Despite having a good knowledge of music I rarely listen to anything other than hip-hop and rap in my personal time and the UK festival scene always seems to fail to feed music to my ears. However, this year I’m ecstatic to see the likes of Kanye West at Glastonbury and Kendrick Lamar at Reading & Leeds, but expecting a very similar festival experience to previous years. One festival I’ve always been fascinated by is Download Festival; the sacred festival of rock and metal fans. When I got a phone call telling me that party god Andrew WK had put me on the Saturday guest-list at this year’s festival I knew it was too big of an opportunity to miss something so way out of my comfort zone, especially with household names such as Slipknot, Muse and Kiss headlining the weekend.
I had all kind of preconceptions leading up to the festival. Will everybody there will be able to tell that I don’t belong there because I look more like H from Steps than Marilyn Manson? Will the crowds be violent and I will come home with a broken nose? With this in mind I was cautious to see my first band at Download, but the welcoming atmosphere while watching New Years Day completely shocked me. The band that started back on Myspace, and has changed band members as many times as the Sugababes, clearly had a core fan base of passionate fans. The crowd was contagious with positivity and were far from hostile when you tried to move past them – something all stuck-up festival goers should learn. A fan pumped his walking stick into the air while the surrounding people helped him to balance and enjoy the music. This was unlike what I was used to seeing as usually fans at rap shows and other UK festivals just selfishly fight to get as close as possible the stage.
I felt unfulfilled that New Years Day’s crowd wasn’t how I pictured a Download crowd, so I went to Upon A Burning Body’s set and hoped they would put on a show that lived up to my expectations. And it did. As soon as lead singer Danny Leal commanded the crowd to spread apart I observed the behaviour of these wild rock fans. I learnt that a mosh pit at a rock festival is a poetic ritual that represents Ying & Yang and karma. The balance of wanting to punching everyone in sight, but helping anyone who is hurt and if you’re too aggressive, the forces of the pit will crush that person by summoning the moshing folk to stampede in a circle formation. During this chaos I witnessed a 5 foot 8 hybrid man/ woman/ clown with long dreadlocks, dressed in a black and white checkered suit run into to the pit while performing 6 continuous round house kicks towards anybody in its way. It shocked me as pits at other festivals normally see people bumping into each other like space-hoppers in the play ground and if someone gets hurt they start a fight which ruins the show.
It was the exceptionally energetic performance from Andrew WK and his full band though that allowed me to fully understand the pure meaning of a rock festival. With people surfing over my head, pits opening throughout the tent, everyone was treated equally and was embraced by the people in their radius as thousands of people came together to just party. It made me realise how shitty people are at other festivals around the UK. It’s got to the point where people are too stuck up to enjoy what’s in front of them with the people around them.
I always questioned why people would prefer Download to other major UK festivals and I think I know why. As soon as you slide that wrist band on your arm you’re a part of a community that just wants to have fun and all share a mutual respect. When you’re in the crowds people live by the unwritten rules and understanding to have a good time and accept that you’re going to be pushed around. Rock and rap are sonically very close to one another and share very similar values, but its the attitudes at the live performances that separates the two genres. I recommend that all festival goers should experience Download at least once, so they can learn how to behave in a crowd at a festival.