leading to the singer disappearing off stage at regular intervals to remonstrate with the sound man. To their credit they still delivered a good set of  turbocharged Power Metal and I enjoyed them immensely.
 Apparently afterwards the band were somewhat distraught at the thought they had let down the fans but all the postings  on the forum were supportive.
 At the close of the set the band took a bow and held up a fan’s customised flag: a Union Jack with ‘Sonata Arctica,` emblazoned across it.
 The casual observer, upon strolling through the Assembly Rooms during the day, might ask why there were people walking around clutching plastic scythes.
 Then he might walk into the main hall prior to Children Of Bodom taking the stage and all would become clear as he beheld their backdrop, complete with Grim Reaper mascot. And indeed throughout their set scythes a-plenty stood proud over the heads of the crowd, nodding in time to the music. Occasionally one would be hurled over the flailing hair and bodies, hopefully without  removing any ears.
Children of Bodom play a fast , thrashy hybrid of Power Metal and Gothenburg-style Death metal marrying growled vocals and high speed melodic guitar and keyboard runs. They also have a lot of energy, especially madcap vocalist/guitarist Alexi ‘Wildchild’ Laiho who is actually a pretty nifty guitarist. This was amply demonstrated during the mid-set shredding duel between Laiho and keyboardist Janne Warmen.
On the subject of Warmen, an unusual feature of the stage set up was to have the keyboard rig up on a riser and tilted forward so the crowd could see ever twinkling fingers.
 I could have done without the drum solo and I would hate to be the poor devil who cleaned up after Laiho’s copious projecting of saliva but these are petty quibbles.
 I enjoyed myself immensely, despite my aching feet. A crowd that are up for it plus a band that are up for it equals a great night out and is everything that Metal is supposed to be.
 After the inevitable encore we filed out, tired and happy, carefully easing past the guy asleep by the doorway, oblivious to the mayhem around him.

 I found out the next morning that Children of Bodom and Sonata Arctica had been staying at my hotel and, by all accounts, drinking heavily and stealing potted palms.
 I wish I had been there for that. Maybe next year because I have every intention of going back.
 And after a year of anticipation my life is now grey and empty.

And yes, I did go back and 2005 and 2006. I'm fairly certain I wrote something up for 2006 so I'll try and find it and maybe put it up at some point. 

Things I would do if I were a Champion of good.

This is another piece that got written years ago and then dumped into a folder. Blatantly ripping off the Evil Overlord list, obviously.

