With thousands of die hard rock fans of all ages making the annual piligmage to Donnington on Wednesday, they were met with two days of stunning blue skies over the Castle, leading up to Friday it looked set to be a glorious weekend of sunshine and Metal. But would it be DOWNLOAD Festival without the rain?
Grey clouds formed as MODESTEP warmed up the MainStage at around 4:30pm on friday night, with a weird blend of dubstep and metal, half of their slot appeared to be a DJ set rather than a gig, seemingly out of place considering the rest of the Bill. As the heavens opened, there was still a a huge turn out for the original leaders of new wave of british heavy metal JUDAS PRIEST. Rob Halford may have struggled with some of the high vocals he’s always famous for but with hits like 'breaking the Law' was guaranteed to get older fans rocking, the motorbike and whip for the finale however needed to be left in 1969.
The anticipation for SLIPKNOT reached fever pitch, with many crowd members in masks and the boiler suits, and not even the monsoon like rain could dampen the assaulting experience of IOWAs finest export.
Any notions of them being a gimmick band with their masks and image, have been wiped since cementing themselves in Donnington history with their huge performances since 2009. Back with a New album and seemingly re-energised, the band made made their thundering riffs and singalong chorus’ wash over the adoring cult of maggots(sic) with ease and Mick Seven being one of the best guitarists I’ve ever witnessed glaring out over the audience whilst his shredding hands blurred over his guitar neck. A triumphant performance, even if it was there no doubt it would be.
Photo by Gobinder Jitta courtesy of Download Festival
With 24 hours of rain, the arena opened on Saturday half an hour later due to safety concerns, sawdust saved the afternoon from a wash out and first catching APOCALYPTA on the Encore stage was an intriguing set of classical strings and metal.
The surprise performance of the weekend were HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD, a mutant child of slipknot and Beastie Boys hailing from Los Angeles, the group stood out with a lively Saturday afternoon slot sending the young audience into a frenzy on the main stage.
Being a Motley Crue fan, watching BLACK VEIL BRIDES seemed to be like viewing a synthetic rip off, but with a fan base bordering on the obsessive and similarities with My Chemical Romance, they seemed to have found their own niche and have to be respected for their gutsy rock and roll attitude.
MARILYN MANSON seemed to be a disappointment, with such a legendary reputation and colourful past, his limp attempts to engage with the audience were not helped by the drifting sounds of MUSE from the MainStage, who’s light show could probably be seen from the moon. Is there anywhere to go for MUSE? with album after album of space rock anthems filling the biggest stadiums around, there were no surprises amongst the bells and whistles in their massive headline performance but undoubtably they still set the bar high for British bands.
Photo by Richard Johnson courtesy of Download Festival
Waking up to blazing sunshine on Sunday, the MainStage was set for a superb line up of heavy metal legends, first catching CAVELERA CONSPIRACY sounding to me like a wall of noise, thankfully followed by BLACKBERRY SMOKE with their soothing sounds american southern Rock, like a young ZZ TOP were perfect for a Sunday afternoon and I will definitely be checking out their music again once back to civilisation.
BILLY IDOL never fails to impress, his new album material matches perfectly with his classic hits like 'White wedding' and 'Rebel Yell', and with his tongue in cheek shirtless leather jacket combo, he’s been a born entertainer since the 80s and there is still no stopping him. Followed by SLASH, the Guns N' Roses legend had a packed audience on the MainStage, with a back catalogue of hits from GNR, Velvet Revolver and now with Myles Kennedy on vocals, his blistering live performances of 'Paradise city', ‘Nightrain', and a finale of ‘slither' a highlight of how mad a crowd can go for rock and roll.
They’ve said all Bad things must come to an end, and Motley Crue on their final ever UK festival performance, smashed out their biggest and baddest hits including ‘looks that Kill’ and Girls Girls Girls with all the vigour of it being 1981. With minimal set design they let the music do the talking and Nikki Sixx as always with the biggest grin of the weekend on his face. True legends and good to see them go out with a bang, the only down point in a faultless performance was the sorely missed ‘Home sweet home’ but you can’t have it all!
And so to the finale of KISS, with more anthems than most bands can dream of, pyrotechnics and huge circus like stage show, when confetti cannons exploded it was a perfect end to an epic weekend, for those that stuck it out to the end they were rewarded, the spirit of rock and roll prevailed over rainstorms that threatened to wash away even the most enthusiastic fans.
Photo by Andrew Whitton courtesy of Download Festival