In memory of Sylvia Lancaster. Forever be in our hearts. Love and Light always.
Bloodstock is certainly no secret among the alternative community, given its title as one of the best Rock and Metal Festivals to attend in the UK alongside the equally infamous Download. Whether you’ve heard of one of its four infamous arena stages, the campsites named after the nine realms from Norse mythology, or even just the festival’s local sport of bin jousting (done primarily while being drunk off your asses); every alternative music lover knows about Bloodstock.
The festival itself is certainly one to marvel, even if you haven’t taken into account the fantastic bands and artists that perform every year. Able to boast a maximum capacity of 20,000 people, the arena alone is practically filled to bursting with Shopping stalls, Food trucks, Bars, a Guitar Hero stand, and even rides if you’re feeling brave. The campsites that align the area are equally impressive; totaling at nine with three set aside for disabled access, VIP, and even a quiet camp with a set curfew to ensure minimal noise disturbance. The larger of the campsites are also supplied with a few Food carts should you get peckish before the arena opens and are also the locations of the showers in order to optimise available space. Toilets and drinking taps are (obviously) available in each campsite.
Returning to the arena, alongside all of the available services and entertainment are Bloodstock’s four infamous stages: The Ronnie James Dio (Dio for short), The Sophie Lancaster, New blood, and The Jagermeister stage. These stages have been the performing grounds of some of the most infamous Rock and Metal bands to ever grace the alternative scene, as well as the center points within crowds that have produced and broken several records for biggest circle pit, mosh pit, crowd-surfers, and many more. Yes, this festival is one that always produces enough energy and passion to bring down the heavens and shake the earth to its core (although to be fair, the volume of noise we’re all making is probably helping the latter).
But as anyone will tell you, knowing and seeing are very different things. Something that I, having just attended my first ever Bloodstock, can officially confirm.
Now, before I talk about how absolutely fantastic this festival was, both for me personally having been my first, and for everyone in general that was able to attend; I feel that it is essential to first highlight two very important things that made this particular festival so unique.
The first and by far the most important is that this year’s festival commemorates Sylvia Lancaster, who passed away this year. Sylvia being the mother of Sophie Lancaster and founder of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, a charity created to honour the life of her daughter and ‘stamp out prejudice, hatred, and intolerance everywhere’ after Sophie and her boyfriend Robert were victims of a hate crime due to their gothic appearance. Both Sophie and Robert were left with grievous injuries and Sophie tragically lost her life after thirteen days in the hospital. Since 2009 every Bloodstock has commemorated Sophie and the S.L.F, having re-named the second stage to The Sophie Lancaster stage that year. However, this year was not just about Sophie, as Bloodstock took it upon themselves to commemorate the wonderful woman behind the foundation who has provided so much love and support across the country and beyond for the alternative community. To honour Sylvia, Bloodstock attendees wore the colour pink on the final day of the festival and raised their horns up to the sky when Sunday night headliners Lamb of God dedicated their performance to both Sylvia and Sophie.
To the woman that fought for our support and our safety so that we could be ourselves; we promise that your love, your light, and your legacy will live on forever, and we hope you have found peace now you are reunited with your daughter.
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation –https://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/
The second important thing I must mention about this year’s Bloodstock is that it was hot.
And I mean really hot!
It has been a week, and my shoulders are still several shades redder than they should be. Now some of you might be thinking ‘surely the hot weather is more ideal for festivals?’ No rain in your tent, no mud to wade through, and no one sat shivering in their tent wishing they’d brought more clothing to bundle up in. There may even be some of you sitting at home thinking “Pfft, it was only 32 degrees. It wasn’t that hot”.
If you’re finding yourself agreeing with the first opinion, fair enough. Each to their own. If you’re finding yourself agreeing with the second opinion, I nearly passed out. Shut ya mouth!
Upon the arrival of myself and my travel companions on Thursday afternoon, it was certainly clear the heat was not intent on taking prisoners. After making a slight detour to collect my Press Pass, my friends and I were quick to travel to our chosen campsite (Jotunheim) to set up our tents and get some fresh water. One blistering hour and a half later, and I’m afraid my group of four had quickly abandoned the idea of heading to the arena early to scope out the first performers in favour of collapsing in the minimal shades our tents provided while trying to regain the will to move. A flying start? No. A fiery one? It bloody felt like it.
