Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Review: Download Festival 2013

The 2013 installment of the Download Festival is over. For some people, the countdown is already on for 2014 (359 days in case you were wondering). For me, I am going to reflect on what could well be my last Download for a while (not because I dislike the festival or anything, but it’s extremely unlikely I’ll do a festival in 2014). This festival was a unique experience for me as I was not camping but I stayed in a hotel. I will be going through the bands I saw and everything else that happened over the Download weekend. I will be scoring bands that I saw out of 10 (aside from ones that I just heard when walking by).


The journey to Derby was really quite simple, albeit long. When booking the travel, I left two hour windows for the change to take place. My logic for that was that if the window was shorter, and there was a delay, we could have ended up missing a leg of the journey which would have been bad. On the Thursday though, no delay occurred which was nice. We arrived in Derby where our group split into two, Dave and Turk stayed in Derby and went to their hotel close to Pride Park Stadium, me and Paul moved on to Burton On Trent to get to our hotel. Stepping out of the station at Burton, you could see the hotel (which is always helpful). I will say the entire way to the hotel, I was nervous that there would be a problem with the hotel relocation (or the taxis that had been booked). To read all about my hotel nightmare, click here! Within an hour of arriving in Burton, those worries were gone and I was able to relax and have a good time. After a couple of hours of chilling, Paul and I visited the local Wetherspoons. I intended to have a couple of drinks there, but left somewhat pissed. Old Rosie is a strong cider. There are blurs from that night. For example, when looking at photos for Download, I took a photo of a “Please Mind Your Head” sign. I’m sure at the time it made sense to take that photo, but I've no idea now. I know after Wetherspoons we visited another pub as they were selling pints of Courage for £1.79. Quite how I got served in there is a mystery (having said that, it could be because there were about 5 other people in this big pub). Anyway, Thursday concluded with watching Mock The Week (although I had to watch it again as I actually couldn't remember anything from it).


Christ, what a hangover! I stayed in bed for about 2 hours after I woke up, barely moving. Paul, who was more sober than me the night before, visited McDonalds and bought back a Sausage Egg McMuffin and headache pills. That was a big help! When I finally made it out of the hotel, there was a taxi there waiting to take us to the festival. The drive to the festival was about 25 minutes which wasn't bad at all. Somehow, I had managed to forget how long the walk from the drop-off point to the festival is (about a mile). There was a touch of confusion over what to do with weekend arena only tickets but the security guard I spoke to seemed to know what he was talking about and pointed us into the right queue. After a short while the arena opened (which was met with a roar of approval) and Download 2013 had begun. Met with other friends to discuss what bands we planned on seeing that day and pointing out a food stall that would become a fixture of the weekend, The Safari Grill. Over the course of the weekend, that provided all of my in-arena food. I had the Ostrich, Venison and Kangaroo burgers from there which were all delicious.

It is always good when the first band of any festival is a good one. The first band of this year was Monster Truck (7) who were a very good band. They attracted a pretty decent crowd which they said they really appreciated considering this set was their first gig in the UK. Will they come back any time soon? Who knows? After their set, I visited the Red Bull stage (for the first time in all festivals I've been to) to see Free Fall (5) thinking they would be better than Dir En Grey and more worthwhile seeing than Architects who I had seen already. On the way round to the tent, heard the last song of Rise To Remain, who were sounding good. Free Fall were alright but they didn't do a whole lot for me. They had a 25 min slot on that stage and got the crowd going with a couple of fast songs, then slowed the pace right down. That I think took the energy out of the crowd and made the rest of the set a chore. They did pick it back up towards the end but by then, I had lost interest (I still maintain they were better than Dir En Grey). Leaving the Red Bull stage, Avosetta were on the Jagermeister Acoustic stage (with probably less than 50 people watching them). I didn't catch much of them but they sounded alright and as Dave put it, “they made for good walking music”. While walking, we walked by Architects as they were playing and they sounded sketchy. Friends who saw them later reported that they weren't good. Not being a fan of Asking Alexandria, I walked back to the second stage to catch some classic rock in the form of Uriah Heep (6). I did enjoy their set but I think not knowing a great deal didn't help me. I was looking forward to them playing Easy Livin’ which they closed on, but it wasn't a stand out song like I imagined it would be. After Uriah Heep, it was off to the main stage for the first time to watch a full set. Papa Roach (8) were very good. They played a lot of stuff which I knew, which helped me enjoy their set more. I’m quite tempted to go and see them on tour now as they are in my local town, but we shall see. On this day though, they had a very good 40 min set.