Things I Would Do If I Were A Champion Of Good
1. I would not get too hung up on prophecies. Especially ones that suggest I will destroy the world.
2. The Love Of My Life will damn well take lessons in swordplay, archery, map-reading and first aid. 3. If she is already expert in these things then I will take lessons from her.
4. I will never ever let my crotch do my thinking for me.  Any attractive woman in a slinky dress headed my way has just got to be up to no good and will almost certainly cause The Love Of My Life to stomp off in a mood.
5. Having said that, I will make a point of listening politely to whatever they have to offer. It might be useful and if a femme fatale is going to be hanging around I’d rather have her intrigued by me than actively pissed off at me.
6. I will never order my companions not to follow me into danger. I could probably use the extra help and chances are they will turn up anyway.
7. If  the Evil Overlord is dangling from a cliff I will not reach down, take his hand and try and pull him to safety. I will make sure no one is watching then stamp on his fingers.
8. I will not let any of my companions become the butt of everybody’s jokes. I do not want anyone around me who is resentful.
9. If I ask for ideas I will save time and start with the humble serving girl who tagged along by accident.
10. My companions will be an even match of classes, gender and species. Rather than have them bicker constantly I will encourage them to bond through shared activities and the occasional sing-song.
11. My advisers will not be all male because I don’t think deciding the fate of the world should be done in the pub.
12. My advisers will not be all female because I want advice not nagging.
13. At least one of my advisers will have the sole task of making sure I don’t ; A) Get too fond of good living B) Get too angst-ridden C) Get accidentally caught in a bath with a mysterious, seductive lady just as The Love Of My Life walks in.
14. If I find myself in a place where everything seems perfect and the natives are unusually friendly I will not let any of my companions go off on their own, I will not let my weapons be taken away and I will not eat any mysterious roast meats.
15. I will make life easier for myself by telling The Love Of My Life how I feel about her. I will not try to force her away “to protect her”. It never works and just makes everybody miserable.
16. If a magical weapon takes a piece of my soul, leaves me half dead or crazy or attacks anyone that gets too close I will lock it away and find something non-magical that works almost as well.
17. Again, any weapon that only I can use will be backed up by a plentiful supply of weapons that anyone with a pulse can use. Crossbows or muskets would be favourite.
18. In every village that is being terrorised by an Evil Overlord or Thing That Comes After Dark there is at least one person who has a vested interest in things remaining as they are. I will save myself a lot of grief by locking this person in  a cellar until it’s all over.
19. I will always be polite to old men in robes, especially if they have a long stick in one hand.
In fact I will be polite to everybody. You can get a lot just by asking nicely.
20. If I develop magical powers I will keep quiet about them until I can find someone who can teach me to use them safely. But I will not be ashamed of them.
21. If someone has killed my father/mother/hamster I will not charge out of the crowd the first time I see them. When I see my loved ones in the afterlife I don’t want to have to admit that their murderer is A) still alive and B) now has the full set of heads in jars. Because I tried taking him on when he had fifty armed men around him.
22. I will listen to the people around me.
23. I will talk to the people around me. And I will never feign madness or disinterest to draw out my enemies. It only confuses my followers. If I have to find enemy spies I will covertly arrange for a mind-reader to run a quick scan on everyone.
24. I will never allow anything to be grafted onto me that has a mind of it’s own.
25. I will never arrange a secret meeting of all those opposed to the Evil Overlord without setting up a warning perimeter.
26. I will not let my female followers wear chain-mail bikinis. Also I will not let my male followers wear studded cod-pieces . They will dress to blend in, with a nice all-encompassing mail-shirt  underneath.
27. Anyone that shows up from a strange exotic land will be made welcome and encouraged to share his fighting techniques with my followers.
28. I will not wear golden armour into battle unless I have a death wish. If I must wear mystical armour I will damn well camouflage it.
29. When my army storms the Evil Overlords castle I will study the floor plans first to make sure we don’t get herded into a courtyard surrounded by high walls and with each exit sporting a portcullis. Or as it’s known in the trade, a deathtrap.
30. If my best friend starts acting strangely I will find out what the problem is. He could be under some compulsion (see a wizard) hiding a secret illness (see a doctor) about to betray me (have him watched) or in love with the Love Of My Life (In which case I arrange for him to meet her sister)
31. Mentors die. I will expect this and learn to deal with it.
 I will never try and disguise myself as a woman. Yes it might be convincing but do I really want some sex-starved guard trying to grope me?
32. If any of my companions are hot-tempered, xenophobic or just plain stupid I will not let them out by themselves, especially in taverns or when visiting elves.
33. If I am trying to introduce modern weapons and tactics to a tribe and someone objects I will calmly point out to the more intelligent warriors (in private) that they were getting their butts kicked so maybe their tactics weren’t so good after all. Once we start getting a few wins then maybe the others will come around. If they don’t, well, they can be first into the next attack.
34. If my code of honour is putting me in a situation where I have to stand by and let evil happen then I think I need a new code of honour.
35. I will train the women of the village if they ask me to. Chances are they will get caught up in the fighting anyway and I would rather they knew what they were doing.
36. Well-motivated, badly-armed amateurs can beat badly led, well armed-professionals but I personally would rather lead well-motivated, well-armed, well-trained  amateurs just in case we ever run into well-armed professionals who are also well-led.
37. I will not trust priests, fat merchants, dancing-girls or anyone too-obviously trying to be my new best friend.
38. I will sort out my logistics.
39. My commanders will be people I can trust not to charge on sight.
40. Can the Evil Overlord really only be defeated by bringing back some mystic artefact from the other side of the world? I will have someone try taking him out with a poisoned crossbow bolt first.
41. I will be very suspicious of blank areas on the map. Likewise when I find a temple/fortress/city that isn’t supposed to be there I will not cheerfully swan in through the front door.
42. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend. Especially once our mutual enemy is out of the way.
43. When I finally discover the Hidden Temple/Royal Tomb/Sacred Cavern that is the point of my quest I will allow for the bad guys showing up two minutes later. They always do this. They also set off any booby traps too.
44. I will not tire myself out by taking on the Evil Overlord’s lieutenant first. This is what Loyal Companions are for. (Another reason why you should always let them come along.)
45. Anyone that shows up at my HQ wanting to join up will first be stripsearched for tattoos that feature skulls, cobras, scorpions or the words “Brotherhood of Evil Undercover Division”  
46. When arriving in a prosperous, friendly small farming village I will not befriend any small children. That pretty much guarantees somebody will stick a spear in them.
47. I will insist firmly that The Love Of My Life wears sensible, ankle-supporting shoes. She’ll thank me for it next time she gets chased.
48. Bad guys do not accept battle without being sure they will win. I will undertake a little intelligence gathering beforehand to  find out why they are so confident.
 49. If my spies discover a mysterious wagon shrouded in tarpaulins in the middle of the enemy camp I will send someone in at night to burn it. It could be a secret weapon, it could just be his collection of teddy bears, either way, destroying it will hurt him.
50. I will enlist the services of a personal trainer, weapons instructor and fashion consultant. I will look better, feel better and be more confident. People respond well to this.
51. I will never take off on my own to think things through. That’s just asking for trouble.
52. Anyone that goes to a lot of trouble to seem humble should be watched like a hawk
53.  Most importantly I will always remember this: There is always another Bad Guy waiting his turn.

