Here we are at Download Festival in Donnington, UK. There are an awful lot of people in Donnington today, somewhere in the region of 94,000. And according to Gentleman Steve, they are mostly, if not all, ghastly.
He emerges from his truck this evening squinting against the sunshine and walking the constipated stride of one who has recently awoken. ‘I see the main lyric of the day is Waaaaah,’ he observes wryly. He’s referring to the cacophonous racket on the second stage behind us.
I suppose it’s a bit odd that we “watch” these shows from behind the stage; I’m sure it sounds marginally better from amongst the audience. But from our vantage point, the incessant drumming and chainsaw-like guitars tend to impede conversations and civilised tea drinking.
‘Who listens to this shite anyway?’ he asks rhetorically. Well, as I say, there are 94,000 people behind that fence going nuts. He ambles off for a nice cup of soothing tea in that cocoon we love so dearly, the Catering Tent.
In Catering there are a few new drivers with whom to natter. Up until this show we’ve been using nine Dutch subcontractors, but, since our own trucks have finished the Black Eyed Peas Tour, the Cloggies have been dismissed.
It’s really nice to chat with colleagues not seen since touring concluded after U2 last August. Tea is being consumed in huge quantities whilst the Brits all have a good old matey catch-up. In fact, without realising the time, I’ve missed Them Crooked Vultures, only a one-minute walk away on the other stage. Shame.
Also a shame is that the tour is now bereft of Dutchmen – they were proving eminently handy for bicycle repairs, at the going rate of a bottle of red wine per job.
Now, having bemoaned the dearth of pert, bouncy breasts on the video screens this year – OK, so the adjectives aren’t strictly necessary – things are looking up. Well-bred English Roses, smashed out of their heads on cider no doubt, have started the ball rolling again.
A single set of hooters on the screens has triggered a splendid, roar-provoking epidemic of good-looking women throwing caution to the wind. Brian, the lead singer, voices nurturing encouragement over a pounding bass. ‘If you’ve got ‘em, get ‘em out,’ he yells in that unmistakeably hoarse Geordie accent. Awful really, but I’ll roll with it. When in Rome and all that.
Can you believe it isn’t raining? The traditional English festival site ought to resemble swampland, a sea of muddied writhing bodies, an orgy of the Great Unwashed. But although cold, the weather holds for the AC/DC show, the headlining Friday night act.
Yet the punters are adequately prepared. In fact, they are prepared for Biblical floods. As Runaway Train gets under way, somebody lobs a yellow inflatable dinghy over the heads of the audience. Half-filled beakers follow suit, chucked equally gracelessly and indiscriminately, wetting random fans’ necks.
Do you know, you simply couldn’t pay me enough money to be out there with all that lot. There aren’t enough barriers, for a start, so I’d be risking a nasty bruise from all that boisterous bundling, shoving and jostling.
As I watch from the much-envied square footage occupied by laminate holders, a human form sails over the masses, limbs flapping helplessly like those of an upturned woodlouse. The Red Cross Tent is going to be busy tonight.
Well, that was Download through the eyes of a crew member, no doubt a vastly different experience to the one that comes immediately to mind. Maybe if I’d “dropped an E” the festival’s intrinsic qualities would have been more readily apparent?
As it is, twenty-nine truckers are concerned more with provisions for the next punishing drive. Each of us is busy collecting on-the-road grub from our self-appointed sandwich monitor, the inimitable Namibian. He is officially in charge of doling out pints of milk, a selection of sandwiches and crisps, plus fruit and confectionery, for our imminent journey to Stuttgart. You see, there is no time to stop, and the next venue is well over 1000km away.
We can’t take the Rock and Roll Train through the Channel Tunnel to France – though quicker, it’s slightly dearer than the boat. Nope, it’s the good old P&O ferries freighter for us. Jolly good, because the breakfast is better than the airline-style muck served under the water. And the boat doesn’t put all that beastly pressure on my ears. Worth bearing in mind after amplified guitars like chainsaws at Download…