BLOODSTOCK’S 11 BANDS OF CHRISTMAS



As December extends its frosty fingers, BLOODSTOCK is getting in the festive spirit with some early Xmas gifts by way of another chunky 2024 announcement.  If you’re hoping for some heavy metal next summer, BLOODSTOCK’s got your presents wrapped up with a bow on top!  And if you want to give the gift of heavy metal (yes, we mean a ticket for BLOODSTOCK 2024), you can now download a special festive card when you order at the ticket store to help present it to the lucky recipient! 

Don’t miss BLOODSTOCK’s Festive Facebook Live at 7pm on Dec 7th  for some seasonal fun & oh maybe some prizes… and we suggest you keep your eyes (and your sprouts) peeled for who knows what other treats might be in store across the festival’s socials later this month… 



On the Ronnie James Dio main stage, grindcore & melodic death metal pioneers CARCASS land Sunday’s special guest slot.  The “most influential band out of Merseyside since The Beatles” released their current studio album, ‘Torn Arteries’ in 2021 via Nuclear Blast to colossal acclaim. 

Also appearing Sunday on the RJD main stage are South American progressive sludge metal project, CULTURA TRES.  Last year, the 4-piece, featuring Sepultura’s Paolo Pinto Jr on bass, released their 5th studio album, ‘Camino De Brujos’. 

Black metal icons, SATYRICON will return to the stage for the first time in 5 years to headline Sunday’s Sophie Lancaster stage.  In what are becoming increasingly rare appearances, frontman Satyr informs us: “The way SATYRICON’s attitude has resonated with English fans throughout our journey as a band, has made us feel that playing there isn’t so much a visit, but rather a homecoming. Having decided to do only a few select shows, we can’t go everywhere, but fortunately there are a few places our hearts seem to take us, one way or the other. Like England.”  

The mighty SYLOSIS steam into a Saturday slot on the Sophie stage.  Their latest album, ‘A Sign Of Things To Come’ landed in September and the Brit metal heavyweights told us, “We can’t wait to be back at BLOODSTOCK!  We’ve had some amazing shows over the years, but it feels like next year is going to be really special!”  We can’t wait either!  In the meantime, get a load of new song ‘Descent’ taken from that brand new release. 

Also appearing on Saturday’s Sophie stage are American goth metal project, LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE.  Fronted by enigmatic songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben V, they released their most recent album ‘Haunted People’ in 2022.  Check out their epic video for ‘Live As Myself’, taken from that album, here
Ahoy!  Metal pirates RED RUM also grab a Saturday Sophie slot.  If you like your pirate tunes laden with riffs and melodies, RED RUM aren’t to be missed.  Sing along with ‘We Pirates’ taken from their current album, ‘Book of Legends’ out now on Trollzorn Records.  

SADUS bring their death/thrash sounds to BLOODSTOCK’s Sophie stage for the first time ever on Sunday.  The band came off an extended hiatus in 2017 and signed to Nuclear Blast for the recent release of new studio album, ‘The Shadow Inside’.  Check out the lyric video for album track, ‘Ride The Knife’
On Sunday’s Sophie stage bill, expect to see Spanish alt metal collective, ANKOR.  Fronted by Jessie Williams (who hails from Bristol, UK), the band blend metalcore with progressive and electro elements, creating a sound of their very own. 

If you’re a weekend ticket holder, the party starts early for you on Thursday.  Once you’ve set up camp and had your first cold one, prog metal Swedes EVERGREY are set to headline Thursday’s Sophie stage, with earlier evening sets from classic heavy metallers TAILGUNNER and Bournemouth rock n’ roll squad, SOUTH OF SALEM.  

BLOODSTOCK’S HALLOWEEN TREATS

Happy Halloween! Trick or treat?! BLOODSTOCK loves the spooky season and has only fiendishly good news to share! Are you ready? Get set to howl the house down when you see which nine bands are being announced today! There’s also news of everyone’s brilliant fund-raising efforts with details of just how much was raised for two worthy charities from BLOODSTOCK 2023, the ticket deposit scheme launch date, & more. Without further ado… 

Swedish metal legends GRAND MAGUS land a Friday slot on the Ronnie James Dio main stage. It’s already been 4 long years since the doom-infused three-piece dropped album ‘Wolf God’ with Nuclear Blast, but the band themselves have already made mention of their tenth album coming in 2024! Get excited! Last seen at BLOODSTOCK in 2019, refresh your memory of that epic set here

Metal Blade mob WHITECHAPEL serve up a hefty slab of deathcore on Saturday’s main stage. After regretfully pulling out of 2023’s event, you’ve had an extra year to anticipate just how ferocious that pit is gonna be. Watch the video for latest single ‘Without You/Without Us’ or deep dive into the entirety of current album ‘Kin’ here

Florida death metal icons DEICIDE also jet in for a main stage Saturday spot in a UK festival exclusive. It’s all go in the Deicide camp of late, signing a new record deal with Reigning Phoenix Music and putting the finishing touches on their upcoming, 13th full-length album, ‘Banished By Sin’, featuring new guitarist Taylor Nordberg. The first new album since 2018, just give us the release date already! While you’re waiting patiently, check out some classic Deicide via the video for ‘Scars Of The Crucifix.’ 

Oxford-based riff beasts DESERT STORM roll in to wake you up on Friday morning, opening the main stage. Their latest masterpiece ‘Death Battle’ dropped via APF this March, an intoxicating mix of stoner doom and prog metal. If you’re a fan of Clutch and Orange Goblin, you won’t want to miss them. Wrap your ears round their latest track ‘Salt Of The Earth’ here.

Over on the Sophie Lancaster stage, five more treats have been locked in. 
Icelandic psych rock squad THE VINTAGE CARAVAN secure a position on Friday’s bill. The Led Zep fans are currently cranking out their classic rock/prog-infused sounds across mainland Europe, promoting latest release ‘The Monuments Tour (Live)’, unveiled 2 weeks ago via Napalm Records. Watch the live video for ‘Can’t Get You Off My Mind’ here

Londoners EXIST IMMORTAL also bring their metal maelstrom to the Friday line-up. Their self-titled current album, released by Seek & Strike, is available now. Appraise yourself of their sound via their latest single, ‘Emerge’.

Joining them on Friday, are the epic metal ETERNAL CHAMPION from Texas, who marked their tenth anniversary this year. Released by No Remorse Records in 2020, you can listen to their latest LP ‘Ravening Iron’ in full here.

One of alt.music’s hottest rising stars, MIMI BARKS is added to Saturday’s Sophie bill. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different to add flavour to your BLOODSTOCK weekend, perhaps a little doom-trap will be just the ticket. Current release, ‘DEADGIRL’, claimed the full 5Ks from Kerrang. Watch ‘Saw’ from that release now.

GROVE STREET rampage onto Sunday’s roster.  The band have been causing a massive stir in hardcore circles and last month released new album, ‘The Path To Righteousness’. Check out the title track here and see what all the fuss is about.  
BLOODSTOCK is also excited to announce that Timothy Taylor and their Hopical Storm ale have partnered with the 2024 METAL 2 THE MASSES programme.  The 2024 M2TM season is now underway, with bands around the country competing to win a slot on the newly named Hopical Storm New Blood Stage.  If you’re in an unsigned or developing band and would like to throw your hat in the ring, click over to the M2TM page on the BLOODSTOCK site to see information about participating venues/cities. 
In other festival news, BLOODSTOCK would like to thank everyone who contributed to this year’s event’s charity fundraising efforts. A grand total of £13,903 was raised in donations from BLOODSTOCKers for the festival’s two official charities for 2023: The Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) (£5492) and The Sophie Lancaster Foundation (£8411). This comprised: Guest & media donations amassing £10,984, which was split equally between The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and DRLAABar staff generously donating all tips to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Alan, the bar’s head honcho, also doubled this donation, making a total of £838.The Rock Society raised £200 via a raffle for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.The T-Shirt / CD Amnesty raised £1881 for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation’s Chief Executive, Alison Vincent said: “We are so grateful to BLOODSTOCK and their amazing staff and supporters for their incredible donation of £8,411. This is a huge amount of money for us and will be used to fund more work to support the alternative community and also deliver more sessions in schools about tolerance and respect for others. Thanks to BLOODSTOCK for making us so welcome and for doing all they could to make BLOODSTOCK 2023 the best ever!” 

Commenting on behalf of the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland Air Ambulance charity, Tracey Jones, Community Fundraising Executive for Derbyshire said, “We would like to say a big thank you to everyone at BLOODSTOCK Open Air who donated funds to support our lifesaving missions. A special thank you goes to Rachael and Adam for choosing us as one of two charities to support at their festival this year. We rely on generous fundraising and funding to remain operational, and without the support of the local community just like this, the lifesaving missions in Derbyshire and further afield wouldn’t be possible.”

For more information on the important work these charities do, or to donate, please visit:https://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/ and https://www.theairambulanceservice.org.uk
Want to do a bit more for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation?
Did you catch the amazing set by SKYND headlining the Sophie stage on Thursday at BLOODSTOCK this summer? Perhaps you spotted Skynd’s special pink jacket on stage during her performance or her wearing it earlier in the day?

Skynd has donated this one-off jacket and The Sophie Lancaster Foundation are auctioning it on eBay! Skynd has also signed the protective bag it will come in. The auction is already underway, so go sling in a bid and perhaps you’ll be the lucky winner. The auction ends on November 5th!

Bid here: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/314914024832

Skynd says, “A foundation like the Sophie Lancaster Foundation is important today as well as tomorrow, because it does not let us forget what and especially WHY happened to Sophie, but also that prejudice and intolerance have no place. I am grateful and emotionally touched about a foundation like this, where the people involved are committed and have their hearts in it and contribute a part to the fact that prejudice, hate and intolerance have no place anywhere. To be different, to live as you want should not be a reason for hate or violence. I support this foundation and will continue to do so. Say her name: SOPHIE!”

BLOODSTOCK REVEALS SEVEN MORE BANDS INCLUDING FINAL HEADLINER!

If you’ve been hanging on for a few more bands to be revealed for BLOODSTOCK 2024 before snapping up your early bird ticket, this is the announcement you’ve been waiting for, with seven more stellar acts joining the bill.  Don’t wait much longer for an early bird, because the allocation is over 90% sold, and after that, prices will increase. 

Swedish progressive legends, OPETH will headline Friday’s Ronnie James Dio main stage for a very special fan-chosen set.  What’s more, the performance will be their only UK show in 2024.  Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt extols, “So…back to BLOODSTOCK 2024 for us, it appears!  I don’t remember how many times we’ve played the festival, but we do have fond memories from there. ”Filling in” for Heaven and Hell when RJD had passed is one.  Fuck!  Can’t remember a more emotional event on stage for us, to be honest.  Anyhoooo, we’ll be there ‘rocking’ and ‘rolling’ in our own way, playing songs that you’ve chosen (apparently).  Please be gentle. Right now I feel pretty far from being a ROCKER, as I’m writing this sat in my (favourite) greasy sweatpants, and my hair is greasier than ever.  I’m working, you see.  But I promise I’ll have a look in the mirror before we hit the stage. The band will be tight (that’s also a promise). I’ll sing OK (semi-promise). You’ll recognise the songs (I really have no idea, but you picked them!) and, we’ll be IN. THE. ZONE!  All in all, providing the weather’s nice and the beer is cold, the possibilities for a magical night are rather decent.  Wouldn’t you say?  Hope to see (and hear) you there.”  You’d not want to disappoint the man now, would you? 

The mighty HATEBREED are bringing their 30th Anniversary set to Friday’s main stage bill.  Having been forced to cancel their whole UK/European run in 2022, BLOODSTOCK is thrilled to have them return to Catton Park with a stacked set of pit-churning classics.  Will they take the title for most number of crowd-surfers during their BLOODSTOCK set from current record holders Cannibal Corpse?! Killswitch Engage came close in 2023, but were about 40 short… Watch them light up Wacken back in 2018 in this footage for ‘Destroy Everything.’

Avant garde prog extremists ENSLAVED play the Ronnie James Dio main stage on Sunday. Formed back in 1991, these long-time masters of their craft have a veritable horde of tracks across 16 albums to narrow down a set list from. Certain to be a welcome return, ENSLAVED were last seen at BLOODSTOCK in 2015. Check out the epic song ‘Congelia’, taken from current album ‘Heimdal’, out now via Nuclear Blast.
Brazilian thrash outfit NERVOSA land themselves a main stage slot on Friday.  The band have recently rejigged their line up, with founding guitarist Prika Amaral also stepping up to now also front the band.  Witness their ferocity on recent single ‘Endless Ambition’, taken from their imminent ‘Jailbreak’ album, arriving 29th September. 

There’s even more LatAm talent with Brazilian death squad CRYPTA bringing their brutal noise to the main stage on Saturday.  Bassist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto formed the band after departing Nervosa back in 2019.  Watch them shred their way through ‘Trial Of Traitors,’ taken from their brand new album, ‘Shades Of Sorrow,’ which was released last month via Napalm Records. 