Been watching: Lipstick & Dynamite (2005)

Up until fairly recently publishers were reluctant to do books about wrestling because they assumed wrestling fans couldn't read. I've often wondered if that's why there are so few wrestling documentaries.
 And as far as documentaries on women's wrestling go, there are precisely two: 1973's Wrestling Queen and this.
 Veterans Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Gladys Gillem, Ida Mae Martinez, Ella Waldek and Penny Banner talk about their early lives, their wrestling careers and what happened subsequently, liberally salted with archive photos and footage.
 One of the things that becomes clear quite early on is that wrestling was not an easy life but possibly better than available alternatives. What with travelling, crazed fans, abusive husbands and being expected to conform to prevailing notions of womanhood away from the ring, you have to marvel at anybody wanting to enter a wrestling career. 
 The other thing that becomes clear is that these ladies were, and probably still are, genuinely tough. Gladys "Killem" Gillem in particular is a fascinating character- pioneer wrestler, lion tamer and all-round hardcase and probably deserves more recognition.
  Infamous Promoter Billie Wolfe is discussed in a certain amount of detail and by all accounts was a prize ratbag. Ella Waldek had to spend her later career hearing shouts of "Murderer" because Wolfe's adopted daughter Janet Boyer-Wolfe was pushed too hard in training and subsequently died in the middle of a match.
 And the ladies are not exactly shy with their opinions on each other either. Moolah happily revisits old scores that need settling but also gets flak for her promoting practices and former ladies' champs Mildred Burke ("Not the champion she thought she was") and June Byers (Way too rough on her opponents) are remembered in less than glowing terms.
If I  have a criticism it would be this: while the various segments are interesting, there is only a vauge attempt to put them into any kind of framework. The better documentaries build towards some sort of event - a comeback gig, a retirement match, something to cap the whole thing - and the closest you get is a small-scale wrestlers reunion and Moolah having a short chat with Killem.
 Persoanlly I find Moolah's relationship with adopted daughter/housekeeper "Diamond Lil" a tad disturbing  although I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
 Lipstick and Dynamite is a flawed  but decent attempt  at paying tribute to ladies who deserve more acclaim for their achievements and while the subject maybe deserves a better film, until that film turns up, this will do nicely.

