It’s Friday afternoon when Papa Roach take the main stage at Download, but for the thousands stage front waiting for the band to crank up their tunes, it’s clear the weekend is already underway. It’s not a particularly enviable stage slot, but they exceed expectations and span generations - tracks like Dead Cell and Last Resort are appealing to father and son in equal measure.
We know – we saw them rocking out side by side in Roach union! Down’s meaty riff-age, offset by Phil Anselmo’s foreboding stage presence is a festival rite of passage, but Europe are calling from the Zippo Encore stage, and people have flocked their side for that track, y’know...THAT one. If they were a dog, Europe would be a Labrador, all dependable and predictable.
But that’s ok, because when the leash loosens they still play classics like Rock the Night, and set closer, The Final Countdown which is received as excitedly as anticipated. Joey tempest even gets a touch of rap-itis, filling between choruses with shouts more at home in an urban set.
Yes, it was a little unnerving! That aside, and the stalwarts are flying today, and every inch as sleek as they were back in ‘89. Truly. A quick hunt of the arena to find a lone, bustling veggie stall and we’re back in time to clock Gogol Bordello. The gypsy punk vibes and upbeat feel is made for a festival, although not Download, I thought. Wrongly.
Start Wearing Purple and Break The Spell come at the end of a set which is an aurative shot of caffeine. It is frenetic fun from the multi-instrumentalists with a kink in their collective tail! Him are closing the Pepsi Max Stage, and while Slipknot are giving a boiler suit master class on the main stage, across the way, Him front man Ville Valo is cutting a rather frail figure, though musically they are sounding as full as ever. Him always strike a perfect hit on these festival billings, and Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly, Your Sweet 666 and Right Here In My Arms are stunning staples. A packed audience is with them all the way tonight, despite the Slipknot constraints seeping in between songs. “Bet they don’t have a disco ball though,” Ville says. Him do. And they have an audience close to rapture when they bow out with Funeral of Hearts. A quick stroll, natch squelch to eye up Slipknot and we arrive just in time for one of their best, Psychosocial. Which was nice.
The last time Slipknot laid siege to Download, their members numbered nine, and then three years ago they lost bassist Paul Gray, at the age of 38.
Unsurprisingly, the find space to pay tribute: ““Lets sing a song to pay tribute to our brother who is here tonight….” before Duality airs.
An emotional end to the day, reflected by the weather which is raining down too.
To see a gallery of pictures follow this link. It’s Saturday lunchtime and the heavens have opened again, just in time for earthtone9’s set in the Pepsi Max tent, which is consequently filled to the brim. Five minutes in and the ever predictable unpredictable rain has given way to sunshine but the audience is staying put for the Brit lads, on their comeback of sorts.. An easy confidence and solid backbone proved the basis for a fiercely satisfying set blending new with old. “Have you bought our new album?” asks front man Karl Middleton, met by an responsive roar.
“Liars!” he swipes, before the unit blister through a couple of said newbies before pulling things right back to the early years and signing off with Tat Twam Asi.
It’s amazing what a lot you can get done in a 30 minute time slot.
“Playing at Donington has been a boyhood dream for us! Thank you very much for watching…” And we reckon a few more albums will be flogged off the back of this show. Not a bad day’s work.
Mastodon take the main stage and bring thinking man’s metal to the front-line. Curl of the Burl sounds fantastic, and the set is solid, but things seem a little subdued today behind and in front of the barrier, which could be down to the sleeting rain which is doing its best to unhinge a field full of rain battered warriors.
And it’s at this point we should stick in a public announcement and advise that you don’t cut corners when it comes to buying ponchos.
We wont again either.
Australia’s Karnivool are a dream, their prog-teck rock has got the audience excited for their arrival on the second stage too, and it’s well worth it.
Who needs gimmicks when you can play (and sing, in Ian Kenny’s position) as well as this lot?
Alice in Chains, over to promote their new The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here peel from the opus for their set, but infuse with a great selection of old cuts: Dam The River, Down in a Hole and Man in the Box are crowd pleasers from the band.
There’s a false start on Again in an otherwise seamless set from the Seattle stalwarts.
While they are playing to the faithful on the Main Stage, Milton Keynes is being represented by Heart of a Coward, playing to a packed Pepsi Max stage.
