Live Reviews

Download Festival 2009 – live review

It was another messy festival but this year the Download Festival was full to the brim as 80,000 got down to one of the best line ups yet. Chuck Norris and Alex Gosman were there to witness the unfitness and bring you the lowdown.


With the sun shining and the fat Goths letting their flab down, Hollywood Undead storm the main stage to officially open Download 2009. Sprinting into the sunlight and launching straight into recent radio hit ‘Undead’, the Californian rap-rockers set the tone nicely for the day ahead, something that The Blackout only fuel further. Slicing a medley of Limp Bizkit, Korn and Faith No More hits between their own material, the Welsh boys are onto a winner from the moment they appear. Enter Shikari drove their ‘Juggernaut’ into the festival as one of the special guests bands and thrilled a packed blue tent with tracks from their new album Take To The Skies. For the record, Rob you must keep your shorts on in future mate!

The sun is hot, the beers are cold, and the folks assembled in front of the Second Stage soon discover that Steadlur are an ideal accompaniment to both. Sure, the likes of ‘Bumpin’ are derivative as hell, but they sound great in this context, and the band’s closing cover of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight For Your Right To Party‘ is a smart, inclusive move. A Day To Remember whip up a storm with their combination of pop-punk and metalcore breakdowns, which paves the way for Parkway Drive to deliver a set containing little more than the latter. If there were an award for Biggest Spinkickers of the Weekend, the Australian’s would surely take it with ease. Reading-based quintet Sylosis have long been overdue for a slot at Download, so it’s pleasing to witness them take this opportunity and kick the living daylights out of it, with a furious metallic hardcore attack that forsakes sugary choruses in favour of thunderous riffing.

As ever there’s nothing remotely cheery about Staind‘s angsty nu-grunge warblings, though they do conjure a mass sing-along with the help of former super-hit ‘Outside’. Canada’s Billy Talent promptly get the pace back up to full-pelt with a rip-roaring set including a fantastic ‘Devil In A Midnight Mass’, while Killswitch Engage provide metal licks and laughs in equal measure. The sight of guitarist Adam D tip-toeing around the stage clad in a fetching mask and cape ensemble is one truly worth savouring.

Canadian progressive thrash veterans Voivod draw a decent-sized crowd, but alas their spirited performance can’t overcome the truly abysmal sound, which renders most of their set a non-descript rumble. Thankfully, the sound improves for the Backyard Babies, although the band themselves are somewhat lacklustre in comparison to their usual selves. The abundance of new material (good, but unfamiliar) and perfunctory renditions of some ‘Total 13’-era classics are nevertheless welcomed by their devoted fellowing; less so by the merely curious.

The main stage crowd predictably swells to gigantic proportions for returning rap-metal behemoths Limp Bizkit, who today are making their first UK appearance for half a decade. Belting out the likes of ‘Break Stuff’, ‘My Generation’, ‘Nookie’ and an ever-popular ‘Rollin’ to name but a few, it’s difficult to look around without spotting dozens of people at least mouthing the words to each and every track. This is neither irony nor nostalgia, but rather proof that the Bizkit are indeed back. It’s a difficult spectacle to follow, but despite being down to just three original members Korn still sound nothing less than devastating. Blasting through just about every hit in their arsenal – including a pummeling ‘Freak On A Leash’ – it’s difficult to deny the fact that even after sixteen years the Bakersfield mob are more than capable of bringing the noise.

Back over on the second stage Motley Crue are doing exactly that, reeling out the likes of ‘Kick Start My Heart’ and ‘Wild Side’ within minutes of hitting the stage to a feverish response. But, perhaps predictably, the biggest cheer of the day is reserved for Faith No More. With the stage draped entirely in red curtains and Mike Patton dressed in a suit to match, barely a stone is left unturned after more than a decade of silence. Whether it’s the always familiar stomp of ‘Epic’ or the closing refrain of ‘We Care A Lot’, you’d be hard pressed to find a band better suited – quite literally – to close a quite magnificent first day.


You can see the tide of Eastern European metal fans sprinting towards the front in order to catch Ripper Owens from a mile away. With his voice in typically fine form, the former Judas Priest man is as good a choice as any to blow away those early morning cobwebs. Five Finger Death Punch and Devildriver both take advantage of this with aplomb, blasting through sets that see circle pits, jumping fits and widespread handclaps accompanying them at every turn, but it’s nothing compared to the fury of hardcore titans Hatebreed. With people running full belt into the pit before they’ve even played a chord, Jamey Jasta and co are positively on fire in early afternoon conditions that make such statements all too apt. “Anyone who stands still is a fucking Coldplay fan!” roars Jasta, unwittingly providing the quote of the weekend.

