Download Festival 2011 Friday Review
Quick Note: There are no pictures in this, and I apologise, I have just moved house and my camera downloading equipment is buried in a box somewhere. I will update this when I have pictures.
This years annual pilgrimage to Donington Park had a very different feel to it than the previous seven; It was the first time in my 8 years of attending the Download Festival I would only be going for the day and not for the entire weekend, due to having just become a home owner and needing to move in on the Saturday of the festival. That combined with my top 3 bands for the weekend apart from Bowling For Soup were all on Friday made my choice of day a no-brainer, so off I went to Donington on Friday AM.
At this point I just want to say a massive congrats to Jamie McAloon & Lauren Gallagher for getting engaged in Red Camp on Wednesday PM. Well done Jamie mate - that took some balls! Congrats also to the always entertaining and fellow gooner Terry 'Beez' Bezer from Metal Hammer who got engaged to his better half Charley during the festival as well.
After meeting up and catching up with the crew, as well as being reacquainted with my festival food of choice jerk chicken wraps (only for the bottom to fall out and a third of it deposit itself down my legs), it was time for the music to kick off in good fashion with skate rockers CKY. CKY are a band who remind me of being at school again & the time of doing my A Levels, having had some quality songs during the early 00's but I had somewhat lost track of their activities since. They were a superbly entertsining opening band attracting a huge crowd for the first act of the day and they were rewarded with some great songs including my old favourites Sink Into The Underground and 96 Quite Bitter Beings. "Everyone hates but Download loves us, so thanks very much" was the amusing verbiage from frontman Deron Miller. I don't know if many people hate CKY but on this showing they'll be very welcome back to Donington, a great kick off to proceedings. 7.
Like CKY, Puddle of Mudd are another band from my Nu-Metal centered youth that I'd wanted to see live back in the day but never managed it. However Wes Scanlon and co have seemingly returned from the nether regions to be an active band again and it was time for the second trip down memory lane. Opening with Outta My Head was an exceptionally good choice for POM, who invented a genre all of their own with their multi-million selling album Come Clean back in 2002, the wonderfully titled (end sarcasm) "Nu-Grunge". Wes seemed to be struggling with the vocals a tad but he held up ok considering I do not think Puddle of Mudd have played too many live shows recently. Old favourite Control was going down very well, although a mid-song jaunt into War Pigs was a curious choice (though it still got a large singalong) as was Wes's decision seemingly to talk to individual members of the audience during song breaks rather than all of us, apart from repeatedly saying thank you. Other songs that children of nu-metal may remember came and went such as Drift and Die along with an unexpected AC/DC cover before what everyone wanted, a mass singalong to "She Hates Me". Their biggest hit Blurry however was not forthcoming, and that was slightly disappointing considering aside from one support warm up show, POM haven't played the UK in many years. Ok, not great, not bad. 6.
With several hours to kill until the next band I really wanted to see (Children of Bodom) I managed to catch up some of the Rocksins crew and we all decided to check out one of Roadrunner's newest bands Royal Republic in the Pepsi Max tent. Royal Republic are a curious oddity. They sound nothing like a typical RR band (nor do they look like one, with their uniforms of tight t-shirts, skinny jeans and converse they look like an off the wall indy band). Sound wise, the best thing I came up with to describe them is a "bordering on metal version of Franz Ferdinand". It really shouldn't work, at all. But somehow it does. A lot of Royal Republic's material is hugely catchy and has infectious beats that will worm their way into your head and stay there. Frontman Adam Grahn (sporting a Freddy Mercury esque moustache) is another clear reason for why the band works, commanding the considerable crowd with masterful stage presence. From this half an hour offering, it is my opinion that Royal Republic are going to be massive. Give it two years and lets see where they are, Roadrunner could be onto a real winner with these guys. 7.5
After more socialising, a burger and 5 minutes of Black Stone Cherry, it was time for one of my favourite bands (and arguably the most "proper metal band" on the whole festival this year), Children of Bodom. Their most recent album Reckless Relentless Forever has had almost universal praise from press and fans and this was given ample airing, showing off the bands technical proficiencies in great quantities. There was time for old favourites too with In Your Face enciting a gigantic circle pit, Angels Don't Kill being a headbangathon and Blooddrunk inciting carnage. "Look at all you motherf**kers, I f**kin love this place" remarked Alexi Laiho dryly. Its safe to say the love was more than mutual. I departed as set closer Downfall was just getting into full swing, but Children of Bodom are back to their best both on record and live. Long may it continue. 8.
