Sunday, 13 December 2015

Download Festival 2016 - Thoughts So Far

After a couple of months of writing about the Rugby World Cup (I miss writing about that), it is time to write about another familiar subject for this blog. On this occasion, it is about the Download Festival. Specifically, it is about the announcements made for the 2016 festival. 42 acts have so far been announced for the festival with probably at least another 40-50 to go. Andy Copping, the festival’s lead booker and promoter said in a recent interview on the ‘That’s Not Metal’ Podcast that there will be fewer bands playing next year so that bands could get longer sets. I’ll be intrigued to see how many fewer bands there will be on the main stages but overall, I support that decision. He also said something about staggering the stages so that people could see more of the bigger acts. Festival clashes have been a right annoyance at times (the one that instantly pops to mind is Volbeat and Korn from Download 2013, but I’m sure there have been others). I’d be intrigued to see how this works, however the walk if you are remotely near the front of the main stage to the second stage can be a right prick, especially if the weather has been nasty. I liked what Sonisphere festival did, but personally the model I prefer is the Wacken Festival model, with two main stages next to each other, and another open air stage which directly clashes with one of the main stages. That way the bands that play the open air stages all get longer sets and there is the prospect of seeing more bands for longer. I’m not sure if there would be the space to introduce a double main stage where the festival is currently set up, but it would sure be interesting.

Anyway, on to the bands. The festival, certainly for the last few years if memory serves, has launched with the 3 headliners but also some of the undercard. Usually the headliner, sub-headliner and the band that are 3rd from top on each day. This year's announcement for next year's festival was quite unique on that front because they launched with just the three headlining bands. The three headlining bands for next year’s festival are Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. I love all three of those bands so I was quite happy with that first announcement. Only quite happy though because one thing that concerns me about Download and my future going to festivals is that there is no new headliner there that appeals to me. Download Festival has a limited pool of headliners that have not headlined before, that are newer bands. Of course you could say names like Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi etc as potential future headliners, but there are fewer bands that could continue headlining this festival for years to come making the step up, or at least it seems that way. The next bands that I think will headline Download that haven’t before are Biffy Clyro (because they have headlined Reading/Leeds and Sonisphere and will draw a crowd) and Bring Me The Horizon (they just seem to be getting bigger and bigger in popularity). This is where my worry sets in – neither of those two bands do a whole lot for me. I guess it is a wait and see what happens situation with bands that will or won’t make the step up, but I find myself concerned that the headliners that appeal to me most won’t be around for years to come, and the headliners seemingly that will don’t excite me.

As good as that headliner announcement was for me, it didn’t overly excite me. In recent years, I’ve been a regular at Download Festival and have seen all 3 play. Black Sabbath played in 2012 and both Rammstein and Iron Maiden played in 2013. For me, what would likely have sold this festival is the main undercard. One thing that is said to me is that a festival is not just about the main acts but the whole undercard. Now, that may be true, but I find it hard to believe anyone would go to a festival where they don’t like most of the main acts. The next announcement was the 6 bands that are filling the 2nd/3rd from top slots on main stage. On the Friday, it is Korn and Motorhead. Korn I was pleased to see announced despite the fact they also played in 2013. I was surprised to see they went from 3rd from top (underneath Bullet For My Valentine) to being the sub-headliner this time. Regardless, I am yet to see a whole set by Korn so I’d quite happily watch them (as long as they don’t clash with Volbeat again…). Them supporting Slipknot, and doing a cover of Beastie Boys Sabotage together was just superb. Motorhead deserve the slot because they are Motorhead, but seeing them last year in Hyde Park supporting Black Sabbath was a little bit painful and I suspect that this will be no different (to be fair, the sound wasn’t great that day in Hyde Park, which really didn’t help matters). The new music they release is consistently good, but live? Sadly not so much anymore. Also, there have been quite a number of cancellations recently, so I hope whoever is booked to be 4th from top is ready to step up, just in case. I hope it doesn’t happen obviously, but it is an eventuality you have to be prepared for. On the Saturday, it is Deftones and Megadeth. Deftones don’t do much for me personally. I’ve seen them live twice and both times it was a bit boring. However, if there is no-one else on stage that I want to see, I would watch them. Megadeth usually wouldn’t excite me at all, but at Wacken 2014, they had a fantastic hour set. So again, if there was no clash, I would watch them and hope they could replicate that performance. The Sunday is Nightwish and Disturbed. Nightwish are just ace, so that announcement is the best one for me out of these 6 bands. However, I am going to see them at Wembley Arena so they are not a must see band for me at Download. Disturbed coming back off hiatus I thought I would be excited about but I’m just not. I listened to a new song of theirs not that long ago and my legitimate reaction afterwards was a shrug. So, there were good bands in this announcement but nothing that had me itching to grab the credit card. I looked at the line-up after this announcement, and thought it would be the first time in several years that I wouldn’t be going.

