Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Review: Download Festival 2019

This weekend just gone was Download Festival 2019 at Donington Park. It was personally the 8th one I’ve been at, but the first full weekend festival since Victorious Festival in 2016 (and that one wasn’t that much effort as it is down the road from where I live). My last Download festival was in 2015, so it had been a while since I’d been. As was the case for 2014 and 2015, I was in a hotel in Derby rather than camping on site. It is a bit of a hassle getting there and back each day, but no complaints at all on that front. The queue to get in each day seemed to be managed in a very odd way, which caused delays each time. I also didn’t get searched at all when going in. I don’t try and take things in with me that I shouldn’t, so it wasn’t an issue. However, in previous years when I have been searched each time I enter the arena, I’ve been surprised to see glass spirit bottles in the arena. This year, when seeing them, it was less of a surprise. I’m not sure what happened there. Anyway, I guess the main talking point, bands and wrestling aside for me has to be the weather and the condition of the site. The weather was mostly fine when I was watching bands. On occasion it battered it down, but I was lucky to be in a tent when this happened for the most part. The arena floor was very muddy as a result, which made getting about a bit of a slog from time to time. That being said, I didn’t fall over in the mud or get hurt, so again, no major complaints. I felt the festival did what they could in the arena in terms of straw etc.

A quick note about the Thursday. I arrived in Derby on the Thursday. Went out for food at Sainsburys CafĂ© (getting the rock and roll started early) – had a belting sweet potato katsu curry. The evening after that was mostly chilled and washing my shoes (had boots for the festival, went out to the shop in shoes, and ended up getting them muddy – a precursor to the weekend ahead!) Anyway, onto the primary focus of this festival, the bands. It usually makes sense with these things to kick off with the first day, so I will, with Friday. As per, the scores attributed are based on my own personal enjoyment, and not a comment on the band in question, mostly.


I had Goodbye June on my list to watch but was queuing to get in the weekend arena/day ticket entrance the entire time they were on, which is a bit of a shame. Wasn't mad keen on seeing them mind, so not overly annoyed – but it would have been nice to see them. Instead, I trekked over to the Dogtooth stage to catch Groundculture – 6. I didn’t know much by them, but they were a fine way to kick the festival off. Up next on the Dogtooth stage was Those Damn Crows - 7 who were really good. Not a lot else to say about them. I left wanting to get into them properly. I trundled over to 2nd stage for the first time for Kvelertak – 5. I've seen them a few times before and this wasn't the best time seeing them. Not sure if it was just being too far away from the stage or owt, but after they left, all I could muster was a shrug.

I headed back to a now much busier Dogtooth stage to see Conjurer - 9 and blimey, that was something. Blinder of a set, that. Want to see them again and can't make the October tour, which made me do a sad. They were so good. There aren’t many bands that would make me miss some of Clutch’s set, so I am glad I enjoyed them as much as I did. Speaking of Clutch – 8. I love Clutch. I didn't see them all because of that vicious clash with Conjurer. They finished with Electric Worry and X-Ray Visions - what's not to love? I suspect I'll be seeing them in Southampton at the end of the year and having a lovely time (assuming the sound isn’t bobbins). Up next on second stage was Deadland Ritual - 7 - I base these scores on my personal enjoyment of the set, and I thought it was cool seeing a supergroup play songs from Dio-era Sabbath, Velvet Revolver and Billy Idol. Their own material is...fine, but the score is mostly for the covers.  I didn’t stick around for the whole set as I wanted to make sure I was in the 3rd stage tent for the next band.

If you had said to me in the build-up to this festival (well, before the times came out) that I wouldn’t be seeing Whitesnake, I would have called you a fool or something equally as derisory. However, when it transpired they clashed with The Interrupters – 10, well there was only going to be one winner there, particularly after their set at Slam Dunk. The Interrupters stole the show for the Friday (and nearly for the whole damn weekend). Their set was just immense. I really want them to be added to the Fireball tour. It will sell me a ticket in an instant. Stayed at the Avalanche stage for Reel Big Fish – 9, who were a lot of fun. The classics were all great as per and I liked one of the new songs. Sure, it was a bit RBF paint by numbers at times, but that didn’t hurt the set at all. They are good at what they do, that is for sure! Went over to the Dogtooth in the hope of seeing Jinjer but the tent was rammed, and people were several rows out, so decided against it. Figured this would be the case for At The Gates as well so decided to call it a night after Rob Zombie. Hey, speaking of - Rob Zombie - 7 - Decent way to end the night. I’ve never been a massive fan (due to me not listening to him/White Zombie more than not liking) but it was decent enough. Did think for a headline set on the second stage it was a bit short. I did consider sticking around for Def Leppard…but didn’t.


