Forced once again to choose between the Zippo Encore and the Main stage for tonight’s grand entertainments – we have opted for Rob Zombie, master of the macabre and fringed outfits. Immediately upon turning the corner to the Zippo Encore stage it is clear that mistakes have been made. When Rob last played Download in 2017 the area was pretty jam packed but this year the arena is so ridiculously full that some people are actually almost standing in the shops at the back to watch. As much as I applaud Download for the booking – why oh why can’t we just have him on the main stage? He’s got the back catalogue, the energy and the showmanship to fill the main arena, never mind the sardine-can Zippo.
Anyway, aside from the spacing rant, Rob Zombie was an absolute highlight of the weekend, as expected. Rocking up with his signature screen boxes/dance podiums and immediately storming through ‘Meet The Creeper’ and ‘Superbeast’, Rob is resplendent leaping from box to box in as much fringed clothing as I’ve ever seen on a person. His style is sort of… the creature from the Black Lagoon, meets deep South in the 70’s, and I’m here for it. Anyone who can pull off such spritely moves in tight ass flares gets my respect to be honest.
Down the rabbithole we go with Rob for the iconic ‘Living Dead Girl’, as he yells “Good evening everybody, welcome to the Zombie show! Download, you ready to fuckin go?”. People are shrieking the lyrics all around us and throwing down some good old fashioned cyber goth moves for good measure. If you were gonna put a soundtrack to Vampire porn, this would be it – and Rob Zombie would have probably directed it to be honest.
Calling out “Everyone down here in the front, in your muddy shoes… jump jump” he rolls into the epic White Zombie track ‘More Human than Human’ and the crowd goes absolutely berserk. There’s nothing like a festival arena full of sweaty writhing bodies just dancing with wild abandon, it’s not something us Brits are usually especially practiced at but we’ll give it a damn good go, even in the rain and mud. Rob quips “Well we travel all around the world, and I must tell you… you win the award for the muddiest place on earth. I’m sure its cosy in those tents after the show… I’m sure when you’re sitting in those tents freezing you go… do I really wanna see these bands that fucking bad? And you guys just say fuck it, let’s get high and do this shit” as a set up to ‘In The Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’.
Manson clip backdrops herald Beatles cover ‘Helter Skelter’ and Rob turns stage side to ask “Can we keep playing? Do we have time?” eliciting a roar from a crowd who simply aren’t ready to end the night there. Rob muses “I was thinking the other day about Stone Henge. I believe I’ve solved the mystery. It’s one big landing pad for ufo’s” and calls us all to wave at an aeroplane passing overhead during ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.’ whilst his guitarist rocks a flashing rainbow grille to grin at the crowd.
White Zombie (and Guitar Hero) classic ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’ is punctuated with a little Ramones’ ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ for the “…punk rockers in tonight” and Rob heads down to the pit to meet his front row fans. Finishing up with the gut-busting ‘Dragula’ to strobing images from Rob’s ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ is unreal, there’s something undeniably visceral and sort of tribal about a Rob Zombie show. It makes you want to move, be part of the throng, takes you right into that horror movie realm. Honestly we could have gone another ten rounds with Rob Zombie and it still wouldn’t have been enough – so my message to you Download Festival: please book him for the main stage so we can headbang without the fear of breaking our faces on the person in front of us next time. Rob Zombie is undeniably rock royalty and deserves the throne.