For some, Download is regarded as the mini Glastonbury for Heavy Metal fans, while this may not be true in size, weekend tickets sold out as many came together to celebrate the festival's 10th anniversary.
The festival’s history is oozing with memorable highlights, From Slipknot’s Joey Jordison stepping in for ill Lars Ulrich at Metallica’s 2004 set, to the recent festival record breaking 29 circle pits during Machine Head’s set this year. It’s certainly been an interesting 10 years for a festival full of music history.
Excited to see what memories were to come from the likes of The Prodigy, Metallica and Black Sabbath, my spirits were quickly dampened with every check of the weather forecast. Before i even arrived, pictures were being uploaded on facebook of swamped campsites and mud swimming tents.
Believe me those pictures weren’t an exaggeration, while many campsites had escaped the flooding, my wellies were worn throughout the whole weekend. It was so bad it got to the point where it was funny, a testament to making the worse out of a bad situation, the Download crowd still came strong and ready for the music.
Though it was no fault of the organisers, sound was affected by the wind, During some bands I couldn’t decide if they just sounded weak, or if because of the wind I needed to find somewhere closer to a speaker to stand. This was more problem on Friday and Saturday, but this did not stop me enjoying the bands.
With the delays of getting into the arena, Fear Factory were the first band my group got to see. I throughly enjoyed their set at Sonisphere 2010 so I had great expectations. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed but the set lacked the certain punch I felt when I first saw them.
Billy Talent were my next choice, an avid fan I was eager to hear their new single “Viking Death March” which was played and met with a great response. I respected the fact that they allowed Cancer Bats on to play one song for the crowd (Due to the delay of the arena opening, their set was moved to a much later time).
Opeth was another highlight of Friday for me, Opening with “The Devil’s Orchard” followed by “Slither”, Mikeal’s comical words to the crowd were much appreciated., everyone giggling with a type of “Oh you!” air to their laughs.
Because of their sound which touches on several sub genres, Opeth are always a treat to see, their music is so textured and I really felt they deserved a longer set.
It made me smile when I overheard a conversation which went along the lines of “Well I hadn’t heard any of their stuff before but because of this set I’m definitely a fan from now on!”. Which incidentally were my exact words when I saw them on the same stage two years ago.
With the weather as miserable as it was on Friday, The Prodigy were a perfect closer, umbrellas, ponchos and coat hoods on, a shock out to The Prodigy was much needed. Their type of music at a heavy metal festival has always been the subject of much debate. However unlike the crowd dividing choice of Chase & Status, you can feel the level of respect and awe as The Prodigy take to the stage.
Never boring and alway bold, Prodigy’s set drew all types as many of their songs were played with innovative alterations and majestic output from Maxim and Keith. Their facial expressions alone deserved a show!
I was also warmed by Trivium’s set the following day, stating that the UK were the first to embrace them as a credible band, it was a pleasure to be amongst dedicated fans and newcomers alike. (Arguably that is a statement that many bands say of the UK, but that’s because we have awesome taste!)
You could argue that while Saturday night belonged to Metallica, the day time really belonged to Steel Panther. Seas and seas of men in spandex and animal print, with Panther fans high fiving each other, taking their pictures together, it’s warming to see the odd family a band can build.
Considering the type of band they are, the crowd they pulled in was MAHOOSIVE, and I felt some sort of childish joy as I joined in with the masses as we sung to “Death To All But Metal” and “Supersonic Sex Machine”.
Of the reviews I have read so far Tenacious D got mixed write-ups, while I agree that their jokes and claims are getting old and waning, by all means I have not turned my back on the D yet and never will!
Their set was a bit mumbled with some odd choices, however the sing along to “Tribute” was well worth it. I particularly enjoyed those of us who knew all the words to “Kickapoo”, I for one can admit I have seen and listened to Pick Of Destiny far too many times.
That night the Metallica family gathered in their masses eagerly awaiting to hear favoured tracks from The Black Album. Regardless of where you stand on Metallica being sell-outs, you can not take away the fact that their live sets are something to be ticked off the bucket list.
Opening with a few crowd pleasers, they then went off stage, as we were treated to a mini 10 min documentary about The Black Album. They returned to play songs from the masterpiece, rounding off that section of the set with the ever famous “Enter Sandman”.
They even played a couple of songs past their curfew time, I especially enjoyed how the crowd chants went from “One More Song! One More Song!” to “One More Album! One More Album!” A good time was had by all. Kudos has to be given to the pyrotechnic team for the fireworks display which opened the song “One”.
The next day Devildriver were the choice to start our final day, the size and response of the crowd made me question why they were on so early, a later longer set would have been better. As soon as they came on they meant business!
Feeling ill I’m gutted to say I had to lie down and give a few bands a miss. But I was back in time to catch the lively and enchanting presence of Dropkick Murphys, and catch a section of the highly anticipated Soundgarden set.
...And then there was Black Sabbath.
Given all the recent scandal with Bill Ward, I was a bit apprehensive of going to watch their set, but that aside, I can say I feel privileged and lucky to have been there that night. I felt the selection of songs and order was near perfect, and Tony Iommi what a guy!
Imitating Ozzy’s stage waddling became a running theme in campsite that night, and during the set, spectators were there in thousands, reaching all the way back to the near the entrance.
In regards to how Download is laid out and run as a festival, while I enjoyed the music on offer, I found myself pining for the Sonisphere layout and program scheduling. Efforts by the organisers to curb the mud were appreciated, however the closing off the racecourse at some points meant that, depending on where you were camped, the walk back to your tent was an unnecessarily long royal pain in the butt.
In regards to drink prices, although the initial queue to get tokens was long, once you managed to get tokens, anytime I needed to get a drink, the queues did move at a good pace. At £4 a token, myself and my boyfriend bought £40 worth of tokens each, which lasted us the whole weekend (with help of drinks smuggled in from the campsite!) A beer or cider would cost you one token, where a red bull would cost you 1 ½ tokens.
Selection of food was great, from burritos, to “Strumpets with Crumpets”, right down to the Vegan & Vegetarian stand. I have to confess I probably ate more than I needed to because there was so much to choose from. Prices were high but this is to be expected at a weekend festival of this size.
Toilet queues were hit and miss, depending on your timing and how close you were to the main stage or arena entrance, you were either in for a short visit or long wait. We did however take advantage of the posh loos, for £2 at Pootopia’s long drops, you got a book to read, a comfy seat, endless supply of loo roll and erm a cup of sawdust to put over what you left behind!?
(I particularly loved the response to the music they played whole you pooed, the sound of 20+ men and women in cubicles happily whistling along to Enter Sandman while dumping will never leave me)
While I did not take advantage of it myself, also on non music entertainment on offer was the cinema, stand up comedy and the usual fairground. It was also worth hanging out around the signing tent and Download FM van, freebies were given out and even if you couldn’t get into the signing tent. At a certain point you could get a view!
I have to confess I do feel that Download is more off the “book the bands and they will come” mentality, I think in terms of the festival experience, it is more about the type and attitude of the people that attend, and those moments of music history, as opposed to the little differences that make a festival unique.
But hey I wasn’t attending hoping for the glorious oddities that happen at the likes of Bestival or Glade, the selection of music was a solid treat, of the bands that I saw I wasn’t painfully disappointed by anyone,
Overall I’m glad as a music fan to be able to answer “Download 2012? I was there!”