Thursday – The Prologue
It’s that time again for rock fans across the UK to grace Donington Park with their presence. This weekend, as always, promises to deliver world class bands from all over the world for a weekend of drinking, childish behavior and simply cutting loose in ways that cannot be done in polite society.
Before anything can begin there is of course the task of getting all the gear needed to survive 4 days in a field to the campsite. This is never an easy task and given the blazing hot sun the suffering is increased tenfold, however, during the 20-minute walk the only thing going through my head is “thank the lord it’s not raining”.
So all pitched (thank the Lord for pop-up tents), it’s time to relax. Shades on, sun cream applied to protect my pasty skin, can of cider cracked and friends made with the new neighbors I want nothing more then to head to the campsite village to check out the shops and bizarre behavior of the attendees.
After a spell spent in the club tent after bumping randomly into an old friend and subsequently rescuing her from a guy dressed as a playboy bunny, my little group set upon the comedy tent to witness the genius that is Kunt And The Gang. For those of you unfamiliar with this poetic mastermind, he simply is a legend on the small club circuit in the UK. His rhymes are populated with smut and seriously offensive poems. What more could you want after getting tanked up then hearing all about his opinions on fallen from grace jack asses such as Ian Watkins and Jimmy Saville. Now he did say that the organisers had warned against creating walls of death so, instead, he created what will now come to be known as a wall of kunt! Nothing violent at all, just two sides chanting “F**k sticks” and “mothers c***t”. I did say offensive right? Entertainment at it’s best for those of you with a seriously lowbrow sense of humor.
Friday – Day 1
Being woken up by an airplane flying low overhead is not the way to be woken up after a heavy night of drinking! As Donington Park is located adjacent to East Midlands airport, my campsite just happened to be located smack bang in the descending planes flight path. After this rather painful wake up call, with my head spinning I reach for the painkillers I smartly placed next to my pillow the night before. This hangover in no way will dampen the day ahead! It is of course a delightful start to the day weather-wise, so no feeling sorry for myself here.
What better way to return to the state of mind suitable for a festival? I reach into my cold bag a grab a surprisingly cool cider and exit my tent to welcome day 1 of Download festival. Already my neighbors are mingling around planning how their day is to go. After a bit of a chinwag with these guys and gals, it’s time for me and my festival buddy to gather all needed and head to the arena.
The first band on my list for the weekend is Lacuna Coil, now as they were not on until 3:30pm there was time to explore. The energy from the masses is quite simply electrifying, the excitement from the attendees can be felt everywhere.
Now, what’s the most important thing to do first? Of course! To the bar! A drink in hand is a must. I mean it is socially acceptable to embrace any potential alcohol abuse problems at an event such as this right? The trip around the various stalls and food venues is, of course, essential because I need to know where the best burger can be found and for me it’s simple. I must find the one that has BBQ sauce on their condiment table. All the stalls are filled with the general garbage you can find at festivals, ridicules hats, jewelry that will break or be lost on the first night and over priced and low quality garments. Of course there are the exceptions. There are the stalls such as Iron Fist amongst others that do provide high quality at a special festival discount price.
Time has clearly run away with after taking advantage of the VIP bar for a few hours as my friend mentions that Clutch will soon take to the stage. This announcement provides me with realisation that I have missed the first band I planned to see this weekend. Never mind, this does not mean the party is over!
At 4:40pm an all time favorite of mine take to the stage. As they take to the stage, the first drops of the rain promised starts to fall. I am not happy as the forecasts promised this was not coming until the following day. Clutch has an exceptional ability to mix hard rock with an underlining tone of the blues. A set that is just short of half an hour is jam packed with tunes I just can’t help but rock out too. Along with hearing some of my favorites such as 'Earth Rocker', 'The Mob Goes Wild' and 'Electric Worry' we are also treated to a track from their upcoming album Psychic Warfare entitled 'X-Ray Visions'. If this is to be the standard of the new album, I am excited!
As a result of the change in weather the decision was made to head back to the campsite to change into more suitable dress. Of course whilst there it would be silly not to sink some cans because, of course, you are not allowed to bring them into the arena. This means that I would be missing Five Finger Death Punch, but the truth is I am not a huge fan putting me into the minority. This matters not just as long as I am back to see Black Stone Cherry who are headlining the Zippo Encore stage for this evening.
With the rain now in full effect with no sigh of relenting, Black Stone Cherry open their set with the very suitably titled track, 'Rain Wizard'. This is the first time I have had the pleasure of witnessing this band play live and I must say they did not disappoint in any way. Despite the now exceptionally muddy field the audience is not about to let this dampen their spirits, it is a true testament to the unbroken spirit of festival goers. The set is littered with some of the best songs this band has ever churned out played with exceptional passion. Sadly part way through their set a vast amount of the audience leave. This is because Slipknot is due to grace us with their presence on the main stage. I’m sorry to say that I was one of them.
