Sunday, 22 June 2014

Metallica By Request

June 19th has been and gone. That day might not mean much to some people (in fact I’d wager there are a fair few football fans in England who might want to pretend that nothing ever happened on this day) but to Sonisphere ticket holders, this day meant something. This was the day that voting closed on the Metallica By Request set list voting. When I bought my day tickets, I voted for the 17 of 18 songs I wanted to hear them play (the 18th being a new song called Lords of Summer). Only one of the 17 songs I voted for ended up in the top 17, which was a shame. Across the board, there have been very few “rarer” songs that have been voted for. While there has been the odd occasional surprise in some of Metallica’s set lists this year, most of the songs that have been played you would expect to be played at any Metallica show. One of the big surprises has been the very first live performance of The Frayed Ends Of Sanity being voted for in Helsinki (I may have priced up flights). I’m not complaining about the lack of surprises in these set lists. I had hoped there would be more, but bands have most popular songs, and these songs are the ones which got the most votes. I’m going to see Metallica at Sonisphere Knebworth, and this is what has been chosen (in order of the % of votes they received). At the end, there will be 3 songs which will have VOTD next to them – I’ll explain that later.

1. Master of Puppets (65%)
2. For Whom The Bell Tolls (58%)
3. One (56%)
4. Fade To Black (49%)
5. Battery (49%)
6. Seek And Destroy (49%)
7. Enter Sandman (47%)
8. Nothing Else Matters (44%)
9. Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (43%)
10. Creeping Death (40%)
11. Sad But True (39%)
12. Ride The Lightning (38%)
13. Whiskey In The Jar (38%)
14. The Unforgiven (38%)
15. Blackened (36%)
16. Fuel (35%)
17. The Four Horsemen (32%) VOTD
18. Wherever I May Roam (32%) VOTD
19. ...And Justice For All (31%) VOTD

VOTD means Vote Of The Day. I’m not 100% certain how it is going to work other than the songs that finished 17th, 18th and 19th go into a separate vote on the day of the gig and whichever song wins is played as the 17th song that day. Like I said, I’ve no idea how it works, it could be by texting I guess which might explain why at a festival of over 100,000 people, less than 3,000 votes were cast at Rock AM Ring – they are the only people who could get phone signal! If I had to make a choice regarding the Vote Of The Day song for Knebworth, I would vote for ...And Justice For All. I like all 3 songs that are available so I don’t mind which way it goes, but I’ve only seen that song live twice before (just realised as I looked it up, I’ve only seen Four Horseman twice before as well, oh well). The question on nobody’s lips at this point is which the 1 song is that I voted for that made it to the top 17. Well, I can reveal that the song I voted for that made it is Metallica’s cover of Whiskey In The Jar. I am stoked that I will be seeing this song live – I was prepared to fly to Dublin to see Metallica live just to I could hear this song performed. I am quite glad I don’t have to do that now (as that really wouldn’t have been cheap). One thing I have observed is that aside from one song from the 17 we voted for, Knebworth and Rock AM Ring will have identical set lists. For that reason, I believe on the day, Metallica’s set list will look something like this

Master of Puppets
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Ride The Lightning
The Unforgiven
Creeping Death
Lords Of Summer
Sad But True
Fade To Black
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Whiskey In The Jar
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman
Vote Of The Day
Seek And Destroy

Metallica play Sonisphere Knebworth in 2 weeks from today, and I can’t bloody wait! 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Download Festival 2014 - A Review

It seems almost wrong to be writing a festival review after swearing off festivals for 2014. In previous posts to this very page, it has been well established that me saying I won’t be doing festivals this year is just nonsense. It has to be the case for 2015 because of the Rugby World Cup coming to this country and I want to be at as many games as I can be. Anyway, Download 2014 has been and gone and it was a great weekend. Usually I start a review of a festival with the arrival day but there isn’t much to say. I worked during the day, went up to Derby after work and checked into the hotel. As the checking in process was taking place, we got a warning about being drunk and rowdy, which I guess is fair enough considering they had guests who weren’t attending Download and didn’t want drunken festival goers pissing off the guests who just wanted a decent night’s sleep. After checking in and getting settled, went for a stroll around the area to discover a nearby Sainsburys and McDonalds which would prove useful and returned to drink a few cans of Lech before going to bed.


