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Download Festival 2010 Review : Friday On My Mind
The ACDC Rock n' Roll Train thunders into Donington
Download Festival 2010 Review: Friday On My Mind
Erecting a two-person tent when you're drunk is much akin to folding custard with boxing gloves.
We arrived at the Donington campsite around 7am after travelling overnight on a hired mini-bus full of anticipation and full of beer.
We did the 280 mile journey in about 7 hours downing cans of lager with frequent stops at motorway service-stations for the necessary dispersal.
When we got to the Midlands of England it was a beautiful morning out in the open air of the Leicestershire countryside.
We got parked, hauled our baggage and got tagged with our wristbands. This was Download 2010 and the 30th anniversary of Rock festivals at Donington Park since Rainbow headlined in 1980 when the price of a one day ticket was £7.50. Today was bright, clear and sunny but it made no difference. I just wasn't getting that tent up.
Carry on Camping
After half-an-hour I was convinced there was a part missing or a design flaw in a piece of equipment that I had used before with perfect ease of assembly.
One of our happy band then came over and in a 'hey presto' period of about 10 seconds flat had the fundamentals sorted.
Flat being the inoperative word as the accursed equipage was now off the ground and looking definitely more tent-shaped.
The support poles were in and it was up save for the formality of ramming the pegs into the ground.
Since the earth under my unsteady feet wasn't moving I felt confident enough to complete the ceremony and crawl in. After 4 hours sleep I was up at the crack of noon nursing a mid-day hangover but still ready to rock and ready to roll.
A weekend walk in Donington Park
A weekend at the Download Festival is highly recommended as a healthy walking holiday such are the enforced distances travelled each day by the campsite dwellers. Our site must have been at least a mile and a half from the arena.
It just seemed longer as we trudged along for the 3pm opening. The forecast had been for clouds and light rain and sure enough it turned out to be a heatwave with blue skies lit by a blistering early June sun.
Perversely in my addled condition I had forgotten to bring my sunscreen, sunglasses and even my camera on a perfect day for amateur photography. So no home-grown photographs are available in this article.
We queued up at the arena entrance keeping an eye out for incoming plastic bottles joyfully flung by bored festival-goers. Happily, once we were in a pint of cider brought some 'hair of the dog' anaesthesia to my fragile skull and was the perfect curer for the ills inflicted by the overnight lager frenzy.
Year Long Disaster : Desperate Thirst for a Cigarette
Year Long Disaster
Let the Download Festival begin
First group on the agenda for me was Year Long Disaster in the smaller 3rd Stage to get the ball rolling.
The band are fronted by charismatic singer and lead guitarist Daniel Davies.
He is the son of Dave Davies of the legendary Kinks and therefore comes with a rich musical pedigree.
They have been described as belonging to the Stoner Rock genre but they gave us a vibrant start to the festival.
They gave us a really impressive set of excellent riffs by an enthusiastic band with clear influences of Southern Rock and Led Zeppelin.
They played seven songs including 'Sparrow Hill', 'Show Me Your Teeth' and their version of 'Waiting on the Western World' which Daniel originally sung as a guest-vocalist on the Karma to Burn album 'Appalachian Incantation'. A great song.
A really enjoyable show was ended with an energetic cover of 'Never Say Die' by Black Sabbath. Admittedly it was strange to hear so many cover versions in a short set since their own material is so strong.
Prog Rock on the 2nd Stage
After a half-pound cardboard burger overpriced at £5.00 I digested Anathema on 2nd Stage.
This had been renamed the 'Ronnie James Dio Stage' in tribute to the late great rock vocalist.
Vincent Cavanagh, the lead singer with Anathema, also added his own tribute to Ronnie.
He also mentioned other artists who had tragically passed away recently such as Paul Grey of Slipknot, Pete Steel of Type O Negative and Stuart Cable of Killing For Company.
The band gave a tremendous show of Progressive Rock with melodic songs such as 'A Natural Disaster' with their musicianship adorned beautifully by the sweet backing vocals of Lee Douglas. They finished an impressive set with the wonderful 'Fragile Dreams' to an appreciative ovation from the crowd.
On my way back to the Main Stage I passed not one but two guys in full wedding dress. I wondered if there was going to be some sort of civil ceremony in between the acts. Maybe same sex marriages have two brides. But they weren't the most bizarre sights I would see this weekend as the festival experience inspired the most creative fancy dress.
Anathema from 2006 : A Natural Disaster
The sound of madness
My festival feasting continued with a rotten cup of instant coffee as we awaited Killswitch Engage who were an added bonues since they were booked at the last minute when Wolfmother had to pull out.
Unfortunately the timing clashed with both Coheed and Cambria and Tyketto but I really wanted to see the Massachusetts metalheads.
To my dismay they were let down by an appalling sound, especially in the first few songs. Admittedly there was a strong breeze which could have distorted the music but it was clear that Howard Jones' epic singing was lost in the mix.
Really disappointing as Download is usually dependable for a pristine sound system of real quality. It totally vindicated the decision by ACDC to bring their own equipment for their adjacent stage.
