Reviewed: Download Festival 2016

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Download Festival 2016, Donington Park, 10th-12th June 2016

Words: Alex Gosman
Photo credits to: Ben Gibson, Jen O’Neil, Ross Silcocks, Matt Eachus & Derek Bremmer for Download 2016

Damn, that was a fun three days, despite some traditional British weather making an unwelcome guest appearance! Yep, Donington Park’s annual rock and metal bash recently celebrated its 14th birthday, and Crossfire was there to soak it all up (the music, that is). Here’s how things went down…

FRIDAY

ROYAL REPUBLIC singer/guitarist Adam Grahn’s confidence borders on cockiness, but that’s forgivable for a band armed with songs as good as ‘Make Love Not War’. Whether dispensing between love-life advice, or leading the crowd through a stomp-tastic rendition of ‘Full Steam Space Machine’, the Swedes provide an entertaining and explosive start to Download 2016.

It doesn’t take long for the heavens to open, to the annoyance of most – but not all – people here. “Thanks to the rain for bringing you all in here, and to Babymetal for being a novelty act, so no-one wants to watch them!” declares HECK frontman Jonny to a packed Maverick Stage tent. Who’d be Heck’s manager? Clearly unafraid of ruffling a few feathers, the guitarists spend most of the set either in or on top of the moshpit, to the soundtrack of possibly the finest twisted hardcore attack this side of Converge. Amazing.

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Back on the main stage, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE are delighted to be back at Donington, and have little trouble whipping up one of the weekend’s gnarliest pits. Guitarist Adam D is still the foul-mouthed court jester of metalcore, and although a couple of cuts from recent LP ‘Incarnate’ sound great, it’s a triple whammy of ‘My Last Serenade’, ‘Rose Of Sharyn’ and ‘The End Of Heartache’ that hits home the hardest.

“We’ve been told not to incite any moshpits…so no moshing!” cackles HAVOK vocalist David Sanchez, a man who speaks rather like Steven Tyler on amphetamines. Amusing, yes, but he and his band are seriously good at injecting fresh vitality into tried-and-tested thrash sounds, and the likes of ‘Living Nightmare’ are greeted with the kind of frenzied circle pits they deserve.

MOTORHEAD were due to play third from top on the main stage, which has been renamed the Lemmy Stage after Mr Kilmister’s sad passing at the end of last year. Rumour had it that some of his old friends and bandmates would get together at Download to jam through a few ‘Head classics, but the reality is far less exciting – nothing more than the stage-side video screens showing some old Motorhead festival performance videos, interspersed with some interview clips, mainly from the ‘Lemmy’ movie. Better than nothing, admittedly, but you can’t help but feel that both we and he deserved more.

Thankfully, THE WILDHEARTS are here to provide some (not quite so) old-school rock n’ roll thrills. The rain appears to have let up, but much to Ginger’s delight, the Maverick Stage tent remains packed, and that’s understandable when classics like ‘Nita Nitro’ and ‘Everlone’ sparkle as brightly as they ever have.

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And so it’s back to the Lemmy Stage for RAMMSTEIN, the first of this weekend’s headliners. The German industrial metal titans steal the show with almost frightening ease; be it vocalist Till Lindemann’s Charlie Chaplin-esque entrance, the onslaught of pyrotechnics during a thunderous ‘Du Hast’, or a surprisingly effective (and affecting) semi-acoustic rendition of ‘Ohne Dich’, this is about as great a marriage of song and spectacle as you could hope to witness at Download. It’s a bit of a shame that they’ve toned down the more, shall we say, homoerotic elements of the stage show, but they sound magnificent throughout, and as we head back to the campsites, no-one’s complaining.

SATURDAY

Saturday starts much as Friday ended – theatrically. Swedes AVATAR are dressed like The Joker’s unholy marching band, and easily win over the curious with some genuine anthems in ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, and closer ‘Smells Like A Freakshow’. Over at the Encore Stage, all five members of SANTA CRUZ look like the lovechildren of Michael Monroe, and remain as gloriously in thrall to 1980’s Sunset Strip glam rock as ever. “Who wants to fuck tonight?” screeches vocalist Archie Kuosmanen, a man whose spirits have not been dampened one iota by the rain. Sounds like fun, dude!

