Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Download Festival 2012

Download 2012 has just finished and overall, I would say that I had a good time. I can barely walk now and have a great deal of back pain, but I’ll get on to that later. For now, I am going to talk about the festival experiences I had. I usually accompany my blogs with lots of photos, however this year I simply didn’t take many. The reason for this is purely because I couldn’t be bothered. I’ll post what I’ve got though. Anyway, let’s start somewhat appropriately with day one.


Thursday was arrival day. There really isn’t much to say about the travel up to Donington Park other than we made really good time and rarely (if at all) got held up. We stopped at Donington Park services to visit a clean toilet for the last time before the festival. It was not raining when we at the car, which was probably the last time we saw it stay dry for the rest of the day. 
We were directed into west car park which is slightly further away from south car park. However, going there had two major pluses. Firstly, there was a shuttle bus to take you to within 2 minutes of the festival entrance and secondly, you didn’t have to walk over a fucking bridge with your festival stuff (sucks to be you, south car park people). We severely lucked out by being able to park on tarmac I think. I heard some horror stories from south car park about muddy fields and buried cars etc. Anyway, we got into the festival and the weather turned from spitting rain to heavier rain. It wasn’t massively heavy but it also wasn’t fun. We took the long way through campsites trying to find a big enough spot for 3 tents to go and we eventually ended up in orange camp.  This was a fair old hike from the arena (I would guess 1.5 – 2 miles). The ground from previous day’s rain (and people arriving and walking on it) was ruined. It was a real struggle to get trolleys over it which meant the walk to Orange camp was a tough one (didn’t help we took the long way first time which involved a hill climb). The floor was a real challenge to walk across as well. There were a number of occasions on the first day and over the weekend of slipping and nearly falling. It sucked. I just realised I sound like a grumpy old man! “When I was your age and wanted a condom, I had to walk 5 the snow....with a boner!” Now that I’m done hacking Jeff Dunham, let’s move on. 

I had intended to go to the boardie takeover which was taking place in the campsite Village but the weather cancelled that plan. After a lay down in the tent, I went for a stroll to the village to have a look around and grab a blanket. The rain was bad enough but it was also cold like a winter’s day which was utter crap considering it is June. I heard a comedian from the comedy tent get the crowd to quote a line from 300 (I think) which I remember made me think “I’m glad I decided to avoid the comedy”. After a stroll around the village we headed back to the tents and stayed there until we decided to fall to sleep. Day one was not massively fun nor activity filled, but we had arrived at Donington and aside from some rain and wind, things were going alright. 


The first day of music bought with it a fresh batch of problems. I woke at 4am (I would guess due to noise – we were right by East Midlands Airport flight path). My tent had leaked in the overnight rain and the wind had almost uprooted it. Not the best of starts considering almost everything I used for sleeping was now soaking. After a couple more damp hours of sleep, I awoke and spent the morning just spending time with the people I travelled with. It was good except for the fact there was still rain in the air. We departed the tents about 11.30am to head to the arena, ready for a 12pm opening.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and they did again. We walked to the festival arena via the Donington Park race track. After a massive group of people all started walking the wrong way, we turned around and got on the way. During this walk, we discussed how weird it would be, watching superbikes on TV from Donington and knowing you’ve walked on a major part of the track (I guess this is the same thought process I had in 2006/07 but I don’t remember). When we arrived at the arena, we joined the queue and anxiously waited for the opening. We were fairly close to the front of the queue which was pretty cool. What happened next was not cool in the slightest. At about 12.10pm, the queue moved forward for about 2 seconds before coming to a halt and an announcement was made that the arena was not being opened until 2pm due to health and safety concerns. This was a bit shit considering there were bands on before 2pm that I wanted to see that I would now be unable to. To pass the time, there was a bloke getting on his mates shoulders and goading people to throw stuff at him, which people did. That was the most remarkable thing which happened in this time. That and we got talking to a family from Yorkshire about festivals (namely Wacken). We waited for further news but nothing of note was announced until 2pm when the doors were open. Some of the arena was still closed off while final work was being completed but that didn’t matter. I had missed the first 2 bands I wanted to see, Six Hour Sundown and Cancer Bats so I headed to main stage for the next one on my itinerary. One point of annoyance before I start reviewing bands - Cancer Bats got given a new slot on the 4th stage but at no point was this announced on the big screens or by someone on stage officially. Text messages that bordered on libel were displayed constantly, but no news on the rescheduled Cancer Bats slot. I ended up missing it because I wasn’t sure what time it was on.