Band Ratings:

Tax The Heat - 7/10 
Crossfaith - 7/10 
Powerman 5000 - 5/10 
Skindred - 10/10 
The Temperance Movement - 7/10 
Within Temptation - 9/10 
Flogging Molly - 9/10 
Bad Religion - 10/10 
The Offspring - 10/10 

The first day of Download kicked off with a visit to the previously mentioned McDonalds for breakfast and Sainsburys for some hotel room supplies. After that it was off to the shuttle bus (but not before wading through what seemed like an endless sea of midges) and off to Download. The drive there was unremarkable other than a few cars driving in front of the bus really slow. The walk from the shuttle bus drop off to the festival arena is fairly long but actually not as long as I remember. The entrance to the arena was done up with old instruments and car parts which looked really cool. The first band of the day was Tax The Heat, who were a really good start to the day. After them, it was off to the main stage to watch the next 3 bands on there. I caught the very end of Miss May I’s set which was cool to see them play but it wasn’t enough to give them a band rating. Crossfaith were next on and I was interested to see how they would do on a big open air stage. I had previously seen them in a small tent at Reading Festival and with questionable sound quality in Southampton. I wondered if their sound (a fusion of dance and metal) would work open air. I can confirm that it did – they were very good and didn’t look out of place up there. They had excellent stage presence. The next band on, Powerman 5000, did not fare so well on the main stage. I enjoyed their set to a degree but found myself bored at times during their set. I also felt their set would have been more enjoyable had it taken place in a tent. Skindred followed them on main stage and they proved once again they are a big stage band. They were outstanding. They picked a great setlist to play and along with some great banter and some very memorable moments (including getting the crowd involved in what must be one of the first heavy metal Harlem Shake’s and the Newport Helicopter), Skindred were on top form. With a couple more albums under their belt, they would make a great stage headliner – they already have the great live show element sorted – if they released an album which was universally accepted, they could be huge. I hope it happens as I really like them and love seeing them live.

The Temperance Movement were next band I saw over on the second stage. Before them though, I managed to see the last few minutes of The Answer which was cool. Back to Temperance Movement though, I didn’t so much watch them as lie down off to the side of the crowd and listen to them. They were ace and it was a really chilled out set. After they finished I popped back round to the main stage to watch Within Temptation. They were really very good and had an ace stage show. Their set made me regret not going to see them when they played Wembley Arena earlier this year. Closing their set with Ice Queen, it was by far the most enjoyable of the times I have seen them live. The second stage is where I would close out the day and before the festival, this was one of the runs of bands I was most looking forward to. Flogging Molly was first on in this run and they were predictably excellent. They were just a great live band. After they finished I headed down the front for Bad Religion. I missed them at Sonisphere 2011 and haven’t had the chance to see them since. Their set was just a ridiculous amount of fun. No theatrics needed – just the band coming out and playing their brand of punk rock. They easily could have headlined the stage but that responsibility was given to The Offspring this year. They were celebrating the anniversary of their album Smash by playing it in full. I had given it a listen through before the festival and enjoyed it but live it was so much better. Ending their Smash run through by playing Self Esteem last, they then played a short best of set which was excellent. All of the songs had everyone around singing and dancing along and just made for a great atmosphere.


Band Ratings:  

Dying Fetus - 7/10 
Fozzy - 7/10 
Bury Tomorrow - 8/10 
Colt 45 - 7/10 
While She Sleeps - 7/10
Enemo-J – 5/10

Bowling For Soup - 9/10 
Killswitch Engage - 8/10 
Monster Magnet - 6/10 
The Wildhearts - 10/10 
Twisted Sister - 10/10
Malevolence – 6/10

Ginger Wildheart - 9/10 
The Howling - 7/10 
Linkin Park (for Hybrid Theory) - 10/10

