The history of Bloodstock
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Bloodstock Open Air 2022
It really is quite amazing what can happen over a Bloodstock week!
When looking back on our twenty one year legacy, there have been many outstanding highlights that have taken us by surprise. From career-defining performances, to unique magic moments, year after year, some of which have blossomed into life-long friendships, new music partnerships, and on rare occasions, even marriage! Yes, that has actually happened.
However, it’s not all fun and games! The struggles we all collectively endured as a result of the pandemic over the last two years, certainly brought new challenges to the world. For us, our nail-biting return last year included a litany of issues from international travel restrictions, on-site Covid testing facilities, last minute cancelations, (due to artists contracting the virus), and of course, the pressures of creating that quintessential Bloodstock experience for you… the fans.
This year certainly came with its fair share of obstacles. We endured a punishing heat wave that was bestowed upon the UK, making it the hottest on record since 1884! With these soaring temperatures predicted just days before we opened the hallowed gates, we had to think fast as to how we could best set in place as many contingencies as possible, on top of the usual fast-paced action that tends to unfold backstage, front of house, and deep into the campsite community.
With the clock ticking, our dedicated team were working twelve to fifteen hour days in temperatures that were reaching as high as 38 degrees (let’s not even talk about the humidity), all the while, ensuring that everything was in place for twenty thousand of our friends that were enroute for a weekend of METAL, and the making of great memories.
As always, the safety and wellbeing of EVERYBODY on site takes priority over EVERYTHING, so our team began sourcing safe and effective shade materials (which proved to be a challenge, given the short notice and high demand across the country). We set about providing as much shade area as we could, and knowing that huge numbers would seek refuge from the sun in the big tops, we added additional tent structures, and camouflage netting to as many communal seating areas as feasibly possible.
Adjusting our logistics in real time, we also distributed free suncream, decent water pressure and increased free hydration points across the 130-plus acre greenbelt, to which we encouraged everybody onsite to use in abundance, with regular messages on the RJD stage screens and visible signs throughout the arena and campsites.
When the clock struck 4pm on Thursday, we braced ourselves with excitement and once again watched as the gates opened and the party well and truly began! That balmy evening saw the Sophie stage burst into action with the rumble of ferocious riffs from Basement Torture Killings, Nanowar of Steel, Mother Vulture, Nekrogoblikon and Dark Tranquility, all pulsing beneath the golden glow of that beautiful evenings sunset.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the arena, a select few members of our team were covertly guiding Rob Flynn to a secret rehearsal space in the backstage artist compound, ahead of what would be Machine Head’s debut festival performance in almost a decade. As you can imagine, keeping this information under wraps was a task in its own right.
Among the a hive of activity in preparation for the late night entertainment in the VIP Serpents Lair and Sophie Lancaster stage, the arrival of the Iron Maiden’s exhibit in the RAM Gallery generated plenty of additional excitement behind the scenes.
This fantastic collection of the Maiden illustrations and photography, from the very talented Mark Wilkinson and John McMurtrie, was delicately assembled ahead of the gallery opening, scheduled for the following afternoon, alongside the incredible artwork of Eliran Kantor (Testament, Kreator, Malevolence, Helloween, Hatebreed), and many other artists, including BOA and RAM Gallery founder, Paul Gregory’s complete chronological history of BOA mascot, S’tan, capturing twenty one years of the festivals legacy.
As we prepared for what Friday would bring, our final safety/operations meeting of the day outlined the importance in all of our team being extra vigilant for signs of heat exhaustion, sunstroke and dehydration, as we wanted to ensure that you all were in safe hands for the remainder of the weekend.
