Yet again, the rain came, the mud grew ankle deep and tents got washed away in the campsites. The traffic queues for the day ticket holders were appalling and people moaned about the line up. I’m not entirely sure why we still put ourselves through it every year, but it’s like some sort of addiction; Download just has to be done. It’s one of those quintessentially British things, like having to wait in a queue (don’t mention the toilets), or stoically paying a fiver for a pint …
Anyhow, as I have always said, it is ALL about the music. Except … it really wasn’t. Last year, I didn’t review the festival because we had an exceptionally good time with friends and it was all about networking and enjoying the social side. This year, we didn’t really see any friends, we didn’t see many bands, but … well, it was still good. The Mockney and I sunbathed, we had a really good laugh and I made some new friends. I will tell you about the bands that we did see … but here are some numbers to ease you in gently.
Number of …
- Miles to get there and back – 404
- Trips between the campsite and car park – 8 in total
- Hours that it took to put the new tent up – 2
- Beers consumed whilst trying to put said tent up – 6
- Bands that cancelled their performance – 3
- Bands that I wanted to see – 32
- Bands that we actually saw – 11
- Pints of lager/beer/cider consumed – Somewhere between too many and not enough
- Decent nights’ sleep – 0
- Pounds spent on mediocre, nutritionally bad food – approx. £65
- Times we have been to Download – 7 between us (10 if you count ‘Monsters of Rock’ back in the day)
- Times we got rained on – oh, please – I’m still trying to dry out now. Standard.
- Episodes of tent springing a leak – 0 (thanks, Go Outdoors!)
Phew. Now, let’s get to the serious bit …
RavenEye on the Zippo Encore stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography
First band to be seen on Friday was RavenEye (7/10), kicking things off on the Zippo Encore stage. This was their first time at Download and many people hadn’t seen them before, hence the singer advising, “We can pop this cherry together”. They seemed nervy to start with, but soon got into the swing of things, with a big groove and an appreciative audience. A swift beer stop and a trek over to the undercover Maverick stage saw us in front of Zoax (8/10), fresh from an appearance at last weekend’s Camden Rocks Fest. I can’t remember if it was raining at this point, but even if it had been, this band still would have packed out the considerably sized tent. Blatantly pleased to be there, they belted out quite a few bruisers but also slowed it down with new track ‘The Wave’ from the newly released, eponymously titled album. A pleasing set, with Adam singing from the crowd, rather than in front of them. They loved it and so did I.
Zoax on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography
Next up were The Wildhearts (10/10). A band that is very close to my heart, one of my earliest memories of being a rocker is playing ‘Earth vs The Wildhearts’ to death. Having seen Ginger play a very different set in Camden last week, it was a real pleasure to hear such songs as ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’, ‘TV Tan’, and ‘Suckerpunch’, as well as the ever awesome ‘Caffeine Bomb’, which was dedicated to the late, great Lemmy. Energetic, musically tight and humble, The Wildhearts absolutely knocked it out of the park.
The Wildhearts on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography
With a few hours to kill and the rain not letting up, we spent a couple of hours chilling out undercover in the guest area before stopping at the Lemmy stage to see Rammstein (8/10). I don’t have too much to say about their performance; if you have seen them before, you’ll know how compelling they are on the live stage. Although they had some technical issues, they blasted through favourites such as ‘Reise, Reise’, ‘Seemann’ and ‘Du Hast’. If you haven’t seen them, put it on your bucket list as everybody should see them at least once. This was my first time and I wasn’t disappointed.
Saturday dawned with bright sunshine and a balmy temperature; we were slow to get going, so the first band we caught sight of was Inglorious (6/10) on the Encore stage. They were one of the bands that I had marked as a must-see, but to be honest, I wasn’t that enamoured with their set. To be fair to them, we were hungover and hungry; we also bumped into a friend, so I didn’t give 100% focus.
Turbowolf on the Maverick stage, 11 June 2016
A band that did manage to keep my attention was Turbowolf (8/10) back at the Maverick stage. I couldn’t tell you any of the songs they played, only that they gave 150% in a mad, whirlwind of a performance that went down extremely well. I’ve seen these guys before, but they’re so good live – always worth catching if you can because they rock hard. It’s worth it just for the keyboard action!
