Some unexpected gems elevate day one of Download 2011

Download 2011 review

By Nick Hagan | Published: Thu 16th Jun 2011

Puddle Of Mudd

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Donington Park, Leics, England MAP
£145 weekend (with 5 nights camping + £35), or £75 for a day ticket
Daily capacity: 111,000
Last updated: Tue 7th Jun 2011

The sun may be smiling down on Castle Donington for day one of 2011's annual metal mecca, but eFestivals can't help but feel slightly indifferent about today's line up – principally because several of the big guns featuring seem to be rehashed from 2009’s festival.

Nevertheless, what better way to remedy a three hour car journey and added tent spaz than with nu-metal also-rans Puddle of Mudd. That's a statement, not a question.

As it happens, Wes Scantlin and co are a pleasant enough opener, if a little limp. A cover of AC/DC stomper 'TNT' excites at first before rapidly becoming lacklustre, but pimply angst anthem 'She Hates Me' wins over the crowd effortlessly, and also proves the time-honoured Download tradition of boob-flashing is alive and extremely buoyant.

A wander over to the second stage brings us face to gurning face with the marvellous Anti-flag. The crowd may be thin, but the performance is nothing short of blistering.

The four-piece have been plugging away on the margins of mainstream success for years now, and their dedication makes them a primal force on stage. Straight-up punk belter 'Turncoat' and the unashamedly polemical 'Die For Your Government' prompt much righteous fist-pumping, while throughout the band maintains a good rapport with the crowd. A cover of The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' proves spectacularly well-advised, whipping the spectators into a pogoing maelstrom. "You came here with five friends, but you leave today with 5,000," singer Justin Sane insists towards the end of the band's set, and while my Facebook page says otherwise, the statement sums up a stunning performance.

Suitably revved up, it's over to the Pepsi Max tent for the hotly-tipped Lower Than Atlantis (see interview). The Watford metallers may have set tongues wagging, but to be blunt it's difficult to see what the fuss is about today. Recurring guitar strap issues hamper their frontman throughout their opening number, before fan favourite 'Far Q' picks things up slightly with some big, gutsy vocals. Despite this it all feels oddly pedestrian, and shortly after we take our leave.

Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy have been filling column inches for the most unfortunate of reasons recently, due to the death of former guitarist Gary Moore. Nonetheless, here they are on the main stage today, and while the shadow of absent friends Moore and Phil Lynott looms as large as expected they can't be faulted for keeping the flame alive.

Now comprised of just two pre-80s members, the band still draws a sizeable crowd, and when that beautiful, blues-soaked twin guitar spills out of their amps it's easy to know why. Despite this, it's the hits that put in the legwork today rather than fresh material; 'Jailbreak' sees singer Ricky Warwick doing a more than passable Lynott impersonation, before stone-cold classic 'Whisky In The Jar' is unleashed upon the assembled throng to euphoric effect. It's a moment that really deserves an aerial viewpoint, as the crowd is transformed from indifferent to enchanted in just one beloved lick, bouncing around the field like nobody's business. In one stroke, it proves to be an early contender for song of the weekend.

Feelgood rocker 'The Boys Are Back In Town' sees Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell join the lads on stage, before 'Black Rose' wraps things up.

"I wanna give all you cunts a high five," states Oli Sykes, the rude, tattooed frontman of Norfolk nasties Bring Me The Horizon. And my, do we want to give him one back.

In a manner that is incomprehensible to anyone under 25 who doesn't hold a soft spot for Cannibal Corpse, BMTH have established themselves as one of the metal bands du jour, winning the fervent affections of the press and a whole army of teenagers. Yet to see them live is to witness something positively seismic, and for it all to make sense. The aggression and energy the band deliver with every note of every song is shocking; literally, watching them in action feels dangerous, in the same way a band like Slayer must have in the '80s.

