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Download Festival 2013 - Donington Park, Derbyshire (UK) - 14th, 15th & 16th June 2013


15 June


Oh hell. I blinked and another year had gone. Seriously, it didn't seem more than a couple of weeks since we were at the last Download festival, and the fact that people, who I supposedly hadn't seen for a whole year greeted me and remembered my name, seriously made me wonder...

There had been rain earlier in the week, but unlike last time it was nowhere near as bad, and I was able to walk without any stability aids, or boots. Well, initially. Now it's probably just me, but the number of bands I was particularly interested in this time seemed to have dropped somewhat, so I decided to go with plan B: see the bands I had noted down, then do the circuit (see what I did there, circuit - Donington? Oh, please yourself), and just see if anything caught my ear.

First band on the list was classic Brit rockers Uriah Heep, who were on the second stage. It would be the first time I had seen the band without bassist Trevor Bolder, who sadly passed away a few weeks previously. There was a very healthy sized crowd in attendance despite it being mid-afternoon on a rainy Friday, and kicking off with 'Against The Odds,' they did seven songs in their allotted time, also including some real classics such as 'Sunrise', 'Stealin'', 'Gypsy', 'Look At Yourself' and 'Easy Livin'' – a healthy mix of really old and more recent. At the start of the 2nd or 3rd song, Bernie Shaw asked "Are we playing so loud that we blew the clouds away?" and it would appear that they were. 'Twas an excellent set and really good to see them again.

I then made the mistake of walking back to the press area via the main arena, walking to the top of the hill, and encountering the mud, which I foolishly thought wouldn't be there. Nice, shiny trainers no more. So, after a short break, it was back to the second stage, and Dragonforce: a band I am always in two minds about, due to the guitar styles of Herman Li and Sam Totman. I have a rule: if the notes coming out of the instrument are too fast and too many for my brain to process then the process stops and my ears shut off. Therein lies my problem... Still, many people do not agree and they drew a substantial crowd and I have to admit that their five song set ('Fury Of The Storm', 'Cry Thunder', 'Operation Ground And Pound', 'Seasons' and 'Through The Fire And Flames') seemed OK.

Then, a bit of a quandary...who to see next, as Europe, and In This Moment clashed. I had seen In This Moment when they played Download in 2007, and thought they had a lot of potential if only the vocalist 'Maria Brink' sang more rather than screaming. I had been talking with guitarist Chris Howorth earlier who mentioned they had a new stage show and would be trying it out for the first time today. Decision made. And before they arrived, with the stage set out as it was, I got the feeling that this was going to be interesting. And it was. The band entered the stage, closely followed by Maria Brink dressed in white costume, stockings and suspenders, and wearing a white mask. Climbing onto the podium, surrounded by skulls, she tore into 'Rise With Me' and 'Adrenalize'. Going off stage again, she reappeared wearing a short tartan miniskirt, a dunce's cap with 'Whore' in large red letters, and minus the mask to sing 'Whore'. Off stage again, to return with a pair of large white wings (on sticks!!) which she waved around to great effect during 'Burn'. The rest of the set included 'Beast Within' and 'Blood', and I have to say that this band has progressed markedly over the last few years, and the theatrical nature of the performance definitely adds to their appeal. Catch them when you can.

Korn I was familiar with, and I had seen before, and being third on the bill on the main stage gave them an hour to demonstrate what they could do. Their music has always intrigued and challenged me, and their sound is quite distinctive. 'Blind', 'Falling Away From Me', 'Coming Undone', 'Here To Stay' and 'Freak On A Leash' were all included tonight, and I enjoyed their set better than last time when they were on the second stage. Jonathan Davis did not wear his kilt today, and he led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to drummer Ray Luzier, on his 43rd birthday. Slipknot I watched from the comfort of the media tent, as it was now raining quite heavily, and I can only say, 'It may be music Jim but not as we know it'. To me, it was just noise, made by guys in costumes. A young lady with her dad asked him "Why do they dress like that?" to which he replied, "Because they can". Well yes, but my feeling was that, if they didn't, they wouldn't be playing where they are now. 'Duality' was the only song that made any sense to me, and it occurred to me, as I watched Joey Jordison rise and angle forward on his drum kit, that I saw exactly the same thing the last time they headlined here; that, the clown hitting his oil drum with his baseball bat, bignose doing much the same thing. Nothing much has changed.

I have to say that plan B didn't work too well today either as, while walking around, the screamers and grunters seemed to attack from all sides.

16 June


The forecast for today was more rain than yesterday, which was a really cheering thought and you have to take your hat off to the rock fans who are quite prepared to sit through a deluge to listen to the music they like. Hard as nails...or just mad. As it turned out, it wasn't as bad as predicted, and it was fine for the first band of the day on stage one, UFO. I have always liked their music, even after Michael Schenker's departure, but they started with a Schenker era classic in 'Lights Out'. The only problem I had was that the wind kept carrying the sound away so it became quite patchy in places, but you can't keep a good song down and it was good to hear this again. Two brand new songs, 'Wonderland', and 'Burn Your House Down' followed and it was to be expected that the reception from the crowd was somewhat muted compared to the previous song and the three that followed, namely 'Love To Love', 'Rock Bottom' and 'Doctor Doctor.' The band seemed pleased with the response and at the end Phil Mogg bade farewell saying he would see them again in the racing season, which no one really understood...