But really it’s not so much playing as commanding with a ferocious set of masterful metal, and an audience eager to mop it up.
“I want to see the biggest synchronized head-bang at Download,” demands front man Jamie Graham, and the crowd oblige.
This is a band setting out to influence people and make new friends, sure, but when you stand back and watch the relish with which tracks like Killing Field and We Stand as One are devoured, you see a group on the very cusp of breaking through to the side of the big boys.
Motorhead at Donington? It’s like having salt and vinegar on your chips - it’s just not the same without ‘em, but though we bow before King Lemmy, we opt out today, and instead go snatch some time with cockney ‘erberts Thunder.
Danny Bowes knows how to work an audience, and the stalwarts play safe with a set full of classics, and enough banter to keep everyone buoyed.
“Hands up those of you who like sex…” Bowes demands.
“…Hands down. Hands up those of you who don’t like sex…weirdos!”
Love Walked In is a power ballad anthem of some standing. A classic, and received accordingly.
Queens of the Stone Age, back with their sixth album Like Clockwork are the band on everyone’s lips and the swell stage front is massive.
Opening with Feelgood Hit of the Summer, this set is a career spanning roll through, but it’s the earlier material that is still the premier flavour for this reviewer, and they never really exceed Feel Good Hit of The Summer and Hanging Tree on the excitability map.
Iron Maiden are back at ‘home’ today, with their Maiden England tour heralded by a Spitfire flypast.
Bearing in mind Download is smack bang next to East Midlands Airport, the fact they managed to get clearance is impressive enough, and around the site plenty of bottles of their own Trooper Ale are being quaffed in celebration.
It’s a nice tipple, as it happens.
Maiden launch with Moonchild, signaling a night of classic aces, stacked high – Can I Play with Madness, The Evil That Men Do, The Number of the Beast, Run To The Hills, it’s a marvelous Maiden feast, presented within a truly spectacular stage setting.
Chirpy front man Bruce Dickinson knows his role right enough, and those ‘Scream for me Donington!’ moments are the stuff of Download dreams.
Afraid to Shoot Strangers is an interesting choice, although Dickinson’s Trooper ale plugs were to be expected.
Pity those stuck way back up the field though – tonight’s big screens fail to recognise drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarist Adrian Smith in the most part.
That aside, and it’s a sterling return to form by one of the biggest metal bands on planet rock.
Like stepping back into that trusty denim jacket from ’79, or those spandex pants from ’84 that are a surprisingly comfortable fit. That’s what Maiden are like.
By Sunday, field-itis is beginning to set in, but the weather decides to shine on us for a change, and it doesn’t half help the fun factor along.
Little Caesar are at the tail end of their set when we rock up, but set ender Rum n Coke goes down nicely to wrap things up. Cheers.
Of course, seeing Masters of Reality again after nigh on a decade is why we are nestled stage front at the Zippo Encore stage in time for their early afternoon slot.
The Chris Goss fronted quintet – also boasting guitar ace and all round diamond geezer Dave Catching – plough through a tasty, but way too brief, poole of perfection: It’s S*it, She Got Me (When She Got Her Dress On) , Domino and The Blue Garden are exquisite.
We leave with a grin a mile wild, but still can’t understand why MOR remain ‘cult’ as opposed to gargantuan…
Kicking your way through leftover food, bodies (!) and general dirt at high pace is a tricky manoeuvre, but a necessary one – Milton Keynes’ second band of the weekend are playing with every ounce of effort they possess and are going down like a food hamper handed to the starving!
It’s a sight to behold, actually, seeing the sheer power coming from ‘one of our own’, but it’s not only us who are knocked out by this engaging machine.
As with HOAC, they have packed the tent and are enjoying showing what a rabid, hungry powerhouse really looks like, while also getting political on us.
And what they say is spot on.
Recent free download Elevate best sums up this beast of a live animal – as well as coincidentally matching the way their career is headed.
Download rocked all the way in 2013, but that sprinkling of new city talent didn’t half put the cherry on top of the proverbial.
Download 2014 will take place between June 13 and 5, 2014.
Tickets go on sale today, June 21.
Visit www.downloadfestival.co.uk for yours.