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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Download 2010 special!

Friday, June 11th

It pissed down with rain, cars crashed into each other and there were endless traffic jams en route but with the help of AC/DC and Iron Maiden on the CD player of our rented Citroen, we got to Download 2010. Being as Hot Chick and I are far too old for this camping malarkey, we chucked our stuff in the B&B and made our way to the main arena.

You know you're going to Download when you're standing next to a 20-stone man dressed as Xena Warrior Princess and a teenager is sleeping in his own sick at 16:00. God I love this time of year.

AC/DC, in true rock star fashion, decided to bring their own stage this year and dump it next to the actual main stage:

So with hideously over-priced Tuborg in hand, we got ourselves to the Bedroom Jam stage to catch Imicus, who's post-grunge vs. metalcore stylings were thoroughly enjoyable. Their debut album Animal Factory is going to be worth a listen. As we wandered over to the main stage to see 36 Crazyfists ripping each and every Downloader a new arsehole (with the help of a surprise performance from a particularly dapper Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage), the sheer volume of metallers gave me immense satisfaction. Here's me and the wife in a field in Derbyshire, with 109,998 other music fans of all different shapes, sizes and hairstyles. This is the time of year we all get together, put the musical differences aside and simply smash beers for about a week. Oh happy days.

And in a matter of hours, we'll be watching AC/DC. I'm pretty sure my day is better than yours so far.

After much meandering around the multitude of stages on offer, we got engrossed by Jet Black on the acoustic stage. Whilst the banter had a bit of a Spinal Tapp feel to it, the music was solid and complimented the unexpected sunshine.

As one fellow decided to drink a Wellington boot full of beer, we decided to catch Killswitch Engage and to be honest, I remained impressed. Fair enough, their main stage slot might have seemed a bit high and my better half can't stand them but the crowd loved it an their excellent cover of the late great Dio's Holy Diver set the festival on fire.

Today was a metalcore fan's wet dream; As I Lay Dying followed Killswitch (on different stages) and those fond of the melodic beatdown were well catered for. Seeing this two stalwarts of the metalcore genre was a great thing.

And on the subject of great things, let's talk about Them Crooked Vultures. Their melodic rock strummings were the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon on the beers. However, as I'm a drummer and one of my first introductions to proper alternative music was Nirvana's Nevermind, seeing and hearing Dave Grohl on the drums was a truly extraordinary and humbling experience.

But everything today was dwarfed, shadowed and bitch slapped by AC/DC. From the new Runaway Train to the classic Thunderstruck, this set was virtual perfection. The crowd interaction was immense, the set list was flawless and the pensioner dressed as a schoolboy was everything we expected and more.

Tomorrow needs to be bloody amazing to beat this...

Saturday, June 12th

Day two started with a sizable cooked breakfast, three coffees and a pledge to drink slightly less beer than on Friday.

The lack of AC/DC meant that Saturday didn't feel quite as busy, so after a journey to the medical tent in search of some form of tablet to prevent my insides falling out (lots of beer + festival food = intestinal carnage) we wandered to the relatively empty main stage to catch Taking Dawn. In true opener fashion, there were several shouts asking us if we were ready, telling us to get up/wake up/etc. but to their credit, they did get a decent crowd in front of them for their contemporary thrashings. We made the mistake of leaving Taking Dawn to watch Rise to Remain on the second stage, who's generic brand of metalcore-by-numbers was as stimulating as a small plastic carrier bag.

Hellyeah came out onto the main stage in the increasingly-awesome sunshine and proceeded to deliver an absolute beauty of a set. Their sleazey, hicktastic rock was delivered with the subtlety of a rubber mallet to the the back of the skull. Former Mudvayne frontman Chad Gray is an amazing vocalist and with the legendary Vinnie Paul on drums, who's mention of his brother Dimebag Darrell was exceptionally moving, it's hard to imagine anything other than perfection. Plus, these boys have some of the best beards in metal. Fact. Greg Tribbett's is unbelievable:

Atreyu and Flyleaf did a bit of an ol' switcharoo on the main stage so Atreyu came on first. Although drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller has shaved his head and looks like Alexi Sayle, there's no denying that the boys from Orange County deserve their slot here despite Alex Varkatzas humbly acknowledging that they should have been on the second stage. There wasn't a lot of new material in the set though, with the lion's share of the stuff coming from Lead Sails Paper Anchor, an album that failed to set the world on fire. Still, with the likes of Doomsday, Bleeding Mascara and the ever-popular Ex's and Oh's this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Flyleaf are late on stage - in fact, Flyleaf have been late every time we've seen them. Bassist Pat Seals immediately jumps down into the security section, barges through the crowd control and gets straight into the fans. A good bit of showmanship. But frontwoman Lacey Moseley again fails to be particularly engaging. Don't get me wrong, they're a tight band but a bit distant when they're playing. No real interaction and a touch on the boring side. Still, they pleasingly yet predictably ended with I'm So Sick so it's not all bad.