There was then a one act announcement randomly. There is a film called Gutterdammerung that Henry Rollins was involved in headlining the 3rd stage on the Friday. I’m not sure how it will work and to be honest, am not all that bothered. However, if Henry Rollins is there and it means he might do a spoken word show as well, that would be the best. After this, a big 32 band announcement took place. Download helpfully split them into the days they are playing and so in this round up, that is what I will do, starting somewhat appropriately with Friday.

The Amity Affliction – Not a bad announcement. I would consider watching them if they didn’t clash with another band I wanted to see.

Counting Days – Same as with Amity Affliction really. Hadn’t heard of them before this announcement. Listening to a song now and it’s quite good.

Fort Hope – Something very different from the first two bands discussed but not too bad. Again, if there was nothing I’d prefer to see, I would go see them.

Havok – I like what I’ve heard from this band, which admittedly isn’t much. I’d probably give them a watch.

Killswitch Engage – Great announcement. They did play recently but no matter. Also, that new song they’ve just released is really quite good. I have high hopes for the album.

Skillet – I only know one song, and I really like it. That song is Monster. I didn’t see them when they played the other year because they clashed with someone else. I could be tempted to see them just to hear them play Monster to be honest.

Twin Atlantic – They are one of those bands that I know the name but none of their music. Just put them on and they aren’t in any way offensive which is good. They definitely fall into the category of a band that I would see if there was nothing else on that took my fancy at the time.

Architects – Just went back to read what I wrote about them in my review of Reading Festival 2011, but it turns out I didn’t write about them. I must have just caught a song or two and not bothered to write down my thoughts. Anyway, this band are decent enough.

Atreyu – Getting a sense of Déjà vu with my writing here, but this is not a bad announcement. I would consider watching them if they didn’t clash with another band I wanted to see.

Beartooth – This is a band that have somewhat passed me by until listening now (I might have heard the odd song on Team Rock Radio but they didn’t stick with me). As I type, I’ve just listened to In Between and now listening to The Lines, and both songs are quite good. I’d probably watch this band, but again if they didn’t clash with another band I’d rather see (seems as the moment it’ll be clashes between bands I wouldn’t mind seeing).

Black Foxxes - Not really my sort of thing to be honest. Can’t like every band in a festival announcement I guess!

Dead! – Listening to them now and it’s not too bad. Sounds a bit like a poor man’s My Chemical Romance, sort of.  Not sure if I would go out of my way to see them though. If they were on before a band I wanted to see, and there was nothing else on, I’d probably watch them.

Down – Pretty ace announcement. Missed them last time they played to watch Europe I think it was. I’d probably watch them this time around.

Lawnmower Deth – This is a band that seem to play every other year. I am yet to see them but this is doesn’t overly bother me. I don’t dislike them, I’m just not overly bothered by them. Could be fun to watch one year.

Milk Teeth – Listening now for the first time I think (I might have listened to them in preparation for Camden Rocks once before…not sure now). They aren’t bad at all from the sounds of things. They could be worth a watch.

Neck Deep – Another one who bypassed me. Listening now and they seem to be quite good. I would likely watch them if they didn’t clash with someone else I wanted to see.

