Co-authored by Mark Wrigley.
OK, so after a day of pleasure and debauchery, there has got to be some payback, right? Yep… definitely… and at Download, the Sunday payback comes in the form of hangovers pushing the upper limits of the Richter Scale, and just for good measure, the Big Man upstairs decides he agrees with Avenged Sevenfold and it is absolutely pissing it down. No fear though, Metal isn’t scared of hangovers and rain. So following a breakfast leaning more towards Ibuprofen than beer we once again readied ourselves to head into the breach.
The hangover may have been in full effect and the rain may have been lashing down but this was Download, so with beer in hand it was off the Main Stage to witness hardcore crossover titans Biohazard tear apart the hangover ridden early risers that had successfully made it from their pits… For those that had made the arduous journey from the campsite were treated to a full on, face ripping set! Yes, they may be older and some of the faces may be different but Biohazard can still tear it up and for us it was a real treat to hear tracks like ‘Shades Of Grey’, ‘Urban Discipline’, ‘Punishment’ and ‘Hold My Own’ played live once again!
The Pepsi Max Stage was our next port of call for something of a treat… Late last year a young upstart from Northern Ireland, namely Darren Seaton, poked his head into our inbox and demanded we take a listen to a band called Trucker Diablo, wary at first we pondered his request before finally giving in and taking a listen to their album “The Devil Rhythm”, and boy are we glad we did! It was a 40 minute, non-stop, beer swilling, party of an album so their live set must be even better… and it was! With none other than Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider watching from the wings we knew the party was about to get started. Kicking off the set with a trio of new tracks ‘Red Light On’, ‘Not So Superstar’, and ode to the fallen idol that is Axl Rose, and ‘Rock Hallelujah’, the place erupted… even those that had ventured into the tent to hide from the rain were now rising to their feet and craning their necks to see what all the fuss was about. Trucker Diablo’s ultimate party anthem ‘Drink Beer, Destroy’ was next, invoking involuntary head nods and foot taps from even the most ardent of rain dodgers. The party was now in full swing; Tuborg beach balls were flying in all directions, bouncing off heads and even invading the stage. The grins were plastered across the faces of the Trucker boys, Tom Harte, Simon Haddock, Terry Crawford and Glenn Harrison, well; we assume Glenn was smiling as we couldn’t actually see through his main of hair! The triumphant set was rounded off with the mighty ‘Juggernaut’, a short but very sweet set which certainly brightened up the miserable weather for at least 25 minutes!
Bowling For Soup are the perfect party band, no actually sorry, they are the “best band that has ever lived” according to one BFS frontman Jaret Reddick. Despite the miserable weather they are determined to bring the fun to Download, and with a stage adorned with two giant inflatable sheep, if you were in front of the main stage during their set and you weren’t grinning like a muppet you’re either dead or comatose. Puerile, crude and bloody funny the whole tone of the set is smutty humour and banter. Reddick is the master of entertaining, comedic timing and banter, and flanked either side by the unmistakeable mountain of Chris Burney and slightly smaller Erik Chandler, (not forgetting Gary Wiseman bringing up the rear smacking seven bells out of the drums), these guys sure know how to have some fun… and the music isn’t bad either. ‘The Bitch Song’, ‘High School Never Ends’, ‘My Wena’, ‘The Girl All The Bad Guys Want’, ‘Punk Rock 101’, ‘1985’ and ‘Almost’ all form part of the setlist, with the latter introduced with the classic “A song to sing along to, and if you don’t know the words, make shit up”. Musically it’s solid, nothing outstanding, chirpy tunes that generally everyone does know, even though half are probably embarrassed to admit it. But with BFS its not just the music, it’s the whole ethos, the banter and the hilarious ad lib seizing the moment kind of approach. Few of the thousands at Download this weekend will not giggle like a school girl remembering back “Edward Penishands” and showing the sheep to be anatomically correct with an inflatable penis… only for the sheep to then deflate. Classic crass BFS, typical adolescent schoolboy humour, just the way we like it. “God’s favourite band” too according to Reddick, well the Big fella upstairs did put a hold on the rain…briefly.
