So we all survived the rain on Friday... just. Saturday morning meant mud and plenty of it but once the arena opened and the bands kicked in to action, for the most part any dampened spirits were swept aside. Saturday played host to another batch of truly excellent performances, here’s who we checked out!
We said on the day via Twitter and we still maintain the point now, The Lounge Kittens (10/13) should open every day of every festival from now on. Opening the Second Stage they proved to be the perfect remedy to a crowd struggling with the weather and conditions on the site at the time. The performance was fun, energetic and generally just a good laugh. They went through all of their favourite covers including Duality and Party Hard encouraging sing-alongs and clapping throughout, there was even a dinosaur Mexican wave. The three ladies closed out the set with a fifteen band strong Download Festival medley which certainly left everyone walking away from the stage with a smile on their face.
On a completely different wave length and tone from The Lounge Kittens, the riff wielding Hardcore unit Malefice (10/13) grabbed their opportunity on one of the bigger stages with open arms as they tore through their set with a ridiculous amount of energy. Their crowd wasn’t huge, but by the end everyone was pretty much won over by the performance which basically consisted of Hardcore Music at it’s aggressive finest. By the end of the set the band managed to encourage one or two pits, especially with An Architect Of Your Demise but whilst this was a great slot for them, there is no doubt they would have fared much better in one of the tents. Speaking of tents, moving across to the smallest of the two, Crobot (10/13) had the place absolutely heaving as they came on stage, to a point where it was at least a few people deep outside it as well. This is another band who are seriously on the rise at the moment to a point where they’ll definitely be taking higher slots at the festival in the future. Running through tracks from their recent release, the band certainly made a massive impression with this show.
Crobot/Download Festival. Photo Credit: Andrew Whitton
Moving back to the Second Stage and Thrash icons Testament (9/13) were next up. The band came on to a big reaction as they’d certainly attracted their own following of die hards down the front. The sound was a bit of a shocker for their performance though with Chuck Billy’s microphone overbearingly loud in the mix. After the smash mouth entrance on to the stage with Rise Up the levels did slightly drop off a little and apart from those down the front, the general interest across the crowd did seem a bit off. With such a short set as well it was difficult for them to raise the energy levels again - they’re definitely a band who fare better at their own shows. After Testament the crowd seemed to thin somewhat before Carcass (10/13) took to the stage. The Extreme Metal veterans might be more typically seen on Bloodstock or Damnation style line ups, but adding a dose of Extreme Metal to the line up was certainly welcome. Most of the focus of the short set was on the excellent Surgical Steel album but as always with their live shows they delivered tight, brilliantly executed, levels of chaos.
Over to the Main Stage again now and what felt like one of the most important sets all weekend. A Day To Remember (10/13) have been on the incline for a while now and a killer set here could have seen them propel to newer heights in the near future. The performance was good, but it wasn’t mind blowing. It is difficult to gauge whether they won over that many people because if you worked your way around a bit and moved back there did seem a fair few completely disinterested. Ask anyone who was lodged down the front though and you’ll get a different view. The performance was strong and they did utilise the ramp going down into the heart of the crowd very well indeed. They also bring a bit of fun into their sets without hampering the tightness of the performance - a ratio so many similar bands seem to mess up. Tracks like If It Means A Lot To You and All I Want did encourage some more widespread crowd participation and they even did a short cover of Oasis’ Champagne Supernova which honestly didn’t go down entirely well.
Up next on Main Stage though was a serious contender for performance of the weekend as the consistently phenomenal Faith No More (13/13) frankly delivered a master class. Draping the whole stage in white and flowers it proved to be quite a sight for something which had, in the main, been more used for fire and black back drops in the previous twenty four hours. Opening with the slow tempo Motherfucker, as soon as the band hit the stage Mike Patton and co. had everyone firmly in the palm of their hands. Each track, whether classic or new, was brilliantly executed to the point where they make the live versions even better than hearing it on record. Some of the new tracks off of Sol Invictus sounded particularly great especially Black Friday. A lot of that is down to the genius in Mike Patton who as a performer can genuinely be considered the best front man on the line up. The whole band are superb but he makes it impossible to take your eyes off him in case you miss something, whether he is messing with the security, jumping down to the front of the crowd or frankly singing his heart out he just puts on the perfect show. The sound for the band was also excellent with Billy Gould’s bass so loud it felt like it was going to level the Midlands. Considering the fact that they left out a fair few classics and crowd favourites and yet it was still utterly flawless says a lot. What a band.
Faith No More/Download Festival. Photo Credit: Scott Salt
How then do you follow that? Well you get a band who are widely voted year on year as the best live band in the world. Add this to the fact that Saturday at Donington was a first ever for Muse (13/13) and you’ve got the perfect recipe. When they were announced for Download it was met with a bit of a mixed reaction especially as the festival leans towards the heavier side. But honestly to all those who doubted them being added, we hope you feel ridiculous. Muse promised a set unlike any other for Download, promising to include some rare, heavier gems, and that they did with the likes of Dead Star and Agitated. The standard crowd favourites like Time Is Running Out and Plug In Baby received the expected ecstatic reactions as well, but generally as a whole showpiece Muse have just got it down. The sound for their set was possibly the best anywhere all weekend with it both being loud and extremely clear, all of the subtle little intricacies coming from Matt Bellamy’s guitar or Chris Wolstenholme’s bass for example were very distinct. The screens displayed some fantastic shots of the band alongside some thought provoking graphics; the Drones theme via their new album used in abundance. Overall the whole performance was just on a different level. Muse truly are superstars of their field and tonight delivered one of the best headline performances Download Festival has ever seen.
