Download 2012’s horrendous weather had led to the year being described as ‘Drownload’, and as Saturday morning breaks it seems likely that this would head the same way; the rain isn’t as heavy but it’s no less relentless. That being said, the arena is open with time to spare before the bands, so there’s no fear of any cancellations, and for everyone who turned up early to the Zippo Encore Stage, they even got a glimpse of Pub Landlord Al Murray preparing for his set with Geyser later in the morning.
First though, the stylish glamour girls in The Lounge Kittens (8), whose incredibly clever covers of Marilyn Manson, Metallica and more go a great distance to make people forget the shoddy conditions and they easily provide the most bizarre audience participation of the weekend with their ‘T-rexican wave’ (it’s a Mexican wave with t-rex arms and dinosaur noises, go figure). All in all, a great way to kick off everyone’s Saturday and they draw a very sizeable crowd. Funeral for a Friend (6) are as solid as ever but do sound a little tired. That said, you really cannot mess about with songs like Juneau and Streetcar which got so many people through their teenage years. Surprise of the day comes from Hollywood Undead (8), who for all of their critics and cynics benefit from great sound and a very responsive crowd; playing most of the set without their customary hockey masks, they look to be maturing into a very strong outfit, and Everywhere I Go is one of the sing-a-longs of the weekend. Parkway Drive (8) can literally do no wrong at the moment, starting the biggest circle pits of the festival and even dropping a punishing cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade towards the end of another brutal set.
Over at Jake’s Stage, the smaller tent formerly sponsored by Red Bull, the unmistakable figure of Benji Webbe is once again back up on stage. But this is no Skindred secret set – this is the triumphant reuturn of Dub War (9), a band many thought would not come back for love nor money. This is a very different Benji to the charismatic Welsh rasta we’re used to seeing with his other outfit – there’s little banter and audience participation, just a focused singer with a desire to remind everyone why Dub War were so beloved back in the day. And remind us they do. Black Star Riders (7) are now breaking away from the shadow of Thin Lizzy and coming into their own – the new material may not be as memorable as Jailbreak or The Boys are Back in Town just yet, but they’re heading that way. Back on the Main Stage, dressed in white and standing amongst a rather splendid flower display, Mike Patton is addressing the crowd. ‘Download, hello, we’re Faith No More (9), your yoga instructors for the day.’ It’s a far from calming performance though – six songs from new album Sol Invictus including a stunning opener in Motherfucker show that the alt-rockers are not about to rest on their laurels and just play the hits But in between we still get the majesty of Be Aggressive, the panache of Epic, the power of Ashes to Ashes and a moment of pure impishness from Patton when he removes a headset from a stage security member and warns of a terrorist threat and for the festival to evacuate. Welcome back, boys.
Ace Frehley (6) knew what the fans wanted to hear – and it wasnt his solo material so todays set was packed with KISS classics. He’s good but when you know KISS are going to do a far better job later in the weekend it’s hard to get too excited. Crobot (9) on the other hand were playing a blinding set over on Jakes stage with the crowd surrounding the tent as they couldnt all get inside. I just caught the last couple of songs and damn they sounded good.
And so, to Saturday night’s headliners. They were branded as too mainstream, not heavy enough, not right in the slightest to top the bill and join the likes of Iron Maiden and Metallica in having headlined at such a hallowed place. Bollocks. Because over the next two hours, Muse (10) blow everyone else out of the water and into next week. From the moment they walk on and Matt Bellamy cracks out the opening riff to Psycho, all doubt that a band who have headlined pretty much every other major festival in the UK could do the same here was snuffed out in an instant. Even Bellamy falling over at the beginning can’t dampen what was not just a flawless performance, but near enough a religious experience for everyone who bore witness to it. From the bedlam of Hysteria to the likes of Micro Cuts and Citizen Erased, it’s breathtaking and a huge middle finger to everyone who ever criticised them. Best of all is Time is Running Out, which sees a huge clock count down on the multimedia screens and hit zero the minute the song finishes. By this point, we’re into the bigger numbers and, just as with Psycho, the opening to Stockholm Syndrome is a further reminder that all notion of the band not being heavy was ludicrous in every single way. By the time they get to the encore of Uprising, Plug In Baby and Knights of Cydonia – the latter complete with the beautiful ‘Man with a Harmonica’ intro by bassist Chris Wolstenholme – everyone in attendance is a complete convert. Come back again soon, please lads? We’ll welcome you back with open arms.
New Born (Ashamed+Microphone Fiend riff outro)
Hysteria (Back in Black riff outro)
Supermassive Black Hole
Time is Running Out (Heartbreaker riff outro)
Stockholm Syndrome (Township Rebellion riff outro)
[JFK] Uprising (Extended outro)
Plug In Baby
Knights of Cydonia (Man with a Harmonica intro)