Holy shit, has this been a crazy week.
Arrived in London last week for a pair of monumental events in music history. First was the Download Festival at Castle Donington, somewhere up in the middle of the UK. Thanks to the generous intervention of the iconic scribe, Mr. Mick Wall, I had a red carpet waiting for me at the festival. OK, by the time I got there, a day’s worth of rain had reduced the festival grounds to the consistency of a chocolate shake, so even if there were a red carpet waiting for me, it would have been buried under a foot of mud. Still, I was at Download!
None other than Harry Paterson chauffeured me to and from the festival, his hospitality matched only by his stellar company. It was great to finally meet my fellow rock journo in person and for two days, we knocked about the filthy and festive grounds of Download. Although we had VIP wristbands, we were alternately let into and then barred from the artist compound throughout the weekend, but we found that curiously, if one security guard barred you from an area, a different guard at another entrance to the same area was highly likely to wave you through with a broad smile. Bizarrely, and this happened on several occasions, the same guard would let us through and then an hour later, bar us from entering. Later that day, he’d wave us in like a third base coach.
What to say about the festival? Met shitloads of people that I’ve worked with at Metal Hammer for the better part of a year, as well as a gaggle of great peeps from Classic Rock and a number of other PR agencies, record labels and friends of friends. Had a great chat with the flask-smuggling Joel McIver and his lovely missus, before enjoying a typically profane and hilarious unplugged set by Steel Panther in the media room. Speaking of whom, I caught up with a load of friends who were there to perform, like the boys in Steel Panther, a couple of the Anthrax guys, Chris Jericho, and Nick Bowcott. Saw amazing sets by Metallica, Black Sabbath, Rival Sons, Voodoo Johnson, Soundgarden, Skindred, Ghost, and Black Label Society. Lamb of God put on my favorite set of the festival, with an impeccably-timed, monstrously-energetic set that had 80,000 people dancing and grooving in front of the main stage.
Despite the mud and the ever-changing weather, it was a blast. Hanging with Harry was the unmitigated highlight of the weekend. It’s not often that you get to spend a couple of days with a kindred spirit, talking about music, politics, family and life, in between sets of some of the greatest music on the planet.
The train kept a-rollin’ on Monday night with Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods awards ceremony—essentially heavy metal’s version of the Grammys. I was invited to act as a chaperone at the festivities, which turned out to be intense, stressful and a total blast. Each chaperone was assigned to an artist and it was our job to make sure that we got our artist to the stage on time to either present or accept an award. In between, we were given bar tabs to buy them drinks and generally keep them happy. Whom did I draw?
Machine Head. The whole fucking band, plus their manager.
One of the Hammer guys was supposed to split duties with me, but he was felled by a massive flu, so I was on the go all night, keeping up with the five of them. To be fair, they were all pretty easy. I’d met Phil Demmel a couple of times before and knew he’d be easy. The other guys were super chill as well and were mainly happy to sit at the side of the stage and watch bands like Ghost, Watain, Biohazard and Anthrax perform some killer live sets. At one point I asked Robb Flynn if he was enjoying himself and he cracked a crooked grin and said with the faintest of slurs, “Yup. I’m hammered.” I guess I did my job well. Perhaps too well, because after Machine Head accepted their “Riff Lords” award at the end of the night, they proceeded to kick over the mic stands on the stage and then attack the drums before being led off. Later in the evening, after we snapped a picture in Anthrax’s dressing room, they went to town, destroying the room in vintage old school rock mode.
One of the best moments of the weekend went down at the after party, which took place at a bar in downtown London, where a metal DJ spun the best hard rock set I’ve ever heard. The killer moment occurred as I walked to the bar to grab a fresh seltzer water, and none other than Vinnie Paul (who had won “Best Drummer” earlier in the night), pulled me aside and told me how much the evening meant to him and how much he appreciated everything Metal Hammer had done for him. He then brought up the Pantera article that I wrote about the 20th anniversary of their Vulgar Display of Power album, which is in the current issue of Metal Hammer. I told him how much I enjoyed writing it, and he put a hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said, “I talked to the guys and we all agree—you nailed it.” Chills.
I’m kicking around London for the next couple of days, looking forward to getting together with Mr. Wall tomorrow and two of my favorite Europeans of all time, Nic and Tom, on Friday.
Really looking forward to getting back to the dogs and the California sunshine, but I plan on enjoying every single minute I have left here.