However, few performances can match up to that of Down. Sounding absolutely thunderous, the New Orleans natives produce the type of groove-laden fury that makes the ground shake, with Phil Anselmo quickly ushering the entire crowd into the palm of his hand from the off. Across the way, industrial nu-metallers Static-X produce a dynamic display in front of one of the largest second stage crowds of the weekend. It’s in stark contrast to that of Surrey pop-punks You Me At Six and Northern Irish quartet The Answer, who despite turning in fine performances struggle to attract more than their own die-hard followers and a handful of stragglers taking the opportunity to give their legs a break. Ex-Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell suffers a similar lack of interest, something that isn’t helped by slicing cuts from his recently released and frankly lackluster solo album amongst Soundgarden classics such as ‘Black Hole Sun’.

Over on the Tuborg Stage, the entire tent is sporting massive grins as Lawnmower Deth rip through half an hour of thrash metal silliness. The beach balls, self-deprecating jokes and impromptu ukulele solo are all well and good, but underneath the comedy act are some excellent songs played by a true band of the people.

Here’s hoping for their return next year. Speaking of bands of the people, Thunder are greeted by a packed tent that sings along to every word of their set; a set made more poignant by the knowledge that it will be their last festival show before they split. It’d take a churlish man not to smile as vocalist Danny Bowes is almost drowned out by the crowd on ‘Love Walked In’.

Brighton upstarts Architects proceed to tear the masses a new one as Pendulum succeed in getting the masses pumped up in admirable fashion back on the main stage, but it’s when Prodigy emerge that the truest example of dance-rock hybrids can be seen and indeed heard. Revealing the likes of ‘Breathe’ and recent chart-bothering single ‘Omen’ inside barely a quarter of an hour, there’s barely a body within a square mile that can be found motionless.

All that’s left is for Slipknot to close off the day with possibly their finest live performance in years. Aided by a quite spectacular stage show that includes a rotating drum kit and enough pyrotechnics to satisfy a Pink Floyd fan, the Iowan hate machine romp through a two-hour set with an energy that defies their ten-year residence in the mainstream, and there can be no denying the magnificence of a set-closing Spit It Out – a song that sees more than 50,000 people crouch down in unison before leaping to their feet in sheer, undeniable glee.

It must be said at this point that Marilyn Manson followed Pendulum and died a death in front of a packed field. He didn’t seem to get into it at all and the crowd were expecting way more. The 1K in Kerrang! was a nothing more than a compliment on this performance. – Z Ed


With absolutely no sign of the cloudy, rain-swept conditions that many had spoken of in recent days, the tent is beginning to fill nicely for Brighton hardcore merchants Brides shortly after 11am. Their music may lack any major dynamics, but with just enough melody injected into their racket they at least succeed in falling flat on their collective face.

Aussie grungers Violent Soho are a revelation soon after, sounding like the best bits of Nirvana brawling with fellow countrymen The Vines, while Turbowolf produce a frantic display complete with one of the finest moustache-toting front men of the weekend. Stone Gods do their best to open the main stage with a bang, churning out a decent if not spectacular set of crunchy riffs that at least gets fists pumping early on, but it’s during Black Stone Cherry that the bar begins to be raised; a quite massive ‘Rain Wizard’ providing the first proper sing-along of the day. When it comes to sing-along’s however, Journey were always going to take some beating today. Even without the legendary Steve Perry, ‘Any Way You Want It’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ remain bona fide, crowd-pleasing classics in the extreme.

Ever wondered how Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash would have sounded if they’d decided to play metal? Volbeat are probably as close as we’ll get to an answer, and their quiffs n’ tatts aesthetic is a welcome change of style. Vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulson’s amusing banter and a bizarre (but enjoyable) cover of ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ are an added bonus.

Dream Theater don’t quite live up to expectations today, proving that their usually glistening prog-metal is a course best served indoors, while bearded-rockers ZZ Top similarly fail to live up to the hype. The likes of ‘Legs’ and ‘Gimme All Your Lovin’ will never lose their place as essential party rock anthems, but it’s not enough to detract from the fact that, really, they sound pretty awful. (you obviously didn’t smoke a doobie for this one, marvellous set for the stoners! – Z-Ed) The same can’t be said of Papa Roach who have never looked nor sounded better than they do today, not to mention the brilliant British debut of comedy cock-rockers Steel Panther over on the third stage. With Jackass star Bam Margera introducing them to a rabid crowd that stretches far outside the confines of the tent they go down (ooh er) an absolute storm.

Whitesnake are arguably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. Their pedestrian blues-rock is decent enough for the first half hour, after which they descend into a clutch of painfully dull ballads and overly-long guitar solo duels. This is exactly the kind of overly-earnest slop that punk rock came to destroy, and with that in mind, we return to the Tuborg Stage for an excellent Therapy? set. Andy Cairns and co are their usual friendly selves; the clutch of new songs sound suitably discordant and claustrophobic, and even the more melodic classics like ‘Turn’ and ‘Teethgrinder’ still ooze a certain malice. Brilliant stuff.

However, it’s really Def Leppard that steal the show today. Balancing sterling rock anthems such as ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ alongside a genuinely moving tribute to drummer Rick Allen, few could likely imagine a better way to end yet another sterling weekend of rock at its finest and most enjoyable. Same time next year?