Calling all power metal fans! BLOODSTOCK is pleased to share that Finnish PM gang, BEAST IN BLACK will be strutting their stuff on the main stage on Sunday. Currently on the road across North America, you can keep up with their tour antics on their official TikTok! Have you checked out their widely-praised third album ‘Dark Connection’ yet?  Watch the video for the most recent single, ‘To The Last Drop Of Blood.’
Bay Area thrash veterans, FORBIDDEN grab a slot on Saturday’s main stage.  Having recently re-booted with a brand new frontman (Norman Skinner) and drummer (Chris Kontos), the band wasted no time laying waste to Belgium’s Alcatraz festival this year.  Check out ‘Twisted Into Form’ from that incendiary set, and warm up your necks in anticipation for BLOODSTOCK 2024!

In related news, BLOODSTOCK’s founder Paul Gregory has had both his career and life story told in a new documentary, ‘Heavy Metal Painter’.  The movie, put together by Toronto-based film-making collective, The Art of Heavy Metal, is set to premiere on the BLOODSTOCK YouTube channel on 10th October.  In the meantime, check out the trailer to whet your appetite and get some popcorn ordered in! 
There are less than 10% remaining of the standard Early Bird weekend tickets, priced at £165 (+ bkg fee).  Once the discounted Early Bird allocation has gone, standard weekend tickets will increase in price to £185 (+ bkg fee), so grab yours and save yourself £20.  Head over to the 2024 ticket store now! 

BLOODSTOCK’s other 2023 Ronnie James Dio main stage headliners are AMON AMARTH and ARCHITECTS.  Across the weekend you can also expect to see CLUTCH, MALEVOLENCE, ROTTING CHRIST, KORPIKLAANI, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, FLOGGING MOLLY, SEPTIC FLESH, IGORRR, NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA, HELLRIPPER, GREEN LUNG and INFECTED RAIN, with many more yet to be announced.  Get full festival information over at bloodstock.uk.com.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 8th-11th August 2024.

Bloodstock Open Air 2023 – REVIEWED!

FRIDAY

For those of us who can’t get the extra day off work, Festivals are still a three day affair unfortunately, so I’m starting my Bloodstock Open Air 2023 journey here on Friday morning. Surprisingly sunny and warm despite one of the worst summers on record, we are grateful on two fronts – no need for the heavy duty rain gear we would have needed two weeks ago, and that the grass is visibly still green unlike the scorched Sahara situation of last year.

It is nice to note however, that Bloodstock seem to have upped their game a little after the 2022 hellscape, and there are a few more canopy structures around site to offer sun/rain relief. New too is the very cool Jewellery collaboration between Black Feather Designs and BOA, being a stalwart OG Bloodstocker – I was tempted into getting a signet ring, and they are beautifully made. Otherwise, Bloodstock remains largely unchanged and for that I am thankful – it is one of the easiest to navigate sites of all UK festivals and means I’ve got the best chance at seeing heaps of excellent bands this weekend.

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Starting up with Hate on the main stage, who are uncompromisingly heavy and daubed in corpse paint (my first bingo tick of the weekend), followed by Gatecreeper who seem to have swapped set times. Gatecreeper fulfil my hair-windmilling requirement for the festival on day one, opening with the aptly named ‘Sweltering Madness’, play some good solid heavy metal and get an extremely rowdy circle pit going.

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On the Sophie stage, Zetra sound like the band from your 90’s Buffy dreams. Gloomy, emo and deliciously ethereal – if you want to write poems in a graveyard, this is your soundtrack. By your soundtrack, I mean mine. Off to buy some black lace and a scrying gemstone.

Back on the main stage Sacred Reich have worked out whatever the hitch was that meant they had to switch slots with Gatecreeper, and they joke “This sun isnt typical here… I think its cause you’ve got two Arizona bands on today, so you’re welcome” before thanking Gatecreeper for the swap. It’s a great set from them so I’m glad the powers that be managed to work it all out.

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Wild Heat are rocking out in the Jägermeister tent, it sounds like the 80’s and I’m entirely here for it. Looks like everyone else is too because that tent is absolutely overflowing with people cheering them on, and I reckon they could more than handle a bigger stage next time. Fit For An Autopsy also get my stamp of approval, their sound is built from so many different sources and angles it’s a truly unique experience across their set, yes it’s heavy but the underlying melodies are the hook that reels you in. Calling “This is a bucket-list festival for us, we are so glad to be here! We need more crowd surfers, get up there!” they are visibly gaining new fans today.

Fury on the Sophie Stage are absolutely throwing down, it’s classic 80’s metal and I LOVE IT. Twin vocals from Julian Jenkins and Nyah Ifill are the soaring sound of the epic 80’s movie montage – think Karate Kid and Rocky. I know that sounds like I’m placing them in the category of cheesy, but trust me when I say I’m putting them up there with the greats. If you like hair metal, Fury are one hundred percent for you. If you don’t like hair metal, you’re wrong. ‘Hell of a Night’ has a very singable “Monster movies” refrain which has already become an earworm and is therefore entering my playlist immediately.

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Over on the main stage, Heaven Shall Burn are already enjoying themselves “It’s our first time at a festival in the UK, this is pretty special for us”, their stage filled with huge lighting panels and a lot of face-melting pyro. After a two year hiatus from live music before this summer, they’ve come out swinging, heavy and fast enough to entice a whole raft of crowd surfers across the barrier – including someone in a completely pink suit and tophat, very dapper.

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Less production fanfare for the iconic In Flames, but no compromise on power whatsoever. The Gothenburg heavyweights are as raw and brutal as ever, backed up by their intensely interwoven melodies that form their unique sound. I couldn’t rave enough about this band if I tried, after thirteen albums their catalogue speaks for itself, but live – they just have that certain something that draws you in. ‘Leeches’ and ‘Behind Space’ back to back show just how varied this setlist is today, we’re getting the full tour and I’m extremely appreciative.

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Shouting “Do you wanna join our band? Get him up here, no wait, he’s got superhero clothes on he can fucking fly up” Anders brings a fan dressed as a pirate up to join them on stage. “Finally we got a rock star up here!” he jokes, before handing him a mic. “Open a big circle pit for this one, pirate guy, are you ready?”. We love a bit of silliness here for sure, but we love a bit of ‘Take This Life’ more, and wow what a set that was. The last time In Flames played BOA was 2007, it’s been a long fucking time coming, In Flames we trust.

We take a little time to peruse the food offerings before the headliner, and settle on some slow cooked brisket from the most magnificent BBQ van, whose siren blares when the meats are ready. I would now like to be informed of dinnertime this way every day. 10/10 deliciousness, even if the chipotle sauce is still burning.

Closing out the main stage for the night, Killswitch Engage are a strong choice for BOA headliner. It’s an absolutely massive crowd spanning the arena and they come in heavy and melodic with ‘My Curse’ and ‘Rise Inside’. Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz is rocking cocktail print boardshorts and a cut off Hawaiian shirt whilst bouncing around the stage with utter uncontained glee, as they head into ‘The Signal Fire’“This song is about unity and love, and that’s everything this festival stands for”.

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“I think it’s important to say this to all you people who were picked on. The freaks, the geeks, the weirdos. You are not alone, we are all here for each other” is a lovely supportive sentiment for a big ole metal band to espouse for sure, but becomes slightly ridiculous when followed up with “…what are you pussies doing there in the middle? I thought this was a metal show? Get a circle pit going!”. Nevertheless the band is rewarded with just that, if there’s one thing Bloodstock fans do brilliantly – it’s getting themselves nice and chaotic when asked. Closing with ‘My Last Seranade’ and a fitting tribute to the Ronnie James Dio stage – a cover of ‘Holy Diver’ is the perfect ending to an epic headline set.

SATURDAY

Starting out on Saturday with doomy Urne, who have gathered a decent crowd. It’s not my jam to be honest but there are plenty of approving fans headbanging along this morning.

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Up next is possibly the stand-out performance of the weekend, surprisingly… Royal Republic. A strange pick for Bloodstock, and one that I expected to annoy more true heavy metal fans. What I actually saw, was one of the biggest daytime crowds of the whole weekend, everyone dancing, everyone having a great time and everyone letting the pretence of coolness down for 40 minutes. Royal Republic are Swedish clean-cut rock and roll, dressed like T-Birds in tight denim and leather jackets, they bandy about the stage like they’re trying to embody the spirit of Elvis. There’s a keytar, a moment where drummer Per Andreasson fully stands up on top of his kit, and heaps of crowd interaction, what’s not to love?

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Yelling “These are my hands, I have two… the maximum amount. They would like to meet your hands… clap!” its clear enigmatic frontman Adam Grahn is here for a fun time. “We love metal, and we could have been a metal band… but we also love money” they joke, before giving us a quick and VERY convincing rendition of Metallica’s ‘Battery’. Finishing up with ‘Baby’ which is immediately my new summer road-trip jam, they have solidified their place in BOA history as a surprise hit amongst all the doom.

Employed To Serve get the unfortunate slot of a proper downpour, but manage to throw down some brutality after it clears. Vocalist Justine Jones absolutely crushes the low death metal growls, and they’ve got a very respectable crowd in front of them. Bloodstock veterans Crowbar are back once again with their excellently heavy riffs, and a joke or two about the weather “We’ve had a lot of wind, a lot of rain… it’s fucking England” to a massive crowd of fans.

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Knocked Loose promote as much chaos as their name suggests, and we see the biggest circle pit of the weekend so far, as vocalist Bryan Garris goes absolutely berserk on stage himself.

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Over on the Sophie stage another new one for me is Dakesis, despite the fact that they’ve been at Bloodstock a few times before, I seem to have missed them. Frontwoman Gemma Lawler is an absolute powerhouse vocalist and the band’s prog/symphonic metal is right up my street. Their show is dynamic and exciting to watch, the melodies are on point, and I’d truly be happy to see them hit a main stage slot sometime.

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On the opposite side of the style coin, Abbath (fronted by former Immortal guitarist, Abbath Doom Occulta… what a handle) are bringing us another dose of corpse-paint and creepy tongue waggling. There’s an awful lot of people in the crowd sporting corpse paint today in support, even a few of the photographers were spotted getting gloomified, and the set is worth the hype.

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Walking into the Sophie tent ahead of Gutalax, with no prior knowledge of the band… is nothing short of a fever-dream. Yes yes, I should have realised with the band name, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw at all. Fans waving toilet brushes (imagine explaining those to security on your way into the campsites) and inflatable excrement flying around the tent, whilst they sing songs about… well, shit, is actually quite fun. I too would like to make it this far in life doing something incomprehensibly weird, I think I’m doing life wrong.

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Triptykon performing Celtic Frost is quite special in and of itself, so I don’t know why it isn’t hitting the button for me today. It’s technically brilliant but I guess I’m missing the little things that engage and endear me to live music, it feels a bit like they’re going through the motions I suppose.

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On the other hand, the incredibly silly but rather excellent TrollfesT are bringing me all the chaotic joy I have been craving. Sorry purists, but I am going to fucking LOVE a band dressed as resplendent sparkly flamingos and I won’t be taking any questions at this time. Looks like I’m not alone in this sentiment, as there are flippin’ heaps of inflatable flamingos in the crowd, and many people sporting flamingo paraphernalia, and surfing their way to the front of a full tent. Joking about how they entered Eurovision but didn’t get through, frankly enrages me. I would absolutely have voted a million times for the band who play folk metal and dance around the stage, but even more so for the band who call themselves “agents of chaos” and cover Britney Spears‘Toxic’. Come on, even the most seasoned metalhead absolutely must find this sort of thing amusing.

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Last up for me on Saturday are Meshuggah. I’m trying not to let my opinion be too obviously jaded by the fact that their lighting for taking photos was the absolute worst… but, after playing their first three songs almost entirely in darkness from the back of the stage, I can’t imagine it was that exciting for anyone else either. Yes it’s heavy, yes it’s gut-twistingly brutal, but they’re known for their saga-length songs that I just don’t always think translate well to headline sets, and there’s no movement or interaction. On the other hand, it’s a bloody enormous crowd and I know they’re on point musically – for the fans, this would be a great night. For everyone else, I’m not sure it hits.

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SUNDAY

Sunday has us checking out some of the other offerings around the arena, there’s always a small but great collection of shops at Bloodstock, with everything from patches for your battle vest, to frog hats and ornate drinking horns. If I am permitted one small gripe this year, it is that the queues for the merch stand on Friday were atrociously long, and it’s placement along the back of the arena meant that it made the walkway a bit difficult to pass at times to get to the New Blood stage. It would be nice to see a second merch stall over in the food court area somewhere, as I believe there had been in years past. I was also super disappointed to find that the S’Tan plushies had sold out on Thursday, so please BOA – order some more in time for Christmas ok?

Checking out All Hail The Yeti on the main stage for some good solid heavy metal, I did find myself giggling at the Stranger Things experience I was getting with the intro to ‘Highway Crosses’. Tribulation are today’s dose of corpse-paint, and in a very cute move they even have little incense sticks stuck into their PA speakers at the front, adorable. Guitarist Joseph Tholl is incredibly talented, and their soaring gothic melodies are truly delicious to the ears.

