Now in its early teen years (Born in 2003), Download Festival is a firm fixture in the music festival calendar. Once again eFestivals trundled off with waterproofs in hand to see what all of the fuss was about.
It is fair to say that Download is three days of proud and loud rock music. This year's line-up had Slipknot, Muse, and Kiss, as the main stage headliners. If that wasn't enough to entice you to attend then surely the likes of Marilyn Manson, Faith No More, and Slash would.
Upon arrival it was shocking to see that car parking was £25 per day. After walking for about 30 minutes from the car park, we finally arrived at the main arena, however security would not allow us in because I had opened my plastic bottle of Ribena. I asked if they could explain such a stupid rule, and the kind security person explained it is because there might be something in the liquid. I tried to reason that forcing me to drink it before entering the arena would mean that if there was anything in the liquid then I would be putting into my body and just walking in to the arena anyway so it was not preventing anything. Security clearly did not understand the bitter irony of this.
After eventually getting in, the general talk amongst the Download punters was how the cashless system was not working properly and not registering peoples top ups. Live Nation soon sorted this glitch in the system. However throughout the weekend there were other teething problems with the cashless system. (One has to question if Live Nation will sell the information of purchases on to other companies). One such problem was when asking for a refund on some food that hadn't been cooked properly. Staff looked bewildered when I asked for a refund, claiming that it would be too difficult. Robbing gits!! Taking money for overpriced food and drinks and not being able to give a refund.
On top of all that the weather was nightmarish… not so much Download, more like downpour. The lashings of rain appeared to be never ending and quickly turned the arena into one slushy muddy pool that was near impossible to walk in.
Thankfully the one thing that Download does exceedingly well is providing more rock bands than any other festival. The high calibre of bands is testament to how highly respected Download is. As always to try and watch all of the bands for their entirety is nearly impossible due to all of the time clashes on different stages. Therefore punters have to either be really selective to catch the whole set or spend the festival traversing the muddy fields to catch smaller bits of the bands sets.
By the time we had arrived in the arena Clutch had just started their main stage slot, ‘Crucial Velocity' kicked off their set. Clutch are one of those under rated bands that never seem to get the mass exposure they deserve. Their songs are well written and the band members are extremely talented, so it was nice to see them holding their own on the main stage. Clutch finished their short snappy set with ‘One Eye Dollar'.
To follow on from such an incredible band would require something special. Thankfully Five Finger Death Punch were up to the job, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with their infectious style. In no time at all the band had reached the end of their set and brought it to a close with ‘The Bleeding'.
Judas Priest had the enormous task of being the penultimate band on the main stage, and sure enough they had brought their A-game to Download. From the opening notes of their opening track ‘Dragonaut' they managed to entertain the punters with their classic rock until the dying notes of their closing number ‘Living after Midnight'. Vocalist Rob Halford appeared to be thoroughly enjoying being on the stage, it was one of the few bands that appeared to be extremely appreciative of their fans and appeared to be genuinely wanting to be there.
Slipknot were memorable for all of their stage antics… such as raising drum kits, and lots of pyrotechnic explosions, leaving their fans more than happy. They opened with ‘Sarcastrophe' and from that point kept hammering their brand of music out creating a brutal assault on the senses. Sure enough some of the older fan favourites such as ‘Wait and Bleed' were delivered with the force of an atomic bomb. Leaving fans with an awesome visual and auditory performance. Slipknot were a great headliner, however this is the third time that they have headlined and it wasn't vastly different from previous occasions. Still great to see but somewhat predictable.
Some of the other highlights throughout the weekend included Body Count featuring Ice-T attracting a herculean crowd despite playing on the Maverick stage. The crowd overflowed for quite some distance outside the tent in the torrential rain.
Marilyn Manson appeared to be back to his usual unique self and appeared to actually put some effort into his set this year. However whilst Marilyn Manson was doing his thing, a lot of the fans decided to leave his performance to catch Muse's first headlining slot at Download. Leading up to this year's festival there were some hard core rock music fans who did not like the idea of Muse headlining. However Muse silenced all of the critics by demonstrating that they are able to hold their own against legendary rock bands. Muse wowed over the crowd from the moment the opening notes of ‘Psycho' reverberated throughout the field. Muse had brought all of their usual lasers and pyrotechnic effects. However despite the horrible rain, Muse had managed to attract a huge crowd, I would even say it was bigger than any of the other bands that had headlined throughout Download's history. Muse were simply awesome.
Other highlights included Slash playing Guns N Roses tracks during the set with Miles Kennedy and the conspirators. The band write wonderful songs which go down well with the Download punters. However the crowd seemed to become more frenzied when the GNR classics such as ‘You Could Be Mine', ‘Sweet Child O'Mine' and ‘Paradise City' were performed.
Motley Crue provided the Download crowd with a somewhat emotional performance knowing that this would be the final time that they play at Donington. However they are giving fans a chance to catch them when they complete their final tour later this year. Motley Crue hit all of the right buttons and provided the crowd with some classic legendary rock anthems.
Of course no Download review would be complete without mentioning the festivals final headliners… Kiss. What can be said about Kiss that hasn't already been said? They are the perfect way to bring a festival to a close. It was a pleasure to see that Kiss don't shy away from being in your face with their brand of glam rock. Paul Stanley and co always put in maximum effort and tonight was no exception. ‘Detroit Rock City' got the proceedings underway with the obligatory loud explosion on the first beat. From then on in, it was Kiss being classic Kiss. Their rock anthems such as ‘Do you love me' and ‘Deuce' and ‘Love Gun' all bringing the weekend to a fabulous close.
As great as Download was, the only real disappointment was the news that Download allowed the use of covert biometric scanning by the police whilst in the arena. Throughout the weekend the police had set up cameras in “strategic positions” to scan the 90,000 fans in attendance and compare them to a database of criminals. In my world that breaches peoples basic right to privacy when carried out without their permission.
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