Posts tagged Festivals
Day one of Download Festival, over recent years has definitely been moving towards the arena of the classic/hard rock, see previous headliners of Ac/Dc(2010), Def Leppard(2009) & Kiss(2008). Again in 2011 we find another cracking Friday lineup which I could not resist. I had to be here!
After the substantial journey up from London town, I took up the position I’d be in most of the day, down front on the main stage for the arrival of the skate born, alt-hard rock band CKY. A surprisingly large crowd had gathered and we were not disappointed, as they plundered out wah soaked hard rock riffs with graceful efficiency. The seeming endless barrage of melodies were both catchy and had most of the crowd leaping/banging head like there’s no tomorrow. The standout tune had to be the epic guitar riffed 96 Quite Bitter Beings which sparked the days first circle pit, bodies literally flew in all directions. A cracking opening to what was to be a legendary day.
Puddle Of Mudd
In a bit of a throwback to my younger days, Puddle of Mudd emerged to a much more youthful (and tightly packed) crowd. You would not have guessed they had been away from the UK shores for 10 years, support seems as eager as ever. Playing the best of their early album’s which had so much commercial success, lead singer Wes Scantlin let fly his nasally snarls led by some crunching post-grunge guitars. The biggest roars came with an Ac/Dc cover TNT and their love/hate ballad She Hates Me which had the biggest vocal backing of the afternoon thus far. Yet, they did not play Blurry, a song a lot of people had come to hear. Whether a timing issue was to blame, I dunno? But this soured the performance as they trundled off stage to an unsatisfied chorus of “blurry, blurry, blurry...”.
A short hike back up the arena I managed to catch the end of the Young Guns set on the second stage. They seemed very engaged with the crowd, trying to start a teenage riot with multiple calls of “I want you to go crazy to this one”. From the back It was hard to see what the fuss was about. Clean and scream vocals mixed up well in their post-hardcore melodies many of which were pretty cool, but nothing of distinction sets them apart. 10/10 for effort in pleasing the festival youth.
I returned to the main stage to catch the latter half of ex- Gun’s & Roses man Duff Mckagan and his band Loaded. It was clear nothing much had changed since the last time I saw them, still plugging away with sleazy punk slanted hard rock. Much of their original material was met with indifference despite a few catchy guitar and vocal hooks. The same cannot be said for their closing cover tune It’s So Easy. It’s always a pleasure to see a ex-Guns n’ Roses man playing classic material as if it was 1987 all over again.
Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry followed up next with a the set of the day so far! Full of southern Rock swagger and muscular guitar riffing so deep south it chills with the penguins. Set was comprised equally of from all three albums and mixed mid tempo rockers and all out hard hitting clout with effortless ease. Swinging from the latest vocal wah (Sambora Stylie) driven single White Trash Millionaire to the powerful chorus centric chanter Blind Man and the frenzied headbangers paradise on the Lonely Train. Despite these cracking tunes, there was an unexpected highlight…a cover version!
Heavy Metal Devil Horns out in force!
Taking a step aside from the usual hard rock covers they went all live lounge on our asses and pumped out a rocked up ‘Magic FM‘ listener friendly tune,, Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. An uplifting and very popular choice which had many a black clad, leather bound macho man singing his lungs out…this alone, provided a classic Download moment! A superb performance from a band totally fulfilling their potential!
Somehow four more bands had to grace this stage. First to try were the ex-Creed associates plus one of my favourite vocalists Myles Kennedy, as Alter Bridge picked up where BSC left off! Soaring heavy rock anthems are what these guys do best, hence it was not long before they kicked into belters such as Find The Real and Ties That Bind which spark sing-a-longs and circle pits in equal measure. There are not many bands who write songs as big as Alter Bridge. Mark Tremonti as ever was a total genius with his guitar this afternoon firing off shredded solos, chugging metal riffs and harmonious sweep picked melodies at will. His arrangements are probably the most badass and technically accomplished of any hard rock band on the planet. The key to their success is his partner in crime Myles, who not only had one of the iconic rock voices of modern times, but boy he can play guitar too. An axe battle ensued towards the end of the set with both corners trading powerful knockout blows. A mesmerizing display of virtuosity from both men…I call it a tie! The crowd absolutely reveled in what was a terribly uplifting set that stuck the middle finger up towards the falling rains plans to scupper the show.
Up next I am proud to have witnessed one of the legendary bands of rock. Innovators of the dueling guitar solo, performers of live shows that have gone down in history and true classic rock icons…Thin Lizzy are back! Albeit with a roughly cobbled together lineup of ex-members and newbies, yet with original members Brian Downey and Scott Gorham providing the core of the sound, this was probably the closest I would ever get to their 70’s magic.
Special Guest…Def Leppards Vivian Campbell
It was a set packed with nostalgia and legendary tunes such as The Cowboy Song, Whiskey In The Jar, Jailbreak…(I could list every song)…and of course The Boys Are Back In Town. New lead singer Ricky Warwick was most definitely not on par with Phil Lynott but he did a good job of belting out the chorus and getting the crowd onside. With such a huge chunk of the former lineup(s) missing it was never going to recreate the magic, but it was as good a set of rock and roll classics you will ever likely to hear!
After Wednesdays encounters with tonight’s Sub Headliners still fresh in the rss feed, I’ll be brief. The Darkness did exactly what they do best, entertain! A huge portion of the crowd you could feel were willing them to be rubbish. Those were soon won over by jaunty pop rock numbers and some good old fashion showmanship from the moustached Hawkins. By far the most spectacular set of the day. Comprising of all the usual glitz of confetti, streamers and fireworks, with the surprising addition of giant flame throwers. You can’t fault them for trying to keep the crowd on their toes! I was having a whale of a time, but then it is The Darkness, they only know how to make the good times roll!
Nothing like a naked flame to warm the cockles
It was an agonising wait in the ever plummeting temperatures and drizzling rain for tonight’s headliners Def Leppard (ring, ring…2009 called, says they want their headliner back)! Only 2 years since they last graced the Donington stage, they were back for more stadium sized rock. Their sound can only be described as gigantic. You really can feel with every beat of the drum skin, every hi-hat smash and every massive power chord. Yet it is so melodically balanced, making their pop rock classics sound great! To be honest I hadn’t been expecting much, but with each passing intro I kept thinking…damn I know this!
With an arsenal packed with livewire rockers and a bursting heart full of soppy ballads this was the finest show of pop metal outside 1984. Tunes such as Animal, Rocket, Two Steps Behind and Pour Some Sugar On Me ignited my Def Leppard flame which had long been extinguished. They turned in a superb performance, one absolutely worthy of their Headliner status.
With jubilation at what was one of the best days of rock I’ve seen and sadness that it was all over, I trekked back out the front gates and back down the M1…singing Def Leppard tunes all the way home at the top of my very weary lungs!
1st May 2011
Well rested, showered and fuelled by ‘full English’ we set out for more exploits in Camden for day two of the crawl.
Kicking off today’s live music extravaganza was the ever reliable grunge revivalists Dinosaur Pile-Up. We have long been admirers of these boys performances and today was no exception. Their big dropped D riffs boomed out livening the early crowd and treating them to a dose of cheery nirvana-esque rock with plenty of catchy melodies and a tonne of chugging rhythm guitars. We were lucky to be treated to some older gems in the shape of Opposites Attract, new material which sounded great, as well their bigger numbers such as Traynor. A cracking start to yet another sunny day.