Saturday started off for me with a visit to Delikate for a bacon sandwich with eggy bread. My word that was some good eating. Music wise Saturday kicked off with one of the surprise packages of the festival for me. I’m not a big fan of death metal. There has been some I’ve liked and some I haven’t. When I first listened to Dying Fetus, they fell into the category of a band I didn’t like. However, I made the decision to see them as I wasn’t really into the band who opened the second stage either and figured both of the tents would be packed for a glimpse of whatever Iceman Thesis turned out to be. Their set was short but really quite good. The band mentioned the #whynotdyingfetus campaign that got them booked, which was cool. One downside of their set for me was not knowing the lyrics so couldn’t partake in any sing-along’s (heh...) I can’t say I’ll be rushing out to buy their discography, but I did enjoy their set. Speaking of enjoyable sets, I thought the next band up on main stage, Fozzy, also had a good set. Kicking off with two songs from their forthcoming new album, they looked comfortable up on the big stage. I will say I thought their set list choice overall was very good (although closing on a cover song I did think was a bit odd – nowt wrong with playing it but still). After Fozzy was Bury Tomorrow – a band whose name I’ve seen on a number of festival line ups but have never got round to seeing. Despite originally planning to catch some of Chevelle and then the end of Bury Tomorrow, I decided instead to watch all of Bury Tomorrow and it was a decision I did not regret. I suspect the security weren’t best impressed when they asked for about a 1000 people to crowdsurf over the barrier during their final song, Lionheart. I however left their set very impressed with them.

I managed to catch the last two songs of Colt 45 after Bury Tomorrow, which I was quite pleased about for two reasons. I missed them at Camden Rocks a couple of weeks earlier which was annoying (I can’t remember who they clashed with now). However, the main reason I was pleased with this is that they sounded great! I was back at main stage for While She Sleeps, who also had a good set. I had to walk off during their set (nature called) and I ended up watching a bit of Enemo-J on the acoustic side stage. I’m not sure they work as an acoustic band, but their cover of OPM (remember them?) Heaven Is A Halfpipe was cool. I headed back to the main stage for the remainder of While She Sleeps, who were remarkably better when I wasn’t considering whether I needed to visit a toilet or not. When they finished I moved much closer to the main stage to watch a band that until this point, I had not seen live for reasons I can’t quite explain. Bowling For Soup have a bit of a reputation for having a really fun live show and on this day they did not disappoint. Coupled with a really good setlist were several antics that were quite memorable including a knight coming on stage to sacrifice their 9ft inflatable sheep and the Bowling For Soup photo opportunity (which made me think back to the classic Edge and Christian 5 second poses). This set made me regret not going to one of their headline shows when they have toured the UK but no matter, I have seen them live now. I dropped further back in the crowd for Killswitch Engage as I knew I was changing stages once they had finished. I was intrigued to see how much I would enjoy them with their original vocalist (having missed the February tour through illness and only seeing them once before when Howard was the vocalist). It has to be said that they were great and had I been closer, I’m sure I would have enjoyed the set even more than I did (that being said, I saw them from quite a distance last time but that was at night and they had a pretty cool light show with them). The new material sounds great live and the older stuff just as good. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them play This Fire Burns (I have no idea if they play that all the time or not). The song is one I became aware of thanks to WWE (two wrestling references in a row) and is a belter of a tune.

After Killswitch, I headed round to the second stage for another short run of bands but one I was seriously looking forward to before the festival. Monster Magnet was on first of this run and they were certainly enjoyable, although I was lying down during their set and may have drifted off to sleep at one point (not because they were boring I should stress). One of my favourite bands was on next and I was able to get 3 rows from the front for them, which was cool. It was time for The Wildhearts and I knew this set wouldn’t be bad. One thing I did wonder about would be the size of the crowd they would get, as they were clashing with Bring Me The Horizon. I was right that the set was superb, packed with absolute belters from start to finish. I was pleased to see as well from one of the crowd shots that it seemed like they had a big crowd watching them. It would have been cool to see them get the same length spot on main stage but no matter, maybe another time! Following The Wildhearts was one of the main bands that convinced me to get a weekend ticket as opposed to just going up on the Sunday. I missed Twisted Sister in 2011 because I wanted a good spot for System Of A Down. With the benefit of hindsight, I do wish I could go back in time and slap the taste out of my mouth as I now know I could have watched them in 2011 and still got a decent spot. Regardless of all that, I was dead excited about seeing them and they turned out to be one of the best bands of the weekend. Ginger, during The Wildhearts set encouraged people to stick around and watch Twisted Sister and said Dee Snider was the best front-man out there. He may well have had a point. The whole band was just phenomenally good. A packed set made for some memorable sing-along’s including for We’re Not Gonna Take It and of course for I Wanna Rock. One of the best moments of the festival happened during their set. As they were playing Burn In Hell, a DHL plane was coming in to land at their nearby airstrip and Dee Snider stopped the song asking if that was normal and thought it should be mentioned to bands that the festival was right by an airport. During this, he said something to the effect of “I just had 9/11 flashbacks” and then realised he had to then continue singing a song called Burn In Hell. After a fair amount of laughter both on and off stage, the set continued but it was a great moment. I strolled off after they played I Wanna Rock, not knowing they would do an encore of Born To Raise Hell (a Motorhead cover). I could hear it as I was walking away which was a shame. I guess I could have stuck around but I was really quite far away from the stage at this point.