Thursday Evening, however, brought a change of pace and a change of temperature as the cursed ball of fire and exhaustion finally dipped down below the horizon and took the stifling heat away with it. A quick change into some clean clothes (and in my case, reapplying the makeup which was running down my face), and we headed to the arena for our initial look around and some dinner.
Our first night in the arena was incredible.
Hitting it off with an amazing start, we were able to catch Kitty and Jonyx from Novacrow as they patrolled with their famous inflatable dinosaurs. Then migrating forward to the Sophie Lancaster stage, we remained on the outskirts of the crowd to enjoy the fresh air while watching our first band of bloodstock 2022, the incredible Nekrogoblikon. What a band to kickstart a festival, as these guys were holding nothing back. Performing with such an infectious energy that had the crowd bouncing up and down in place despite the still muggy heat weighing down on the arena, Nekrogoblikon gave the crowd an amazing show that watchers echoed back with a joy so loud that you could hear them from the surrounding campsites.
After Nekrogoblikon, our little group took the time to find some dinner before returning to the tents. At a friend’s recommendation, we enjoyed a classic favourite of Mac’n’cheese before moving back to Jotunheim. It was within this journey back, however, we caught perhaps the next best show of the evening, compatible with even Nekrogoblikon themselves. Just as wild, just as insane to see, and the best part is it’s held by the public. .
You’ve guessed it! It was time for bin jousting!
For those of you not familiar with the sport, I really would recommend YouTube because I truly don’t think I can do it justice with words. Essentially, one to two metalheads will sit upon the lids of two of the giant bins lined alongside the camping fields. These two bins will be placed at opposite ends of a designated area, and the rider/riders are given the challenge of holding on as tight as they can while a group of eight others will push these two bins into each other with as much speed and force as they can muster. Should both bins still have their riders, they must then wrestle with each other on top of the lids while trying to throw the other to the floor. As you might have guessed, the winner is the last man standing (or sitting).
Our jousting match was certainly no different, nor did it lack any of the usual enthusiasm from either competitor or spectator. Out of the ten witnessed by myself and my group, only three resulted in an instant wipeout of competitors who hit the floor upon the initial collision. As such the remaining seven ended in some interesting but certainly entertaining roughhousing, where more often than not the competitors ended up pulling each other to the floor or falling off on their own account (clearly lost in the thrill of the moment and forgetting things like gravity… and the fact the bins are on wheels).
After six rounds of jousting in the Midgard camp and another four rounds in the Ironwood camp, the group of jousters were then dispersed by the security so they could take the (slightly damaged) bins back to their designated spots. Now anyone that knows bin jousting knows that this just means you follow the group of jousters to the next camp and find more bins to play with, but on this day the sport was put aside in favour of sleeping off the heat and getting a head start on some morning preparation.
Friday Morning saw me rising from my tent at a much earlier time than my companions in order to head to the VIP section in search of Wifi and my fellow Tattoo.com companion, Adrian. The morning in question did not hold much in the way of viewing bands until around midday, where-upon my companions and I travelled to the Sophie Lancaster stage once again to watch Thrown Into Exile. While my line of sight was unfortunately limited for this band, as many had flooded the tent in which the Sophie Lancaster stage resides, I could clearly tell from the sound and the crowd’s enthusiasm this band was certainly not letting the heat get in the way of their performance. They were fast and flawless, and you didn’t have to see them to enjoy the show they gave. After a brief intermission for lunch and a rest in the few shady spots the arena provided, the group and myself made our way to the Dio stage to catch one of the most anticipated bands of Bloodstock 2022, Bloodywood. And holy hell they did not disappoint!
Drawing in potentially the biggest crowd of the festival so far, Bloodywood poured their heart and souls into their performance. Not only do I feel they deserve all the admiration given, they performed when the sun was at its peak with absolutely no shade for themselves, but the quality of their performance never wavered for a minute. The songs were absolutely fantastic to hear live, paired with some truly inspirational speeches from the band about unity in the face of corruption and abuse; as well as following your dreams, and being unapologetically yourself regardless of what people have to say. Bloodywood came onto that stage and brought an audience back from the brink of collapse under the sun, and it is truly a testament to their talent and skills when they can say that a sea of nearly 20,000 people said “Screw the weather! Bloodywood are playing”.
