Behind the scenes with Epi’s fan correspondent
From its humble beginnings as a one-day indoor event, Bloodstock has grown to become one of the UK’s premier metal gatherings. Now in its 9th year as a fully-fledged Open Air festival, this year the festival drew its largest crowds and as well as some of the biggest names in the rock and metal genre. If that weren’t reason enough to be grinning at the thought of attending, this time I’d be covering the event on behalf of Epiphone. Excited? You'd better believe it!
Bloodstock has always championed more underground and extreme acts than other festivals and while an attendance of approximately 12,000 may seem paltry compared to--say--the Download Festival, perhaps that weeded out "casual" festival goers with the result that Bloodstock's crowd drew 100% proof heavy music fans.
Walking through the arena, the intimacy of the venue becomes apparent with all four stages in view of one another. The more daring amongst the merry throng donned costumes ranging from subtle to the down right ridiculous.
The smallest stage, the Jaegermeister Stage, showcased the freshest underground talent, while the larger New Blood Stage hosted more established acts.
The Sophie Lancaster Stage, named in memory of a youngster who was tragically attacked for her alternative dress sense, served as a reminder to the metal community to turn their backs on prejudice, hate and intolerance. The Ronnie James Dio Stage was the main stage, named in tribute to the legendary singer.
Frederick Thunder and Willie Norton of NeonFly
While the crowd was entertained out front, the Epiphone/Gibson tour bus seemed like the place to be backstage. The bus saw an endless stream of artists popping in and out for interviews and exclusive acoustic sets. I caught up with newcomers Neonfly, whose Flying V-powered hard rock went down a treat with the crowd, much to the delight of the band.
Here are some of the weekend's highlights:
Earthtone 9 kicked off Friday’s main stage with their Les Paul-fuelled stomping riffs preparing the crowd for the days ahead.
Bay Area Thrash veterans Death Angel, making their 1st UK outdoor appearance, blasted through their set to great applause. Firewind featured Gus G's six-string assault, though some early sound issues plagued their set.
Over on the Sophie stage, young guns Cypher 16 put on an energetic performance. There seems to be a great buzz surrounding this band. Next was Xentix ("Lets go back to 1989," shouted singer Chris Astley) who ripped through an insanely tight set. Despite a 20-year career break, the current thrash revival keeps the Xentix sounding fresh and relevant. In between sets, the "Ghostbusters" theme went down especially well with the crowd.
Back on the Ronnie James Dio Stage, Municipal Waste kept stage security on their toes by encouraging fans to crowd surf the "wave of death." Scar Symmetry's Per Nilsson had the attention of all the guitarists with some fleet fingered manoeuvres.
King Diamond headlined on Friday with over the top vocals matched by a huge stage setup that was more Broadway musical than metal, but still a visual treat.
Saturday's highlights also included Fallen Riot on the New Blood Stage and Stormbringer and frequent Bloodstock favourites Beholder. Avantasia brought the party to the main stage as well to celebrate the end of their tour with an extended set that featured multiple guest singers.
Rock theatrics come courtesy of NWOBM comeback kings Hell, whose performance included pyrotechnics, stained glass windows and singer David Bower on stilts dressed as a giant demon faun. I spoke with guitarist Kev Bower after their set and he was excited to be back out on the road.
Randy Blythe of Lamb of God
Headliners Lamb of God drew arguably the largest crowd of the Bloodstock Festival with a set of sheer power and groove which was slowed down briefly by some technical issue that transformed singer Randy Blythe into a rather reluctant stand up act.
Whitechapel probably proved to be a better wakeup remedy than black coffee for some. Sacred Mother Tongue followed with great shredding by Andy James and fine vocals from singer Darrin South.
Phill Bozeman and Gabe Crisp of Whitechapel
Phill Bozeman of Whitechapel
Phill Bozeman of Whitechapel
Darrin South of Sacred Mother Tongue
WWE superstar Chris Jericho and his band Fozzy lit a fire under the crowd thanks to a guest appearance by Motorhead's Phil Campbell.
Elsewhere, the crowd watching Evil Scarecrows's parody metal show joined in when the band performed the "Robototron" robot dance. It was great to see the curves of a Les Paul and SG on their stage, which was a refreshing change from some of the angular "metal" cliche guitars. And the brilliantly named "The Bastard Sons" certainly put their Les Pauls and SGs to good use as well.
Bradley Fafara of DevilDriver
Exodus and Devil Driver both gave their own master class in how to manipulate a crowd, while Anthrax pumped the adrenaline meter up to 10 with songs like "Deathriders" and the war dance-inciting "Indians."
Sunday's highlights included Slayer (whom I was fortunate enough to meet). Tom Arya and the band performed new songs and old favourites and closed their set with a three-song tribute to guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which brought the crowd to an eerie silence.
Kerry King of Slayer
Tom Araya of Slayer
This brought an awesome weekend of metal, mosh pits and my first Bloodstock experience to a close, though it's safe to say it won't be my last! Thank you Epiphone for letting me experience such a great celebration of all things metal and making some new friends and a lot of good memories along the way!
Christian Andreu of Gojira