After seeing Twisted Sister, I popped over to the Acoustic side stage to watch a set by Ginger. Before he came on though, there was a band finishing up their set on the nearby tent stage called Malevolence who sounded interesting. I liked what I heard which was some of the 2nd to last song and all of the last song. I reckon I’d have enjoyed them more if I’d been there for the whole set. Ginger’s second set of the day was a slightly more relaxed affair with him being accompanied by Chris Catalyst (of Eureka Machines) and Jon Poole who had also been on stage with The Wildhearts. Ginger claimed the set was unrehearsed and I do believe that to be true but these guys are so good that the set was brilliant anyway. The atmosphere was great and really made me want to see Ginger in that sort of environment again (but ideally with a longer set). Before heading back to the main stage for the day’s headliner, I caught the beginning of The Howling, who sounded much better than they did supporting Volbeat at Brixton. They actually sounded really good. I decided not to stop and watch the whole thing as I didn’t want to miss the beginning of Linkin Park. LP’s set began with a video of the band talking about Hybrid Theory and how cool it would be to play it, and how the album launched them etc. It was a cool video, although for some reason they played the intro to Papercut (the first song) in the video and that wasn’t the way the gig started. It really would have been cool if it had started that way. They did start with Hybrid Theory though which made me happy. That run through of Hybrid Theory was spectacular. The band looked and sounded really up for it which was cool and everything about that part of the performance was damn near flawless. I made the decision before the festival that if they opened with Hybrid Theory, I would leave after that. Linkin Park has done 5 albums, and are about to release a 6th. I’m not a fan of three of those albums and I anticipated that had I stuck around, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the set anywhere as much as I did. I walked away at that point of the set with a huge grin on my face, dead happy with seeing one of the first albums that got me into metal music performed in full live.


Band Ratings:

Red Dragon Cartel - 7/10 
Kill Devil Hill - 6/10 
Winger - 4/10 
The Graveltones - 7/10 
Buckcherry - 6/10 
Thy Art Is Murder - 3/10 
Feed The Rhino - 8/10
Richie Sambora – 7/10

The Treatment - 10/10 
Sepultura - 7/10 
Sabaton - 7/10 
Volbeat - 9/10 
Memphis May Fire - 5/10 
Against Me! - 10/10
Steel Panther – 5/10

Seether - 8/10 
The Pretty Reckless - 4/10 
The Used - 8/10 
Aerosmith - 10/10 

Sunday began much like the day before with another visit to Delikate for a bacon sandwich however this time sans eggy bread. However they packed this sandwich with bacon – it was good eating. Sunday was the day for me where I would be spending a lot of time walking between stages and catching parts of sets as well as some full ones. The first set of the day was Red Dragon Cartel who were pretty decent. It was cool to hear them cover Bark At The Moon (the band has Jake E Lee in it, who wrote the song). Instead of sticking round for all of Winger, I popped off to catch some of Kill Devil Hill who were also decent. I didn’t know a lot of their material but I liked what I heard. I left before the end of their set which I have since learned was an error as Phil Anselmo came out and sang a Pantera song with them  (they have Rex Brown on bass). I left to catch the end of Winger who I was sure would play Seventeen as their last song. This was not the case (as they didn’t play it at all) and I didn’t much care for what I heard while I was there. After they finished, I popped off to watch most of The Graveltones set while the changeover for the next main stage band took place. The Graveltones were really quite good and make a remarkable racket for a 2 piece band. The next band on main stage was Buckcherry. I’d seen them once before in a small club venue but didn’t have reservations about how they would be on a big open air stage. They were pretty good so I was glad I went to watch them (although the band has since admitted it was not their best set – I still enjoyed it though). I headed back to the third stage to watch some of the bands that were on there. Thy Art Is Murder were on when I got round there and I have to be honest, I didn’t like them. Feed The Rhino followed them and they had a great set. I’d be intrigued to see how they would be received if they had a spot on one of the open air stages. I left the tent after Feed The Rhino to fill my water bottle back up and caught Richie Sambora playing the Bon Jovi song Wanted Dead Or Alive, which was ace to hear live. Not quite the same without Jon Bon on vocals, but still pretty good. I caught the next band in the tent, who was The Treatment. They absolutely smashed it in my opinion. They had a fantastic set. They are another band who I would like to see given a shot on one of the bigger stages.