With all crew on site from Friday morning sunrise, it was time to finally release the full power of Bloodstock 2022, and as Red Method opened up the Ronnie James Dio stage, in style, all corners of the arena bust into life, exploding with glorious noise as the coming together of old (and new) friends populated the sun-drenched grounds of Catton Park. And as the first batch of debut BOA performances of 2022, came from Bloodywood and Sorcerer, including the exciting new bands on the New Blood and Jagermiester stages, twenty thousand of you got stuck in and enjoyed an eclectic menu of heavy music, across our four stages throughout the day,
At this point, the frenzied debate of who the secret band will be, was reaching fever point, (both online and throughout the festival site). News of Machine Head merchandise on our stalls, and some eagle-eyed punters who spotted Rob Flynn checking out Dark Tranquility the previous night, naturally spread like wildfire, causing the anticipation and excitement to multiply within hours of their scheduled performance.
The moment the band finally took to the stage, deafening chants of; “MACHINE FUCKING HEAD”, resulted in an astonished reaction from Rob Flynn, as he and his bandmates savoured the moment in disbelief twinned with the elation from rabid fans. And as history was being made that afternoon under the sweaty canopy of the Sophie Stage, it will always remain an unforgettable moment for us, and we’re sure, for all of you too.
As the first full day of BOA ‘22 continued to blossom, a huge variety of music and entrainment saw the likes of GWAR, Doyle, Heart of a Coward, Discharge, Heathen, Eyehategod, Avatar, and the double-headed Bay Area THRASH assault of Exodus and Testament (whose brutal anthems whipped-up a serious dust storm in the main arena, regardless of the soaring temperatures) paved the way for the Friday headliners - Behemoth - who pulled out all the stops, with an astonishing pyro-fuelled performance, (making it their second since 2012), unleashing some of the most ferocious Extreme Metal to ever headline BOA.
Closing out the Sophie Stage that evening was none other than ambient, progressive metal crew, Sleep Token, whose debut Bloodstock performance was as mesmerising as the stars that were peppered throughout the crystal clear moonlit sky. No doubt, a perfect bridge to the choice of late night entertainment on offer (which included an Extreme Metal DJ set, and the Serpents Lair bar for VIP and Rock Society ticket holders), giving punters the option to party throughout the night.
With the fresh aroma of coffee and perfumed sun cream wafting throughout the backstage area on Saturday morning, our dedicated team once again began their day, focusing on everything from health and safety, catering, stage production and press/media, to chaperoning artists and crew, (who were arriving on an hourly basis, via enormous tour busses, vans and private cars) through our hectic accreditation offices, and on to the backstage artist compound, which is always a hive of activity.
Meanwhile, by 10 am on the RJD stage, the Merciful Fate stage crew had already constructed King Diamond’s giant Baphomet shrine (featuring a huge inverted neon-crucifix) ahead of their debut Bloodstock headline show.
Now, that’s a site you don’t see every day…especially on a gloriously hot Saturday morning in the English countryside. It doesn’t get more METAL than that, eh?
As the gates opened for another full day of entertainment, the arena quickly roared back into life with the hustle and bustle of punters (who, by now, are sporting all manor of Picassoesque tan lines, ranging from red lobsters to Greek Gods) seeking out breakfast and coffee, from the many food and beverage options on offer.
As Death Metal force, Baest ripped up the main stage and Lost Society followed, curious punters who were seeking shade, took advantage of the vast amount of merchandise, vinyl, and assorted trinkets at the metal market stalls. Others checked out the Nordic Spirit Game Zone, which thrived throughout the festival weekend, offering punters a darkened sanctuary away from the glaring sun, to fine-tune their gaming skills. Had you been in there on Saturday afternoon, you might well have bumped into YouTube sensation, Daz Black (aka Daz Games), as he sampled the many games on offer.
With the sweltering heat and punishing humidity refusing to yield, our daily health and safety/operation meetings provided us with the intel that we needed for our team, to push forward adapting in real time, for any red flags that needed to be addressed, all the while, ensuring the safety of the festival population was in hand, and that the day’s performances ran smoothly across all stages.