After Papa Roach, it was back to the second stage for Europe (8). Before Europe though, caught the last song of Dragonforce which was cool. I have since learned from Facebook that the lead singer of Dragonforce was wearing a Dendera T-shirt on stage (a local-ish band to me) so that’s cool. The Europe set highlights were Last Look at Eden, Rock the Night and of course The Final Countdown. This was the second time I’ve seen them at a festival and they are a very fun band to see live. I had planned to head back to main stage to watch a song before popping back to second stage. I did not end up doing this as a spot opened up right in front of the second stage which I took up. I was front and centre for possibly my favourite band on the line up, Volbeat (10). There were two problems with their set for me. It was only 40 minutes, and we got no material off the new album. None of those things though really took away from how good Volbeat were on this day (though I know due to watching them headline Wacken last year that they would have been better with a longer set). They were just superb. It was a painful decision to not watch all of Korn (8) but I caught the end of their set and they sounded great. Heading back again to second stage, I watched 3 Doors Down (5). When I saw 3DD in Manchester, they were loud and full of life. This set just seemed to be flat, which was disappointing for me. They were distinctly average. Their bigger songs were still cool but I just wasn't feeling it at all. They covered Megadeth’s Symphony of Destruction which was interesting. Not entirely sure why they did that but oh well! I’m not sure if they suffered from a case of “you’re not Volbeat” for me, but it’s possible. 3DD’s 40 min set ended before Bullet For My Valentine’s (6) so I sat down towards the back of their crowd and watched them. They were alright although they appeared to finish early. I did like some of their stuff but I think being at the back made it difficult for me to really get into their set (that and the fact I’m not a big fan of them anyway). More swapping occurred next to head back to the second stage to watch Gogol Bordello (6). This band is really fun live but I watched them from a distance and didn’t get into them as much. It should be mentioned that the people right in front of the stage loved it, so I’m sure my distance away from the stage is the reason why I didn't.

 It was then time for one of the hardest decisions of the weekend for me. I watched the first three songs of Slipknot (9) before heading round to the second stage to watch the headliner of that stage. I also came back to watch Slipknot’s encore. It was good to see them again and they sounded superb. In between those batches of songs though, I watched Black Stone Cherry (10) and it has to be said, I do not regret my decision. BSC live are immense and with this set, they proved it again. They played pretty much all my favourite songs of theirs which certainly helped matters. They also played a new song which also sounded great. It gives me high hopes for the new album. The sing along to The Things My Father Said gave me goose bumps and was a truly beautiful moment. The band were very grateful to be given this opportunity, and said that there is nowhere else in the world that they would get the crowd the size they had standing in the rain listening to them (at this stage, we were getting battered with rain). BSC closed with Lonely Train and 30 Seconds of Death Metal, proving that they truly deserved the slot of second stage headliners. Hopefully with this new album on its way, they continue to get bigger and bigger. After the last few songs of Slipknot, we left the arena and headed back to the hotels, having had a good first day at Download.