Viewing bands then took another brief intermission during the day, although this time it was because my work called me to a different task rather than being bested by the heat. I am delighted to say that after their incredible show I was able to meet and hold an interview with Karan Kaityar from Bloodywood himself, followed up by the equally amazing Mike Williams from Eyehategod. Both band members were so incredible to talk with, whether the topic of conversation focused on music, or we were just having a chat about tattoos. Two truly incredible interviews with two truly amazing people.
Once these interviews had concluded, I took a small personal intermission to return to camp for a brief rest before returning for my final interview of the day with John Alfedsson from Avatar. Yet again another incredible interview with an amazingly talented person, who I might say had perhaps the most interesting opinions following the topic of tattoos out of everybody I was lucky enough to speak to this year. I then travelled over to the Sophie Lancaster stage once again to catch the brilliant band Heathen before returning to camp and washing up for the evening. Heathen were certainly a welcomed break after the anxieties of conducting interviews, as their heavy but slightly melodical talents created an enjoyable but definitely more relaxed atmosphere within the audience. You could certainly still rock out and mosh if you wished to, but if you were like me and just wanted to be still and watch the show, this band was absolutely perfect for the occasion.The evening shows saw myself and the group return to the Sophie Lancaster tent just in time to see Avatar take to the stage with a performance that felt like it came to an end all too quickly. This band certainly doesn’t shy away from showmanship, as lead singer Johannes Eckerstrom took breaks between songs to dance, laugh, and rile up the crowd with his fellow band members pitching in when they wished. Much to the delight of the crowd, Avatar were very eager to perform some of their classic hits, ranging from the steady stomp and clap of The Eagle has Landed to the much faster and heavier Colossus and ending with the electrifying Hail the Apocalypse. With crowd surfers a-plenty and several moshpits scattered around, Avatar took no prisoners and left us all staring at the stage and crying out for more as their setlist ended. The group then naturally travelled to the Dio stage to see the first of the big three headliners, Behemoth. Now, I must confess, I am not a big Behemoth fan. Nothing against the band in question, they’re simply just not my thing. However, even I can with absolute certainty, they know how to put on one hell of a show. This is not a metaphor for their performance, the stage was literally on fire! Red mood lighting combined with holographic projections with the occasional flamethrower just for good measure. This band certainly knew how to make a statement upon the audience, and I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say they achieved their accomplishment.
To conclude the madhouse that had been Bloodstocks Friday, I am delighted to say my small group ended the night by going to watch a familiar face perform on the New Blood stage, that being Darren Smith from Deadsoul Promotions as he brought the night to a close with a fantastic DJ track. Now I must confess I am no stranger to Darren’s DJ talents, given we come from the same hometown, and I have been to many of his events. I had absolutely no doubt Darren would deliver a spectacular show, and he certainly did not disappoint either me or the crowd as he pulled out a list of incredible death metal tracks for us to enjoy. Many a mosh pit was formed within the New Blood stage that night, and even those like me (who were totally wiped out from the day) were evidently having a great time listening to the music we all know and love to hear. Truly a great way to end the evening.
Saturday Morning arrived and brought with it the promise to be just as much of a glorious madhouse as the day had been before. The early hours saw me reconvene with Adrian once again to begin our exploration and arrange our interviews with the various tattoo parlors located around the arena. We were delighted to be given a walk-through both the public and VIP tattoo tents, as well as a brief talk with the leader of the artist staff in between his sessions tattooing various band members. Adrian and I followed this by travelling to the Sophie Lancaster tent once again to see the fiery female fronted band Sister Shotgun as they took the stage by storm. Unapologetically loud and proud, this band exploded onto the stage with an incredible set list that saw fans chanting back each song and pumping their fists in the air to the beat. It was clear the band members themselves were having a great time as well, headbanging (how guitarists are able to do this and still play, I do not know. You guys are goddamn wizards!) and dancing along with the tempo and showering the crowd with love as they passionately performed each song.
One hour, lunch, and a group recon later, myself and the group returned to the arena and heading to the Dio stage to watch the infamous Lorna Shore. This band set out to baffle the crowd in more ways than you can imagine, opening with their award-winning song To The Hellfire and continuing with a soul shattering setlist that had me screaming my lungs out as I sang along (and if I welled up a little bit, well no one else needs to know). The band performed like there was no tomorrow and gave the audience their literal best. I would also like to make a personal shout to vocalist Will Ramos, who despite performing during the peak of 32-degree weather, was somehow still wearing a jumper. I would be very impressed if I wasn’t so UTTERLY BAMBOOZLED!!!
