So my first ever visit to Castle Donington - Monsters of Rock - came about in 1994. Up until this point I'd been far more into going to see a single band than a mixed bag which inevitably would mean some I liked and some time queuing at the beer tents littered around the venue. This was the year for change however. After bagging a ticket for me and my then girlfriend, we also booked a seat on the 'happy' bus from Glasgow and waited for the big day.
We left Glasgow around midnight after trying to inebriate ourselves into a catatonic state for the endurance 11 hr trip there through the night. Turns out that we were not alone on this approach and as the bus filled (or more appropriately poured ) up and left a full blown party was being had aboard. Being troopers, we indulged as only one can on such occasions but it fizzled out into a pall of smoke and empty beer cans after a few hours as we all hit our limit and hammered, we passed out on our microscopic bus seats.
Several light-years later we awoke at our destination, each with our own personal dead cat in our mouths and staggered off the bus at about 11am. Rather disheveled and crumpled we made a mental note as to the bus's location. Easy, we thought in our naivety, until we noticed the hundreds and hundreds of similar buses line astern and many many crumpled bodies emerging into the dark and grey daylight. The hell with it I thought, we'll find it later no problem, how hard can it be?
Donington Park is a pretty big place as you can imagine although in the middle of the English countryside, with many many stalls, curiosities, roadkill food 'options', beer tents, and what only a festival goer can know as the cesspit from hell ( known officially as a chemical toilet ). Great - lets go grab something to eat and a breakfast beer and all will be well in the world. We sauntered over to a likely looking area near the Dunlop bridge ( more on that later ), money in hand and ready to start the day but I had been foiled! Nothing was open and apart from the bus-going zombies infiltrating the park everything was closed and empty. Bugger.
With nothing else to do we promptly sat down on the damp grass and I mulled on my spectacular clothing choice of a suede tassly jacket as the rain started to fall.
Fast forward a few hours of boredom and dampness and things started to open and I could see more human-like forms milling around. Things were happening - Yay! Cue a few beers and I don't honestly remember what I ate but it cost a gazillion pounds and I have secured the remembrance of taste to a long lost storage area of my brain.
The line-up was pretty varied and there seemed alot for everyone :
Main Stage :
Aerosmith / Extreme / Sepultura / Pantera / Therapy? / Pride & Glory
Kerrang Stage :
The Wildhearts / Terrorvision / Skin / Biohazzard / Cry of Love / Headswim
I have no idea what time Zakk and Co hit the main stage ( 4pm maybe? ) but although Pride and Glory were a short lived band, they opened up well and were pretty entertaining. My friend I was due to meet later had the CD and it wasn't bad. They held up well live and having quaffed plenty of liquid inspiration I thought them pretty good. Nothing as heavy as BLS but rocky in a Southern American kinda vibe. They ended on War Pigs and I'd say a good effort and loads of support from the crowd. Youtube link -
( Headswim opened the 2nd stage. For the life of me I can't be sure I saw them but something tells me I did - I liked what I'd heard on rock radio on a Sunday morning still battered from the Saturday night before, however I suspect no amount of hypnotherapy would bring up a clear memory. Answers on a postcard ).
Cry of Love were second up on the small stage and I did see a little of them - I have no idea who they were to this day but I do remember watching them dodge many many missiles and batting bottles of piss with their guitars. They took it in good humor and no I was not the one throwing them. I was too busy making my way down the hill to see Therapy?
Back up to the 2nd stage we caught some Skin - literally. I quite liked them at the time and as I remember they did a decent job but it must have been pretty unmemorable - I think the girlfriend at the time was more into them then me. I decided it was a good time to attempt to try and find my friends who arrived by some route other than the zombie express and shambled off to the Dunlop bridge. Now this is a pretty obvious landmark and it sticks out a mile thus making it's-self an ideal spot to find the lost, stolen or wasted.
Cue the picture I had envisioned versus the actual image I was presented with in real life. No words are required here.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. My seemingly flawless plan for becoming reunited with my long lost friends was clearly also shared with the other 70 000 strong crowd full of idiots like me with the same plan and not a hope in hell's chance of finding anything other than the queue for the beer tent again, let alone any shred of sanity.
Miraculously I found them and we staggered off to go see these new punks Pantera I'd heard about.
We sat up on the hill to catch up, quaff beer and get loaded while we waited. The crowd seemed pretty expectant and I will confess I didn't know one song by them. Heard of them, heard the odd thing on Headbangers Ball but was willing to give them a shot. Many people drool when I say I saw them live and that I'm the luckiest bastard alive to have been there. Shortly afterwards they want to stave my head in with a blunt instrument when I tell them what I thought of their beloved band. Donington is not a quiet venue to have an outdoor festival, sure it's can be windy and the sound gets carried about a bit, but it's never quiet when I have been there. Pantera bounced onstage and it was to be the heaviest band on the billing so far. They erupted in a sound that was thin and weak. I can't quote any of the songs they played but they in my opinion were not good for such a hyped up band, I am sure the word shit has entered into the conversation a few times. Now before you all start loading up your guns and blunt instruments to come and hunt me down, let me point out - you weren't there ( man ). They have a huge following, but I just wasn't impressed or entertained. I amused myself quite happily during their set - I could hardly hear much from Dimebag, and Alsemo's 'vocals' were weak. I've met some people who were there over the years who totally disagree with me - go figure. Youtube link -
I wasn't really a fan of Terrorvision so I skipped that one on the small stage and probably mooched in a vague manner in ever decreasing circles toward the beer tent again while waiting for Sepultura who I again, knew very little about other than what Wally has recently described to me are officially known as 'Cookie Monster' vocals and seriously heavy guitars.
Once again we remained up on the hill for Sepultura's set. Far too much fun to be had getting seriously debauched on all levels - my legs were only a necessity to keep me secured to land, replenish beer, or descend into the 7th level of hell to pee. I am not a fan of theirs and never was but I am here to tell you Sepultura wiped the floor with Pantera. ( Put down the pick-axe - it's only an opinion people ). They were powerful, loud, and really intense. The Latino drumming they all got up to do was really impressive and to this day I still remember sitting there hearing the vocals to 'Territory' (the only song I know they actually played) reverberating and echoing around the arena with real menacing force. Not something to forget. It's something you don't get from a soundboard recording and it wasn't what I was expecting for sure but man, they kicked serious ass. Youtube link -
It looked a bit like that but darker and louder than you could ever imagine. She was roused by the ambulance people fairly quickly as it turned out she was fine but clearly the 'moshpit' down the front was out of the equation again so we chilled back with the less rabid and enjoyed the rest of the show.
The band were on fire that night and closing with Walk this Way they were followed by the traditional mountain of fireworks. Somehow we found the bus, with seconds to spare before it kindly decided to leave without us. We had probably tried every damn bus we could find prior.
One hell of a day and night. Not something I will ever forget. I do however seem to remember nothing of the trip home. Not surprising really.