Friday got off to a terrible start. With the arena due to open at midday, for the music to begin at 1pm, those of us listening to Download FM were informed that this was to be delayed due to the ground not being in a suitable condition and that organizers were rapidly trying to lay down straw to make the mud more bearable. But clearly a lot of campers and day ticket holders were completely unaware of this fact only to be held up at the arena entrance and made to queue for approximately an hour and a half! Of course, this then delayed the opening bands, if not actually cancelling them completely and rescheduling them for other time slots. There were a lot of unhappy people at 2pm on that Friday!
Heading straight to the Jim Marshall main stage for Fear Factory we were greeted with stewards blocking off half the field infront of the stage as they were still trying in vain to get more straw down. This didn't seem to put off Fear Factory who opened their set with 'Shock.' The field was opened halfway through the set though and took seconds to fill up. The weather conditions were obviously causing havoc at this early stage from the rain and now the gale force winds which were causing the sound of the stage to be terribly staggered (I'm being optimistic saying this was the wind and not the band).
Second port of call for me was the second Zippo Encore stage to catch the latter half of English five-some Terrorvision's set. I first caught these guys at Sonisphere 2010 and was overly impressed with their stage presence. This was no exception. Lead singer Tony Wright bounces around the stage while belting out hits including 'Josephine' and 'Alice whats the matter' with enough energy and enthusiasm to awaken the entire mud caked crowd.
Staying on this stage for the next band Europe, moods seemed slightly lifted. However this was short lived with the half hour delay for Europe to take to the stage only to be told over the loud speaker that there had been a problem with getting the band in from the airport at that their performance had been cancelled. The mood took a huge stage dive yet again with a roar of disappointment from the awaiting crowd. I looked around at that point and found it difficult to find just one person who looked like they were having the time of their life!
With the day still bordering on disastrous, and with the stage times for the day completely a shambles from the delayed opening, I wandered down the mud slide to the Pepsi Max stage where the stage times had The Defiled as playing at 5.10pm, and seems as this is the band I was determined to see I would rather be early than miss them. And early I was. The Defiled were now due on at 6pm and the band beforehand, Lawnmower Deth, were only now due to start. The tent was completely packed out showing the following that this Nottinghamshire band have. As we were on the outskirts at the rear of the tent, the intro kicked in and the crowd was eager to start joining in. The band take to the stage, throwing out numerous inflatable items, including lilos and an inflatable penguin! I decided to head to the bar and return for The Defiled as this band was not entirely my cup of Tetley, but the fans seemed to really enjoy the performance with the inflatable penguin dancing away quite happily.
6.00pm and time for The Defiled and man, they did not disappoint. Now I know i am a huge fan but they were quite easily the band of the weekend for me. The opening bars of album opener 'Land of Fools' never fails to give me goosebumps as the band take to the stage, and I was slightly disappointed that they didn't kick into the song but this disappointment soon passed as the London 5piece rocked straight into massive hit 'Call to Arms.'
Latest song 'Black Death' was next up, complete with a stage show from the scantily latex clad black death icons, complete with masks, who proceeded to hunt down band members KK Curse and Vincent Hyde and 'slit their throats' with what can only be described as batons of fake blood.The set also included new song 'As I drowned' which had the crowd jumping, as per Stitch D and The Avd's instructions, for the entire song.
Overall, a highly energetic and entertaining set from the lads with an impressive introduction to new drummer Needles and an equally impressive stage dive from bassist Vincent Hyde during ending song 'The Resurrectionists.' They had me completely enthralled in the performance which actually left me unaware of where I was (no, I was not overcome with Magners at this point). My only gripe was the half hour set was clearly not long enough but The Defiled definitely left me wanting more.
After a brief visit back to the tent, I headed back to the arena for main stage headliners The Prodigy. Although they were half hour late on stage, the atmosphere of dancing and glow sticks as the electronic dance masters kicked into full swing was a breath of fresh air. The mud and wind were zapped out with the amazing light show which only emphasized the invaders must die album theme and space age tracks brought by Liam Howlett, Maxim and Keith Flint. Playing massive anthems such as 'Voodoo People,' 'Smack My Bitch Up' and 'Firestarter' got the whole crowd singing along and inclusions of 'Invaders must die' tracks 'Omen' and 'Take Me To The Hospital' had even the hardest of metal heads jumping around like a loon whilst throwing cosmic shapes. An impressive performance indicating exactly how these guys can headline a festival like this one.
Saturday brought more hope weather wise. The rain seemed to be holding off but this seemed to invite the wind to take centre stage. Arriving in the arena it was obvious that the organisers had tried to undertake massive damage control through the night with huge areas of straw throughout the arena. Saying that, the less affected areas seemed to have compacted and hardened a bit making these areas easier to walk on. We trudged over to the main stage where Yorkshire metallers Saxon were just finishing up their set, not before front man Biff Byford got a shot of the crowd on his phone though.
Staying put and shuffling forward as the Saxon fans headed out, I was really looking forward to the next act, Hollywood rock band Black Veil Brides. I had never seen these guys perform before and before the band had made an appearance it was easy to find the haters amongst the crowd. One reveller spent the entire set holding up a Metallica T-Shirt while holding up his middle fingers to the band, an action quickly followed by a small portion of the crowd.