I am delighted once again to announce that after their performance I was then able to return to the VIP area to conduct an interview with Lorna Shore’s Will Ramos and Adam De Micco. Much like my previous interviews, I was truly privileged to be able to stand there and have a fun but interesting conversation with two incredibly talented artists. Talking about the band’s music and tattoos was an amazing experience, and they really couldn’t have been better throughout the interview process.
Back into the arena for one last performance before retreating once again back to the campsite for fresh water and some rest, I returned to the grounds of the Dio stage and eagerly awaited the arrival of Bury Tomorrow. Much like Sister Shotgun, Bury Tomorrow exploded onto the stage, opening up with fan favourite Choke that drove the crowd into a frenzied circle pit. The band truly held nothing back, screaming at the crowd to yell louder, widen the pit, and jump up and down in a parade of chaos as they performed their classic hits again and again. Not only this, but the band set out to break their own personal record by attempting to achieve over 1000 crowd surfers as they performed Earthbound. The great tracks did not stop there, as the band performed so many more of their beloved classics, each made the crowd sing a little louder and the mosh pit a little wilder (and I should know, I was in it!). Concluding with Cannibals, a song that I am not ashamed to admit I along with many others cried too, Bury Tomorrow truly gave Bloodstock the most incredible performance they could give. I think it’s quite fair to say they may have even literally re-wrote the meaning ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’.
As per the routine my group had comfortably made for ourselves, we returned to the arena under the cover of sunset for dinner and to eagerly await the performances of both Mercyful Fate and Malevolence. Both myself and my friends had admittedly not seen or heard very much of either band prior to this year’s festival, so we travelled to their respective stages optimistic, but certainly unsure about what we were going to receive. While I can say now that both bands will be joining Behemoth in regard to neither’s music really being my thing, they will also certainly be joining Behemoth in regard to the fact both were still incredible to watch perform live. Regardless of how I feel about the music, both bands clearly have fantastic talent with plenty of fans that adore everything they do. Mercyful Fate showed a unique ability to mix incredible highs with your traditional low growls and gutterolls. As well as this, the band was visually stunning to see, carrying the appearance of their satanist and occultist style through beautiful lighting and visual effects alongside their makeup and costumes. Moving onto Malevolence, this band certainly knows how to put the ‘heavy’ in heavy metal; with their audience crashing against each other like the sea in a storm, with headbanging, mosh pit madness, and the occasional crowd surfer riding the waves. Combined with the blue strobe lights across the stage the music’s quite literal thunderous sound, and you have a band that made you feel like they had unleashed the wrath of the heavens upon you. They may not have been my thing, but I can certainly see why they are for so many other people.
Sunday brought the concluding day to Bloodstock 2022 (but unfortunately not the exhausting weather, as the sun did not get the memo to sod off and give everyone a break for their last day). Teaming up with Adrian for one last time in the morning, we set about travelling to the public and VIP tattoo tents to host our scheduled interviews with the incredibly talented artists and speak about their experiences while working at Bloodstock. It was amazing to hear the perspectives from so many different people, and I am not even going to try and describe the incredible artwork that each artist provided for the flash pieces, because I most definitely could not do it justice with my words. Concluding this, I left Adrian to conduct the backstage interview and headed back to the arena to meet with my group and watch some bands with our brunch.
Tucked away in the shade of the Dio stage, we were able to listen to the second half of the quite rightly named Vio-Lence, who did indeed seem to take it upon themselves to sucker punch you with their incredible performance. While this band may favour clearer vocals over the traditional gutterolls, they and their absolutely monstrous guitar and drum solos echoed across the space of the arena with such power and ferocity you could feel the vibrations in your chest even while you were tucked away beneath the shade of the food trucks. If there was ever a band that could not have been more appropriately named. I mean, I listened to them for fifteen minutes while stuffing my face with rotisserie chicken, and they still managed to make me feel like I could take on a god.
Midway through our meal Vio-Lence gave their thanks to the crowd of the Dio stage and made their exit to give way for Venom Inc. This band certainly knows how to treat their audience, providing some good old fashioned nostalgic pleasure with a setlist consisting of the classic tracks from fan favourite Black Metal Album. Naturally opening with Black Metal, a song that is built for building audience suspension with its gradual instrumental build up, Venom Inc hit fans with hit after hit, putting everything they had into their performance in a way that drove fans off the rails. Horns were raised, drinks were flung, and the band we have all come to know proved once again that no amount of time can ever erase true talent.
