Download Festival 2016 – Friday 10th June

Royal Republic (7) are the perfect Lemmy stage opening band for the weekend – fun, energetic and with a Volbeat-esque vibe to boot, they’re able to get things going in the best way possible. Finishing song Full Steam Space Machine is a particular highlight and the band look certain to have gained more followers for their UK tour in the autumn.

Being the first band on stage in the arena for the weekend might be intimidating but Milton Keynes band Raveneye (7) didn’t show any sign of nerves as they kicked off proceedings on the second stage.  They drew a good crowd considering the early slot, and the fact there were bands starting at the same time on 2 other stages, and put in a good performance.

On the second stage, Graveyard (8) were putting in a great set of hard rock with a splash of blues thrown in.  They’re one of those bands that you can always rely on to give a good performance and I’ve never been disappointed when seeing them play live.  

As lions (8) brought the first member of the Dickinson family to the stage – singer Austin Dickinson is the son of Bruce Dickinson, so with Bruce’s other son Griffin playing Saturday with his band SHVPES, this year’s Download festival is a bit of a family affair.  The last time I heard Austin sing was with his previous band, Rise to remain.  When Rise to remain split, Austin along with guitarists Conor O’Keefe and Will Homer formed As Lions.  Today at Download it’s clear why they’ve been attracting plenty of fans – these guys are good.  Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for their whole set but what I saw was great.

Whilst having a wander around the festival site my ears pricked up as I heard the unmistakable vocals of Delain singer Charlotte Wessels echoing across from the Firestone truck.  As it was unannounced we unfortunately only caught the last half of the set; however it was an absolute highlight!  We were treated to an incredible acoustic version of ‘We Are The Others’ with the gathering crowd singing along in one of the rare moments of sunshine.  A fantastic performance and a great way to kick start our Download weekend.

Alien Ant Farm (6) garner cheers and momentum for Movies and the inevitable closer of Smooth Criminal but elsewhere receive little more than lukewarm applause. How they’re able to take a position on the Main Stage off the back of an album fifteen years old is anyone’s guess. It’s at this point the heavens open in the most devastating fashion, and sales of ponchos go through the roof. It also delays Babymetal (8) by a full twenty minutes, but this only makes for a more rabid crowd when they do eventually walk on. As cartoony and colourful as we’ve grown to expect, the girls whip up circle pits galore and inject some much needed life back into a crowd steadily growing wetter. It’s a performance that Killswitch Engage (7) actually struggle to match, but they crack out My Last Serenade, Rose of Sharyn, The End of Heartache and My Curse one after the other and everyone goes beserk. And rightly so.

The Lemmy Tribute (9) video that plays next is an interesting one. Let’s be honest here, nothing to honour one of the greatest rock stars on the planet would ever do him justice, but the forty minutes of footage and interviews is as good as Download could have given, especially when every band who were asked to play instead of Motörhead turned down the offer out of respect. In addition, all the live footage is cranked right up to 11, just as Lem would have liked it, and even the rain stops for the duration as well. It’s touching, heavy and exceptionally tasteful. The adverse weather returns with a vengeance shortly afterwards, but it would have taken a tornado to dislodge the ferocity that Korn (9) bring today. Jonathan Davies seems even more manic than usual, commanding the stage like a man possessed and leading everyone through Here to Stay, Blind and a quite superb Y’All Want a Single with consummate ease. They sound colossal, and the bedlam that ignites in the crowd is testament to a band who have now been going nearly 25 years and are still making nu-metal relevant with every album that passes.