This band seems to get a lot of stick, something that lead singer Andy Biersack was prepared to deal with during the performance, announcing to the many 'bottlers' to 'get better aim' while he was out on the walkway around the Snake Pit, brought for Metallica performance later that night, and even flashing his arse at the middle finger brigade. But although I couldn't help but be disappointed at the acts of this minority of fellow festival goers, I was rather impressed with the band's performance. The Black Veil Brides army seemed to be as impressed as I was, singing along to hits from album Set The World On Fire, including 'Rebel Love Song' and 'The Legacy.' The crowd was also treated to a Black Veil Brides cover of Billy Idol's 1983 hit 'Rebel Yell' before ending their set with 'Fallen Angels.' A great thumbs up from me.
Still not moving from the Jim Marshall stage, I was ready for another highlight of the weekend for me, Orlando 4-piece Trivium. Opening with album title track 'In Waves' and thrashing their way through other hits including 'Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr,' 'Black' and 'A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation.' An announcement of a UK tour later this year and huge crowd participation for In Waves track 'Dusk Dismantled' really brought the crowd alive and here ended another amazing performance.
After a bar run and a pee break, I managed to catch the latter part of Tenacious D at the main stage. Jack and Kyle were sharing the stage with huge phoenix type bird backing prop, possibly in reference to their new album Rize Of The Fenix. Playing tracks from this new album mixed with old classics led into Jack Black also taking a crowd photo on his phone, then stating he'd 'text it to you'. The crowd went wild and erupted into a huge singalong for track 'Fuck Her Gently,' which then was followed swiftly by massive anthem 'Tribute,' also from the self titled 2001 album, which made the crowd follow suit with roaring singalongs and mass air guitar playing!
My only trip to the second stage on Saturday came for Newport alternative rock/reggae legends Skindred. The band walked on stage to the Imperial March, with guitarist Mikey Demus wearing a horses head mask, which he wore for the entire set, and Benji Webb in an impressive shiny gold and red ensemble. The set included tracks 'Pressure, Trouble' and personal favourite 'Game Over' before ending with the brutal 2011 hit 'Warning,' containing the obligatory Newport Helicopter. The set was alive and jumping, with front man Webb, oozing with energy and his usual charisma. We were also entertained with Webb's Robot dancing and a crowd singsong of Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' (put a ring on it)!
To end a phenomenal Saturday of music, headliners Metallica were due to play the 1991 self titled or otherwise known Black Album in its entirety. Having seen Metallica three times previous over the past four years, two of which in a festival setting, I stood awaiting their entrance knowing that I was going to get a good show.
The Black Album is not one that I own so I was aware that there would be songs played that I didn't know, as with any performance really, but if previous shows were anything to go by I knew that wouldn't matter. The infamous 'Ecstasy of Gold' intro started with the fans singing along and then Metallica blast straight into 'Hit The Lights.' Fan favourite 'Master Of Puppets' followed after and three other tracks before the Black album kicks in, being played backwards (as in the tracklist backwards, not the actual songs).
The many Metallica fans around me were quite clearly enjoying every second however with some slower personally unknown songs and my feet engulfed in thick cold sludge I started to slow down and felt a bit underwhelmed. And I will state now, this was nothing to do with the bands performance at all. My friend being a huge Metallicafan left me to get on with it and loved every second. Massive crowd singalongs were underway for ballads 'Nothing Else Matters' and 'The Unforgiven' and then the opening bars of 'Sad But True' well and truly awoke me from my cold, mud laden suffering. From that point out, the Metallica show that I was used to had me bouncing around, singing my heart out and flinching under the huge pyrotechnics and fireworks.
The finale of 'Seek And Destroy,' complete with a shower of Metallica beachballs from the top of the stage really sent the show out with a bang, leaving tens of thousands of festival goers, Metallica fans or not, impressed with what they had just witnessed.
Sunday was an all round quieter day for me and the day my trusty little festival camera died. There were no bands I was determined to see so had a few drinks a generally flitted about enjoying what turned out to be a beautiful, non windy, gloriously sunny day (finally!). My friends and I trekked through the noticeably overcrowded arena to get to the Zippo Encore stage, just in time to jump around with air guitars to Ugly Kid Joe's 'Everything About You.' Staying at this stage we sat and watched Shinedown from the top of the 'hill' and sang out mega ballad 'Second Chance' before heading back down to watch Soundgarden from the top of the Jagermeister Truck.
Black Sabbath started and we continued to watch from the Jager truck, which had an amazing view. I can honestly say that I am not a Sabbath fan and only know one Sabbath song but I really did enjoy their performance. Ozzy looked to be really enjoying himself, getting the crowd to participate and throwing a bucket of water at them. They finished with an encore of 'Paranoid,' the one song I do know, with a little pyrotechnics thrown in and then came a pretty awesome firework display, which I bet looked amazing and or terrifying from the planes coming into land at East Midlands airport.
As miserable, and at times difficult, the weather had made me up to Friday afternoon, I can honestly say I was sad to see "See you Next Year!" displayed on the main stage screens marking the end of Download Festival 2012. What a weekend!