This year’s Download Festival appeared to boast a very diverse line up this year. In its early years Download was able to boast about having some of the biggest rock bands headline. This year it had taken a gamble on giving Avenged Sevenfold, a golden opportunity to headline this prestigious festival. The other two headliners are no strangers to being top of the bill bands - Linkin Park and veterans Aerosmith.
Thankfully Avenged Sevenfold had brought their A game to the table, and even though they may still not be as established as some of the other legendary rock bands, Avenged Sevenfold put on a slick, infectious powerful show.
They opened with ‘Shepherd of Fire’ taken from their current album ‘Hail to the King’. This year they came fully armed with a whooping kick ass pyrotechnic display to accompany their all out assault on the senses with their music.
To be fair they truly deserved their slot and hopefully this will give them the gravitas needed to progress onto bigger and better album sales.
Linkin Park on the other hand were good and did enough to be worthy headliners, however their set just missed the sparkle and ferocity that Avenged Sevenfold had brought the previous night. Throughout their set there seemed to be lots of dead air in between songs, and it almost felt as if playing through their ‘Hybrid Theory’ album was more of a chore than a pleasure. Lead vocalist Chester Bennington seemed to have developed an annoying habit of letting the crowd sing the really important bits of their songs, which meant that during the vital part of ‘In The End’ where he squawks “I put my trust in you, pushed as far as I can go..” instead of hearing his impressive vocals we had to endure some fans near the front shouting down the microphone. Not to sound mean or insulting but I can hear that in any local pub. Linkin Park certainly appeared to be using this show to just to turn up and take the money.
Aerosmith were always going to be the band that delivered the goods, and sure enough they did it and then some. Opening with a live piece of video footage shot backstage at Download, the camera enters each of the band members dressing rooms moments before they start their walk to the stage. Upon entering Steve Tyler’s room, several scantily clad young ladies walk out from his bed, Steve then half dressed smiles at the camera. This built up the excitement watching the band as they walked to the stage.
Aerosmith only played one track from their most recent album ‘Music from another Dimension’; this allowed Joe Perry to showcase his vocal talents as he sang ‘Freedom Fighters’. The rest of the set was crammed full of classic hits, ‘Janie’s Got A Gun’, ‘Walk This Way’, ‘Cryin’, ‘Love In an Elevator’ and ‘Dude Looks Like A lady’. They even squeezed in a cover version of the Beatles ‘Come Together’. Despite their fall outs, it genuinely looked like Joe and Steve were happy to put their differences to one side to put on a show that will go down as one of the finest at Download.
However Download isn’t only about the headliners, the festival has a whole diverse range of other acts performing and sometimes it’s nice to go and search for the unexpected gems within the goldmine that is Download.
One such jewel in the gleaming crown of rock was a band which I knew very little about called Tax The Heat. The band consist of four sharp dressed men (think along the lines of the hives) who produce incredible revitalising fresh ballsy rock music, which make them stand out amongst the rest of the rock bands.
Whilst all of the major bands were kicking out their ferocious rock on the main stage, I thought it would be a good idea to go and have a wander to see some bands that possibly I wouldn’t normally consider.
One such artist that I stumbled across was Mia Klose, on the Jagermeister stage on Friday evening. Mia is certainly a throwback to Lita Ford/ Debbie Harry with a sprinkling of Cyndi Lauper thrown in for good measure. Mia’s vocal ability is incredible and she certainly dresses in a unique fashion, which makes her stand out from the crowd. Mia finished with a blistering version of Guns N Roses ‘Paradise City’, which got the crowd swaying and singing along.
Throughout the weekend there were lots of bands who were an unexpected pleasure to watch, Lawnmower Deth was another exceptionally good band to see. I would describe these as the original Steel Panther; they write songs that are witty and humorous but written alongside music that is pure rock. The band appear to enjoy having fun with the audience and in return the audience quickly fall under their spell. Lead vocalist Pete Lee asks the audience if they would like to hear a quick song, so the band launch into a version of ‘Weebles Wobble but they don’t Fall Down’. This is over in the blink of an eye. It was clear that the band loved every minute of being on the stage and was out to give the punters a great show.
Talking of bands that appear to love their fans...last time Twisted Sister played Download in 2011, they put in a show stopping performance, so it was only fair that we caught them again 3 years on to see if they could possibly top that previous appearance. This time around Twisted Sister were celebrating their 30th anniversary of their breakthrough album ‘Stay Hungry’. The band wasted no time and belted out ‘Stay Hungry’ as the set opener. From there on in it was a show crammed full of 80s nostalgia, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ created one of the most memorable download moments with the entire audience, security and everyman and his dog joining in with the sing-along chorus. The classics kept coming like a rapid fire machine gun, ‘Burn in Hell’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’ catapulted everyone back to the mid 80s.
Frontman Dee Snyder has mastered the art of being humble and witty without the egotistical attitude, which is so endearing to the fans. There is no doubt that this is one band that seems to be so appreciative of their fans, and in return the band saviours every second of being adored. This will certainly be remembered as one of the best performances in Download’s history.
With Download being in its 12th year, it is going to be difficult to attract bands that haven’t played previously at Download, however this year Status Quo had decided to make their first appearance at Download as headliners on the second stage.
Status Quo opened their set with ‘Caroline’ and within seconds put to rest any doubt as to why they were worthy headliners. Admittedly it was the old classic such as ‘In The Army Now’, ‘Down Down’ and ‘Whatever You Want’ which sent the Download crowd into frenzy. However Status Quo can rest safe in the knowledge that they proved why they have lasted in the music industry for over 40 years.
Other highlights over the weekend included Bowling for Soup, they never fail to impress. Their brand of punk rock and friendly witty banter in-between songs never fails to win over the crowd. This year’s set included a sacrifice of an inflatable sheep ... as lead vocalist Jaret Reddick stated “Ozzy Osbourne sacrificed a bat, so we are going to sacrifice our 30 foot inflatable sheep.” Priceless.
Fozzy were a force to be reckoned with, they were playing before midday so a lot of people missed them due to recovering from the previous night. I had my doubts with this band due to being fronted by a WWE wrestler (Chris Jericho) however Chris appears to be one of those fortunate people who just seem to be talented in both sports and music. They opened with ‘Do You Wanna Start a War’ which is taken from their forthcoming album of the same name. Frontman Chris Jericho is able to keep an audience mesmerised and captivated with his surprisingly great vocals. This is one band that needs to be considered for a higher billing at Download festival in the coming years.
Talking of up and coming bands that really got the crowd going, a band by the name of ‘Nothing More’ brought their brand of pure gritty guitar based rock to the Download crowd, and certainly provided a great argument against the idea that rock is dead. It appears that they are capable of attracting a large crowd already before their debut album is even released. Definitely one to watch for the future.
Another artiste worth keeping an eye out for is Oxygen Thief, if you imagine a dark possessed demon playing an acoustic guitar then this would be possibly the sound it would create. Oxygen Thief managed to impress the people watching with his incredible heavy but melodic rock style.
Overall, Download was a surprisingly enjoyable festival, with no real disappointments. The toilets seemed adequate in both numbers and cleanliness. There were plenty of water points to fill up your own bottles rather than having to part with your hard earned cash. The entire atmosphere this year felt safe and friendly, and for me it was one of the most enjoyable Download Festivals that I have had the pleasure of being at.
Fingers crossed they can keep it this way for next year.
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