From here we mooched over towards the Summer Sundae Special Edition event out on the sun soaked Roundhouse Terrace, only to find Dry The River limbering up. After fighting through a sea of promotional material being thrown our ways we settled and enjoyed what was a mellow laid back folk set. In the sunshine it sounded excellent, the violin especially making an impression. Yet with mellowness comes bliss, and with bliss comes sleep…which is not the greatest asset for a band. One for throwing on the stereo for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Dry The River
The mood swing between these and our next band was colossal. Somewhat strangely ,the crowd were packed in tight for the emergence of NYC’s latest hardcore punk exports Cerebral Ballzy. Their “I don’t give a flying F**k” brat attitude and a love of black flag et al seemed to cause more headaches than circle pits, with the non-receptive crowd. They missed about as much as they hit as their front man ran amok through the crowds inciting foul language and generally causing havoc. Musically this wasn’t a great performance even though there were a few decent hooks hidden in there. Their lifeblood is to make loud and supremely fast punk to get knotted to…on this count they succeeded greatly.
Indeed the reason for the indifference was plain to see once Cerebral had left the stage. Currently riding a huge over inflated wave of hype are the hip hoppers Odd Future or OFWGKTA (I did wonder what young heavily made up teenage girls were doing at a hardcore punk gig). I departed, but Mr. Flowers stuck around…
Meanwhile…I continued my search for cool new music and found a jazz musician playing what looked like a carpenters saw. I promptly turned around and stumbled by chance into the Vox busking sessions to catch James Page. This young acoustic strummer had plenty of melody in his heart and honesty in his lyrics. Tales of london life and what else…girls, were lively and highly enjoyable. This was a tough/drunk crowd to perform for plus all the while having a multitude of technical difficulties, he showed his spirit and professionalism to battle through admirably.
After a huge trek out to Kentish Town, we were glad to find a band about to begin in the Bull & Gate, this was Five Working Days. A triumphantly jubilant set of rockabilly/ska pop later, we were smitten. It was lively and highly entertaining in this tiny pub corner. It’s a surprise they all managed to fit in really! Stuffed full of a good “cockney knee’s up”, we headed into the Forum for what turned out to be a rather costly mistake.
Five Working Days
Frankie & The Heartstrings failed to appear at their appropriate stage time, we consulted the schedule…yup this is right, we agreed! A quick foray into the twitterati revealed more disappointing news. Frankie & his Heartstrings were at home and were never scheduled to play the Sunday! Bad form Camden Crawl!
Still we had Benjamin Leftwich Francis to enjoy instead. After 10 minutes of boredom inducing folk crooning I departed, more than a bit saddened!
The Phantom Band
Heading back into Camden central (by bus this time), I found myself in an almighty queue to get into the Proud Galleries, for one of the big highlights of the festival. After the floodgates opened I somehow found myself down the front! Sporting a look of bewilderment and smugness, I settled down to watch The Phantom Band after a slightly awkward Q&A session from Radio Ones new music maestro Huw Stevens. A very eclectic set followed with plenty of blips and bops overlaying their already well stacked guitars and melancholic yet purposeful vocals. They made big powerful atmospheric indie rock with effortless ease, without really having to strain. Playing a wide variety of quirky instruments they managed to squeeze out melodies from all angles. Never losing track of the main melody was key to their success, as it was these that formed the heartbeat of their songs amongst their proggy sidesteps. A great little set of diverse rock!
The venue had long been full to capacity, turning away latecomers because next on stage was the true British guitar legend, ex-Blur guitarist and accomplished solo artist, Graham Coxon. Meekly shuffling onstage it was apparent he wasn’t here to mess around as he and his ample sized band quickly hooked up their huge effects pedal boards to their Marshall’s and begun to ring out crunching power chords galore to the delight of the fans.
Sporting his trademark stripy Tee and Glasses, Coxon & Co got quickly into their stride playing brilliant upbeat rock numbers from Love Travels at Illegal Speeds including Don’t Let Your Man Know, Standing On My Own Again & I Can’t Look At Your Skin each teeming with energy and pulse racing urgency. The business of getting the crowd onside was complete, thus the set spiraled into a swarm of new material, many of them debut’s including City Hall, The Truth & a cracking little punchy number Running For Your Life. These new tunes were catchy and enjoyable pop-centric rockers, showing promise for his upcoming album.
He was joined on stage by Shingai of The Noisettes in a striking (and short) red dress, providing vocals for another new tune Billy Says. As Graham himself put it in the Q&A, “I get a lot of stick for my singing…It’s nice to hear my songs sung by a girl, gives it a different feel”. We agree. This bluesy number was ace and vocals were soulful and bright, adding a totally new slant to Coxon’s usual monotone fare. A few more newbie’s later the set was wound up with the euphoric rocker Freakin’ Out to end with a bang. This was a great intimate gig packed with classics and new tracks alike. A very rare opportunity to catch a legend doing what he does best!
Coxon and Shingai
We hightailed it to The Black Cap for our final band of this years Crawl, Johnny Foreigner. Opening with an A Cappella verse from the front pairing of this lively trio, they soon clattered their guitars and spliced riffs with rhythms forming a jubilant racket of insistent indie rock. Again new material took the forefront, but these tunes were like all JF tunes…exciting and exhilarating. The pairing of boy girl vocals is always at the heart of their shows and this was no exception. Highlights came in the shape What Drummer Get (from their latest EP sold as a Frisbee!!), Eyes Wide Terrified & the irrepressible Salt Pepper & Spinderella. Their onstage presence and artistic backdrop (courtesy of a mac, a projector and a white bed sheet) were great, as their bantered with the crowd and produced a livewire performance of the highest quality.
This year’s Crawl far outstripped last years in terms of quality acts, performances and thankfully…weather. Let’s hope they can maintain the trend for next year!
30th April 2011
A thankful DiR.net team headed out from HQ without the hassle of tube engineering works halting progress. Shortly after departing, we arrived, acquired our wristbands and were already enjoying our first band. Its great when things just work isn’t it!
The schedule was typically full of prime time clashes, but the addition of The Forum (hang on isn’t that Kentish Town), had added another headliner sized venue to the already bursting seams of the Camden Crawl + Kentish Town. We studied this at length in the blazing sunshine to the backdrop of Heights on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage. These agro-metallers were adept in fashioning walls of chainsaw guitar buzz, which when cranked up made for some cool amped up soundscapes. The screamed vocals were below average however and failed to leave an impression.
Staying put we were ready for the dance-punk of Turbowolf! Thankfully their vocalist had improved since the last time we saw them (here), but it was still more deciphering rather than listening. His energy and enthusiasm cannot be faulted, his gypsy punk attire could. Backed with electro soaked guitar riffs with metally tendencies and spiky synths this band were on top form, kicking out huge melodies and thumping bass which had even the grandpa’s an head banging. An early contender for highlight of the Weekend for sure!
Due to P Moneys no show we were ready for Pendul…sorry, The Qemists! After nestling in near the back of the crowd, I was astounded at just how loud their engineer was pushing the sound system. Even people south of the river were wondering “what’s that racket?”. As it transpired, their huge Drum n’ Bass madness was pushed a tad too much. A huge Crack” signaled a muted 15 minutes as they blew a fuse, much to my relief. They restarted somewhat quieter and were much better. Its amazingly hard to enjoy something blowing a hole in your ear drums! Entertaining? yes, original? not quite. The guitars were understated and the bass/bass/snare drum beats wore thin all too quickly.
After a short break we returned to find the punk pop delights of Attack! Attack! rounding out the day schedule on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage. This was by far the most accomplished set of the day. Polished pop songs with clouting guitars and plenty of vocal hooks were worthy of a much greater crowd. Still we really enjoyed this well crafted, catchy little set from these welsh boys!
