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Download Festival - Donington Park - June 14-16 2013 (Live Review)

Thursday, 20 June 2013 Written by Jon Stickler

After a 10,534 hour journey via taxi, train, bus and camper van, some tears, some cider, a fight, a Happy Meal and a couple of broken promises, we made it to Download Festival – the biggest weekend in the rock calendar. Screeeaam for me Donington!

Friday June 12 2013

As 90,000 people packed out the grounds of Donington race track and park, the opening day of the festival saw the likes of Asking Alexandria, Papa Roach, Architects, Korn and Bullet For My Valentine all perform mind-blowing sets throughout the day, while Fearless Vampire Killers, Fidlar and the Algorithm ripped up the Red Bull Bedroom Jam Stage.  

Highlights included Canada's Monster Truck, who opened the second stage riding high on hard rock damnation and belting out tracks from their recent debut 'Furiosity'. Fans of Wolfmother and older stuff from Black Stone Cherry should check out these guys. Beards and beefy riffs.

For most of the crowd, Papa Roach provide an opportunity to relive their teenage years. Let's not forget, this is a band celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. With the power of nostalgia drawing a huge crowd to their main stage performance, the outstanding Jacoby Shaddix leads a set of epic proportions. A frenzied throng of fans assembled at the front of the stage rock through a setlist featuring both old and new material. Set closer Last Resort smashed it.

As the afternoon winds towards evening, the first of those niggling clashes arrive as Korn, on the main stage, and Volbeat on the second stage, go head-to-head. Korn are treading the boards as the classic line-up after the return of guitarist Head.

They're on fine form, focused and armed with a setlist so awesome, the sea of horns threatens to block out the sun. Got The Life and Korn-Skrillex combo Get Up! shape Donington hill into a mass of flailing arms and screaming voices, while vocalist Jonathan Davis' bagpipes during Shoots And Ladders goes down as a set highlight. It is topped off with an iffy rendition of Happy Birthday from the Download masses – drummer Ray Luzier receiving some birthday wishes he wont forget anytime soon.

Over on the second stage we have the brash, boogie metal from Danish outfit Volbeat. Bringing punky, foot-stomping, beer-swilling tunes to the crowd, the band, now with the addition of Rob Caggiano, unleash Sad Man’s Tongue, 16 Dollars and Pools of Booze, Booze, Booze. There's also a tribute to the legendary Jeff Hannemann, in the shape of THAT Raining Blood riff, as well as homage to metal gods Judas Priest with an outburst of Breaking The Law.

Following Korn's epic performance, Bullet For My Valentine need to come out all guns blazing. Boasting a massive set, featuring pyro, a huge light show and mega backdrop, Bullet power through live favourites including Scream Aim Fire and Tears Don’t Fall. The crowd, although not quite on the same level as the Korn faithful, consider themselves warmed up for tonight's main stage headliners, Slipknot.

Slipknot hit the stage, play a bit, jump about, blaze up their pyro and that's that. Pretty average gig to be hon...got you! You already know that they were fucking awesome.

A lot has happened since Corey and the boys last hit Download. Events that would see other bands crack, have only seen Slipknot grow stronger in honour of their brother and bassist Paul Gray. Slipknot had Donington in the palm of their hand as they opened their set with Distasterpiece before launching into Liberate, Wait and Bleed, Before I Forget and Psychosocial. A moment that will go down in Download history followed when 90,000 people knelt down on the sacred ground before “jumping the fuck up” during a raging rendition of Spit It Out.

With the intermittent rainfall adding to the epic nature of the performance, Slipknot give everything in pushing the boundary, so much that the crowd return the band's efforts by surging towards the stage at such a force the band are asked to stop proceedings to check no-one is injured. The short break sees security repair a battered barricade before Corey continues to unleash his devastating vocals. He is one of, if not the greatest frontmen of his generation. With Paul Gray's #2 stamped across the backdrop, the set closes with an encore of People=Shit and Surfacing. Taylor leaves us with the hint that we will be seeing Slipknot in the UK sooner rather than than later.

Saturday June 15 2013

Remember last year's shitty weather and resulting mudbath? Yes, we cried a little bit too, but tears quickly dry in blazing sunshine, which is exactly what we have on Saturday morning.

Saturday’s epic lineup had Queens of the Stone Age make their Download debut, while Motorhead, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Enter Shikari, Jimmy Eat World, The Hives, Kvelertak and many more all play blinding sets.

The day kicks off with UFO at around 11am, but should a band as loved and seminal as these guys be playing this early? Fuck it. A merry Phil Mogg and the boys conquer all, playing with all the energy and enthusiasm of a band half their age.

Seattle grunge icons Alice In Chains step onto the main stage mid-afternoon, waking the crowd from a fog. The distinctive voice of frontman William DuVall, harmonising with guitarist Jerry Cantrell, is the perfect wake up call for those taking a break from the strong bouts of sunshine throughout the day. Alice In Chains are one of those bands who are perfect for festival days like today, their heavy rock set features classics such as Check My Brain and Down In A Hole as well as material from new album 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here'.

