Forgive our pomp for a moment, but at this point we consider ourselves Download veterans. We remember the old days when a June date at Donington would be the hottest weekend of the year and you could spend the whole duration in flip flops and you’re biggest worry was what your dickhead mate might write in sun-cream on your back.
This weekend, for the second year in a row, we arrived to glorious sunshine, after a quick tinny in the car park we loaded up our bodies, you know the deal. Big backpack with all sorts tied to it on your back, smaller backpack round your front like some pregnant metal head ready to welcome your bundle of alcoholic joy to the world and a bag in each hand before setting off on our (thanks to guest passes) much shorter journey to our designated camp site. In the beating sun it didn’t take long for the sweating, swearing and heaving to begin. And yet no sooner than we pulled the zip back on the tent bag it started to lash it down. And it didn’t stop.After an attempt at the speed pitching world record failed miserably thanks to a wrong-pole in a wrong-hole mishap we donned our “waterproofs” and made our way into the main arena to start our weekend in the only manner than seemed fit, with Japanese superstars Baby Metal. The walk to the arena was quite simply ridiculous, within a couple of minutes our “waterproofs” were redundant. People took to hiding in hedges and the rain was deemed so heavy that Baby Metal’s set was delayed until a brief gap in the downpour allowed them to take to the main stage for their set of choreographed theatrics. It didn’t bode well and considering we only returned from holiday late the previous night where we had been reliably informed that the UK had been suffering from glorious weather, was a shock and a half to our freshly tanned systems. Due to what we will now uniformly refer to as ‘the fucking weather‘ the Maverick Stage, beneath its large blue tent, became a regular haunt for us over the three days. Not just because of the cover it provided, but because it had a pretty stella line up too, by far the strongest of the stages. Our weekend in the tent started with The Wildhearts who after 27 years stood by their mixture of pop punky rock and got us, still some what reservedly, enjoying ourselves! They have no lack of fans going from the sheer quantity of WH t-shirts on show and the volume of the cheers that greet each song, perhaps even to the surprise of the band themselves as during one of the days rare sunny moments Ginger declares “It’s dry outside, and you’re all still in here, that must mean you like us!”
Former Gallows man Frank Carter put on a self assured display declaring himself and his Rattlesnakes your new favourite band, it’s a departure from the Gallows but not without its appeal and lyrics take centre stage and more emotionally engaging than previous projects.
Somewhat strangely, despite putting on the most visual performance of the weekend, there is no photographic evidence (except that captured on phones) of Rammstein’s headline set to share with you. Perhaps to not spoilt it for future attendees, if that’s the case, fair enough, as the impact of their stage craft is nothing short of jaw dropping.
Their performance is like an arsenal forged from an industrial wasteland. Some of the casual crowd struggle with the language barrier in their ignorance but the truth is you don’t need to understand what they are saying to be blown away. Till Lindemann is enthralling throughout and you can barely take your eyes off him. They flirt with the right wing long enough add danger to their performance, but not enough to ever say they promoted such values. Some would simply define their use of pyrotechnics and fire as a gimmick or distraction, how wrong they are. These elements are integral parts of their act, like a 7th band member. It’s used more sparingly tonight in comparison from when we’ve seen them before but still stunning, culminating in Till raising from the stage as an iron angel. They are truly dedicated to their performance tonight with noticeable personal sacrifices as some of the members leave the stage burnt, bruised, bleeding and broken.Lawnmower Deth (think Metal’s version of Colonel Mustard) bought their bag of toys, two minute tunes, evil clowns, dancing rabbits and… Kim Wilde to the Maverick Stage. That’s right. After four years of promising, and lying about, a guest appearance, Kim fucking Wilde joins the band on stage for a song about your Nan and a rush though the classic Kids In America. It’s brilliant tongue in cheek fun from the trash metal parody icons.
The set list was fine, peppered with classics new and old, as was the overall performance but something was missing, something we think we’re going to blame the rain for. We cant speak for everyone but after 10 hours in the rain our spirits were as damp as our bodies and no matter how much we’d love to raise our arms or scream every time Ozzy demanded it, we just didn’t have the energy, and this seemed to be the case for large portions of the crowd. Yes, we could clap and throw the horns up, but then all the water rolls up our sleeves and we can’t be arsed, so sorry Oz, but I’ll save the clapping for indoors now that you’ll be visiting again next year. To be fair, this was actually the only occasion across the weekend that we felt ‘the fucking weather’ had a detrimental impact on the atmosphere of the event. Which in retrospect is pretty good going.We have a great deal of love for Electric Wizard but with a set time just stretching over 30 minutes, it’s barely a warm up. Having seen them at the Ritz not too long ago the band jam in and out of songs but here they are forced to make clean cuts between their biggest hits. Still, the crowd lap up what they can, with heads in sync to the heavy grooves under a trademark cloud of weed that appears without fail whenever the band take to a stage.
New Jersey freak outfit Ho99o9 turned the Dogtooth Stage into their personal underground club and for a fleeting moment we forget we’re even in a field at all. Those familiar with the songs in the crowd go full on mental for them, and those unfamiliar take a song or two to figure out whats going on before engaging with the outrageous energy emitting from the stage.For some regrettable reason we found ourselves in earshot of Jane’s Addiction. Urg, Lets start by saying that one half of this writing tag team has never been a great lover of Jane’s. Not so much the music, but the people. They just seems so… sleazy, and greasy. Their appearance at Download did nothing to chance that perception, highlighted by an incredibly ‘Motley Crue‘ moment when two scantily clad women are raised into the air hanging from two hooks pierced into their backs. A hugely talented feat and much respect for their dedication to their art but our inner feminist made an appearance. Not because a band of men decided that women in their underwear is the perfect accompaniment to their music, not because they are literally hanging women from the skin over the stage while they spew out their shitty outdated music while wearing a fucking awful fedora. We can get over that. But because they didn’t thank the girls. In fact, they didn’t mention them at all. No “lets hear it for the dancers” or “a round of applause for the two girls sacrificing their bodies to distract you from our mediocre talent”. Nothing. Bunch of c**ts.*
Of course that’s no reflection on the festival, just the shitty weather it seems to be enduring at the moment. The only thing that concerns us from our confession is that if we had left, would we have missed anything? We’ve seen Rammstein before. We’ve seen Sabbath before, and knowing us we’ll go again next year. We’ve seen Maiden more times that we can count. What exactly would we have missed if we’d have fucked off, or not gone at all?
Once again for everybody’s favourite metal festival it is the ritual that succeeds. We pay the ticket price for the music, but we go for the laughs, the people, the beers and stories. If the festival stopped today, you’d still probably get 100,000 bodies turning there next year just for the craic of a weekend in a tent with your buddies, because once the Download Dog’s gotten its teeth into you, it doesn’t let go. It’s the greatest facilitator for fun and frolics that the metal community has and as good as one as they could ask for. Same time next year?