It isn’t until TURBOWOLF take the stage, however, that our day truly kicks into gear. The Bristol crew may be buried halfway down the Maverick Stage bill, but they play with all the confidence and swagger of main stage headliners. Chris Georgiadis is a true master of ceremonies, leading his band through gems like ‘Rabbit’s Foot’ and ‘Solid Gold’ with no little panache, and as the tent fills up, you can’t help but feel this should be the start of something big.

Over to the Dogtooth Stage now, to see what the musical yoof are up to. MILK TEETH don’t waste a second of their painfully short slot, getting the whole tent bouncing like it’s 1992 with fuzzed up grunge-pop gems like ‘Vitamins’. DEAD! have something of an identity crisis going on, hopping from power-pop to hardcore to funk-punk (plus various points in between), but deliver it all in a gleefully snotty, carefree way.

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MEGADETH’s set, like their recent ‘Dystopia’ album, sees Dave Mustaine and co back to their snarling best. Predictably, recent cuts like ‘Post American World’ go down almost as well as classics like ‘Peace Sells…’, but there’s an extra surprise in store; namely, the appearance of Nikki Sixx for a (admittedly ramshackle) cover of the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK’. “Hell has frozen over!” declares a grinning Dave.

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The rain has started again, but the thrash party doesn’t stop – it merely squeezes itself into the Dogtooth Stage tent for MUNICIPAL WASTE’s first UK show in four years. The band sound like they’re channeling a new-found hunger as they rip through what seems like 50 songs in 40 minutes, and their irreverent sense of humour remains intact, with ‘I Want To Kill The President’ reworked as ‘I Want To Kill Donald Trump’. Oh, and they deservedly get the circle pit of the weekend.

As annoying as the rain can be, it seems appropriate enough for BLACK SABBATH’s final UK festival show, and it lends their opening self-titled anthem that certain extra gravitas. Considering all the mockery directed at Ozzy Osbourne during (and since) that awful reality show, he truly seems in his element tonight, doing what he does best with a gigantic crowd firmly on his side. Sure, he’s a little off-key for the first few songs, but that matters little when Tony Iommi’s riffs sound ten times as imposing as they do on record. Wisely sticking to the classic early stuff, Sabbath barely put a foot wrong tonight, and the sound of thousands of voices singing along to the likes of ‘Iron Man’ and ‘NIB’ will surely linger long in the memory.

“Let me here you shout ‘One more song’!” cries Ozzy, following the penultimate ‘Children Of The Grave’, and the place goes utterly nuts as the band launch into ‘Paranoid’. There’s a certain sadness to knowing we’ll never see them here again, but also a sense of pride in seeing the gods of British metal conquer a festival that probably would not exist, had it not been for their pioneering early 70s work. Gentlemen, as you sail off into the sunset, we salute you.

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SUNDAY

MONSTER TRUCK and their riffs seem like they’d work better at a Deep South chili cook-off, but they still sound pretty good in a mud-soaked East Midlands field. Sleepy heads nod respectfully as we all wonder how bare-chested guitarist Jeremy Widerman can be so perky at this ungodly hour.

AMON AMARTH give this weekend’s main stage headliners a real run for their money in terms of stage show. Armed with two huge dragon’s head props that regularly spew smoke, along with a decent helping of pyro, they stomp their way through ace Viking metal anthems like ‘Raise Your Horns’ like a true band of the people. Magnificent, and deserving of a far higher slot next time around.

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WITCHSORROW play quality doom metal, and for half an hour, they turn the Dogtooth Stage tent into their own dark church, full of baying acolytes whose appetite for monolithic riffs was clearly not completely sated by Sabbath. The band sound great, and have surely converted a few more to their cause. We wander out for a while, and catch the last couple of DELAIN songs; Dutch symphonic metal that proves oddly catchy, even as the weather continues its onslaught.

There isn’t a single dull moment during FRANK CARTER AND THE RATTLESNAKES’ set, with no little credit due to the man himself. Whether singing atop the crowd (or in the middle of it, for a poignant ‘Beautiful Death’), telling stories of past circle-pit injuries, or getting the power cut for inciting a wall of death, he’s the perfect frontman for the Rattlesnakes’ fury-fuelled anthems. ‘Juggernaut’, in particular, sounds utterly unstoppable today, and the sing-along to the closing ‘I Hate You’ could make Maiden blush.

