LIVE: Bloodstock 2021 – Friday

By Punktastic

Raise your viking drinking horns to the sky and rejoice, Bloodstock is back! After two long years, the UK’s number one extreme music festival has returned to Catton Hall to celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Punktastic couldn’t be happier to see them back in action either and neither can the horde of eager metalheads that have flocked from around the UK to enjoy an absolutely amazing line-up featuring the likes of Devin Townsend, Kreator, Judas Priest, Skindred, Cradle of Filth, While She Sleeps and many, many more…

Words: John Layland; Images: Matt Higgs

Higher Power

Flow tests completed, wristbands acquired and tents hastily thrown together, Punktastic are off into the arena just as Higher Power take to the main stage. The hardcore punk outfit from Leeds have drawn quite a crowd in the early afternoon sun, too, and lead vocalist Jimmy Wizard has no trouble immediately getting them up on their feet, waving their arms in the air to the beat of of his brother Alex’s kick drum.

Despite being one of the few punk acts on a bill dominated by metal, their sound goes down extremely well with Bloodstock’s audience – no doubt at least partially due to the raw enthusiasm and fusion of styles of guitarists Louis Harper and Max Hardy, who throw out riff after riff, seamlessly fusing hardcore punk with elements of thrash metal and funk. It’s a combination that leaves all of us wanting more, even as their relatively short set draws to a close.

Venom Prison

There’s no time to be disappointed though, as after a short changeover it’s time for Venom Prison, who sound absolutely savage from the second they emerge, accompanied by blasts of flame from the front of the stage. The sheer ferocity of drummer Joe Bills blast beats alone would be enough to leave you reeling, but combined with Larissa Stupars incredible guttural death metal vocals, Venom Prison prove themselves to be more than a force to be reckoned with. It’s no wonder they’re earning a reputation as one of the genre’s hottest UK acts, as their performance here at Bloodstock is nothing short of devastating.

Ginger & The Wildhearts

After taking such a battering to the senses, Ginger & The Wildhearts’ brand of straight up punk rock goes down an absolute treat in the afternoon sun, with feel good hits like ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ and ‘Vanilla Radio’ giving the audience something to sing along to, their fists pumping the air to the beat.

An old hand when it comes to working a festival crowd, Ginger even has the staff in the burger tents in front of the main stage dancing along by the time they’re finishing things off with ‘Love You ’til I Don’t’.


A set from Newport destroyers Skindred is always a safe bet for a good time at a festival and that’s never been more true than it is today. From the instant their hip-hop infused Imperial March intro music hits, the groove in the audience starts to build, finally exploding in full force when Benji bursts onto the main stage and Mikey Demus slides his way into the opening riff of ‘Stand For Something’.

On form as always, Skindred deliver hit after hit – from old favourites like ‘Rat Race’ to newer tracks like ‘That’s My Jam’, and never once is the atmosphere anything short of electrifying. Before they’re even halfway through their set, Benji has the crowd well and truly eating out of his hands, and they positively erupt when the band veer away from their own material briefly and pay a fitting tribute to both Joey Jordison and Eddie Van Halen with a dubstep remix of ‘Duality’ and an infectious mash-up of ‘Jump’ and ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain. A few songs later and it’s unfortunately time to say goodbye, however Skindred have one last memory left to leave us with – because there’s no sight quite like a field full of denim jackets raised to the sky, being spun maniacally in what must rank as one of the heaviest Newport helicopters of all time. It’s a set that leaves smiles on the faces of everyone involved, smiles that last long after they’ve queued at the bar and prepared themselves for tonight’s headliner.

Devin Townsend

Despite having been in quarantine for ten days and only having played one warm up gig with his entirely new, all-British band in preparation for tonight’s performance, progressive metal master (and everyone’s favourite Canadian) Devin Townsend is at his absolute best this evening. After greeting the Bloodstock crowd with his usual endearing and eccentric self deprecating sense of humour, the final set of the day is kicked off in style with a raucous rendition of ‘Aftermath’ by Strapping Young Lad.

Despite their lack of rehearsal time as a band, Stephen Platt, James Leach, and Darby Todd seem to have everything locked in very nicely as the band head into some Devin Townsend Project material with ‘Kingdom’ and ‘By Your Command’. They never falter even once, despite the challenging nature of some of the songs, all of which were chosen by the Bloodstock audience for this ‘By Request’ set.

The sound is easily the best of the day so far too, perfectly showcasing every nuance of each song; from the grinding industrial attack of ‘Love?’ to the ambient wash of tracks like ‘Deadhead’, not a moment is missed. As always with Townsend, no performance is complete without a little comedy either – be it a guitar duel against an intergalactic puppet, a headbanging elephant, or his own refusal to take himself seriously, his unique charm helps make this performance as endearing as it is musically impressive. 

After one final blast from Townsend’s Strapping Young Lad past (complete with aforementioned headbanging elephant), the band bring Bloodstock’s first day of music to a triumphant close with the suitably spooky ‘Vampira’, and in the process set an incredibly high bar for everyone who has to follow. It might be Friday the 13th, but there’s absolutely nothing unlucky about what happened at Bloodstock tonight.

Click here to view the full gallery for Bloodstock Day One