Thursday. Bow before the Metal Messiah(s)

All the songs today share a common title, proving that some titles are too Metal for just one band to use.

Triarchy - Metal Messiah

The Great Kat - Metal Messiah

Impaler - Metal Messiah (Sorry. Can't embed this one.)

Judas Priest - Metal Messiah

Pegazus - Metal Messiah

Burning Legions - Metal Messiah

Joe Stump - Speed Metal Messiah

Attaxe - Metal Messiah

That's all folks. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Big D goes to Monsters Of Rock 2006 and has fun.

No I haven't acquired a TARDIS. This is a piece I wrote about 5 years ago but didn't know what to do with.Until now. Hope you like it.
Names changed to protect..me, in case they ever find out what I wrote.

Monsters Of Rock
Part the First:The Journey
 In which our heroes start as they mean to go on, travel hard and far and discover a place without a heart.

 It was rather a long day. It started for me at 5am with a chirruping phone alarm and was to end…well, I’ll get to that in good time. 
 I showered and dressed with due dispatch. About 6am, just as I was considering whether to go and poke him awake, Little Bro appeared, followed shortly after by his missus and the girls.  Neatly sidestepping the regular morning circus we made our goodbyes and set off for the coach stop. Five minutes up the road Little Bro discovered he’d forgotten his lighter. As is traditional. 
 In true British Public Transport fashion the timetable at the stop was significantly different to the published version. And wrong anyway, since the coach pulled in at the (published) scheduled time of 7am and left shortly afterward, minus four of the scheduled passengers.
Actually, minus five of the scheduled passengers. One of the initial problems was how to collect Nails from Cannock and this would have involved Little Bro getting up at Stupid O’clock to collect him and drive back to Stafford. Luckily the coach turned out to stop at…Cannock so at 7-30 ish a leather-jacketed figure climbed aboard clutching a bag of cheese sandwiches and strong lager.
 The rest of the journey passed in manly talk and war stories and we arrived at Birmingham in good time. This was, alas, not typical of National Express’s service over the next day and a half. More on that later.  
 Having eaten all of Nails’s cheese butties, and having thirty five minutes to kill, we set off in search of a café, can of strong lager in hand. We found a café, yes, but then I noticed an ajar pub door  on the other side of the road.
 “Hey, do you think that’s open?”
“Want to nip over and have a look?”
 “Can do.”
The pub “The Kerryman” was dark and less than inviting. In a corner, two hard faced men sat  and stared into their pints as a cleaner taunted the floor with a mop. It had an aura of sullen rage and regular glassings. I stepped inside carefully, expecting to be chased out again. Or seized and killed to honour the Beer God. Joy upon joys!  It was open and they served strangers. I stuck my head back out of the door and gave a double thumbs up. Little Bro and Nails trotted across the road and soon we were sitting at a table enjoying a nutritious breakfast of barley and hops.
 Burping happily we made our way back to the coach station and there bought chocolate, fags and reading material wherein were bosoms uncovered and witty jpegs.
  It was at this point that we started to have some doubts as to the competency of National Express. Having your driver step onto the coach and ask if anyone knew the way is not calculated to impress. It later transpired that the lady in question had just come back from a long period sick and had not been to Milton Keynes in many a moon. It took her three goes to find the stop in Coventry, she hurriedly got into the right lane barely in time to avoid a detour via Walsall and tried to overtake two juggernauts just before the turnoff for Milton Keynes, making it in the nick of time.