With a total of 16 venues hosting shows at 19:15, it’s beyond belief how we ended up watching such utter drivel next! The offenders were Glaswegian noise rockers Divorce. From their stage presence you felt like they were being forced to play against their will (I’ll excuse the drummer, he was quite likable, thus in the wrong band!). Their antagonistic apathy wreaked of attitude problems as they generated mere nonsensical noise from their guitars. Nothing of value came from the vocalists lips except silence! Here incessant thrashing and vocals which can only be described as squawks were utterly dreadful! They clearly thought that they were playing groundbreaking art rock….in reality, it was plain awful!
What followed at the Barfly was much brighter, if a little more agro-centric. Turbogeist‘s speed punk was really quite good! Fast and furious riffs with poppy sprinkles gave it a really edge as you could both rock out and toe tap at the same time. In amongst their set were some belting tunes, such as Alien Girl, that sparked chaos in the mosh pit. I say mosh pit, this was all out macho man pinball! It even managed to fill 90% of the venue. The remaining 10% wincing at every clout while secretly hoping the next one to fly out, does so not near me! A frenzied set which was both dangerous and fun!
Hawk Eyes (or the band formerly known as Chickenhawk), played an absolute blinder in the Underworld tonight. Aggressive alt metal was met with equally approving head banging as their hard hitting riffs and super technical fretwork took centre stage. This was not for the faint hearted as they blasted through most of their debut album including tunes such as NASA Vs ESA, Scorpieau and Son of Cern. We were even joined in the crowd by the lead singer who despite being the occasional scream merchant, has an impressive set of pipes! One to rock out to (without fear of flying bodies).
Rounding off the night we ended up in the Jazz Cafe for the return of Dananananaykroyd. With a tiny stage for their bouncy frenetic live shows it didn’t take long for the singers to leap into the crowd, instantly sending camera bulbs flashing (guilty your honour) as their antics continued. Mr. Flowers even got a high five! Without their new album being out yet, much of the show was new to us, yet the songs on offer were as cheery as ever mixed with dazzling guitar work and their trademark dueling vocals. One new single i picked out Muscle Memory was an all out pop song with a catchy melody and bags off off-kilter kookiness which makes they so great to listen to.
More than any other band I’ve seen, Dananananaykroyd really look like they are having an absolute blast all the time, cracking jokes, bearing grins as wide as the Cheshire cat and bantering with anyone who dares. Their energy is totally infectious! Even when during one song both guitars and one mic malfunctioned. To their credit, they carried on regardless and had a little chuckle about it afterwards!
Free Hug, enroute to Hi-Five Mr Flowers!
So it was with some older tunes Black Wax and Pink Sabbath did Danananananaanana… bid us farewell this evening. They rounded off what was a great day one, for a festival whose crowning glory (of a shower and a cooked breakfast) was yet to come…oh and tomorrows lineup is pretty awesome too! Stay Tuned!
The final day was upon us all to quickly as we were late for our opening band. But luckily for us we could hear them from about a mile away so not all was lost. Finally we arrived for some good old fashioned horse riding, Orc slaying, magical, sword bearing, evil hoard battling chain mail clad Power Metal, in the guise of an Californian band called White Wizzard (what else could they be called?). This fun set was packed with stunning guitar lines and ridiculous lyrics, but hey…it didn’t fail to raise a smile!
StraightLines stood out on the lineup for being one of the only indie(ish) bands to take stage. So we checked them out and their spritely pop-punk influenced indie rock was upbeat and easy to like. No boundaries being pushed but after all that rock it was nice to listen to some possible future radio hits.
From new to old we travelled back in time to catch one of Britain’s veteran rock acts, the original New Wave of Brititsh Heavy Metal legends, Saxon. Silver haired and rickety bones didn’t stop them from playing in it’s entirety their Wheels of Steel album which was coincidental (as Download itself was) celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. To their credit, it still sounded great all these years later with tunes like the romper-stomper Motorcycle Man, classic era sounding 747 & the thunderous Stand Up & Be Counted. It just goes to prove that, long lives, Rock and Roll!
We reviewed TAB the Band‘s album Zoo Noises back in February, and fell for its Rolling stones-esque swagger and rough bluesy shufflings. Live they were equally as impressive. Strong clean vocals, dual guitar attack and melodies in abundance maintained a real foot-tapper of a performance which made you wanna dance! They may yet step out of the shadow of their father (Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry), if they maintain their energy levels and keep writing great songs!
TAB the Band
Crime In Stereo was the best of a line-up lull, We left after 2 thrashed songs without hint of the English language being sung or any inventive musicality. Heavy…Yes, Tedious…Also!
Crime In Stereo
It wasn’t until we arrived at Cinderella that we regretted leaving CiS. Cinderella epitomise why 80’s rock/metal acquired such a bad reputation. Style over substance, squeaky voiced, piano tinklers with generic power chords and floating melodic guitars were the worst we’d heard all weekend!
Thankfully keeping the classic side of 80’s rock flag waving high and proud was the most recognisable, indistinguishable and one of all times greatest guitar hero’s Slash stepped out onstage to the collective roar of the crowds appreciation. Slash was here for all out crowd pleasing this afternoon as he arrived boasting my favourite rock vocalist of today Myles Kennedy (Altar Bridge) as his bands frontman. Despite having a new solo album out he only played a handful of tracks from it, the slash trademark riffing of Ghost, huge ballads Starlight & Back From Cali, proggy By The Sword. Seeing as Motorhead were playing later it was no great surprise to see Lemmy making a guest appearance on the cracking fast paced riff rocker Dr. Alibi.
Lemmy & Slash
It was with great elation and suprise that Slash devoted half his set to covers from his former-bands output. For me this was simply extraordinary! To see Slash playing Gun n’ Roses covers, all taken from Appetite For Destruction, was an absolute dream come true and the man has not lost a thing, plus Myles also has the perfect voice to do justice to these classic tracks. They played a double whammy of Nightrain and Rocket Queen early set to really stoke up the crowd which was already extremely excited. Not much could put into words my feelings when the first bars of the classic Gn’R song were heard! I absolutely loved every second of it! There was even time to throw the Velvet Revolver song Slither, with ex-frontman Scott Wieland now back with the Stone Temple Pilots, (incidentally) playing later…I can’t help but feel its intention.
To round of a fantastic set of virtuoso guitar and just astounding classic rock,we all watched in awe as we were treated to yet another GnR classic, Paradise City. This performance was up there with the best of my life, let alone best of the festival.
We stuck around the main stage for a little longer, perching ourselves on the hill to see the some even more classic rock, but this time it was more of the pop variety. We were here for a greatest hit set from Billy Idol and that’s exactly what we got! all the hits were aired including Rebel Yell, Hot In The City, Dancing With Myself & White Wedding. The nice past blast was enough to keep the spirits high despite the rain which was now walling with great vengeance.
Suddenly moving between stages wasn’t quite as easy as the mud wallowed and flowed downhill turning the site into a bog in nearly 30 mins flat! The rain did not dampen my enjoyment of the end of Porpupine Tree’s majestically set of beautifully prog-rock, which can swing from astoundingly harmonious and blisteringly rawkus in one glorious sweep.
Sticking with the Dio stage, we were treated to a right old fashioned 80’s party in the shape of Steel Panther. Their unashamedly 80’s rock was perfect for the damp souls and brought smiles and laughs galore from their outrageous stage persona’s and rampant guitar rock! This was all out fun and they even managed to bring out Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian to play on Asian Hooker as well as debuting their new single I Want It That Way (Yes…The Backstreet Boys one…). It seems also that the side screen cameras were a temporary Motley Cru style titty-cam. Seeing as soon as it flicked to a female audience member, her shirt suddenly went over her head…odd!!
