Monday, 21 April 2014

Download Festival 2014 - Secret Segment

As the dust has settled on yesterday’s disappointment regarding to the Wacken announcement, something very interesting has come out today regarding this year’s Download Festival. I think it is fair to say that Download 2014 is shaping up to be another excellent festival. At first, I didn’t think it would be but I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong about that one. Looking at the line up right now, there is plenty for me to watch every day and more than enough to have justified my ticket purchase. Since the ticket has been purchased, there has been more that has been announced which has made me happy (anyone that knows me knows that I am a big fan of The Wildhearts so that announcement was great). I had assumed that the line up was near enough complete now and apart from a few bands that are left to be announced for the main three stages, the last few announcements will be bands to pack out the Red Bull Studios stage and acts that will appear on the Jagermeister (assuming they sponsor it again) Acoustic stage. Today, a story appeared on the Loughborough Echo’s website regarding a secret/unannounced band playing Download this year.

A surprise in store for Download fans 
A SURPRISE act will be gracing the Pepsi Max stage of Download this year to add extra thrills to one of the UK’s biggest rock festivals.Festival organiser Andy Copping says he is remaining tight-lipped about the secret rock act that will be performing on the Sunday.He told the Echo that it is not Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, but added: “It is not within their touring cycle and they just wanted to do something as a little treat for fans and play a small stage.”He said it was quite a big act but would not divulge any more detail. Link
Andy Copping has since confirmed on Twitter that the band who are playing in this slot are a band that play arenas. That is an interesting clue to give and will get people talking. That is exactly the purpose of this blog. I will look at possibilities and say whether or not they are likely. I have listed them in alphabetical order. I have seen on the Download Festival forums, I have seen people suggesting bands and I have taken some of those bands to make this list and added my own to it.

30 Seconds To Mars – Last two UK tours have been arena tours in the UK. However, this slot at Download is sandwiched in between two South Africa dates that the band are playing. I would say this rules them out.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath are playing Nova Rock on the same day as this slot. That definitely rules them out.

Black Stone Cherry – Black Stone Cherry are doing some dates on the European festival circuit (notably not playing the UK). They are doing their first arena headline tour of the UK later this year so tick all the boxes of the clues we know so far. I do wonder if them doing this slot though would be detrimental to ticket sales for this tour in November. People could see them here and say “well, don’t need to buy a ticket now” – I’m not sure if it is a good idea.

Bullet For My Valentine – Last time they toured the UK, they played arenas although according to some live reports, the tour sold really badly (a surprise considering the undercard I would have thought would have sold a few thousand tickets on their own). They played their first slot at Download in 2004 so this would be 10 years since their first slot. It could be a celebration of that I guess. They are not on tour at the time of Download and because of this; I would say they are the firm favourites to be the secret band. This would be their 8th appearance in 12 Download festivals – that is too many!

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls – One of the outsiders for me to be playing this slot. Frank and his band have just finished a UK arena tour 2 months ago. They are playing Sonisphere UK in a major slot and are headlining a number of smaller festivals (and one new one which seems to be a fairly large one on the outskirts of London). Frank Turner and his band played the main stage at Reading in 2011 and then played the small Lock Up tent the same day. This to me suggests they would have no objection taking up this slot. Furthermore, the only time (I think) that Frank Turner has played Download was in 2011, headlining the third stage. I imagine due to contractual arrangements with Sonisphere, he would have to remain a secret until Download had started, but this to me is a real possibility (especially as he is in Europe at the time). If the band that are playing are doing this show as a European one-off, this rules out Frank Turner.

Foo Fighters – An outsider given they could easily do a fully fledged stadium tour next time they tour the UK but they are coming back off a hiatus and are known to play random shows. This could well be one of them. I doubt it, but it would be cool.

Green Day – Pretty much the same as Foo Fighters but with the added fact that they recently (in 2012) played a small show at Reading festival. Granted, the stage they played was bigger than the Pepsi Max Stage at Download, but it could still potentially happen. Again, I would suggest this is another unlikely one.

KISS – I would imagine this is really quite unlikely but then they have done things previously that were quite surprising - playing a club show at Islington Academy being one of the recent examples. They are starting their US 40th anniversary tour at the end of June – this slot would be one hell of a way to warm up for that tour!

Machine Head – Machine Head have just announced (and subsequently sold out) an intimate club tour in the UK for July/August. They are clearly not opposed to playing small shows and this would be their smallest slot at Download. I don’t know if they are likely or not but this is the sort of band I would expect to see take this slot.

Marilyn Manson – Doing some European dates at the end of June through to August. He co-headlined an arena tour with Rob Zombie (already playing Download this year). Andy Copping has said he would not book Marilyn Manson again until his live performances improved for fear of being lynched. This could be one way around it I guess.

Metallica – Last time they did a UK tour, they did play arenas so I guess they could be a possibility. They are in Europe at the time and they have also done a secret set at Download before (albeit in 2003). I guess they are possible but I would suggest it is unlikely.

