I burn. My arms are a lovely shade of Walkers Ready Salted red. My friend Andy Smith is worse, so before I start, a big thanks to him for driving us there and for a chicken sandwich at the service station on the way home!
So, I'll do this somewhat similar to my Download review, day by day. Of course, I can only comment on what I saw, so if I missed your favourite band...you should have bought tickets yourself you lazy fucker! Before I start though, just a few comments on the festival itself. First of all the camp layout, Download organisers pay attention: the campsite does NOT have to be a million miles away from the arena. Next door is much better. Also, band scheduling, do it like it was done over this weekend: when a band were on the first stage, the second stage was in between bands and vice versa. Leads to less clashes! Brilliant! Anyways, on with the review!
After finding a camping spot way faster than I've ever done before at any festival, kudos to the fantastic campsite layout, I drink beer until the bands start at 5. Delain kicked the weekend off but due to a very tired Andy Smith, our slow motion ramble meant we only caught the end of their set. They sounded alright, kinda HIM by way of Abba. And the frontwoman wore the single greatest corset I've ever seen. Really though, as evidenced by the thongs of people wearing red face paint, the crowd were there for Turisas. They, nor I, were disappointed. Considering the music they play is called battle metal, they are the best band to get everyone in the mood for the weekend ahead. Eschewing usual crowd pleaser Rasputin for some newer material was a somewhat brave move on their part, but it went a long way to show that there is more to them than a cover of an old Russian folk song. As Turisas winded down, I decided I wasn't drunk enough and decided to wander about for a bit to get more beer and checking out the festival shops and as a result, missed Europe. Oh well, it was around 6000 people waiting for them to play the Final Countdown anyways. I did, however, ramble on back in time to catch Gary Numan. And he was fantastic. Of course, he played both Cars and Are Friends Electric?, but looking around I think he surprised a lot of people who assumed that his entire body of work sounded like the two aforementioned classics. Go check him out when he tours with Emilie Autumn this year. One expensive burger later, I was all set for Friday night headliner Alice Cooper, who bought his A game. Playing all the hits and parading around like some kind of demented circus ringleader, he proved why his live show is so legendary. Getting killed on stage around five times is something other acts just don't do! Also, playing a song twice within one set (School's Out being the song in question, both opening and closing the show) is something only he could get away with. When you write songs like that and give a performance like that, you can do whatever the hell you want!
I don't know if any of you have ever played the Tim Schaffer video game Brutal Legend, but in the opening sequence the main character Eddie Riggs is roadie-ing for a seriously godawful band who proclaim themselves 'heavy metal' but sound like the bastard love child of Busted and Ke$ha. I'm almost sure the game developer just recorded some of Saturday's main stage opening band Family Force 5, then decided that was too harsh and so recorded a slightly better approximation for their game. Family Force 5 are seriously THAT bad. Thankfully, they were a slight speed bump in an otherwise awesome day. Surely praising The Powers That Be that whoever followed the awfulness described above would look phenominal by default, Lacuna Coil thankfully don't fall back on this fact and take it easy, delivering a solid set that probably earned them a few new fans. Next up was Soulfly on the second stage, Max Cavalera playing up to his status of modern metal hero by tearing the crowd a new arsehole. A satisfying mix of their own material and Sepultura tunes, they whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Hell, these days Roots Bloody Roots is a guaranteed circle pit if you blast it in your local Tescos, let alone at a festival full of drunk metalheads raring to go. After that, back to the main stage for Anthrax. Coming off the back of the Big Four shows they've been doing at Sonisphere Poland and now complete with their original singer once more, Anthrax couldn't go wrong. Opening with Caught In A Mosh and closing with I Am The Law, this is the Anthrax from the 1980's all over again, renewed. Their next album has the potential to be on par with their 80's material, if this set is anything to go by. At this point, I was out of beer, so we headed back to the tents, returning in time to watch Skunk Anansie thoroughly fucking enjoying themselves. Frontwoman Skin has always been half sexy, half terrfying and today is no different (responding to a sexual request from the crowd by saying "I can't fuck you now, I'm busy at the moment! Maybe later!") A career revival at just the right time for this band, hopefully they can garner the same recognition from today's audiences as they did from audiences in the 90's. On hearing new material and seeing Saturday's performance, methinks yes. Placebo then hit the main stage five minutes later and although it was a solid set, the band seemed in somewhat of a hurry. And no Pure Morning either. Oh well, they played Nancy Boy, which is rare to hear nowadays anyways. After this, I wandered over to the Jagermeister stage, taking the opportunity to check out bands I haven't heard before, and was greeted by Audrey Horne from Norway. Complete with a massive crowd. Intrigued now at this apparently incredibly popular band I'd never heard of, they came out and played some solid fucking metal, think a cross between Turbonegro and Led Zepplin. I shall be purchasing some of their output very soon.