Muse/Download Festival. Photo Credit: Richard Johnson
As we arrive to the final day of Download Festival, the mud has eased up (slightly) and the Classic Rock vibe across the site is at an all time high. This was Kiss day and without exaggeration (maybe a bit) every other person you came across had made full use of the Kiss face painting stand. So with hairspray cans at the ready we enter what widely became dubbed as ‘Classic Rock Sunday’.
Early on in the day over at the Main Stage though we were a bit far removed from ‘Classic Rock’ as Metalcore unit 36 Crazyfists (9/13) ripped through a set for some of the early risers. The band are back on the up again after the release of the excellent Time And Trauma, but it was some of the older crowd favourites like Bloodwork and Slit Wrist Theory which really kicked everything in to gear. Following on from them were Cavalera Conspiracy (8/13) who attracted an oddly small crowd considering the fact it was Max and Igor gracing the stage. The sound also did not help anything, as from the start the Bass Guitar was far too loud in the mix to the point where for the first couple of tracks you could actually barely hear anything else. The actual Cavalera Conspiracy tracks received almost no reaction at all, with the crowd only becoming interested when they threw down to some classic Sepultura tracks. Roots Bloody Roots and Refuse/Resist triggered some scenes of chaos but on the whole it was all relatively subdued.
Later on in the day Billy Idol (9/13) hit the stage as the Classic Rock vibes were hitting full swing on the Main Stage. The sound had kind of been sorted out by the time he hit the stage, but it was a tad quiet at the start. At the ripe old age of 59, there is still no stopping Billy as a performer. He covered almost every inch of the stage, running around with more energy than some front men half his age. A few costume changes, stripped off shirt and a Rebel Yell later and the crowd left very happy indeed.
With a swift move over to the Second Stage some legends of the Grunge scene were about to hit the stage. Announcing their reunion earlier on in the year due to demand they didn’t even know existed, L7 (11/13) treated the crowd to a host of classics from their back catalogue including Shitlist, Deathwish and of course Pretend We’re Dead. All four on stage looked to be really enjoying the occasion and were quick to show their own appreciation for everyone who had turned out to see them. They haven’t lost any of their characteristic wit and charm with the crowd banter as well. Hopefully this stint of reunion shows will see the band get back in the studio and record some new music as well! Moving back over to the Classic Rock orgy on the Main Stage, Slash (11/13) played through a very festival friendly set delivering a host of Guns ‘N Roses classics alongside some of the tracks on his new album. It’s been said on many occasions but Myles Kennedy has truly developed the perfect partnership with Slash as the two together on stage create the kind of performance anyone should aspire to achieve. One thing as well with Slash, his crowd was absolutely MASSIVE. Easily one of the biggest all weekend, so to hear that many people singing along to Paradise City to close out the set was a great festival moment.
L7/Download Festival. Photo Credit: Andrew Whitton
So from one artist who has found a new lease of life in recent years in Slash, to a band who are winding down to their demise. Motley Crue (11/13) have actually signed legal paperwork which means that after 2015 they will officially be no more. With that said, with the fact that this was confirmed to be their last ever appearance at Donington in itself made this a show to remember. Some of the Motley Crue tours in recent years have been met with some mixed reaction but this felt like a band on a mission, a mission to deliver one last good performance for those seeing them for the last time. The set was packed with Crue classics, and they brought a fair amount of pyro and stage theatrics on board as well. Highlight of the set was probably their cover of Anarchy In The U.K. which really kicked off a string of classics, waking up a lot of the more casual fans in the crowd. Top performance then which confirmed that it is well worth trying to check them out on their last string of dates in the UK with Alice Cooper at the end of the year.
We come then to the final band of the weekend and as we noted, even from early afternoon Kissmania was in full swing. Kiss (11/13) entered the stage to a raucous reception and kicked in to a massive sounding Detroit Rock City. As the set progressed they showed why they’re considered the ultimate showmen in Rock. Each song had its own pyro explosions and more as it became very clear that Kiss had no intention of holding back in any way with their show. The whole set was just thoroughly entertaining, yes it is about 70/30 showpiece to songs but as you look across the crowd from front to back everyone became completely mesmerised for two hours. We had it all, Paul Stanley flying through the crowd and performing on a platform, Gene spitting blood, Thayer joining Gene on a raised platform out in the crowd and more confetti than you thought could even be possible during the rousing set closer Rock And Roll All Nite. Overall then Kiss did exactly what they were booked to do, deliver the ultimate show to close out one of the biggest festivals in the world.
Kiss/Download Festival. Photo Credit: Danny North
Review by Tom Donno with help from Jo Santos