 There is nothing of interest at Milton Keynes coach Station.
 It is also in the middle of nowhere. In fact the whole town suffers from the same problem. Any given point is a long way away from any other given point with very little in between.  It also has no town centre. Seriously. We got a shuttle taxi to the Bowl but decided to stop off at the town centre for beer and were convinced we’d been screwed. You see, Milton Keynes does not have a High Street as such but has instead a wide boulevard neatly separating two shopping/entertainment complexes. Picture the sort of thing that rings any sizeable town/city-  a block containing a bar or two, some supermarkets and a cinema- and that’s MK Central .
 Still the beer was cheap and cold and we could see many folk garbed in black taking their ease. Being in prolonged exposure to sunlight for the first time in quite a while, I broke out my sun-tan lotion, to mocking cries from my companions. “Put it away” they cried. And they did suggest that I was unmanly and smelt of coconut. 
 “Rather smell like coconut than burn.” Quoth I “ Come the close of the day I shall be dancing around you singing “Lobster boy! Lobster Boy!”
 And the subject was dropped in favour of more beer. Investigating the delights of the Xscape complex, for so it was named, took little time. We also discovered that we were still a fair distance  away from the National Bowl and not, as we’d believed, just round the corner. Again, this was to become important later on.
  The strategy for the day was this: arrive a little later and take advantage of Wetherspoon’s competitive beer prices, missing Ted “Redneck Asshole” Nugent.  This seemed a good plan. Granted, it meant we missed Roadstar but that seemed a fair sacrifice for cheap beer and not having to sit through The Nuge.
 At last we deemed it necessary to make our move and summoned a taxi. Who took a long, baffling route and failed to mention that we could not, in fact, be dropped off at the entrance until after we’d been halted by a police cordon.
 I also couldn’t help noticing that the two gentlemen who’d set off – on foot – shortly before us had arrived at the same point at roughly the same time.   My memory is a little hazy but it is entirely possible that we failed to tip.
 The short walk to the venue itself left us with a little time to consume the last of Nails’s supply of strong lager – an evil-minded Polish brew whose very name gives me a headache. 
 And so we came at last to the great bowl of Milton Keynes. 

Part The Second: Monsters Of Rock
In which there is much drinking of  cheaper than expected beer, the Hill of Death is contended with and the day contains many other marvels.
 We joined the stream of black-clad bodies flowing towards the gates, ignoring the entreaties of the ticket touts. That must be a risky profession, knowing that the packet of tickets in your hand is worth less and less as the gig goes on. Anyway, we had nothing to offer them and they had nothing to offer us so we passed them by like, erm Odysseus passed by the sirens. Except not in a ship obviously. Also, the average tout -  hairy scary bloke rather than alluring, anthropophagous woman.
 Anyway, into the arena. Somebody was playing and after a while we worked out that it was Ted Nugent. “Oh bugger.” We said. “Is he still on?” and repaired to the large tent nearby. In return for handing over £3 each a nice young lady walked over to a table where large  paper cups of beer were lined up, selected three of them and handed them over with a smile.
 We liked this idea. You can take it as read that whenever we were at a loss for anything to do one or more of us would  revisit this place of happiness.
 Ted Nugent was still playing, it may even have been the same damn song, so we browsed the stalls that formed a semi-circle across the back of the Bowl, neatly dividing the arena from the Hill Of Death. 
 I haven’t mentioned the weather yet and I  should really , it being such an important part of the day. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue and bereft of clouds and we were comfortably warm. I had opted to leave the leather portion of my armour at home and it seemed I was vindicated. If I had been foolish enough to wear it I would have ended up in a hospital being rehydrated through a tube and a bright shade of pink. Little Bro and Nails had brought their jackets but doffed them quickly.   
 This is why bandanas seemed such a good idea. Eventually we worked out how to tie them. I hadn’t worn one in over a decade and I’m sure Nails hadn’t either.
 Heads safely covered we stripped to the waist and lay down in the hot sun to await the moment of Ted Nugent buggering off. Soon I had to redon my t-shirt. Women and small children were crying out in horror and there were complaints that the glow of my white flesh was painful to the eyes.
 And now is the moment we were to encounter the Hill Of Death. The Bowl is exactly that, a deep dish formed of earth and ringed about by steep slopes. To get to the toilets we had to ascend these and almost immediately my hips, knees and ankles screamed their  distress up my nervous system.
 In true festival tradition the toilets were things of stench and wickedness and best glossed over.
 And now on to the first band we actually bothered watching. 
Queensryche played a set drawing exclusively from the two "Mindcrime" albums. For the first two songs it worked." Revolution Calling" and "Operation Mindcrime" were a highly effective one-two punch, an unnamed woman in an LBD sauntering on to add powerful backing vocals to the second song.
 Then it went a bit pear shaped."Suite Sister Mary" is a long epic, with large sections devoid of vocals. A strange choice for festival set and even Geoff Tate's dramatics failed to stop me losing interest.  Not just me. The three of drifted back through the crowd, probably visiting the beer tent at some point, before tackling the Hill of Death once again. Little Bro and Nails found a spot they liked and were, in fact, to spend a large part of the afternoon here. The rest of Queensryche's set drifted by, culminating in "Eyes Of A Stranger". For me they were a disappointment. Too many songs I wanted to hear but didn't.

