Bloodstock ultimate top 10 performances
Our veteran word-soup creator and self-confused socially inept death metal fanatic, Stewart Lucas has been doing Bloodstock since the late noughties. With eleven festivals to choose from, we asked him to list the definitive ten greatest Bloodstock performances. Please note that anyone who thinks differently is wrong. End of story.
Joint entry to start with, as both filled the Sophie Lancaster stage to the brim last year. Quite a feat as normally there is enough empty space, stage right to have a full eleven side footie match. Suicidal Tendencies were bumped to the second stage due to fog delayed flights and emerged two and hours later than scheduled to find every fucker on site was in the tent. Fuelled by the fact, the Sophie stage was already a pot of sweaty torsos, Suicidal Tendencies went for the jugular and produced an incendiary chaotic forty-five minutes set that climaxed in my friend’s lad Josh being hoisted on stage to play drums with Dave Lombardo. I have never seen a prouder mum. Then on the Sunday at the ungodly hour of half one in the afternoon, Alien Weaponry managed to repeat the feat on word of mouth alone. Three teens from New Zealand with only one freshly released album to their names, managed to put on a performance that put both their peers and elders to shame. In thirty short minutes, they put down a marker that the future of Metal belonged to them. And the reason why I have lumped these together, these will be “I was there” moments for years to come.
Bloodstock started off as a Symphonic Metal haven, when no one else in this country would book bands like Nightwish. However, there has been a shift over the years towards the heavier and the more extreme ends of genre which means, when Within Temptation were announced as headliners for 2015, there was a real backlash from festival die-hards. Ingeniously, organisers decided to compensate (but also slightly troll) all the moaners by having Italian Symphonic Death pioneers, Fleshgod Apocalypse play the Sophie tent at exactly the same time as Sharon et al stuttered their stuff on the Ronnie James Dio Stage. Cue an unheard of situation where there were more punters at (and spilling out of) the second stage then were at the main. Fleshgod Apocalypse, of course rose to the occasion and put on one hell of a performance, bathing in the opportunity to play to a crowd, the size of they could only usually dream of. So Fleshgood Apocalypse get their berth for the never to be repeated, perfect storm of a second stage headliners, pulling a bigger crowd than the main stage headliners.
In many ways, Devin Townsend’s 2010 Bloodstock show was an utter disaster. Technical glitches, lost equipment and an audible click track plagued what should have been a triumphant return from self-imposed exile (the organisers even invited him back in 2011 to make up for all the issues). However, it has lived on in legend, and has made our list, for two specific reasons a) it was a master class in how to deal with difficulties on stage and b) it was the moment that UK fell hopelessly in love with the affable, camp geek that is Devin. For nearly twenty minutes, whilst roadies frantically turned things on and off again, Devin calmly kept a huge crowd entertained with what amounted to a stand up routine (and some interpretive dance). There was no diva strops (Shagrath, I’m looking at you) and there was no slightly embarrassing silences, instead you had a consummate professional whose charisma just burned off the stage. This was the moment that the UK’s enduring love affair with ‘eavy devey truly began.
Slayer had been top of every Bloodstock attendee’s headliner wishlist from the moment the festival moved outdoors in 2005 but it seemed an unattainable pipe dream. However, with the booking of Motorhead in 2011 and Machine Head in 2012 suddenly it didn't feel like futile day dreaming anymore and in December 2012 came the news that the bookers had indeed achieved the unthinkable, Slayer would grace the boards in 2013. Their Sunday night headline slot was a watershed moment for the festival which saw it make the step from cult concern to major player in the market. It was also a hugely emotional affair as Jeff Hanneman had passed away just three months earlier. The wounds were obviously still raw and nothing was actually said from the stage, but there was not a dry eye when during ‘Angel of Death’, a huge backdrop bearing his name was unveiled. An incredibly touching moment that resonated across the field and probably alone justifies that show’s inclusion in this list (however, they were also bloody brilliant).
