Last Wednesday saw me and my good mate Tom make the 185 mile trip to Donington Race Circuit for the 10th anniversary of the Download Festival (the 3rd I’ve attended, 2004 & 2006 my Previous jaunts). I have to admit I did so with a mild amount of trepidation as after both previous visits I had vowed I wouldn’t return (For different reasons) but the line up this year and the promise of ‘The Black Album’ in it’s entirety changed my mind. We arrived up there not long after 12:00 and by the time we made the trek from west car park to the entrance got our wristbands we were in the Gold Family Campsite (read miserable old bastards campsite) by about 1pm ish give or take we pitched in and were lucky enough to have done so before it properly started raining. A little later we helped our new neighbours for the next few days pitch in before we started on our supply of Jack Daniel’s and Jagermeister (which lets just say with a combination of other drinks left me slightly worse for ware on the Wednesday night). We spent the rest of Wednesday having a few drinks with our neighbours (big up ‘Mudsliding’ Dave, Elaine (Don’t Mention Steel Panther), Kelly, Jade, Wookie Dave & Kay) and visiting the Rockaoke. Thursday was once again another day without the bands so we chilled out at the campsite (I worked off my hangover) had some wonderful food supplied very graciously by our neighbours and their barbecue and ended up visiting the Comedy Tent later that evening where one-act aside who got badly heckled because to be honest they weren’t very good had a great laugh in there. The main theme of the first couple of days though was the wind, rain and the Mud a serious amount of mud!! But we took it in our stride and just got on with it!
This brings me to the first day with the bands performing Friday, it was a poor start that had me thinking again of the reasons I had vowed not to come back as the entrance to the arena was pushed back 2 hours to ‘improve ground conditions’ (which by that point I genuinely don’t think anyone cared having trekked through the mire the previous 2 days!) and then when we entered it appeared nothing had actually been done! The delay wouldn’t have been such an issue if it weren’t for the fact that it then meant that some of the artists either didn’t perform or had their sets changed, which when I didn’t have the phone app (as i didn’t dare take my phone because I would have spent the entire 5 days charging it) meant I couldn’t always keep up! The be all and end all of this however meant that I didn’t get to see Six Hour Sundown (Lauren Harris’ new band) as I don’t think they performed in the end (even though we’d heard them sound check earlier) as to keep the stage times right they just bought the next band or the one a couple along out to play instead on time (for example the main stage started with Fear Factory who were due to be the 3rd band on), this also meant that we missed Cancer Bats (bar one song which I’ll explain in a minute) which was a major annoyance to me as I really wanted to check them out, I found out later that their set had been moved to the 2nd stage at 10:20pm but this was in the middle of The Prodigy’s headline slot to complete my annoyance. This brings me to Europe another band I was looking forward to and I will admit it was to see that song… but they didn’t make their performance either as although their gear made it to Donington apparently they didn’t! so all in all Friday was becoming a bit of a nightmare!
Now to the bands I did see this started out with Fear Factory not a band that if I’m honest I was that bothered about seeing as I find them a bit repetitive and boring, Tom however expressed an interest in seeing them so we did, I can’t say I was overly impressed the performance musically was ok but the singers vocals were generally quite poor an observation confirmed when Tom said to me that he thought they were ok but the Vocalist ‘just hasn’t go it anymore’. Rating 4/10. After the non showing Europe we ended up back at the main stage leading us to see Billy Talent another I wasn’t overly planning on seeing admittedly more because of their would be clash with Europe, it wasn’t until I saw them at Download that I realised I’d actually already randomly seen them back in 2007 at Rock Werchter in Belgium. I was impressed and thought they were good and put on a solid performance it was also due to them I got to see one song from Cancer Bats as Billy Talent rather graciously allowed their fellow Canadians time in their set for the Cancer Bats to perform ‘Hail Destroyer’ on the main stage (as they were supposed to) which I thought was a really good touch. Rating 7/10. Up next I decided to try out the Vodafone viewing platform that had been erected for Machine Head, who were the first band of the day to really crank up the volume, I thought they were awesome they played at full throttle for the entirety of their performance and ‘Imperium’ and set closer ‘Halo’ (a song I love) were truly outstanding, my only quarrel with them though was the fact they literally didn’t play any ‘old’ songs (pun intended) I was genuinely left stunned when they didn’t even play ‘Davidian’ but the strange setlist aside it was hard to find fault. Rating 8.5/10. Another band I had no interest in seeing but ended up seeing were Chase & Status if I’m honest more because myself and Tom couldn’t at that point really be bothered arguing and trekking through all the mud to the other stages, that being said I thought the set was pretty solid and sounded decent it just compounded my previous assertions that I just don’t like them or get them. Rating 6/10. Last but not least came main stage headliners The Prodigy having seen them a couple of times before I know they can be a little hit or miss as I remember them being distinctly ok.. at Reading in 2002 (I think) but have seen them be brilliant since. It was for that reason I was glad that my Friend Rada (It was good to see you, Mike, Bob & Alitia and thank Bob for the Whiskey again!) had informed me about Cancer Bats new set time, so if The Prodigy were off form we could have made the switch, thankfully however The Prodigy were on form and I found that their show seemed to fly by as they worked their way through their biggest hits and a couple of new bits, ‘Breathe’, ‘Take Me To The Hospital’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and ‘Poison’ were particular highlights for me the only song missing that would have made it perfect for me was ‘Out Of Space’. Rating 9/10. All being said Friday was an up and down day which as much as I enjoyed a few of the bands left me questioning again whether or not the 350 mile round trip was ever going to be worth it for Download and I ended up having a relatively early night.