Sixx:AM on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography
Band of the day for me was Sixx:AM (9/10) on the main stage; the only reason they didn’t get a 10/10 is because I fail to see the relevance of two scantily dressed backing singers whose vocals we actually couldn’t hear. Anyway, they smashed it out of the park with tracks such as ‘Rise’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’, also showcasing new songs from the recently released album, “Prayers For The Damned”. Loved their set, can’t wait to get the new album and I hope that I get to see them again soon – outstanding.
It’s no secret that I am a massive Rival Sons (8/10) fan – I have seen them many times and I love their music. However, much as I really wanted to give them top marks, I just can’t. They looked sharp and they sounded almost perfect, but it appeared to be lacking something that I can’t put my finger on. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great set, with some real crowd pleasers such as ‘Electric Man’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Pressure and Time’ but … I wasn’t feeling it as much as I normally would. Perhaps it was because I haven’t yet got the new album, “Hollow Bones”, and they played a couple of songs from it, including the title track. Maybe I’d just had too much sun at that point. I can’t wait, however, to get my paws on that album and I look forward to seeing them with Black Sabbath on their farewell tour next year.
Rival Sons on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016
Which brings me neatly on to the Saturday headliner. After I had just caught Megadeth’s ‘Symphony of Destruction’, the clouds were darkening ominously once more. We experienced what can only be described as a cloudburst shortly afterwards and changing into dry clothes didn’t cheer me up. By the time Black Sabbath (9/10) exploded onto the stage, my mood was blacker than the sky. Quite fitting, then, that they should kick off with ‘Black Sabbath’. That iconic intro ratcheted up the excitement levels in the crowd and the atmosphere in the arena was intense as Ozzy did his usual manic run from one side of the stage to the other.
Black Sabbath on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016
They were clearly enjoying themselves as they cranked through a surprisingly short (only 15 songs), but nostalgic set. The soggy crowd didn’t seem to mind the downpour, moshing along to classics such as ‘Snowblind’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Rat Salad’ and ‘Iron Man’. The outpouring of affection for Birmingham’s most famous rockers almost brought a tear to my eye, as they encored with ‘Paranoid’ and the arena erupted. We left at that point, but I believe that they ended a triumphant set with the introspective “Zeitgeist”, perhaps a strange choice. Step up and pay your money, ladies and gents – ‘The End’ farewell tour tickets go on sale on Friday 17th June at 9am from Live Nation.
By the time Sunday limped around, we were pretty broken and quite looking forward to going home; having already packed the car, by 11 o’clock it was pouring down again and we were pretty miserable. We did manage to catch The Raven Age (8/10). They absolutely killed their set, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although I’m baffled as to why the singer kept disappearing every five minutes. Hard, heavy and sweaty, every single member of this band played and sang their arses off and were rewarded with a very appreciative audience. I’ll definitely catch them again if I have the chance.
The Raven Age on the Maverick stage, 12 June 2016
Last band of the day for us was The Temperance Movement (9/10); a band who I have followed with interest over the last couple of years. Having grown exponentially in fanbase and confidence, TTM played a blinding set on the Lemmy stage (last time I saw them, they played the Zippo Encore stage), it’s just a shame that there weren’t as many people watching them as there should have been (let’s not mention the day ticket traffic). My favourite song, ‘Midnight Black’ had me dancing in the mud!
That’s it! Bands I didn’t get to see, who I heard good things about included Skillet, Savage Messiah, Santa Cruz, Reigning Days, Juliette and the Licks, Cane Hill and of course, the mighty Disturbed. Gutted I didn’t see them. I also hear that a little band called Iron Maiden went over extremely well on Sunday evening …
I moaned about the mud and the severe lack of straw to soak it up, but I really do have to hand it to Andy Copping; the Download organisers continue to learn from things that have gone awry in the previous years and tried to put it right. I do think that the whole event could be moved to later in the year to try and avoid the ‘Drownload’ syndrome, but that’s a whole other article … I’ve already booked a hotel for next year so bring it on!