Got held up getting in again, but I had arrived early enough to factor this in, and didn’t miss the first band – which was nice.

For only the second time of the weekend so far, I was at main stage for a band! Alien Weaponry – 7 were first up and I quite enjoyed their set. Royal Republic - 9 were on main stage next and I loved this set, thought they were excellent. It made me want to see them again and they are playing up the road from me, so I might just! After them was a set I was very excited about. Power Trip – 8 did not let me down either – they had a great set. I thought it was brilliant that they were on the main stage and they didn't look out of place there. After Power Trip was probably the biggest extreme metal show in the UK to date with Behemoth - 8 on the big stage. I only saw the first 30 or so minutes, but they were sounding in fine form. You may wonder why I decided to leave their set to head to another stage. This was the second worse clash of the weekend for me, so decided to see some of Behemoth and then go catch Epica – 8. They opened with my favourite song of theirs, so that almost gave them a 10 right there. It was excellent though, but I think I prefer seeing them indoors. Not sure if they will stick a UK date on their Euro tour later in the year (which they couldn't announce right away due to Download) - we'll see. The rain started coming down during Epica, and it didn’t stop throughout the whole of the next band’s set really. 

Skindred - 9 - In the hands of a lesser band, this part of the day could have been miserable (what with the rain and all). Skindred were just excellent, which they always are. Sure, the stage patter is pretty samey at this stage, but that didn't spoil it for me. They could play every year and it not be boring. I don’t know if they will ever be higher on the bill, but they have the show to justify it. I’d love to see what they could do headlining the second stage or having a longer slot on main. After Skindred, I made my first visit to the NXT UK tent. Can't really give this a rating the same way I rate a band, but I enjoyed what I saw. Getting a main event of Matt Riddle v Ilja Dragunov was quite something! Moustache Mountain v Grizzled Young Vets as well was very good. Pleased to see Xia Brookside/Killer Kelly and Rhea Ripley/Piper Niven wrestle as well. After the wrestling, I headed to the Dogtooth and caught the end of Batushka - NR - I have no idea what to rate this. I base all these on enjoyment and I can't work out if I enjoyed it or not. I heard one song, a lot of bell ringing and what looked like a sermon? I was quite interested by the whole thing though. Also, probably worth noting that I heard a bit of Die Antwoord in the main stage on the walk and…I got nothing. Am I out of touch? No, it is everyone else that is wrong!

The headliner of the Dogtooth stage that night was Carcass – 9. Belting set this. One of the best of the day. Made even better by the announcement a new album is nearly finished. Hopefully a UK tour will come with that. I like that they played mainly classics but fit in some songs from their latest album. Jeff Walker joked that most of the people were in the tent because of the shit weather and a really shit band on the other stage. Not sure if he meant Die Antwoord or Halestorm, so I am assuming he meant Die Antwoord. They fit that description for my tastes at least. Anyhow, main event time to so speak. Slipknot - 10 - Band of the day for me. They were excellent. Could be one of my favourite times seeing them live, but all the times have been pretty great so tough to work out. Opening with People = Shit and Get This was incredible. Unsainted is massive live. It is outrageous when a band can drop a song as big as Before I Forget in the middle of their set as if it is just another song. Slipknot live 2020 has me interested - just not Ally Pally please!


Set off a little bit later after a call to my Dad (it was Father’s Day and all!). I didn’t need to be in first thing, but the queue to get in was relatively quick, so was able to see the first bands on. I headed to the stage where I was planning to start the day to see Redhook – 6. They were a decent enough start to the day.