So following such a frat boy humour driven set, it was time to peg it over to the Jagermeister Truck for another outstanding acoustic set. This time it was Slaves To Gravity, the London based four piece flying in off the back of their cracking recent release “Underwaterouterspace”. Some things seem really surreal and today was a day that was full of surreal imagery. Three acoustic guitarists making the Jäger stage feel like a lounge whilst a healthy waterproof clad gathering in front, dripping wet through, appreciate and applaud politely. Toshi, Tommy and Mark seem bemused at it all, with the politeness, the weather, the appreciation, but it doesn’t stop the lads from putting their hearts and soul into the set. Beautifully executed, although perhaps more at home in an intimate club Gleeson and Co, ran through acoustic interpretations of ‘Honesty’, ‘Dumb’ the exceptionally haunting ‘This Time It’s Terminal’ and ‘Misery Pills’, a cracking yet subdued set from STG.
Despite the continuing shitty weather, Sunday was turning out to be the best day of Download, the onslaught continued for us over at the Second Stage where Norwegian upstarts Kvelertak were about to unleash their noise on the sodden Download public. Since bursting onto the scene last summer Kvelertak’s whirlwind rise has been as relentless as has the constant touring in support of their self-titled debut album. Opening the set with the ferocious, yet catchy as hell ‘Fossegrim’ blew all thoughts of the weather far away from the minds of the assembled masses. Knowledge of Norwegian is helpful if you want to sing along but it’s not essential, you can just roar Scandinavian sounding words at the top of your voice and feel perfectly included! The monster track ‘Mjød’ got the pits started and the temperature up causing front man Erlend Hjelvik to remove his Pentagram t-shirt and finish the set with his more accustomed bare-chested look. There was even time for the customary venture into the crowd by Hjelvik, much to the delight of the fans on the barrier. Another storming performance from Kvelertak, now enough touring and let’s get another album out and quick!
Following hot on the heels of Kvelertak on the Second Stage were the infamous costumed thrashers GWAR, probably more well known for their stage antics than for their music. You knew you were at a GWAR show when catching a glimpse of the exaggerated costumes, body paint and far too many middle-aged hairy ass cheeks and especially when you see the roadies trying to cover the stage monitors in plastic at break neck speed… No GWAR show can call itself such without there being gallons of red paint sprayed over the crowd and each other. Barely a track in and the first victim was rolled out, their neck slashed and face ripped off to reveal the jets that unleashed the first wave of red paint on the crowd and unsuspecting security guards! Even Her Majesty The Queen was not beyond the reach of GWAR’s swords, it’s probably tantamount to treason to report what they did but here goes… They slit her throat and cut off her breasts, from where the resulting jets of red painted were subsequently fired from. The music continued as did the antics and blood spilling, it’s a joke that’s getting a little tired now but it still raised a laugh and there was certainly enough people there to witness it.
With the last remnants of GWAR’s red paint being washed away by the rain we made our way to the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage to catch the last few tracks of Acoda’s set. The Corby quartet first made an impression on us with their single ‘Finding Your Feet’ late last year, so on hearing they had won a place on the Red Bull stage we were eager to see if their live performance lived up to what we had heard on CD. We weren’t disappointed, despite only catching two tracks, they played with composure and energy and showed such diverse talent that drummer Jake Crawford swapped his sticks for a six-string allowing front-man Damon Tang some face time with the crowd. Definitely a band to keep your eyes and ears out for in the near future!
Next up on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage was the cosmopolitan Nottingham based band Illuminatus, whose ranks contain a Spaniard, an Italian, a German and an Englishman. Their brand of atmospheric melodic metal was first brought to our attention earlier this year when their sophomore record “Glasnost” landed at TINAS Towers. The record was top drawer and we’re pleased to say that the live performance more than matched the atmosphere and substance of the CD. The tent was bursting at the seams, the crowd swelled in numbers by the rain dodgers but again their attention was quickly drawn to the stage as Julio Taylor’s gravelly tones belted out from the PA, ably backed by the guitar of Jon Martin, the bass of Leo Giovazzini and the drums of Felix Rullhusen. Weaving their atmospheric melodies with power and energy, Illuminatus soon had the crowd moving with several track off of “Glasnost”, including ‘Murdocracy’, ‘Reconnect’ and ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’. The 30 minute set flew by and was over before we knew it, the crowd clearly wanted more, as did we, maybe next year a slot on a bigger stage could be beckoning?