Motley Crue – Starting their final ever world tour in June, what a way to kick it off than by playing a random festival show in the UK, proving they are still unpredictable. I feel as though this is possibly one of the more unlikely suggestions I’ve made here though as I’d guess they want every date on thie farewell tour to have as much fanfare as possible.

Nine Inch Nails – NIN are doing their first full-fledged arena tour of the UK in May this year. They will still be touring Europe at this time and as it stands, have no plans to play a festival in the UK. Last year they announced a tiny club show in London. I guess that somehow makes it more possible in my NIN-loving mind. This would actually be amazing. Have them play a 30min slot on the third stage and announce them to headline the 2015 festival not long after – that would be cool.

Queens Of The Stone Age – Co-headlining Reading and Leeds festival this year. They toured arenas last year on the back of their latest album. They are in Denmark on the day of this slot, so they are not playing Download.

The Who – Possibly the most ridiculous of my suggestions. They toured the UK last year (in arenas) and this year are celebrating their 50th anniversary. This suggestion is more just me being silly but you know what, it is a secret slot – anything could happen.

So, those are all the suggestions I can think of. I know there are some quite silly ones there but also some realistic ones. If you were to ask me to pick one now, I would say it will be Bullet For My Valentine – but I hope it isn’t them.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

WOA 2014 - What Is Going On?

December 24th. Christmas Eve. The last day of the advent calendar announcements for Wacken 2014 and the band that was announced was Megadeth. The general mood on social media directed at Wacken was that this announcement was underwhelming. Most people (myself included) had hoped this final day would announce the main festival headliner. The person who operates the social media account for Wacken made it clear (without putting out an official statement) that Megadeth were not the main headliner and the main headliner and more bands were coming soon. That news seemed to make people (who had seen rival Euro summer festivals announce blockbuster headliners) happy. After all, for the 25th anniversary of Wacken, you’d expect they would announce a few blockbuster acts of their own, even though it sold out after only two days of being on sale. And so the December announcements concluded and Wacken ticket holders were left to wait for more news on when this announcement was coming. Who would be the headliner? Who else would be announced etc? It was time to play the waiting game...

January – no announcement. No news of an announcement.

February – no announcement. No news of an announcement other than the person who runs the Facebook page apologising in comments for the lack of announcements and promising that one was coming soon.

March – a band announcement!!! One of the Metal Battle Finalists was revealed. Earth Divide had won the final in the Faroe Islands and would represent their country at the grand final which takes place at Wacken. No news of any other announcements and more apologising from the person that runs the Facebook page. These apologies again came in comments lamenting the lack of announcements and attacking the Wacken organisers.

April – On the 14th April, a news story was posted to the website and to all of Wacken’s social media accounts saying, amongst other things, that a band announcement and a provisional running order would be coming on Sunday. This is the news that everyone was waiting for! Every summer festival other than Wacken had either announced their whole line up or all of their major acts. On a personal level, since Wacken’s last announcement I committed to go to Download festival for the weekend, Sonisphere Festival for the day (to see Metallica amongst others) and to see Black Sabbath in Hyde Park as a part of British Summertime Festival (renamed for their day Black Sabbath Time). Regardless, it didn’t matter. Wacken were making a band announcement. I think it is fair to say that even though they didn’t stress what was being announced, it was widely assumed this elusive headliner who “couldn’t be announced yet” (posted by Wacken on their Facebook page in September 2013) would form a part of this announcement.

Today is Easter Sunday. Today is the day of the announcement and to be perfectly honest, it is extremely disappointing. The provisional running order has been delayed and will be announced “ASAP”. The person who runs Wacken’s Facebook has liked using the word “soon” a lot over the last four months. The definition of it in this context is “it will be announced but we haven’t got a clue when”. I don’t understand why they don’t just say that. At least that would be them being honest. Anyway, the lack of a running order coming out is quite possibly the most disappointing thing to come out of today as we have no idea what slots are left to be filled. That would have given some indication how many bands are on the main stages and in the tents etc. It would have also given a clue as to whether or not the headliners had been booked already and someone was giving out some false information when they said they hadn’t been announced. So no running order - that was the first sign there was a problem. The way I saw the news was the post on Wacken’s Facebook page which said “As announced before, we have a full load of information for you. Sadly, the Running Order must be postponed. We will catch up with it ASAP!” Disappointed we weren’t getting a running order I clicked the link for the news in English and oh my, I thought I was disappointed about the lack of a running order – opening the link to the news created a whole new level of disappointment. I shall go through the announcement band by band.

Collibus – I know this band because they are opening the third stage at Download. Given they are from the UK, I can only assume that means they will be in the Bullhead City tent at Wacken. Decent enough band though.