Black Futures - 9 - I almost walked off when they hadn't started nearly 15 mins into their set, but glad I stuck around because they were excellent. Probably the delay (and subsequent overrun) had a knock-on effect on the rest of the day on that stage, which is a shame. A bit later than planned, but the next stop was to see NXT UK. Arrived as Toni Storm was wrestling Candy Floss, which was decent from what I saw. Xia Brookside v Jinny was also pretty good. The final two matches were ace, Matt Riddle v James Drake and Adam Cole v Zack Gibson. I did have a bit of a chuckle when they had to reshoot a segment with Toni Storm, Candy Floss and Kay Lee Ray (I guess these things happen, but it was hard to be that invested in it). Went back over to 3rd to see Black Peaks, who were due to be on in 5 or so minutes from when I got there, but Heart of a Coward were still on (aforementioned knock on effect). Resolved to missing Black Peaks, I went off to second instead and caught the end of Starset. Starset - 3 - Not for me! I didn't like what I heard. This is the only rating really that is influenced by not enjoying the set, and not really liking the music being played. Perhaps it would be a different story had I listened to them before the festival? Who knows. After them on second stage was State Champs – 5, who I thought were fine - didn't hate it, didn't overly like it either. 

Amon Amarth - 6 were up next and they are always decent, usually immense. I was quite far back for them though, which meant they were pretty quiet from where I was. Also, I bumped into a pal at this point, so was occasionally having a chat and not really paying attention. I may go see them at the end of the year if the price is right (which I tried to find out when typing this and it cannot be found – not liking this trend of gig ticket prices being unknown until they go on sale). Anyway, I cut seeing Amon Amarth short to see Beartooth – 8. First time seeing them and I thought they were bloody great. I need to check them out properly. They are another band who are touring in the UK soon, and it is tempting to drop into London to see them. Back to the main stage where I remained for the rest of the weekend. Lamb of God - 9 were immense as per usual. I loved their set. It was a slightly longer version of the set they played supporting Slayer at Wembley, so hopefully when I see them next they will mix it up, but this was still really good. The penultimate act of the day and indeed the weekend was Smashing Pumpkins – 7. They were one of the "must see's" of the day for me, and it was great to see some of the songs they played. They were good. The stage patter left a little to be desired, but it didn't spoil it for me. According to Setlist FM, they were joined on stage by Myrkur for a cover of Snowblind by Black Sabbath. I don’t think Billy Corgan announced her as Myrkur though, rather her real name (which to my shame, I don’t know). At the time, I remember not knowing who was announced but I have seen Myrkur before. Maybe Setlist FM is wrong, or maybe I just misheard the announcement. Anyway, the cover was cool although it probably meant we didn’t get 1979 played, which is a shame. No matter though, they were a must-see band and they didn’t disappoint. Finally, and oh boy! Tool - 10 – Comfortably band of the weekend. They were incredible. I just wish they could have played for longer. It was all so good, but he high point of the set for me was Vicarious, which I had got into my mind wouldn’t be played as the festival set list appeared to be shorter slightly than the main headline tour one. A comment on the graphics – they were all really cool to look at. It didn’t detract from the band at all that they themselves were not the focus of the cameras. Hope there isn't another 13 year wait to see them again!

All in all, Download 2019 was a decent weekend. Few little complaints here and there, and the weather did make getting about a bit treacherous at times, but it didn't spoil it for me which is cool. It was worth coming out of festival retirement for. I’m not sure now if I will return to festival retirement (indeed, I don’t have another one booked for this year). I guess it will all depend on the line up.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Review: All Points East 2019 (Bring Me The Horizon)

Festival season is well under way and unlike for the last couple of years, where the concept of a music festival was something that other people went to, I’ve been to two one day events so far this year, with a weekend one on the horizon. Yesterday, I went to one of the 6 days of All Points East, the day that Bring Me The Horizon headlined. I’d seen the stories about big portions of the crowd being unhappy with the sound quality for The Strokes the previous weekend, and was slightly concerned about this, but resolved that the organisers would have looked at this and fixed what went wrong. The festival itself is located in Victoria Park in London, which is pretty easy to reach, although the curfew being 11 meant I had to bail a little early to make sure I could get a train home. Unlike the review of Slam Dunk (here) from Tuesday, I can’t really post any negatives because I didn’t experience any. There was a slight hiccup with the first bar I went to, but that got resolved (and other bar queues all day were pretty reasonable), and the only time I experienced an issue with sound, when I moved it was better. No complaints from me! In fact, I would say I had an ace day – great bands, nice beer and decent weather – can’t really ask for more (well, aside from a free ticket but still…). As with the Slam Dunk review (and any other festival review on this here page), there will be a score out of 10 which is based on my own enjoyment of the set.

