Saturday didn’t start well for me. After getting the bus from Derby, it was time to get the shuttle bus round to the guest and media entrance. Sadly security decided to stop and thoroughly search every vehicle entering the guest car park and that resulted in 2 mile queues causing traffic chaos. Now I’m all in favour of good security, but this was pointless. Once in the car park anyone heading out on foot was searched along with anything they had with them, and then again if they headed into the arena, so the vehicle search would only find stuff that would be left in a car park – hardly enough of a threat risk to justify the traffic chaos that the local council is sure to be unhappy about.
As a result of the chaos caused by the vehicle checks I missed the first two bands completely, but thankfully got there in time for Lawnmower Deth. Amazingly this is their sixth time playing Download, but all their previous appearances have been on the third stage – this was their first time in one of the big stages (second stage to be precise). I knew they’d been excited and nervous wondering if anyone would come to see them this early in the day. Well they were in for a shock – they didn’t get a decent sized crowd, they got one of the biggest crowds of the day on second stage, it was massive. They’re an amazingly fun band normally and we’re clearly determined to go all out to impress Andy Copping (who watched their set from the side of the stage) and the audience. As well as their usual throwing of inflatable balls, using a gunk tank and general silliness, they had Flymo, the band’s founder and former drummer, dress as a grandmother before running around the stage being chased by a giant lawnmower which promptly ate him. A surreal moment but then this is the band that brought Kim Wilde to guest with them last time they played. It’s a fantastic fun performance and they certainly went down a storm with the crowd. I’m sure they’ll be back again, and surely main stage has to be a possibility before long?
Corrosion of conformity had the job of following Lawnmower Deth. Hearing the end of their set and seeing the stage props being taken off probably had Pepper Keenan and co wondering what was going on, but they took to the stage anyway to deliver a great and heavy set.
L7 were next up. The all-female grunge band are responsible for one of the more shocking incidents in uk festival history when in response to fans throwing stuff while the had technical problems, one of the band members removed a tampon from herself and threw it at the crowd, shouting “eat my used tampon, fuckers”. These days L7 look more like a respectable group of mothers letting their hair down on a rare kid free day. Today there’s an unfamiliar face behind the drum kit while L7’s usual drummer is standing with a microphone and an arm in plaster. She had broken her arm a day or two earlier and they’d recruited Adam Ant’s drummer, Jola to help them out. It’s Impressive how fast she learned the set as listening to them you wouldn’t have known there was anything different.
It’s a good set -not their best performance but still an enjoyable one, with “Shitlist” and “Pretend that we’re dead” both making an appearance in the short set..
Asking Alexandria didn’t manage to impress me in the first few songs and their crowd was smaller than I’d expected, so I headed over to see Thunder who were on the main stage doing what they’ve been doing for decades – making the job of entertaining a large festival crowd look, well, easy. They’ve got a strong catalogue of songs and with Danny Bowes on vocals have one of the best frontmen around, he knows just what to do to get the crowd clapping or singing along.
Babymetal came next on stage 2. They’ve always divided opinion with the consensus being that the music was good but the teen Japanese vocals grated with many people, and the outfits the girls wore made many people uncomfortable. This time though, things were very different. Yes they still have teen girls singing, but the vocals seemed far more appealing to a western audience than in the past, and the outfits are changed giving a much better visual image. I really enjoyed their set whereas in previous years I’ve only enjoyed bits of it.
One of the biggest frustrations with a strong festival lineup is when bands in different stages overlap. Sadly I was only able to catch part of the fabulous Black stone cherry set between bands in stage 2, but what I saw convinced me even more than I was already, that this is a band we will see headlining Download in the next few years. They’ve been going from strength to strength and playing to bigger and bigger audiences and unless something goes spectacularly wrong, they should be headlining here soon.
Along with Black Stone Cherry, Parkway drive are another band surely destined to headline the festival in the next few years. Despite their stage 2 set being a ridiculously early one (6pm-7.10pm) so they’d be finished before GnR, they pulled a huge crowd and seemed determined to show they’re ready to headline the main stage. They delivered an extremely impressive performance – they’re not a band I’ve really listened to all that much in the past, but tonight’s set has prompted me to give them more of a listen. They didn’t just deliver musically though – they also gave us a show, bringing enough flames to roast the front few rows of fans, and a revolving drum kit. Ok so Motley Crue did it first, but so what?, it’s something most Parkway Drive fans probably haven’t seen before and it’s a. It of extra entertainment for the fans. Parkway Drive don’t just deliver a great set tonight, they also get the crowd bouncing and having fun, and that’s a great way to close the stage for the day.
Guns’n’Roses took to the stage on time at 7.30pm for an advertised three and a half hour set. Beforehand cynics had suggested they’d be late and wouldn’t play anywhere near as long as that, but on the night, the cynics were proved wrong.
It’s not the full classic lineup but with Slash, Axl and Duff together it’s enough to make most people happy. The question is, have they still got it after all these years – it is after all, 30 years since Appetite for destruction. In my view it was a mixed result – at times it was fantastic, mainly on the old Appetite for destruction material, but at times it felt like all filler, not much killer. If they’d cut it down to a 90 minute set and stuck to the Appetite for destruction album plus a handful of other songs, people would have walked away raving about how good it was, but any set that includes anything from “Chinese democracy” is already scraping the barrel, and when they include a massive 9 cover versions then it just stinks of padding the set out to fill time. It’s a set that had the potential to be brilliant but ended up somewhere between “classic GnR” and the disappointing “Axl and backing band” version of GnR we were stuck with for years.
They certainly did what they were booked for though – bring in a large crowd as there were loads of people there today clearly there for GnR. Overall a good set, but trimming it to 90 minutes would have made it s fantastic set.
Check out the rest of the our photos from Saturday at Download here – https://flic.kr/s/aHskD7V1sC
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