Download 2015: Sunday Pt. 1
I’m not sure whether my prayers are looked fondly upon by a kind deity or if it’s just coincidence, but the rain has finally fucked off by Sunday morning - for good this time I pray. It’s blazing hot in the tent and my jeans, sodden during (not by) Judas Priest, are on the path to being dry. I spend a good many minutes picking mud from around the knees, taking pleasure in the texture of not-wet mud. It’s really quite something not to be wrapped in a giant poncho-come-condom, I muse. With a clear sky and head 1, I put my boots on for another day of seeing bands, walking around fervently and fantasising about roast dinners, showers and, occasionally, indulging in both fantasies simultaneously.
First up on the main stage are Alaskan-based metalcore outfit 36 Crazyfists who deliver a high energy, if not predictable, set in front of a surprisingly large crowd. In many ways, this opening slot is almost impossible to negotiate. In a similar situation as All That Remains on Friday, Crazyfists are burdened by a subdued crowd that is symptomatic of playing a festival before noon. Never the less, the band rip through their nostalgic brand of hardcore tinged metal, treating us to classics such as At the End of August which we’ve all sung along to at one time or another. Today is no different. A solid opener making the best of what they’ve got.
Still suffering from last night’s rum filled proceedings, we decide to once again summon a bacon sandwich/coffee combination to pick up our energy levels in time for Von Hertzen Brothers on the second stage. I’ve never heard this band before, but they are distinctively Finnish – from the morbidly beautiful backdrop to the Scandinavian stylings of the music. Phil turns to me and lets me know that the vocalist is slightly off point, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the progressively slanted rock which these guys are dishing out. After the weird and wonderful combination of Faith No More and Muse last night, alongside the heaviness provided by Carcass and Testament, Von Hertzen Brothers provide some much needed contrast to the chaos and perform some simple, ear pleasing tunes with a great melodic power.
Aimless wandering is part of the festival experience and Download is no exception. There are often times when there’s nothing to watch, and then times where you want to be in three places at once. Such is the way with a bill as diverse as this. As Von Herzen Brothers closed out their set, we went walking and caught the tail end of Cavalera Conspiracy on the main stage. I’ve never been especially keen on the band, but in fairness I’m not the biggest Sepultura fan either. I do, however, have a soft spot for pummelling numbers such as Refuse/Resist which CC happen to be playing as we approach the stage. It’s a powerful rendition of a now classic post-thrash number which draws a sizable circle pit and other insane shenanigans. When the band tear into Sanctuary, I can’t help but smile – thinking back to the time when I covered this song live whilst wearing lion slippers. They aren’t blowing my mind, but as the soundtrack to walking across Download’s giant arena, there’s certainly worse things I can imagine hearing. (For example: hearing Nickelback’s Rockstar for the millionth time. They’ll headline Donnington at some point – I’m willing to bet – if the amount of radio play at the festival suggests anything).
We finally settle at the rammed-to-the-point-of-bursting third stage, where Evil Scarecrow are delivering their unique brand of cybernetic, space-themed, pantomime metal. The crowd is splitting out the tent, each and every person scuttling around with crab pincers held aloft shouting 'CRAB PEOPLE CRAB PEOPLE'. I can’t help thinking that for the uninitiated this must be absolutely fucking terrifying, confusing and embarrassing in equal measure. We’re having fun though, and so are the thousands of others jostling for position. I haven’t seen Evil Scarecrow since around 2009 and am glad to see that absolutely nothing has changed. They’re still the over-the-top, bizarre band they always were and are extremely tight live considering the complexity of their arrangements. Any band who initiates an ‘anti-gravity circle pit’ deserves applause in my book, too. Wonderful fun.
Next up is the walk to the ice cream van for overpriced bottle of Fanta number eighteen for the weekend and I sip it slowly, taking in the music of Tremonti who has appeared on the main stage during my time in the queue. The whole experience reminds me of many unpleasant hours spent repelling the living shit out of Pidgey after Pidgey on Pokemon; one always slips through the net and ambushes me. Tremonti is that Pidgey. This is one of the more unremarkable performances of the weekend and though not in any way ‘bad’, it doesn’t hold my interest any more than thinking about why I didn’t buy an ice cream to accompany my bottle of Fanta this time. Tremonti is, in fairness, a talented guitarist and singer, but his music just lacks a unique selling point which would ever make me turn to it in favour of similar acts. The fact that his backing guitarist is outplaying him here, speaks volumes. Probably not worth an Ultra Ball.
Before I know it, I realise I’ve entered the part of Download which a very select few love, and the vast majority go out of their way to ignore. The third stage is currently home to Code Orange who play a brand of music so challenging and obtuse that it nearly passes me by after a morning of fairly approachable bands. The constant aggression, time signature shifts and stop-start lunges make Code Orange a formidable prospect as they blend sludge, doom, deathcore and hardcore into a hellish melting pot. I can’t help but feel like they have huge potential, but that this field isn’t right for them. There’s not enough Converge fans and more people today are here for KISS than the likes of these guys. One to revisit later on record, and to see live at a more intimate venue with suitable supports.
I don’t really see the point of a ‘surprise set’ at a festival, primarily because everyone knows who’s playing and where. It’s about as surprising as seeing someone in pompous KISS make-up at Download today, and, had you been here, you’d know that the face painting tent wasn’t exactly strapped for customers. Nevertheless, it’s time for The Darkness: a band I’d almost entirely forgot existed until literally just now. The tent is absolutely heaving for this, the crowd are rowdy and the atmosphere is electric. I find myself looking forward to this far more than I thought I would be around 3 minutes ago. My plan initially was to go and watch Godsmack on the second stage but I can’t leave, not now. Not now the band have been playing the same riff for over five minutes and the anticipation is at its height. "Where the fuck is Justin?" shouts the guy next to me. Based on the queue for portaloos outside the tent, my best guess is – there. When he does finally emerge, Hawkins comes out on some sort of throne-come-chariot and crowd-surfs through the centre of the audience, clad in full barbarian gear (appropriately enough, for the song Barbarian). This is terrific fun. The walls of Marshall amps roar with a ferocity which makes the DI’d performances so far feel flat and uninspired. Hawkins doesn’t seem to have aged since the Permission to Land days and is still as sexually deviant and wild as ever. By the end of the set, it’s pretty clear to me that The Darkness are still as fun and relevant as they ever were after delivering one of my favourite performances so far this weekend.
End of part one.
Words: Ben Armstrong