 I shall take a moment here to mention the Forest of Still Men.

 As the Hill of Death sloped up from the arena on three sides so it sloped back down again on the opposite side. And this slope was thick with trees. Now the queues for the toilets quickly grew to epic proportions so many men looked at the trees around them, looked at the queues once again and thought "Wellll..."
 So, as I returned from filling our water bottles from the standpipe (unfortunately we'd already spent a stupid amount on bottled water before discovering said pipe) I cut through the trees and beheld many men standing close to tree trunks avoiding all eye contact.
 Now might be a good point to mention a few random things: The amiable chap, out for a day with his children, who began bigging up Blind Guardian to us. The girl in the short shorts who stood outside one of the  stalls. Possibly a vendor. Possibly a siren luring men into the stall with her pert bottom.( I didn't check round the back to see if there was a pile of gnawed bones.) Several large bronzed bellies attached to large bronzed men who made me feel both svelte and albinoesque. The wide range of t-shirts ranging all the way from hoary 70s rock to extreme metal to Gorillaz. (That one raised an eyebrow or two, I suspect)
 Anyway, enough of such trivialities. Back to the gig.
 Once again I made my way down to the arena floor for Thunder. I had seen this bunch of London boys twice before and been impressed both times so my expectations were high. I was not to be disappointed. Danny Bowes is not only possessed of a fine set of pipes but a natural charm that quickly had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Four men beside me started linedancing. It seemed to fit somehow.  Even the material with which I was unfamiliar plugged itself straight into my spinal column.  As I left to rejoin Little Bro and Nails I can remember pulling out my mobile, ringing them and, bellowing above the cheers, "Backstage Journey are shitting themselves because they've got to follow that."

 AOR gods Journey had not played the UK since about 1980 and I was surprised to see how many people gathered at the front to see them. I also was somewhat bemused to note how many of these were large, burly men who fit firmly into the category "Would not like to spill his pint."
 They opened with the majestic "Separate Ways", briefly lost momentum with a guitar solo immediately afterwards, then recaptured it with a selection of melodic rock gems. They got away with playing three ballads, let the drummer have a go at singing (He was damn fine too. He managed to be better than half the vocalists I've seen live and turn in a sublime drumming  display) and even survived the lead singer's sartorial flaws (yellow trousers?  C'mon dude). They would have been the band of the day if it wasn't for Thunder.