FEAR FACTORY (7) - First band of the festival and they were really quite good. I much preferred this set they played to the one at Sonisphere 2010. A very good start to the festival I felt.

NOFX (5) – I was really looking forward to NoFX based on what I had heard of their music. Truth be told though, I was a little disappointed. They were alright, but they messed around quite a lot. At their own headline show, that sort of stuff is fine – but when you have a 40min set at Download, maybe limit the messing around as much as possible. There was an instrumental song which they kept pausing to tell racist jokes, which I will admit made me laugh (they were aimed at members of the band, not just random racism). They were alright – that’s all.

BILLY TALENT (9) – I really enjoyed Billy Talent’s set. It was the first time I’d seen them and they really impressed me. I got the impression from their on-stage persona so to speak that they were really excited to be playing the main stage at Download and that came across in their performance. After the song Rusted From The Rain, they invited Cancer Bats out onto main stage to perform a song as their earlier main stage set was cancelled. I thought that was really classy and an awesome thing for them to do. Cancer Bats played Hail Destroyer which was immense. Anyway, Billy Talent came back out after and blasted through some of their bigger songs which were also immense. Superb set from a band I hope to see live again in the future.

MACHINE HEAD (9) – I may make cracks about the amount of times I’ve been able to see Machine Head without ever seeing a full headline show. I may also make cracks about the fact they don’t really mix up their set lists. One thing that I can say though is that they are always great live. This was a new set to incorporate material from the latest album, Unto The Locust. They opened with 2 new songs which was fine by me. They played a 7 song set and included my favourite new album song (The Locust) and my 2 favourite Blackening songs (Beautiful Mourning and Aesthetics of Hate). There was no Davidian which was a shock but it not being played didn’t spoil their set. Halo was a good closer. Apparently for one of their songs they got more than 23 circle pits – that’s insanity!

OPETH (6) – I only caught the last song of their set but it sounded really quite good. I am quite tempted to go see them when they come to Portsmouth later this year.

NIGHTWISH (9) – This really was a superb set from Nightwish. I will admit to having my concerns about it considering the last time I saw them it was mediocre, but those concerns disappeared quite quickly. The only real criticism I have about their set is that it appeared to lack a certain power behind some of the songs. That could have been a sound fault, it could have been where we were stood, I don’t know. That didn’t ruin the set at all (like the set I saw at Rock AM Ring 2008 which has since been dubbed “the worst Nightwish show ever”). They had a pretty awesome stage set-up as well, with fireworks and pyro throughout most of the songs. The new material sounds really good live and they have convinced me that going to see them live again is not a mistake. They are touring in November but the London date is on a Monday night, which I think is fairly inconsiderate of them to be honest! (I’m joking)

PRODIGY (6) – They were good when they decided to come on stage. Chase and Status finished about 20.20 and Prodigy didn’t come on until 21.30. No explanation was given in the time I was there. I enjoyed what I heard but the cold wind and rain got to me and I left after about 30mins of their set. Maybe it got significantly better, I don’t know. All I know is that what I saw was good but it wasn’t mind blowing. When walking away, I wish I had gone to see Slash instead. You live and learn I guess

After another visit to get blankets and towels, I headed back to the tent and after a brief sit outside, went to bed. Friday had ended on a fairly down note for me due to the weather and at this point, I was starting to feel the burn on my feet. The grounds around the campsite were completely ruined, making the simple task of walking back to the tent a real challenge. Standing up all day plus completing this walk twice really took its toll on my feet after just one day.


