Bloodstock, heavy metal's ultimate carnival, took place at the weekend in Derbyshire. It attracted 15,000 metal-heads, while just 70 miles down the road 20,000 joined the party at the much gentler Cropredy Convention.
Bloodstock vs Cropredy
Two of the UK's best festivals in a handy side-by-side comparison
While Bloodstock featured the likes of Rotting Christ, Decapitated and Byzanthian Neckbeard, the Cropedy site echoed with the sounds of Chas & Dave and Joe Broughton's Conservatoire Folk Ensemble. We despatched reporters to both events, and when they got back we hosed them down and asked them to compare notes (Bloodstock: Luke Morton; Cropredy: Jo Kendall).
Typical festival goer
Bloodstock: As you'd expect the required attire is black, black and more black. We're talking hair, t-shirts, jeans, jackets – everything that can be dyed the colour of Satan's shit. And if you own super-offensive band merch then stick it on – we saw a large number of Cradle Of Filth's Jesus Is A Cunt shirts, but the winner has to be the Cancerous Womb hoodie emblazoned with Torn From Gunt To Cunt.
Cropredy: Ladies and gents of a certain hippie vintage, adorned with Indian threads, sensible sandals and a pint of delicious Fairport Hop in hand. Newbies be warned: if you don’t have your own camping chair to set out in your favourite spot at 11am each day, you could be run out of town, or at least tutted at until you move sheepishly into the [rather genteel] front-of-stage pit.
Bloodstock: Despite how 'evil' the above sounds, Bloodstock is genuinely the most friendly festival we've been to. As it's much smaller than the big hitters of Download, Glasto etc, there's very much a community spirit. You're constantly bumping into the same people and making new friends. No-one is here to be a campsite poser taking selfies with an overpriced lager, this is about coming together as one and throwing the horns up.
Cropredy: A super-friendly three-day fandango of folk and country rock heaven set in a sunny cow pasture-turned-Milton Keynes Bowl. Thanks to a) being in the middle of nowhere and b) nearby village Cropredy being populated by very cool cats, the stage is huge, the PA loud and – in a very English way – anything goes.
Most metal moment
Bloodstock: In terms of non-musicy metal moments it has to go to the Battle Of Nations. A group of supersized men in full armour kicking seven shades of the brown stuff out of each other. And we're not talking some WWE-style faux fighting, they were legitimately punching each other in the head and violently chopping at each other with swords. The perfect entertainment as you chow down on a £5 burger.
Cropredy: Perhaps spotting former Zep warbler Robert Plant – a Fairport fan and Cropredy alumni – sauntering by. Or experiencing the bold twang of Fairport bassist Dave Pegg – well, he did help Jethro Tull beat Metallica to a GRAMMY for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 1987 and being a Black Country boy he’s pals with Sabbath. Oh, we lie. It’s the tankards. And there are a LOT of tankards.
Best musical moment
Bloodstock: What could be more metal than seeing Emperor headline Bloodstock? The black metal pioneers laid waste to the main stage on Saturday night with a ton of pyro and unrelenting aggression. Closing on a cover of Bathory's A Fine Day To Die simply can't be topped as the greatest and most metal moment of the weekend.
Cropredy: When festival founders Fairport Convention bring all their mates and crew onstage for an emotional midnight finale of Meet On The Ledge and 20,000 lightly-toasted fans hug their neighbours and holler along. There’s not a dry eye up there onstage, or down in the field.
What would you like to see next year?
Bloodstock: Next year we could see Bloodstock taking yet another leap in size. The headliners have been growing in status each year with Lamb Of God, Slayer and King Diamond last year and Down, Emperor and Megadeth this year – who's to say they don't step it up again? Imagine someone like Judas Priest or Motörhead headlining Bloodstock. That's what we want.
Cropredy: If Metallica extend their run of ‘by request’ shows, Cropredy Convention would have ‘em in a heartbeat. Alice Cooper slayed the event last year and Slash has been a previous elbow on the real ale bar out front, so how about the Bay Area boys riding the White Lightning in 2015?