Saturday started at the main stage for me with U.F.O (7). They were a lot of fun live and the lead singer was entertaining between songs. The reaction to Doctor Doctor was pretty loud, although when the studio version of the song played later in the day, you could tell that mother time had taken its toll on the band. Over at second stage, it was Heaven’s Basement (8) who seemed genuinely blown away by how many people had come to see them. They played their hearts out during this set and it was really good stuff. Sticking with this stage, the next band of the day was Hardcore Superstar (7) who were very enjoyable. I was happy to be able to see this band, albeit briefly, as I really liked the stuff of theirs I heard before the festival. During this set, it was the first time that we got absolutely battered with rain. I left the second stage before Hardcore Superstar to head over to the 3rd stage for the first time over the weekend to watch Earthtone9 (7). I really enjoyed what I heard but I had to sit outside. 3rd stage seemed to be so much louder than in 2012 and standing at the edge of the tent was almost painful. I had to leave early as the volume was so loud. British weather and its natural ability to confuse struck again when just after the battering rain, the sun came out and it was legitimately hot. When leaving the 3rd stage, we walked by the big 3D Download logo. During Earthtone9 we noticed people getting on top and air guitaring on it. As we walked passed it, a woman had climbed up the top and started to strip, much to the approval of the crowd she had gathered around the logo. The decision to leave the 3rd stage early was helped that starting on main stage at that time was Black Star Riders (9) (formerly known as Thin Lizzy). They were just excellent. They combine material from their new album with old Thin Lizzy classics. A real surprise was Whiskey in the Jar as I hadn't seen it on recent set lists. It was a shame that Buckcherry pulled out but Black Star Riders were a superb replacement. During Whiskey in the Jar, we got battered with rain once again.

Taking a position by the second stage, the next band I saw were Katatonia (7) who were really enjoyable. Their vocalist didn't reveal his face until about half way through the set as it was obscured by hair! Karnivool (5) were up next and while I did like them, they didn't do a massive amount for me. Back over on main stage it was time for Alice In Chains (8). In 2006, I didn't know anything by them and they bored me (to be honest). This time around though, I am a little more enlightened and as such, I enjoyed them a lot more. Man in a Box was on the play list in between bands so it was cool to hear that played live. I thought they were really very good. I left before their last song in order to catch the last two songs of Lit (7). I’ll be completely honest, I only know My Own Worst Enemy and it was well worth watching. The atmosphere was ace for it. Not quite the same for The Final Countdown the day before, but it was still cool. I stayed at the stage for Thunder (8) who were great. It is funny to me that they've had several “last ever” shows recently and yet at the weekend I just saw them, and at Wacken I will see them again. Still, as far as I’m concerned, they were quality live so I’m glad they didn't retire.

I planned to then head over to 3rd stage to watch a band I saw people rave about online, but before doing that, I was able to catch the last two songs of Motorhead (8). Always good to hear them play Ace of Spades and Overkill. I enjoyed it. Anyway, over at 3rd stage was Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats (7) who were really good. The volume was still an issue for me over on 3rd stage so I stood further away from the tent – could still hear everything as clear as day. Some more stage swapping occurred after them as it was time to go back to main stage to watch Queens of the Stone Age (9). QOTSA were excellent! Aside from 1 song, they played all of my favourite songs of theirs (which again certainly helps increase the enjoyment level) and opening the set with Feel Good Hit of the Summer was an excellent call. It was nice to watch QOTSA and not be half asleep while doing so (ala Rock Am Ring 08). I headed back over to 3rd stage after an excellent QOTSA set to catch Kvelertak (8) being their usual mentally loud selves. The volume of 3rd stage really suited them as they are always loud anyway! Very good stuff from them as ever and the new material sounded good. It was then time to go back to main for the festival headliner.

