Download Festival @ Donington Park (UK) - June 2009

Believe it or not, 2010 will see the thirtieth anniversary of the Castle Donington site being used for rock concerts. The evolution of what was Monsters Of Rock into the Download brand beginning a move away from old school rock to a wider appealing musical line up spread across three days with all the corporate shenanigans that was usually reserved for our transatlantic cousins for such events.

Gone by in large is the herd em in - then chuck em out mentality of many denim cut offs gone by. To be replaced by a more (dare I say it) relaxed atmosphere that this year saw the site move physically by about a quarter of a mile to the old Monsters of Rock bus park area, which in turn allowed the festival to accommodate four stages and a multitude of musical genres (with some more welcome than others).

Glitzine was there to take in as much as physically possible. So sit back relax and enjoy the whirlwind weekend that was my Download 2009.

Friday

This was never going to be my get out of bed early day, but the addition of a few sleaze rockers late in the day made me part with my hard earned at the last minute and the mid afternoon sunlight that greeted my arrival on site is something that is becoming so common of this festival that it makes the low points like "Staind" (H) that little bit more bearable. The depressing five years too late quasi grunge of "Outside" was even enough for Mr Sunshine to think about taking his hat home.
But hold on there Mr glowing orb in the sky, keep that hat firmly on your bonce, as London oiks "White Man Kamikaze" (HHH) are pumping away on the Red Bull stage, romping through their organ driven punk stomp to an appreciative audience grateful to escape the main stage self harming fest.
Checking out the Tuborg stage for the first time meant that "Lauren Harris" (H) was my first experience of this stage and its dreadful sound problems, I personally couldn't figure out if it was the sound or the band but something was sorely lacking. It has to be said however that the enthusiastic crowd gathered whooped it up…oh well each to their own.
Late afternoon ushered in the festivals first true metal band on the main stage namely "Killswitch Engage" (HHHH). Who came fully armed with capes, swirling riffs about hairy beavers, "Dio" covers and in "Howard Jones" a singer with a voice and personality large enough to fill the empty void left in my metal heart by the afternoons preceding events. It was then back to the Tuborg for the rest of my first day and just in time for the psychedelic thrash masters "VoiVod" (HHH) who cut through the muddy mix with some tasty reminders of why they were a class apart back in the day.
Up next were "Backyard Babies" (HH) for Total 15 (that's the number of times I've now seen them) and it was instantly obvious that this was not going to be their night, guitars dropping out, serious sound problems, and a set list flatter than a witches bristol's all lead to me thinking perhaps seeing "Korn" might have been the better option, but then again, who wants to hear fucking "Pink Floyd" cover versions?
The Babies upcoming Euro touring partners of "Motley Crue" and "Duff McKagan's Loaded" (HHHH) were split across two stages at the same time, so I opted for the latter and got one of the best sets of the day. Littered with tracks old and new, many people will claim to have seen the "Corey Taylor" (of "Slipknot" fame) fronted version of "Its So Easy", but we got the pictures to prove we did daddio.
Finishing off the Friday main stage were "Faith No More" (HHH) who I've always had a soft spot for (as seemingly do Jocke and Adde for "Hardcore Superstar" stood just a few yards away), so the chance to see them for the first time was only slightly soiled by Mike Patton's sporadic dips into lounge singer mode.