Rival Sons – Saw this band supporting Black Stone Cherry (I think) in Southampton Guildhall and I remember them being quite good despite the fact support bands tend to get rubbish sound at Soton Guildhall. Anyway, I’d probably watch them again.

Skindred – Skindred seem to be another band that play every other year but they are always good live so I don’t begrudge that. I remember discussing with a friend some time ago about their potential to be a festival headliner in the future as they seem to have the live show down. I’m not so sure now, but they will always play to a big crowd at something like Download.

Tesseract – I like what I’ve heard from this band. If there was no know the rest by now.

Attila – Haven’t listened to this band before, but I like what I’ve heard just now by flicking through their music on Spotify.

Billy Talent – Cracking announcement. Billy Talent are ace live and if this set means a new album is coming, I am all in favour of that.

Breaking Benjamin – I’ve never really listened to this band because all I saw online was how they’d never leave the USA because of the lead singer’s fear of flying. Now they are coming over to Europe for the first time. It will be interesting to see where they play on the bill. As for their music? I quite like it. I’d likely watch them.

Delain – Belting announcement. I missed their recent London show so I’d almost definitely go and see Delain.

Don Broco – Not too bad. Another one for the “if there was no clash” list. That list is getting long now.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Great announcement. Would definitely want to watch this band. I liked Frank Carter in Gallows but didn’t really keep up with Pure Love.

Ghost – I’ve only seen them once at a festival and I think and they are a pretty good live band. I think seeing them indoors would be a better experience but then whenever they tour, I don’t go and see them so I have no-one but myself to blame for not seeing them indoors. Add them to the list!

Gojira – Belting announcement. Seen them a few times now and every time they have been great. Would definitely try to watch (fully expecting a Delain/Gojira clash now just to piss me off).

Halestorm – Very good announcement this. They were pretty much the main draw to the Black Stone Cherry tour I can’t make at the beginning of next year (other than BSC of course). I didn’t really get into their latest album but maybe seeing stuff from it live would change that?

Ho99o9 (?) – I listened to bits of songs from 3 different albums/EPs, and they were all so different. Some good, some not. I don’t think I’d watch them/him/her/whatever.

Saxon – I like Saxon. I’m pleased to see them playing Download. I saw they are headlining 3rd stage which means they might clash with Iron Maiden unless they headline before Maiden come on. That would be the sensible option if you are having Saxon headline. Though personally, unless Maiden have said they want no other band on while they are playing, I’d put someone completely different up against them, like Neck Deep. Clashing Maiden with Saxon doesn’t make any sense. But, if I can, I’d watch Saxon.

Shinedown – Decent enough band. Seen them a few times now. Haven’t kept up with them since I last saw them at Download so don’t really have much to say. It is hard to come up with new ways of saying I’d watch them if there weren’t clashing with anyone, but yeah.

Tremonti – I saw them this year when they played Download. It was decent enough but not good enough to make them a must see for next year. Insert something here about a list.

And that is how Download Festival 2016 is shaping up so far. I doubt we will see another announcement before the end of the year but I would imagine there will be one in January. After the first three announcements (if you include the film), I felt a bit bummed out. Yes there were some good bands announced but nothing that made me say “OH MY GOD I NEED A TICKET NOW”. Honestly? There still isn’t anything that makes me say that. The bill overall following that big band announcement is a lot stronger, with Sunday being the standout day for me in terms of the undercard. There is an awful lot on the line up that I'd watch if I was there but wouldn't be bothered about missing if I wasn't. I’m not completely sold on the idea of going to Download next year, but am hoping something will be announced in the first announcement next year which will sway me. I’m also waiting to see if a few bands are playing the UK next year and if so, where. These bands are Metallica, Guns N’ Roses (with the rumour that Slash and Duff will be back in the band) and Weezer. A possible scenario right now would be GnR and Weezer turn up at Reading and play the same day – which would be all sorts of ace (unless they clashed, which would just be the worst). Anyway, Download Festival 2016 in my opinion is looking much better following that 32 band announcement than it did before it. 

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