This weekend my metal odyssey took me to Damnation Festival, a one-day indoor festival at Leeds University. 4 stages, 27 bands, an incredible line-up, and a whole day and night away from being a mum. I had built up this weekend in my mind so much- could it possibly meet expectations? Here are 10 things I learned at Damnation:
- I am not hard enough for the Nails pit. Having seen hardcore punk band Nails already this year, I knew things would get crazy, so found myself a great, safe viewing spot up on some steps. However a surge of bodies forced me down into the pit, and it was tough to stay upright! I was hit hard in the chest and winded, but there was no escaping from the floor area, so my brother and another big bloke barricaded me into a corner from where I could watch in safety. Nails look like they should be playing the bad guys in Dawson’s Creek, but their set was 45 minutes of pure anger and had an immediate and profound effect on the crowd. It was incredibly intense and despite getting a bit smashed up, I loved it.
- Dragged Into Sunlight are genuinely unnerving. Hailing from my home town of Liverpool, Dragged Into Sunlight use ridiculous amounts of smoke and play with their backs to the audience. I was waiting for the moment when they all spun around, until I realised they weren’t going to. Their music and performance was powerful in a way I’m struggle to define, and I’m still sort of processing it.
- Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s female vocalist is incredible. As a grindcore aficionado, it was absolutely necessary for me to see Agoraphobic Nosebleed, a drum-machine grindcore band now in their 23rd (!) year. Currently they have a dual vocal line-up but it was Kat Katz (ex-Salome) whose pipes really stood out- wow.
- I have a crush on Gregor Mackintosh. He had me at ‘Blood and Chaos’ when I saw Paradise Lost in Geneva last week, and as frontman of supergroup Vallenfyre this afternoon he sealed the deal, with his lovely Yorkshire accent.
- Amazing festival line-ups are actually a bit stressful. My tactical planning was on the military level to make sure I saw everything I wanted. How do I choose between two of my favourite bands on at the same time? Do I eat or do I see Mutation? Queue for beer and risk missing Sodom? Decisions decisions…
- Your musical experience is entirely dependent on your crowd position. I’ve been spoilt recently, going to see great bands in small venues where I’m right at the front. So I couldn’t be arsed to watch Myrkur from behind a pillar thirty metres from the stage. I think she might have been brilliant, but I just couldn’t get into it.
- Dying Fetus are incredible. By this time I was starving and desperate for the loo, but I was determined to hold my viewing spot for Dying Fetus, and it was totally worth it. I’ll never get over how awful their band name is, but man those riffs… I wanted to see if John Gallagher could replicate his insane arpeggio runs live, and he didn’t miss a note. Again, it went by in a flash. 100 per cent exhilarating.
- Get to the merch stand early. We surveyed the shopping area on arrival and planned to come back and make our purchases later so we didn’t have to carry them around. But at 9pm- nooooo- almost everything had been cleared up. No official festival t-shirt for me!
- The smaller stages are full of gems. The Tone Mgmt stage was tucked away at the back of the Union and I had a superb time in there, right at the front, with Leng Tsche, Mutation and Psycroptic.
- You can actually have too much metal. Perhaps that is a sacrilegious statement. Perhaps I am too old and too ‘mum’ for this. But by 11pm I was knackered after 9 hours of solid metal, and I’m ashamed to say I left before Bloodbath.
Damnation Fest was well-organised and friendly with a brilliant line-up. Everything hurts today- ears, ribs, head, feet- and that can only be a good sign. My first Damnation and hopefully the start of a new annual pilgrimage to Leeds!