Thanks to Saturday’s stacked line up featuring the likes of Jinjer, Cage Fight, Ferocious Dog, Spirit World and Lorna Shore, (all popping their BOA cherries), there was enough distraction on offer to offset the weather conditions, and with the highly anticipated headline performance from the legendary Merciful Fate, spirits remained high. We could literally feel the excitement building from the backstage compound, where members of so many bands, including Lamb of God, (who arrived on site a day early to witness the show for themselves), were looking to catch a glimpse of King Diamond and Co, as they prepared for their Bloodstock debut.
In the meantime, thanks to our Metal 2 The Masses initiative, thunderous performances were playing out across the arena, via the New Blood and Jagermeister stages, as thrilling showcases from a wealth of unsigned talent, planted their seeds with dreams of performing on the bigger stages, in years to come. On the RJD stage, a breathtaking performance was witnessed from Dimmu Borgir, whose long-awaited return to Bloodstock saw them push the sun deep into the horizon, in preparation for Merciful Fate. The perfect entree for a King’s feast, wouldn’t you say?
And with that, Merciful Fate unravelled one of the most spellbinding main stage performances in recent years. Twenty thousand of you came to the sabbath that night, and as twilight faded into darkness, the lighting technicians went to work, putting on a show that was equally as mesmerising as Merciful Fate’s masterclass performance.
How does one follow that, you may ask? Well, if you had wandered over to the Sophie stage, you would have witnessed the formidable talents of metallic/hardcore force, Malevolence, pulling off one of the weekends highlighted sets, (also their biggest headline show to date), which included an eye-watering guest vocal appearance from Lorna Shore frontman, Will Ramos. A perfect end to another bumper day of entertainment.
How would one describe a Bloodstock Sunday? Well, let us tell you. It’s like the day before the Christmas tree is packed away into dusty boxes, or the last day of your Summer holidays before you had to go back to school. It’s bitter sweet, heartbreaking almost… but also filled with so much joy and elation in knowing that we created something wonderful, and very special.
With quivering lips, and weary bones, we began preparation for the final Festival day under the glare of the early morning sun. The coming and going of artists kept our crew/production staff ferociously busy all morning, transporting goods and stage gear back and forth on the dusty roads that surround Catton Park.
Our call for “Pink Sunday” presented us with a glorious site that morning, as thousands honoured the life of Syliva Lancaster. All expectations were surpassed and it was a very emotional sight to see in the main arena. The view from the RJD stage is best described as a bright colourful sea of pink, which stretched from front to back, and left to right, celebrating the memory of of a truly incredible lady.
May she and Sophie rest in peace, together.
Being the last day of the festival, there is a lot to do in preparation for the safety of twenty thousand Bloodstockers exiting the site the following morning, and as you can imagine, the backstage activity was busier than ever, so when the unfortunate news reached us, of Life of Agony having to pull out (due to their drummer suffering from heat exhaustion, following a show the previous day), we had to think fast and re-arrange the RJD stage running order as soon as possible.
Despite this, Sunday’s live entertainment cranked into life, serving up critically acclaimed sets from from the likes of Vended and Bay Area Thrashers, Vio-Lence, (both of which were UK debut performances), followed by Venom Inc. performing the 40th anniversary of their iconic ‘Black Metal’ LP in it’s entirety. That afternoon the pits in the arena saw a glorious marriage of pink attire, dust clouds and wide-eyed smiles, which kept our ever-diligent pit security on their toes, hydrating as many as they possibly could with fresh water and safe passage, for crowd surfers who floated towards front barricade in their droves.
While the fun raged on out front, a who’s who of international Metal artists were sharing drinks and food in the artist village, (as they do each day of the festival), exchanging stories from the road, and warming up via the jam rooms we provide in the backstage compound.
Memories of Dave Lombardo, shooting the breeze with Gary Holt and Chuck Billy, Nergal talking old-school band t-shirts with Machine Head’s Jared MacEachern, and Jaz Coleman chilling out in the sunshine, laughing with friends, while Dark Funeral apply their corpse paint just feet away from Cattle Decapitation, is par for the course at Bloodstock, and with these magic moments happening around us over the weekend, all seems right in the world for those few days.