Russkaja – One of the Wacken “house” bands almost. This is the 4th year in a row they will be playing. They’ll likely do a couple of sets in the Bullhead City tent and maybe one in the main arena. I enjoyed them last year but this is hardly the sort of announcement that is going to excite me. If there is nothing on when they are on, I will watch. If there is, I will not. End of really. Who knows, maybe Russkaja are slowly making their way up the line up and in 3-4 years time will be the Night To Remember band (assuming of course, they aren’t in that slot for this year’s festival.....)

Letz-Zep – A Led Zeppelin covers band. Oh good. I like Led Zeppelin but I don’t quite understand why a full blown tribute act has been booked for Wacken. I guess it isn’t the first time but still...bit odd.

Demonic Resurrection – This band are alright. I’ve listened to some of their stuff on Spotify and kinda liked what I heard. They don’t seem to have had that many listens though on Spotify so I can only assume they, like Collibus, will be in the Bullhead City tent.

Fiddler’s Green – This band leaked earlier today they were playing Wacken. They sound a bit like Flogging Molly, only more folk and less punk. Again, they are alright. I can only imagine they’ll be playing in the Wackinger Village. I have spoken before about the necessity for folk music at a metal festival – in short it is something that I don’t see the need for. If you like folk music, go to a folk festival. Really, this post would have been a whole lot more positive if Wacken had booked Flogging Molly.

Axe n’ Sex – Who? Oh. They played 3 of the first 4 Wacken festivals and are back again reuniting for this show. Any music online? No. So, I have no idea. That’s helpful.

5th Avenue – This band played 4 of the first 5 Wacken festivals (they do like their repeat bookings...) and last played in 2009 (the 20th anniversary of Wacken). Like the band above, they have no music online so I cannot give an actual opinion on them.

There were also 4 Metal Battle bands announced. Convivium from Sweden (who are alright), In Mute (who I don’t really like) and Kin Beneath Chorus & Roadwolf (both of whom aren’t on Spotify). Exciting stuff there. And that’s it. It is quite easy to see from that list why people are disappointed with this announcement. At the end of my advent calendar announcement blog, I worked out there are another 30 or so bands that aren’t Metal Battle or “house” bands to be announced. That number I guess is now reduced down to 24 and still includes the main headliner (assuming at this stage there is one) if there is to be the same number of bands as they had at the 2013 festival. At the end of this post about the new bands, there is no clue given as to when the next announcement is due. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the fans on Wacken’s social media accounts are not happy. I could copy and paste a lot of responses to the announcement including my own but I will just copy and paste one which made me laugh. “Oh and by the way it took me 3 weeks to hire a decent Led Zeppelin band for a friend's wedding.... not 4 months”. Other comments are posting about rival festivals including most notably, Hellfest. I do feel as though I made a big mistake not getting a ticket for that when I had the chance + the holiday available from work to use but there we are.

I have two areas of discussion I would like to speak about. The first is the headliners. It is quite obvious to me that Avantasia are one of the headliners (just like they have been the last 2 times they have played). Looking at the line up, there are several acts who could step into the role of headliner for this year’s festival including Apocalyptica + Orchestra, Carcass, Children of Bodom, Emperor, Kreator, Megadeth, Motorhead and Saxon. However, at the end of September, it was posted by the Wacken account that the main headliner has been booked but had not been announced yet and they would be announced soon. The same message was posted at the end of the advent calendar announcements. So my question here is who is this phantom headliner? Bands I have to rule out include Metallica, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper, Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold. I said in my last festival thoughts blog that the only band I could see it being was AC/DC and they’ve just been in the press denying retirement rumours and announcing that Malcolm Young is sitting out of the band for a while as he is ill. One part of that story is that they are going to be in a studio in Vancouver in July to see about recording a new album. I would say that rules them out. Really, there is only one band I can see headlining now who hasn’t been announced and that is Manowar after their exclusive 2014 German show got cancelled. The only thing which leads me to believe it will not be them is that they were booked for something else when Wacken were saying they had their big headliner locked in. So my big question here is who is this phantom headliner that has been booked for some time? Are they still playing WOA 2014 or have they pulled out? If they are still playing, why haven’t they been announced yet? Why did it take 4 months to announce some of the undercard?

I have all of these questions which I feel are perfectly valid to ask and to get a full answer to. Wacken has not put out a single official statement regarding band announcements this year. If there was still a headliner to be announced, why couldn’t that have been an official news story or main Facebook post? Really, the communication between bookers and fans this year has been shocking. Maybe in previous years it has been just as bad but because announcements have been a regular occurrence, I’ve just never noticed. One thing which is interesting to note is that since the announcement, the person who runs the Wacken FB page has been silent. No comments, no news, no attempts to slow down the online shit-storm - nothing. 

Basically, things need to improve. I’m not going to Wacken n 2015 regardless of how good the line up is because I am going to the Rugby World Cup (hopefully!) and that is my main plan for 2015. After this mess, it will need to take something really special to ever get me back after this year. In fact, I am now only going this year because I have already booked my flights. If I hadn’t, I would probably have sold my ticket and tried to go elsewhere.