 Officially Deep Purple were headliners but the three of us conferred early on in the day and decided that we would leave early to A) beat the rush for taxis and B) get back to the town centre in time for a few jars before we headed for the coach station. So this meant for three men from Stafford at least Alice Cooper was the headliner. This was the band Little Bro and Nails had come to see and they came down from the hill especially.
 Right from the start Alice and his band seemed to me to be a lot punkier in attitude than I'd seen before. Vincent Furnier is an artist that has been adopted by Heavy Metal without, in fact, actually being so. Come to think of it, the same would hold true for nearly every band on today's bill. The only band indisputably Metal were Queensryche. This sounds like I'm complaining. Far from it. Metal has always been a lot more varied than it has been given credit for. 
 Sermon over. Back to the review. Well, I can sum it up as "Quite respectable but.." For a performer with such a strong emphasis on visuals it seemed silly to leave the video screens switched off and I was possibly too far away to really get into it. We caught the set from middle distance,as it were, lending an ear as we circled the stands looking for food. We ate over priced noodles on the hillside, I used the last of my coconut sunscreen to graffitise the grass and browsed the record stall with many happy cries while Alice Cooper played songs old and new to cries of "We're not worthy!" from the faithful down the front.
 At one point he had a young lady in a pink negligee cavorting around him on stage. Apparently this is his daughter, which seemed somehow wrong...
 There was the customary guillotine stunt before the dark one stepped out of a coffin, resurrected in white suit and top hat to bring the show to its end.
 As the closing notes faded away the three of us headed for the exit.
 As we were to discover, the day was not even close to being over.

