The air of anticipation that had built up around the 10th installment of the Download festival at Castle Donington was like nothing I had felt before. Almost universally hailed as the best festival line up EVER, Andy Copping and his team had assembled an array of talent with the proverbial “something for everyone”.
In the week before the festival the weather gods had been decidedly unkind though, and the reports from the early arrivals on site was that it was rapidly degenerating into a muddy, swampy mess.
It’ll be OK though, I’m sure the organisers are prepared for a little rain….
This year I was feeling all smug, having booked a hotel in Derby, from where a shuttle bus ran to and from site every 20 minutes. Unfortunately this plan looked like coming a bit unstuck when the crappy old bus first got stuck in a monster queue of traffic about 4 miles from the site, then promptly decided it had had enough and broke down. Still, we’re a resourceful and hardy lot us festival goers, so we set off on foot from our stricken bus (which was only adding to the traffic carnage) and walked towards the site.
Now, the traffic. Let’s comment on that. Now I know that all of the festival’s issues this year are being blamed on “the weather”, but personally I do feel the organisation of actually getting people in was, to be fair, absolutely fucking shite. I mean, OK blame the weather for the mud, but you can’t blame the weather for the lack of any sort of traffic marshalling, you can’t blame the weather for staff who didn’t even know where the wristband collection point was, and you can’t blame the weather for an almost complete lack of any signage.
Honestly, after 10 years you think they’d have at least that sorted….
Anyway, I eventually arrived on site, only to be informed that Europe had pulled out, owing to difficulties getting into the place. Insult to injury as they were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing. At least no other Scandinavian band made it in either..
Apart from Nightwish
OK, all the other Scandinavian bands made it in. Cheers guys.
And we missed Absolute Power
My first band of the day was, in passing, Billy Talent who were on the Main Stage. Sound wasn’t great from the top of the hill so I met up with the rest of Team CackBlabbath and we trudged across to the second stage, where we pretty much stayed put for the rest of the day.
Little Angels are a band from my youth. Back in the day they were regular visitors to the Edinburgh Venue but since then had been largely forgotten. It’s testimony to the odd line up anomalies that you get at festivals that they were given a “big” slot on the second stage, while far more popular bands were consigned to one or other of the tents. I mean they were never that big back in the day anyway. The Little Angels reunion performance was summed up by a Metal Hammer journalist who shall remain nameless.. “There was no need for that”.
While the hardier members of the team headed off to catch Machine Head on the Main stage (and apparently they were f’kin brilliant) I stayed put for a bit of Scandinavian metal courtesy of Opeth, who played a mix of popular favourites and their usual selection of more obscure material to keep the die hard fans happy. Now I’m not the biggest Opeth fan in the world, but there is no denying that Mikael Åkerfeldt and the band worked hard to lift the mood, even if the rain did crank up a notch during their set.
Right, highlight of the day next. Whereas some bands pitch up in jeans and a t-shirt on a stage that consists of nothing more than their logo on the backdrop, Nightwish had gone to epic lengths with their production, bringing their full Imaginarium stage set, complete with the, erm, most impressive organ I think I’ve ever seen. Top that off with enough pyro and flames to dry out a substantial chunk of the audience down the front and the, erm, stage was set for something memorable.
Nightwish put on a proper old fashioned heavy metal show. Organ grinder Tuomas Holopainen and Bassist/Vocalist Marco Hietala trying hard, and failing, not to be upstaged by the awesome voice of new(ish) girl Anette Olzon.
And they played their version of Gary Moore’s Over The Hills And Far Away. Brilliant, just brilliant. The crowd was packed, the rain had slowed a little and the party mood was starting to kick in. And I like to think it wasn’t just busy because people were adopting an “anywhere except Chase and Status” attitude. (although, to be fair, that’s not a bad thing).
Now I had planned on leaving at this point to go and see Devin Townsend in the Pepsi Max tent, but either a) loads of people wanted to see Slash or b) loads of people didn’t want to watch The Prodigy. Either way the density of the crowd, and the mud, meant that leaving wasn’t an option.
So I was going to have to stay and watch Slash…
Now I’m not the most ardent admirer of the top-hatted one’s solo efforts, I mean they’re OK if you like dull, middle of the road rock’n'roll but they don’t exactly set the world on fire. Luckily Slash has tied up with Miles Kennedy, a vocalist who could sing lines from the phone book and make it sound awesome. As it was I really enjoyed the set, mainly because it included no less than 5 Guns N Roses tracks from an era that still, for me, represents Slash’s finest work.
Although the inclusion of Slither did show what could have been post G’n'R.
And that was that for day 1. Not wanting to hang about in the rain it was time to head for the shuttle bus back to Derby, and my nice warm hotel room. Unfortunately the signage was sadly lacking (and as I had walked in the morning I didn’t know where the buses left from). Asking three different stewards led to being pointed in three different directions, before eventually speaking to one who could point me in the right direction…
And then I had my first encounter with The Voice… but more on that later.