Kicking off three days of rock and roll thunder (and, sadly, rain) on the hallowed grounds of Don-ington, it’s time for another Download Festival. Here’s what we made of Friday’s offering.
Being the opening band on the opening day of a festival must be tough, whatever stage you’re on, let alone when you’re on the smallest one. That unenviable task fell to Dudley’s EofE, who took to the stage at lunchtime. To their credit, they didn’t seem daunted and instead ripped into some bouncy rock with gusto. They’re a band that is constantly improving and has noticeably stepped up since touring the UK with Glamour of the Kill back in March. Their reward is an enthusiastic recep-tion and, probably, a load of new fans. (Review: Dave Musson)
Sticking with the fourth stage, another flag bearer for the West Midlands follows in the form of Wol-verhampton duo God Damn. Being fresh from opening for the Foo Fighters in Manchester, there is an undeniable buzz about this pair, which explains the suddenly swollen crowd. They quickly justify the interest with a fabulous set packed full of riffs, angst and bags of energy. Cracking stuff! (Review: Dave Musson)
Fearless Vampire Killers
Arriving at the Download 2015 arena in the scorching sun set this weekend off to a fantastic start. I took myself over to the Zippo Encore stage to let Fearless Vampire Killers kick off my weekend of music. I have huge respect for any bands that play these big festivals but in particular, for the bands that open on the first day; essentially these guys are warming the entire weekend! The crowd around this second stage started off relatively small but people continued to filter in as the set went on. I found that at points, the singer was drowned out by his band mates but overall they were keeping the crowd entertained especially when they performed ‘I Need A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler. (Review: Gemma Bywater)
Over on the third stage, scratchy Brighton punk trio Gnarwolves are doing a fine job of making sure everyone in the huge tent is awake and in a good mood, helped by ditching the cliched ‘hello Download’ greeting in favour of calling the crowd ‘sausages’ instead. They quickly impress with some tight playing and make what is a huge stage feel a lot more intimate. (Review: Dave Musson)
The next band I decided to check out was Defeater who were playing on The Maverick Stage. I had no prior knowledge of this band, therefore, had no idea what to expect from them but they had drawn in a fair crowd so I decided to stick around. As they took the stage it was clear that they had fans there to see them as they were greeted with an array of cheers, which only increased as they opened their set with their song ‘Bastards’. The tent continued to fill as Defeater played and whether people were there as pre-existing fans or just there to check out a new band, it seemed that the majority were taken in by their hardcore demeanour. (Reviewer: Gemma Bywater)
Back on the fourth stage it was the turn of Blood Youth to show us what they could do. While they attacked it with purpose and were certainly tight on stage, they offered very little to really stick in the memory, although that could just be me not getting them, as those in the crowd seemed to re-ally enjoy what was on offer.(Review: Dave Musson)
I ventured back over to the Zippo Encore stage to see Modestep. A large crowd had already gath-ered around the stage. They got an incredibly warm welcome as they took to the stage and went into their first song. Almost instantly this London based, dubstep-rock band had their audience in the palm of their hand. If they wanted the people bouncing, they bounced; if they wanted the people clapping, they clapped, and so on- the crowd were captivated by this bands undeniably catchy music. Granted there had been rather a lot of alcohol consumed by a lot of people by this time but it just seemed that everyone around the Zippo Encore Stage, even people that were walking over during the set, were moving and really losing themselves in the music. Without a doubt these guys put on an incredibly lively show that appeared to entertain the masses. (Review: Gemma Bywater)
The tent housing the third stage is heaving by the time Ohio’s Beartooth take to the stage and they are rewarded with one of the sets of the day. The band’s seeminlgy constant touring has clearly paid off and the highly polished beatdown machine is off and running without a moment’s hesitation. Hearing thousands of people singing along to their belting song ‘In Between’ is spine-tinglingly fantastic and underlines just how big this lot could be – expect them to be on a bigger stage next time. (Review: Dave Musson)
While this carnage was going off in the big blue tent, legendary riff-meisters Clutch were doing their thing on the main stage. There’s something about Clutch blasting out some licks on a sunny Friday afternoon that is just wonderful and by the time they get round to finale ‘One Eye Dollar’ there’s an awful lot of people grooving along with them. (Review: Dave Musson)
Following Beartooth on the third stage was going to be tough for anyone and sadly for Sylosis, that dubious honour fell to them. With the tent now half empty, the Reading metallers didn’t really do much to draw them back in. While there is nothing wrong with their stage show and their musical talents are there for all to see, there is just something lacking in what they offer and their set is just a bit flat. (Review: Dave Musson)
Corrosion of Conformity
Having dealt in delicious groove metal since 1982, Corrosion of Conformity find themselves in arguably their best band lineup yet, having reunited with celebrated frontman Pepper Keenan (see also: Down) in 1989 and steamrolling audiences with their special brand of blistering bliss ever since.
Also having influenced rafts of much-loved metallic brethren, from Clutch to Mastodon, CoC’s barked vo-cals and barkingly good rifferama swamps of sludgy metal secures their place as a deserved highlight of the festival so far, a keen no-frills pre-emptive strike against the flashier stage shows the bigger names will bring later.