Enjoying a band in the rain and waiting for one in the rain are 2 very different things! The next 25 minutes of waiting dragged hugely, not helped by the fact that I could feel the water running down the inside my jacket and the cold weather taking hold of me! Still all was quickly forgotten as Ac/Dc’s homage paying countrymen Airbourne arrived onstage. These dude’s have always been a bit nuts, this show only re-inforced this view. They ran riot here in the rain, cracking beer cans open on their head and hitting a relentless barrage of power chords. New album material was good, played with the same manic vigour as their older material, plus they haven’t lost their catchy, fist pumping chorus writing talents.
Just to prove how crazy lead singer Joel O’Keefe really is, I point to the following evidence
Exhibit A) Yes, he has climbed up the stage, in the absolute pouring rain, without any safety equipment, then plays a guitar solo hanging by his legs only 30ft up!
That Really Is A Long Way Down
Exhibit B) Now getting up borderline suicidal, he really had the crowd scared for his welfare, but after more guitar solos from atop of the stage, technians turned his guitar transmitter off, forcing him to come down…vvveeerrrryyy carefully!!!
“It’s A Long Way To The Top…If You Want To Rock And Roll”
Everything after this point pales into insignificance at the stunt just witnessed, by these superb but insane Aussies!
As we headed for the final nights headline act we caught the end of the Stone Temple Pilots performance, needless to say Airbourne was a much better spectacle.
And so to the final band of the weekend, legends of rock Aerosmith, with their flamboyant lead singer Steve Tyler firmly back in the fold doing what he does best. For the third night in a row the headline act has been monumental, tonight was no exception. Tyler freshly re-united with the band after drugs problems was back at his best commanding a huge presence on stage. Joe Perry showed how to play the blues as he played some of the defining riffs of a generation.
Quite aptly the skies cleared and we recovered from the chill by being treated to Classic tracks like Sweet Emotion, Living On The Edge, Eat The Rich & Walk This Way which set the bar sky high. My songs of the night however were the genre spawning Rock-Ballad Dream On complete with perfect Tyler screams, set opener Love In An Elevator complete with Woo-Wooh sing-a-longs plus older gems Draw The Line and a rampaging version of Toys In The Attic which rounded out the show.
As the final amp was powered down with Tyler & Perry exchanging congratulations, we were left in the darkness of the damp field ready for the longest walk of the weekend…the one back home!
A much enhanced lineup greeted us at the start of Download Day 2, as a matter of fact so did a cute radio presenter for Download FM who interviewed us for our respected thoughts (although she was drawn to us mainly because we had beer in hand at 11:30am!). After spreading the words of the DiR.net crew to the listening public we managed to get to our main stage destination for the first band of the day.
Taking Dawn were exactly what was required to start the day. A bunch of mega-enthusiastic rockers who are obsessed with hard rock and glam metal without any of the stupid hairstyles.
Their metal infused take on Gn’R era hard rock was bright, upbeat and on the whole massively enjoyable. They played their instruments precisely with more than few catchy riffs and flashy solos, not forgetting to throw in plenty of vocal hooks and melodies to get the uninitiated singing along. The lead singers enthusiasm was unrivalled as he shouted…
“I’m coming to get the whoever goes the craziest during this next song”
True to his word he launched himself off stage and bounded over the barriers right into the midst of the ever growing crowd. Amazingly he was still playing his guitar as he ramrodded through towards the lucky one. This was a great little set which I really enjoyed and as we wandered off for the next band, we could only see the singers legs as he crowd surfed back towards the stage
For something completely different we headed to the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage to witness one of the oddities of the weekend. The Urban Voodoo Machine are kinda like a Nashville folky-blues band who wear quirky costumes that decided to hire some circus acts to be in the band. Every member seemed to have a role/character to play which gave them a real extra appeal. Their visuals were great, from the sharp suited gravel toned singer to the green ogre drummer and a gyrating Moroccan cymbal playing dancer who was wearing very little. Sonically they were pretty catchy too with their multi instrumentalists, acoustic backbone and dual drummers (who loved to jump about on their stools)! A highly effective act for a short set which brightened up an already scorching morning!
The Urban Voodoo Machine
After a last minute alteration to the schedule we were left standing in front of Atreyu. Now not being the greatest fan of theirs I was greatly surprised to hear they sounded a great deal more impressive live. Their metal grooves were mostly melodic and were surprisingly accessible. Vocals weren’t the greatest, but none of the piercing screams from the record made an airing this afternoon. Much of their set was packed with great singles like the classic rocker Blow, emo-ish Bleeding Mascara and the rip roaring pop metal of Ex’s & Ohs. Atreyu were a real surprise package of my weekend.
We grabbed some lunch and decided to perch ourselves on the hill to see whether Flyleaf would actually play today given their missed slot. However, you put together Beer + Sun + Food and inevitably it = Sleep. Arising, slightly sun-dazed from a nice nap we saw something which resembles the Flyleaf singers back as she waltzed off stage. Never mind hey!
Rejuvenated we dived into the shade of the Pepsi Max stage to see whats on. The Genitorturers need no introduction. tight Dominatrix style leather catsuits, over the top make-up, S&M mentality, & punk rock music. Their most attention grabbing quality was their appearance, musically it was pretty average no brainer loudness.
We Are The Fallen
We Are The Fallen were created by Evanescence’s guitar duo so that already tells you alot about their sound. Gothic styled hard rock with female vocals and middle of the road poppy rock offerings. It was enjoyable but not breathtaking as lead singer Carly Smithson (6th in Pop Idol USA season 7) did well to hit some rather high notes. However our next Female Vocalist literally blew her out of the water!
The third female fronted rockers in a row were by far the most impressive. Halestorm played good ol fashioned power chords and rang out plenty of hugely catchy and melodic hard rock with a pop heart. Their strikingly beautiful lead singer had the attention of all the men in the tent even before she opened her mouth or slung a guitar over her shoulder. Her voice was one of the most powerful things I’ve heard! She had the perfect rock voice which flitted back and forth from angelic to demonic in the blink of an eye, rasping high notes and blasting lows were by far their main attraction. Given they had a superb array of damn catchy tunes like I Get Off, I’m Not An Angel & Bet You Wish You Had Me Back, leaves not doubt in my mind they were one of the finds of the festival!
Megadeth were up on main stage and it was great to see one of thrash metals long standing behemoths doing what they do best. They played very tight and threw in a few of their classic tunes to the rapture of the crowd such as Sweating Bullets, Hangar 18, Rust In Peace & Symphony Of Destruction. This was a lesson from the old school that metal is still alive, and judging from the amount of hair flailing around near the multiple mosh pits i can safely say this was very well received.
We departed the main stage to head for some cheesy 80’s reviver’s Y&T. They was exactly as advertised, plenty of melodic guitar lines, flashy solo’s, pop rock chorus’ and wrinkling skin. Yet they seemed to be having such a great time it was hard to fault their performance!
Sub-headliners Deftones I have come to realise are not my thing. Here in the huge outdoor spaces their alternative-metal was drab which lacked energy with most of the crowd appreciating as opposed to enjoying. I was not on their page tonight which is a shame as I’ve only heard good things, yet i found it a bland set to sit through.
Now we find ourselves in an almighty tussle for position as the people hurdle, push, smash and steal their way to get a better view of tonight’s headliners who are on their UK Victory Lap, after sensationally scooping the Christmas #1 slot after the public led campaign to oust Simon Cowellites from the top spot. Rage Against The Machine kicked straight into Testify as anarchy reigned in the crowd as the once still mass of people around us, went absolutely mental! Leaping around, as it turns out is best way to get in the Rage groove (plus you get a decent view for half the time). With each song bringing a heaving bomb of alternative rock with humongous riffs and instantly recognisable melodies it was easy to see why these guys are so popular.
Rage Against The Machine
In fact the second tune of the set Bombtrack had to be halted. As worried fans and security guards looked on it was apparent not all was well! Suddenly after a considerable silence band front man Zach de la Rocha asked the crowd to take 2 big steps back, as it was getting increasingly dangerous down the front. We all took his instruction and we continued…only a little further away.