Now to the Saturday (Don’t read this bit Tom) due to an oversight on my mate Tom’s part he was unable to stay on the Saturday and had to drive all the way back to Portsmouth on Friday night to perform with his band at a wedding on the Saturday to drive back on the Sunday. The fact that I knew for the first part I was going to be alone led me to the decision that I would head straight to the Arena early and catch as many bands as possible to keep myself occupied until Rada, Mike & others arrived (as they travelled in from Nottingham each day). This meant that I caught Page 44 on the Zippo Encore stage as first act on, mainly if I’m honest because I wanted to see Fozzy after them, as people will probably know I love going to see people I know nothing about and being impressed by them and that’s what they did, it was a really strong showing from the band who were almost certainly playing the biggest show of their careers, and it’s a name that I will have to remember as I will have to check them out on record & possibly again Live at some point. Rating 7.5/10. Up next were the quite frankly Brilliant Fozzy and it was at this point the weekend really started to upturn for me and all previous doubts began to die, I found it quite amusing that the crowd seemed to be split into 3 groups, 1 people who knew Fozzy and wanted to see them for the band, 2 curious people who knew little or nothing and 3 wrestling fans who saw them for Chris Jericho with their ‘Y2J’ chants etc.. Fozzy were fantastic the performance was tight and as you would probably expect Jericho is an amazing front man his stage presence and ability to work the crowd is up there with the best, I genuinely loved every minute of it and new song ‘Sandpaper’ was really good but the star has to be set closer ‘Enemy’. Rating 9/10. Having seen Fozzy I made my way for the 2nd half of Saxon’s set, having seen them before supporting Motorhead I knew that I was guaranteed a good show and that’s exactly what I got, they were playing ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ as I entered the crowd before hitting into the amazingly cheesy ‘Denim & Leather’ another 2 or 3 songs later I was left best pleased that I had caught them again! Rating 7.5/10. It was at this point I got a text from Rada saying that she had arrived with the others and was heading towards the Zippo Encore stage to see Ginger Wildheart another that I had earmarked to watch so we met up swapped different Whiskey’s between us and checked them out (Thanks for putting up with me again for the day), if I’m honest I can’t say that it overly did anything for me I didn’t mind a couple of the songs but I spent most of the time wondering quite why he needed 3 guitarists and a woman who basically jumped around the stage and sang about 2 lines per song at best! Rating 5/10. Having seen Ginger it made sense to head over to the Pepsi Max stage to see The Yoyo’s who among their ranks have the other part of The Wildhearts, if I’m completely honest I’m unsure why but I don’t really remember their performance at all and as a result I’ll leave this one unrated. Up next on the same stage were Gun when I was watching them I was trying to work out why I know who Gun are when I didn’t really recognise any of their songs, that was until of course they hit into closer ‘Word Up’ and it all became rather obvious! I thought they played pretty well was solid and the vocalist impressed me despite the little issue with his mic. Rating 6.5/10. We knew that from this point forth it was all about the final 4 bands on the main stage so having grabbed something to eat we headed in to check out Steel Panther to be honest I’d never listened to anything by them ‘Death To All But Metal’ aside up until seeing them, but I kinda knew what they were about. They put on a great show and their on stage banter has to be the best of anyone over the weekend they were hilarious, there songs had me creased up most of the time ‘Asian Hooker’, ’17 Girls in A Row’ and ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’ couldn’t help but make me laugh, Then for set closer ‘Death To All But Metal’ they bought out Corey Taylor to sing with them to complete a magnificent performance. Rating 9/10. To continue the comedy on the main stage up next were Tenacious D who I thought put on a solid performance although it has to be said I thought they were better when I saw them at Reading Festival in 2008, the new songs from ‘The Rize Of The Fenix’ fitted into their set well and the huge inflatable cock.. sorry Pheonix was quite