Driving down the M1 on a Friday night having been up since five am working is usually something someone wouldn’t relish. However- when you are on your way to Jagermeister, old friends and most importantly a weekend of great music, that drive could not be easier. Follow that by the incredible feeling of running down the hill to the main stage just as Slipknot blast their way into their opening fireball, and the weekend was off to a cracking start.
Due to starting a new job literally the week before, I did the classic but ill advised post-work dash up from London. This is why I was that crazy loon of a girl running from the car park to the arena with half a bottle of Jagermeister! From all accounts, earlier in the day bands such as Converge, Hang the Bastard and Rise to Remain smashed it, but missing those bands was worth it for that rush of adrenaline I had for Slipknot. They are true, out and out, showmen as we all know- dashing and diving between their impressive range of albums with the panache of professionals and the passion of the obsessed. What needs to be noted is that, because they are always so energetic, when you see them 7 or 8 times you can lose that real awe inspired, goose bumps over your body feeling that you had when you first saw them. This being only round 3 for me, with a 4 year gap since the last one, I absolutely loved it and the buzz that they left in their wake is not an easy one to make. 9/10.
Festival newbie’s, heed my advice- never, and I mean NEVER, underestimate just how hot your tent will get in the morning after a heavy night. Regardless of how cold it is outside, you will wake up with your face stuck to your tent, pouring with sweat, wishing you would die. This would be why, after a rather hectic post arena session, I was crawling out of my tent for sweet fresh air at around 7.30am.
No matter however- second band on the main stage Young Guns were well worth being in the arena early for. Having never seen them before, I was incredibly impressed by their showmanship, the catchiness of their songs and the huge crowd they dragged into the arena so early. As soon as I got home from Download, their album “Bones” was the first thing I downloaded- and if you haven’t done so already I seriously suggest you get it IMMEDIATELY. Ending, of course, with their headline song, their performance set the tone for the day and woke us all up. 8/10
At this stage I went solo over to the Red Bull tent to see some old acquaintances from my Cardiff days- the controversial Astroid Boys. Their Metal/ Grime/ Dubstep combination of sounds (otherwise known as Djent) means that, unfortunately, you either love them or hate them. A huge crowd meant that the two front men, Benji and Phil, were in their element – running around, interacting with the crowd and combining incredible double time spits with a much rawer sound in a clever mix. Combine these two guys with a DJ, a guitarist and a drummer mean that their sound was intriguingly multi-layered. Their rating would have been much higher, however, had they not started with the cheesy nightclub antics such as “Oggy Oggy Oggy”- at which point a considerable number of people left. Cracking energy for these hard working Welsh lads- but they need to play to the area that they are performing in. 6/10
Next on the cards was Mastodon- always so strong and gloriously atmospheric. I am in awe of their cool, slick performance which looks effortless but sounds incredible- in fact, the rain lashing reminiscent of the anger of Zeus that descended as the played was lifted by their set and made it bearable. What was also great to see was the true passion they incite in their fans- cue Matt air guitar-ing note perfectly to most of their songs, and nearly everyone their wishing they could play guitar like that. Excellence, as always. 8/10.
Once Mastodon had finished, the drenched/hungover/tired combination kicked in hard. Time for a quick pit stop- fresh clothes, a jerk chick wrap and series of drinks meant that when it came time for Jimmy Eat World and the sun made an appearance, the world felt beautiful again. JEW was one of those bands that I listened to obsessively as a teenager, and yet had never seen- so the fear that they would live up to expectations was fairly terrifying. Not that I should have worried; after the most inconspicuous entrances (“Hey, we’re Jimmy Eat World.” That was It.), they gave the crowd exactly what they wanted. Bleed American (Salt Sweat Sugar), Pain, The Middle and Big Casino were of course headlines, with just 2 songs from the new album meaning that they didn’t fall into the trap of playing too much unheard material. Classic nostalgic songs, combined with the sun and a second wind meant that I was dancing around like a loon to the disapproving looks of a bunch of uneducated 15 years olds. 9/10.