Saturday

Day two of my trial by ultra violet rays saw me entering the gates of Hades to the soundtrack of "Ripper Owens" dispatching "The Green Manalishi" and suddenly everything in my world was beautiful.
At just after midday on the Second Stage "Hardcore Superstar" (HHHHH) delivered a world beating set full to the brim with tracks from the bands last three street metal albums. It's worth noting that a certain previous nights headliner on the very same stage had already used this prestigious timeslot to propel them to a multi million dollar career. Now let's hope this performance does the same for Jocke and the guys, as on this showing they certainly made loads of new friends eager to "Beg For It".
The lull in events that precede "Down's" (HHHHH) set on the main stage later that afternoon saw me witness one of the most surreal things I've ever seen at a festival. A few "way to early in the day to be that fucked up" puffheads were dancing to a bleep and boom fairground ride soundtrack merely a few feet away from the Tuborg stage where they could have been watching a live band.
I couldn't help but think what those brain-dead fucks needed was some real heavy metal delivered hard and heavy. Thankfully that's just what "Down" delivered with Bury Me In Smoke", "Lifer" and "N.O.D" all white hot sheets of glistening southern metal played with more intensity than any fake bass generated techno pap band could ever wish to muster. And at this point I'll give you no more clues on which bands I wouldn't be watching later on that very night.
"Man Raze"(HHH) took to a half empty Tuborg stage due to a timeslot mix up on the official Festival lanyards, this meant that those of us following the free print off the internet version actually got to see messrs Collen, Cook and Laffy in a very close up situation. My calls for "My Number" may have been ignored but I still got to hear rather excellent "This Is".
Back to the main stage then for "Marilyn Manson" (HHHH) and I just know this set will get slagged by the mainstream music press. The reality is, that he really isn't doing anything different to what he was doing twelve years ago when everyone in the media loved him. He is just as genuinely pissed during "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" as he was back in his "Antichrist Superstar" days and the brooding glitter stomp of newer tracks like set opener "Four Rusted Horses" certainly wasn't lost on this reviewer.
Acting almost like a taster to the following days classic rock line up, Saturday night was brought to a close (for those in the know) by "Anvil" (HHHH). The band deserved so much bigger an audience but when you're up against the "Aceeeed" dropouts over on the second stage and the modern day monsters of metal on the main stage, I suppose Lips and Co will be happy that at least those who did cram the Tuborg stage knew the words to such seminal speed metal classics as "School Love", "Mothra" and "Metal On Metal". I simply couldn't think of a better way to end the day.

Sunday

Long before day three had raised its bleary head to the metal world, the festival site had already decided to magically transform itself into a version of Mos Eisley. So with landspeeders at the ready we bravely faced the tropical heat of the mid morning sun just in time to catch "Tesla" (HHHHH), who just happened to turn out to be my band of the weekend. Pulling tracks for their rather fantastic back catalogue like "Modern Day Cowboy" was always going to win me over, but I honestly had forgotten just how timeless this band sounded twenty odd years into their career.
Over to the "Red Bull" stage for only the second time of the weekend we met up with Glitzine's old pals "Million $ Reload" (HHHH) who proceeded to demolish the tent with their jackhammer rock n roll. "Livin In The City" still is the big tune that gets the place truly bumping and the sight of a thousand plus people singing along with them instead of with the turgid "Skin" must have sent the boys home to Ireland very happy.
On the subject of "Skin", they easily took the prize for worst T Shirt of the weekend for a £20 Reunion faux football shirt you wouldn't be seen dead washing your horses arse in…Nice!
Back to the main stage and the arrival (yeah I couldn't resist that) of "Journey" (HHHHH) in the shape of a parptastic "Separate Ways" saw the almost exclusively male audience stage front join in unison and let out one long sigh of satisfaction. "Arnel Pineda" may still have trouble jamming with the crowd, but damn it if he isn't turning into a Mini Duck. In comparison to the supreme summer anthems of "Journey", "Dream Theater (HHH)" was something of a damp squib, too much noodling and not enough rocking when time was of a premium.
So as the festival was drawing to its twilight hours and the landspeeders were all getting packed up with camping gear to jet off home, it fell on the three good old boys from Texas "ZZ Top" (HHHHH) to set about the crowd with a fearsome set of boogie that saw two thirds of the field forget the hell about their cares and just get down and dirty with the hombres. The couplings of "Gimme All Your Loving" and "Sharp Dressed Man" along with the older standards "Tush" and "La Grange" were pure genius and I challenge anyone in attendance to find a better guitarist than "Billy Gibbons".
Back to Stage two and "Buckcherry's (HHH)" Josh Todd takes the first prize for the weekends best quote hands down, when he tells the crowd to "c'mon you fucking cunts" during the mid section of "Lit Up", and as I had to leave this set early to finally see "The 69 Eyes (HHH)" I'll just say I wish I hadn't.
As "The 69 Eyes" suffered indiscriminately at the hands of the Tuborg stage sound gremlins and as a result had their set cut by almost fifteen minutes, but tracks like "Perfect Skin" and "Feel Berlin" certainly added an ice cool atmosphere to the night air and I'm certainly looking forward to the new album (as is Bam Margera apparently who was stood side stage most of the show).
Being a fan of neither "Whitesnake" or "Def Leppard" in their current incarnations I'll leave those reviews to the mainstream magazines as I've long since lost interest in both of them, But if I was asked to pick one of them who really should retire gracefully right now, I would have to single out the one fronted by someone who when he smiles is fast turning into Bingo from the "Banana Splits".

So, with another year over and a fantastic classic rock day on the last day, I for one will be looking forward to the thirtieth year celebrations next year, just keep the fucking dance music a few hundred miles away please Mr Copping.

by Johnny H.