amusing but it didn’t seem to have the same edge as the first time I saw them, plus their stage show was much more stripped back and their surprise omission of ‘Wonderboy’ from the setlist aswell confused many, ‘Fuck Her Gently’ & ‘Tribute’ however both drew huge singalongs. Rating 6.5/10. Next was when the Saturday got extra serious for me as the almighty Biffy Clyro hit the stage, I knew what to expect from Biffy with it being my 11th time seeing them, not alot of talking just lots of raw, passionate edginess and that’s exactly what we got. They threw in a few surprises though, I certainly didn’t expect them to open on ‘Mountains’ but it worked, they played 3 new songs as linked in yesterday’s post, ‘The Jokes On Us’ I’d heard before at Milton Keyne’s when they supported Foo Fighters, the two others were new to me in ‘Modern Magic Formula’ and ‘Victory Over The Sun’ but both fitted straight into their set with the first of those really impressing me on the first listen. I thought the crowd was quite dead for them in large parts although I think it may have possible had something to do with what was about to follow maybe, we did get the compulsory mass singing for set closer ‘The Captain’ though! Rating 9.5/10. Up finally were Saturday headliners Metallica and one of the main reasons for booking my ticket this year especially with the added promise of ‘The Black Album’ in it’s entirety, I’ve never seen a poor performance from Metallica in 7 previous shows and the 8th was no different. They started out with 4 of their old school thrashers in ‘Hit The Lights’, ‘Master Of Puppets’, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ & ‘The Four Horsemen’ which certainly got the crowd going early before playing ‘Hell And Back’ from their ‘Beyond Magnetic’ E.P which has to be said felt out-of-place to be honest as it did just sound like a song not good enough to be on ‘Death Magnetic’ which is what it was. It was at this point they aired a video package for ‘The Black Album’ before proceeding to play it… in reverse… which I guess makes sense really as all the big songs are on the first half of the album plus it sets them up to ‘close’ on ‘Enter Sandman’. Anyone that knows my love for Metallica will know for years I’ve had an affinity for the song ‘My Friend Of Misery’ which is on ‘The Black Album’ and as sad as it may seem I pretty much Booked my weekend ticket on the basis that Metallica would play that 1 song in conjunction with the Black Sabbath announcement. For that reason ‘My Friend Of Misery’ was the obvious stand out moment in a phenomenal set for me, and the way James Hetfield split the crowd to sing the harmonies was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it! After completing the entire album they came out for their encore which consisted of ‘Battery’, ‘One’ & their usual closer ‘Seek & Destroy’. My only criticism is that I really wish that they’d change-up their stage show a little and that James would mix up his crowd interaction as both have pretty much gone unchanged for the last 30 years, that minor criticism aside stunning! Rating 10/10. After the bands had finished I decided the good times must roll on as I continued on the Jack Daniels before meeting up with Liana (another I need to thank for putting up with me) and her friends for some tunage in ‘The Doghouse’ before going through the fair bit taking in a ride on the Waltzer (I love that ride) which rather gratuitously decided to play ‘Killing In The Name’ so I could sing along on the ride, before eventually making it back to campsite/bed for about 4:30am.
After such a late night/early morning (however you want to look at it), the last thing I needed was to be woken up early but that’s what happened as for once the sun decided to make a proper appearance meaning my tent became quite unbearably hot! Something that obviously had affected the neighbours also as they all began to rise quite early too.. the plus note from this was I was rather graciously given a wonderful Jack Daniels absorbing Bacon Roll from them, you have no idea how wonderful that was! having looked through the Sunday Line up the first band I had ear marked to watch was Black Label Society a notion that was pretty much agreed with by the neighbours, as a result we chilled out at the campsite for a while drinking some Carling that had been rather wonderfully left with us by other neighbours who had packed their gear so as to leave that night, before heading towards the arena entrance where we were once again met by a returning much fresher smelling Tom!
