Kicked off by CKY, this year’s Download Festival was immediately off to a good start as rumours of an appearance by Bam Margera (whose brother Jess drums for the band) drew in a huge crowd for the opening set. Alas, no Bam, but CKY were able to rile up the mosh-happy Downloaders with ease. Puddle of Mudd followed with a less inspiring set, but all was forgiven thanks to the singalong nostalgia value of ‘She Hates Me’, despite Wes Scantlin messing up the intro in his attempt to play guitar, smoke, sing and chat up some groupies on the front row all at the same time.
Over on the second stage, Anti-Flag gave a typically fantastic performance, stirring up the crowd to no end with ‘Die for the Government’, though something tells me this has more to do with its catchy tune than the anti-war message they were trying to sell the mob of metal-happy drunks trying to hurt each other. Back on the main stage, Black Stone Cherry gave an unexpectedly outstanding performance that was easily one of the best of the weekend. While frontman Chris Robertson may look like your average podgy bloke and hold the physical stage presence of a garden chair, if angels were from Kentucky he’s exactly how they’d sound.
Thin Lizzy proved to be much less inspiring, only really pleasing the solitary wizened old festival fanatics, wrapped from the elbow down in a timeline of wristbands harking back to Reading ’74. Bring Me the Horizon proved to be another disappointment, with Oliver Sykes’ voice failing to hit the right notes live, though given their success at the Kerrang! Awards the night before (they won the accolade for Best Album), he was likely suffering from an astonishing hang over. Alter Bridge more than made up for it all anyway. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them now, but Miles Kennedy’s voice never ceases to astound, and using the tricks he’s picked up from touring with Slash, took on lead guitarist Mark Tremonti in an epic guitar battle that made more than a few fans have to go and sit down.
The Darkness performed well, but Justin Hawkins’s moustache was just too off-putting so I tepidly approached the Korn set to find them enthralling a horde of head bangers covered in dreadlocks. I’ve never been able to really get into Korn, but it was clear they are a tremendously technically skilled band. Of particular note was ‘Get Up’, a hybrid of metal and dubstep released in conjunction with Skrillex, which aside from coming across brilliantly live was worth playing for the rare sight of the usually dub-averted Downloaders screaming “wob-wob-wob-wob-wob”.
Pendulum brought the night to a close with enough bass to simulate an earthquake, in a mind-bogglingly visual array of lasers and strobe lights that left me feeling mildly concussed (in a good way). The exhausting rave atmosphere of songs like ‘Blood Sugar’ summing up the non-stop excitement and madness of the day, I couldn’t wait to see what the next held in store.