Being the lazy, sleepy type, I didn't see any bands until 3pm. Admittedly, they didn't start 'til 1, but that's hardly the point. If you're going to start a festival slightly late in the day however, Rufio are a brilliant band to begin with. The mainstage is relatively full for their set, opening with 'Science Fiction' and power-popping its way through to closer 'Angel Above Me'. Never having been a particularly big fan, I wasn't a real part of the mass singalongs and the incredible amount of bromance around me (a recurring event over the weekend I can assure you), but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. Rufio are a solid live band, with great personality and catchy songs.
After running (literally) to the second stage, it was time for Twin Atlantic. I love this band. A lot. They didn't disappoint, playing a fair few songs from upcoming album 'Free', including the wonderful title track, interspersed with classics from previous album 'Vivarium'. The tent was far from full, but the enthusiasm of the people pushing into the front half of the crowd more than made up for it.
After a two hour break it was time for the set I was probably most excited about all weekend - Thursday playing their classic album 'Full Collapse' in its entirety. The second stage tent was full to bursting, everyone crowding in to hide from the inexplicable heavy rain storms which were breaking up the otherwise lovely weather and eager to see a masterpiece recreated onstage. The energy of the crowd, and the band, never faltered, from the opening notes of 'Understanding In A Car Crash'. The pace really picks up midway through the set however, as Rickly and his cohorts launch into 'Autobiography of a Nation' and a pit breaks out to rival anything else I'd see over the whole weekend, on the second stage at least. By the time they finish, crooning the end of 'How Long Is The Night', everyone leaves with a grin plastered across their face.
From Thursday I moved over to the third stage for the first time, a tiny tent with no barrier which seems the perfect setting for Cancer Bats. Another band I've never really counted myself a fan of, but the crowd reaction adds another dimension to their admittedly exciting live show.
Returning to the second stage, it was finally time to see one of my favourite bands of all time for the first time since September. Every Time I Die's first show of 2011 picks up much where they left off last year, with high energy and humour propelling a set filled with the best of four of their albums (as usual, 'Last Night In Town' goes unrepresented). It's hardly shocking that 'Bored Stiff' and 'The New Black' are among the best-received songs, but I can't help wishing that the crowd had been a little more enthusiastic - an ETID party is nothing if you're the only one losing your mind.
With the excitement of ETID over with, I wandered over to the main stage for the end of the evening. Hatebreed play to a packed tent, with pits breaking out all over the place and people moshing their way in to the tent as their set begins. It's quite a sight to see from the back, with the crowd shots on the big screen revealing just how crazy the front half of the tent really is. As always, they play a good mix of old and new, encouraging their fans to look after each other in the pit and shout along. Loudly.
To end a day of sun, rain, friends and alcohol, who better than Flogging Molly? Everyone dances, everyone sings, and everyone pours themselves back into their tents to get some much needed sleep before the early start on Saturday.
Saturday presented my biggest issue with the whole weekend. There were FAR too many clashes, with nearly every band I wanted to see beginning before the end of each other. Equally frustrating was the crowd distribution - the main stage was empty for most of the day, with the exception of Goldfinger, and boysetsfire onwards, whilst the second and third stage were full to overflow almost all day.
All this aside, Dead To Me did a good job of waking up the tired and hungover few who made it to the mainstage by 11am. Squeezing a frankly ridiculous number of songs into a half-hour set, they are lively and entertaining. After wandering between bands for a little while (catching some of Blacklist Royals and Gravemaker, and enjoying the hospitality of Epitaph in the process), I returned to the mainstage for the wonderful Piebald. Whilst it is a shame to see such a brilliant band playing to so small a crowd, they hardly seem to have noticed it themselves. With crowd favourite 'American Hearts' early in the set, they sound great and seem to really be enjoying being back onstage together.
Next up were Dear Landlord, playing to an overflowing third stage who hung on their every word and rarely left the stage unpopulated for a moment. With little banter and a lot of songs, their live show is absolutely stunning.
I wish I could say the same for Sugarcult, a band I've loved for a long time. Admittedly the sound doesn't do them any favours, and the mainstage is sparsely populated once again, but it really felt that something was lacking from their show. All the classics were there however, and the singalong to 'Bouncing Off The Walls' was beautiful.
After a quick food break during Goldfinger (I know, I know), it was time for the second Thursday set of the weekend, a chance for the band to showcase tracks from their stunning new album 'No Devolucion'. Clearly the fact that the set had been advertised as such had driven away a great many of the fans who had watched 'Full Collapse' so enthusiastically, but once again the band rises above it and plays a stunningly energetic and moving set of old and new, which hits a high point with the insanity of 'At This Velocity'.
Relaxing in the sun outside the third stage, I 'saw' No Trigger, another band who were met with an overflow of people too great to fit in to the tent. Their sound is good, the energy is impressive, but the lacklustre response to new material is noticeable even from outside.
Back at the mainstage, now beginning to fill up rather nicely, boysetsfire return to music with a bang. Despite missing my personal favourite song, 'After The Eulogy', there is little to fault with their performance, and 'Requiem' is a highlight of the weekend.
It's been clear all weekend that there are two bands everyone is really excited for - one is tonight's headliners, NOFX, and the other is The Descendents. Playing a rare live show, they treat the rowdy masses to an hour of non-stop hits and faultless performance.
By contrast, Saves The Day is a relatively civilised affair. The second stage is verging towards emptiness, but the few who are crowded together at the barrier are clearly passionate. New tracks get a lukewarm reaction, but the hits are never far away. From 'Firefly' to 'At Your Funeral' via 'Freakish', it's a nice way to spend an hour if nothing else.
Despite being only seconds away from the third stage and being there a good ten minutes before they're due on, we don't have a chance of making it inside the tent for H2O. Every inch of space is filled, and the rows of people outside are crammed tightly together as they try to see it. A typical set, the crowd go wild for everything from '1995' to 'Guilty By Association', but it is closer 'What Happened?' which sees a mass stage invasion and singalongs spreading back to back row outside in the rain.
I won't lie - I watched three songs of NOFX and hated it. I'm not a fan, and their sense of humour doesn't appeal me. So really, my weekend ended at H2O, and I am more than OK with that.