Now everyone remembers their first time. Surely? It’s a part of growing up.  That first experience is unforgettable.  Sometimes for all the wrong reasons, sometimes for all the right ones.  Even if it’s your first time with someone new, that first time will either leave you in tears, or begging for more.  You know it’s true.

Yup, your first gig. (Why?  What did you think I was on about, ya filthy buggers? 😉 Yeah, you can sit home and listen to Machine Head all you like. Learn every lyric, riff and drumbeat, but nothing prepares you for that live experience!

Now festival season is nearly upon us and I’ve booked my Sonisphere ticket, it’s sunny out and the beer’s flowing, so I thought I’d share this epic tale with you! Sorry if it’s a bit long!

I popped my gig cherry at a festival.  Not just any festival, either. It was the festival.  Donington – Monsters of Rock.  It was 1995, and I was just hitting my stride with the heavier side of metal.  I still have memories from back then when a friend (yes Tim, that’s you!) brought Fear Factory’s ‘Demanufacture’ round and I said “get this shit outta my house!  It’s ridiculous!”  Oh, how times have changed… and my opinion.  Demanufacture has earned its place in my ‘top metal albums of all time’ list.  It’s a classic.

Anyway, I was just hitting my stride with the heavy stuff. Bit of Machine Head, bit of Sepultura, Metallica, Pantera, and so on, so when it was announced that Metallica were playing at Donington, we had to go.

Of my group of friends at the time, I was the least into Metallica.  I was the big GN’R fan, so Metallica was an instant ‘booooooooooooo’ from me, just like Guns was for them.  I didn’t hate Metallica though (because it’s not possible unless you’re Dave Mustaine or one of his disciples), I just didn’t know them that well.  Enjoyed the songs I did know from the black album, along with the likes of ‘One’ and ‘Master of Puppets’.  But I was still eager to see them.  I blame hearing Metallica’s version of ‘So What’ on Noisy Muthas.  No matter what people say, swearing in songs IS COOL.

And for those of you who don’t remember it or just plain never heard of it, Noisy Muthas was a late night metal show hosted by Krusher (Who appears at metal festivals and events every so often) and his dog Bullseye.

But yeah, I was well up for going.  Especially when the full line-up was announced: Metallica – Escape From The Studio ’95. Featuring Metallica (obviously), Therapy?, Skid Row, Slayer, Slash’s Snakepit, White Zombie, Machine Head, Warrior Soul and Corrosion of Conformity. . All of which was compered by the aforementioned Krusher!.

I know what you’re thinking… “FUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!! WHAT A LINEUP.”  That, or “Warrior Soul???????”

Donington '95 Poster

the official festival poster - this hung on my bedroom wall for some time after!

But what a line-up indeed, and for a gig virgin and festival virgin like myself, this was the dealbreaker. I was more than made up. Ok, I knew a few songs by most bands, and was really looking forward to them. I was excited about hearing White Zombie’s ‘More Human Than Human’ and singing along to Skid Row’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’, but the one thing I was more chuffed about… Slash was gonna be there!!!  Snakepit were on the bill, and I’d been loving the album ‘It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere’ so was mega happy about hearing them play… and just seeing Slash!

I loved some of the other bands on the bill too.  Was just getting into Machine Head. Loved tracks like ‘Old’ and ‘Block’. White Zombie, Slayer, Skid Row, ace.  Therapy?, though, were a particular fave of mine at the time and still are. I watched them perform the entire of ‘Troublegum’ at Sonisphere UK last year  (2010) which was cool!  So singing along to ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Loose’ was high on my Donington ‘To Do’ list.

So we booked it.  I say we, it was either my mum or Tims.  But we were going.  4 of us, all just about 16 and all new to this gigging lark.

We went early one dreary Saturday morning on a coach trip, picked up from outside the classy ‘Phase One Records’ in Wrexham.  If there was a metal trip anywhere from Wrexham, that was where the trip began.  The four of us get on the bus and take a seat.  4 kids on a bus full of old dudes. Boy, did we feel out of place.

They weren’t old really. Just older than us. Late teens/early twenties and a few a bit older.  Old school biker looking metal dudes.  And 4 fresh faced lads who hadn’t got a clue what they were letting themselves in for.  Watching a pit on TV is nothing like being in one!!!!