Iron Maiden (10) kicked off their set with a Spitfire flying over main stage and around the arena. That moment in itself was probably the one I will continue to talk about. Maiden themselves were absolutely superb. There appeared to be a microphone issue for Bruce Dickinson early on but that was resolved quickly. Maiden were outstanding and the set list looked good on paper, but live it was something else – immense. Everything from the band performance, to the set list, to the stage show was damn near perfection. On top of all of that, there were numerous appearances by Eddie, the band mascot in various guises. At the end of their set, Maiden announced a Maiden England date at the O2 Arena in London on 3rd August. I’m very sad to say I will not be there because I’ll be at Wacken. Alas. If you weren’t at Download though, you should go to this show as a priority (you know, assuming you like Iron Maiden that is!) Maiden signed off the second day at Download in truly spectacular fashion. Having mentioned the bizarre aspect of the weather, on this day I managed to get battered by the rain and sunburnt.


I travelled to the festival alone today as Paul decided there were no bands he really wanted to see before Stone Sour so would come along later on. Met up with the others in the arena and headed to a barrier to watch the first 3 bands on main stage that day. Sunday was going to be structured slightly better than previous days in that there were blocks of bands on various stages to watch at one time, so not as much walking (which is always a plus on the last day of a festival). The day started with the band who opened my day in 2011 (but on second stage) and that is Sacred Mother Tongue (9). They kicked off Sunday with a bang and proved why I had been talking positively about them since their 2011 set. Following that set was going to be a hard job for any band, but one that Cancer Bats (10) were more than up to. They missed out on playing main stage the year before due to weather issues so this was a big moment and they truly delivered. They are just superb live and I really do hope they will tour the UK again soon. After Cancer Bats, it was time to repeat the 4th grade and watch Coal Chamber (9) on their reunion tour. Bitchy comments aside, they were really good (and their song Sway was stuck in my head the whole journey home). I think 40mins was the perfect length set for them, as it got all their old favourites played without the set becoming boring. It did take me a while to get used to hearing Dez Farara, a man who I know from Devildriver, do the lead vocals and occasionally slip into what sounded like rapping over metal. I had no idea he was even in a nu-metal band before Devildriver until the rumours of a Coal Chamber reunion started and I had no idea who they were.

Block 2 of bands for the day took place on the second stage. The first of these bands was Graveyard (6) who didn’t sound anything like I remember them sounding but were still pretty good. Didn’t get completely into their set but I did enjoy some of the material that I heard. The next band on stage was one I was really looking forward to, and that was Masters of Reality (8) and they did not disappoint. Really the only thing which took away from their set was that they had to try and fit a 26 year career into 30mins. They did a good job as far as I could tell mind (they are doing a headline show in London later tonight as of this writing where they’ll perform for 2hours 10mins – that should give them a bit more of a chance to showcase all 26 years). The only thing about Masters of Reality set is that they had the smallest crowd I saw at the second stage all weekend. It got a bit busier after the band who was on main stage finished (either Five Finger Death Punch or Parkway Drive). Following them was a band I was excited to see (due to their Wacken 2012 set) and that was Amon Amarth (7). I still really enjoyed their set (they had a Viking boat with them!) but it was obvious their sound was not as good at Download as it was at Wacken. They also played a new song in their set which sounded very good. Before heading over to 3rd stage for the 3rd block of bands for the day, there was the simple matter of who was on main stage.

Stone Sour (10) are just immense live. This set has convinced me to give the two HOGAB albums another listen. A fantastic mix of old and newer material really made for a great set. Bother and Through Glass created a superb atmosphere. Not content with partaking in two immense sets over the weekend, Corey Taylor finds time to make a young girls day by wishing her happy birthday (she was on the front row with a badge that said “it’s my birthday” and obviously he saw it). She then appeared on the big screen, in floods of tears and looked as though she was yelling thank you. That was a really cool moment but the whole set was ace. After Stone Sour, I headed over to the 3rd stage for the final bands I’d see there of the weekend. The first one of those bands was Red Fang (7), who were already on stage by the time we arrived. They were really good and it was cool to hear some of the songs that I’ve been listening to for some time live. They’ve been on my radar for some time due to festivals and support slots but this was the first time I had seen them. The next band on the 3rd stage was Newsted (9) and this was another band I was interested in seeing as a big Metallica fan. Jason Newsted had left Metallica by the time I really became a fan, so I never got to see him perform with the band. I’d heard nothing but good things about his debut solo album and these words were backed up by this performance. His band was solid and excellent live. To cap off Newsted’s set, they played a cover of Metallica – Whiplash. Back in the day it was a song that Jason Newsted would sing lead vocals on, so it made sense for them to cover it. An excellent set which left me wondering how different would Metallica’s sound be now if Jason Newsted had never left the band?

