From Monsters of Rock to Drownload… 36 years in the mud of Donington Print E-mail
Written by Nev Brooks   
Sunday, 07 May 2017 05:00

It’s coming to that time of year when our thoughts as writers begin to move towards the festival circuit, planning family holidays around the music (we do shut down sometimes).


From the smaller independents - Slugfest is hitting its tenth year, Wonkfest is getting stronger every year, through to Bearded Theory, Boomtown, the Hyde Park British Summertime, via the Eden Sessions… as well as the HRH franchises, from AOR to Blues to Prog… even taking into consideration the Butlins circuit of events… without even considering Glastonbury or Reading… it’s enough to make your head spin, without even considering what it does to the bank account. Yup, unlike many less exciting websites, we actually pay our way the majority of the time!


Yet something always nags at my mind: I rant and rave - but am nearly always drawn towards who’s playing at a certain festival somewhere near Derby in the East Midlands.




Maybe it’s down to the fact that it was actually the scene of my first ever gig as a concert goer, way, way back in 1980, at an age well below what would have been seen as an acceptable travel for, let’s face it someone still in school. The line-up was Rainbow, Judas Priest, Scorpions, April Wine, a fledgling Saxon, Riot and Touch. My memories remain hazy: Graham Bonnet’s shirt, how good were Judas Priest and where can I catch the Scorpions next?


I followed the festival, attending every event that took place up to 1996 - except for 1982’s offering: Status Quo, Hawkwind and Uriah Heep did not float my boat one Iota.


Standouts over the years have been many: Van Halen and Motley Crüe in 1984 were both superb, ZZ Top and Metallica in 1985 - and the fledgling Guns “n” Roses that tore up the stage in 1988; sadly the events of the day over shadowed just how good they were.


The next stand out was probably my first viewing of Aerosmith (1990): but as I got older things became hazier - comes with the course it is rock and roll after all! I suppose the next thing for me was the split to two stages back in 1994: again Aerosmith standing out, along with a band that I really must dig up again as I write this - Headswim.




I drifted a bit at this point… I suppose as I got older other things got in the way and the move away from a one day event threw me - at least until I took the plunge at Ozzfest in 2005 where Sabbath shone, and we hit the current three-day format, the onr still in place today. I suppose when we look at Download today we begin to realize just how much its grown and changed since those early days and how big a piece of the gig going community it still grips.


It was 2009 that dragged me back, not particularly kicking and screaming, to catch a well below par Marilyn Manson and a rather stunning Slipknot performance. By 2010 I’m spending so much time in the underground I tend to avoid corporate events - until Them Crooked Vultures are announced: fuck were they good! As was Mike Monroe; as was The Urban Voodoo Machine; as were both Aerosmith and The Stone Temple Pilots: for the latter two though it was after the biggest downpour I’ve ever encountered… personally, I blame a shocking performance from Billy Idol.


Next up for me was 2014 and a blinding performance from Aerosmith - yet again, (there’s a bit of a pattern building here). Following up for me was 2015: a last British festival for Motley Crüe, a sub-standard Kiss performance, the Backyard Babies and a cracking outing from The Darkness.


So, bringing me up to date: what am I doing this year?


download 2017 line up web poster 3134 approved 27.04.2017


Download for the Sunday at least: it would be rude not to! It seems to have been missed by the media of the magnitude of the decision made that a real rock heavyweight are coming to an end: this is Aerosmith’s LAST UK performance… a band that I’ve caught virtually every British tour since Donington back in 1990.


We know it’ll rain, sound will swirl and beer will be drunk, but it’s always somewhere that we can “let the music do the talking”, bathe ourselves in the “sweet emotion” and wonder at the “dude (who) looks like a lady”.


Looking back, I have 36 years of Donington/Download memories, cancellations excepted, with one more at least to come. I suppose longevity dictates: but, will there be another 36 for the next generation?


Where is the next giant of rock coming from, as more and more call it a day, coupled with the changing face of the music business, the rise of the interweb and the ease of access to music, meaning the record companies are investing less and less to push the next big thing? But that's for another story….


Lets just enjoy what we have. This year I’m expecting big things from Ministry and a final Aerosmith performance that will more than touch a nerve.


See ya there.


Coming next week on Über Rock: Rich Hobson starts the four-week countdown to Download with his breakdown of the “must see” bands of the weekend.


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