Download Festival 2010: Saturday Review

Event – Download Festival (Saturday)
Bands featured – Rage Against The Machine, Deftones, Megadeth, Lamb of God, Five Finger Death Punch, Flyleaf, Hellyeah, Rolo Tomassi, Genitorturers, Rock Sugar.
Beer – It was a 3 tin walk just so you know.
Weather – Pleasant/baking hot
Mood – Yup

Waking up feeling extremely groggy and after popping 2 Anadin and having my ritualistic morning breakfast of an apple and a can of Carlsberg, it was soon time to make tracks towards the main arena once again for another 9 hours of the finest hard rock and metal and my first proper full day of music at a Download Festival.
With the sun blazing down, I settled down on the grassy knoll (devoid of snipers) to watch Hellyeah’s [7] set. The combination of Mudvayne, ex-Damageplan members and some guy from Nothingface worked to create something that resembled a bunch of cowboys (from hell) playing southern metal. Nothing remotely wrong with this – it’s a solid set of the same song being thrust down your throat, but they swagger through it with a cocksure attitude. When vocalist Chad Gray introduces the band, it’s drummer Vinnie Paul who receives the biggest cheer and rightly so. They finish with a number entitled ‘Alcohaulin’ Ass’ which perfectly sums up the Hellyeah attitude and sound – a bunch of rowdy cattle rustlers who’ve listened to Clutch and Metallica’s ‘I Disappear’ far too much; a good set.

With the need for sausage and chips, not to mention an ice cream, a detour was made to the second stage to watch Rolo Tomassi [7] play. It’s pretty incredible to see the rise of this band – a bunch of kids who were at one point busting a gut on the toilet circuit and now playing to a strongly assembled crowd at one of the biggest metal festivals in the world. Eva Spence is on form as usual – switching from death growls that sound like a cat being sandpapered, to a shrill croon. Meanwhile, her brother James channels the energy and vocal technique of both Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blillie, throwing himself into the crowd whenever he doesn’t need to man the giant keyboard setup that he spends a good deal of time mashing into oblivion. In any case, their jazz-metal chaos is well received by most, some laughing at the incredibly twee nature of Eva and her in-between song-banter. Good set, sound levels so much better on the second stage than the main, which is a slight concern, especially if you’re Flyleaf [4] who seem to bear the considerable burden of having a deaf person controlling their audio output.

Whilst their white-dressed clad singer tries to make herself heard, she and the rest of the band are buried and I mean BURIED by the echoing bass booms and clanks throughout their entire set – truly fucking awful. Whilst the sound clears for Five Finger Death Punch [2] (thankfully someone unplugged Flyleaf’s bassist) they seem to be stuck in 2001. It’s as if Marty and the Doc went back 9 years, stumbled on this band and brought them back to the present day for no reason what-so-ever. What FFDP have is lowest common-denominator nu-metal. It’s ugly, chugging and embarrassing to witness – a bit like dating your mum. Why anyone would even consider this band worthy t-shirt material (the plethora of chuffers walking about sporting them was baffling) I have no idea. A bunch of Ill Nino copyists who perhaps looked at a picture of nu-metal and tried to emulate all its worst characteristics and sounds.
With much of my Download experience confined to the main and second stage, it was nice to have a change of scenery. Arriving for the last 5 minutes of Genitorturers [?] a band comprised of a police dominatrix and Nine Inch Nails b-sides, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Rock Sugar [9]. Their vocalist, Jess Harnell is every bit the entertainer – swaggering on stage to give a thumbs up, waving at the crowd dressed in a white suit, complete with cowboy hat, sunglasses and a smile that probably makes that Colgate ‘ding’. Those unfamiliar with Rock Sugar should know that they perform mash-ups of various 80s pop and rock songs. It is something that shouldn’t work – it should sound disjointed and clumsy, but in reality it’s an incredible experience. The roar from the crowd is surprisingly raucous; even the band look slightly stunned by the warm welcome (this is Rock Sugar’s first Download and first ever UK show). Harnell is the consummate professional showman – he gets the crowd warmed up with a series of chants, whoops and hollers, before kicking into their Journey/Metallica cut up, ‘Don’t Stop The Sandman.’ The sound of hundreds of metal fans singing a 80s soft rock ballad to one of the most well known metal tracks in history is an absolute joy. It’s not hard to see why Rock Sugar are so well loved; they’ve got the stage presence, the glam, the enthusiasm and cocksure attitude, not to mention this technique for constructing absurd cover-mash ups (Paula Abdul songs at Download anyone?). Harnell treats the audience to some impressions; namely Axel Rose, Paul Stanley and Ozzy Osbourne which are met with a roar of approval. They close with a fantastic rendition of ‘We Will Kickstart Your Rhapsody’; a Queen-polka mixed with Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ – a sprawling set closer to end all sets and provides one of, if not the biggest sing-along of the whole weekend. An incredible performance of charismatic, heart racing rock and roll. My one gripe is the length of the set – 5 songs just is not enough; the second stage beckons for 2011…

Attention turns to the main stage again and whilst on route to get food and liquid refreshment, I unfortunately witness some of Lamb of God [3], a band that define boring, chugga metal to it’s very core. No one remotely gives a shit what the next song is called, as their dreadlocked singer bounds about the stage, inexplicably swearing his head off. The lyrics and indeed the entire performance are buried under needless screaming, death growls and a sense of growing nausea and boredom. Less of this sort of thing please.