Following Newsted was probably the worst set of the weekend that I was there for, and that was P.O.D (4). Was their performance bad or did I just not enjoy them at all? To be honest, it was probably the second one. This is the danger of going to see a band you only know 1 song of! I had planned to see their whole set, but I didn’t. Instead I walked by main stage where 30 Seconds To Mars were playing. I’m not a fan of theirs, but one of the people who we were with who is a fan, said they sounded crap. I’ll take his word for it. I headed to second stage to see A Day To Remember (9) which was a great decision. ADTR are a superb live band. Didn’t know a massive amount of their material but they are just excellent. They also had a huge crowd (to be expected when a band like 30STM are on main stage I guess) who were loving what was going on from second stage. I can almost guarantee this score would have been a 10 if I hadn’t been so far away. I just checked out their tour dates for 2014 but sadly I cannot do the London date, otherwise I would. They have a new fan in me. Headlining the second stage that day was Limp Bizkit (9) who I stuck around for to watch the first few songs and it was clear to see from the brief time I was there that they were miles better than when I saw them in 2009. They kicked off their set with Rollin’ and followed it up with Nookie. That for me was the ideal start given that they are two of my favourite songs. After those two songs, they played Hot Dog and I left the second stage area very happy with my decision to catch some of Limp Bizkit. I had wanted to watch some of Satryicon as well but sacked it off due to foot pain and wanting to see all of the last headliner, Rammstein (10).

Rammstein were just incredible. I maintain that they are better indoors as they can do more crazy stuff with the show (as the Made In Germany 2012 tour proved), but that does not mean the festivals shows are poor. They are still immense. Stage shows are important but Rammstein’s stage show is backed up by the fact they are also a quality live act. The set list for this show was a rehash of the Made In Germany set list with a couple of changes. One of the significant changes for me was the addition of Benzin into the set, as that is a superb song. I liked the piano version of Mein Herz Brennt but I would have preferred the full band version. Other than that, I literally have nothing to criticise. This show at Download just goes to show why the organisers have been trying to get them to headline since 2005/6. Rammstein finished up on the song Pussy and we left the festival site for the last time. Aside from the crazy traffic, getting back to the hotel was painless and that is the Download festival.


Travel home day. The train from Derby was somewhat unsurprisingly busy but it was only a 90min train so that was fine. I did feel as though those 90 minutes did drag somewhat (yet the previous evening the 90 minutes Rammstein were on stage just flew by). No problems with the travel whatsoever really other than the coach being delayed a little bit but then that was due to National Express deciding to run two coaches instead of one, and having one coach dedicated to dropping people off at the Continental Ferry Terminal. Because of this, we arrived back at The Hard only 5 or so minutes later than scheduled.


Download Festival 2013 was a really good weekend. Staying in the hotel really helped make it a good one (even if the hotel was miles away from the arena). I saw mostly good bands and feel as though I got my monies worth and when it all comes down to it, which is what counts. Normally I conclude a festival review by saying “roll on next year” or something of the like. I genuinely believe I won’t be at Download next year. The last two sets of headliners have been absolutely outstanding and I don’t see them being topped for 2014. I’m more than happy to be wrong, but I’m taking a break from festivals in 2014 anyway (short of a phenomenal line up being announced when I have the money to buy a ticket). Cheers Download, you were fun.