Into the arena we entered and we managed to catch two-thirds of the set by Anthrax as we arrived in the arena a little early, I’ve never really listened to Anthrax and know little to non of their stuff and if I’m honest I have to confess somewhat wrongly I’ve always kinda thought of them as ‘The Other Thrash Band’. It was at this point I was left somewhat eating humble pie to myself as they were genuinely quite fantastic and I found myself enjoying them hugely, so much so that I have earmarked the Motorhead show in Portsmouth this November as a possibility as they are supporting along with the downloading of a couple of albums to give them a fresh listen. Rating 8/10. Up next came Black Label Society another of the bands that I’ve followed for several years and seen multiple times, it is through my own and others love of Black Label Society that I have met so many of my wonderful friends up and down the country, From Rada & Mike, Philthy Phil, Ross, Andy & The Amazing Hastings Crew (who have been so good to me over the years) among many others (sorry if I haven’t mentioned you). So seeing Black Label Society is always linked to good memories for me so therefore it is a show that I will always be guaranteed to enjoy and that I certainly did. My only quarrel would be that Zakk nowadays seems to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the first two albums in stead playing songs from their later albums this aside Zakk and the band were on top form and put on a killer show, which the couple of newbies to seeing them (the two Daves) that me & Tom shepherded to the front seemed to thoroughly enjoy too! Rating 8.5/10. Up next were Land Of Nod sorry Lamb Of God another band I really can’t get into, Tom however wanted to check them out so we did! I will be honest they put on a really good show and worked the crowd well it’s just that I don’t particularly like them! Rating 7/10. Talking of bands that I really can’t get into up next were Megadeth I have tried time and time again to get into Megadeth it just doesn’t do it for me at all, I am forever left thinking its boring, repetitive and unimaginative and that if that’s what Metallica would have turned into with Dave Mustaine then I’m glad he was kicked out! My obvious bias to one side I thought the performance was pretty tight if not spectacular and those that like them obviously enjoyed them, but it didn’t make anymore sense to me live the only bonus for me was that having seen Anthrax earlier in the day it meant that I had now seen all of the ‘Big 4’. Rating 6/10. Up next were Soundgarden who again were never a band I was massively into as they are a bit to sludgey for me.. I do however like 2 or 3 songs and I genuinely rate Chris Cornell as a fantastic vocalist for these reasons I had to check them out! Boy am I glad I did as it was one of the stand out performances of the weekend, especially from one I wasn’t expecting to enjoy as much as I did. Chris Cornell was in sensational form his vocals were spot on and the set was bordering on perfect. I thought ‘Rusty Cage’ sounded immense and the obvious song ‘Black Hole Sun’ was another of the highlights of the entire weekend for me! Rating 9.5/10. Finally came overall headliners for the weekend and my other main reason for being there Black Sabbath I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive about this performance as it was only ever going to go two ways memorable for all the right reasons or all the wrong reasons. With all the in fighting going on between the original line up and therefore the omission of Bill Ward, the sad situation currently befalling Tony Iommi (with his Lymphoma) and the fact that lets be honest here Ozzy hasn’t really got it anymore did leave me fearing the latter. It was to my HUGE relief therefore that it turned out to be memorable for all the right reasons as they put on a simply barn stormingly spectacular set to close off the weekend! This was despite Ozzy starting quite rough, as the show went on though he seemed to find his range a bit more again. The fact that Tony Iommi was even there was an amazing feat but to put on such a great show is a testament to the man and he quite deservedly got the hugest ovation of the weekend! Black Sabbath quite rightly got the largest crowd of the weekend being the legends that they are and everyone seemed to enjoy them aswell ‘N.I.B’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Children Of The Grave’ and that song ‘Paranoid’ were obvious highlights in their set for me. Despite Ozzy’s slow start Rating 10/10.
So that was the end of the bands for the weekend! We then headed back up to our campsite where we all sat round in our chairs and finished off all the drinks we had left pretty much as no one wanted to take them home with them. This unfortunately led to myself, Tom & Kay taking on the nursing role helping a young Dave ‘Wookie’ after a few too many.. hope you are feeling alive and back with the world now fella! After this we left relatively early the next morning to head home.
On reflection of the weekend I can honestly say I had a fantastic time, and the hiccups Friday aside I can honestly say for the first time going to Download that I don’t have a sour taste in my mouth about it and I would happily go back. I think that has got to be to do with the fact I got to hook up with existing friends (even if for not as long as I would have perhaps liked!!), I met a new fantastic group of people there with whom we were pitched in with and with any luck will see again maybe at Download in the next couple of years or so! and finally I saw some stunning performances from the bands over the weekend! So thanks again to all of those that helped make my weekend so good and so memorable!