Megadeth [7.5] put on a strong show; their sound quality varies at times, particularly Dave Mustaine’s comical voice, which is tossed about like a juggler with Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, their thrash metal is tight, focussed and warmly received, with tracks such as ‘Headcrusher’ and the schizophrenic ‘Sweating Bullets’ (“hello me, it’s me again!” sings Dave) being a particular highlight. After a comical lyrical change made by some friends during ‘Symphony of Destruction’ (“just like Knight Rider…”) Mustaine and Co finish with a superb version of ‘Peace Sells’ and round off what has been a riff-filled, guitar-squeal of eccentric but punishing thrash metal. The band departs with a bow, thanking Download – ever the professionals for what has been another successful set of singing about systems failing and robot overlords.

Deftones [8] plough through their set with gusto and unrelenting rage. Vocalist Chino Moreno (who looks fitter and healthier since his time climbing over school desks) is a whirlwind of a sweat-stained check shirt and facial hair, bounding about the stage with such effortless enthusiasm. Opening tracks ‘Rocket Skates’ and ‘Diamond Eyes’ from the album of the same name are bone-crushingly heavy. The down-tuned grind of stand-in bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Abe Cunningham is punishing. During their 17 song set, Chino and Co. strive to cover ground on most of their releases. There is however notable absence of any material from their self-titled effort, which is somewhat of a surprise. The mid-section is made up predominantly of their work from ‘Diamond Eyes’, whilst the closing tag-team of ‘Root’ and ‘7 Words’ from their first record ‘Adrenaline’ go down a storm. Notable highlights include a passionate, spine-tingling version of ‘Change (In The House of Flies)’ and ‘Passenger’. There’s a great cheer as ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ kicks into gear as thousands of Matrix fans scream themselves hoarse, whilst ‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)’ is a destructive wave of crunching alt-metal. A savage, raucous set, but where’s ‘Back To School’ guys? You missed a trick there, I was all set to do my Chino impression.

Finally then…it is the moment nearly everyone has been waiting for. Well, except if you’re a Jared Leto fan. Rage Against The Machine [10] arrive 30 minutes late (I’m guessing Zack de la Rocha was having a roast dinner perhaps?) kicking into ‘Testify.’ It’s as though someone has electrified the entire field – the amount of bouncing, small circle pit outbreaks and unhinged jubilation is staggering. This is followed by ‘Bombtrack’ and 2 attempts at ‘People of the Sun’ (the first one aborted due to someone getting crushed at the front; no doubt a waif-thin 14 year old). After this, it’s essentially a greatest hits run through – all the classics, from ‘Know Your Enemy’, complete with the rabble-rousing chant “ALL OF WHICH ARE AMERICAN DREAMS!”, to ‘Bulls On Parade’ and a surprise airing of ‘Township Rebellion.’ The cover of the Clash’s ‘White Riot’ is an unusual addition, which at first could be a tad dubious, but Rage pull it off with flair and a respectably snotty attitude, with Zack de la Rocha’s vocals suiting the ramshackle nature of the tune. Much like Chino Moreno before hand; de la Rocha is a whirlwind of endless enthusiasm; bounding around the stage like he’s trying to escape an angry lion, whilst guitarist Tom Morello pogo’s around with the energy of a thousand punk rock guitarists compacted into one man. His playing is an aboluslte joy to watch; if he’s not tapping various parts of his guitar in order to get the right sound he’s flaling it about his body, mashing the wammy bar, waving it at the speakers,  forming sounds using just the lead bashed against the palm of his hand, whilst shredding that brilliant, guttural booming sound.

The one-two punch of ‘Guerrilla Radio’ (Tony Hawk’s 2 fans rejoice!) and ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’ are suitably epic, whilst the rap-funk-rock of ‘Wake Up’ and the line “FIST IN THE AIR IN THE LAND OF HYPOCRISY!” is met with the desired raised fist and defiant chant. After the obligatory fake encore, the Rage boys return to run through ‘Freedom’ and finish with a song that was Christmas number 1 or something. The close is spectacular; de la Rocha didn’t even need to show up to be honest, as the backing vocals of the thousands of people singing themselves hoarse, air punching for all their worth, eclipse everything. For a song that was recorded and released 20 years back, ‘Killing In The Name’ still sounds as fresh and possibly more vital than ever before. A fantastic set, by the second best band of the entire festival – Rage take no prisoners and dare I say, pull possibly a bigger crowd than AC/DC the night before. Would have loved to have heard ‘Renegades of Funk’ though – that would have been Jam Sucka.

Links

Rage Against The Machine
Deftones
Megadeth
Lamb Of God

Five Finger Death Punch
Flyleaf
Hellyeah
Rolo Tomassi
Rock Sugar

By Ross Macdonald

Lizard Hips

Lizard Hips

Junior Vice President of Keep It Fast. In other news: I work in social media, talk about dinosaurs, run a book club and have amazing facial hair. I am also a male man who is still not dead.

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