Greatest ever Bloodstock sing along moment? Many will say Europe doing Final Countdown in 2009 and believe me, it almost made the cut. But no matter how life affirming that moment was (and believe me it was as communal as it gets) it was outshone when three years later, Alice rolled into town and brought the ruddy song book with him. In one stretch, we got a salvo of ‘I'm Eighteen’, ‘Under My Wheels’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ and ‘Hey Stoopid’, all one after another. And later in the set there was ‘Elected’, ‘School’s out’, ‘Feed my Frankenstein’, ‘Only Women Bleeds’ and ‘Poison’. It was a positive treasure trove of monstrous rock classics that each and every-one of us knew the words to. Quite simply the greatest ‘Greatest Hits’ display, the festival has ever seen.
In the late eighties, Swiss progressive thrash wizards Coroner were so ahead of the curve that it felt like they existed in their own satellite universe. In the end, they provided too mind expanding music for your everyday metalhead and they split in 1994 in a vast sea of indifference. Seventeen years later, finally recognised as the pioneers and auteurs that they were, they reunited to play five shows, including Bloodstock. They were utterly incredible and I stood open-mouthed watching them take metal in directions I had no idea it could go. They were playing material that was in the main twenty years old but it felt other worldly and futuristic. Truly one of the sets that proves why Bloodstock is so special, one solitary show on English soil in twenty six years and it was here.
A word of mouth sensation of epic proportion. When booked, they were virtually unknown, but a tremendous support run with Trivium in the early spring built up the momentum to the point where every group of campers across Midgard had at least one member feverishly encouraging their compatriots to go see Power Trip. They did not disappoint. Whilst still technically being morning they turned the main stage into a whirling maelstrom of flailing bodies. One of the most direct and in your face performances that the festival had ever seen, Power Trip took no prisoners. They came, they saw and they thrashed. In years to come, this will be remembered as the moment that they happened.
I could choose any of Gojria’s four appearances at Bloodstock. As headliners, last year they were majestic. In 2013 and 2016 as fourth and second from top respectively, they were astonishing. But for me, it is all about their inaugural appearance squeezed between GWAR and Bloodbath, as this was the first time I snapped eyes on them. They were utterly incredible. This was technically proficient Death Metal but it was as minimal as it was powerful. Gojira had realised that it was not actually about the riff, it about was the space around the riffs. By stripping everything back and giving their sound space to breath, they had managed to create a muscular and crushing metal that sounded like nothing else. I’ve seen them plenty of times since but there is nothing like your first time.
Festivals are all about moments and Evil scarecrow in 2014 certainly was a moment. They were first up on the Saturday bill and emerged to probably the largest crowd that has ever been seen at Bloodstock at 11.00 am. They proceeded to also have the most fun that has probably ever been had at that time of day. They were on a mission to be sill as well as ensuring everyone else would join in. So we got aliens, hybrid crabs and robots. In fact, this would be the greatest stage show that sticky-back tape and empty bog rolls could give us. But it just wasn’t all about the Blue Peter does Alien stage props, this was audience participation of a scale never seen before on Catton Hall’s sacred ground. We had coordinated waltzs (my mate Debbie’s foot has never quite recovered), synchronized scuttling, mass throwing of grass because they could not afford confetti and the whole field (all the way back to the food stalls) doing the Robotron moves. We danced, we laughed and we sung along. It was one of those moments.
It is widely documented that Twisted Sister wanted their final bow in the UK to be at Donington Park, but the slot offered to them by Download was not seen as fitting way to make their last hurrah. So instead they were welcomed back with open arms by Bloodstock and put on simply the greatest show I have ever seen in the eleven years I have been attending. This is one of those shows were everything comes together to make it special. The set list was precession engineered to provide a whistle stop tour of the best bits from their first four albums. The band were simply on fire and intent to give the best performances that they could. The audience were rapt from the start. And in the middle of all this was Dee Snider. A human dynamo who flung himself around the stage and gave every last drop of energy to bring these songs alive. This was a fantastic band pushing themselves to the limit to produce a lasting memory. It truly was an awe-inspiring set that produced goose-bumps for anyone who watched it. And as the last notes of SMF faded out, everyone in that field knew that they had just witnessed probably Bloodstock’s finest hour.