Back to the Bowl – Metallica’s Big Day Out 1999

On this day in 1999 me and my mate Stan were at the Milton Keynes Bowl for The Big Day Out, headlined by Metallica and supported by some great (and not so great) bands including Marilyn Manson, Placebo, Terrorvision and Queens of the Stone Age who were relatively unknown in the UK at the time.

This was my first full-on Metal festival in a decade and, now in my 30s with a sensible haircut and a more ‘eclectic’ taste in music, I was a bit concerned that I may no longer fit in with the crowd or worse, my ears might bleed! I needn’t have worried though as the awesome metal community are always great people and had by now accepted folks with short hair and it was no longer essential to wear denim or battered leather bike jackets. Also the sound was a bit crap for much of the day to be honest so my ear drums remained intact.

My ticket stub from the Big Day Out at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1999 – headlined by Metallica

I was familiar with the Milton Keynes Bowl having been to Status Quo’s ‘End of the Road’ gig in 1984 – billed as Quo’s last ever show but history obviously tells a different story. That was a special day for me though as it was my FIRST ever festival and I’ve previously written about it here. I also have a ticket stub which suggests I saw Bon Jovi at the Bowl in 1989 but I’ve definitely NOT written about that one as I have absolutely no recollection it! More recently I’d been to see R.E.M headline at the Bowl in the summer of 1995 and that was a scorching hot day just like this one was. Basically the sun shone all day and we got incredibly sunburnt and dehydrated!

My recollections of the day are a bit hazy and I prefer to leave band reviews to others who are better at it than me. I’ve therefore provided a couple of links at the bottom of this page if you want to know more about the Big Day Out. One memory that does stand out however is that there were 2 stages side-by-side, the Main Stage and the Kerrang! stage. Until the early evening both stages were rotated so that there were no boring waits between bands on the Main Stage while it was changed over between sets. This was the first time I’d come across anything like this and I thought it worked really well.

The Main Stage with the Kerrang! stage just to the right – The Big Day Out, Milton Keynes Bowl – 10th July 1999
(photo credit Niclas Swanlund – more of his great photos here)
Promo poster for the Big Day Out at Milton Keynes Bowl, 1999

My highlights of the day were:

Queens of the Stone Age who had a very early slot on the Kerrang Stage at 12.35pm. This was actually the first time I’d seen them or even heard anything by them and I can remember being pretty impressed and I bought their ‘Rated R’ album when it came out a year later.

Pitchshifter – another band I’d never heard of at the time, despite them being from my home city of Nottingham! The singer stage dived into the crowd which made him an instant hero with the metal hoards 🙂

Sepultura – Stan was already a big fan but I knew very little about them having become a little detached from the metal scene since the early 90s. Glastonbury Festival had become more my ‘thing’ by this point which neatly brings me on to…

Placebo – I’d already seen this band 4 times including twice at Glastonbury in 1997 and 1998 and I was really into them. However, whilst I knew they were capable of ‘rocking out’ with the best of them I couldn’t help but feel they were a bit out of place in such a metal dominated environment. This became evident towards the end of their set when singer Brian Molko said something which upset some of the crowd and the bottles began to fly at the stage. Shame really cos I thought they were excellent as always…

Terrorvision – a band one might describe as ‘fun metal’ and front man Tony Wright is a real entertainer, although he seemed in a bit of a mood when he came on stage that day (apparently there had been a bit of backstage ‘handbags’ with Queens of the Stone Age over a dressing room!) Terrorvision were a bit of light relief from the other darker, thrashier metal on offer that day and I really enjoyed their set.

Metallica – this was the first time I had seen Metallica since their afternoon set at Donington 12 years earlier in 1987. The band had grown massively in stature since then, becoming a true giant of the rock world and worthy headliners for around 60,000 adoring fans at the Bowl. Their set was very impressive, opening with their cover of Budgie’s Breadfan and closing with Battery and largely a ‘greatest hits’ set of the time. Despite a couple of scary crowd surge moments, giving me flashbacks to Guns n Roses at Donington in 1988 (read my memories of that tragic day here) I got really close to the stage and had the time of my life. I was too busy enjoying myself to really feel any pain from my sunburnt arms and neck… !

And my low-lights…?

Marilyn Manson – I got some abuse from a (much younger) fan standing nearby for suggesting that Manson was a ‘poor man’s Alice Cooper’ and ‘not fit to clean up Ozzy’s shit’ or words to that effect! However I stuck to my guns and felt quite smug when Manson’s set was cut short after a random bottle hit him on the head and he skulked off stage…. (it wasn’t me, honest guv!)

I can’t quite believe it would be ANOTHER 15 years before I would see Metallica again, this time in my more familiar surroundings of Glastonbury Festival, 2014. Another great night and they were still an incredible live experience 27 years after I first saw them at Donington. Long live Metallica…

Want some more Big Day Out stuff? There ya go…

Setlist and some great photographs from the day over on the official Metallica site

Another fan site / music blog with some nice memories over on the Fanclub Years

Some amateur footage from Metallica’s set – not bad for its age and the lack of camera phones back then I guess!

My smelly old T-shirts from the 80s HERE!

Like my stuff? Please share with your mates. Cheers! :)

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