Zach de la Rocha
With a classic band on stage it is very hard to fault, Zachs raps were spot on and guitar legend Tom Morello was on top form. Tom’s array of special effects pedals and engineered sounds drawn out from his guitar were mesmerising. I especially liked his playing of the strings behind the nut and also playing with an iron nail showing that it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it! This masterclass in slow riffs and the ability to mutate his instrument to suit his needs was brilliant, there is none more creative or versatile an axe man playing today.
A few more classic tracks (the Led Zeppy Wake Up, riff-mungus Bulls On Parade, funk laced Guerrilla Radio) a superb clash cover (White Riot) and a couple of political preaches (Israel’s Gaza blockade being the topic of these rants) later we all waited
Sure enough it came and passed. Not without rocking this field of baying fans with an outburst of stomping drums, huge bass, precise guitars and plenty of “F**K you I won’t do what you tell Me’s…” A fitting end to a cracking day!
11th June 2010
After a night on my friends couch, a Tesco breakfast (quickly becoming a pre-festival tradition) and an emergency Argos run for camping chairs, the diminished DiR crew arrived at Download 2010. After a menacing hike in the blazing sun we managed to find a nice quiet place to pitch our tent on high ground away from the possibility of bogginess (let me stress this wasn’t actually a choice…it was what was available).
Parked in our sumptuous, newly acquired chairs, we shared some early afternoon comfy cans of rapidly warming beer before heading into the arena, almost 2 miles away from our current location. As the first days proceedings didn’t kick off until a rather civilised 3pm we had time in abundance to march over there!
Having not been to a proper (ATP not included) UK summer festival for some time, I was surprised by quite how massive these places are! With the Download site containing 5 stages with 2 huge outdoor stages this felt a lot bigger than Reading and I will say had optimal landscaping with natural bowls by every stage. Plus the sun was shining (unexpectedly), you couldn’t ask for much better than this. Especially with tonights headliners bringing their own world tour stage with them, today already felt somewhat special!
Year Long Disaster
Starting the day in more humble surroundings in the Pepsi Max Tent were Year Long Disaster. Kicking off the festival was always going to be a hard slot and it proved so. Their underwhelming sound failed to make a real impression as they drifted through their set of decent but not special, vintage hard rock.
Seeing as there was plenty of hard rock and metal on offer over the weekend, we decided on something a little bit different for our next band. Anathema played to a majority sunbathing crowd who were delighted with their sweeping atmospheres and slow but hard hitting melodies. In the open air this was total bliss out territory and just as we were all floating into dreamland they sadly departed only to be replaced by A Day To Remember who played us some wishy-washy screamy hardcore mixed-up with emo-pop punk. Needless to say we weren’t impressed with their interruption.
Coheed & Cambria
Prog-Rock titans Coheed & Cambria were next up, inflicting their metal ambitions loose on the gathered masses at the second stage (aptly renamed the Ronnie James Dio Stage, after his passing away). With his hair fluttering like a badly groomed poodle, Claudio Sanchez led intricate melodies and extended prog meanderings which were both amazingly technical and surprisingly catchy. Taking much of their set from their new album this was a standard execution of their material with little or no crowd interaction. Thankfully for them the audience were to busy being in awe of their bonkers sci-fi rock to care. Finding time to throw in the epic metal tune Welcome Home just before they bailed out was a masterstroke which ensured a grand ovation and calls for an encore (which were quickly ignored).
Them Crooked Vultures
With the greatly reduced line-up the only thing left to do was to head towards the main stage in order to set up camp for the evenings main event. If you were clever…like I…you placed yourself dead centre between both main stages and enjoyed 2 sets of classic rock and roll. The first of which came from Them Crooked Vultures. TCV are quite rightly the hottest supergroup around, and this evening they proved worthy of their super title. Their bluesy shuffles and sparkling fuzz guitars were ploughing through riffs like a naked guy through a crowd (yes…this happened!). The interaction between the three prized musicians was astounding! John Paul Jones & Josh Homme had their guitars intuitively connected not forgetting Dave Grohls drum set becoming as big a weapon as those wielded in front of him. Their poppy scuzz blues and slightly too long blues jams went down superbly. But slowly but surely the crowds attention began to fade and with it severe long-stage-drift towards the currently unoccupied stage decorated only by two inflatable red schoolboy caps branded with one huge ‘A’ each fluttering in the wind. It was time for what we’d all been waiting for…..
I have never witnessed such anticipation for a single festival set (nor any performance actually) in my life. The crowd was absolutely buzzing and after a what felt like an eternity, the lights went up as Ac/Dc the living legends & godfathers of Hard Rock n’ Roll blasted onstage revealing just why they needed their own stage. They not only brought with them a seemingly endless catwalk which stretched nearly 30 metres into the crowd but they also thought they’d bring a train too!
The speakers they brought with them was gargantuan too!! Being nearly 3 times bigger than the festivals main stage, they sounded absolutely massive, small children would have been blown away and stray dogs had no chance against these things…it was that powerful. This only made hearing a seemingly endless barrage of timeless rock n’ roll classics even better. Front man Brian Johnson who could probably apply for his bus pass introduced the set with the following choice words:
“We’re here for one reason and that’s to rock and roll, and the party starts right now,”
Now that’s exactly what did happen as the crowd exploded in a wave of jubilation as the first chords of Runaway Train rang out. It was no great surprise to find the crowd knew every word, to every song and yet despite the packed conditioned everyone found room to hop around and sing them manically to strangers (whoever though music could not connect people?).
The songs which got the crowd the most excited was most definitely the bass kicking Thunderstruck, ballsy Shoot To Thrill, the classic riffs of Back in Black & Highway to Hell, not forgetting the huge singalong on You Shook Me All Night Long.
My favourite moments were when the legendary guitar god Angus Young rose high above the crowd on a huge elevating platform while playing his heart out not far from me. He may be old, but he can still rock with the best if them! Also in true rock style he flashed his pants, only to reveal the band logo of course. His axe wielding was brilliant with big time classic blues solo’s, those unforgettable riffs and a magical presence in front of a crowd nearly 100,000 strong.
The train wasn’t tonights only prop either, confetti & fireworks aside they also had a huge bell was lowered onstage to be rung for the opening sequence to Hells Bells, a 30ft inflatable woman (Rosie) with ample cleavage provocatively perched upon the train for Whole Lotta Rosie and a line of cannons which exploded during set closer For Those About To Rock (We Salute You).
I can find no words to criticise tonights performance, this was simply the greatest rock show I have ever witnessed and it doubt it will ever be topped! Ac/Dc wrote the book on Rock and tonight they played it in it’s entirety too! A truly awe inspiring performance! Lets hope this is not the last time we see them out on tour!
The festival experience started on the delayed 20:15 train service towards Glastonbury on the Wednesday evening due to pikeys nicking the signalling cable near Iver. Despite the ensuing problems at Paddington this worked out well as I happened to sit next to a member of a Glastonbury band, Nu from The Yearner Babies. It was great to hear about an up and coming band who were due to play two sets over the weekend and at a number of other festivals over the summer whilst she was enthusiastically filing her nails, which I was told essential for all violinists.