Buckcherry are a real go getters and ones that can be relied on for cranking up the rock n roll party. So despite the rain hurtling, Josh Todd and his crew took the Second Stage by storm. ‘All Night Long’, ‘It’s A Party’ and ‘Lit Up’ could seriously get anyone moving, and it’s the perfect remedy for the rain soaked crowd, especially picking up the face from the low key Slaves To Gravity performance that this half of the TINAS crew took in. Todd is as energetic as he is inked, and the weather doesn’t stop him stripping off to show his artwork. Keith and Stevie are on top form with their guitars, keeping the pace and flow, operating as foils for Todd’s cocky swagger. Firm favourites here at TINAS, Buckcherry could do no wrong and we’d have been more than happy for these four to have been allowed much more than their allotted 40 minutes.
Almost porting many back a few months to the Taste Of Chaos Tour, what better way to follow Buckcherry than David Draiman’s demented bunch in Disturbed. Another huge performance from these Detroit mentalists was required, and by God was it delivered. Draiman is unstoppable, insanity personified, he screams, barks and destroys everything in front of him. With the skies dark from the rain and heavy with clouds, Disturbed make great use of the video backdrop, enhancing the atmosphere and making it feel more like an arena performance… albeit a very wet one. Dan Donegan is a machine, his riffs are equally as destructive as Draiman’s bark, and his fretwork is sharper than a razor. Despite having more than ten years worth of back catalogue to work from it’s the earlier tracks that get the biggest response. As the electronic intro to ‘The Game’ pumps from the stage, the audience raises it’s voices and horns to the skies, a wave of energy surges through the thousands eating out of Draiman’s hand. ‘Prayer’, ‘Liberate’ and ‘The Animal’ are force fed to the hungry mob, every body jerking and moving to the staccato rhythms, like macabre puppets under Draiman’s control. ‘Stupify’ is simply ballistic, and ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ is as much of a command as a track, as the tens of thousands of fists reach skyward. ‘Down With The Sickness’ closes the mammoth set, throwing out pure energy as the insane bald man screams along with thousands of others in front of him… “Wah Ah Ah Ah!”. This was Disturbed on one of their finest days, seriously upping their game from the last few times we have witnessed them. If what we hear of the band taking a break for quite some time now is true, this was one hell of a way to leave the UK fans. David Draiman, you baldy nutter… we salute you.
Now, we were unsure as to what to expect from The Cult, as previous performances we have caught have been somewhat dubious. But in fairness to Ian Astbury we are talking more than ten years ago since we last saw them, and he was struggling to speak and stand, let alone sing. We needn’t have worried, as today it was The Cult we wanted to see, solid and delivering the goods. Again the element of surreality struck, with Astbury taking great amusement at the “Sock” stall visible from the Second Stage, and Billy Duffy giggling to himself and apologising to the waterproof wearing masses, telling us we looked like some sort of weird “fisherman’s convention”. Looking around at all surrounding us as well as ourselves… he did actually have a point. Astbury’s vocals were on top form and opening with a solid “Rain”, the rain actually held off for only the second time in the day. The Cult never deviated from their formula, nothing flashy, just solid old school rock tunes, but then again, they have been at it for over thirty years. The set, just shy of an hour long, could easily have just been a greatest hits album; ‘Electric Ocean’, ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, ‘Wildflower’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ feature Duffy’s signature riffing, and Astbury’s distinct soaring vocals. Solid without being spectacular, our faith in The Cult is restored.
Finally, after what seems like forever, we get to see Rob Zombie, we can’t tell you how excited this made when we heard that the Zombiemeister was to appear at Download 2011, let’s just say there was a little bit of sex wee and leave it there… So far, Sunday had been the day of days with wall to wall top drawer performances and with Rob Zombie headlining the Second Stage the day was going to finish on the highest of notes! We were all knee deep in mud and soaked to the bone but seeing the elaborate stage set being built before our eyes soon got the juices flowing and created an atmosphere, of the like we had never experienced before.
