It all started on the Thursday, we arrive late afternoon, unload the car and contend with the walk from hell, carrying very heavy bags, booze and camping gear. We arrive at the arena aching and sweaty. We pass though the entrance and accompanying security searches relatively free of hassle, that’s it, we’re in. We meet up with friends who arrived on the Wednesday and follow them to a space in the blue camp they had saved for us, god bless gazeboes. We all feel guilty that people need to stop the party for us to fit in, but we are told that they were warned, so we crack on. After much struggling we get our huge tent up, which was later nicknamed Castle Greyskull by all around us. Now for the fun, we walk into the campers village to sample what it has to offer, a few hours in the comedy tent puts us all in good spirits for a party, so we move on to the main tent in the village which is called The Doghouse. What followed is hazy, all I know is we crashed at around 5am.
We all wake up around 9am Friday morning and we all have hangovers. So we down some water and then the only suitable morning drink we have, which is cider, which counts as a fruit right? A few hours later we head off to the arena and onto the bands, probably the reason you’re even reading this. So here it is, I have reviewed every band I saw over the weekend…….
Puddle of Mudd
I want to say something good about this band because I was a fan a few years ago, but….very disappointing, had no stage presence and just looked lost on the main stage. 4/10
Duff McKagan’s Loaded
This is a band that knows how to rock a festival. Duff has some banter with the crowd and got everyone going. They finished their set off with the GnR number ‘Its So Easy’ and leave the crowd on a high. 7/10
Black Stone Cherry
One of the best bands to play at the festival, they work the crowd well and do a much unexpected cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ that the crowd love. This is a band on the up. 8/10
A great band once, but the essence of the band are gone and the new mix just can’t cut it. They tried hard enough and did a decent rendition of ‘Whisky in the Jar’ which got a few people into it, but most the crowd seemed unresponsive. I must admit though I tuned out a little and used some of their stage time to grab food and a drink. 4/10
A stand out band of the festival, they rocked hard and had everyone talking about them. They pulled a very large crowd and proved they are worthy of their forthcoming arena tour. 8/10
A band that I think surprised a lot of people, Justin Hawkins strutted around stage and trusted his pelvis at every opportunity whilst hitting every note perfectly. They brought it all, the whole over the top stage show, with flames and all, and I liked it. A lot of people would have gone into their set on the fence and will now be fans of The Darkness or at least their live show. 8/10.
Now I know this band is classed as rock royalty in some circles, but they just didn’t do it for me and I can’t really put my finger on why. The stage back drop was amazing and when the gig started I had high hopes, but as the gig went on it seemed a lot of people were just waiting for the inevitable ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ sing along, and maybe I was also guilty of this. I’m not sure if this even makes sense but they were just to “polished” and everything seemed planned with military precision. No before you think it, I’m not naive and I know gigs are all planned but this one just seemed to be a worn out routine that even the band are bored of. 6/10
Close to being the best band of the weekend, they pulled a huge crowd and pulled everyone out of their hangovers. Benji’s banter was faultless and so was his singing. This is a band that in my opinion will one day headline this festival. 9/10
A very energetic performance that got the crowd going, lead singer Sierra worked really hard and seemed really pleased to be there. This was the only band I saw at the third stage and I’m glad I made that trip. 7/10
Not a band I know much about and I found them very average, they tried hard to get the banter going but the majority of the crowd did not want to know. They looked like the may have been more at home on the second stage. 4/10
Young and old turned up to see the legendary rockers, and it’s no surprise that they rocked the second stage. They played all the hits and front man Dee got some really good interaction going with the crowd, at one point he asked the crowd to make more noise that the main stage, they may have succeeded. 8/10
System of a Down
The best band of the festival, they pulled the biggest crowd of the weekend and had them all rocking, and I don’t mean the people packed in at the front, I mean the WHOLE CROWD. I’m not sure I have ever seen so many people partying at the same time. What was so impressive was that the band did not bother with any fancy back drop or special forget it. 9.5/10
Bowling for Soup
I’m not sure where to start with this band, musically they were average but I really enjoyed their time on stage because it was more like a comedy show, complete with giant blow up sheep. A solid performance that got everyone’s spirits up despite the fact it rained for most the day. 7/10
This was just weird, and more of a theatre horror show than a musical one. I can see how people dressed up as monsters and squirting fake blood into the crowd could be funny and maybe it was just the rain that spoilt it but they just did not do it for me. 3/10
Another band that I think surprised a lot of people, by the time they came on stage a lot of people had given in to the rain and ether gone back to their tent or home. That did not stop the band giving it their all as they won over the wet and cold crowd. They sounded really good and seemed genuinely pleased to be there. By then end of their set they had people dancing in the rain and clapping along to the upbeat sound, another highlight of the festival. 8/10
The rain and wind had died down and the crowd had grown by the time they came on to close the festival. They rocked hard to start and got everyone warmed up nicely, an impressive lighting and video display complimented the music perfectly. They slowed things down for a while as they played some of their new material including the song ‘Iridescent’ which is due to appear in the new Transformers film. The crowd responded well to the new song and it kept the set moving along nicely. They rocked the festival to a close with a mash up of their first album ‘Hybrid Theory’ and what an ending it was, this is a band that knows how to leave a crowd on a high. 9/10
That’s it then, Download festival is over for another year, but do not fear, the festival will be back next year for its 10th birthday, and I’m sure the organizers will have something special planned to celebrate. I hope to see you all there, ready to rock on the hollowed ground that is Donnington.
Festival Rating: 8/10