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Polish death-metallers Decapitated bring the fun and heaps of crowd surfers, with vocalist Rafał Piotrowski whipping his Rapunzel-ian dreadlocks around the stage. It’s a very large and hyped up crowd despite it being Sunday, this is one of the funnest sets of the weekend by far.

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Dead Air (who suffer a typo on the app and were very sweetly presented instead as Dear Air, narf) are playing their bouncy rock and roll in the Jägermeister tent, jumping around in the very limited space and giving the frankly massive crowd a fucking fantastic set. I’d like to see them back!

Ugly kid Joe are bringing the nostalgia, with their funny take on other bands’ logos (note the Motorhead style drum skins, the Britney Spears/Sabbath tshirt, Slayer backdrop etc…) and they’re just damn good fun, even their Ace of Spades cover was decent.

Over in the Sophie tent, I once again feel I’ve stepped into an alternate reality for Church of The Cosmic Skull. Opening with the truly epic ‘Mountain Heart’ I am immediately captured by their sound, 70’s organ and strings with that Pink Floyd/Animals ring to it. The band themselves are a visual force to be reckoned with as well, all dressed in bright white of varying styles, and all white instruments (apart from the rainbow axe sported by frontman and founder Bill Fisher) they look like the kind of cult I would absolutely fall for. It is prog, for sure, but not the self-serving hours of widdling-around and paying no mind to listenability kind. They have a very singable quality which had me playing their spotify channel all the way home. Call me a convert, they were truly one of the stand out bands of the weekend.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Do not use without permission

Now for maybe the most exciting set of the weekend, and who could be remotely surprised – it’s Sepultura. If you don’t get hyped up to jump around to this band, your heart might not be installed correctly, because it is impossible not to be drawn in when Derrick Green asks you to jump with him. “Bloodstock! Let’s get it GOING!” he yells, as the crowd surfers rain down on the security guards at the front. “This goes out to all the bands at the festival, and all you motherfuckers out there” is the signal call for everyone to go wild for ‘Refuse/Resist’ and closer ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ just seals their position as one of the best bands I’ve ever seen at BOA… again.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Do not use without permission

KK’s Priest stepping up in place of Helloween after their cancellation, means a crowd full of slightly disappointed people wearing their pumpkin outfits in mourning, which is a little funny. Yes, joke along that this is Judas Karaoke if you will, but honestly – it’s good. Solid heavy metal, a lot of running around and fun stuff, can’t complain for a last minute addition. I would have been one of the people who would have liked for Skindred to fill the slot on the back of their hit album, but the forums are full of people who were Skindred-ed out and I do get why.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Do not use without permission

I was however, absolutely blown-away by Zeal & Ardor and do feel they could have been an incredible pick for that main stage slot too, despite their relative new-ness. The rammed tent supports my theory, overflowing with equally awestruck people for their bluesy country flavoured metal. It’s hard to categorise them to be honest, and I think that’s some of the draw – finding a new style can be hard in a saturated market but they seem to have cracked it and created something unusual. Opener ‘Church Burns’ is very country, while Götterdämmerung is as black as metal comes, it certainly keeps them interesting.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Do not use without permission

Megadeth are taking the final main stage tour of the weekend and the band tshirts are out in force for them, though they are no longer the true end of the festival due to the Sophie stage going one bigger each night (tonight with Biohazard) this feels like a fitting end to BOA 2023. Replete with the classic 80’s imagery, albeit delivered via screens instead of backdrops these days, Megadeth enter a dark stage and stand at the back, with drummer Dirk Verbeuren risen aloft amongst the speaker stacks. Loading up with ‘Hangar 18’, MegaDave (Mustaine) and the band give us that unmistakable ‘Big Four’ production. Yes it’s thrash, but there’s just that clean element of a band who’ve been perfecting something for this long and absolutely nailing it, and the ginormous inflatable unicorn nodding along at the front of the crowd seems to agree.

© Anna Hyams for SFG – Do not use without permission

Between each song break the arena shakes with a chant of “Mega-deth” and there is no choice but to headbang along to ‘Conquer or Die!’ really is there? “Two words… lookin good! There are so many beautiful faces tonight” are the words that precede ‘Tornado of Souls’ which I personally think is quite accidentally witty. ‘Symphony of Destruction’ is of course excellent, come through my fellow Guitar Hero kids… as is ‘Peace Sells’.

After a brief break (one of the only bands to continue the pretence of going away and coming back for an encore these days) they call out “This is Bloodstock, all metal, all night!” to which the guy next to me loudly replies “PLAY SOME RIFFS OR FUCK OFF”, much to the amusement of all around us. Finishing up with ‘Mechanix’ and ‘Holy Wars… The Punishment Due’ means Megadeth go out as a solid headline choice for Bloodstock, and certainly one to remember.

Over and out Bloodstock 2023, you have been absofuckinglutely magnificent. With the line-up announcements already – I am positive it’s going to be yet another stunner next year.

Note: Following the festival, it was reported that there had been a death in the campsite on Saturday evening. This publication would like to extend their thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of this person, and to the team at BOA. Bloodstock is a close-knit family and this news is extremely sad.

Everything you ever wanted to know about BLOODSTOCK (that’s not bands)

With only a couple of weeks to go, BLOODSTOCK’s here to update you on lots of non-band-related delights at this year’s event, including a diverse range of traders, food stalls, drinks, on-site entertainment, and other facilities at next month’s glorious celebration of heavy metal. Not to mention a bargain deal on this year’s festival t-shirt and info on 2023’s charity partners.  

First up, BLOODSTOCK is very aware of the cost of living squeeze, so is pleased to confirm that the price of the 2023 event t-shirt has been frozen at £25. Head to the merch stand in the main arena over the festival to snap it up! You can also find a range of new merch online now here including super-soft dressing gowns, drinking horns, umbrellas, and the S’tan plush toy/bobblehead!
Whether you’re vegan, veggie, meat-eating, or seeking something gluten-free or halal, BLOODSTOCK has a wide range of food available onsite. Here’s just a few options… burgers, pizza, tacos, burritos, gyoza, waffles, crepes, toasties, smoked meats, chicken, noodles, pies, giant Yorkshire puds, baguettes, fish & chips, fries, hotdogs, kebabs, donuts/churros, mac n’ cheese, wraps, nachos, fudge, the infamous black ice-cream, and more – and Bunnychow is back too! Check out more info here and there’s a handy graphic below to help you keep track of which food stands to head to first. 
For any essentials you’ve forgotten, there’s a supermarket in the Midgard campsite (and a small shop in the main arena) plus Fat Frank’s Camping Store, where for £2 you can even get your air bed inflated for a comfier night’s sleep. 

For those looking to do a little heavy metal shopping in the arena, you’ll be able to pick up patches and badges, CDs/vinyl, or official merch and alt clothing (leggings, t-shirts, denim jackets, leather waistcoats, army surplus, hats… you name it) to rock ‘n roll home accessories, wiccan wares, all types of jewellery (visit the Guitarwrist for items benefiting charity made with used guitar strings and Black Feather Design for BLOODSTOCK’s official 925 silver jewellery range) and if you don’t have one already, surely a Viking drinking horn is an essential addition (other Viking crafts also available). 
When you’re not watching bands, how about a spot of axe-throwing with your pals or visit Firehound Forge, the local blacksmith stall, who may even forge your item while you watch? There’s also the Nordic Spirit Gaming Arena with modern and retro video games to play, the Rock And Metal Gallery (reputed to be the coolest place onsite, metaphorically and literally), the Planet Rock Signing Tent to meet your favourite bands, and fairground attractions, plus you can join a 45-min open air Rockfit class at 10:15am Fri-Sun to get your blood pumping squatting to Slayer, or why not grab a cold beverage and watch some Vikings go to battle right in front of you!
When the bands are done, it doesn’t mean BLOODSTOCK is!  Late night ents kick off with DJs on both the New Blood and Sophie stages ‘til the early hours. Over in the Sophie tent, on Thursday from 12am-2am, DJ Pressplay welcomes you with a selection of tunes from upcoming bands and other metal bangers; Friday from 12am-2am brings The Blood Rave with DJs Little M and Lloyd, marking the 25th anniversary of iconic movie, Blade! Expect EBM, industrial, techno, and heavy beats.

The Sophie tent on Saturday from 12am-2am is the Dark Night of the Scarecrow! Jakk and Jordan from EVIL SCARECROW are joined by DJ Arockalypse to offer up a slab of the best metal and rock anthems. Sunday from 12am-2am, sees DJ Rich Harris (Desertfest) closing the festival in the only way he knows how – loudly and by including guilty pleasure metal whoppers to lodge in your head until Bloodstock 2024!

The New Blood tent sees the return of the very popular silent disco on Thursday and Saturday nights from 11pm-2am – take your pick from three channels of rock & metal, pop & party cheese, or full-on dance, or why not mix it up with all three?! Just turn up and grab a headset. At the other end of the scale, New Blood’s Friday night from 11pm-1am sees DJ Darren Smith serving up a crushing selection of the blackest, darkest, and heaviest music around.

If you’d rather have your fun back in the campsites, get in on Midgard Madness between 11pm – 1am, with some brand new inflatable shenanigans this year. Fan of wrestling? Take on your pal in a sumo wrestler suit! Feeling a bit more athletic? Put your strength and stamina to the test with the Bungee Run! How far can you make it down the track before the bungee catapults you back to the start?!

For the jousters amongst you, take on the Pole Joust challenge. Who can stay on the pole the longest without being toppled to their doom?! Who will be the BLOODSTOCK Almighty Joust Champion?? Bragging rights indeed. A late night Redbull bar will be there to quench your thirst (wings not included).
Each year BLOODSTOCK has various dress themes for those who want to participate. In 2023, we see the return of the very successful ‘Pink For Sylvia’ theme on both Thursday and Friday, in memory of Sophie Lancaster’s mother, the founder of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Pink was Sylvia’s favourite colour. Corpsepaint Saturday does what it says on the tin! If you don’t want to do your own make-up, stop by the Sophie Lancaster charity stall in the main arena between 10am – 3pm Sat and they’ll paint your face for a small donation, with all proceeds going to the Foundation. On Sunday, it’ll be Helloween Pumpkins day, so bust out your best pumpkin-themed attire to welcome the mighty HELLOWEEN! 

As part of BLOODSTOCK’s continuing sustainability/green efforts, the cup redemption scheme returns to help keep BLOODSTOCK litter-free!! Open to those 18+, you can redeem prizes for collecting cups! Hand in your stash at Lemmy’s bar to get a stamp on your collector’s card for every 50 cups returned. This year’s prizes are:  

50 cups – 1 free pint / spirit worth £6
100 cups – 15% off Bloodstock merch or 1 meal voucher worth £12 (one transaction only)
250 cups – 1 Bloodstock festival shirt (size subject to availability)
600 cups – Jump the queue to the signing tent for one whole day 
750 cups – Access to Serpents Lair VIP hospitality area for 2 people
1000 cups – Watch a band from side of stage or in the pit for first 3 songs (subject to no closed stage or pyro restrictions).

In addition, the tent donation point returns by Fat Franks in the Midgard campsite! When you’re going home, if you can’t be bothered to lug your tent with you, don’t abandon it to be lonely in landfill! Put it to good use by donating it for charitable benefit.
BLOODSTOCK’s official charity partners for 2023 are The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and Derbyshire Air Ambulance. The ever important work of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation to stamp out prejudice, hatred, and intolerance everywhere is something BLOODSTOCK have been proud to support for many years.

The Derbyshire Air Ambulance Service operates 24/7, 365 days a year, providing a rapid trauma response. They receive no government funding and rely solely on the public’s generosity to keep their helicopters flying and saving lives. BLOODSTOCK is also pleased to confirm that a team from Derbyshire LGBT+ will run a stall too. They are Derbyshire’s only LGBT+ specific support service, supporting all LGBT+ people or anyone who is having issues with sexual orientation or gender identity, including family and friends. Look out for their spots in the main arena (left of the main stage as you look at it) and pop over to learn more about the awesome work these organisations do.

BLOODSTOCK would like to take a moment to celebrate the incredible efforts of Pick Collectors Against Cancer, who have now raised more than $250,000, benefiting band-nominated cancer-related charities all over the world. BLOODSTOCK is very pleased to keep supporting this worthwhile cause, and with everyone’s help, perhaps they can top $300,000 this year. Head to their socials for more info, and look out for Lee from PCAC at the fest.

If you find yourself falling ill or in need of some extra support/assistance while at BLOODSTOCK, head to the MEDICAL / WELFARE TENT in the main arena. You can also visit THE SAMARITANS marquee located in the Midgard campsite for a non-judgemental, confidential chat at any time over the festival event. 
BLOODSTOCK is also pleased to welcome 1625 OUTREACH, a local service that specialise in supporting festival goers in relation to drugs, alcohol, and personal safety. This year 1625 will be working collaboratively with Welfare on site – you can find them in the campsite hub or you can drop them a message on Instagram (@1625_Outreach).  1625 are available to provide…Free & confidential advice about drugs/alcohol.Harm reduction information & resources.Assistance in accessing additional support on site & in the community.Free safety resources (drink spiking covers, condoms, etc).A harm reduction &/or recovery centred safe space to chat.