What a shame, however, that such a good day was marred by a weak performance to finish. Iron Maiden have been playing out for the past 38 odd years, with an incredible 15 studio albums and one of the largest followings of any British Rock band. You would think, therefore, that they would be well aware of a number of things- 1) How to hold a crowd, 2) How to compile a set list and most importantly 3) How to make themselves sound good in a festival setting. Point 3 really was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and in between songs whilst trying to improve this, they massively lost my attention. Bruce Dickinson, for all his large number of positive attributes, bored the hell out of everyone there with his tirades between certain numbers. When your sound is not up to scratch, dear God don’t lose any momentum from your classics (which were numerous- even I couldn’t help getting involved with “Run to the Hills” and “Phantom of the Opera”.) by lecturing the crowd on current political issues after you have played them. Ranting aside, they have not got to where they are today without having that Je ne sais quoi, and for that I applaud them. Plus, the Spitfire flying overhead before their set was something truly special. 4/10 (and whilst it pains me to say it, 2 of those points were for the Spitfire.)
After a slightly more leisurely start (remember kids, as soon as you wake up open those tents. Then go back to sleep),we headed to the arena for the fabulous Five Finger Death Punch. Bone achingly heavy guitar in a sweet rhythm, combined with the incredible voice of Ivan Moody means these guys are going nowhere. Add on top of that Moody’s insatiable desire to piss the security off for the benefit of the enraptured crowd, and his combination of witty and slapstick humour, and you get a really well put together band that offer great showmanship as well as great music. Highlight of their set, music aside, was the “this is the next generation of Metal fans” moment where as many kids possible were bought onstage. Epic kudos to the kid in the Asking Alexandria T-shirt who knew all the words to every song. If I ever have children, I hope they are like you. 8.5/10.
Post 5FDP, I yet again went solo to go and see another Djent band- this time Hacktivist. Having known very little of them before, but intruiged by what I heard, I went in with an open mind. Which was promptly blown. Their sound beautifully fuses together these two genres which so many have tried to do, and yet so few have managed to do so well. Similar to Astroid Boys, they have a set up with two front men- which does seem to work, as they were feeding off each other’s energy whilst they ran round the stage driving up the energy from each corner of the tent. The catchiness of their released singles has caught the attention of a range of people, fans of grime or metal or both. Delving deeper into their set list shows a genuinely intelligent group of guys with a real passion for a number of ideas and issues, which always makes it interesting- providing these are conveyed cleverly through a band’s songs, and not in between them. Recommended for anyone who is wants to see what Djent is all about- don’t be put off by the ridiculous subgenre name. I can’t even pronounce it. 7/10.
After meandering around looking into a few different bands, we reconvened at our usual meeting spot ( by the Slipknot poster right of stage, slightly in the crowd. Easier said than done) for the brilliant Stone Sour. For me, Corey outdid himself in this slot than he did with Slipknot- yes, Stone Sour might not be as “heavy” or as legendary as Slipknot, but they utilise the experience of each band member to create their sound that I personally love. Coming back to the art of showmanship- there are not many who could, mid-set, bring out an acoustic guitar and tease with awkward silences as they build up to a song and have the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand. God knows that when they finally played “Through Glass” I was singing along at the top of my lungs, feeling totally euphoric. The singular best moment of their set, however, was their incredible dedication to Black Sabbath in their rendition of “Children of the Grave”. Cue myself and Steve running full pelt through the crowd to the nearest pit, having thrown my bag at a poor unsuspecting Jamie. What a great tribute to the fathers of Metal, on that very special week for them. Without a shadow of a doubt, they were my favourite band of the entire weekend. 9.5/10.
Now here is the sad part- due to work and travel commitments I literally had to sprint back to my car and head back to London after Stone Sour. Which, of course, meant that I missed Rammstein. The genuine sorrow I feel having missed this opportunity to see this genuinely crazy, elusive band of my youth will haunt me forever. I do hope, for my sanity, that I will have the opportunity to see them play another time. Plus, the text I received from friends after their set that simply said “RAAAAMMMMSSSSTTTEEEEIIIIIINN!!!!” still to this day makes me want to murder them.
I am of course kidding (about the murder part), but the whole weekend was made special by a great group of people- friends, the organisers, the bands etc. To all of you who made the weekend what it was, whether it be by playing, organising or just generally drinking and rocking out, I salute you.