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ELECTRIC WIZARD boast some of the best non-Iommi riffs of the weekend, and hone them ever further during their monstrously slow and heavy set. They also get bonus points for drowning out the sound of Disturbed frontman David Draiman croaking and hacking away on the main stage. Now there’s a man who needs more fibre in his diet.

The day is drawing to a close, but BILLY TALENT aren’t about to let us slack off. “I know you want to go home, get in the bath, jerk off and watch Game Of Thrones – so do I!” Thank you, Ben Kowalewicz, for arguably the quote of the weekend. And thanks also to your band for firing on all cylinders – ripping through the likes of ‘Red Flag’ and ‘Fallen Leaves’ like the punk rock warriors you are – despite having more than enough great tunes for a perfunctory ‘Greatest Hits’ walk-through.

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The Main Stage crowd rise en masse from their soggy camping chairs as UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ booms out from the PA – a sure sign that IRON MAIDEN are about to kick off. To a degree, your enjoyment of tonight’s set depends on how familiar you are with Maiden’s recent ‘The Book Of Souls’ album, although the affecting, Robin Williams-inspired ‘Tears Of A Clown’ impresses old and new fans alike. Bruce is in fine form (if we had a shot of whiskey every time he shouts “Scream for me, Donington!”, we’d never make it back home alive), and there’s a veritable feast for the eyes, too – with various props from the ‘Powerslave’ era wheeled out, along with all manner of Eddie-related antics.

The second half of the show sees an onslaught of hits; ‘The Trooper’, ‘The Number Of The Beast’ and a closing ‘Wasted Years’ all received like old friends by a crowd that’s exhausted but damned if they’re gonna fold before Download 2016 does. Semi-regulars on the festival circuit they may be, but Iron Maiden still create a sense of occasion whenever and wherever they play, and tonight they close proceedings in fine style.

Overall? Download Festival 1, weather gods 0 (but, y’know, full marks for trying). Here’s to 2017, whatever it may bring…

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Slipknot to headline Download 2015

Slipknot have been unveiled as one of Download Festival’s headline acts for 2015 this morning, their 3rd time playing the festival. Judas Priest have been named as their support act. Black Stone Cherry are set to headline the second stage and Five Finger Death Punch have also been confirmed to play a set at Britain’s biggest rock festival.

Tickets went on sale this morning for the festival running across the weekend of June 12 – 14 at Donington Park.

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Papa Roach confirmed for Download Festival 2013!

Papa Roach frontman, Jacoby Shaddix, slipped up recently about the bands upcoming performance at Download Festival this June.

Festival organiser Andy Copping confirmed himself via Twitter afterwards to clear up any confusion, tweeting “OK @jacobyshaddix does it again! That man just cannot keep quiet! JACOBY!!! Papa Roach are playing #DL2013 on the main stage Friday.”

The Donington Park Festival also recently added 37 bands to the line-up, and released a teaser for the festival (below). Download Festival takes place June 14 – 16 2013 with headline acts Slipknot, Iron Maiden and Rammstein. Awesome, right?

More information and tickets is available from www.downloadfestival.co.uk.

 

More Download Festival news

Download Festival has announced 14 bands for their 10th anniversary line-up.

As previously announced, headliners for the weekend of June 8th-10th are The Prodigy, Metallica and Black Sabbath and the bill now includes Slash featuring Myles Kennedy, Megadeth, Rise Against, Steel Panther, Billy Talent and Black Label Society. As if that weren’t enough, festival go-ers will also be able to see Kyuss Lives, Five Finger Death Punch, Terrorvision and As I Lay Dying.

The deadline for cheaper weekend arena tickets has been extended to Thursday February 2nd before reverting to the £155 price from then on. Organisers are urging fans to take advantage of the extension with the tickets from www.downloadfestival.co.uk.

Soundgarden to play Download Festival

It has been the talk of the town for yonks but confirmation is finally here. Soundgarden will be playing at this year’s Download Festival. It’s official.

Other acts announced to play tonight are Chase and Status, Biffy Clyro, You Me At Six and Tenacious D. Another nine bands will be added to here by tomorrow morning so look out for updates on this thread.