Learning the mistakes of the day before, we timed the walk so that we arrived at the arena before the first band but not too early. This was a big success as there was no queue of note when we arrived. Apparently the arena opened 20 minutes late but that’s better than 2 hours! Anyway, the arena had changed a bit over night – there was a lot of hay laid out. That made getting over some parts of the arena somewhat easier but at parts it made no difference at all. Stable standing aside, there were also some bands on day 2 of the Download Festival.

AS I LAY DYING (8) – A solid opening set from As I Lay Dying. It was essentially a shortened version of their Wacken 2011 set which was fine by me. They are a solid live band and I really enjoyed them. 

FOZZY (8) – I really liked Fozzy’s set even though it was much too short. They played a song from their forthcoming album called Sandpaper which was excellent and gives me high hopes for the new album. Jericho was hanging all over the second stage and had the crowd right in the palm of his hand. He truly is one of the best front men out there. It was an excellent set and a good way for Fozzy to say goodbye to the UK for a while.  

HALESTORM (9) – Outstanding set from Halestorm which I’m sure would have been a 10 had it been longer than 25 minutes. It was a nice preview to their headline tour in September which I will be at. Would have been nice to hear Here’s To Us but again, that’s a time related issue.  Everything else about this set was perfect.

GINGER WILDHEART (9) – The beginning of this set had some sound troubles by the looks but following that, it was a really excellent set. It was a shortened version of the headline tour set from a few weeks ago - we got some 555% material and some Wildhearts. It was a lot of fun, especially seeing Ginger interacting with the crowd. I particularly liked the quick run through of S.I.N, Very Very Slow and Suckerpunch – done almost exactly the same as the headline tour. It worked very well. 

TRIVIUM (9) – Trivium set the bar for themselves very high last year at Wacken after their faultlessly stunning set. On this day, they did not quite reach that bar but they were damned close. Since the new drummer has joined, Trivium has reached another level as a live band. The band was genuinely blown away by the reaction they got and paid tribute to the fans who were the first to launch Trivium into the international act they now are. They are touring later this year with As I Lay Dying and it does not look likely that I will be able to make it (well, not without risking being asleep at work the next day!)

GUN (6) – Only saw the one song and it was a cover of Cameo – Word Up. It was pretty good.

ANTI-NOWHERE LEAGUE (10) – Really didn’t know what to expect from this set and truthfully, only went to see them so I didn’t have to watch all of Steel Panthers set. I’d only heard one song by them and that was the original version of So What. Before they got to So What, which closed the set, they played an absolutely stunning set. They played songs called Streets of London, Woman, I Hate People and We’re The League – all of which were superb. They were a real surprise package for me but I’m so glad to have seen them.

STEEL PANTHER (6) – Only saw Death To All But Metal, and Corey Taylor came out and did the song with them. That was cool.

TENACIOUS D (6) – Tenacious D are a fun live band but the reason I have given them a 6 is because I thought at times, their set dragged. They also didn’t play Wonderboy which is a personal favourite. The wizard/lizard stuff from Reading 08 was gold, and I was hoping they might do something similar to that, but no. One thing which made me laugh though was the back drop. I streamed the new album which had the artwork there and didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I saw the album artwork as the backdrop that I realised it looked like a big cock and balls with wings. Oh you, Tenacious D!

KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES (7) – I won’t lie, I only went to see them so I could get a spot for Skindred. It has to be said though; they kept me entertained for half an hour. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of theirs now, but they had a good set and I liked what I saw.

SKINDRED (9) – I think in all probability, it is impossible for Skindred to have a bad show. This was another superb set. The Newport Helicopter was completed again and it is a spectacular sight. It occurred to me just before they came on stage that this set was the 7th time I’ve seen them since April 2010 so I probably should have seen Biffy Clyro’s set. Oh well. I’m sure I’ve said it before and chances are I’ll say it again, but Benji Webbe is an outstanding front man. It takes a certain talent to make thousands of people cheer after you’ve just told them to fuck off. Excellent stuff.

BIFFY CLYRO (6) – Only saw their last song, and it is probably my favourite from Only Revolutions – The Captain. It was a good rendition of it which is why I’ve given them a 6. They appeared to be in good form though so I reckon it would have been a higher score had I stayed for the whole set. I read on the text message screen that they did not interact with the crowd at all which obviously isn’t good.