Is it really necessary for us to tell you about Motörhead? They are Motörhead. They play rock 'n' roll. You know the score. Lemmy ambles on stage before reminding us all of that very fact. After that it's 60 minutes of pure whiskey-soaked, wrecking ball rock. Everything is indeed louder than everything else. The set is made up of the usual Motörhead favourites, including Damage Case, Stay Clean, Over The Top, Going To Brazil, Killed By Death, all topped by signature tracks Ace Of Spades and Overkill. A turbocharged performance just gets better with an appearance from Phil 'Philthy Animal' Taylor at the end of the show. Heart-warming stuff.

Now for Saturday’s main event. Where do you start? Some bands have fireworks, some bands have curtain drops, some bands have moving platforms, however, no band is big enough to have a Spitfire circle Donington Park before bursting onto stage – unless you're the legendary Iron Maiden. With their headline set bringing the Maiden England tour to the festival, Bruce and the boys mark 25 years since they first headlined Donington Park. The set (oh the set!) includes favourites Run To The Hills, Fear of the Dark, The Number of the Beast and an encore of Aces High, The Evil That Men Do and Running Free. We even have rarer cuts such as The Prisoner and Afraid To Shoot Strangers thrown in too.

There is nothing about this performance that doesn’t scream epic. From the staggering Seventh Son-inspired stage, to the multiple Eddie appearances, to the flawless set, to Bruce's “Screeeeam for me Donington” moments. Goosebumps all night long.

Sunday June 16 2013

It's the closing day of Download and the crowds are licking their wounds, treating their sunburn (weird, right?), feeling rough as fuck and preparing themselves for sets from Coal Chamber, Five Finger Death Punch, Parkway Drive, Limp Bizkit, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Gaslight Anthem, A Day To Remember and many more. Of course, everyone is waiting for Rammstein, who are expected to close the festival with the rock show of the year.

Prior to the German nutcases, Scandinavian retro rockers Graveyard caught the attention. Having released the awesome 'Lights Out' last year, Graveyard seem to be out of place on the second stage. They've brought with them a huge crowd but their smoky, atmospheric sound seems to get lost outside and perhaps a tent performance would've been better suited. It's only a slight shame as the guys still pull off a great show for hazy Downloaders chilling on the grass.

Emerging to the title track of latest offering, 'Infestissumam', Sweden's favourite satanists Ghost suffer the same problem as Graveyard. Their retro sound and intimate, atmospheric show does lose its impact on such a large stage. Frontman Papa Emeritus II leads an impressive crowd through live favourites such as Prime Mover and Ritual, though. It's strange to hear the mysterious Papa E interacting with the crowd too, something he doesn't always do at the smaller venues they've visited. What’s even stranger is his pleasant charm and charisma. Hail Satan and stuff.

You know you’ve made it to rock 'n' roll hero status when a festival takes special precautions to stop you climbing up the stage. Yes, we're talking to you Joel O'Keefe of Airbourne. Having clambered up the Download scaffolding to lethal heights during past performances, resulting in the band's power being cut on one occasion, it appears security have taped up any area that might provide a foot-up. That’s the kind of impact Airbourne have had on the UK festival scene and their performance is the ridiculously high-energy set you would come to expect. Cuts from the excellent new album 'Black Dog Barking' include Ready To Rock as well as the album's title track, while the rest of the set is made up of tracks from previous albums 'No Guts No Glory' and 'Runnin' Wild'.

Pyromancers Rammstein headline and the Germans promise one of the biggest and best shows of their career. With some pretty impressive fireworks signalling their entrance, Rammstein's maniacal frontman Till Lindemann, sporting a pink fur coat, is lowered to the stage via a platform on the lighting rig. Throughout the show, Rammstein pull out their greatest controversies to everyone's delight – keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz's party trick during Buck Dich, and the cooking of a poor chap during the familiar “butcher scene” in Mein Teil. Or maybe it was Lindemann astride a giant cock-shaped foam cannon?

Ending with a sinister acoustic rendition of Mein Herz Brennt​, the imposing Sonne and the hilarious tongue-in-cheek Pussy, sparks fly, flames ignite, rockets fire. The show is simply stunning and arguably one worthy of a band who have been called the best live act in the world.

Other activity on site included The Red Bull Studios Live at Download, which culminated in an exciting series of sets from some of the UK's hottest emerging bands. Croydon trio Press To Meco were met with a raucous overspilling tent while Aberdeen four piece Semperfi had the electric crowds shouting back their lyrics. The highlight for fellow Scots Akord was undoubtedly accepting an impromptu invite to play on the main stage during Down's set to a 70,000-strong crowd. Having previously nurtured the cream of new rock talent such as Radio 1 favourites Don Broco, Red Bull Studios will no doubt be seeing this year's alumni on bigger stages very soon. Check out the eight bands who made it through to play on the Red Bull Studios Live at Download stage here.

Same time, same place next year everyone?

Fans don’t need to be too down about the fact that the weekend is now over, as the dates for next year and a special early bird offer has been announced as a thank you to fans.

Download Festival 2014 will take place June 13 to 15. For a limited time, Download is offering £10 off the current 2013 prices for five-day camping tickets, three-day camping and weekend arena tickets. All tickets go on sale at 9am on June 21 with the offer closing on July 1. There are only 5,000 available, visit downloadfestival.co.uk for further details.

If you missed any of this weekend's action, The Lowdown with Scuzz's Round Up show will air at 6pm on Friday June 21. Tune in to see or indeed, relive all the weekend’s highlights. You can also catch highlights on Sky Arts on Saturday Juen 29, Sunday June 30, Monday July 15 and  Tuesday July 16.


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