A beaming Pepper Keenan bids a heartfelt thank-you to the sizable attendees and after the last ounce of deafening feedback is wrenched from their amps, the band sail on to their next conquest, leaving smiles all round. (Review: James Stokes)
Over on the fourth stage, I take a chance on American Fangs based on nothing more than the fact that they have a cool name. I’m so glad I did as the Texans absolute smash it with a fantastic set packed full of big hooks and loads of energy. With a new album coming next month these guys are certainly one to look out for. (Review: Dave Musson)
Back on stage three it was the turn of virtuoso speed metal mob Dragonforce to reinvigorate the crowd, which they did in their typical style, with shredding galore and cheesy grins slapped on their face. It was plenty of fun and nothing different from what you’d usually expect from the ‘Force, that is until the end of their set when they were joined on stage by Japan’s Babymetal for a quite bonk-ers rendition of ‘Gimme Chocolate!’
There are very few words to describe such a collaboration, but it was a hell of a lot of fun and went down an absolute treat. (Review: Dave Musson)
I was sticking with the Zippo Encore stage for the evening and as we waited for the sub-headliners Thunder to perform, the clouds had rolled in and that beautiful summers day we thought that we had been blessed with was well and truly gone! The crowd were getting soggy as the drizzle started to turn to a heavier downpour. Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC was played and the crowds spirits were far from dampened as they sang along to the classic rock song; it was like a miniature warm up before we were graced with the presence of the band on stage. These guys are old hands when it comes to performing shows and they made such a wonderful performance seem effortless. They had the crowd joining in at every given opportunity and because they were so clearly enjoying what they were doing on stage, their happiness and good vibes seemed to rub off onto their audience. It really was such a feel good show. (Review: Gemma Bywater)
The One Hundred
Up on the fourth stage and there’s an awful lot of people packed into the red tent – it could be the anticipation of The One Hundred’s impending arrival on stage but is also probably down to the promise of shelter from the ongoing downpour outside. The One Hundred have been hugely hyped of late – including by Download’s main man Andy Copping – and it perhaps that raised expectation that leaves me a little nonplussed about what they had to offer. Sure, they give a decent show but are somewhat predictable and the only real reason to stay and watch is to stay dry. (Review: Dave Musson)
Rounding off stage three tonight is the recently reformed Fightstar, for whom there is a huge crowd gathered – again, at first it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are actually here to see Charlie Simpson and co and how many are just sick of the rain. However, as soon as the band launches into ‘Paint Your Target’ it becomes clear that plenty are fans and it sets the tone for a tri-umphant 45-minute set. The band sound great, with booming riffs and huge melodies floating through the Donington air, and look like they’re having a blast. The crowd responds with some joy-ous singalongs, especially on ‘Palahniuk’s Laughter’. (Review: Dave Musson)
Black Stone Cherry
We were finally at the point of the night that I’m not ashamed to admit I was waiting for, the head-liners of the Zippo Encore stage- Black Stone Cherry. This was far from the first time that I would be seeing this band but this only added to my excitement as I already knew of their potential. As Black Stone Cherry burst onto the stage, with the fans going wild in the now torrential rain, they went straight into their song ‘Rain Wizard’ in which the first line is a yell of the words “here comes the rain”, suddenly the downpour had become a prop to the stage show which just added to an epic entrance! As the song finished the crowd chanted “Black Stone Cherry” over and over, there was so much energy running throughout the whole audience! These guys have just commemorated their 14th anniversary as a band and by way of celebrating and thanking the fans for helping them get to where they are today, they debuted a song written for the album that they are currently work-ing on; the song was ‘Roadrunner’ and if the rest of the album turns out like this song, this band are only going to continue to gain more fans and get bigger.
We were treated to a drum solo from John-Fred Young who is one of the most incredible drummers I have ever had the privilege of watching. He completely loses himself in what he is doing, at one point he threw his sticks into the crowd and continued with just his hands on the drum kit! If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about how many fans Black Stone Cherry had there that day, their performance of ‘Peace Is Free’ should have soon quashed them. Front man Chris Robertson started us off and then just stood back and with an overwhelmed smile on his face as the crowd took over to sing this classic Black Stone Cherry ballad; I’m going to go as far as saying it was a perfect moment! Obviously this set wouldn’t have seemed complete without fan favourites ‘White Trash Millionaire, ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’ and the song that they closed their set with ‘Lonely Train’. Overall Black Stone Cherry were as awesome as I expected them to be, and with the show that they put on it was obvious why these guys had been chosen to headline the second stage! (Review: Gemma Bywater)
Once Black Stone Cherry had finished, I headed to the main stage, with the majority of people from the second stage, to catch Slipknot who were around twenty minutes into their headlining set. When it comes to Slipknot, I’m “old school” I don’t really know any of their newer music but there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity of seeing these guys. Still donning masks and boiler suits and with a set that featured a goats head, visually they were everything you could want from Slipknot. It soon became obvious that over the years, Slipknot have mellowed, not that their overall performance was bad they were just not what I expected. I did manage to catch ‘Wait and Bleed’ and there they were, the Slipknot who saw me through high school! Regardless of my thoughts on their music now, Slipknot are still winning crowds over and they still put on an impressive stage show even if they have matured and it’s not as insane as it used to be. (Review: Gemma Bywater)