Rather than head down with every man and his dog (animals no longer allowed on-site) on the Wednesday we headed down early Thursday morning, arriving at the festival site at 6:30. With no traffic or queues to park this was definitely a good plan and it didn’t take too long to find a place to pitch our tents and pop ours up, whilst our neighbours were still fast asleep. With the music on Thursday’s limited to the smaller tents and predominantly in the evening we had an opportunity to get the rest of our supplies from the car, relax in the sun with a few ciders getting to know our Scottish neighbours who took the coach down from Edinburgh and meet up with some other friends. The stages which were open were packed so it was nigh on impossible to get in anywhere or near to the stage. However, we did manage to see Beardyman on the WOW! stage who is without doubt the best (and only) beatboxer I have ever seen. Singing/making noise to classic tunes such as Golddigger and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition (the first of many for the weekend) clearly demonstrated the talent this guy has (check out Kitchen Diaries on Youtube for further evidence) and a number of people who initially thought it was a rather strange DJ set were amazed . It was a fantastic way to start the festival and a real highlight so early on in the proceedings. The huge crowds in the dance village soon inspired us to move elsewhere and we passed the next few hours smoking shisha in the Glade bar, a real bargain at £7.50, and drinking Chai in Green Futures.
After freezing during the night and starting to cook as soon as the sun came up (the downside to pop-up tents) we managed to get ourselves up and ready for the first real day of music. There was only one act who we and seemingly the rest of Glaso wanted to see – the Aussie legend, star presenter of Animal Hospital, artist to the queen and inventor of the wobble board, the man him-self – Rolf Harris. On route to what would have surely been the best act of the weekend a call from a friend changed our plan. Mumford & Sons were playing a secret gig at the BBC Introducing stage, as advertised on a small sheet of paper outside the tent. We joined the small crowd and waited patiently for Jo Whiley and the band. Although they only played three tracks (including one song twice) the catchy folk songs which are so characteristic of the smaller tents throughout the site were very well received.
After some tasty jerk chicken and rice and peas (the food at Glasto is consistenly good) we moved to the Green Future field, past the unremarkable Stranglers who were playing on The Other Stage. We caught the end of Rodney Branigan in the Small World tent, who wowed the crowd and wouldn’t come back for an encore because he couldn’t beat playing two guitars at once! After that were Mazaj, a two-member band who specialised in Arabic music. The female member did not exude enthusiasm and was perhaps focussing on playing, bored or jealous of the belly dancer who came on stage.
Next up were Bombay Bicycle Club in the John Peel tent, who we watched from afar whilst soaking up the sun and played a fantastic samba version of Always Like This. We headed back to the tent for a bit of rest, but could still hear Kele who played some of his new up-beat songs and then some classic Bloc Party tracks. After re-charging our batteries we headed to the Pyramid Stage and saw the New Yorkers Vampire Weekend who entertained the crowd with their sing-along tunes such as Holiday and Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
Soon after finishing their set we joined the rest of the crowd moving to see Florence and the Machine on the Other Stage. To get a good view we watched from the Railway Track, a long distance from the stage but a fantastic view of the crowd. Florence really worked the crowd and seemed to be having the time of her life. Her covers of Candi Staton’s You Got the Love We and Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain were superb and she will almost certainly be back for years to come. As the evening approached we moved on to the dance areas, starting with a sunset performance by Hybrid in the fantastic tree lined Glade tent, and then the Dance East tent where Zane Lowe played a DJ set to warm up the audience for Chase and Status. The tent packed out in anticipation of this band who are emerging as one of the biggest dance acts in the UK. Joined by other artists such as London rapper Tinnie Tempah the base shook the crowd into action and by time Plan B arrived and ended their set with perfect renditions of End Credits and Pieces the crowd were ecstatic.
In recent years there has been a large influx of rappers in to the Glastonbury festival and on Saturday morning it was turn for East London boy Tinchy Stryder, albeit more of a pop act than hardened rapper. His catchy songs were a pleasant start to the morning, but it wasn’t soon long until we left in search of some proper rock at the Other Stage, starting with Reef. It’s a shame to be well known for one particular song, but at least it’s a great one – Place Your Hands went down a treat. Things got heavier next with Coheed and Cambria and the disappointingly small crowd welcomed something different. The band must have been baking in the afternoon sun but the lead singer, a Hurley lookalike from Lost, still managed to blast out a number of familiar and not so familiar songs that metal heads appreciated as much as those who weren’t.
Unable to move due to the extreme heat we stayed for Imogen Heap, who surprised me at least by being English. She was clearly an enthusiastic and talented musician and was actively engaged with all of the other musicians on stage. She also got the crowd involved particularly for Hide and Seek, familiar to fans of The OC. After a walk around the impressive Arcadia, Shangri-La and the Unfair Ground areas we returned once again to the shaded and spacious Small World Tent in Green Futures. We dozed away to Tina Brackman, a British guitarist living in New Zeeland who said her songs always send people to sleep but didn’t seem too offended. She had tragically lost a hand in an accident, but soon returned to music which has been a massive part of her life. Her confident performance and chirpy persona was made it a very worthwhile performance.
After waking up we moved to the Leftfield stage for Frank Turner, along with hundreds of other fans, many of which had already seen him twice elsewhere during the weekend. His popularity was soon understandable as he managed to strike a perfect balance between playing music and interacting with the crowd. Credit must also be given to a young guy called Olly who was picked out from the crowd to play the harmonica and did a fantastic job and a friend of Frank called Barbs who joined Frank for the entertaining Hot Chicks and Bacon Sandwiches.
The final act of the night was Muse on the Pyramid Stage and the massive crowd were not disappointed with both the music and show offered by this headliner, despite a lack of acrobats, hot air balloons and UFOs (having seen them at Wembley Stadium before)! We were waiting for the inevitable guest appearance at some stage during the set and when The Edge came on and joined them in playing Where The Streets Have No Name the crowd went wild – a fantastic evening which was extended in Cocktails and Dreams, where a guest appearance by Limhal (80s popstar) kept everyone entertained, even if most of us didn’t know who he was!
It was the final day and we were sad to be packing up but glad to not be spending another night in our nightmare pop-up tent. Thank god it didn’t rain – these tents are surely not waterproof! Having practiced putting the tent back in the bag (N.B. it took us almost an hour on our first attempt) we managed to pack it away in a record time of about 2 minutes, much to the disappointment of our friends and neighbours. On route to the car we took a break and watched Paloma Faith on the Pyramid Stage, whilst enjoying some refreshing ice creams from the ideally situated ice cream van. She certainly can’t be knocked for enthusiasm or entertainment value and her soulful and poptastic tunes such as New York and a cover of Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime went down really well with the early morning crowd. After the stress of carrying everything back to the car we joined 30,000 other fans to the football field near the cinema. There were 50,000 fans in another field near the dance area so it must have been brilliant for non-fans who could enjoy a crowdless festival, at least for a couple of hours. If we won the atmosphere would have been brilliant, but the abysmal result and missing acts such as Slash, Temper Trap and Holy F*** meant that it really was an afternoon wasted. Never again….The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Pyramid Stage. First up was Jack Johnson who was background music to chatting with a friend from Switzerland (apologies to any fans near-by). Faithless then took centre stage and Maxi Jazz seemed overwhelmed with the fantastic reception from the growing crowd who waited in anticipation for classic tunes such as Insomnia and We Come One. We were not disappointed, but a later night time set would have been much more appropriate. The final act of the night and of Glastonbury 2010 was Stevie Wonder, but rather than watch the legend of motown we made our way home to avoid the mass exodus of people at the end. We got home in good time and watched the footage the next day – not the coolest way to end the weekend, but perhaps a rather sensible plan.
The 40th Birthday Glastonbury will certainly go down in festival history as one of the best in history, but then again it is fantastic every year whether you are watching on TV or there in person. It really does have everything to offer – ecelectic mix of music, headliners who are unlikely to play anywhere else, a variety of events going on all day and night and fantastic food. Like any other festival you will always have some fantastic memories and some regrets. Here are a few of mine:
Top acts of the weekend: Frank Turner, Chase and Status, Beardyman, Mumford & Sons and Muse
We shouldn’t have missed: Slash, Mumford & Sons in the John Peel tent, The Temper Trap, Dizzee Rascal, Rodrigo y Gabriela, The Yearner Babies (I really should have gone to see them after meeting a band member) and Toy Story 3 3D Advance Preview (a field full of hippies wearing 3D glasses must have been fantastic)
Next time we’ll give it a miss: England football matches, pop-up tents, the heat (although it’s better than rain) and Radio 1 coverage of the festival on the way home (no live Stevie Wonder!)
