It was only the second year for Bloodstock Open Air. The festival's maiden year was an excellent day but was littered with teething problems. Apart from the awful sound, the 'will it, won't it' ever cloudy weather and a small variety of drinks, there was an idiot with a fairground ride who played extreme dance music all day, and perhaps wondered why he wasn't getting much business at a metal festival. To the festival organisers' credit, they listened to the fans, and to their needs and don't needs, and rectified the situation for 2006.

The organisation was pretty much faultless, at least as far as I could see. The old dear checking the tickets at the gate was so polite and lovely, I beggar to think what she thought as a couple of thousand metal meat heads encroached on Catton Hall. The biggest improvement for 2006 was the sound of the main stage. Openers Pyramaze sounded excellent, loud but not overpowering. This was indicative to the festival as a whole. Of course there were bands that had dodgier mixes than others, but that's only to be expected on a festival platform.

The Metal Market is always a good time filler and chance to pick up some goth garb not readily available in your local River Island. From a personal point of view I would've liked to have seen more CD stalls, but this may have had something to do with the slim pickings of merchandise of the BOA official merchandise stall. The BOA's own merchandise was excellent, but the likes of Ensifierum, Turisas etc... could have utilised this facility more. My friend and I had quick game of cricket with one of the stall owners, and to this moment I still found it odd that he picked on probably the only two regular cricket players in the crowd.

The day was hot, there was little shelter except for the beer tent. How on earth the bar staff managed to keep the beer relatively cold all day is a mystery to me, but I'm not complaining. I did wonder about the proximity of the 2nd stage, as it stood only yards away from the bar. The mature lady who politely served me with four beers had my sympathy, because I knew what sort of sonic barrage she was going to be subjected to. But looks can be deceiving, who knows, she may have had a Deicide and Morbid Angel collection at home, and probably thought me a wuss by sporting a Nevermore t-shirt.

The 2nd stage was, at least for me, the highlight of the festival. The club style atmosphere it created in the beer tent perhaps saw many bands look more 'at home' than they would have done on the larger platform. The standard of the bands ranged from poor to excellent, even when they do start whilst you're still eating a tray of chips (Curse you Evile). A special note must go to the organisers of the 2nd stage, as they put the main stage to shame with their time keeping. The setting up of so many bands with such a small changeover time was impressive, even more so when you consider the quality of the sound. I've been in such situations before and had to suffer musician's egos and tempers. But there didn't appear to be any of this, and the people behind the scenes as well as the bands themselves must be commended. Headless Cross, Evile, Kyrbgrider and Nephwrack (that's n.e.p.h.w.r.a.c.k) were my pick of the unsigned acts, and I hope they'll tell me when they're approaching Manchester so I can go and see them again.

As the sun baked the patchouli oil, the positioning of the main stage meant the sun was behind the band. In an effort to block out the sun's glare many of the crowd had to watch the acts with one hand above their eyes. Perhaps the BOA team could set up the main stage facing north to south or vice versa to prevent we metal fans from wearing caps and looking like a bunch of chavs.

The food was overpriced, the beer expensive but you can't complain too much about this, because you know what you're going get when you go to a festival, you'd be a fool if you thought otherwise. Likewise with the toilets. A tip to all festival goers, TAKE SOME OF YOUR OWN BOG ROLL, don't go hunting in the disabled toilets for some paper, because chances are they've run out as well.

The signing tent was very popular with Turisas drawing the longest line of the two days. That, along with the 2nd stage went a long way to proving that Bloodstock is a metal festival organised by fans for the fans. What other British festival would have Ensiferum and Turisas on the same bill? I keep my fingers crossed that the likes of Biomechanical and Powerquest make the bill next year, and I think a headliner like Saxon would be an utter delight. Hint hint!

Thanks Bloodstock for a great festival, it can only get bigger and bigger. See you in September.