Our next stop was, shock horror, the acoustic tent...

Since hearing their excellent debut album I've been looking forward to seeing Dommin live. But in true awesome Download style my expectations are met and exceeded with Dommin playing an acoustic set on Saturday and an electric one of Sunday's main stage.

The surprisingly chipper frontman Kristofer Dommin (I had a much more miserable gothic character in mind) sat on stage with the band's keyboard player Konstantine and proceeded to play a truly fantastic set. The electricity-less version of My Heart, Your Hands was (and this is a bit wet of me) beautiful.

From the chilled out, atmospheric warblings of Dommin we made our way to opinion-dividers Five Finger Death Punch, who are anything but melodic but always put on a quality live show. Ivan Moody's crowd interaction is first class but this performance took it to the next level. After explaining to to the security and crowd that they should be working together, he asked everybody to crowd surf to the front in an orderly fashion to shake his hand.

What followed was predictably total carnage, resulting in bodies all over the place and the plug getting pulled. Not before The Bleeding though, which finished off one of the most rock and roll performances of the day.

And then it happened. Lamb Of God, playing to their biggest ever crowd, came on and destroyed the stage, crowd, campsites, local woodland and my mum's house in Kent. Now You've Got Something to Die For, the Grammy-nominated Redneck, Laid To Rest; this was Pure Fucking Metal 101. Randy Blythe tried to get the world's biggest circle pit going and although I don't think it quite touched Devildriver's Download efforts, it was pretty close.

Blythe tells the crowd that whatever people say to us, we're all beautiful - clearly he's not seen the man in gold spandex hotpants - before closing the set with Black Label and leaving everyone speechless. What a show.

After being blown away by 5FDP and Lamb Of God, my expectations for the mighty Megadave...sorry, Megadeth...were high. As the thrash icons took the stage, led by Dave Mustaine's implausibly massive ginger hair, the crowd were clearly getting a bit excited. But as the set wore on, I was a bit underwhelmed. Yes, Headcrusher, Sweating Bullets and Symphony of Destruction are awesome songs and Mustaine's guitar work is pure genius but I didn't really 'feel' them today. Peace Sells was a slice of pure class though and it was a solid set but to be honest, nothing that made me climax.

Deftones then proceeded to kill the buzz in an epic way. They were just boring. I didn't get the point at all. Chino Moreno's voice was terrible and after about three songs, we had to leave. The main reason, apart from a sub-par performance from the nu-metal stalwarts is that HIM were on the second stage and as a total whore for this band, nothing was going to make me miss their set.

Hot Chick went off to Breed 77 and I stood at the back singing along with every HIM song like a horny teenage emo girl. Opening with Buried Alive By Love and love-metalling through the likes of Wings Of A Butterfly and Right Here In My Arms, Ville Valo and the boys were bang on tonight. Valo's voice was a bit crackly when they started but he soon warmed up and by the time the set finished with their cover of Sunday main stager Billy Idol's Rebel Yell, I was loving every minute of it.

I managed to see the end of Breed 77 which involved frontman Paul Isola saying that this festival isn't about AC/DC, it's about the musicians we've lost recently (perhaps a bit of venom directed towards AC/DC's rumoured £3m price tag for their headline slot?). He thanked us for not giving a fuck about the football (not strictly true) and proceeded to put on a brutal cover of The Cranberries' Zombie.

Then it was time for the main event. Rage Against The Machine, fresh off the back of their Finsbury Park free show to celebrate fucking up the X-Factor's constant Christmas number one slot, came out and went hard. Really hard. So hard in fact, that there were two crush injuries and the set had to be stopped and 100,000 people asked to take two steps backwards. I don't know what happened but hope no-one was seriously hurt.

Back onto the good stuff though. The crowd was like a big swelling sea of tattoos, odd hair and sweat as Bulls On Parade and Bombtrack punched us in the ear drums. But when that song, you know the one, came on the atmosphere was indescribable. Hearing tens of thousands of people screaming "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!" was a true sight to behold. It rivalled last year's "jump the fuck up!" during Slipknot's Spit It Out.

So with one day left and experiencing what can only be described as the onset of rectal prolapse, on we go to day three...