After a dip in the swimming pool complex with its incredible cool water slides, (with rather long queues and dramatic names like The Black Hole & The Master Blaster) then having watched the Monaco GP we were ready for day 3.
Arriving at the ‘normal’ Wax Fang I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t always wear afros and 70’s style glam wear. Their set was a mix of tight riffs melded together with huge sound that really worked here on the Main Stage. They played with a lively spring in their steps and had the backing of the crowd, most I expect were here (like me) on the back of their stunning Prince show. The only down side was their material wasn’t particularly memorable post-performance, but this did not dampen their spirited performance.
After yesterdays gargantuan effort, we thought we’d check out the weekends second performance from Boris, this time performing their so called ‘classic’ album, Feedbacker. Given an album title like that and Boris’s sound you can imagine what it sounded like.
In fact I have to imagine also, as I fell fast asleep during the first song after sitting down for a rest (As it turns out 3 out of the 4 recharged our batteries during this show). 45 Minutes later I awoke to find a desolate and empty arena. I promptly headed out to find the rest of the DiR team who were busy putting a huge hole in the Pizza Hut buffet selection, much to the annoyance of other customers.
We didn’t really see anything for a while after this, brief sweeps past The Clean weren’t attractive enough to warrant our full attention, neither was the uber-northern song smith Terry Reid (Who looked like a cross between Pat Butcher and Jack Duckworth ). We returned to the fold to see the outspoken legend that is Mark E. Smith and his iconic band The Fall.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Mark decided to pull the majority of his set from his latest album which despite its decent standard was somewhat of a disappointment. Very few popular songs were played as even Mr. Flowers (a self confessed Fall freak) didn’t recognise a single tune!Still the set they did perform was typical Fall. Musically tight and vocally shocking with Mark’s grumbles coming across as clearly as radio Belgium in a electrical storm. Nothing he did made much sense. From wandering around aimlessly on stage, twiddling dials he should never be let near, pulling out his band member’s amps or erratically attacking their instruments. Still it made for good comedy value at least.
We all wondered if we would hear a song we knew in the encore. Not surprisingly the answer was no! The crowd shuffled away in dismay while we stood and pondered what to do next, which turned out to be a master stroke as The Fall unexpectedly returned for a 2nd encore! This time they got it spot on, playing a song we knew…We Are Spata F.C.. From being quite a way back, we were suddenly right down the front for this cool tune. But as quickly as they returned they buggered off again. This wasn’t a bad show, I’d just expected more…a lot more.
After flitting back and forwards between Enablers and The Raincoats, chilling outside in the cool air enjoying relative peace was the most engaging option. After all I was waiting for the old school punk attitude of The Authorities.
These guys looked every one of their aging years but don’t let that fool you into thinking they are past it. They invoke the sound of punks early days of three chord wonders, crunching melodies, male dominated thinking and tracks of no more than 3 minutes long. They were on top form and blasted their way through some top punk numbers. Showing no signs of nostalgia, they clearly felt it was still 1972 and we were all willing to peek inside the time warp which had opened up onstage. A 30 second guitar rattle brought about the end to a high octane set as they powered down the final amp of ATP Pavement 2010.
ATP have the right idea when it comes to festivals! Civilised, laid back and comfortable, things not normally associated with festivals. I guess that’s why it this weekend was such a success despite a lineup which was barely got us excited before arrival. A long drive awaited us in the morning, but we all knew we’d be back soon for another installment of ATP genius!
Not being woken up by a blazing dawn sun, a drunk girl falling on your tent over, or a drunk bloke relieving himself in the remnants of your bonfire was by far the least interesting but most pleasant way to start day 2 at a music festival. Rolling out of bed and beginning the almighty fry up was The Docktor who rustled us up a feast (Note: 4 blokes sharing 3 cans of baked beans with their for breakfast is not advised for those with sensitive noses or a strong gag reflex). To work it off we hit the sandy coastline for some beach football! After all it was a rather unusual glorious sunny day! A few bruises and an abundance of sand in all manner of bodily crevices later, we caught wind of a secret gig going on.
Not being able resist the urge of the secret gig we were treated to an extra special show from Wax Fang @ Reds who were set to perform the entirety of Prince’s timeless album Purple Rain.
Wax Fang as Prince
Complete with comedy wigs, 70’s flares and more than required bodily hair on show Wax Fang both looked and sounded simply amazing. Their Prince routine was perfect, from the shrieking vocals right down to the note perfect solo’s and ambient keyboards. This was tongue in cheek delight and as they played hit after hit such as When Doves Cry, & I Would Die For You. Despite playing covers this was a guaranteed highlight for the festival as they faded slowly out with the fully extended version of the epic Purple Rain, the entire crowd swaying hands aloft to cheer this inspired performance.
Later that afternoon we had the biggest clash of the weekend, music or the FA Cup Final. I was the only one who made it away from the TV as I headed out to catch Blitzen Trapper. I was so glad I did! Their Americana influenced folk was at times beautiful and bold, while always being catchy and melodic. Lead singer sounded very close to a less nasally Bob Dylan but more or less managed to steer clear of the obvious comparisons. Their instrumentation was excellent and they did not get overpowered by the size of the arena, their music suited this perfectly. On the whole a very impressive performance that I really enjoyed.
It was at this point I found myself pondered over the weekend’s stage schedule structure. Most bands played for at least 45 minutes each with most being granted 1 hour. Now this is a good thing if you happen to like the bands that are on, but with a limited number of bands over the 3 days, 37, this leans itself to being quite restrictive.
On the plus side though if you missed the start of a set It didn’t matter so much as they would be playing for ages anyways. Looks like this was one debate I was not going to solve in a hurry so I decided to stick my head into Centre Stage for Saccarine Trust, before promptly removing it again realising the last 30 mins for the Cup Final & lunch was a more profitable use of time.
Disappointed after a Pompy defeat our next band of the day were up on the Main Stage. I have to admit that I went into this show with rampaging negative bias against Fiery Furnaces. Their brand of twisted indie is not the most approachable, unless you have an arty streak or a connoisseur complex. But I can say they’re live shows are a blast. Kicking into their tunes with wistful breeziness and rampaging a noisy fed back amp the combo of pop and rock was ideal. Melody wise they had big enough progressions to keep everyone nodding their heads (Apparently dancing at ATP is un cool), and enough catchy guitar licks to make me happy. This was a huge surprise, as they dropped their sweetness and blasted their way through a very entertaining set!
We quickly shuffled our way through the crowds, we had a date with Boris. The gargantuan Japanese noise rock behemoths had some technical problems in setting up and were late in getting started, but it was well worth the wait. If Spinal Tap turn it to ’11’ then Boris have their amps set to 111 as this was the most epically loud show the earth has ever seen. A drum kick sounded like a firework exploding, a bass thump was making my clothes move and the power chords where like a head gremlin playing the migraine march on your frontal lobe!
When this audio wall hit’s you square in the face, it sends you flying into a dizzying sonic spiral of intense rock energy which is astoundingly great. The songs themselves were very lucidly progressive, with heavy sections counterbalanced with some inventive and beautiful melodies. The greatest compliment to Boris was evident in the crowd. Despite near deafening volumes which could knock planets out orbit…nobody was going anywhere! Instead they were putting fingers in their ears and remaining down the front sharing the epic sounds.
