The Download Festival has been going strong since its inception in 2003, and this year’s festival was no different.
After spending 3 hours on various trains, I arrived on site late Friday morning. My first impression of the Download Festival site was that it was big. It was certainly bigger than any other festival I’ve been to. On arrival, I made my way to the VIP/Guest camp site located next to the main stage. As well as being my first time going to the Download Festival, it was my first time pitching a tent. This in itself was a challenge and took around 2 hours to do. Due to my lack of tent-pitching skills, I missed CKY opening the main stage, but made it to the arena in time for Puddle of Mudd.
These Kansas City rockers, definitely know how to get a crowd going. The band performed a tight, well put together set. Playing crowd favourites, “Control” and “She Hates Me”, Puddle of Mudd frontman, Wes Scantlin dominated the stage and kept the crowd pumped throughout the set.
I then went over to the second stage to see High Wycombe quintet, Young Guns. Having seen the band play 4 times over the past year, I was expecting a high energy, non-stop set. The band delivered. The guys played an awesome set. Every song was note perfect. Highlights from the set were “Stitches” and “Winter Kiss”.
Next up were my good friends, Don Broco. Playing nearly all of their debut mini-album, Big Fat Smile, the band rocked the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage. Fan favourite “Thug Workout” opened the set. It had only been 2 minutes into the track, till lead singer, Rob Damiani’s microphone was disconnected in a mosh via a circle pit. The second circle pit at the end of the set was more successful and didn’t result in any microphones being disconnected. What made this band stand out was the amount of passion they display when performing. They are without a doubt one of the most hard-working bands in the UK and are the one to watch this year. Highlights from the set were “Dreamboy” and “Beautiful Morning”.
I made my way to the main stage for Alter Bridge. This had to be the worst band of the day. They sounded terrible. The tracks sounded nothing like they would on a CD. Even though lead singer, Myles Kennedy interacted with the audience a lot, I felt that this was without a doubt, the weakest performance of the day.
Headlining the second stage on the Friday were drum and bass band, Pendulum. These guys are no strangers to Download and have played the festival twice before. Albeit a few technical problems during “Witchcraft”, the band delivered a high energy, fast paced show. What surprised me was the crowd Pendulum drew for their set. From where I was standing it seemed that Pendulum had a bigger crowd than Def Leppard. This just proves how popular Pendulum are and how they can play any type of festival. The band also delivered a light show which was second to none. Highlights of the set were “Propane Nightmares” and “Watercolour”.
The first band I caught on the Saturday were Newport metallers Skindred. To describe their set in one word, it would be amazing. It would be safe to say that Skindred were band of the day. Performing hits such as “Nobody” and mashing up Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out” with “Selector”, front man Benji Webbe kept the crowd pumped throughout. He got the crowd to do the rock robot and the Newport helicopter. For those of you, who aren’t aware of what the Newport Helicopter is, basically, you had to take off a piece of clothing and swing it in a circular motion. Having seen Skindred play clubs and venues a million times smaller than Download, it can be said that Skindred can rock any crowd whatever the size.
After catching Skindred, I went over to the Pepsi Max tent to catch VersaEmerge. Led by front woman Sierra Kusterbeck, the band powered through a great set. The acoustics of the tent meant that the sound was dampened slightly, however the band were tight and played fan favourites “Fixed At Zero” and “Figure It Out”. In my opinion, what makes this band stand out is that they sound exactly the same as they do on record.
The King Blues are festival veterans. Having seen them play in both festival and club environments, this was their best performance to date. Playing to a rammed Pepsi Max tent, the band opened with “Last of the Dreamers” which was received exceptionally well by the Download crowd. The atmosphere during the whole set was something that cannot be described. It was something I had not seen the whole weekend thus far. My personal favourites were “I Got Love” and set closer “Save The World, Get The Girl”.
System Of A Down returned from hiatus to headline the Saturday night. You could tell the band were stage starved and as a result delivered an adrenaline packed performance. A few things stood out in this headline set. First of all the drums sounded tight and well polished. Another thing was the eerie sounding and emotion packed lyrics, lead vocalist, Serj Tankian delivered. Even if you’re not a fan of SOAD’s music, their sound was contagious and something you could not stop but bang your head to.
Due to the torrential downpour on Sunday, I only managed to catch a few of the bands. While sheltering under a Vodafone mobile phone charge point, I caught The Pretty Reckless. I don’t know what Taylor Momsen was wearing, but it was pretty reckless (see what I did there). Moving on from Taylor Momsen’s attire or lack off, the band weren’t too bad. “Make Me Wonna Die” and “Just Tonight” were received well. It was a good Download Festival debut.
Ending the festival were Linkin Park. These guys know how to headline. The band played a great set overall. Lead singer, Chester Bennington belted out the vocals as if his life depended on it. Playing songs old and new, meant that fans went home happy. My personal favourites were “Papercut” and “Numb”.
Overall, a brilliant weekend, and one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to.
For more information on Download, head on over to www.downloadfestival.co.uk.