Singer Howard Jones
Nevertheless Killswitch Engage put in a terrific performance, involving the crowd all the way in their wonderful mixture of mayhem and fun.
Their combination of screaming thrash and soaring melody marks them out as one of the classiest metalcore bands in the business.
Songs such as 'My Last Serenade', Grammy-nominated 'The End of Heartache' and 'My Curse' were sung by the Donington chorus in their thousands.
Adam D tore about the stage in a Superman cape and I swear I thought he was about to take off in between draining bottles of beer in one fell swoop. Despite the sound problems they went down a storm and they must be one of the bands held in the greatest affection by the fans.
They ended their set with their version of 'Holy Diver' as thousands of devil horns ascended skywards in tribute to Ronnie James Dio.
Killswitch Engage : My Curse
John Paul Jones
Here comes the Supergroup
Now we awaited the arrival of the latest supergroup among the many permutations in the history of Rock Music.
To be perfectly honest I wasn't sure what I would make of Them Crooked Vultures or, as they've been nicknamed 'The Queens of the Zeppelin Fighters' in other quarters.
I thought their self-titled debut album was very good without being spectacular.
The competition on the other stages included Bullet For My Valentine and Job For a Cowboy, neither of which attracted me.
So I stayed in the Main Arena and had a middle-aged lie down while we waited.
But after the full-on assault by Killswitch Engage the more laid-back sometimes meandering style of Them Crooked Vultures was enjoyable and had just the right tone for an early evening set.
The sound system was also much better and did justice to my favourite songs 'No One Loves Me and Neither Do I', 'New Fang', 'Mind Eraser, No Chaser' and 'Bandoliers'. They stuck to their own material avoiding the temptation to delve into the back catalogue of their other bands.
Lots of jammin and guitar interplay between Josh Homme on lead and John-Paul Jones on bass with Dave Grohl pounding the beat on the drumkit. A very popular attraction in the twilight of the Main Arena as the shadows lengthened and the temperature cooled.
Them Crooked Vultures : Live at Reading
The triumphant return of Angus Young
After that the Download Main Stage closed down and all eyes were on the stage to the left waiting on the big moment when the Rock n' Roll Train of ACDC would come hurtling down the tracks. They were phenomenal.
Right from the start until the 21-Gun cannon salute of 'For Those About to Rock' two hours later, they gave an historic performance in front of a huge crowd of 100,000 people.
From the front row to the back the fans were rockin and rollin on the ACDC locomotive express. During 'Shoot to Thrill' it seemed like everyone in the arena was clapping along to the instrumental section in the middle of the song.
And only ACDC could get a chorus of pretty girls to sing along and openly display their chest measurements to a tune about venereal disease.
But 'The Jack' is always one of the highlights of their show and a classic blues tune that gets the crowd chanting. The sound was perfect and very loud which made my position about 250 yards back seem like I was in the front row.
I was loving every moment from 'Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be', which in my opinion contains their best ever riff, to newer songs like 'Big Jack' and 'Black Ice' through to the crowd-pleasing sing-a-longs 'You Shook Me All Night Long', 'High Voltage', 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and the epic 'Let There Be Rock.
I even tried to sing the chorus of 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' with my mouth full of scotch-egg kindly supplied by a friendly couple from Warrington. But as you would expect the guitar solo from Angus Young was superb although I must say I thought his solo at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow in 2009 was even better.
Finally, after the encore of cannons rang in our ears the explosions continued with a brief fusillade of fireworks lighting the night sky to bring the evening to a spetacular end.
ACDC : last appearance in 1991
Return of the Village Idiot
But my confused state obviously wasn't over since despite helpful instructions from a steward I went the wrong way back to the campsite. This meant going right around to the main entrance and through the 'Village' which must have been a march of about three miles as it took me over an hour to get back. However it was worth the fun to hear the 'Mexican Roar' travel through the long line of thousands heading their way back.
The Download Village has been expanded to a much larger size than previous years, as I remember them, and is a fantastic place to finish off the evening. You can shop at midnight, headbang at the Rock Disco or even have a spin on the fairground rides as the likes of Metallica, Slayer or Limp Bizkit blast out of the speakers.
At the campsite I went to the wrong area as I mistakenly thought that the bare tree we had noted as a reference point was before my eyes. In fact it was another bare tree in the woods about 100 yards short of where I should have been. I spent another fruitless 10 minutes trying to find my tent in poor light and without the aid of a torch before the penny dropped ever so slowly.
For all festival-goers I would recommend a light-source of some kind and perhaps a homing device allied with some common sense. None of which I had at my disposal. I'm not sure if they have invented a tent with GPS co-ordinates. Either that or just shout yourself hoarse until your friends stop pretending they can't hear you.
It had been an exhausting 24-hours of booze, heat, sleep deprivation and hard-rockin so I was grateful to reach base and chill out. Luckily our campsite area was reasonably quiet and with ear-plugs firmly planted either side of my sunburnt head I fell asleep almost immediately.
Other Rock Music Hubs by Shinkicker
- Download Festival 2010 Review : Saturday in the Park
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