Monday, 12 June 2017

Download Festival 2017 - Day Three Review

EVER seen the film Speed? Or as Homer Simpson so brilliantly described it - "The bus that can't slow down." Well that was me on the Sunday at Download.

In Flames - Picture by Matt Eachus
I was struck with a piercing backache that only abated when I was either sat up against something or walking. And so that led to me taking in a hell of a lot of bands on the Sunday and clocking up thousands upon thousands of steps on my pedometer.

It all started OK with Chris Jericho's FOZZY on the main stage, but then I took in bits of GROOVE STREET FAMILIES, ORANGE GOBLIN, THE DEAD DAISIES, BLOOD YOUTH, CADILLAC THREE, DEAD! and DEVIL DRIVER in the next three hours. 

I made sure I stayed in front of the main stage for IN FLAMES - another one of those bands with a load of great tunes but never seem to be able to push themselves further up the bill. I enjoyed it and Anders Friden's banter with the crowd.

After that it was back to hiking from stage to stage as saw ANATHEMA, AIRBOURNE, TOUCHE AMORE and MINISTRY.

And then came one of the highlights of the weekend. I had only stopped by the main stage to see STEEL PANTHER do one song so I could see "the joke" and then I would be on my way to see a "proper" band. I owe those guys an apology.

Steel Panther - Picture by Ross Silcocks
It is more than just one joke, it is a constant barrage of them mixed in with some brilliant, brilliant songs. I had so much fun that for an hour I completely forgot the agony my back was putting me in. I'm smiling again thinking about it now. I underestimated Steel Panther and I am happy to be proved wrong.

As you may be able to tell, my back pain sapped a lot of energy and enjoyment from the Sunday. I watched a chunk of ALTER BRIDGE and MOOSE BLOOD and a healthy dose of SLAYER (well, it would be rude not to) before heading for the gate. I caught the drift of AEROSMITH from the car park, but I was done.

The sun did not give up all weekend, which meant for once we could all focus solely on the music and having a good time - and boy did I have one. See you again next year.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Download Festival 2017 - Day Two Review

REMEMBER that big ball of fire I mentioned was in the sky yesterday? Well it is still there and brought with it some real heat to the festival.

After a champion's breakfast of two Cornish pasties and a can of lager, I was out in front of the main stage well in time to see HACKTIVIST open at 11am. Not an easy slot but there was a decent crowd and great energy from the band.

A Day To Remember - Picture by Ben Gibson
CREEPER were up next and were a band I was keen to see - and were excellent. They may not have been around for a long time, but they have a stage presence of old pros - not bad considering the size of the stage.

And next up were some old pros as SIKTH, who turned in another great performance. Not a bad way to start the day at all.

I also enjoyed THE ONE HUNDRED, a band I first saw at Sonisphere a few years back and continue to have great power and aggression in their music. OF MICE AND MEN too were great, if a lot more polished that those Brit upstarts I mentioned before. 

I drifted again for a bit, taking in some PIERCE THE VEIL and KNUCKLE PUCK but not enough to review. I did very much enjoy the set from CROWN THE EMPIRE, however, over on The Avalanche Stage before getting a bit of AFI and then COHEED & CAMBRIA.

Then came another of my favourites and a band that will surely one day be headlining this festival - A DAY TO REMEMBER. Their set was packed with great songs from All I Want and I'm Made Of Wax... as openers, Naivety and Paranoia in the middle and All Signs Point to Lauderdale and then The Downfall of Us All to close. Brilliant stuff.

Biffy Clyro - Picture by Matt Eachus
There was a lot of debate about Saturday's headliners BIFFY CLYRO. They were decried as a pop band by the hardcore and dismissed as some sort of novelty act that didn't belong at Download at all, let alone as headliner. And while ROB ZOMBIE's crowd as the second stage headliner was probably swelled as a result, those who stayed got a treat.

While Biffy do have the odd slower song in their repertoire, they know how to write brilliant rock songs. And it was a performance with energy, movement, enthusiasm, passion and a show - exactly what was missing from SOAD the previous night. They finished and treated the crown to an awesome firework display. A cracking end to the great day.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Download Festival 2017 - Day One Review

SOMETHING very weird has happened. Download Festival has had a whole day without rain. Not only that, but it was sunny - proper, fucking sunny.

'But what of the bands?' I hear you ask. Well I'll give you a spoiler alert - despite the sun and beer and quality music all around, the day all ended a bit flat. But we'll get to that.

Motionless In White - Picture by Paulo Gonçalves
For once I was at Donnington bright and early and ready when NORTHLANE kicked off on the main stage and the Aussie boys were cracking and followed by the very popular MOTIONLESS IN WHITE. Great stuff to get the juices flowing.

I moved about for a while, taking in bits of ASTROID BOYS, CODE ORANGE and MACHINE GUN KELLY. The latter of those bands I didn't quite get and their cover of Oasis' Wonderwall was appalling - even if it did get the crowd singing.

MASTODON were next on the main stage and they too were a little disappointing. Not the band, I must say. You could see they were working their socks off and giving it their all as always, but the beautiful intricacies of their musicianship were - oddly - blown away in the wind. The sound just didn't carry as best it could. I did still enjoy the set though.

And then came the double-whammy that really cranked things up for me. I love a bit of FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH and they did not disappoint with a fierce set that included many of the favourites including Burn MF, Was It All Away, Bad Company and ended with The Bleeding. 

Five Finger Death Punch - Picture by Ben Gibson
They were followed by PROPHETS OF RAGE, who really rocked. Chuck D has such an amazing presence and the rest of the band were superb. Their set included a poignant tribute to Chris Cornell as they played a vocal-free version of Like A Stone. Beautiful.

SUM 41's return on the second stage was a welcome one. Frontman Deryck Whibley does look like he's been through the ringer, but there is still a power and angst there and some of the new songs are excellent. Alas, I missed the classics - Still Waiting, In Too Deep and Fat Lip - as I had to get to the main stage for the headliners.

SYSTEM OF A DOWN have a rightful place in rock and metal royalty. They are as original as they are brilliant in their music creation. I was excited to see how this translated to a live performance - a first for me. And it was a disappointment. For me, Serj Tankian's voice just didn't seem up to it and Daron Malakian seemed to have the hump with him.

And I don't think I've seen such a static headline act. Shavo Odadjian made something of a fist of it, but Serj and Daron were happy to remain behind their mic stand at all times. That meant the energy that their songs possess just didn't come across. It was OK. But you expect a lot more than OK from your headliners.