So we head off. Despite the warning of ‘No booze on the bus’ from the trip organisers, there was plenty of can opening and bottles clinking about from around the bus. We didn’t drink. Well, there was no chance I was getting up for a piss on this bus anyway!  Spent most of the journey listening to Machine Head on Tims CD player, with a headphone splitter and prepping for the day ahead.

We had a laugh though.  At one point, one of our mob, Dave, turns to us.  Bare in mind we were surrounded by burly, beardy metallers who were old enough to drink and probably smoked weed.  “Anyone want a Jammie Dodger?”.  Could we have looked more like kids? Offering out kids biscuits on a bus full of hardened drinking metalheads. Genius.  Typing this now and I’m still giggling about it.  Back then, we were in tears for about an hour.  We had some funny looks, but it was piss funny.  You know they were just thinking: “bloody kids”.  I know this ‘cause I do it now when there’s youth metallers about.  So, sorry to all you previous generation metalheads who’s turf we invaded!.  And shame on you metallers of tomorrow!  Hahaha.

Christ, this is a big post and I’m not even at the festival yet!!!!!!!

So we arrived. Hurrah!!  “Everyone make sure you remember which bus it is and where it is”. Make note of bus and location and head to entrance.

Wouldn’t you love to hear “fuck. We forgot the tickets” right now?  We didn’t.

donington 95 ticket

The Donington 95 ticket - this isn't my ticket, but I have one just like it!

We made our way in. A little overwhelmed by the size of it all, we regrouped and had a look around.  First things first: let’s get some merchandise!!  So we made our way over to the big merch stall which was on the track at Donington, near where the wheel arch used to be, and spent half our money there and then.  The queue was massive, and we were smallish, young and insignificant, so it took us ages to get served.  By this point COC had started, so my first proper live band experience was listening to, and catching tip-toed glances at Pepper Keenan and Corrosion of Conformity from the Merch queue.

And there we were stuck for most of the set. When we finally did get served, we stocked up on goodies. Official Donington 95 Program: check. Official Donington 95 T-shirt: check. Metallica Cap: check. Metallica Bandana: check.  We made it out in time to catch their last song, which was ‘Clean My Wounds’, I think, and we wandered some more while we waited for Kory Clarke’s outfit, Warrior Soul, to start.

I wasn’t a fan to be honest.  They had one alright tune. “Let’s get high and get wasted!” but that was it.  We sat on the wall at the back and paid little attention. Next up was the first band I really wanted to see, so we made a move to get closer to the front.  Machine Head.

One of my all time favourite bands. We headed over towards the main stage. Main and only in those days! We’d been watching Warrior Soul and a bit of COC, so estimated where the pit ended and stood at the back.  Remember, we were new at this and now loaded with merchandise, so we thought we’d picked a good spot to watch the band.

How wrong we were.  Being new, we hadn’t quite taken into account how crap Warrior Soul were in comparison to Machine Head from a crowd perspective.  So where we were standing comfortably to watch Machine head was no longer the back of the pit.  They walked on, played an intro bit (that later went on to become ’Desire to Fire’ from ‘The Burning Red’) and then…..”LET FREEDOM RING WITH A SHOTGUN BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAST”.  They broke into ‘Davidian’.

Everyone in front of us started moving.  About 20 rows behind us started jumping and pushing forward.  Panic!!!  The four of us were grabbing onto each other to stay upright and holding on to our possessions for dear life.  Pretty sure a program went missing, maybe some shoes, but it was scary!  Looking back, it wasn’t scary at all. We just didn’t know what the hell was going on!

So, we held on for dear life.  Sure we were going to get trampled to death under a stampede of raging Machine Head fans, we fought tooth and nail to get outta there. Just a bit further back so we wouldn’t die!!  And we escaped. Took a moment to take in what just happened, then we stood back and enjoyed the show. Having listened to ‘Block’ on repeat for most of the journey it was good to hear it live!  They were ace.  No Chris Kontos though (Their original drummer), so their drum tech was filling in. Kontos left/was fired not long after.  So yeah, that was my first mosh pit experience!  Fail.

I’ll leave it there for the mo.  Check in again for part 2

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