Part the Third: The Voyage Home
In which our heroes see more of Milton Keynes than they had intended, National Express get their names inscribed in the Big Book Of Hate and the journey concludes as it began.
 The plan of action was this: leave early, find a taxi back to Xscape and there drink beer. Then, at a suitable point, we would head on to the Coach Station.
  The wheels came off almost immediately. Despite the sign over our chosen exit reading "taxis" there were, in fact, none in evidence and we were now on the opposites side of the bowl from where we came in. Ho hum. Circling back around we set off back to Xscape on foot.
 The sun was setting as we walked and we had the streets to ourselves. It felt good. Soothing.
 Twenty minutes later we seemed no closer to the shining dome we could see in the distance and I was beginning to wonder, loudly, whether we were going the right way. We would have asked one of the locals but...there were none. Not a soul. We got directions from a helpful drunk in a Co-op and set off again through the empty streets of Milton Keynes. Children did not play in the streets, teenagers lurked not on corners, men did not walk to the pub. It seemed as though we marched through an episode of the Twilight Zone, one of the old eerie, black and white episodes that spoke of paranoia and things not as they should be.
 Once or twice we saw people but they fled from us. I am not exaggerating here. We were planning to ask a nearby, rare,  pedestrian   for directions but as soon as I made eye contact she sped up and disappeared into the distance. I do seem to have that effect on women. 
 At last we came to the bright lights of Xscape, and, after a quick visit to a place of tiles, took one look at the Ben Sherman shirted hordes around us and decided not to linger. Taxi!
 Back at the coach station once again we found the cafe open. Also the shop. Which contained nothing except a few packets of fags and a few magazines of the sort favoured  by elderly church-going widows. The nice man behind the cafe counter sold us fine cups of  tea indeed.  He told us that his little place of work tended to be dead from 10 to 6am. We nodded in reply and settled down to await the coach. We knew it would be a long wait. We had arrived some three hours before the coach was  due at 1am. Luckily I won £15 on a fruit machine which would fund the purchase of the many beverages necessary.
 Although it had been a great day it had also been a long day and the walk through Milton Keynes had been epic. We settled down , hands clasping teacups, to discuss the day and engage in male bonding.
 And that was when every bugger and his uncle walked in through the door. The cafe filled up almost instantly and they kept coming. Soon the nice tea-master was looking harassed as he battled to keep his charges fed and lubricated. There were South Americans three deep at the counter contemplating Mars Bars and folk in black t-shirts stacked up outside. Most were newly arrived from the Milton Keynes Bowl but some clearly weren't. Who were these people and why did they roam the highways and byways so late into the night? Perhaps there were tales to be gathered.
 I drank my tea in silence and thought of my bed. 
 Coaches came and went and the throng grew gradually less. Outside the Patagonians listened to Spanish rock music and dickered with taxi drivers. Come 1 am the three of us were loitering outside eager to behold our coach swinging around the corner. A coach came. Alas, it was not ours. Neither was the one after that.
 I looked at my phone's time display and was somewhat alarmed to see "01.30" blinking back at me.
 Our problem, you see, was this: we had to catch a connection at Birmingham  about 4am-ish. According to the schedule there was thirty minute  "safety gap" to allow for delays. Each minute the coach failed to appear ate into this gap. And anyone who knows British public transport will laugh at the idea that the trip would involve no further delays.
 It was beginning to look as though we would be stranded in Birmingham until the next Stafford coach arrived.
 Assuming we got to Birmingham in the first place. The small man who'd been ringing the coach office at regular intervals announced that the coach was an hour behind schedule. A second call, later on, brought the more alarming news that they didn't know where the coach actually was. The small knot of people staring hopefully down the road sagged in despair.  And one of them was shivering. Leaving my leather jacket in Stafford might have been a good idea under the blazing heat of the sun but at 2am the chill of night was seeping into my bones and the many cups of tea were helping little.
 Still, I was confident that eventually we would get home one way or another. Annoyed but confident. The two family men with me were, for obvious reasons,  not so phlegmatic. Little Bro especially was not enjoying the thought that his little girls would wake up without him being there.
 The next scheduled coach to Birmingham was at 2.40. We were seriously considering storming aboard and to hell with what the tickets said. Ten minutes before the possible hijacking our coach finally rolled in, well over an hour late, with any chance of missing our connection as dead as Michael Jackson . The mood of the gathered passengers was ugly. Nearly all had further to go than Birmingham and small faith in National Express getting them there. especially when the coach driver got lost in Coventry. Eventually he abandoned his attempt to find the coach station and dumped the one Coventry passenger on a random street. Days later I was still wondering if he had made it home. Then, coming into Birmingham, the driver appealed for help yet again to find Digbeth coach station. Little Bro stepped forward and, standing at his shoulder, skilfully steered him through the dark, silent back streets of sleeping Birmingham. 
 Stepping off the coach, barely awake and creaking at every joint we were marshalled towards two waiting  taxis and split according to final destination. Ours had  three heading for Stafford (us) and three for Stoke. I worked it out afterwards that any profit from the sale of our tickets had mostly been swallowed up by the cost of said taxis. Nice way to run a business guys.
 Birmingham at four in the morning  is not a nice place. We passed through the town centre and saw the one belligerent drunk ringed by coppers closing in for the kill, another standing in the centre of the road swaying slightly with a dubious damp patch on his jeans and a gaggle of clubbers noisily debating something or another with much waving of arms. Meanwhile two of the Stokies conducted a debate on the meaning of life in dry, Ayckbournesque tones. The other slept.
 In Stafford we parted company from our erstwhile travelling companions outside a petrol station and staggered home. I made tea and stared into space. Little Bro took Nails back to Cannock. I stared into space some more, woke up enough to browse the satellite channels and presented Little Bro with still more tea when he returned.
 We stayed awake long enough to see Little Bro’s other half and the girls when they came downstairs. And then I trudged upstairs and fell facedown into my bed for the first time in 26 hours.
Part The Fourth: Postscript
In which our narrator draws a few conclusions.
1. Yes we would go next year.
2. No we are not going by coach. I would rather amputate my genitals with a rusty fishknife than patronise National Express again.
3. We have no idea what we will do transport wise next year. Maybe via car, maybe via train. Possibly  a hotel is required.
4. But not by coach.
 


Obviously going back the next year didn't happen. I'm told the promoters lost a bundle on the affair and that's a shame. With High Voltage conspicuous by its absence this year, maybe there just isn't the market for a UK Classic Rock festival.
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