The legendary Monsters of Rock at Donnington Park. A one day open air festival celebration of METAL that had started back in 1980 with Rainbow and Judas Priest as the headline acts. It was a legendary festival and somewhere I’d been wanting to get to for years. Whilst I’d been to all-day open air events before I’d never been to a proper festival where we camped over, so this was a first on a few levels for me.
Although the event was only a single day the campsite was open from Friday to Sunday. A whole group of us from Barnet were going and had hired a minibus to take us all up and back again. It was a gloriously sunny day and we met up at a local pub (The Duke of Lancaster) at 1pm and were leaving from the pubs car park about 2.
In hindisght, meeting up in a pub before a long minibus journey for a weekend of metal music was probably a bit naive. I’m not sure how much we all drank in that hour, but I think I had 3 or 4 pints and carried another pint on to the minibus with me – as did several others. I can’t remember how many of us where on the bus, and who travelled up separately and met us on the campsite. But there was about 20 of us camping together, and I recekon atleast 12-14 of us travelled up by minibus together.
The problem with drinking so much before getting on the minibus is a fairly obvious one. Even by “going before you leave” will not get all the liquid out of you and you’ll soon enough be needing “to go again”, and that’s not so easy as you’re driving up the motorway as service stations are a fair distance between. Of course missing service stations because the driver was in the wrong lane to turn in to them doesn’t help the bladder situation.
It was due to this combination that I learnt a couple of things.
- It’s amazing how much you pee.
- Always look to see what’s behind you.
For those of you whom I’ve not told this story before I feel I probably need to explain, whether you’d really like me to or not ;p
- I was in dire need for a pee. Having just missed one service station and staring at another 30-40+ minutes wait until we saw the next I was fairly desperate. Thankfully, due to bringing drinks on board with us, there were pint glasses a plenty on the minibus. Not realising how much you actually pee I popped to the back of the minibus with a pint glass… which soon filled up and I had to quickly hand it to whomever was in front of me and exchange it for another empty pint. I was then left with about 1 3/4 pints of warm liquid whilst on an occasionally bumpy minibus travelling at speed.
- There was really only one thing I could do about this if I didn’t want the liquid spilling everywhere. So I lowered a window and poured one after the other of the pint glasses out of the window. Now you may have noted up above in paragraph two I mentioned it was a ‘gloriously sunny day’. It really was. Blue skies, sun, etc. It was the perfect day, in fact to go for a drive in your nice convertible – as long you’re not behind a minibus full of drunked metalheads. Unbeknownst to me, as I had been more concerned about spilling things over the minibus, such a convertible was driving behind our minibus. I only noticed when I looked back, after pouring out 1 3/4 pints of liquid, and saw the car behind start it’s windscreen wipers up. So if you were driving a convertible on the M1 on a sunny Friday afternoon back on August 25th 1995 – I am deeply sorry.
We eventually got to Donnington Park and the campsite, with many of the worse for ware having been drinking, smoking, etc, most of the afternoon. Some tents were made, a campfire was built, more drinking commenced and I guess at somepoint food must have been eaten from somewhere. I know I was sleeping the minibus with a few others, which was probably good as I don’t think I’d have been in any fit state to put up a tent. Anyway, bets were made who’d pass out first and I’m pleased to say that anyone who’d bet on me lost… although I’m pretty sure I was the second to go and everyone was pretty much zonked out by the time it was midnight.
Saturday morning came around and, partially due to crashing out early the night before and the minibus not having any curtains, I was woken up about 4.30/5am by the sunlight. A couple of others woke around the same time and we decided to go in search of food – and also toothpaste as we realised no one had brought any. In fact we didn’t even have any water, so had to have a cider or beer to quench our waking thirst. The three of us left the campsite and walked a few miles to a small service station, got supplies, and headed back to the campsite.
By the time we got back a number of the others had woken up and drinking had already commenced. I decided that pacing myself would be the better course of action should I wish to actually make it to the arena gates opening at 10am.
Despite being up bright and early we still manahed to missed the first band – Corrosion of Conformity. Although I think that was more down to the queues getting in to the main arena rather than still managing to be late even though we’d been up for hours and only a short walk away from the main site. I did manage to catch all the rest of the bands though.
Warrior Soul were first up. I’d seen them a few times and had always thought they were so-so, but whether it was the sun, the company, the drink, or the fact I was at MONSTERS OF ROCK!!!!! I actuall really enjoyed them on this occasion. A big stage in the sun obviously suited them.
Machinehead were up next, and another band that I really enjoyed on the day. I already knew sme Machinehead, and still have some of their albums although I’ve not listened to them for a while now. Maybe something I should remedy whilst writing this… hmmm….
White Zombie were probably the main band I wanted to see from the entire line-up. I managed to get pretty close to the front of the stage, stored my glasses safely in my pocket, and got ready to mosh!… and boy was the mosh pit a fantastic frentic rush… from their opening of “Electric Head Part 1: The Agony” all the way through to “Thunder Kiss ’65”, via one of my favourite tracks of the time, “More Human Than Human”. Phenomenal set and I loved every minute. It was part way through the set that I discovered that my “safe” pocket was not as safe as I thought for my glasses. Storing them away had certainly meant I didn’t loose them in the mosh pit, but when I went to put them back on I found two pieces – with one lens and one arm on both…
Myself and Emma, one of the girls who had come up seperately and met us at the campsite, whom I hadn’t known before the festival, but ended up spending most of the event together, headed over to the first aid tent. The team there very kindly plastered my glasses back together, allowing me to actually be able to see again, even if I now had a pair of glasses with a big white lump of tape holding them together over my nose. But it was certainly better than spending the rest of the weekend blind.
We got back from the first aid tent for Slash’s Snakepit. I hadn’t heard any of their stuff, but knew Slash from Guns & Roses, and he suitably struted his stuff playing his chords across the stage to the tens of thousands in front of him. Pretty enjoyable.
I’m not sure if this was only time I ended up seeing Slayer, or if I caught them again somewhere. I like to think I did manage to see them again as I really like some of their tracks, but found them alright at Donnington and not as good as I had hoped. They were, in fact, equally tied as the least favourite band of the day for me with the next band on the bill, Skid Row. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy either of them, I did, but they didn’t kick ass and take names as much as the other acts. I’d seen Skid Row back in 1989 (all the way back at GIG 025) but really only enjoyed one or two of their tracks.
The main support came in the shape of Therapy? I loved Therapy?, and their “Troublegum” album (1995) is still one of my favourite albums today. This was the first time I actually saw them live and they were phenomenal. Certainly fighting White Zombie for my favourite performance of the day. Kicking off with a cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation” and playing a 14-track set which concluded with “Knives” and “Screamager”.
Metallica came out on to the stage to a soundtrack of Ennio Morricone and played a blinding set full of hits and classic tracks: “Master of Puppets”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “One” among the tracks featured during their main set, followed by two encores that included two of their own tracks, “Seek And Destroy” and “Enter Sandman”, and two covers “Last Caress” (by The Misfits) and “So What” (by Anti-Nowhere League). They were brilliant and certainly wrapped the night off with a bang.