Every campsite has its own vibe, but if you’re looking for the designated quiet campsite, make a beeline for Ragnarok. Niflheim is the accessible campsite for those who have applied successfully in advance to camp there. Coming on your own and/or a bit anxious about that? Consider joining unofficial Bloodstock group Camp Loners & Newbies, who always camp in a corner of Valhalla. With Ironwood, Midgard, Jotunheim, Asgard, and Hel to choose from too (plus Vanaheim 1 & 2 for our campervan friends & the Serpent’s Lair campsite for VIPers) you’re sure to find your home away from home! Want to chat to fellow BLOODSTOCKers before you get there? There are a number of unofficial Facebook groups, including BMF666.
Looking for directions or travel info including coaches and the official festival shuttle, running from Tamworth train station this year (note: NOT Lichfield, as in years prior)? Click here. For all general event info & frequently asked questions, including box office, main arena, and car park opening times, accessibility, lost & found (inc. lost kids), and much more, go here. You can find this year’s site map of BLOODSTOCK here. Stay tuned to BLOODSTOCK’s official social channels over the next couple of weeks for news all about the festival’s brand new app that you’ll soon be able to download, complete with a helpful clash finder and stage times.

While you’re planning your packing, don’t forget that BLOODSTOCK has introduced a dedicated one-stop-shop featuring all those festival essentials. From the all important cold beers to BOA’s 2023 merchandise, through to camping equipment and much more, BLOODSTOCKers can secure all their must-have items in advance from one online shop, eradicating the need for last-minute scrambles, long queues or searching in multiple online stores for different items. For more info and to explore what you can get, visit the official Bloodstock Festival Preo store

Weekend early bird tickets for BLOODSTOCK 2024 will be available to purchase at the box office on site for £165.  This is the cheapest way to buy a 2024 ticket, minus any online booking or admin fees.  Serpents Lair VIP tickets and campervan pitches will go on sale at 9am on Wednesday 16th August and are expected to sell out quickly, so if you want one, be ready!!  Please note that there will be no VIP Upgrades in 2024. A very limited number of 100 VIP Deposit Scheme tickets will be available at 9am on 1st September. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Still not got your ticket?! Snap up your standard weekend tickets inc. camping at the ticket store for the bargain price of just £165 (+ fees). Don’t hang about, limited numbers remain!  If you want to make it a family affair, there are child tickets too, priced £45 (+fees) and mini-moshers under age 4 go free. If you can’t make the whole weekend, but don’t want to miss out, limited day tickets are available priced £75 (+fees) for adults and £25 (+fees) for kids. See all options in the ticket store and get excited watching the latest trailer here
BLOODSTOCK’s 2023 Ronnie James Dio main stage headliners are KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, MESHUGGAH, and MEGADETH. Also appearing are HELLOWEEN, IN FLAMES, BIOHAZARD, EMPLOYED TO SERVE, ROYAL REPUBLIC, SACRED REICH, HEAVEN SHALL BURN, SEPULTURA, FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, CROWBAR, CANDLEMASS, TRIBULATION, SEETHING AKIRA, UGLY KID JOE, DECAPITATED, GATECREEPER, ZEAL & ARDOR, KING 810, ABBATH, URNE, ALL HAIL THE YETI, DEAD LABEL, BOSSK, CHURCH OF THE COSMIC SKULL, BROTHERS OF METAL, PEST CONTROL, GUTALAX, UUHAI, INVISIONS, COBRA THE IMPALER, TROLLFEST, SKYND, FROZEN SOUL, EMBODIMENT, THE VIOLENT INZIDENT, TRIBE OF GHOSTS, DAKESIS, THE ENIGMA DIVISION, THE GREY, AMBRIUS, TUSKAR, STENGAH, OVERTHRONE, TORTURED DEMON, CASKET FEEDER, GAEREA, BLOODYARD, WOLFBASTARD, EMBODIMENT, SKIN FAILURE, WITCHSORROW, WYTCH HAZEL, HATE, BLACK COAST, PHOENIX LAKE, ZETRA and more. 

Get full festival information over at bloodstock.uk.com.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 10th-13th August 2023. 

BLOODSTOCK 2023 – Final band news & RAM Gallery details

As this year’s event gets ever nearer, BLOODSTOCK is thrilled to announce that Sunday day tickets for 2023 are now SOLD OUT!! Standard weekend tickets remain available but are going quickly, plus a limited day allocation for Friday and Saturday.  Read on for more band news, plus all the details on the RAM Gallery exhibitors, the return of the T-Shirt/CD Amnesty and Planet Rock Signing Tent, plus how to do a one-stop-shop for all your festival essentials. 

There’s just 4 weeks to go before the metal hoardes thunder their way onto Catton Park’s hallowed turf! This week the Metal 2 The Masses scheme is closing out this year’s initiative with the final batch of 10 lucky bands who won local heats to score a slot on the New Blood stage.  

Friday’s New Blood line up will include the Oxford heat victors, SHOOT TO KILL, who’ll be bringing their metalcore breakdowns and 90s riffs, showcased on their recent video for ‘Crimson’. Also appearing will be modern metal squad, APATHY, whose brutal downtuned guitars and psychedelic soundscapes won out in Devon & Cornwall. Check out their official video for ‘Gravewalker’.

Bournemouth’s winners, TO OBEY A TYRANT also grab a Friday slot. Their blackened deathcore has won many admirers – appraise yourself via their video for ‘Vermillion Moon’. DEVIL’S HENCHMEN picked up the Merseyside prize – watch them bring the retro riffage in the video for ‘Built By Hate’. Grabbing the last Friday slot are South Wales outfit, TORCHBEARER. The four piece dropped their ‘Warrior’ EP just last month, featuring the blistering ‘Catharsis In Karma.’ 

Grabbing a Saturday New Blood slot will be Cheltenham’s SKORA.  The band’s progressive hardcore sound has made them mainstays of the South West underground scene. Find out why via their video for ‘Harakiri.’ Northampton’s PICTURE THE SCENE also win their place. Having picked up Radio 1 airplay and won Arts Council England support, find out what the fuss is about via this live set from North Acre Studios.  THE DEAD XIII picked up the prize in the Burnley heat. With a couple of albums and Kerrang! Radio airplay under their belts, they’re no strangers to the touring circuit – watch their video for ‘Killers’ here. Picking up Saturday’s final space are Stoke’s winners, BLOODMORES. This four piece take their influences from all corners of the metal realm, leaning heavily in a melodic death direction. Check out their video for ‘Virulence’ taken from their second album, ‘Too Close To The Sun’.

Sunday’s New Blood line up welcomes Nottingham’s winners, BEYOND YOUR DESIGN. The East Midlands four piece blend massive metalcore riffing with melodic hooks and snarling vocals. Watch them take on an assault of marauders in their official video for ‘United We Fall’. 

On Sunday morning, over at the Sophie Lancaster Stage, the party also gets started by the winner of Planet Rock Radio’s band competition. Chosen from hundreds of entries, PHOENIX LAKE came out on top. With comparisons to Evanescence, Parkway Drive and Paramore, their debut EP, ‘Beyond The Flames’ has been picking up a ton of attention. Check out their single, ‘Faithless’ to see for yourself.
Due to extenuating circumstances, a number of alterations to the bill have been necessary.  Due to some unforeseen logistical issues out of ZEAL & ARDOR‘s hands, ZEAL & ARDOR are unfortunately not able to perform on Saturday at BLOODSTOCK. Rather than BLOODSTOCKers lose out entirely on what will be a spectacular set, festival management have managed to move the band to Sunday’s Sophie Lancaster stage line up. ZEAL & ARDOR will now play their full 75-minute set, with their full production, directly before headliners, BIOHAZARDKING 810’s set will now move to Thursday and TRIBE OF GHOSTS to Saturday. In addition, EYES have had to withdraw from the festival and will be replaced by AMBRIUS in the Saturday morning opening slot on the Sophie Lancaster Stage.  

BLOODSTOCK is also thrilled to announce the exhibitors in this year’s RAM GALLERY, the festival’s unique, purpose-built art space curated each year by festival founder and globally renowned fantasy artist, Paul Raymond Gregory.  Showing across two whole walls of the space will be KILLSWITCH ENGAGE’s bass player & founder of Dark Icon Design, Mike D’Antonio. Mike’s work is featured on many albums from his own band, but you may not know his work litters the heavy music spectrum and also extends to merch including posters, t-shirts, skateboard decks and more, for the likes of 36 Crazyfists, Armored Saint, Crowbar, and Harley Davidson, among numerous others. 

BLOODSTOCK is thrilled to be the first ever art space to showcase selects of Mike’s body of work from the ‘other side’ of his impressive career. Also exhibiting at the gallery will be a familiar face to the RAM Gallery, Oliver Andrew (who created the incredible array of handcrafted ‘guitars-as-art’ for the gallery over the years under his Cynosure Guitars moniker). Oliver will be showcasing his new project, ‘Bloodworks’, which sees him using his own blood as the medium for hyper-realistic artworks. 

The RAM Gallery also welcomes Dan Seagrave, who’ll be showing 20 outstanding pieces of work, including creations for the likes of ENTOMBED, SUFFOCATION, PESTILENCETHE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and more. Also exhibiting is sculptural artist Paul Cutting, who’ll have a winged masterpiece on show and a metal guitar themed around one of the headlining bands. Another familiar face in the gallery is Liam Brandon Murray, whose incredible, sculptural throne will once more make an appearance for all your gallery selfie needs! 

BLOODSTOCK is also pleased to announce the return of the very popular T-SHIRT & CD AMNESTY this year. Dig out your unwanted shirts & discs in good, clean condition and hand ‘em over at the INFORMATION/ROCK SOCIETY tent in the main arena. Then head to the PLANET ROCK SIGNING TENT from 10am-12 Noon, Friday thru Sunday, to grab yourself a pre-loved bargain, as they’ll be selling off donated items to raise money for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Also, stay tuned to BLOODSTOCK’s socials for details of who you’ll be able to meet in the PLANET ROCK SIGNING TENT this year!

While you’re planning your packing, don’t forget that BLOODSTOCK has introduced a dedicated one-stop-shop featuring all those festival essentials. From the all important cold beers to BOA’s own 2023 merchandise through to camping equipment and much more, BLOODSTOCKers can secure all their must-have items in advance from one online shop, eradicating the need for last-minute scrambles, long queues or searching in multiple online stores for different items. 

For more info and to explore what you can get, visit the official Bloodstock Festival Preo store
Ready for four days of heavy metal fun? Snap up your standard weekend tickets inc. camping at the ticket store for the bargain price of just £165 (+ fees). Don’t hang about, limited numbers remain. If you want to make it a family affair, there are child tickets too, priced £45 (+ fees) and mini-moshers below age 4 go free. If you can’t make the whole weekend, but don’t want to miss out, limited day tickets are available priced £75 (+ fees) for adults and £25 (+ fees) for kids. See all options in the ticket store and get excited watching the latest trailer here

BLOODSTOCK’s 2023 Ronnie James Dio main stage headliners are KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, MESHUGGAH, and MEGADETH. Also appearing are HELLOWEEN, IN FLAMES, BIOHAZARD, EMPLOYED TO SERVE, ROYAL REPUBLIC, SACRED REICH, HEAVEN SHALL BURN, SEPULTURA, FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, CROWBAR, CANDLEMASS, TRIBULATION, SEETHING AKIRA, UGLY KID JOE, DECAPITATED, GATECREEPER, ZEAL & ARDOR, KING 810, ABBATH, URNE, ALL HAIL THE YETI, DEAD LABEL, BOSSK, CHURCH OF THE COSMIC SKULL, BROTHERS OF METAL, PEST CONTROL, GUTALAX, UUHAI, INVISIONS, COBRA THE IMPALER, TROLLFEST, SKYND, FROZEN SOUL, EMBODIMENT, THE VIOLENT INZIDENT, TRIBE OF GHOSTS, DAKESIS, THE ENIGMA DIVISION, THE GREY, EYES, TUSKAR, STENGAH, OVERTHRONE, TORTURED DEMON, CASKET FEEDER, GAEREA, BLOODYARD, WOLFBASTARD, EMBODIMENT, SKIN FAILURE, WITCHSORROW, WYTCH HAZEL, HATE, BLACK COAST, ZETRA and more. 

Get full festival information over at bloodstock.uk.com.

BLOODSTOCK will take place at Catton Park, Derbyshire on 10th-13th August 2023. 

Download Festival – 20th Anniversary GIANT REVIEW!

It’s June, we are out of the grey days and on the cusp of summer, there is hope in the breeze. Donington Park, home to superbikes and souped up engines is about to be clad in all black everything – for the unstoppable force that is Download Festival. In it’s 20th Anniversary year, hitting a sold out 100k audience is the cherry on the cake of Donington history. Praise be to the old guard of Monsters of Rock for handing down these fields of joy, so we can continue to celebrate.