That final evening saw Killing Joke providing the soundtrack to the arrival of dusk, as they invited us all on board their magical carpet, and whisked us through their legacy of hits that have inspired countless bands across all genres. Some of you may have spotted Randy Blythe side stage with his camera as, Jaz transcended to another dimension.
And so for the final headline performance. Under the velvet dark canopy of the night sky, Lamb of God unleashed their formidable power, inspiring some of the biggest circle pits of the weekend. Heads banged and a relentless slew of Bloodstockers crowd surfed towards the front barrier, while they ripped though a sixteen-track setlist, that included, ‘Walk With Me in Hell’, ‘512’, and ‘Redneck’, before bidding their farewells, and disappearing into the night…as true rock stars do.
With the final hours of Bloodstock ’22 upon us, there was no better way to celebrate another fantastic festival weekend, than with The Night Flight Orchestra leading the charge. Sequinned capes, glorious sing-alongs, and possibly one of the biggest conga lines to have ever taken place at Bloodstock, brought the weekend’s live music to a close, before the die-hards partied into the early hours of Monday morning, at the silent disco, and the Serpents Lair VIP bar.
The days that followed saw us take on the enormous task of packing away the festival infrastructure, restoring the site back to its natural state, and letting nature take its course in replenishing the land, so it can flourish once again, in time for our return next year.
Despite the challenges that were bestowed upon us this year, we couldn’t have done it without our wonderful crew, who worked tirelessly under some of the most severe heat conditions we’ve ever encountered, in our twenty one year history.
Throughout that unforgettable August week, we witnessed and shared some of the most emotional moments that made us laugh, made us cry, had us on the edge of our seats, and in some cases, lost for words.
The extraordinary atmosphere that you all bring to Bloodstock each year is something that we sincerely cherish, and we can’t wait to share it with you all over again.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for contributing, and being part of what has been another totally unique Bloodstock.
See you all next year!
Line up: Bloodstock Open Air 2022
- DARK FUNERAL
- SLEEP TOKEN
- SPIRIT WORLD
- LIFE OF AGONY
- BUTCHER BABIES
- BURY TOMORROW
- LAMB OF GOD
- BASEMENT TORTURE KILLINGS
- INHUMAN NATURE
- FEROCIOUS DOG
- CAST IN TEPHRA
- CATTLE DECAPITATION
- STEEL MAGE
- DIMMU BORGIR
- SACRED REICH
- PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS
- THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA
- THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
- CERTAIN DEATH
- COLLAPSE THE SKY
- SWAMP COFFIN
- SOLAR SONS
- DRIP FED EMPIRE
- MASTER CHARGER
- PARTY CANNON
- ALL HAIL DOG
- VULGAR DISSECTION
- VENOM INC
- BILE CASTER
- SISTER SHOTGUN
- ORBIT CULTURE
- NANOWAR OF STEEL
- ALL HAIL THE YETI
- DEADLOCK SAINTS
- HEART OF A COWARD
- PUPIL SLICER
- DESERT STORM
- SKARLETT RIOT
- LORNA SHORE
- LOST SOCIETY
- MERCYFUL FATE
- STATIC X
- MOTHER VULTURE
- KARMAS PUPPET
- TRIBE OF GHOSTS
- BLACK TONGUE
- DARK TRANQUILITY
- DRACONIAN REIGN
- I FIGHT BEARS
- LORE OF THE WOODMAN
- THE KUNTS
- ILL NINO
- GUILT TRIP
- ACID THRONE
- PORTRAYAL OF RUINN
- SWEET MAY
- RED METHOD
- THROWN INTO EXILE
- CAGE FIGHT
- KILLING JOKE
- WARLOCK AD
- MUST KILL
- PROLAPSE AD
- CALLOUS HANDS
- BLOOD YOUTH