I spent the weekend listening to VERY LOUD rock music at the excellent Download festival which takes place at heavy metal's spiritual home, Donington.
21 years ago I attended my first 'Monsters of Rock' festival at Donington which was headlined by the hilarious Ozzy Osborne (back when he was a little more coherent than he is now) supported by the very boring Scorpions, the excellent Motorhead and the very funny Bad News.
Amongst my teenage mates at the time going to Donington was something of a rock pilgramage - a rockramage if you will - a rite of passage for any self-respecting, spotty, lanky (it's true!), long-haired denim wearing metal fan.
Monsters of Rock had started in 1980 as a one day heavy rock festival - something of a novelty at the time - headlined by Rainbow.
Headliners after Rainbow included AC/DC (3 times), Whitesnake (twice), Status Quo, ZZ Top, Iron Maiden (twice) and Bon Jovi.
The event ran most years through to the mid-nineties (there as a tragic event in '88 when two lads died after being trampled by the crowd - I still remember being shocked when I heard about it on the way home from the event) but fizzled out as rock audiences wained.
Ozzfest - the Ozzy/Sabbath run festival - ran in '98 and then in 2003 the brand spanking new Download Festival arrived - a two day rock and metal fest headlined by Iron Maiden and Audioslave. (And with a rather smashing surpise set from Metallica on the second stage too).
After two years Download turned into a three day event covering the whole range of hard rock and metal.
This year's event was the best yet. Attracting 80,000 fans the three headliners - My Chemical Romance, Linkin Park and Iron Maiden - played first rate sets.
I particularly enjoyed the sets by prog rockers Porcupine Tree and prog metallers (and incredible musicians) Dream Theater.
European rock was well represented and the set by dutch goth metalers Within Temptation, despite being sadly short due to technical problems, was excellent.
One of the best received sets of the weekend was by Velvet Revolver - a rock supergroup made up of three ex-members of Guns 'N' Roses including the amazing Slash on guitar and former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. Their set included two G'N'R classics - It's So Easy and Mr Brownstone.
It's all quite different from my first Donington - six bands on one stage back then - more than a hundred acts on three stages over three days now. The sound quality is much better, back in the eighties you hoped it wouldn't be too windy because of what it did to the sound. Nowadays the third stage is probably louder than the main stage was back then.
And even the quieter of the bands now play a lot faster and louder than the heaviest ever did then. Back in '86 so called 'Thrash metal' (Metallica had debuted the year before to general disinterest) was brand new. Nowadays nearly every metal band have built on it.
What hasn't changed is that the festival is still mostly filled by teenagers on their rock pilgramage to Donington. Of course back in the day there was no internet forum to discuss the event with for the other 51 weeks of the year ...