Over on second stage after The Treatment was Sepultura. I enjoyed their set but would have made some setlist changes personally. I was hoping to hear them play Refuse/Resist as it is ace, and I would have liked to see them play Convicted In Life as that is my favourite song of theirs post-Max. I was then faced with one of the worst clashes of the weekend for me. It was pretty much announced at this point that Black Stone Cherry were doing a 30min set on the third stage, which would have been great to be at. The second stage had Sabaton, who were one of my favourite bands from Wacken 2013 on. The main stage had Volbeat, who are one of my favourite bands. I decided to watch Sabaton and catch the end of Volbeat as they are playing Portsmouth on their November UK tour. What actually happened though was Volbeat started just before Sabaton and I could hear them starting their set. Because of this, I decided to head to main stage earlier than I had planned to. I stayed for two songs of Sabaton who sounded like they were on form – not quite as good as Wacken in 2013 but still good. Volbeat however were fantastic as ever. In my band ratings I have given them a 9/10 but I am sure if I was able (or indeed, tried) to get down the front, it would have been a 10. I walked off to the third stage so I could watch Against Me! but I also caught most of Memphis May Fire. I tried to have a lie down and relax while they were on but Memphis May Fire aren’t lying down music (or at least, not for me). To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think much of them. I had originally planned to sit outside the tent for Against Me! but when I saw the size of their crowd, I decided to head in the tent as there really weren’t many people there to begin with. People did turn up just before the set began though which was good, as it meant more people got to see one of the best sets of the weekend (in my opinion). They smashed though as many songs as they could fit in 30 minutes which was cool and they are just an excellent live band. They mentioned wanting to come back over for a UK tour, which is something that I hope does happen.

On my walk over to second stage, I was able to listen to Steel Panther talk and play Death To All But Metal. When I ranked them last time I saw them play this song, I gave them a 6. This time I gave them a 5 because they didn’t have Corey Taylor with them. I can’t claim to be a fan of them which is why I didn’t watch them. I do like Seether though and I was able to see them play their last two songs and they were ace. I’m sure I would have ranked them higher if I had been there for the whole set. I had headed over for The Pretty Reckless. I chose them over a band O actually like in Alter Bridge as I hadn’t seen them live and liked some of their material that I had listened to before the festival. I have to say though I didn’t enjoy them. I liked one song they played and thought they were remarkably boring the rest of the time. As I walked from second stage to the third stage, I heard Alter Bridge play some of Isolation and I knew I had made a mistake. I decided not to stick around for them though and head over to the tent to watch The Used. Not long after they started, I knew I had made the right decision as they were ace. I thought they had a really good set and they packed that tent out which was cool to see. However, towards the end of the set and after they finished, my mind was only on one thing and that was the final band on main stage. It was time for Aerosmith. I was so very jealous of a friend of mine for going to Download 2010 and seeing Aerosmith play (I still am as he got to see AC/DC but that’s a different story for another day). I had high expectations of Aerosmith and really hoped they wouldn’t be disappointing. I am very happy to be able to write that they were superb. Aside from the lack of Rag Doll and Back In The Saddle, the setlist was pretty damn good. One indicator to me that Aerosmith were excellent was just how good Steven Tyler still is at singing. As far as I could tell, he hit every note he needed to – an excellent performance by him. It was one of those great festival moments when they started playing I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing and nearly everyone in the crowd sang along with the song. I had buyer’s remorse about buying a ticket to see them again later this month but that has now completely disappeared after that set – it was just superb. Aerosmith are arguably one of the best bands I’ve ever seen headline at Donington Park.

And that, was my Download 2014. It was an excellent weekend. The festival seemed quieter than it has done in previous years but that didn’t take away from the atmosphere at all. The festival seemed to be better organised than it has done in previous years which really helped matters. One thing which really helped the weekend be ace was the fact the weather was, for the most part, excellent. It was warm and sunny for the first two days pretty much. The Sunday there was some drizzle but it wasn’t too bad. All in all, I would say Download 2014 was pretty damn good. I won’t be going in 2015, but just know, that is not a reflection on the festival bookers or organisers who all did a sterling job this year of making the festival the best they absolutely could do for the punters.