Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Download Festival Review part 2: This time I actually review things

Since my last post was a long winded intro, this week I'm just gonna jump straight in and review every memorable (for better or worse) live set I saw at Download Festival.

Day 1:


After starting the day with setting up my campsite and checking out some random side stage acts, I decided to indulge in some nu-metal nostalgia and watch the UK based reggae infused nu-metal act Skindred tear it up on the main stage. I knew two songs going in and wasn't expecting much. I figured once they played "Nobody" I could join in my first pitting experience of the festival. After all the chorus of the song is "Nobody gets out of this pit alive", so I figured it'd be a good time. However to my pleasant surprise Skindred killed it, start to finish, and everything in between. They displayed some of the best crowd interaction you could imagine and became the first band of the festival to use the size of the main stage crowd to its full advantage. They had the entire crowd on their feet, taking off their shirts, chanting, dancing, singing along, jumping, you name it. Skindred were conducting a several thousand person crowd with ease. 

Quick Review: Skindred were the best surprise of Download festival, easily in the top 5 bands of the weekend 


Crowd in front of me

Crowd behind me

The Amity Affliction

After a few more beers and random bands, I was off to the Pepsi Max tent. In reality I was just waiting for letlive to take the stage, but I was more than willing to check out Australian metalcore act The Amity Affliction. While TAA aren't exactly my cup of tea, they put on a great show and seemed genuinely overwhelmed with happiness from the size of the crowd (with about 3x the crowd of any band previous on the Pepsi Max stage). It's always fun to watch a band who's enjoying the experience as much as any fan.

Quick Review: Solid performance and the crowd was loud enough that the clean vocals didn't bother me as much as they do on record



letlive. made their triumphant return to Download after 3 years ago their vocalist was almost not allowed on stage and had to literally fight event security to make it to the stage (Footage). This California hardcore band has a live performance that truly has to be seen to be believed. I had seen them live 3 times prior to Download, and consider them to be among the best live performers on the planet. The crowd had grown even larger since The Amity Affliction and there was electricity in the air as an overfilled Pepsi Max tent awaited what many knew was inevitably going to be one of the best performances of the weekend. There was a brief moment of disappointment when vocalist Jason Butler hobbled onto the stage on crutches, but with the first notes of The 27 Club the crutches flew through the air into the crowd and Jason powered through the performance as crazy as ever. Letlive claimed that Download was the best crowd of their career and I genuinely believe it. Any time I looked around I saw a sea of people who all knew every word to every song as well as I did. One of the most beautiful moments of the performance came when the band started into Pheremone Cvlt, and the crowd all rose their voices so loud that Jason dropped the mic, covered his mouth with both hands and was frozen in a state of complete disbelief. The crowd was louder than anything coming through the loudspeaker and the band let the crowd take the vocal lead for the majority of the song. While I'm already a huge fan and it didn't take much to sell me on letlive, seeing them get such a monstrous crowd reaction was something truly special and something I will never forget.

Quick Review: letlive is one of the best live bands on the planet and Download was probably the best crowd of their career


Black Label Society

Beards! Metal! Guitar Solos! Denim patched jackets! 
This was my first time seeing BLS live and I was initially very excited (likely due to heavy intoxication by this point in the day). I crammed through the Main Stage crowd to get as close to the front as I could and prepared to have my face shredded. BLS took the stage with a wall of amps, skull shaped microphones and a handful of other cliches which seemingly beckoned an epic metal performance. As far as the live sound goes, they sounded great! However they were really quite boring to watch. There didn't seem to be any energy put into the live performance and there was near no interaction with the crowd. This lead to a stand-still crowd and me regretting my decision to go right up front. They still played great and shredded face with their solos, but it was a performance better spent looking for food rather than actually looking at the band.

Quick Review: Sounded great, but didn't move an inch


Rob Zombie

The first day of Download featured the king of goth rock as a secondary headliner. Rob Zombie is known for great theatrics, makeup and horror infused stage props, so I was eager to see what the most theatrical band of the day had in store. Mr. Zombie and his crew of oddly dressed backing musicians took the stage to a ferocious roar from the crowd. While Rob Zombie's live show did deliver everything that you would expect, with classic songs every knows, gross out theatrics and a pretty impressive stage show, nothing could quite make up Mr. Zombie's vocals. He has a unique vocal style that works brilliantly on record, but live it simply came across as "I'm watching someone who can't sing, at all". He seemed to struggle through every line and usually resorted to simply speaking the lyrics. All and all it wasn't a bad performance, but the crowd was evidently not super impressed and displayed a small fraction of the enthused for the supporting headliner as they showed for Skindred. 

Quick Review: Entertaining performance with the only weak element being Mr. Zombie himself (unfortunately that's a pretty key piece of the band)



Swedish progressive metal gods headlined the Pepsi Max stage and were an amazing end to the first day. They mostly stuck to newer material, so the performance was more of an atmospheric chill end to the day, rather than complete an utter exhaustion that would end days 2 and 3. The band played an absolutely stellar performance and made a large side stage crowd feel like a small intimate performance with some nice improvised banter between songs. Opeth ended the set with two old songs and made all the old school fans happy. As much as I still dream of being able to see more than 1 song of Blackwater Park live, they performed The Funeral Portrait with such perfection that I was completely satisfied. 

Quick Review: Epic and atmospheric, a beautiful way to end off the day


Note: I also saw half of Avenged Sevenfold's set after Opeth, but I caught the entire set at Graspop Metal Meeting and nothing changed in the set (including scripted banter between songs), so I'll talk about it when I review Graspop bands.

I'm feeling like this post is already long enough to test a readers patience, so rather than hammering through all 3 days in one go as I originally planned, I will post Day 2 tomorrow, and Day 3 on Thursday. 

David already broke the rules of this Tuesday and Friday arrangement, so I'm breaking them even harder.

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what giant flying object stopped Twisted Sister mid-song.

Thanks for reading,

David, I will see you on Friday,
Actually I'll see myself tomorrow,
This is your punishment for breaking the rules,
You now have to put up with three of my posts in one week,


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