After the conclusion of brunch and the subsequent period of hiding from the sunlight for as long as possible, our group then migrated to the New Blood stage for the performance of Sulvain. Now this band is exactly who I would recommend if you were looking for that perfect mixture of heavy metal and grunge. Much like the world-renowned band Korn, Sulvain provided fans with the perfect combination of heavy riff and rhythm and harsh vocals with husky but eccentric lyrics. As well as this, it was clear to see the band were having just as much fun performing as the audience that had come to watch. The band danced, headbanged (again, guitarists, how are you doing this?) and cheered on the crowd as they moshed and danced just as much as their fans cheered for them. It was an incredible performance to watch and Sulvain deserved every round of applause they received. I was also lucky enough to hold an interview with Aaron and Skye from the band themselves. Both were so much fun to chat with, and we had a great conversation about the future of the band and how they would like to see it go forward. I know I will certainly be keeping track as they do.
With the conclusion of Sulvain’s interview came the conclusion of the interviewing part of my job at Bloodstock, and with that I returned to the campsite to secure my equipment and get myself cleaned up and prepared for the final performance of the day.
The long-anticipated Lamb Of God.
To say the crowd were excited, quite frankly, surpasses the idea of a massive understatement. There was so much anticipation for this band to come on stage you could practically taste it in the air (along with all the dust and sweat, but I’m trying not to think about how much of THAT I ingested). I also have to say, if the surrounding towns couldn’t hear us before, they could definitely hear the cheers and screams of joy when the band finally arrived. .
Opening their setlist with Memento Mori, Lamb Of God made it clear from the start they weren’t here to mess about. The crowd was rigid with tension, seemingly frozen as they waited. Waited for the beat to drop, for the stage to light up, and those famous vocals to scream “WAKE UP”. And wake up we did, as both the crowd and the stage quite literally exploded into a mass of moment, light and unparalleled energy. From where I stood, I counted no less than three to four separate mosh pits of varying sizes, as well as the giant circle pit that encompassed the crowd in direct centerline from the stage. Lamb Of God had absolutely no intentions of letting us rest either, blasting on through the set list like they were fueled with the literal wrath of a deity; and only pausing briefly with demands to make the circle pit larger and larger and larger! It was only after the performance of Contractor that lead vocalist David Randall Blythe called for a pause, as he took the time to pass on a message of comradery and respect with the alternative community. He then called to the crowd to raise their voices in the memory of Sophie and Sylvia Lancaster, as he dedicated the next song (Omens) to their family and memory.
It was towards the end of their brilliant setlist, however, the band decided they were going to attempt to do the unheard of at this year’s Bloodstock. As the second song of encores began, Randy Blythe set his band and the crowd with a challenge “I want to make the biggest circle pit that the likes of Bloodstock has ever seen”!
Now, it may not have been the biggest in the history of Bloodstock, but it was certainly the biggest circle pit to be seen at Bloodstock this year. The entire front of the arena became a tornado of metalheads; all throwing caution to the wind, headbanging, moshing, and crowd surfing with joy as these absolute legends of heavy metal music lead the way with Vigil, Laid to Rest, and concluding with Redneck. The stage was on fire, the crowd was unstoppable, and in that very moment we were all united. Bathed in the glory of a heavy metal legacy.
It was the show of dreams, and undoubtedly the only way to properly bring Bloodstock 2022 to an end.
To try and sum my experience at Bloodstock 2022 all up, my dear readers, seems like a task that is so mammothly impossible even after I’ve just written it all down. It was truly the time of my life, even if the sun decided that I would remain lobster red for my efforts a week after I’ve been home and back to my usual staying indoors routine. But I will also say, for those of you that haven’t been yet, I truly encourage you to go. I can tell you my experience a million times over, and I will never be able to encapsulate just how incredible and amazing it was, not just because the experience is different for everybody. It was exciting, it was scary, it was mind-blowing; entirely new and like nothing I could have prepared for. And at the same time, being surrounded by the community of people that know what it means and just how much it means to be the way we are; a place that I have never known has never felt more like coming home.
So long Bloodstock 2022. I am so very very glad I got to see you.
And I am most definitely counting down the hours to Bloodstock 2023!
All Picture/Gallery Credit – Adrian Hextall