Arriving in the arena to a sudden and torrential downpour, flapping around trying to get crap plastic ponchos on whilst simultaneously attempting to crouch over the tops of your wellies to avoid trench-foot, wasn’t exactly a joyful experience, but thankfully the rain abated as we queued for a bottle (and special edition cup) of Iron Maiden Trooper beer. Saturday is the day of unfortunate overlaps, a lineup of incredible acts spread across stages so wide that you can’t hope to catch them all, so we resign ourselves to the wishlist and hope to catch others another year.
Starting with classic Brit-rock UFO take to the mainstage for some shredding good fun, and Mastodon do a decent job of pepping up the squelchy audience with ‘Blood and Thunder’ and ‘Oblivion’, but it’s Alice In Chains who really power up, touting their signature grunge doom and gloom. ‘Down in a Hole’ and ‘Check My Brain’ stand out, but the whole set is superb and radiates a sort of nonchalant, effortless aura of cool. On the tiny Jagermeister stage, Buffalo Summer’s funked up southern rock ‘Typhoid Mary’ is getting the small but jolly crowd up and jigging about, and Download repeat offenders Motörhead are, well, EXACTLY the same as always. Despite Lemmy’s stuck record “We are Motörhead and we play rock and roll” lead in, and ‘Everything louder than everything else’ tshirts that have only had a colour update, it is a formula that works, and ‘Ace of Spades’ is as good a mosh-pit starter as it always has been.
Taiwanese metalcore kids Chthonic are as weird as ever, but lady bassist Doris Yeh is definitely gaining a LOT of new fans as the band ramp up the volume and she pulls a very metal pout… however, on the main stage Queens Of The Stone Age aren’t really living up to the hype. The sound is dead, the crowd looks bored and the quips just aren’t that funny – particularly the one about ‘No One Knows’ being a song to get laid to. I’m sure Barry White is turning in his grave. After their departure, the arena heads into instant turmoil as people rush to toilets, bars and food carts whilst the stage is set up for Iron Maiden’s prop heavy show. Bands we’d have liked to see today but missed due to there being TOO MUCH to see were, punk legends Lit, rock royalty Thunder, Norwegians Kvelertak and fellow headliners The Hives and Enter Shikari. *sigh* we just hope Download books them all again. Please.
Iron Maiden begin the evenings shenanigans with an actual Spitfire flyby. Yep, that’s right – they managed to get a Spitfire to thunder up from behind the main stage and fly over a stunned crowd. If you can tell me a band who’ve gone further for their fans, feel free to comment. A stunning set with hits ‘Fear of the Dark, ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’, ‘The Trooper’ and ‘Aces High’ as well as a raft of other Maiden classics and giant moving Eddies, makes for a spectacular night (read the complete Maiden review for more details) that will stick in our memories forever.