Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Download Festival 2024: Nineties/Noughties Nostalgia!

Nostalgia is a bittersweet thing. We cherish the memories with open hearts as the images of simpler times come flooding back. Musical nostalgia is a tsunami of its own, a sensory overload. And I have been willingly stepping into that bittersweet realm.

In many ways it feels like pop culture peaked from 1990-2009, pro wrestling, movies, TV shows and of course… music. As a 1997 baby, I did miss out on getting to see some great bands in their prime but after getting a ticket to Download Festival XXI and seeing that I was in for an absolute killer dose; Limp Bizkit, Fall Out Boy, The Offspring, Pantera, Tom Morello, Queens of the Stone Age and Sum 41 to name a slither of the nostalgia cocktail soon to be injected into my bloodstream, I was a willing test bunny. And the fields awaited me.

Oh, sorry did I say fields? No… no… no… when I say a fields what I really mean is AN ABSOLUTE SLURRY OF EARTH GRAVY… thankfully trudging through this sludge was worth it though, as for me dancing in the mud just attributed to the weekend’s aesthetics… beer, BBQ, cargo shorts and Rock n Roll, I felt at home.

This certainly felt like 1999

Perhaps my favourite moment came Sunday evening, the sunshine poured into the Download arena. Fred Durst seemed as cool as ever and showed us all how to eventually age gracefully, as that unfamiliar sunshine transported Donnington to Santa Monica.

He waltzes out, owning his new Master Roshi/stoner looks and the crowd erupts with devil horns gestures and the sound of hypnotized screams. It was a special moment. The mosh pit was one of the craziest I have been in, as an entire ocean of limbs and torsos bounced, thrashed and surfed across the slurry-soaked field. They plowed through their set playing banger after banger, even displaying their empathetic side as Durst stops the band to attend to a hurt festival goer. This certainly felt like 1999 (thankfully without the extreme circumstances). Fred Durst himself proclaimed that at that moment we were getting ready for Y2K, a highlight for sure.

Queens of the Stone Age was another band that absolutely blew me away, despite the backlash from some metal purists, I thought their heavy set was a perfect Friday night headliner. Josh Homme was certainly in the moment with the audience, as we all felt as one in unison with some sort of higher power… or something like that anyway. Josh Homme has his way of entertaining a

crowd, that’s for sure! Their music videos are frequent stop locations for me when I am on the nostalgic locomotive hurdling towards my childhood, so seeing my musical heroes in this setting was beyond belief. I must say, however, their set in Birmingham back in November was something worth mentioning as I seriously felt the true spirit of Rock n Roll in the Utilita Arena that night in 2023. One of the greatest bands to contribute to Rock canon in my humble opinion.

Millions of eyeballs!

The Offspring was a blast from the past that really got me in a nostalgic mood, their Greatest Hits album was the first CD I owned, and they seemed to play this bar some other soon-to-be greatest hits.

I was being transported back to being a child watching Kerrang! TV and old VHS tapes of MT2 daytime broadcasts that I would steal from my brother. Ah no… This was it. Nostalgia is bittersweet, and this was the bitter feeling. In the simpler days of VHS, music television had the attention of millions of eyeballs, all turning square as the eighties and nineties babies were sat in real musical education. I could sense that much of the audience was just like me, reminiscing about similar times in their lives. Maybe when they fought with their sister over who could use the ethernet cable to watch their preferred band or artists on YouTube. It just seemed more real then. Wow, I am getting old!

Other bands etched onto those tapes included Sum 41, Bowling for Soup, Fall Out Boy and Faith No More. The latter didn’t play, however, vocalist Mike Patton’s other infamous band of freaks Mr. Bungle performed! And let me tell you, I was in awe. I could hear bands like KoRn, System of a Down and

Slipknot in their music, which I had briefly listened to before. But seeing them live? Holy cow… I am grateful I got to witness these legends in the flesh.

Thanks for the memories.

At any festival there is a sense of communal blues shared between the attendees, it’s something that is as certain at a festival as stinking toilets, food poisoning (I did not fancy Yorkshire pudding, fortunately enough) and camping next to a chronic snorer (I did experience this).

Now add in a huge amount of nostalgia being ripped away from your very eyes and place yourself back into that cold, damp and uncomfortable stool that is reality, and the blues are truly felt.

But wait this can’t end like this, I am an optimist after all and for what it is worth, I am forever grateful for spending my weekend in the past. I was a child the last time I welcomed the millennium, so getting to do it all again as an adult was immense. And I dipped my toe into the pool of pessimism in jest, because the modern bands were awesome. Royal Blood, Soft Play, Enter Shikari and The Struts impressed. There are too many acts to mention and with the rain, I did my best to experience all the bands while getting ample sleep, with all the mud trudging included. But my faith in Rock n Roll is unscathed, and it is doing fine.

Download Festival, you may have made me weep, but they were tears of joy. And with the recent closure of Kerrang! TV, I can safely say thanks for the memories.