WEDNESDAY

As part of the bigger/better anniversary wealth, Download has this year included an additional full day of music to the line-up – meaning that campers can arrive from Wednesday instead. In previous years, there seemed to be a greater split of arrival times and days for those camping but this year… it’s like the Pied Piper of metal suddenly called every alt kid in the UK at once, and everything in a five mile area is a fucking mess.

Now we know the road infrastructure around Donington Park isn’t the best, and we know it’s also competing with East Midlands Airport along one side, but this is another level of shithousery – the abject worst queues in the festival’s history. Reports coming in of people queuing for over seven hours in hot cars and buses, carparks being full and closed early on, signage being scrubbed out instead of redirected… the list goes on.

Many people took to Instagram to contact the festival directly and voice their complaints; @morrighan writes “Please sort out whatever the heck is holding up the J24 exit! We followed advice to follow signs for the fastest route. Taken us 3 hours to move less than a mile!” with @not_my_pubs_name replying “same, got on m1 exit slip road j23a and been sat here 3 hrs so far, and I’m camping in quiet camp, but now West carpark is full, so double fucked off. Utter joke”.

Essex tattoo artist @lucyharmless was also caught in the melee “wanna tell me why I’ve been sat in the same spot for the last 5+ hours, I know it’s a sold out festival but we’re not even moving here”

The festival has made no response about why things were this bad, instead posting the same information about which junctions to enter the festival by for the following days. Though the problem wasn’t as pronounced over the rest of the weekend, there were still significant delays with no real explanation.

As a 20 year fan of this festival (yes, I’ve been to them all) I would love to only sing it’s praises, but this is something that surely must be addressed for next year’s event. There has to be a way to separate and space out arrivals, maybe something in booked time slots for coming in (whilst this may sound a little prescriptive, but both Bestival and the IOW festival essentially had this work with ferry bookings splitting up the entry) or linking booked parking to campsite locations so that you can only go to one specific area. Hopefully better brains than mine are considering the future implications of the festival’s size.

THURSDAY

For ourselves, entering on Thursday was indeed an unfortunate three hour queue situation to hit the West car park which is closest to the box office we needed to be at for our wristbands. Luckily we had packed drinks and snacks knowing the stakes from the day before. Though we missed a few choice early bands due to this, entering the arena again felt like coming home. There is something undeniable about the feeling of stepping through the portal of Download. One minute you’re in the regular world where people look at you funny, and the next you’re side by side with every other person who knows exactly what it’s like to be fringe, or other.

The arena itself has had an overhaul, and I really think it is (mostly) for the better. The fairground rides have been summarily booted to the Avalanche stage area, which is a brilliant move. Their ridiculously loud playlists are no longer sullying the Apex stage sound, and they don’t hinder Avalanche at all because it’s a closed in tent – perfect. Gone too is the traditional line of food outlets that broke up that area, and the accessible viewing platform has had a move too. The result is an absolutely gargantuan main stage area with incredible views from all angles, further helped by the enormous screen towers and stack amps that are supposedly only in place for Metallica. Honestly – I wish they would keep them, the sound and views have been bloody incredible due to this set up.

I will pause to note though, that the accessible platform has been moved to the other side of the arena, presumably to facilitate quicker movement between the stages, especially Opus and Apex. Whilst this is in theory a great idea – the route between the platforms has been sandwiched in probably the most notorious bottleneck of the whole festival, rendering it completely unpassable during high crowd sets, simply because people are stopping in those areas to watch too. I’m not sure what could be done about this, it makes the most sense to have moved the platform there, but some kind of access run-through between them perhaps?

Anyway, onto the music. Having performed an incredible set last year at Bloodstock, it is so good to see Ukrainian band Jinjer absolutely smashing their way onto the Download main stage to a very respectable crowd. Lead vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk is an absolute powerhouse, song ‘Teacher Teacher’ hits hard even in the baking sun. It’s clear the crowd is on side as the band talk about what is happening in their country, by beginning a “Fuck Putin” chant, under the screened Ukrainian flags. I’d call their set a complete triumph, especially for a band that has jumped from performing in The Dogtooth at Download 2019 to the main stage in 2023.

Hundred Reasons ‘I’ll Find You’ will forever be one of my favourite jams, but it is beyond horrendous trying to move around the Opus stage at this point – there are simply too many people for comfort, so we stand off to the side for it and then scarper in search of space to sit down.

Over on The Avalanche stage we caught Punk Rock Factory, a Welsh four-piece doing what absolutely everyone wants to hear – theme songs and Disney covers. I’m not even slightly joking, the tent is packed and there are crowd surfers galore. No-one is pretending to be too cool to sing along with the likes of Go Go Power Rangers (replete with actual Power Rangers standing ominously still at the front of the stage), the Pokemon theme tune is excellent, as is Under The Sea from The Little Mermaid. Truly this band are a highlight, if only for the nostalgia button they press in all of us.

Punk Rock Factory © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

Halestorm are predictably awesome, and I mean that in the full sense of the word. Lzzy Hale belts out notes like she doesn’t even need a mic, an absolute rock icon. ‘I Miss The Misery’ is always going to be the big fan fave but truly the whole set was just good clean rock and roll in the sunshine. There’s something to be said for a band that sits so comfortably in this classic sound and owns it – there’s actually not a lot of it on the bill this weekend.

After grabbing a horrendously overpriced slushie (cozzie livs is really showing up in the food and beverage prices this weekend, let me tell you) we thought we’d check out the merchandise selections, but immediately turned on our heels when we discovered that they were over an hour long wait. No thanks.

I’m fairly sure that every single year I’ve complained about merch queues but, this festival is so big now it’s really time to add another one to the main arena. Way back in the Opus corner maybe? Heck stick one in VIP so that an entire population of people can grab their stuff outside of the arena as well? The addition of one to the West carpark exit/village entrance was great, but there were a few teething problems with the new ‘Megastore’ too.

Now, I love an obscure item as much as the next person (I do really want the Download bedsheets) and think this was a great idea… but I don’t know if sticking the Megastore out of reach for day/weekend ticketholders was necessarily fair. Particularly when it contained special tshirts not on sale in the arena stores – nor indeed the ENTIRE Mary Wyatt collection which been so hyped on social media prior to the event. More than a few disgruntled fans flocked to the Mary Wyatt Instagram to express their disappointment at not being able to grab something. The merch itself was interesting this year, I especially enjoyed the retro 03-23 logo tee and the back patch 20 jacket, but ooft the prices really do keep on rising.

Over on Apex, Alter Bridge bring us another dose of classic rock with Myles Kennedy’s signature vocal sound soaring over the sun-soaked crowd, while New York pop punk quartet State Champs light up the Avalanche stage for a rowdy but fun show – the whole tent is dancing.

State Champs © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

There is one band that I categorically want to see playing somewhere EVERY year please-thanks, and that is our Welsh pals, Skindred. As far as I’m concerned they are the sound of the summer, and my season isn’t over if I don’t do the Newport Helicopter at least once. Pulled in to fill the 5FDP void, there could be no more perfect choice than having Benji & co. headline the Opus stage – and what a rowdy good time it was. Every damn song they do is catchy, upbeat and just generally inspires movement… so you can imagine how intensely difficult it was to acquiesce to this innate demand when ALL 100K FESTIVAL GOERS were also trying to occupy that space. Coming off the back of a Heavy Music Award win there’s absolutely no doubting they’re fully at the top of their game, and are beloved at Download.

I’m going to attempt to keep this brief, since the greedy barstewards are playing twice this weekend, but it’s time for the first Metallica roundup.

As the sound of AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ starts up by way of intro, old photos of the band surrounded by neon yellow frames (the official colour scheme of this tour ‘72 Seasons’) splash over the backdrops and the new cylindrical screen towers, including two monster cylinders actually on the stage itself. It’s an undeniably massive set-up, but there is a bit of me that is wondering if it’s going to be all style over substance.

On a personal note, Metallica have been there from the very beginning for me. I was there at the first Download, squished into a tent for their not-so-secret set… I was there when Joey Jordison filled in for Lars… I was there when they played the whole of The Black Album… they’re woven into the fabric of this festival and my festival history. One particular memory I carry from all of these times, is seeing hundreds of lights glowing in the dark of the night for ‘Nothing Else Matters’. The only difference is, the first time I saw them it was a warm orange glow from thousands of flame lighters – tonight, the cool white of phone torches. It’s strange to think how the next generation’s memories of live music will be formed.

Highlights of course included ‘Fade to Black’ in which Lars actually savaged a snare drum which had to be quickly replaced, ‘Sad but True’ and ‘Seek and Destroy’ (have we noticed how much Metallica love 3 word names for their songs?).

That said, this isn’t by any means my favourite set I’ve seen from Metallica. Yes the sound quality is excellent, and I’m never not going to enjoy ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Fuel’ but it feels a bit like they’re conserving energy for Saturday if I’m honest. Lars predictably spends some time at the end waxing lyrical about their Donington origins in 1985 “…you guys have that saying, ‘home turf’… I think this might be Metallica’s home turf” but, I think it would have been a bit nicer and more topical to have talked about their Download history in particular… it’s only the bloody anniversary event isn’t it.

© Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

FRIDAY

Today we’re already fearing the heat and slathering ourselves in sun-cream, but off we merrily pop to the Opus stage for The Warning. “We are 3 sisters from Mexico” they yell, before absolutely crushing their punchy hard rock set. From humble beginnings as kids on YouTube covering Enter Sandman, to a huge audience at Download is pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

The Warning © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

In a swift change of pace, we catch up with our friends-from-another-field – Elvana. Usually seen in glitter and sequins at the likes of Camp Bestival, they’ve chameleon morphed into… well, something else. Resplendent in black skeleton Elvis-style jumpsuit and suits, the band (and their doom cheerleaders aka backup vocalists) bring something a little silly but ultimately very enjoyable to the Download palette. Who doesn’t want an unhinged circle pit to Blue Suede Shoes, and have lil mosh to Smells Like Teen Spirit? Jokes aside, they’re actually excellent as well as fun, what’s not to love.

Heading across site we spot a lot of little Battle Jackets this year. Seems that a few more people have braved bringing their kids along and it feels like a nice shift for the festival. Yeah you can whinge on about it being ‘for adults’ but, there’s something to be said for passing on the spirit of metal to the next gen in a way that feels genuine and community led, and metal Mums and Dads just wanna see live music too, so bore off.

Witch fever over on the Dogtooth stage are another example of excellent up-and-coming bands we’ve been treated to this weekend. It’s been really fun to have some new blood turnover in the smaller stages and they certainly came seeking violence with their heady mix of post-punk power over gloomy basslines. Riot grrl era is back on the menu, and they are leading the call in all the ways we want – including jumping into the crowd and getting rowdy. If they started a zine I would buy it. Top song for my choosing: ‘Bully Boy’, oh and did I mention – they’re all hot.

Heading down the hill to the Apex, we are greeted by the incredible Nova twins, a punk/grime influenced duo from London. Now this for me is a truly excellent booking, their sound is unique and interesting, they absolutely wail and have that unmistakable star quality that we need for the main stage. Next up, Hot Milk are in danger of becoming Curdled Milk (snickers uncontrollably) and suffer a bit from the crowd being well… too hot. I have no idea how they survived on-stage pyro in this heat but more power to them, because I am melting.

Epica are first up in the melodic/symphonic metal stakes today and lead vocalist Simone Simons has one of those voices that has the power to skewer you right through the soul. It’s a decent crowd already, and I fear for being able to get round there later on.

Neck deep aren’t usually my scene but they’re doing a good job of hyping up the crowd, and it’s nice to see what Wrexham has to offer besides football and American celebrities. However, they do indeed sound extremely American when they sing – such is the power of the pop-punk cadence. “Everyone who’s from a shithole town, yell if you’re proud of where you came from!” elicits a huge roar, but the thing is, everyone in the UK thinks they’re from a shithole town until someone else bags on it, then the gloves are off. Aaanyway, Brutus are another new-to-me band who absolutely ripped up the Dogtooth stage, I am always floored by drummers who are also vocalists, the level of coordination is baffling to me.

Brutus © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

As expected Pendulum are fucking incredible and have wisely chosen to beef up the heaviness of their set – as they did last time they played Download. It’s a welcome return and everyone is up dancing about for it, despite the heat. “Front to the back, I need to see you crazy fuckers” is the call to arms for ‘Propane Nightmares’, and it’s quite cool that they’re joined by Matthew Tuck (of Bullet fame) for ‘Halo’, but ‘Witchcraft’ is the ultimate Pendulum masterpiece in my opinion.

Unfortunately due to some costumes not arriving in time, Gwar have to pull out of todays performance, which is met with a huge groan from the crowd inside the Dogtooth. So we head over to Within Temptation to be summarily met by a wall of people right up to the pathway. There is no chance of getting through, so we catch a bit of Sharon Den Adel’s deep and spooky vocals, as the second symphonic band to hit the stage today. Sometimes I forget how much ‘Stand My Ground’ slaps live – do these women even need microphones really? It feels like she could go without and still be heard at the Apex stage.