At last, the lights dimmed, the cheers rang out and Rob Zombie emerged from the guts of a 20 foot high metallic robot, with pulsing blue eyes and ‘ZOMBIE’ emblazoned across the huge video screens behind! Launching straight into the set with ‘Jesus Frankenstein’, the stage show began and the crowd went ballistic. The huge video screens showing video clips and along with selected words from the song provided the ultimate backdrop. John 5 was his usual live-wire self, constantly running from one side of the stage to the, in say that, all three, John 5, Rob Zombie and Piggy D were all constantly on the move! ‘Superbeast’, ‘Scum Of The Earth’ and ‘Living Dead Girl’ followed straight after each other, the crowd singing along at the top of their voices. Then the place erupted as the opening samples to ‘More Human Than Human’ blasted from the speakers. As one the crowd began jumping and singing along even louder… ‘Sick Bubble-Gum’ and ‘Pussy Liquor’ kept the insanity level on maximum! ‘Mars Needs Women’ raised the sing-along stakes up a notch before ‘Never Gonna Stop’ took hold of the reigns. Then it was time to take a trip back to White Zombie land to close out the main set with ‘Super-Charger Heaven’ and ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’.
A quick break and another stage set change and Rob Zombie and the gang were back on stage, this time all wearing matching Union Jack trench coats. Rob Zombie climbed to the summit of his 30 foot high parapet to preach the gospel of ‘Dragula’ to the assembled masses for the encore. Front to back, side to side, man woman and child all sang along until they could sing no more… An immense finish to a magnificent set leaving everyone beaming from ear to ear! Simply amazing!
By the time we got down towards the front of the Main Stage, what was once green grass was nothing more than a mud quagmire, but after three days of awesome metal no one cared about what we were standing in, or how wet we were. Nothing was going to dampen the mood for tonight’s headliners and Download closers Linkin Park. So hyper was the mood that it was from the wait for the headliners that one of the legends of Download 2011 was formed. We are talking 836. Place thousands of hyper fans, nicely lubricated in front of a stage to wait for a headline act, and inevitably they will create their own entertainment. The majority of this entertainment aimed on this occasion, at worshipping steward 0836. Now elevated to internet legend status, 836 formed another hugely entertaining and surreal aspect of Download 2011.
So after the shenanigans of 836 and 15 minutes or so later than billed, the stage lights died, 836 was momentarily forgotten and one of the hottest properties in metal Linkin Park exploded into life. Launching into ‘Papercut’ Linkin Park sent bolts of electricity through the audience. Love them or hate them, these boys were going to show us exactly why they are one of the best selling rock artists of the modern day. Adrenaline fuelled and fired up, the Download faithful wanted to finish with a bang. Not wanting a concept version of ‘A Thousand Suns’ we just wanted the big guns.
Bennington and friends were in the mood to give us what we wanted. The hits were wheeled out, both Bennington and Shinoda’s mic usage was flawless. The intimacy with the crowd is sparse from both vocalists initially, bar the odd “How the fuck are you Donington” and comments of how good we looked, but we were past caring. We were a collective mess, but we didn’t give a crap, we were happy and Linkin Park were delivering note perfect vocals over one of the tightest band performances we have ever witnessed. ‘What I’ve Done’ has every set of vocal chords screaming along, ‘No More Sorrow’ and ‘Numb’ likewise. All layered perfectly over the regular Linkin Park light show and video imagery backdrop. Dripping and sweating Chester Bennington makes up for any lack of intimacy earlier by diving into the crowd during ‘Breaking The Habit’, going above and beyond the call of duty for his loyal fans, who are hanging on his every word and movement. Linkin Park differ from most bands as they are happy to focus on all members of the band, Shinoda on more than one occasion grabs a guitar, and Brad Delson and Joe Hahn both claim their spots in the limelight. Lasers, lights and imagery fuelled the end of Download euphoria, each track during the 100 minute set topping the last, with the absolute ball busting pinnacle being ‘Crawling’. Words heard uttered as the band left the stage from fans left and right were “Epic”, “Awesome”, “Immense”… after what we had just witnessed we couldn’t agree more.
So that’s it. Three days of sunburn, showers and saturation. Three days of drinking our own body weight in beer. Three days of raising fists, horns and middle fingers to the sky. Three days of being deafened, destroyed and debauched… three days of nigh on perfection. Andy Copping put together a festival of epic proportions once more, and confirmation of Download running for at least another five years with the new contract is spanking news. We couldn’t wish for better; top organisation, well put together and most of all an absolutely stonkingly great atmosphere. Download 2011 has set the bar really high for festival season. One thing’s for sure… we’ll see you next year!