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letlive. interview

letlive.Epitaph have always had a nack of picking the next wave of punk and hardcore so when letlive. where picked as their new signings last year the buzz started to grow. Why? Because not only are they balls out on record, they can make an audience explode just as good, if not better than the best of them.

This February the Los Angeles 5-piece graced our shores for a few introductory shows and blew the roof off of the Underworld in Camden and a secret show at the Old Blue Last in Hoxton leaving those lucky enough to see them blogging wildly about their new favourite hardcore band. So with the trail of aural destruction left behind we decided to get the inside scoop with singer Jason Butler and bassist Ryan Johnson to find out what makes this time bomb tick so loudly.

Welcome to Crossfire lads. So, you recently made your first visit to the UK. How did those shows compare with the first shows you played together on your home turf in LA?

Jason:I suppose since our first shows in the UK were in venues with PA systems that worked and the attendance wasn’t fully comprised of people we knew I’d have to say the disparity lies within the level of punkness.

Ryan: I’m not sure how to say this without discrediting our home support, but, the UK was certainly more attentive and accepting of our idea. The accumulation of recognition we have received in the UK has been unreal. We definitely didn’t expect any of it…

Your live show is raucous to say the least. What’s the worst damage you’ve ever done (to yourself or your surroundings) during a set?

Jason:I like to think of myself as somewhat of a forward thinking gentlemen. I try to keep my eyes focused on the future. With that being said, I think I will one day answer your question with a youtube link to our testimony in court when being charged with arson, in “the people vs. letlive.”

Ryan: We definitely have countless mics and speakers that are left useless – which can get a bit costly… But thankfully we haven’t done any serious damage yet. We have had some sprained limbs and minor gashes – accompanied with the occasional guitar head stock to the face…

Do you think your unique performance skills can translate to bigger stages? Are there any massive production ideas you have in the back of your mind for further down the line when you have more resources available to you?

Jason: Yes. Burning it down.

Ryan: Actually, when we are blessed with those larger stages (it certainly isn’t very often), it seems as though we are given a little more freedom to let go. Although, smaller stages can lead to some pretty exciting situations as well. Production for us hasn’t been a constant conversation, but, I’m sure as it comes in the future, it will be minimal. Definitely don’t want to pull too far away from the fact that people are there to listen to your music.

What is the best musical talent coming out of LA at the moment (apart from yourselves of course)? You previously mentioned knowing Tyler from Odd Future when you guys were younger. Any funny stories about him?

Jason: I don’t want to give the impression that I’m making mention of the young man in order to exhibit relevance, but I will say I really do back what they’re doing. It’s almost as if Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All) are breathing some new life into that shock aesthetic that alternative culture that has surely been waiting for with bated breath (two metaphors involving breathing; see what I did there?). As for Tyler and company, we all come from the same area. They rep the “Dirty Ladera”, I’m Inglewood all day. They fuck with LA skate culture, I worked at 9star LA. We have few degrees of separation. So to Tyler and Odd Future I say “STAND UP” X “SWAG”. Holla at me.

Ryan: Los Angeles is a difficult place. Other than Odd Future, whom Jason had a loose relationship with, we have a few friends bands such as Touche Amore and Dangers – both of which we enjoy quite a bit. But, the entire culture is a bit lacking as of late…

What would you say the biggest influences on letlive. are – both musical and non-musical?

Jason: letlive.. Please bear in mind, this does not mean the 5 individuals that make up this band; so yeah… letlive.

Ryan: To be frank, a lot of our influences come from moods that we capture from each other, surroundings, and even conversations about current readings. It’s more so channeling the feeling of inspiration. There really haven’t been many defining moments where an artist was mentioned while playing music. We all have our individual inclinations which range from James Brown to Radiohead to Bob Dylan, and Smashing Pumpkins, but not very directly do those artists come through as strong as an influence. We kind of feed of each others mistakes and ideas while playing, and hope it comes out all right.

Photo: Maryam Hassan

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‘Fake History’ is getting a proper UK release though Epitaph this week, with a few bonus tracks. Are those songs indicative of further future material from the band? How are you getting along with writing for the next album – or is that not happening quite yet?