The way the bill was set out was two main stages with a staggered bill, with any overlap being very minimal. I started off on the smaller North stage to watch Lotus Eater (7). I hadn’t heard of Lotus Eater until their latest EP was reviewed on the Riot Act Podcast. I gave it a listen (it’s good) and decided to go see them here. This was a good decision because they were ace. A great way to start off the day. I wandered off to the East (main) stage to watch Scarlxrd (4) and off the bat, I’ll say it wasn’t for me. There were people near me who were loving it, so I guess that’s something. There was a guy on stage whose main role appeared to be starting the backing track, and dancing. Fine work if you can get it! I didn’t hang about for the whole set, instead deciding to head back to the North stage where I was sure that the next band on would be one of the highlights of my day. However, before getting there, I stopped by the Firestone stage to watch the end of Pengshui (5). I guess on reflection, I would have preferred to see more of Pengshui, but neither them or Scarlxrd were my cup of tea, so to speak. When I did head off to the North stage, I somewhat felt like a Principle Skinner meme:

Up next on North were Employed To Serve (10) who, unsurprisingly at this stage, smashed it out the park. I saw them earlier this month at their London headline show, and a couple of times previous in support slots. They are fast becoming one of those bands who seemingly can’t put on a bad show. This was an immense set. Speaking of immense sets, up next was Black Futures (9). They had a far too brief 20-minute set on the Firestone stage and they were utterly brilliant. Wasn’t familiar with them at all before the festival but that set makes me want to find out more. I wandered off to the main stage where there was a bit of a break plus a chance to get a good spot for the next band on main stage. Next up were IDLES (9). I wanted to get tickets for their April UK tour but failed despite having a chance for the Saturday London show, so when I saw they were playing this, seeing them would be a must. I really enjoyed their set and probably would have said it was set of the day if it had been a bit longer and they played I’m Scum and/or Television (my two personal favourites of theirs). I still loved the set though! After IDLES, it was back to the North stage for Sleeping With Sirens (5). I’m not massively familiar with them, I know I’ve listened to them a handful of times but never properly tried to get into them. If I am to be honest, I didn’t dislike this set, but it didn’t convince me to give them another go when I got home. Musically they were fine but I didn’t like the vocals really. Each to their own I guess.

The scope for a final break presented itself before the final 4 acts of the day, so it was one I took and had my first sit down since arriving. Sitting down is underrated. The next band I saw was While She Sleeps (8) who were ace. Their set made me realise how few of their lyrics I actually know (certainly in comparison to those around me who were screaming along to everything). There was only the one song from their album Brainwashed (my personal favourite) which is a shame but can’t win them all. Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon appeared briefly during Silence Speaks which was cool. Their set was followed up on the main stage by Run The Jewels (8) who were great, both in performance and when speaking to the crowd. One moment was amusing for me which was when they announced they were playing a song we had definitely not heard before (paraphrasing, but said in a sarcastic manner), and then they played a song I didn’t know! (I’m new to Run The Jewels). They played Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) which meant I left happy. After RTJ were Architects (8). My original standing spot would have been a talking point if I didn’t move, as the sound was a bit crap and people around me were all talking. However, after realising I was able to move, I did and the spot I then took up was ace. Previous times I’ve “seen” Architects live were walking past them at festivals, and not really knowing anything about them. This was the first time seeing them proper and they were excellent. The set made me want to see them again, which I guess means job done for them. After Architects, it was time for Bring Me The Horizon (9). All I’d heard about this set was that it was going to be their longest headline set to date, and it would cover all of their albums. The intrigue for me was what would be played before I had to leave, and I can say I was not disappointed with the songs I got to hear. I smiled as the last song I got to hear in full is probably my favourite of theirs (Can You Feel My Heart). Getting to hear Happy Song live was ace, as was seeing Dani Filth and Sam Carter from Cradle of Filth and Architects respectively pop up. I left as Shadow Moses was being played. At that point I thought it was a shame I had to bail, but these things happen. For the time I saw them, Bring Me The Horizon were excellent. Any gripe I had with the set was minor and didn’t spoil it, which is nice.

And that is that. Festival number 2 in the bag. Another one day event, another ace day. I would definitely go again if the line up appealed to me in the way this one did, although I would probably look into getting a hotel next time so I didn’t have to cut out early.