Having covered the trials and tribulations of arriving at Donington straight from the end of the working week, learning ones way around the village and most importantly seeing a few bands (read day one's report if you missed it), day two of Download was then upon our roving reporter. Over to you once again Mr Gillies....
These guys were another bit of an unknown for me, friends of mine both present and otherwise have always had good things to say about Mastodon so went to check them out. What I saw was some really top quality music which only improved as the set went on and the weather cleared up along with it. They hammered through a lot of their newest album 'The Hunter' in an almost metronomic fashion whilst hearing comments around me that this band appear to get better and better with each performance.
Mastodon are certainly a band I will be exploring further in the future, and based on this performance there is a lot more to come from these guys. (8)
Katatonia (Zippo Encore)
I'd dipped in and out of Katatonia over the years, shuffles on my iTunes etc and for a time was massively into the whole Scandinavian metal/power metal scene. They were a band I certainly wanted to spend time with this weekend. Whilst the weather for the Friday and Saturday was pretty miserable. It had brightened up on the Sunday and was very warm. It was appropriate then that the weather decided to cloud up for literally just Katatonias set on the Sunday with this genre of music screaming out for a bit of gloom outside.
The veterans jumped right in with 'Dead Letters' in an appropriately melancholy fashion and carried right through to the end closing with 'July' and 'Leaders'.On first viewing I was impressed with Katatonia and will certainly be expanding the back catalogue I currently own. However while writing this review (Ok, two weeks after the performance!), I find it hard to pick out anything remarkable or stand out about their set performance. Not necessarily a bad thing, and again maybe my lack of familiarity with the band hampered me a little, but in a festival environment amongst your peers it seems like an opportunity lost to reach out to new fans (7).
Alice in Chains (Main)
I saw Alice in Chains in 2006 in this very arena, and to be honest, I was disappointed with what I saw. The group then seemed very timid with new (at the time) vocalist William DuVall only recently having taken up duties. So back then I was happy to put their performance down to rustiness and still gelling as a new incarnation of the band.
So how do 2006 & 2013 Alice differ? Unfortunately not a huge amount. Whilst certainly Mr DuVall is now fully comfortable fronting the band, they still lacked something on stage and seemed a shadow of the band that should, and you hoped would be on stage performing. You felt as though they were still riding on the wave of the 90s grunge movement that they were such a huge part of. That said they still belted out best of classics like 'Man in a Box', 'Again', 'Check My Brain', 'Down in a Hole' while closing with 'Rooster' and the size of the crowd spoke volumes for the love people still have for them but you couldn't help but wonder if they were a band just starting out that people would be completely uninterested. Being totally honest my favourite Alice in Chains moment from the weekend came in the form of Stone Sours Corey Taylor performing Nutshell acoustically. (5)
Unfortunately due to clashes with other bands I'd rather have spent time with than Motörhead I didn't manage to catch a huge amount of them. Infact I heard more from them during Devin Townsends set on the acoustic stage (See below) than I did at the main stage. Whatever you think of Lemmy and company, that they can still command a huge crowd and put on a decent show after so long is impressive. Pulling out ancient classics 'The Chase Is Better Than The Catch', 'Overkill', and of course, 'Ace of Spades' of course went down well so I would say fans, both hardcore and casual, would leave the stage satisfied.
From the little I saw of Motörhead I would definitely say I was more impressed than with headliners to come Iron Maiden in the battle of the old boys. Long live Lemmy (N/A).
Devin Townsend 6.00 - 6.30 (Jagermesister Acoustic)
This was one of the guys that helped convince me to do this review and attend this festival. Even before his music Devin Towsend is one of the mot popular and crowd pleasing guys in metal. His off the cuff, instinctive and often unplanned shows certainly endear him to crowds, summed up in this performance while trying to contend with Motörhead on the main stage (Fuck you Motörhead, I'm going heavy!) followed by pulling out a couple of his heaviest tracks 'Juular' and 'Deadhead' on the acoustic guitar, and for some moments managing to drown out the other stages. With this is mind I decided to get there early to make sure I secured a good spot to hear as last year Skindred apparently struggled to get themselves heard over the first couple of dozen rows. This led to during the opener 'Let it Roll' him commanding his sound engineer various times to crank up the volume.