The main stage has been set up in a way that I could only imagine a stage to be set up for the likes of pop idols like Britney Spears or One Direction. However, once they take to the stage the whole atmosphere changes. This is going to be the sort of live show that only the likes of Slipknot can deliver. Now I feel honesty is best at this point, I have been drinking at a steady pace all day and my recollection of their set is hazy to say the least. What I can say for sure is there was fire and a wonderfully put together set list with tunes spanning their entire career. Although the weather is now so bad you would be forgiven for thinking it was judgment day, the ground feels like a continuous earthquake is taking place. The folk that are in the thick of the mosh pit are far braver then me, in my later years I have ceased to be that guy enticing a circle pit to that of the dude at the back enjoying a cold one.
Saturday – Day 2
Did anyone get the license plate of that truck? No? Dam! I feel broken on a massive level, again being woken up by the planes overhead. This is not the place to be camped! The rain is hitting my tent and all I can think is the bathroom is a mission and is going to look like the entrance to Hades!
First on todays list is Hollywood Undead. Now the truth is I’ve never really given these guys much thought, but being dragged along with a friend I felt I should give them a try. So 2:00pm on the main stage I was greeted by something I was not expecting, a nu-metal band that I found really rather entertaining. During their set we were even treated to Johnny Cash cover 'Folsom Prison Blues'. It can be only summed up in one word. Winning!
After a trip to the bar as it’s important to keep the buzz going it’s time for a bit of Parkway Drive. The metalcore band is not planning on holding back any punches. They want nothing more then circle pits and crowd surfing and even showcase their new song 'Fight Script' for which they encourage the biggest amount of crowd surfing Download has ever seen.
Next up another band I will not miss for anything, Rise Against. It is simply a powerful set from the melodic punk rock enthusiasts; however, they sadly did not play many of the songs I was dying to hear. This feeling seemed to be echoed by other folk as well after chatting to a guy warring noting but a Rise Against shirt and y-fronts who was covered in mud, although clearly wasted beyond belief he was surprisingly coherent.
Next up is another band I’ve never given much time to is A Day To Remember. After hearing their brand of metalcore/pop-punk it’s safe to say they have earned themselves a new fan! There was more encouragement of crowd surfing and at one point the request for the biggest circle pit Download has ever seen. Now this is a request I have heard pretty much every festival I have seen, although this one was impressive. Near the end of their set A Day To Remember even treat us to a cover of 'Champagne Supernova' by Oasis. Sweet Jesus it was good!
It is now the moment I’ve been waiting for, Faith No More! This, for me, will be the highlight of my festival. Put simply, I love these guys. The stage is made up in such a way that would make the Chelsea Flower Show jealous, it is clinically white a huge contrast to what they are looking out too. Mike Patton and crew are also dressed accordingly in all white. Faith No More are the sort of band I find hard to believe when I come across a person who does not like them as they infuse almost every genre into their sets. The show opened with a song from the new album Sol Invictus, ' Motherf***kr', followed by the ever popular 'Be Aggressive'. In fact the whole set was really something to write home about and of course the audience went nuts when their defining song 'Epic' was played. Mr. Patton at one point even stole a security guards headset to announce to staff allover that terrorists had been detected at the festival. Patton also further demonstrated how much of a legend he really is by allowing a fan who was being carried off on a stretcher to sing along to the Commodores cover of 'Easy'. My life became complete when Faith No More played my all time favorite song 'Ashes To Ashes' and closed following a three song encore with the spectacular that is 'We Care A Lot'. I will officially die happy!
Next I head back to the Zippo Encore stage for the god of fuck himself Marylyn Manson. His set was populated by tunes from all albums spanning his illustrious carrier. During the show it was clear that the band backing him up have very little to do with the show as all cameras were aimed straight at him for the big screens but the few moments they did make an appearance it made all wonder, are they dressed as members of Kiss? During the set Manson even brought Ice-T out, twice! Not to do any songs with him sadly which was a massive disappointment because when this happened everyone in attendance was collectively expecting something new, but alas, nothing. Manson did state that Ice-T did invent everything including iced tea. Truth be told this was a very poor dad joke, but who cares, we’re all wasted now! The set included the likes of 'Disposable Teens', 'mOBSCENE', Depeche Mode covers of 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)' and 'Personal Jesus'. As things came to an end the collective feeling emanating from the crowd was we were not going to hear 'The Beautiful People'. Not the case Manson closed with this to delights of all around.