Architects are inducting newbies to the fray “…how many of you have crowd surfed before? Now’s your chance, get over this fucking barrier!” via some rather nice blokes who are giving people boosts into the waiting arms of obliging pallbearer types. But we’re hanging back to see Evanescence complete the trifecta of big vox, gothic female fronted bands today. As suspected – we can’t get anywhere near and the sound is totally borked from the side to the point of not really being able to hear. Sad times but I think the Opus field just no longer has the capacity.

Luckily the beyond brilliant Carpenter Brut who I’ve been listening to on repeat for the last 2 months, is giving the packed out Dogtooth something resembling a rave but considerably wilder. Apparently we’re calling this darksynth, but all I know is it’s fucking FUN. Sadly there are no tshirts to be found at the merch tents, otherwise I’d have snapped one up, call me a new fan – especially of his cover of Michael Sembello’s Flashdance hit ‘Maniac’– I command you to listen to it immediately.

Bringing Friday to a close are the much anticipated Bring Me The Horizon with an incredible stage set comprising of lots of bridge levels wrapped across a giant screen backdrop, like something out of a musical. Hitting the stage in a crop top with bondage straps and a shaggy haircut, Oli Sykes hasn’t morphed too far from the early scene kid days, but he definitely looks like a headliner now. It’s hard to describe but from minute one I was absolutely convinced they were meant to be there, and I genuinely felt excited to be seeing Download making a clear choice for the future of the festival here.

The band unceremoniously rip through the likes of ‘Teardrops’ and ‘Mantra’, before introducing “…one of [their] favourite bands in the fucking world…” Nova Twins, to head up ‘1×1’ with them. There is no denying the set is special, it’s got pizazz, the band sound incredible and they’re doing things that make it a unique show. This is what I wanted Metallica to do yesterday, to be honest.

Yes they’re a funny mix of genres at times, but this does actually allow them to be more flexible in their set too, something not a lot of bands can bring to the big stage – but there’s nothing that will keep a classic emo down is there… “Sometimes you get sad, but it’s about realising it and sharing it. If I’ve gotta be lost, I’m glad I’m lost with you people”. Oh Oli, wipe your tears babe, here comes Amy Lee (of Evanescence) – joining them for hands down the MOST emo named song in the history of songs ‘One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death’. It’s pretty great actually, and at least I can finally hear Amy Lee.

I could live without the face melting pyrotechnics to be honest, it’s still so hot tonight – and we were two speaker sets back so you know the people in front were basically cooked like turkeys. There’s a bit of me that wishes the tired suicidal ideation bit (‘DiE4u’) didn’t have to start with spoken word that sounds mystically beautiful to morose teenagers but ah, that’s the therapist in me speaking I suppose. Many have sung worse things I know, but it isn’t my favourite. Despite this, and the sort of strange cyber-attack/AI bit they keep playing on the screens, the band absolutely smash the shit out of this headline show. Yelling “I don’t care what you do, but if you stand still you are… a very special kind of knobhead” actually does appeal to my wish to not be seen as a knobhead, so I join in with everyone else because he told me to. If that isn’t the power of a headline act I don’t know what is.

‘Follow You’ is a lovely musical interlude, in which Oli requests people get on each others’ shoulders and hold up their lighters/phones “I’ll take owt”, and then runs down to hug the front row of fans. It’s a little cultish, but aren’t all the best bands?

With a giant explosion of pink ticker-tape and a nod “I will never forget this moment” they go out on the impeccable trio of ‘Drown’, ‘Throne’ and ‘Can You Feel My Heart’. Sign me up, I’m part of the cult now.

SATURDAY

Up and at ‘em for Polaris, who are very shouty and loud. I’m surprised at how many people are already going hard at midday considering we’re already edging on Satan’s armpit level heat.

I’m off to buy an overpriced slushie and head towards Avalanche for Lake Malice, who are going down as one of my favourite hits of the weekend. Vocalist Alice Guala looks like she’s jumped right off The Grid, wearing some kind of lycra Tron onesie and guitarist Blake Cornwall is rocking the coolest leopard print guitar I’ve ever seen. They’ve got an almost nu-metal edge, which appeals to my younger self, incredible energy and their crowd is responding with sending heaps of surfers across the barrier, despite the fact that the tent is stiflingly hot at this point. It sort of grieves me to know that this band started over Facebook during lockdown, and now they’re here. I was just out there making banana bread and doing my silly little zoom quizzes… how ‘bout you?

Lake Malice © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

First hype pick of the day for me are the deliciously kitschy Ice Nine Kills. I’d say the Venn diagram of metal fans and horror fans is probably almost a circle, and I cannot pretend that I’m not a basic bitch. With all their songs themed to horror movies, a good dose of on-stage theatricals (knives, axes, Patrick Bateman getup, you know – the full Alice Cooper style schtick) and catchy lyrics, I don’t think I’m alone in thoroughly loving this set. ‘The American Nightmare’ has been one of my most played songs since their second stage performance at Download last year – get on it.

In a whiplash change of pace, it’s time for the mighty Clutch. They are the antithesis of the previous band, no frills… no stuff… no theatrics. They just do what they always do – play solid funky rock and roll, brilliantly. The blazing sunshine with a cold beer is in my opinion, the most appropriate setting to see the likes of ‘X-Ray Visions’ and ‘Electric Worry’. Neil Fallon quips “hey shall we take our shirts off and pretend we’re in Red Hot Chilli Peppers?” as the heat gets to him, and they go out on the excellent ‘Pure Rock Fury’. I could stand a couple more hours of Clutch in the sunshine to be honest, let the music play.

A quick trip into the Dogtooth for the weird and wonderful Bambie Thug does not disappoint. They are dressed in some sort of Alien-meets-Hela demonic playsuit thing which is very fun, and are flanked by two gyrating dancers wearing only boxers – who later water gun the crowd (which is actually rather thoughtful of them in this heat). ‘Kawasaki (I Love It)’ is very singable, and ‘Headbang’ with special guest Mimi Barks feels a bit on the nose but ultimately is just really enjoyable. Bambie is going straight on the summer playlist.

Bambie Thug © Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

Alexisonfire are yelling about something “Fuck racism, fuck misogyny, fuck you” but I’m too hot to do anything from my position on the ground under a sun-brella. They’re not usually my jam but it is frankly not in the cards for me to move right now so I accept a bit of shouty ‘Accept Crime’ and ‘Boiled Frogs’ under an oppressively cloudless sky.

Dragging myself into the Avalanche for Gwar’s rescheduled set is a feat in itself, but I am rewarded with the sight of a half naked King Charles, Kim Jong Un getting scalped and Putin with no hands. Unfortunately this also means I joined the masses of [fake]blood-soaked bodies in an already sweaty tent, and let me tell you that stuff does not easily wash off. You can’t not like Gwar, they’re so silly, it’s the law.

After attempting to clean myself up, it’s over to see Disturbed’s inevitable but iconic rendition of ‘The Sound of Silence’, which to my amusement – a group of guys in front of us all had a tearful cuddle afterwards, adorable.

The Opus area is of course way overfull once again, but there is nothing stopping Placebo being just fucking incredible from wherever you were standing. ‘Nancy Boy’ and ‘Bitter End’ are the sounds of my angry youth and I am transported back to a point where I actually had time to sit and listen to songs without it just being in the back of housework or my job. Their cover of ‘Running Up That Hill’ might be a lot of people’s introduction to Placebo, via Stranger Things, but for me they are tickling my nostalgia navel and I am gutted they weren’t put on the main stage instead.

Metallica, night two. This is the set I was waiting for. Yes we had the exact same intro but the band absolutely enter the stage with more presence and purpose tonight than they did on Thursday. The crowd tonight is absolutely wild to look out on. This is the most open the arena has ever been, without all the foot outlets and such chopping the area up it looks incredible, an absolute sea of bodies bathed under the stage lights. There’s something quite eerie about being in the company of 100k people like this, and the deafening roar of those people singing along to ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ immediately goes into the core memory bank.

“Let’s see if you guys know this song… wait let’s see if we know this song” jokes James Hetfield (Papa Het? Is that what we’re calling him these days? Bit weird but ok) as they drop into ‘Until It Sleeps’, but ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ is just gorgeously melodic and dramatic in the darkness.

Then there’s a weird interlude where Lars Ulrich seems to try and bring an extremely terrified child on stage from the Snakepit, who absolutely has zero interest in being there and therefore cries his eyes out. Luckily Hetfield is on hand to diffuse the situation “Here’s my dad joke… the fans at download are in-tents. You give me a microphone and I don’t know what to do!”. ‘The Unforgiven’ is wildly good, like seared-into-my-minds-eye good – it truly is one of the best performances I’ve seen Metallica give, and I enjoy the mild ribbing they’re giving Lars to boot. “This is night 10 for us here at Download or Monsters of Rock, that’s fabulous. Well, it’s Lars’ 9th show, you gonna catch up with us one day? He’ll be here tomorrow playing with all the other bands” Hetfield jokes, as people around us shout back “please no” and “don’t encourage him”.

‘Whiskey In The Jar’ never fails to get everyone singing along, the on-stage pyro and offset flame canons are massive, closing out with ‘One’ and ‘Enter Sandman’ and shitload of fireworks – this is the epic headline set we needed.

SUNDAY

Day four of blistering heat is a struggle, not gonna lie. We are done in but soldier on into the arena once more for Bloodywood – now with quite the following, the unique New Delhi bhangra heavy metal sound is exactly the kind of newness I love to see, being played to a pretty huge audience.  Graphic Nature in the dogtooth are somehow, and for no discernible reason, doing their entire set wearing hood-up raincoats in this heat – but they do look like they’re having fun.

Lorna Shore probably don’t quite get the reception they deserve as the order of the afternoon seems to be Lorna Snore, as many people appear to tapped out taking a nap in the field. Next up Mongolian metalheads The Hu are plying us with more tasty unique sounds, very enjoyable but I do wish that their stringed instruments had been been levelled up a bit, as that aspect which is prevalent in their online catalogue was kinda missing. Their cover of Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ with half Mongolian lyrics, is fantastic though.

We head over to the Opus stage for a bit of Avatar who I can only think must be boiling alive in all their leather, especially with all their coordinated circular headbanging segments. ‘The Dirt I’m Buried In’ and ‘Hail The Apocalypse’ are highlights but honestly they’re just so entertaining start to finish – I wish they’d been a main stage band too.

Behemoth look as uncomfortably hot as they did last year at the burning inferno that was Bloodstock Open Air, asking “We need your energy, we need you to jump” to a day 4 crowd who are dead on their feet and basically crisp. It’s a no from me friends, but there are plenty of people down there having their time of their lives still so it’s all good.

I prevail are doing a lot of screaming and yelling fuck, in an angry teenage way, and whilst it isn’t really my vibe, their cover of SOAD’s ‘Chop Suey’ is actually great, and they do manage to provoke some very respectable and dusty circle pits.

On the Opus stage Bad Religion are playing an absolute blinder of a set, just solid good punk rock – the sound of my college years. The likes of ‘Anaesthesia’ and ‘You’ are required Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater history of course, and ‘Infected’ results in a massive singalong. Over in Avalanche, German electronic wizards Electric Callboy are ripping Download a new one. This is the most packed and writhing I’ve seen the tent this weekend, the electric energy is undeniable. ‘Hypa Hypa’ is probably the most well known of theirs, but I also loved their cover of Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ and The Frozen/Backstreet Boys ‘Let It Go’/‘I Want It That Way’ sweaty metalhead singalong was very funny to watch.

Scooting back through the gap to Opus we’re ready for some retro 80’s style metal from our favourite Swedish ghouls Ghost. This iteration of Papa Emeritus comes with much less pomp and ceremony, and I’m here for it. ‘Rats’ makes me giggle every time, it’s great used as a response to pretty much anything someone can ask you over the course of a weekend – but not if you want to keep your friends, let me tell you.

Dressed as a bat, Papa sings “I can feel the thunder that’s breaking in your heart” from ‘Cirice’ at almost the precise moment we start to witness lightning flashes in the sky above them. Very forward thinking of them to order the weather honestly. Luckily the festival skirts the zone between two massive thunderstorms in the Midlands, and is mercifully spared the Drownload moniker for another year.

Yelling “Do you want a goodnight kiss? How you doing Donington”, they launch forth into the epic and choral ‘Mary On A Cross’, a ticker tape and firework explosion, finishing up with ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘Square Hammer’. This was truly the best Ghost performance I’ve seen, it looks like they’ve settled into their zone without some of the theatrical elements that I thought held them back a bit last time, and let the music speak.

Trying to get back to the main stage for our final headliner Slipknot, was like some kind of hideous cross country trek through sticky stinky bodies shoulder-to-shoulder. The traffic around the site this year has been noticeably worse due in part to numbers but also perhaps a few layout changes that have made routes through somewhat smaller. Slipknot arrive to giant bursts of smoke from all of the speaker towers in the crowds, and the cylindrical screens are focusing on up-close band members which is actually really effective. It’s also good to see the Clown return to the stage after a hiatus, atop one of the giant spiked drum tower flanking each side of the stage.

