steel-panther-download-1-resizerushonrock‘s debut at the UK’s biggest metal festival generated almost as much excitement as the appearance of new retro supergroup Steel Panther (pictured) – only we somehow forgot our spandex pants and faux animal skin bandanas. Maybe next year.

But despite the conservative dress style of our team we managed to mix it with the biggest – and some of the smaller – names in rock without ever truly embarrassing ourselves. Plus One’s neck might have been redder than Journey‘s grand piano but that was the biggest crisis we faced at our much heralded Download debut.

First on the rushonrock radar were Black Stone Cherry duo John Fred and Jon Lawhon. And as we dragged the former (literally) away from mutual friend Micky Serpico it was just like old times as we laughed about interviews conducted in toilets and chatted about those very nice men from Nickelback. Support one of the biggest rock bands in the world and get an X-Box games console for your trouble – sounds like a great deal to us!

Then along came Shinedown‘s Zach to tell us how much he loved BSC but that back home his band was the bigger of the two. John Fred retorted with the comment that his dad was bigger than Zach’s and so it went on until the hairy drummer remembered he was feeling peckish.

John Fred was a hungry man after BSC’s blistering set and next minute he was filling his plate and filling his boots – but no such luck for rushonrock. We were on the trail of Tesla‘s bubbly bass man Brian Wheat and having tracked him down we basically barged a Papa Roachie out of the way – behaviour we weren’t proud of and in retrospect it was plain rude. But hey, when there’s a classic rock legend in our sights we won’t hold back for anyone…

The Wheatster was genuinely shocked to hear the band’s brilliant Forever More record topped the 2008 rushonrock charts and admitted he couldn’t wait to tackle a Toon audience head on – or words to that effect. Bearing in mind he was still partying hard long after Def Leppard hit the stage we just hope he had a good sleep on the coach up north…

Not so much partying as playing the role of uber cool rock dude to devastating effect was ZZ Topster Billy Gibbons in his white slacks and sandals at the buffet bar. But you really wouldn’t want to be dipping into the humus and coleslaw seconds after that beard had wiped its way along the table top…

Of course most of the early evening was spent tracking down our good mate Paul Guerin from the Quireboys. Well, he was our good mate until we couldn’t find him (only joking…). In the midst of that search we caught up with Micky from Dear Superstar – looking every inch the rising rock star but unable to contact his record label boss on site. We’ve heard that one before. And how we loved it when he strolled over to rock chick central only for the young ladies in question to get up and walk the other way! Oh well.

Still searching for a Quireboy we found four Steel Panthers and listening to their interviews was almost as funny as watching their live set. These guys are obsessed with how they look and who they f**k – when Plus One pulled out his camera make-up was swiftly touched up and hair straightened. It’s usually the women who do that for our favourite rock god but the Panthers clearly have great taste.

Still searching for a Quireboy we came across a couple of Snakes, former Bad Company ligger Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell and one of the dudes from Dream Theater. But none of them are from Blyth. Guerin was the man we wanted and we finally snared him moments into Leppard’s headline set. Talking of which it seems the guitarist is hooking up with Joe Elliott on a new project – news of which we’ll bring you soon – and on the look out for a new band mate. But more on that another time.

And so as rushonrock finally called it a day -with the familiar refrain of Let’s Get Rocked drifting into the distance – we left behind faux teepees full of sozzled rockers, exhausted PRs, crazy kids and leggy blondes. Bring on 2010…just as long as the Panther are headlining the main stage.