Let's be honest, Black Star Riders are Thin Lizzy with a new name and Phil has been gone a long time now, but their music lives on. I didn't get chance to watch all of their set, but what I did see told me quite a lot. That is, they will always be Thin Lizzy while they play the Thin Lizzy songs. And that is a dilemma for them, because they cannot really go out and ignore all that stuff. 'Jailbreak' was their second song, and we had 'Rosalie' as the fifth song. Two out of five already. And their new stuff, particularly songs like 'Hey Judas' and 'Bound For Glory' with the harmony guitars, and 'Kingdom Of The Lost' with its strong Irish sound are instantly recognisable as...Thin Lizzy. I stayed for 'Whiskey In The Jar' and heard 'Boys Are Back In Town' as I got to the back of the arena. That was more than a third of their set of Lizzy songs if you include 'Rosalie'. So the question is, why did they change their name?

Karnivool is a band that I had never seen, or heard before, but I had heard somewhere that they were a bit on the progressive side, so I thought I would check them out. 30 minutes gave them time to do 'Simple Boy', 'Goliath', 'We Are', 'The Refusal' and 'Themata'. As I said, totally unfamiliar with the material and I came away thinking that it was OK and I would probably have appreciated it more if I had known any of it. I wouldn't call it progressive though...Another new band to me was LIT on the second stage. And the main reason I stayed to listen was that they appeared to be drawing a large crowd. I found out that they actually had a number one hit in 1999, which may be a good thing, or not. They played four songs in their 30 minute set, 'Four', 'Lipstick And Bruises', 'Miserable' and 'My Own Worst Enemy' (the number one hit), and they reminded me a little of Bowling For Soup. The music had a lot of energy, as did the band itself. They're probably not as strong as BFS as there is little crowd interaction and humour, but they are worth checking out if you like that style of music.

The mystery of Thunder (are they still going or have they packed up?), would seem to have been answered as here they were in front of me playing all those old favourites such as 'Dirty Love', 'Back Street Symphony' and 'Love Walked In'.. And the reaction they got for the performance they put on would, if it were me, make me think it would be a mistake not to carry on. Dan Bowes still has the voice to compete with anyone on the circuit, and Luke Morley and Ben Matthews still sound as tight as a ducks proverbial. Luke Morley also seems to have developed a new lease of life, being very animated and even leaping into the air (and landing without breaking his knees). They drew a large crowd, which was no surprise to me whatsoever.

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The fact that Devin Townsend was playing the Jagermeister (the smallest) stage after headlining stage 3 on Friday last year, was a bit of a surprise to me, despite the reasons he gave earlier. Devin's profile is growing all the time and he could easily have drawn a crowd on a larger stage, but he was more than happy to be doing a 30 minute acoustic set here. This turned out to be quite funny as right from the start, he commented that he was competing with Lemmy on the main stage, and he encouraged the crowd to join in the battle. Playing 'Ih-Ah!', 'Juular' and 'Deadhead' with a heavily processed acoustic guitar, he stated that he realised that he was screaming to compete with Motorhead, and decided that he wasn't going to do that anymore and he was going to go subtle. There was then some noise from the close-by Red Bull stage at which point Devin exclaimed, "Oh fuck, are they starting up now?" Continuing he played 'Hyperdrive', 'Solar Winds', 'Storm' and 'Bad Devil' (as an audience request). He also announced that this was his farewell gig for a while as he was stopping, "Before you guys get pissed off with me!", I couldn't really see that happening as, no matter what he does, he's always entertaining.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was just before Iron Maiden came on stage as Bruce Dickinson, a pilot himself, had organised for a Hawker Hurricane to have a few zips around the arena with a couple of passes over the stage. Quite an intro. Oh yes, and it continued to rain. Now, I have never been a big fan of what was called NWOBHM. I have to agree though that the kings of the crop of that 'club' have to be Iron Maiden. Their stage shows are usually epic, they have a mascot, and for a band I have never followed, I find I know a lot of their material when they play it. And it is always interesting to see what they have done with the stage set-up every time they tour. I was told the show was based around 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son', and Eddie walked on to play the guitar and popped up a couple of times at the back, once with a sword in hand, and the second time looking like a snowman. (This could be very wrong as we were towards the back when this happened). The intro to 'The Prisoner' was footage from the series from the 60's with Patrick McGoohan, and Bruce went into really dodgy hair mode for 'Seventh Son...' All the big numbers were played tonight including 'Can I Play With Madness', 'The Number Of The Beast', 'Run To The Hills' and 'Fear Of The Dark'. The main problem though was the same as at the beginning of activities, the wind carrying the sound away so that the set became very patchy. You just can't beat the British weather can you, and I have to admit to leaving just before the end, due to the fact that it was cold, damp, windy and the place was packed and I didn't want to be stuck in the car park for hours.