There’s no denying that it’s an impressive set up, and the band come in with a solid twenty minutes of pure heavy rage, eventually Corey yells “It’s good to be home” followed by “I’m a bit mad at you, you made me lose a bet. They bet me you would still go as mad without me running my mouth for the first twenty minutes. There were circle pits, I lost twenty quid you fuckin pricks” before admitting that he has been ill and that his voice isn’t up to par at the moment. Unfortunately it’s really obvious that he’s struggling through the set and it makes a marked difference in the power and delivery of the songs. “Well I always sound like shit, but I don’t always sound this cool” he jokes.

A collective ooooh emanates from the crowd as he shouts “Download! Our family. Here are  some songs we haven’t played in a very fucking long time…” as they launch into a tour debut of ‘Left Behind’.

“This one goes out to Kerrang magazine… Let’s see what you do with this one folks…” is the precursor to another exciting inclusion ‘Snuff’ which again has Slipknot fans cooing.

The obvious run down towards the end of ‘People = Shit’ and ‘Surfacing’ followed by an encore of ‘Duality’, ‘Custer’ and ‘Spit It Out’ is a predictable but, what the people want. The execution is phenomenal and exactly what you expect of a headliner but… it’s still not the best we’ve seen them I fear. There’s something lacking in the vibrancy, and sure some of it is Corey’s voice – but I do wonder whether the passion is in it for them as a band anymore. It’s hard not to make a comparison to Friday’s Bring Me The Horizon headline set, where the air was absolutely electric, and I say this as a person who isn’t (or wasn’t) a particular fan of either band. The tides are a’changing at Download festival, and I’m excited to see where we are headed, but it might mean leaving some beloved people behind.

Download, you’ve been epic once again – may your next 20 years be as wild!

© Anna Hyams Wade for Summer Festival Guide – do not use without permission

BLOODSTOCK REVEAL ‘METAL 2 THE MASSES’ FINALS DATES AND FIRST BANDS FOR 2023’s NEW BLOOD STAGE

As Spring settles in, BLOODSTOCK HQ is a hive of activity.  This week’s announcement sees the first bands announced for the New Blood stage, and the dates are set for the Finals of 2023’s METAL 2 THE MASSES programme, BLOODSTOCK’s celebrated initiative to help developing bands score a landmark opportunity, playing a slot on the New Blood stage at the festival in August.  Some winners are chosen from online submissions, whereas others battle it out among their peers at local events across the country. This year, 29 different regions have stepped up and we also welcome initiatives from Croatia and Poland to the programme. 

The finals kick off this Saturday 29th April at Leicester’s O2 Academy and roll through to Saturday 8th July at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern.  Full dates are detailed below, so be sure to get out and support both bands and venues near you. 

Sat 29th Apr – LEICESTER O2 Academy
Sat 6th May – EDINBURGH La Belle Angele
Fri 12th May – BELFAST Voodoo 
Sat 13th May – DUBLIN Fibber Magees
Sat 20th May – SHEFFIELD Corporation
Sat 20th May – MANCHESTER Rebellion
Thu 25th May – NORWICH Brickmakers
Sat 27th May – MILTON KEYNES Craufurd Arms
Sat 27th May – LEEDS The Library
Sat 3rd Jun – LONDON The Dome
Sat 3rd Jun – NEWCASTLE Trillians
Sat 3rd Jun – OSIJEK (Croatia) Ex-Epic
Sat 10th Jun – CHORZOW (Poland) Lesniczowka Rock n’ Roll Cafe
Fri 16th Jun – COLCHESTER Coda
Sat 17th Jun – GRAVESEND Leo’s, Red Lion
Fri 23rd Jun – BIRMINGHAM Devils Dog
Sat 24th Jun – HITCHIN Club 85
Sat 24th Jun – WREXHAM XS @ The Penny Black
Sat 24th Jun – BRISTOL The ExchangeFri 30th Jun – BOURNEMOUTH Bear Cave
Fri 30th Jun – CHELTENHAM Frog & Fiddle
Sat 1st Jul – BURNLEY Sanctuary
Sat 1st Jul – STOKE The Underground
Sat 1st Jul – NORTHAMPTON The Black Prince
Sat 1st Jul – LIVERPOOL Zanzibar
Sat 1st Jul – CARDIFF Fuel
Sat 8th Jul – NOTTINGHAM The Old Cold Store
Sat 8th Jul – SALTASH Livewire
Sat 8th Jul – OXFORD Jericho Tavern
Meanwhile, grabbing New Blood slots via the online submission process are these lucky acts.
Joining Friday’s New Blood stage are London’s LOKUST.  Their ferocious, instrumental demo single, ‘Guiltless’ (featuring Krimh – Septicflesh/ex-Decapitated) only hints at what’s to come when they release their debut album this year.  Also appearing Friday will be Stoke On Trent’s self-described “heavy as fuck” trio, HEADPRESS. Get a taster of their brutal triple attack via the video for ‘Outlines’. And joining Friday’s fray are Yorkshire UKHC squad, STREET SOLDIER. Check out the crunchy uncompromising title track from their debut ‘One Man Gang’ EP.

For Saturday’s New Blood stage, we welcome South Wales black metal collective OFNUS. Watch out for the band’s debut full length coming this Summer and meanwhile get a taster of their bleak, brutal sound.  Also featured on Saturday will be riff-laden Manchester metal trio, VICE. Their second album, ‘For The Fallen’ was released last summer – watch their video for ‘Vultures’ here

Irish doomsters SOOTHSAYER also land themselves a Saturday slot. Get familiar with their glorious, atmospheric noise via the video for ‘Cities Of Smoke’, taken from their album ‘Echoes Of The Earth’. Last, but certainly not least, Danish modern death metal squad NAKKEKNAEKKER join Saturday’s line up. For a five piece with the average age of 18, these boys have skills beyond their years. Check out this clip of their live show.

Over on Sunday’s New Blood stage, you’ll be seeing East Anglian thrashers ELIMINATION. The band’s 2021 debut, ‘Echoes of the Abyss’ turned many heads and the band are at work on its successor, due out this year.  In the interim, watch their video for ‘Icon of Despair’

Also grabbing a slot are Northern Ireland rock trio, SKYPILOT. The band’s latest album, ‘Simple Beasts’, laden with fat riffs, landed last Summer, featuring the track, ‘Octofuzz’. And Nottingham extreme noise terrorists OUTERGODS grab a Sunday spot. Featuring members of Evil Scarecrow and Raised By Owls, the band are working on a new album that’ll land this Summer.  In the meantime investigate their ungodly ‘Catacombs of Madness’.  
BLOODSTOCK’s very popular club nights are also underway! Grab your mates, hit the dance floor, and perhaps you’ll be a lucky winner coming home with a free pair of weekend tickets – every club night will be running a competition! If none of these are near you, fret not, there will be more party nights at other locations through June and July revealed soon.
APRILFri 28th April – Warrington, FC2Fri 28th April – Cardiff, Metro’sSat 29th April – Camberley, AgincourtSat 29th April – Stoke-on-Trent, The Sugarmill
MAYSat 6th May – Brighton, AboveFri 12th May – Bristol, The LanesSat 20th May – Newcastle, Reds Bar @ Northumbria Uni Students UnionFri 27th May – London, ElektrowerkzSat 27th May – Southampton, SuburbiaSat 27th May – Stoke-on-Trent, The SugarmillSun 28th May – Exeter, The Cavern

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL REVEALS
EVEN MORE ARTISTS FOR 2023 LINE-UP

The line-up for Download Festival’s 20th anniversary has expanded with a further 12 names added to the weekend’s programme. All stage splits for the four days have also been revealed. The special anniversary edition, taking place for the first time over four days on 8-11 June 2023 at Donington Park, will now feature Cancer Bats, Casey, Hundred Reasons, Puscifer, State Champs and more, alongside headliners Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot and Metallica, who will perform two headline sets with no repeat songs. The very last tickets are available from www.downloadfestival.co.uk.
 
Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan will be bringing Puscifer to Download for the very first time, Canadian hardcore punk band Cancer Bats will also be delivering the noise this year and Hundred Reasons are back with their first new music in 15 years and will be playing Download for the first time since their 2006 debut.
 
Further additions include the recently reunited Welsh outfit Casey, as well as New York pop punk heroes State Champs, daredevil rock’n’roll darlings Cherry Bombs, and Welsh TikTok heroes Punk Rock Factory, who are rightfully graduating to a Main Arena performance after their memorable set in The Village last year.
 
The line-up continues with theatrical post-hardcore band Static Dress, South coast punk rockers SNAYX, Australian alt four-piece RedHook, and Kerrang! Radio The Deal competition winners Rituals, who will open The Avalanche Stage with their blisteringly heavy Newcastle metal.
 
These further additions continue to add to an incredible line-up for the very special anniversary edition of Download Festival. Stage splits have been confirmed and can be found at www.downloadfestival.co.uk.

The Long Road Festival 2022 – REVIEWED!

Friday

The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of… Leicestershire. Yes folks, it’s finally time to return to the grounds of Stanford Hall in the UK, for three days of Country and Americana at The Long Road festival. Driving down the country lanes through picturesque thatched villages and ye old pubs, we’re talking about a very different kind of ‘country’ here in the UK. This feels more ‘there are a lot of murders for such a small place’ than ‘we brew moonshine in our tub’ but the essence is kind of the same – our sunbleached fields after a summer of heatwave might not be giving full Texas but eh, it’s not far off.

We head around to the marked carparking looking for day parking, only to be waved down by an angry steward telling us there’s no such thing (despite the GIANT sign 5 metres away from him saying it does) and get directed into the weekend camping car-park instead. So we do as we’re told only to discover that this isn’t the way to the main box office… there should be day-parking, and we now have to walk through camping fields to find it/our way in. I don’t know what was going on with Friday’s site staff but absolutely no-one seemed to have a clue what was happening or where anything was. However, after some grumpy shuffling we finally make our way past the beautiful Stanford Hall itself, and into the festival.

Since there isn’t any main stage action today, we decide to take a full tour of the site and see what’s what. We are greeted by an absolute plethora of stuff-to-do which I take as the mark of a good festival actually, and the site itself is really pretty. Over at The Showground, there’s a flamboyant pink and yellow garbed Cowboy sitting for a Life Drawing Class, whilst next door the Yeti stand is giving lasso lessons (it’s very cute, the ‘bulls’ are little horned heads stuck on the side of Yeti coolers) and axe-throwing.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

We take a minute to check out the merch tent, and are pleased to find the range has grown considerably since last time we were here and most of it is available up to a 4XL which is really nice to see. The best t-shirt by far though is the Hot-Dog Showdown one, I’m coming back for it for sure. Around the corner and through a little woodland path is the new home of Buddy’s Good Time Bar, which this year is two tents in a little arena. One the bar itself, one the stage – as well as some seating and a bank of toilets nearby. Last time Buddy’s was a really fun indoor saloon set up in a faux village, and this definitely feels more generic festival, but the stage is bigger and it’s a nice little area to hang out in.

Over on The Front Porch – a stage dressed as a country cabin, complete with smoking stack chimney – where performers quite literally do their set on the front porch, we take some time to sit down and listen to the soothing sounds of Kevin Daniel’s acoustic set. There are people splayed out everywhere in the sunshine just taking it all in, and Kevin’s voice is stunning – this is my favourite stage at TLR.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Jess Moskaluke’s soulful voice seeps out of The Interstate stage tent, and I actually quite enjoy her Kelly Clarkson ‘Since U Been Gone’ cover, despite not actually liking the song itself. London based Misty River is excellent on The Front Porch stage amongst the twinkling fairy lights and the hay bales, with her shimmering sequined dress and beautifully unusual voice. “What a joy to be here” she says but sadly the next few songs are all but drowned out by the noise pollution from The Interstate. The two stages really are too close together when one is playing big beats and the other is acoustic.

Behind us the Moonshine bar seem to be doing a roaring trade, and they have Cornhole and Horseshoe throwing competitions set up for people to play. Around the back of the arena there are a few choice shops to peruse, with some incredibly detailed and interesting cowboy boots and hats up for grabs, as well as floral jewellery and an absolutely incredible stall selling repurposed fabrics such as fancy tablecloths – made into tops and dresses. In the centre of this area is the adorably named ‘Lil Possum County’ kids area which is a hay-baled arena of things to do for your critters. Our lil possum gives the obstacle course a red-hot go, and then promptly falls over a space hopper – excellent fun for all.

Would it even be a festival review from me if I didn’t discuss the food options here? Today’s shout out goes to the amazing Texas Smokers, whose BBQ’s are built into an old American fire truck, with axes for handles. Epic. Their dirty-fries are loaded with so much brisket and cheese sauce that I actually couldn’t finish it – unheard of for festival food.