Devin looked genuinely overjoyed to be playing Download for his fiercely loyal fans and I think the majority of them would have turned up to watch him play the spoons (Myself included). As he launched in 'Hyperdrive' and 'Solar Winds' it became almost a camp fire sing along, although nothing you would have ever experienced around a camp fire before. The final song came as a request, and it shows his talent that he said 'Bad Devil' had never been played acoustically before as he absolutely nailed it.
This sort of fun set should be what music festivals are about, and I'm glad I didn't cut this short as I originally planned in order to see all of Jimmy Eat World afterwards. (9)
Jimmy Eat World (Zippo Encore)
As I said above, I had originally planned on catching more of Jimmy Eat Worlds set than I did being one of the two really personal frustrating timing clashes. So after Devin Townsend I rushed to the Zippo Encore stage to ensure I didn't miss anymore than I already had.
I arrived smack bang in the middle of the set as the finished up 'Big Casino' before launching headlong into the breakthrough hit and singalong 'Bleed American'. Now Jimmy Eat World and their album of the same name were a big part of my original discovery into the world of Rock and Metal, (Along with Papa Roach who I'd unfortunately missed this weekend, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park like a lot of other people my age in their mid 20s). For me hearing this track instantly transported me back to the early 2000s and had me singing and bouncing along. They followed up with the other big songs from that album 'Sweetness' and 'The Middle' with a huge infectious enthusiasm that had the outer edges of the crowd jumping and singing along, as well as a couple, 'Pain' and 'Futures' from my personal favourite album 'Futures'.
It's almost baffling that Jim Adkins and co managed to keep the energy throughout set, the crowd definitely appreciated it and all, including myself, went away hugely satisfied. Definitely a group I would go and see again given the chance. (8)
Queens of the Stone Age (Main)
Queens were another band for me that evoke the same feeling as KoRn the night before. Aside from the obvious hits I wasn't too fussed about the rest of the set, and most of the set was trying to catch a glimpse of the man behind the drums curious to whether legend Dave Ghrol was bashing away. It wasn't.
'No One Knows' predictably peaked the interest of the outer crowd around me, but aside from the core QOTSA fans at the front they were met with a general nonchalance by those in my immediate vicinity.
The records the group have put out in the past have always felt very hit and miss so I was hoping live that they would grab me by the balls a little bit more. Maybe I needed to have spent little more time with the back catalogue as well as the new album to enjoy it more, but they didn't do much for me. (6)
Iron Maiden (Main)
One of the bands I was most looking forward to coming into the weekend was Iron Maiden. I'd seen them once before in support of their A Matter of Life and Death album and was frankly a bit disappointed with them as they played the new album in its entirety, which in all honesty was an album I didn't enjoy. So I was thrilled to hear that the majority of Maidens current set list encompassed a lot of early material from the 80's. My excitement ramped up as they flew a Battle of Britain Spitfire over the main stage a couple of times as their 'entrance music' blared over the PA. Followed by another 2 songs. Leading to jokes that maybe that was infact Maiden flying in which why we seemed to have to wait an eternity for the band so make their way to the stage.
The long wait only made the disappointment even greater when they finally appeared. The sound mix was awful. It was a windy evening but the previous bands on the stage did not suffer from the same sound problems so its baffling and even unforgivable that a band that have been around as long as Iron Maiden allowed themselves to go out sounding like that. When you could hear past Steve Harris' pounding baselines the band did sound tight as you'd expect as they made their way through crowd pleasing classics including 2 Minutes to Midnight, The Trooper, Run to the Hills, Seventh Son, Fear of the Dark amongst others. Past the band though, ever energetic front man and Metal legend Bruce Dickinson sounded strained and a little out of time, almost like the music, energy of the show and his age are starting to get on top of him.
I have it on good authority that at the front near the stage the sound was fine, but not all 90000 people at Download can make their way to the front; and as such, a lot of people left Iron Maiden - some early - on Saturday night a bit disappointed, and certainly left me wondering how long the band really have left in them as a touring group. (4)