It was a fair old wait for Metallica, but it was all worth it for the mass sing-along to AC/DC – It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock And Roll) and of course, Ecstasy of Gold. Goosebumps every time.

METALLICA (10) – Another superb set from Metallica. They really were outstanding. The setlist was the same structure of the one I saw in Paris (which makes sense as it’s on the same tour) but much like Paris, there was a surprise thrown in there. Song 3 over the tour has been Shortest Straw or Fuel but in Paris we got No Remorse. At Download, we got the tour debut of The Four Horsemen which was immense for me as I hadn’t seen it since Wembley in 2007. The atmosphere in the crowd was electric throughout the entire set which certainly aided the enjoyment of the night. During Nothing Else Matters I joined a circle of random people swaying and signing the song. It was a great moment. I should say at this stage I was using an umbrella as a walking stick, which was in the middle of the circle. A random female used it as a stripper pole and a random man used it as an air guitar – both uses were very funny. I opted to depart at the beginning of One and listened to the rest of the set list on the walk back to the campsite – not because it was bad but because I was in pain. Metallica were on top form at Download and long may they continue coming back to the UK. 

After Metallica and the walk which seemed like miles back to the campsite, we sat up with our campsite neighbours until the very early hours talking about anything and everything really. It was fun although I had hoped to be in bed before 4am. Oh well, shit happens. One accidental moment of comedy happened when I had to leave the campsite to use the toilet and put my wellies back on, but put them on the wrong feet. This meant walking to and from the toilets like a duck. Funny, but definitely painful.


Despite having a very late night, I was still up early enough to make the first bands of the day. This day I was back using my umbrella as a walking stick, even though the sun had broken through and it was a hot day at Donington! General walking at this time was painful and by the end of the day, general moving was an issue.

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS (7) – Very good opening set from KATL. Don’t know anything by them as their stuff isn’t on Spotify and I’m too lazy to do much research, but I really liked what I heard. I reckon we’ll be seeing more of this band and I really am in favour of that.

BLACK SPIDERS (8) – Black Spiders had a fun set packed with their favourites from the Sons Of The North album. Stay Down was its usual great self including the standard crowd participation. It is pretty much the same set I’ve now seen a few times but it is a lot of fun. Black Spiders get a lot of play on hospital radio it would seem ;)

WE ARE THE OCEAN (6) – Stayed for the first three songs of this set and they were really quite good I thought. They were a lot different to the time I saw them at Reading but that was due to the screaming vocalist moving to a behind the scenes role. I don’t think it takes anything away from them as a live act. Would have stayed for the whole set but there was a clash with another band, which at another festival had previously lost.

KYUSS LIVES (7) – Really good set from Kyuss in the short time they had. I only really know a handful of songs and they were all played so that was good. There was very little crowd interaction – I don’t know if this is regularly the case from them but it didn’t really bother me for their set.

RECKLESS LOVE (5) – Only heard 1 or 2 songs (I forget now) and they were alright. They were a bit cheesy for my liking. “Introducing the hottest bass player in the world” etc. We get it, that is your schtick but keep it to a bare minimum eh?

EDGUY (10) – This band are just outstanding. This set was only 30mins and they were one of the best bands of the weekend. The atmosphere in the tent was immense. Tobi is another superb front man although his jokes and talking were scaled down a bit (there was a penalties joke and he admitted to being a Bayern Munich fan). All I can really say is they were stunning – come back soon Edguy!

SHADOWS FALL (8) – Hadn’t seen this band since 2007 but my word, they either got heavier or I wasn’t listening properly in 2007. Really brutally heavy set from Shadows Fall. I really enjoyed what I heard.

During this set, I stepped backwards to move out of the way of someone, and got a shot of pain throughout my left foot and up my spine to my neck. That was fun. The best way to try and forget about pain at a festival is watch a good band. Ah well...