Yes, a new paragraph. Because this next set deserves one all by itself. When it came to picking a band to play at the same time as Motley Crue, the festival organisers thought long and hard, I'm sure. Then they made the best decision possble and chose Gallows. If there is one thing that motivates Frank Carter and co. more than anything, it's adversity, and holy shit, they rose to the occasion. Playing the third stage tent, many watching Crue missed out on the single greatest live performance I have ever seen. "Thank fuck we're not Motley Crue!" Carter proclaims before opening with The Riverbank. The rest of the set was thrashed out like constant hooks to the face: London Is The Reason, Leeches, Abandon Ship (dedicated to the fans with them from the beginning,) In The Belly Of A Shark, just inciting the crowd to energy levels approaching that of a riot. There was a reason both Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte had told their crowds earlier to go see Gallows, both men themselves present for the set. Minute long punk anthem Gold Dust incited a circle pit that actually went OUTSIDE the tent through one door and back in through the other. When a man in a wheelchair was crowd surfered over the front row, I actually heard one of the stage attendants say "Have you ever seen anything like that?" to another, to which the reply was "Fuck no." Finishing with a mighty Orchestra Of Wolves (complete with a mighty wolf howl from the crowd and the aforementioned famous people plus Lee Spielman from Trash Talk and Eva Spence from Rolo Tomassi doing backing vocals and the band's guitar tech grabbing an axe and shredding his fingers off) Gallows topped off what will go down in history as one of the most amazing festival performances ever. My phone may have been pickpocketed during the set (I caught the bastard going for my wallet, thank god!) but I honestly didn't care. This performance would be one I'd remember for the rest of my life.
Completely fucking knackered and sweating profusely, the race is on to catch Rammstein. Being all German and very efficient, they started bang on time, thankfully I was there in time to catch Feuer Frei and from then on they proved to be bloody amazing. The pyro, as always, was spectacular and when keyboard player Flake went for a row in a dingy over the crowd, one of the crowd members decided to join him! Only thing against them was due to their extreme efficient German-ness, they ended an hour early! I guess now you can see how much random banter and dicking around on stage can pad a set out. Still, props to Rammstein for being thoroughly fucking entertaining, considering the horrible events that led to the deaths of over 20 people at a free gig they were playing the week before was probably playing on their minds a little, they performed well, worthy of the headlining slot.
With most festival goer feeling consderably fucking battered at this point, getting a Sunday slot is always a tricky thing, you have to be on your game otherwise you WILL be bottled. Metalheads deprived of sleep don't take any shit. Thankfully, CKY opened the second stage Sunday and showed everyone exactly how to play to a festival crowd in that state. Equal parts kick ass and funny, they played all the hits (Escape From Hellview, 96 Quite Bitter Being, e.t.c.) as well as newer material from latest album Carver City and were thoroughly fucking awesome. Following a wander and a munch break (during which we sat on a hill and watched The Fab Beatles, a Beatles tribute band who bemusingly finished their set with a cover of Maiden's Run To The Hills) the next band up with the mighty Skindred, who bounded onto the main stage in shiny silver suits and exploded. Frontman Benji Webbe being equal parts Ozzy Osbourne and Bob Marley throughout, it was easy to see why Skindred have such a massive appeal. You need to see this band live, as soon as possible. Next, we bandied on back to the second stage to watch the spectacularly biazarre Dir En Grey. Being the only other foreign launguage band on the bill aside from Rammstein, Dir En Grey were an incredibly strange prospect for the day and they met my expectations of Japanese weirdness. Around halfway, frontman Kyo climbed up on to his vanity platform and began to howl, a friend of mine proclaiming him to be excorcising a demon live on stage. However freaky this was, I saw more than one head nodding along, so they've definitely won some new fans. One more lunch break later (hey, I was hungry alright!) and the next band on the agenda were Alice In Chains. Yes, I missed both Slayer (I did not have the energy left to handle a Slayer pit to be honest!) and Bring Me The Horizon (because they're shit.) Again, if you want to cry about it, you should have bought a ticket! Anyways, AIC were on top form, inspiring mass singalongs to tunes like Man In The Box and Rooster. Nostalga moment of the weekend methinks, and they certainly landed on their feet with new singer William Duvall, who came across as an amazing singer and a true musician. Much kudos to him. Next up, we dashed over to the second stage to see legendary 80's rock band The Cult. With Billy Duffy being one of the reason I picked up a guitar myself in the first place, to say I was excited is an understatement, but the band fucking killed it. With songs like Love Removal Machine, Rain and of course, She Sells Sanctuary, they were tailor made for a Sunday afternoon at a festival. Go dig up their back catalogue now and while you're at it, grab their new album coming out in a month or so, I'm predicting a big resurgence from this band very soon. And now, we rush BACK to the main stage to catch Pendulum playing what is possibly the most daunting set of the weekend: the slot on the main stage before Iron Maiden. Not easy. Rising to a challenge though, the band performed admirably, with the rave kids out in full force encouraging smatterings of dancing throughout the crowd (including myself) Rob Swire and his crew successfully managed to get even hardcore Maiden fans bobbing their heads along at the very least. A good job. As they wrapped up their set, we head back over to the second stage to watch the legendary Iggy & The Stooges. Playing the classics (Raw Power, Search and Destroy, I Got A Right, e.t.c.) Iggy showed why he makes even the frontmen of today look like fucking slouches. Corey Taylor had apprently proclaimed him to have 'more energy than all of (the crowd) combined' and if this set was anything to go by, he was right. Inviting a bunch of the crowd to come dance on stage for a song (including the single hottest goth girl I've ever seen in my life) was a smooth move too. Long live Iggy Pop. With Iggy finished, there was only one band left. The band the majority of the festival goers were here for, myself included. Iron. Fucking. Maiden. Having toured their 80's material in support of their 80's years album last year, I was not surprised at the night's set, comprised mostly of songs from Dance Of Death, A Matter of Life and Death and A Brave New World. And despite not playing either Run To The Hills or The Trooper, Maiden proved why they are still so relevant. The daunting message within new single El Dorado a scathing attack on the banks that have us stuck in this economic mess, Dickinson's lyrics are still equal part as poignient and as fantastical as they were 30 years ago. Closing with the until now rarely played Running Free, Maiden sent myself and a hell of a lot of festival goers, Maiden fans or not, home with massive grins on their faces. Up the Irons indeed.