Jason: Well, not necessarily. The first two tracks are actually 2 alternate tracks that were tracked within the FAKE HISTORY sessions and were opted to remain unattached for the initial release, which, in turn, worked out quite well for the re-release, wouldn’t you agree? As for the final track, this was a more impromptu approach we took when creating, playing, and recording it. We had spoken with Mr. Brett Gurewitz about doing a song together as somewhat of an ode to the rite of passage, so to speak, with our induction into the Epitaph family. With this came limited time to do so granted we have been touring rather heavily this past year. So what we did was go into the studio for two days with a riff we had written just before entering and tracked an ode to whimsical studio sessions. We feel it’s non hyperbolic essence is certainly endearing.

Ryan: Well, the bonus tracks include two b-sides, and one new track. The b-sides were actually the first two songs that we wrote as a band, which is far off from future ideas, and the last track was basically a last minute fluke while preparing to go into the studio with Brett. I wouldn’t say it is a direct foreshadow of what is to come, by any means. We actually currently beginning to write the album for the next month or so, considering it is the only time we are going to be home all year, and we are pretty excited with the way things are going thus far. We are definitely in a better place than we ever have been, musically – considering the amount of time we have spent together and growth we’ve experienced.

Who have been your Top 5 Epitaph acts in the label’s history?

Jason:1981 – present day. Take your pick.

Ryan: I’d have to say Descendents/ALL, Gallows, Converge, and certainly Refused.

How does it feel to know that you are now listed alongside them?

Jason: Like 20ll.

Ryan: It is unreal. Still hasn’t really hit any of us yet. Sometimes when you speak of the bands dealings with others it becomes a reality, and you’re kind of beside yourself. It’s incredibly strange to conceptualize.

You’ve been nominated for a Metal Hammer Award. What would you say is the most metal thing you’ve ever done?

Jason: Being nominated for a Metal Hammer Award.

Ryan: Perform a black mass ceremony.

Any plans to top that at the awards ceremony?

Jason: Yes. We plan on burning the venue down. For sacrificial purposes in the name of the homie Lucifer, naturally. 666777888

Ryan: Hopefully commit to round two amongst the crowd.

Do you ever take your skateboard on tour with you?

Jason: Yes I ever.

Where are the best spots in the world that you’ve encountered for skating?

Jason: Los Angeles, California and that big 5 stair set in Paris, France.

Any favourite up and coming skaters?

Jason: I’d like to shout to my young friend Elijah Berle from LA who recently won Tampa Am. He’s one of the young bloods turning real life skateboarding into “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater”. Good shit, Elijah. As for my favorite skater, that position is taken, unshakably, by Andrew Gallagher of the First Family.

If you could invent a new skate trick, what would it be called and what would it involve?

Jason: Not to sound like an asshole, but…I did. It was aptly dubbed the “Butler bump”. Best explanation for this maneuver would be a switch (or nollie, which I prefer) heelflip underflip. Best pulled from the bag of tricks at a clutch moment during a game of “skate”. A show stopper, if you will. Ask Elijah and Drew.

What can we expect from the band in the next year?

Ryan: The re-release, a lot of touring, and a new record.

Fake History is out now on Epitaph Records, find letlive. at www.thisisletlive.com

Download Festival reveal 17 more acts

Download-Festival-2011Def Leppard were announed as the 3rd main headline act for Donington’s Download Festival last night which destroyed the hopes of Soundgarden fans everywhere.

Many people where hoping that Chris Cornell and his revived crew would have been announced at the top slot this year after reforming but instead, the 80’s soft rockers topped the bill and were of course on the same stage 2 years ago.

The festival also welcomed Bring Me The Horizon, Madina Lake, Southern rock-blues metallers Down, The King Blues, Bowling For Soup, Frank Turner, Trash Talk, All That Remains, Black Stone Cherry, glam rock wankers Twisted Sister and more.

Pur some sugar on yourself and get a ticket.

Download announce more confirmed acts

Download, the definitive festival for rock and heavy alternative music is back for 2011 and the lineup thus far looks huge.

So far twenty bands have been announced including The Gaslight Anthem, Pendulum, Thin Lizzy, Bullet For My Valentine, The Cult, Gwar who are all set to join headliners System Of A Down and Linkin Park.

Download Festival will take place on 10-12 June 2011.