Now for the reason we were all here, it was time for Pavement on a Main Stage filled to capacity (you can almost feel the desolation on the rest of the site). In one form we’d seen all the Pavement members bar front man Steven Malkmus himself over the weekend already, (Spiral Stairs, Marble Valley) so when they finally got down to their actual set it felt like we were pretty acquainted with them already.
The biggest cheers of the weekend greeted them as they made their way onstage and began playing a solid all round set of their greatest hits. Their pop sound was rougher live, but this made for a far better performance. With so much joy in the room there was a lot to love and little to fault in this show. Throwing in classic tracks like their biggest hit Cut Your Hair, Stereo and Gold Soundz, Pavement were lapping up energy from the crowd and flinging it right back.
This felt like a great return for the American indie heroes, but with a room full of people who signed up to their ATP curated festival and sold out the event before announcing any bands except themselves, I ask “was it going to be any different?” Nonetheless a superb showing for the weekends main headliner!
After chilling out for a while on the sofa with a few of our beers, we arrived at Reds and looked on is disbelief! The queue to get in was snaking around the smokers hangout with no indication of movement. Of course everyone was here to see the fiery DIY garage rock of those crazy Israelis’, Monotonix. After asking the door security informed us that the venue was full! 5 minutes later as we walked past him into the venue I wondered what on earth is going on?
This bewilderment was to continue once inside. Monotonix were sitting on their own stage, in only a their shorts and full chests of hair in the middle of the floor with the crowd all sitting down around them. They sounded immense! None of it made the slight bit of sense, but their three piece rock captured the spirit of beer soaked garage rock and roll ethics which is so lacking in the modern era. After about 15 minutes this spirit was too hard to ignore as the seated crowd stood up, overcome with the desire to rock out!
Sadly this was quickly brought to a halt as Butlins security stepped in and dragged Monotonix off stage, citing capacity problems and accusing the band of inciting violence. A lot of unhappy faces booed them which was unfair as they did nothing wrong, the hatred was rife and if the crowd was to kick off against the security team they would have had serious trouble on their hands. Thankfully we were at ATP not Reading festival so everyone trotted off mumbling and grumbling about the appalling security operation and health & safety gone mad.
Saddened we headed upstairs to an extremely packed Centre stage where a lone American was onstage. Atlas Sound was an incredibly annoying, whiny, overly American youth who did little or nothing to impress any of the DiR.net posse. The atmosphere was weak and uninspiring almost as much as his in between song nonsense. A lacklustre showing which was one of the most dull of the weekend.
It’s 1am and the final band took to the stage. Still Flyin’ in more of a collective than a band. With 12 members on stage you get the jist why. They had 2 trumpeters, 2 percussion, 4 singers, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a bas player and a random guy whose job it was to shake a ball shaped maraca and bound about stage. It comes as no surprise then that they play pop. This was an extremely joyous set with a carnival atmosphere that had people bopping along into the wee hours. Their reggae influenced, almost ska-indie pop was great fun way to round off day 2.#
After the long drive down from London to the somerset coastal town of Minehead, we pulled up in the place we’d be calling home for the next 3 nights… Butlins!!! As the DiR team arrived at the check-in desk we couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of reviving our childhood spirits and living a festival in luxury style.
Nestling down in our deluxe 3rd floor chalet in Palm Tree Place complete with shower, fully fitted kitchen, comfy beds and most importantly TOWELS!!! We were perfectly placed about 2 minutes from the main arena and 2 minutes from the swimming pool complex.
Wrenching ourselves away from watching TV and having a few beers (newly chilled in our fridge/freezer) and a couple of burgers (freshly cooked on our cooker) we headed to check out the stages and start our festival music consumption.
Shuffling into the vast pavilion complex we were greeted by an all-in one entertainment complex complete with 3 indoor stages, innumerable bars, arcade games, a bowling alley, pool hall, plenty of fast food eateries. Ignoring the multitude of distractions we headed to see our first band of the weekend, Surfer Blood on the Main Stage.
If you have ever heard a Surfer Blood song, you probably know what they look like before seeing them! Clean cut Californian yacht club types who ooze pretentiousness! Their music wasn’t bad, surf happy melodies served of a bed of fuzzy guitars and reverb soaked vocals. Music was pretty decent, yet I found them generally irritating lacking in energy and spirit. Having liked them on record, this was a disappointing set which dosed down their pop and upped their noise…something which didn’t work for me.
Heading away from the vast space of the Main Stage we headed to the Centre Stage venue (weird?) to see one of the multitudes of Pavement sideline projects playing this weekend! Once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the massive club venue, Spiral Stairs appeared. These guys were founded by Pavement guitarist Scott Kannberg and play blues rooted riff rock with catchy pop sensibilities. This was a great little set which was upbeat and shared good time feelings.
Their energy was incessant and you clearly felt they were enjoying playing for the smallish crowd that had gathered. A well received surprise and an early highlight of the weekend.
Taking a break we nestled down at a table to enjoy the next band up on Centre Stage, The Walkmen. Their American indie laced with some noisy rock was just the ticket! They had just the right amount of feedback and noise to balance the poppier side of their sound. They were however plagued by technical issues and had to depart stage after playing a few teaser chords of their biggest hit, the barnstorming rocker The Rat. This aside this was a good set from a band that have haven’t quite reached the heights they are capable of.
Broken Social Scene was next on our radar back at the Main Stage. This huge ensemble of people play very agreeable and booming indie pop which is very much at ease in this large arena sized venue. A bright set paced with happy pop music which was some of the most polished of the weekend. However they lose marks for being rather unmemorable. I can only remember a couple of real standout tracks including Texico Bitches, with the rest fading into a lull of endless melody. Still I enjoyed my time with these guys, drifting into their pot of blissful optimistic tunes.
Broken Social Scene
While waiting for our next band we got involved in a short chat with some ‘I’m ATP born and bred, hence cooler than you’ types in which they, not only proved themselves to be righteous idiots in saying “oh I guess this is your 1st ATP then” using the most weedy of condescending tones, but also pedantic prats in correcting a total stranger on the pronunciation of Matt Groening. Still once DiR.net man Crumbs the ‘King of Camberwell’ returned with the beers, they cowered slyly off into the encroaching darkness. Note to self, avoid talking to ATP folks in skinny jeans bearing pubescent facial hair and a mop top haircut.
Mission of Burma arrived and began the onslaught. They made one hell of a racket which I found to be a long way from the riff focused approach of their studio output. The set was messy and vocally they failed to make any impression! The riffs found it hard to cut through the feedback noise doing nothing for their appeal. So disappointed with their efforts, I decided my time would be better off refueling at BK. However in my absence Mr. Flowers reported, sighting as crazy a scene he saw all weekend ignited towards the very end of the set, people were dancing and everything!
Mission of Burma
Having waited up for Quasi in the wee hours I can’t help but think that time would have been better spent catching up on some sleep. As soon as we emerged from Centre Stage, I could remember almost nothing from this mundane set. Tiredness on my part did not contribute to a positive review, but despite that there is very little i can recommend. In fact the wiser half of the DiR.net quartet did infact head back for some late night tv while myself and Mr. Flowers powered on downstairs to Reds.
We had missed the majority of the Marble Valley set on the Reds thirds stage but this didn’t stop this from becoming one of the better bands of the day. Their lively pop and hyperactive stage antics were the perfect dose to bring us out of our Quasi induced coma. Plenty of sing-a-long moments and fun tunes spread an optimistic party atmosphere throughout. Match this with the sense they loved just being on stage and you have a great, all be it short show.
Returning to our chalet, the leather sofa and a ready made cup of tea I sat and wondered why more festivals aren’t like ATP!
Day two to follow shortly.