After the snake-like rest I required following my giant dinner, it’s into The Interstate for Priscilla Block. The tent is absolutely full and she puts on an awesome rowdy show with hits ‘My Bar’ and ‘Peaked In High School’ yelling “This is a song for anyone who made me feel like shit about myself…”.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

On The Front Porch, Ilana Zsigmond aka St. Catherine’s Child is having some sound issues but gives a stunning mellow performance anyway, before bluegrass troupe The Vanguards get everyone up and dancing in the twilight. The chimney of the shack smokes red to match their very dapper outfits, as they harmonize over the twanging banjo melodies. “We’re gonna play you one by the Stanley Brothers… any Stanley Brothers in the crowd? Oh. Wait. I should say Stanley Brothers fans… because they’re all dead” gets a snort from me – there’s nothing like a blooper to round out a show, but they’re funny and graceful, and it’s a really enjoyable set on the auspicious day of their album release.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

The last act of the night for us is Drake White in The Interstate, which is absolutely packed to the seams with adoring fans whooping as he takes to the stage. “It’s so nice to be here, to be free, to be wearing Ray Bans in a tent and singing for you” he quips, the freedom part presumably in reference to two cancelled years of TLR, but also noting that there is absolutely no reason to be wearing Ray Bans in dark tent full of people. Anyway the set is amazing, he has an undeniably fantastic voice, with that unmistakable Alabama drawl, and the band are rocking – a great first night closer.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

As the fire-pits around the site are lit and we head out, it truly smells like we’re on the cusp of Autumn. The crackling logs uplighting giggling golden faces, the crisp cold evenings coming in and the sounds all around us are uniquely Long Road. There’s a magic in the careful curation of experiences which transport you elsewhere in time or space – I feel like I could be laying under the stars on top of a Wagon in the old west right now.

Saturday

Starting off today with a bit of mellow soulfulness in the sunshine is Sam Williams on The Front Porch, followed by a walk around the Lucky Dice Classic Car Show over the lake – I particularly liked the yellow Harley Davidson, and there’s a bit of me that wanted to take the Bronco on a joyride, but I quash the desire in favour of watching some Cowboy Olympics in The Showground. A young lad is standing on a bale of hay trying to catch flung frisbees and stuff them down his top, whilst being unceremoniously jabbed by the horns of buffalos on sticks. 10/10 very entertaining, as was part two which involved throwing hay bales with little regard to rules or safety, excellent sights.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Hudson Taylor on The Interstate give me countrified-Weezer vibes, very boppy and fun, but we’re heading over to the New Orleans Kitchen for some of their incredible blackened cajun shrimp and fries bowls. This is the second festival we’ve had their food at and I just know I’m going to dream about it in the dead of winter and be mournful.

After eating we head back over to The Showground for possibly my most anticipated highlight of the festival – The Hot Dog Showdown. It’s a full house around the picnic tablecloth set-up, there are 6 willing participants and 60 hot-dogs on the deck. As many as you can eat in 3 minutes is the timeframe (which I personally think is a very short window for what look like extremely bready buns) but the countdown goes and the contenders start chomping. There are a few doing the renowned dip-the-bun-in-water technique, but only the ultimate winner is standing up and doing a little wiggle in the grand tradition of Matt Stonie – and it pays off.  Let this hereby be my petition to bring Matt Stonie and Joey Chestnut to TLR next year, make this event bigger and better, get a trophy. I’m off to buy a tshirt.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Round two for Priscilla Block this weekend, this time on the main stage. She arrives in her signature jorts and a sparkly scrunchie, brandishing a Yeti cooler cup and yelling “We have a saying where I come from – holler and swoller! You shout, then you drink” as the crowd join her in a toast. The set-list isn’t the same as yesterday’s, so Block fans are getting a good second innings here, but she does still play ‘My Bar’, and then “To anyone who ever told me I needed to lose weight to be up on this stage… This one’s called Thick Thighs”. It’s absolutely clear the crowd love her, and she has definitely been a highlight of TLR for me – both times.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Cassadee Pope is up next, hot off the back of a social media dispute involving other members of the country music scene – in which she and Maren Morris trash Brittany Aldean’s transphobic nonsense online. Since the festival, Morris has also translated this ridiculous saga into tshirts with ALL profits going to Trans charities, and Cassadee was first in the queue to purchase one – we love to see it. Bursting onto the stage in a patterned white suit, Cassadee calls out “I’m sure everyone out here has gone through something so so tough, and you thought you might not make it… but you’ve gotten through it and you’re here. Be proud of yourselves” to rapturous applause. She’s a ball of energy, entertaining and bright – one of the best performances of the weekend.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Up next, Brandy Clark in a very sparkly sequined green blazer – has been moved up from the Interstate to the main stage, and is talking about how Marty Stuart (playing later) is a hero of hers, and the honour of sharing a stage. “Here’s a song I wrote about a pawn shop, do you have those? It’s not the only song out there about a pawn shop, but I hope it’s your favourite” she smiles. Brandy has a fantastic voice, and is clearly a crowd favourite.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Charly Lowry is over on the Front Porch wearing red cowboy boots and bringing the energy back up, and later the gorgeously smooth voiced Rissi Palmer wraps up the ‘Colour Me Country’ takeover, bringing all the other artists up on stage to thank them.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives are closing the Rhinestone stage tonight, stepping up to a much longer set than originally intended due to the cancellation of original headliner Chris Young – who pulled out of the festival (and his entire UK tour) on the 24th of August. The official line was that there were cases of Covid in the Chris Young touring party, but rumors abound of poor ticket sales on the tour have been circulating online, leaving a lot of disappointed fans who were attending specifically to see him.

However, this extended Marty Stuart jam session – with a heap of special guests – is a rare treat outside of Nashville, for country fans. Having toured with Johnny Cash in the 80’s, and having a career filled with amazing highlights in general – Marty is an institution in country music, and swaggers onto the stage in black, with all the confidence of someone completely at home under the show-lights. Marty’s touring band The Fabulous Superlatives are resplendent in matching powder blue rhinestoned floral suits (very apt for the Rhinestone Stage) as they launch into the set. It’s melodic, the harmonies are perfect, it’s a tour through classic country rock, and the crowd are having an absolute ball.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

We can’t get by without at least one quick pandemic reference here either; “It’s called Sitting Alone. I didn’t know what this song was about when I first wrote it, but I do now… for your consideration” Marty jokes, but I’ll let it slide because I really like the song. Going completely off script and just jamming along however they want, Marty yells “Wanna do a Johnny Cash song?” and of course it’s ‘Ring of Fire’ to the joy of everyone in the arena, before heading in a completely different musical direction. “I’ve been thinking about it… and I declare The Long Road Festival to be the surf music capital of the World… what do you think?” the crowd yells in agreement but I can’t help myself laugh at the fact that we’re in just about the most landlocked part of the UK and definitely aren’t ‘surf people’. Oh well, everyone is giving this Beach Boys cover a go anyway.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

After this strange interlude, we are treated to a few special guest songs starting with Andrew Combes who honestly looks absolutely miserable but works with the crooning I guess. Guest two is Kezia Gill “Finally something pretty on stage” quips Marty as she laughs, and they up the tempo with a rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ with about 3 extra verses over massive crowd cheers. Guest number three is Sunny Sweeny for the kind of sweet country sounds you can sing along to – and the entire arena certainly is. All in all it’s been a pretty special night, and yeah it’s disappointing that Chris Young cancelled, but there’s a part of me that is really grateful for the opportunity of watching a session instead of a prescribed set for a change. It feels intimate and personal – not something you can usually say about a headliner at a festival.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Sunday

The final day at the festival and a little sun relief this morning, it’s not quite as hot today which is a blessing. After another skirt around the site to see what’s going on, and a little sit down in the very plush High Falootin’ VIP area (sofas, tables, wooden recliners, a bar, cute lanterns everywhere, nice loos and a cracking view of the main stage) we head out to see Kyle Daniel hit the main stage. Kyle is inexplicably dressed as Shaggy from Scooby Doo, and I am absolutely dying to know if it’s intentional, but either way – I’m into it. ‘God Bless America (Damn Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ might be the most antithetic statement I’ve ever uttered as a predominantly rock and metal fan, but it’s a very catchy song that I find myself singing along to regardless, and the whole affair is exactly what I hoped I’d find here – fun. Kyle’s touring guitarist David Henriksson is equally exciting to watch (and to photograph) kicking his long legs all over the stage, and Kyle himself is no stranger to a headbanging guitar moment so I feel quite at home with them, they’ve been a real highlight of the festival for me.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Over on the Front Porch, Reya Jane is lamenting her “…cursed song. Every time I’ve released it I’ve ended up having to move back into my mother’s house”, and a quick jaunt through the woods to Buddy’s has us getting down to Gangstagrass who I just straight up LOVE immediately. “If you think there’s no space for violence in Bluegrass… remember all those killing ballads” gets the crowd giggling, before they make me a number one fan with ‘Appalacia Love’… “Appalacia knows how to party” is just, chef’s kiss. Don’t get me wrong though, they’re not just funny – they’re actually a fantastic talented band, and I’m here for the fusion, especially love ‘I’m Gonna Put You Down’.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Over at the Showground, people are gathering for the Spicy Wings challenge – which is surprisingly being co-hosted by Kelby Ray of The Cadillac Three, who apparently makes his own hot sauce, and kinda looks like he wishes he was in on the challenge. Six wing contenders step up to the plate and I am positive I am in for photos of crying, maybe even vomiting here, but alas. Either the spice levels aren’t up to scratch or these guys are all made of steel because they ALL finish ALL rounds and it has to eventually come down to a fastest-chomp-first situation. In conclusion – next year I would like to see pain and tap outs, so a spicier spectacle is needed.

Sara Evans floats out onto the main stage in a flowy floral jacket, to a huge crowd. She’s a darling of country who has won many different awards, but I’ll be honest – it’s kinda static and not really my jam. She has a beautiful voice but I’ve been hyped by Gangstagrass and I’m looking for some energy. At Buddy’s, Harleymoon kemp (Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet’s daughter, no less – and yes we did keep an eye out for him in attendance but don’t think he was there) is both talented and funny, joking about a guy on tinder “…the only thing that’s coming tonight is an Uber to take me home”.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Lindsay ell brings the momentum I’m looking for, she is stomping and dancing wildly across the stage, throwing herself into staggering back bends whilst wielding her guitar, and getting the whole crowd jumping. Throwing in her No Doubt/Queen medley of ‘I’m Just A Girl’ into ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is a little fun treat but I appreciate her whole set, and definitely applaud a gal who can run around on those wicked tall boots she’s wearing.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Following Lindsay is another burst of energy with duo LoCash, who I can best describe as Country-Pop. They’re upbeat and know how to pull a crowd, joking around about their attempts at English accents and then playing a cover of Backstreet Boys ‘I Want It That Way’ – this is the kind of cheesiness that will always win you a British crowd, to be honest. There are a few other snippets of covers chucked in there – ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, ‘Twist and Shout’, ‘Summer of 69’ and ‘Stacy’s Mom’ all make their way into the set to get countrified into TLR history.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Tonight’s eats include a dose of possibly the most incredible Buttermilk chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life, and the ridiculous ‘bucket o’churros’ which was even hard for 5 of us and a toddler to finish. Is there anything better than eating delicious food in a field listening to great music? I’m gonna have such festival blues the whole of winter I just know it.

Well, the final sun has set on an incredible weekend, and closing out the main stage are Southern rockers The Cadillac Three, who I believe the last time they played a UK festival were at a very different sort of event – Download at Donington. The stage is set with huge stack amps and three podiums – one for drums (with a kick-drum image of the band portrayed as skeletal heads), one for keys, and one for frontman Jaren Johnston. The lights dim and the band enter the stage to a huge roar from the crowd, which I wasn’t really expecting to be honest. TC3 are right on the edge of being more rock than they are country, so I was surprised to see how many people had come out for this tonight.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

Jaren does a quick shout out to previous guests around the site, and says that they’ll be hitting up the Everett after party over on the Interstate after they’ve performed – which honestly is really nice. It’s great that bands feel comfortable enough to walk around and enjoy the festival as well as performing at it, something I think The Long Road gets really right is the easy-going feel of the event. They play through a plethora of hits including the brilliant ‘Peace Love & Dixie’ and the very fitting hot wings related content ‘Tabasco & Sweet Tea’. ‘Down to the River’ is a favourite of mine but ‘The South’ is an epic closer tonight – a little commentary and wrap up on this weekend that really has celebrated all things Southern and country.

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG
Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG

So what did I think of my first full weekend experience at The Long Road festival? Well, despite it’s small size, you do get a lot of bang for your buck here. There is always something fun to see or do, everyone is friendly, the food is epic, there’s heaps to have a go at, kids are catered for, hell you can even bring your dogs and nothing is very far to walk between either. If you’ve always wanted to go to a festival but the big ones make you nervous, this festival is definitely for you – even if you don’t identify as a country music fan. If you are a country music fan and weren’t there… what is wrong with you? This is your mecca. Book your 2023 tickets immediately you absolute spoon. I had a bloody great time, and feel I’ve had the privilege to see some really special acts this weekend, so – see ya next year y’all…

Ⓒ Anna Hyams for SFG