17 June


Well, today was looking quite good weather wise, and we started the day with some nice bright sunshine. But would it last? The forecast was quite good, but I took all the wet gear because I've been here before.

I wandered into Stage 3 quite early on, and witnessed Huntress doing their stuff. The music probably wasn't the most captivating I have ever heard, but vocalist Jill Janus, (no relation to Samantha), certainly demands your attention, not least for her choice of stage clothing, which is very...interesting. On the whole she has a strong voice, but she does shriek a lot and it tended to burst my eardrums. And the music isn't too bad when they stop the million drum beats a second stuff. The tent wasn't full to capacity, but they had a decent crowd in there that seemed to appreciate them and, although it's never enough to describe someone in words, the title of their third song may give you a clue to what they are all about. 'I Want To Fuck You To Death' is actually a single featuring Lemmy from Motorhead. It's was a nice offer I suppose, but I'm afraid I didn't have the time and had to decline. Lemmy didn't appear to share the stage for this.

For the past two years I have been encouraging people to go and see Ghost at Download. Playing stage 3 the previous two years, I was intrigued to know how they would fare on the bigger second stage. The first thing I saw was that the word was obviously getting out as there was a sizable crowd gathered to see them play songs from their new album, 'Infestissumam' and their debut opus 'Eponymus', and from their first song 'Infestissumam' they were in charge of the situation. Papa Emeritus II looked like he had new robes, and his face appeared a little fresher, and 40 minutes gave them the chance to do four tracks from each album including 'Con Clavi Con Dio', 'Stand By Him', 'Ritual' and 'Monstrance Clock', at the end of which they just quietly walked off without any fanfare. I really like them, but I think at this stage of their development they should add a little more theatrics or stage craft, just something a little extra.

Ask any rock fan who Australia's most famous band is, and the majority will say AC/DC. Airbourne have always struck me as the poor man's AC/DC. They sound very similar but do things on a smaller scale. Typical 70's rock at the end of the day, which is great if you like that stuff, and I do. They had 40 minutes on stage two, giving them time for six songs including 'Ready To Rock', 'Raise The Flag', 'Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast' and 'Runnin' Wild'. And anybody who knows about them knows that front man Joel O'Keeffe is a bit of a nutter who likes to risk life and limb by climbing up the lighting rig with his guitar across his back, and today the Download people certainly knew about him as they had covered the scaffolding with black plastic, preventing him from doing this. How strange. All it takes is a couple of bin bags to quell youthful recklessness...

Another band that I knew very little about and who I have never seen before, until a fellow journo of mine suggested I checked them out, was Limp Bizkit, if only to see what gear the guitarist came out in, and he wasn't wrong. He was wearing a mask of LED's and I thought he was wearing a very tight black top, but I soon realised he wasn't and had in fact painted his top half black. I have heard of Fred Durst and Wes Borland and there are a few similarities to Korn with their music, but a lot more rap, which isn't really my thing. I was surprised however, as their set wore on, that I recognised some of the stuff they were doing, the reason being that they did a number of covers; The Who's 'My Generation' and 'Behind Blue Eyes', RATM's 'Killing In The Name', and George Michael's 'Faith', which is something I never expected to hear at Download. A bit of a puzzler to me, but I'm always happy to hear songs like 'My Generation' and 'Behind Blue Eyes', no matter in what style they are presented, and they whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and Borland was interesting to watch.

I can't understand a word of what they are singing about, which may be a good thing. I would hate to think I was sat listening to a song about sex, drugs, rock and roll and setting someone on fire, only to learn the language and discover they were on about painting the shed or cleaning the toilet with a brush. The difference between Rammstein and Slipknot is marked, as Rammstein bring new ideas to the stage, or if not new, certainly more dramatic, and with a sense of humour, which was demonstrated in vocalist Till Lindemann arriving on stage in a pink fluffy jacket, and his treatment of keyboardist Flake, such as when the keys man played an irritating little sequence on his synth and Till Lindemann went over and floored him, then later tried to roast him in a huge pot. As I said, their stage show is always impressive, and I liked the idea of Lindemann firing rockets out of a hand held launcher, which sent more rockets flying over the heads of the crowd from the sound desk and back again. What I also find quite fascinating is the fact that they sing everything in German, and everyone sings along with them. Maybe they are doing more for this country's language program than the education system is. It was a fitting end to the weekend as, quite honestly, the other two headliners couldn't match them for spectacle.

So that was Download for another year (or couple of weeks at least). It started out a bit wanting, but picked up speed as it went on. The weather always helps, and fortunately it improved daily. It must be difficult coming to a decision about who to put on here every year, and the risk of repeating yourself must be quite high. Rammstein was the Download virgin this weekend, and it reminded me of Sonisphere 2010, which had them and Iron Maiden as headliners. So the choice is limited, but I think it would be cool to see Rush, Van Halen and...?

Bloody 'ell, it's harder than I thought!

Andy B


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