After some overnight rain, the forecast for the day (and indeed the entire weekend) was for dry weather. Knowing I’d be at Download festival though I had my waterproofs with me – after all, a dry Download seems too good to hope for, but that’s exactly what we got – dry and at times hot and sunny weather. That always helps with the atmosphere.
While Download is almost all about the music there are other things happening there, and I skipped a band I love (Cellar Darling) to catch one of them – the arrival of the Heavy metal truants. If you’ve not heard of them, they can be described as lunatics who rather than drive or take a bus or train to Download, cycle there from London, a distance of 180 miles. Why would anyone be crazy enough to do that? Well they do it to raise money for good causes and since 2013 that raised over £469,000 for childrens charities – Childline, Teenage cance trust, and Nordoff Robbins. The people taking part include band members, journalists, record label staff and more.
The riders had completed 86 miles the day before, and 70 the previous day, they had just 24 miles to cycle this morning before arriving at Download around 1pm where they crossed the line and were immediately handed well-deserved beers. I look forward to hearing how much this year’s ride raised for the worthy charities.
You can find out more here – http://heavymetaltruants.com/
After watching the Heavy metal truants arrival it was time to get down to watching and photographing bands. Download always has a mix of bands, with some I want to see, some I don’t and lot’s I haven’t listened to before. A lot of the fun of the festival is finding bands that you haven’t heard before and being impressed by them. This year I was due to cover the Zippo encore stage (aka second stage) which definitely had a mix of bands. Today’s bands for me started with metalcore outfit Miss may I. Metalcore is a genre that I find very hit and miss – most bands in the genre just don’t do anything for me at all, but amongst them are some great bands. Miss May I certainly put in a very good performance and are very obviously an impressive live band.
American rockers Nothing more took to the stage and immediately made an impression. As well as the standard drim kit there was a second one with a frame made from what looks like scrap metal and singer Jonny Hawkins immediately jumped on top of the drums and with his bare feet and chest gave a wild impression. He then jumped down and played the drums for a few seconds before coming forward to start singing. It’s an explosive start to a very energetic performance that really impressed me – a band I’ll have to listen to properly after the festival.
Andrew Wk was next up. It’s hard to believe but it’s around 16 years since his hit’s “Party hard” and “We want fun”, but despite that and the fact his later work has never come close to the levels of success of those songs, he’s still a very popular addition to the lineup as evidenced by the large crowd here to see him. He’s a great performer and really knows how to work a crowd. Musically it’s fairly straightforward hard rock but it’s the energy that he and his band put into it that lifts it up a notch and it’s just what you need at a festival like this – a great set that has thousands of fans having a great time.
Jonathan Davis came next and unsurprisingly as he’s the singer with Korn, he drew a large crowd. He released his first solo album just a few weeks ago, and today’s set is made up completely of songs from that album (Black labyrinth). The lack of Korn song’s may have been a slight disappointment to some, but judging by how well his set went down I think it’s safe to say that most people there enjoyed his solo material. It’s not often you’ll see a cello played at Download but Jonathan Davis has someone playing one and it does work well even if it’s a little low in the mix.
Hell is for heroes came next. A British band that formed around the start of the Millenium before splitting in 2008 and then reforming a few years ago, this is another band that are giving it everything they have to impress – there’s something special about Download festival that makes bands want to go all out, and it’s not just the number of people, I think it’s the history of the place too. While the rest of the band wear jeans and tshirts, lead singer Justin Schlosberg is in a suit but that doesnt mean he’s going to take it easy and it’s not long before a quick step onto the drum riser then the drums leads to a huge flying leap across the stage. Musically they aren’t my taste but the fans love them and their high energy set really goes down well and leaves the fans ready for tonight’s second stage headliners – You me at six.
You me at six were next and were one of the few bands today that really didn’t appeal to me with their set. Granted I’m hardly their typical audience – I’m way too old and don’t read Kerrang, but they’re clearly a popluar choice for Download judging by the crowd. Instead I headed off for some food before watchign Avenged Sevenfold.
Last time they headlined (in 2014), they didn’t really impress me, but this time Avenged sevenfold really stepped up their game and put in a performance that justified their headline slot. Andy Copping gets a lot of stick from fans over his booking choices but more often than not he’s proved right, and it’s good to see bands like Avenged Sevenfold proving they’re good enough and big enough to headline Download – with many of the old guard retiring or being well past their best, new headliners are certainly needed, and tonight Avenged Sevenfold proved they can do it.
Check out the rest of our Friday photos here – https://www.flickr.com/photos/-planetmosh/albums/72157697482502084