Thursday 12th August - Sunday 15th August 2021
Catton Park, Walton On Trent, Derbyshire
This is my 6th Bloodstock, but from a bizarre twist of fate this genuinely and whole-heartedly was the best. I don’t do kiss arse reviews for the sake of it, if it is shit, then it is shit. Don’t get me wrong there were negatives, but the positives far outweighed them. So, this is a festival review not for individual bands.
We opted to turn up Thursday morning around 7am. Bad news you couldn’t get in past security without a wristband and the office didn’t open until 10am. Good news is the security had a massive amount of common sense and after showing our negative tests, tickets etc., they allowed us in to set up, as we couldn’t get into the Arena area anyway, and we then came back at 10am for the wristbands.
When it was stated that the last tickets had gone, and it was officially a sell-out, my gut thought told me because of Covid, numbers will have dropped to maybe 13,000 to allow for social distancing. Nope: No room anywhere except for the ‘overflow’ field of Jotunheim, and even that was right at the back almost against the fence, in later arrivals cases, it was against the fence, yep the unofficial ‘Gents’ toilet.
Obviously on Thursday there were no main stage bands but still plenty of music in Sophies Tent. Now admittedly as I was there in no official capacity, although by Sunday my Liver really wished I was, I had no real reason to stay sober-ish. I did however catch Seething Akira, Famyne, Kingwitch and half of Lawnmower Deth. So, all in all, a brilliant first day. Beer prices kept to a reasonable level of about £4.50 a pint, food stalls about £7.50 to £9, the higher end prices being a bit higher than 2019.
So beautifully weird to wake up around 7 - 8am to the familiar sound of a can of beer going Pfftt and someone’s party starting early. Well, there was about 3 to 4 hours to kill so why not? Friendships are made by offering someone a beer, and the reciprocation later helps the conversation flow.
Off into the Arena to catch Venom Prison, who were brilliant, and slightly biased here, but the amazing Wildhearts, who I missed in 2019, as the high winds were moving my tent from Ironwood to Midgard, thankfully it remained nailed down by 2 pegs and 2 crates of Strongbow! Fortunately, Ginger and Co were on hand to come back this year. Not being a musician myself, but you could see the relief and pure enjoyment on the bands faces, the energy release, the pent-up anger exploding from them, and they certainly gave it their all. No hiccups this time with sound, just a superb faultless deliveries, like a Sir Garfield Sobers over.
Considering the travel implications being put on by governments, bands were pulling out right up to the last week, however Devin Townsend must be the consummate professional for what he pulled off. Arriving in the UK about 3 weeks ago to self-isolate for 10 days, and then to assemble a band almost from scratch. I assume, interview, practice and rehearse. No idea if these guys were session musicians, regular big stage players, ex-band members or whatever and wherever they came from. However, only Devin will know the technical issues - to us onlookers it was an incredible set. Hands up, I haven’t heard that much by him, watched a few YouTube videos but that was simply awesome. Just to cap the night off, it was into Sophies to catch Napalm Death with a blistering, high-octane brutality of a set.
My favourite day. On the main Ronnie James Dio stage we had amongst others, While She Sleeps, Paradise Lost, Cradle of Filth, Kreator, and to top it off in Sophies, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons. I used this as chance to stay sober-ish and use my camera a bit more. Bad news is that point and squirt camera batteries do not have the capacity of a pro DSLR even when you bring a charged spare!! Really enjoyed While She Sleeps and Paradise Lost - never seen either live before - if ever you get the chance, just go, and take my word for it. As for Cradle Of Filth, I have seen them three times now, and they never skip a beat and never disappoint.
On to the headline act, Kreator, erm Wow! Nothing fancy with computerised backdrops or techno lighting set - just a foursome belting out crowd pleasers. Opening with ‘Violent Revolution’, a track I expected as an encore, I suppose it just goes to show the extent of their back catalogue, but this was German quality and efficiency at its very finest.
On any other day you could get to the bar and expect to wait in a queue 6 or 7 deep. You know it was going to be bad when tables in front of Lemmy’s are full very early and the seating on the grass surrounding it has very little space. There must have been an awful lot of Sunday day tickets sold as the grass was as much a premium as an Oasis in the desert. But this was the final day and two of the UK’s biggest bands, with almost 100 years of experience between them, the mighty Saxon and Judas Priest, back-to-back on the same bill, along with Gloryhammer, Therapy, Bleed from Within and Diamond Head. A few sound glitches, or was my hearing going by the time Saxon hit the stage, but each and every one nailed it.
Also managed to catch two bands on Sophies I had never heard of, in the form of Wolf Jaw and Pist. Very impressed with both, topped of by a band who I have seen about four times now, and despite a very late membership change, they finally get to headline a stage …. the fantastic Evil Scarecrow. Watching about 2,000 people go to and fro to ‘Crabulon’ from the back of Sophies, must have been in orgasm territory for the guys looking forward from on stage.
Negatives and Positives.
It went ahead in the first place against a lot of issues and changes. Lots of people have had their sanity messed with this last 18 months, many to breaking point. This was so needed so all the negatives get cancelled out by this simple one positive.
Positive: 4-pint beer cartons at the bars. Genius move.
Negative: Running out of them on Sunday making the queues as long as supermarkets at the start of Covid.
Negative: Really needs another decent size bar. Effectively, Lemmy’s and Sophies are not big enough on their own. The small Hob Goblin, JD bar don’t add enough or take away enough traffic.
Negative: The new style compost toilets. Not enough of them, the morning queue was ridiculous, and the compost ran out way too soon. Brilliant idea but this one didn’t work. Need double the amount of each next time.
Positive: Absolute common sense by security. We are mostly adults, and they extended us that courtesy.
Positive: In this messed up world we are now in, we’re allowed to prove with a negative test, not mandated as vaccinated and given a choice. The choice to attend if we wanted, the choice to wear a mask or not, and the choice to take a chance if you wanted. Choice is a freedom we all should have.
Positive: On leaving Monday morning, someone kindly took out a section of fence near the road crossing, it saved so much walking, so a huge well done!
Positive, but still a slight negative: The mud track from the car park to the crossing looks to have been levelled off a bit, nice one! I asked about that last year as I almost broke my ankle when my trolley went off on it. Not perfect, but better than 2019!
Fucking brilliant. Just what my soul, mind, body and heart needed so much, although my liver will argue against this. Highlights? Every bloody band and it just goes to show what was invariably a thrown together largely British festival can do. Vicky et al may have been panicking a bit but I am so glad this paid of big style. A lot of bands will no doubt have found themselves on main stage slots where they didn’t expect, but they pulled it off better than the money shot in a porn scene.