The reason I left the Finnish shred masters a touch early was to get a good spot for a band I'd wanted to see even more than Bodom, Alter Bridge. After AB III earned itself the no2 position in my top 10 albums of 2010 and I foolishly missed the last Alter Bridge UK tour, this was a long overdue chance to see Myles Kennedy and co again in the flesh. They didn't disappoint either. From the opening part of the kick off with Slip Into The Void, it was clear that AB had brought their A game to Donington Park and were going to put on a great show, and enjoy themselves into the bargain. Given more senior billing this time around and more time to flex their musical muscles, songs like Find The Real, Come To Life and the hugely popular Metallingus (known to many non AB fans thanks to the WWE) went down a treat. "This is our fourth time here, but this is definitely my favourite" remarked Myles Kennedy with a huge grin on his face. Finishing off with a cracking rendition of usual set closer Rise Today, Alter Bridge leave Download with a performance of real quality that would have only been better if they'd had a bit more time. Fantastic. 9.
The Alter Bridge Setlist Was:
- Slip to the Void
- Find The Real
- Buried Alive
- White Knuckles
- Ghost of Days Gone By
- Ties That Bind
- Come To Life
- Rise Today
After Alter Bridge, there was a small gap until Times of Grace, so while I waited for some friends to get Calzone, I had a crepe and enjoyed 3 or so songs from The Darkness. Justin sounded on fine wailing form, and it sounded like a terrific show. Other people who watched them completely said they were amazing, and I don't find that hard to believe.
While many thousands of people were enjoying the Catsuit related Hawkins fun, I was in the Pepsi Max tent eagerly awaiting the UK festival debut of Times of Grace, the new band featuring Jesse Lynch (The original Killswitch Engage singer) and Adam D of current KSE fame. Within seconds of opening number Strength In Numbers kicking in the entire tent almost down to a person was singing along and it was quite a special experience. This basically continued for most of Times of Grace's 40 minute set, with both Adam and Jesse showing very sincere appreciation to the crowd reaction, Adam in particular saying how much he loves the UK. It was a part of the day I thoroughly enjoyed, and would happily see them again. 8.
The Times of Grace setlist was:
- Strength in Numbers
- Hope Remains
- Fight for Life
- Until the End of Days
- In the Arms of Mercy
- Live in Love
- Worlds Apart
- Hymn of a Broken Man
- Where The Spirit Leads Me
And so to the final band of the day and I found myself watching Def Leppard solo while all my friends had gone to Pendulum, not that I minded as I am a long time DL fan and neither flying solo or the rain was going to put me off.
Unfortunately, The Leppard did not manage to hit the spectacular heights of two years ago and I think that is down to a combination of many factors; The weather, the far poorer crowd as many people were at Pendulum or had sacked it off because of the s****y weather and primarily because any time they generated momentum, they managed to kill it.
Joe Elliott and co started off strongly with new song Undefeated followed by Action and the closer from two years ago, Lets Get Rocked. However, the decision to extend two or three songs into much longer versions of themselves with what largely amounted to musical wanking (fairly similar to what Angus Young did with his REDICULOUS 15 minute solo for AC/DC last year, albeit not on the same scale) meant that every time things got going in the crowd, Def Leppard managed to put themselves back to square one. Joe Elliott did raise quite a few laughs when thanking the other bands when referring to The Darkness however "The Darkness, thank heavens they're back eh"
My personal highlight until the last portion of the show was the always awesome Switch 625, a piece of Leppard instrumental work done perfectly right, and not extended beyond its original design. During the final portion of the show Leppard did manage to redeem themselves to a large extent by firing off classic after classic: Hysteria, Armegeddon It, Animal, Photograph, Pour Some Sugar On Me and Rock Of Ages one after another. I left during the traditional encore of When Love & Hate Collide to find my friends but heard that and the closing Wasted from atop the hill.
The full Def Leppard Setlist was:
- Let's Get Rocked
- Let It Go
- Love Bites
- Bass Solo/Rock On
- Two Steps Behind (Acoustic)
- Bringin' on the Heartbreak (First Half Acoustic)
- Switch 625
- Armageddon It
- Pour Some Sugar on Me
- Rock of Ages
- When Love and Hate Collide
The overall summary for Def Leppard is while it was good and still thoroughly enjoyable, it could have been easily as good as 2 years ago if things had just flowed a bit better. Still very enjoyable though. 7.
Overall, my solitary day at Donington was a roaring success as I got to see the bands I wanted to see most and my friends. I would have loved to have seen Avenged Sevenfold, Bowling For Soup and a few others on the other days, but you can't always do it all. Band of the day for me were Alter Bridge, closely followed by Children of Bodom and Times of Grace.
I hope everyone enjoyed their Download's as much as I did, however much of it they went to!