It may be difficult to discern any lyrics whatsoever beyond "Rghwaaaaar", but the sledgehammer force of their set makes this wholly irrelevant. 'Chelsea Smile' in particular causes mass pandemonium and spontaneous circle pits galore, and at one point their guitarist scales what must be a 40 foot high speaker stack to riff away on top, leg dangling precariously overhead. Hats off to BMTH for reminding us just how invigoratingly vicious modern metal can be, and for making us feel queasier than a £5 festival burger in the process.

The Darkness
Download stalwarts Korn are in playful mood today; relegated to the second stage, they still pull in a massive crowd over cock-rock revivalists The Darkness, and seem keen to give the fans as much as possible for their loyalty. Opening with the awesome 'Blind' sparks widespread, frantic moshing, before the likes of 'Here To Stay' and 'Freak On A Leash' (dropped early in the set today) leave all attendant salivating, and seriously threaten to break eFestivals' camera in the crush. The slew of hits that follow is something of a die-hard fan's wet dream.

Kilt-clad singer Jonathan Davis proves as reliable a presence as ever, nailing his wide-ranging vocal styles with flair and conviction and even wheeling out the bagpipes, much to the delight of the crowd. Diminutive bassist Fieldy also makes jaws drop with some crisp, prodigious playing.

Then, around the halfway point, something unexpected occurs; that rarest of beasts, a metal medley. Weaving in and out of rareties ('Clown'), fan favourites ('Y'all Want A Single', 'Shoots And Ladders') and some choice covers (Pink Floyd, Metallica and Queen), it's an endearing twist on the expected format that simultaneously shows off the breadth of Korn’s career and their undisputed heavyweight status.

Back in the tent, Glenn Danzig is not a happy bunny.

After a suitably gothic intro, the belligerent ex-Misfits legend strides onstage only to have his formidable croon drowned out by the hail of guitars around him. Ear-piercing feedback ensues when the mic volume is ramped up, which results in Danzig storming into the wings to confront the poor sod responsible for the sound. Yet even after the mix is finally settled, it's still not quite enough to convince – from the back Danzig's voice entirely lacks the wallop it's renowned for, instead being reduced to a roster of dubious grunts and yells. Apparently things ignited for uber-hit 'Mother', but by that time eFestivals was long gone.

Second stage headliner Pendulum's lairy MC Ben 'The Verse' Mount wants all the grubby metallers in attendance to have it large tonight. Through the course of the English-Aussie electro-rock outfit's set this evening we're subjected to a near-constant torrent of pummeling encouragement, with Mount coming on like a slightly cooler clone of hip hop bruiser Tim Westwood. The intent is admirable, but in practice it rapidly becomes mind-numbing, like being repeatedly bitten by a demanding toddler.

However, Pendulum are still on stellar form tonight. Their stage set-up deserves special mention, bathed in a kaleidoscope of rich light throughout. CCTV cameras flank the stage, while lasers split the night air and a massive video display bombards us with enough abstract shapes and patterns to make a pillhead woozy. At key moments Rob Swire and his fellow musicians stand silhouetted against the tide of light. Visually, it's an absolutely revelation.

With a few exceptions, there is a clear movement away from the candyfloss drum n bass of their much-loved debut, with tracks like 'Tarantula' notably absent. In their place, material from 'In Silico' and latest effort 'Immersion' is given heavy exposure, with pieces like 'Granite' and 'Witchcraft' inspiring full-blown raves through larges swathes of the crowd.

The cheeky synth refrain of 'Blood Sugar' segues effortlessly into a brief rendition of Prodigy classic 'Voodoo People', before the blaring horns and acoustic strum of 'Propane Nightmares' provides a particularly delicious treat.

At one juncture the band falls foul of their own complicated set up as the opening of a song misfires not once but twice, momentarily reducing Mount to a glorified compere. But it's far from enough to derail Pendulum's irresistible blend of dance rock, which serves as the slickest of closers for the first day's mayhem.
review by: Nick Hagan

photos by: Luke Seagrave

Latest Updates

Download Festival 2024
festival details
last updated: Thu 25th Apr 2024
Download Festival 2024
line-ups & rumours
last updated: Fri 2nd Feb 2024
Download Festival 2023
festival details
last updated: Tue 6th Jun 2023