Sunday, June 13th

The third and final day of Download 2010 opened with sunshine, beer and another bloody fantastic set by Dommin, including a version of Cutting Crew's I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight that got a good ol' sing song going in the weary and hungover crowd.

FM are a new band to me, although according to the Interwebosphere they're nearly as old as my good self. The set reminded me of Thunder's last year - sunshine, good old fashioned rock and roll and a helluva tight performance. We walked over to 3 Inches Of Blood on the second stage briefly but I just can't take singer Cam Pipes seriously. He sounds like the bastard child of Justin Hawkins and Zed from the Police Academy films. Back to FM it was.

The pure rocktastic main stage activity steamed on with Saxon coming out and playing the whole of their 1980 album Wheels Of Steel - as Biff Byford said, lots of anniversaries all round at Download this year. Cinderella followed and slowed the pace down a bit but again, with the sun beating down, they slotted into the day pretty well.

After applying another 30 litres of sun cream - actually, sun tan oil, which is the best would could find. It essentially bastes you so the sun can cook you without setting you on fire. And it stains the shit out of everything it comes into contact with. Anyway, Napalm Death. Pure British grind at it's absolute finest. Barney Greenway remains the consummate gentleman between bouts of brutality such as Suffer The Children and When All Is Said And Done. After addressing the crowd with "love and peace my friends", the Midlands mentallers chuck out Nazi Punks Fuck Off and leave.

There are certain moments over the course of a festival that you really have to be a part of; defining times that capture the whole spirit of the weekend, if you will. Seeing guitar icon Slash playing live is in itself, a wonderful thing, to be joined by Myles Kennedy is even better but to then play Sweet Child O' Mine and Paradise City is enough to make any metal, rock, and music fan in general soil themselves. This was a true 'where were you when...?' Download moment.

Then the rain started. When I say 'rain' I mean 'total complete pissing down like you've never seen' rain. After a long, arduous quest for waterproof clothing which I managed to procure from a hugely busy and subsequently happy stall, we enjoyed Billy Idol's unique brand of utter cheese and 80s classics. The loose-skinned wrinkle-meister was good fun but the atmosphere was marred by the onset of the most savage rain I've ever experienced.

But alas, the newly-opened heavens got too much. We needed to find shelter and as Whitechapel were on in the Pepsi Max stage tent we headed over just in time for them to finish with This Is Exile. No room at the inn for a couple of drowning folk though so off to to the Bedroom Jam stage tent. I wisely purchsed a couple of pints of Guinness to keep myself warm.

Whilst we may have been out of the rain in this tent, we were in some kind of despicable hell. Why? T-34. What a load of utter shit. Comedian Al Murray's band play sub-standard covers of karaoke classics like Whole Lotta Love. The most irritating thing I've seen in years. I've no idea if this was some kind of sick joke but why Andy Copping booked them is beyond me. Thankfully the pissing rain started to ease off a bit but not before a big chunk of the Download populace had left, leaving festival closers Aerosmith with only a fraction of the crowd that they should have had.

Steven Tyler might be one of the oldest people in the world and look like a praying mantis covered in leather but Christ on a bike that man can sing. They've got a massive back catalogue of anthems and chose some true winners - I wasn't expecting Dream On so was thoroughly impressed. Dancing like a total twat to Walk This Way in a muddy field was a special experience and even the nauseatingly overblown I Don't Want To Miss A Thing got me holding a lighter aloft. There was a sense that they'd have preferred a few more thousand bodies in front of them but with the weather suggesting the onset of apocalypse, plus the fact that most metallers aren't like the grubby hippies at Glastonbury who enjoy bathing in mud, it was a solid turnout of tens of thousands.

And with that, Download 2010 came to an end and what can I say? It was yet again an insurmountably awesome experience. The music, the endless beers, the sunshine up until the final afternoon, the people; it's enough to make me emotional. Almost.

My round up and closing comments, plus videos of some of the highlights, to come this Friday so stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

Big review.
I saw AC/Dc at Hampden last year and Slipknot in Dec 2008 in Glasgow - both good shows.
Looking forward to the return of Maiden in Scotland.

MADman said...

Slipknot and AC/DC might be at different ends of the spectrum but they're both incredible live!

Maiden at Twickenham in 2008 is the best gig I've ever been to, hands down. Pure perfection.


Anonymous said...

Mind you, I love Marillion - and they're at another end of the spectrum. I see them every year without fail.

The last time I saw Maiden was in Glasgow on the Dance of Death tour.

Unknown said...

I met the drummer from FM when I was about 14. True.