On the Dogtooth stage, Skinny Lister (9) were an unusual band in the Download lineup – a band that normally plays folk festivals, appearing at a rock festival.  Well it’s not as strange as it sounds as their music has plenty to appeal to rock fans as they’ve got a similar party vibe to bands like The Pogues.  The tent was pretty full, and it was clear that not all of the people were there purely to shelter from the rain – there were lots of people there to hear Skinny Lister too. They weighted their set to include more of the heavier or more lively songs and put in a performance that really impressed. They kicked off the set with “Raise a wreck”, and “Trouble on oxford street”, both from their current album, “Down on Deptford Broadway”, before playing a song (“Hamburg”) from the new album that is due out in September.  That was followed by a traditional song – more a shanty than folk, “John Kanaka”.  We got a couple more songs including another from the new album, and then Download got to experience crowdsurfing Skinny Lister style as their double bass player crowdsurfed – with his double bass.  “This is war” and “Forty pund wedding” brought the set to a close.  It was a superb performance and it was clear a lot of people in the tent were having a great time, and some were even dancing (and drinking at the same time).  I hope Skinny Lister get asked back before long as they were the highlight of the day for me.

Skillet (9) were a band I hadn’t seen live before.  I’d heard an album of theirs and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to seeing how they’d go down at Download.  I know they’re a very popular Christian rock band in the US, but judging by the number of people not only watching them but also singing along, they’re obviously pretty popular here too.  They quickly became one of the best bands of the day in my view – they put in a great set, and gave an energetic passionate performance, and their entire set was catchy stadium rock songs – where most bands might have one or two anthems in their set, skillet had nothing but anthems.  Don’t let the Christian rock label put you off – while many bands in that genre are overly preachy and not that great musically, Skillet are just top quality rock.

Australian metalcore band The Amity Affliction (8) may not be my cup of tea musically but even I was impressed by them.  These guys really know how to put in an energetic set, and that energy is what’s needed to help lift the spirits of a soaked crowd.  Ahren Stringer on bass was a surprise – young and heavily tattooed, he opens his mouth for his vocals and instead of the growls or screams I was expecting you get some really beautiful clean vocals – he really does have a great voice, and it’s not what I’d expected in a metalcore band, but it certainly works well against the harsher vocals of Joel Birch.  If metalcore or post-hardcore is your sort of thing then you should definitely check these guys out.

Friday’s second stage headliners All time low (8) pulled a good crowd with teenage girls seeming to make up the first ten or more rows of the crowd.  When you’re up against Rammstein on the main stage, you need to be good to draw a crowd, and American pop-punks All time low are certainly good at what they do and know how to entertain a crowd.  It’s only a few minutes into their set before their guitarist leaves the stage and comes into the pit to get up close and personal with the fans, at times sitting on the barrier and leaning back supported by the crowd as he plays.  It’s a great set and they unsurprisingly go down well with the crowd.

‘Enjoy the show, and do not be pre-occupied with recording it’ say the screens before tonight’s headliners. It’s a nice idea, but this is a Rammstein (7) show, and given that it’s the Germans’ first ventures to our shores in three years, the chances of that happening are slimmer than the security at Euro 2016 keeping opposing fans apart. Tonight, however, it’s not vintage Rammstein by any means. The stage show is less extravagant than usual, the setlist gets bogged down in places with songs like Seemann and a surprisingly lacklustre Mein Herz Brennt and the band – dare I say it – seem even less interested than they usually do. Furthermore, the right hand speakers have been hit hard by the rain and crackle throughout. Make no mistakes, there are still the high points: opening song Ramm4 is unbelievably catchy and definitely gets things off on the right foot, and songs like Du riechst so gut and Links 2 3 4 are as incendiary as ever. Of course, Feuer Frei and Du hast gain a big reception and there’s even a rare airing of Depeche Mode cover Stripped. But by this point, everyone is too damp and wet to really care, and even the huge angel wings for closing song Engel can’t salvage much. On another night, Rammstein would have torn things up as they usually do; today however, it’s all a little disappointing.

Rammstein setlist

Reise, Reise
Keine Lust
Feuer frei!
Ich tu dir weh
Du riechst so gut
Mein Herz brennt
Links 2 3 4
Ich will
Du hast
Ohne dich (acoustic)

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About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.
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