Headlining the main stage was the Download wildcard, Muse. The truth is simple; I have never been a fan. However, what I witnessed was an truly epic show which no one can deny was one that will go down in history of festival greatness. Now what can I say about a bands show that I have never really cared about. Easy, they came, they conquered, they ruled! Nothing less, nothing more.. However, if the opportunity ever arises again, I will make a point of seeing them again.
Sunday – Day 3
Again I am woken up by planes and by this point I am well and truly a shadow of my former self. There is a reason I no longer hammer it like this anymore, so time to does up on painkillers and get back out there. Thankfully the rain has gone and the sun is shining, however, given the state of the weather and what it has done to the ground, I am in no way in a state of mind to stay for another night. No booze for me this day! So before anything else, it’s time to get all the gear to the car so a speedy getaway can be made later. Only draw back is it is rather warm again.
Today’s lineup starts with the tremendous Blackberry Smoke a bluegrass rock band from the other side of the pond. They opened their set with a personal favorite of mine 'Six Ways To Sunday' along with more greats such as 'Rock And Role Again', 'Sleeping Dogs' and 'One Horse Town' to name a few along with a Led Zeppelin cover of 'Your Time Is Gonna Come'. I came away from this thinking I must see these guys at their own show. During the set the worst thing happened, it clouded over and the rain set in once again and the temperature dropped to something you would expect to suffer in the great white north of Canada. Life is not fair! Oh well, complaining wont make things better, there are still some tremendous bands to see.
Speaking of tremendous bands it’s time to enjoy the Eagles Of Death Metal. Another band I know very little about which actually surprises me as they are right up my ally. What more can I say aside from these guys are actual comedic geniuses and his dancing was rather awesome as well.
Now it come to the dilemma I have been facing all week, do I go for L7, a band that has not grassed our shores in a lifetime and may not again or Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. This is a tough call. In the end I decided to go with L7 as I can still catch at least some of Slash.
L7, a band that are known for throwing their tampons into the audience now look like the type of ladies my mum would hang out with! Having said that as soon as they start playing it becomes obvious that these are the type of women my parents would try to shield from as a child. I must be honest here, I was disappointed with the show, there was not the energy I would’ve expected from a band such as this. Aside from enjoying the multiple tampons being thrown at the stage I did become quite bored and chose to head of and catch the majority of Slash.
On my way over I feel the urge for something I’ve managed to avoid all day by not drinking. I need the bathroom! Luckily they were situated in hearing distance of the main stage so I was in a position to hear the set. During my wait I could hear in the distance the sound of 'Night Train' by Guns N’ Roses, 'Back From Cali' and 'You Could Be Mine', another Guns N’ Roses cover. Sadly I was unable to really enjoy it as stood directly behind me was a guy dressed as Satan. The irony as I was getting closer to what can only be described as Hell, all the time the devil just over my shoulder kept saying, “We’re getting closer to my realm”. I may not have felt so unnerved had I actually dropped a tab of acid and was prepared for the serial conversation I was having. I was lucky enough to return in time to catch 'Sweet Child O’ Mine' (Guns N’ Roses), 'Slither' (Velvet Revolver) and 'Paradise City' (Guns N’ Roses).
I hung around for Motley Crue to take to the main stage. Being part of their last tour (again) I was expecting an amazing show. I was disappointed! These guys have clearly run out of steam, or just generally don’t care anymore. Despite this there were some sexy dances for some of the songs and we even got a cover of 'Anarchy In The UK' by the Sex Pistols.
Part way through the set the collective decision was made to head over to see Lamb Of God. I feel like a winning child now but I was unable to enjoy the show as I had been unable to sit down all day due to the torrential drenching that had been suffered the day before and my legs felt like jelly. Still, I stood my ground as I was dying to hear my top tune 'Redneck'. Circle pits, mosh pits and even a guy crowd surfing in a camping chair accompanied the show. This was a new one to me.
Headlining tonight was the hottest band in the world, Kiss and the glam rock legends didn't disappoint with a set rammed with classics right from opener 'Detroit Rock City' through everything from 'Creatures Of The Night', 'War Machine' and 'God Of Thunder'. Of course it wouldn't have been a Kiss show without the theatrics and, again they didn't disappoint, with pyrotechnics, high wire forays into the crowd and, to end it all, a tickertape finale for 'Rock n' Roll All Nite' which was still filling the clear sky as I made my way back to my tent a broken man after one hell of a weekend.
Only one way to end this, rock on and see you’ll next year!