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY (4) – I won’t lie, I’m not into BLS but I saw what was left of them because I couldn’t face walking to second stage to watch 5 minutes of Sebastian Bach. Anyway, I heard one song which was alright, and a really long guitar solo, which got boring fast. Oh well.

LAMB OF GOD (9) – Another superb show from Lamb of God. A great festival set which covered all of their albums (I think anyway). This set was probably the best showing I’ve seen from Lamb of God. I am yet to see them headline but I hope to do so soon.

SHINEDOWN (8) – Shinedown were very enjoyable I felt. I hadn’t seen them since 2008 and have only listened to the new album once. I also read the reports about the lead singer miming during live shows. I wondered a number of times during the set if he was miming actually as the vocal levels appeared to change. The band was great though and I am glad I saw them.

MEGADETH (7) – Listened to them play Sweating Bullets from the top of the arena hill. They sounded really good. I would have liked to have seen their whole set but I haven’t lost sleep over the fact I didn’t.

REFUSED (10) – Absolutely superb. I’ve got nothing bad to say about this set whatsoever. I had listened to some Refused before the set and really liked what I heard but live it is so much better. New Noise was actually stunning. I saw the posters for their 2 UK headline shows and said to myself I wasn’t going to go. This set convinced me otherwise. See you in August Refused!

DROPKICK MURPHYS (9) – This set was awesome. The sun was starting to drop as they played and it was just a party atmosphere. They are a really fun band to see and I am glad I chose to see them over Soundgarden, who I’ve heard nothing but bad things about. Their cover of AC/DCs TNT was excellent as well. They were really very good. During this set, my umbrella/walking stick handle snapped. That was a pain in the arse but oh well.

I wandered over to visit the facilities before getting a spot for Black Sabbath. I didn’t head too deep into the crowd but got a good view of the stage/screens. A curtain dropped over the main stage to block the crowd from viewing the stage set up. After a short while, a familiar voice emerged from behind the curtain saying “Hello Download....I can’t hear you!” The Black Sabbath logo appeared on the screens and was met with a very loud cheer. A promo video showing images of the band throughout their history was shown with various riffs playing in the background. The video finished on the band logo and the curtain rose, revealing Black Sabbath.

BLACK SABBATH (10) – I believe the only words I could say during the set were “wow” and “...Black Sabbath!” It was outstanding. Ozzy’s voice sounded better than it was at Wacken, which impressed me as I thought it was good there. The band was just in superb form. There was something so special about seeing Ozzy, Tony and Geezer playing these iconic songs. It could be that I never thought I would see them performed live by Black Sabbath (I’m sure someone will read this and say “Bill Ward wasn’t there!” which is true, he wasn’t. However, he wasn’t missed. At least not by me). When Ozzy first introduced Tony Iommi, the ovation he got was deafening. Throughout the show the band all seem genuinely moved by the reaction they were receiving which is understandable as the crowd from front to back were just on. I am just throwing superlatives and praise at this set but that is what it deserves – it was a superb closing to the festival and I walked away so happy that I had seen them. Their set and the festival concluded with a pretty awesome fireworks display.

On the walk back to the campsite, we took the racetrack route back and saw a group of people gathered up ahead. It sounded like they were chanting “YES!” ala Daniel Bryan (which was a common theme throughout the weekend) but they were actually chanting “Chess!” as there were 2 people playing chess on the Donington Park racetrack. A very random but funny final memory of the festival.

Overall, Download Festival 2012 was a superb success. Yes, the weather was shit for the first two days and yes, the injuries and pain i sustained while being there have ruled me out of going to Hellfest, but I had such a good time. I would definitely considering doing RIP camping next year (or staying in a hotel and travelling in each day, but standard camping wasn’t that bad. I have no real complaints about the festival as a whole. Other than that fucking Zippo video. That thing I guess must have played about 17000 times over the course of the festival. I know the second stage was the Zippo stage, but variation y’all! I know it’s not a major gripe but come on! This is normally where I would pick a favourite band, but I have a number of them so I won’t single out one. I will close by saying this – I hyped Download 2012 and talked about how excited I was for it, and I was not let down. Until next time Donington!

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