In June 2012 I attended the 10th anniversary Download Festival in Donington, UK (at the foot of Donington Castle and right near the Donington Raceway). This is the ultimate Heavy Metal and Hard Rock festival in the UK! It runs for 3 days and headlining acts included Metallica and Black Sabbath.
Even with all those people it never felt too crowded but the Friday of the event was hit by heavy rain, long delays for traffic and bands (some didn’t even arrive at all!). This meant the festival grounds became a giant mud pit. I decided not to go on the Friday, bought a pair of Gum Boots (Aussie for Wellington’s, rubber boots etc.) in preparation for the mud and headed off to Donington from Nottingham first by train then by shuttle bus. All went smoothly with no delays which was great!
Due to the extremes of weather I was dressed in the strangest garb I have ever worn to a metal concert. Multiple layers of fast drying clothing and green gum boots (I looked like an East Midlands farmer!). Normal attire is jeans and a black metal shirt (I did have one of those on under all the layers of clothing)!
The grounds were thick with mud but nowhere near as bad as the Sonisphere Festival I attended in Switzerland in 2010 (also to see Metallica along with the “Big 4” and many other top metal acts). Sonisphere was literally a sea of mud and I had no gum boots back then! Luckily they are very well prepared at Download and put straw all over the grounds to help deal with the mud (it works very well). Although it was very cold on the saturday, the rains kept away and eventually the sun came out (one extreme to the other).
The festival was pretty much sold out. This means there was somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 people there on the saturday.
There were a vast number of bands playing on numerous stages each day. Selecting sets to see while negotiating the crowd and mud to get there on time and in a good spot to see the band was a fine art. On the first day I spent most of my time around 3 stages – the two main ones (the Jim Marshall Stage and the Zippo Encore Stage) and the nearby Red Bull secondary stage.
The acts I saw on my first day there in order were:
1. Royal Cartel (UK – a local act)
2. Fozzy (USA – Wrestler Chris Jericho of WWE fame is the lead singer)
3. Saxon (UK – old school New Wave Of British Heavy Metal who have been rocking it out since 1976. They played many of their classics including Strangers In The Night)
4. Black Veil Brides (USA – a rather controversal main stage act – loved by some and hated by others in the crowd. Objects were thrown, but they kept on playing. Not my thing but they sounded OK)
5. Turbonegro (Norway – their “Turbo Jugend” were out in force and loved it! They decided to claim the UK as part of the Kingdom of Norway! There set included the highly amusing “I Got An Erection” which turned into a huge crowd singalong!)
6. Trivium (USA – a thunderous set that really got the crowd going)
7. Steel Panther (USA – The parody band that actually rock in a very dirty way! Lots of breasts were flashed in the crowd during this hilarious set!)
8. Tenacious D (USA – Actor Jack Black and Kyle Glass at their best, the second “comedy band” but they truly do rock! This is the third time I have seen them play. The stage set was rather phallic to promote their new album “Rize of the Fenix“!)
9. Biffy Clyro (UK – never heard of them but based of the crowd reaction they are obviously huge in the UK and put on a great set. That is one of the best things about these huge music festivals, you get to see some of your favourite bands plus a whole lot of new ones)
11. Killswitch Engage (USA – one of metalcore’s founding bands)
12. Metallica (USA – 2 hours of excellence including the entire “Black” album in reverse – so Enter Sandman would be the big finale for the twentieth anniversary of this classic album)
The highlights for me were most definitely Saxon, Turbo Negro, Steel Panther, Tenacious D and of course Metallica. I have now seen Metallica in concert three times, they always play long sets and play for their fans (i.e. play a good mix of the songs people want to here). It’s a great show! My first day at Download was awesome!
My next post will be about my second day at Download where the original lineup of Black Sabbath (well almost – no Bill Ward on drums due to contractual issues) were the main headliner as part of their reunion tour (mostly postponed due to cancer treatment for lead guitarist Tony Iommi – this show was one of only three for 2012). A moment I have always waited for ever since I first heard their music.