Review: Variety is the spice of Download

Flogging Molly at Download Festival
Flogging Molly at Download Festival

HAVING been re-branded twelve years ago Donington’s hallowed turf is now referred globally as Download, with each year getting bigger than the proceeding one.

This year, with around 150 acts all plugging for attention and applause, we had a slightly more diverse range of bands. With many making their first appearance, which in itself must be quite a feat for any up and coming unit, Radkey were the first to catch my eye on The Pepsi Max Stage. Hailing from St. Joseph, Missouri they’re a plucky threesome who make it a family affair as brothers Dee on guitar and vocals, Isaiah on bass and Solomon on drums really did take the tent by storm with Teacher and Cat And Mouse being just a couple of strong tunes that kept the sizable crowd happy.

With a skip and a jump it was over to the main stage, this year named in honour of the brave British youngster Stephen Sutton who we sadly lost through a horrible disease in 2014. God bless him, he must be looking down with immense pride.

Welsh wonder boys Skindred, who were making their fifth appearance at the festival, their first being back in 2006, are old hands at entertaining the masses.

Frontman Benji Webbe, dressed in black trousers and eye-catching red waistcoat looked and sounded great, though he did seem to be carrying a pound or two more than last time our paths crossed. Still, Kill The Power, Nobody, complete with Radio Ga Ga hands worked well, as did Warning. Especially as Benji had ordered us all to take off our shirts and make like a helicopter, which from his perspective must have looked amazing.

Post-hardcore quartet Quicksand displayed their talents back in the Pepsi Max tent, though some songs didn’t exactly fill me with excitement, they did attract quiet a sizable gathering.

Again, back on the Stephen Sutton stage female fronted six-piece Within Temptation had a huge expectant crowd to please and they put on a fine showing as Solemn Hour and Ice Queen hit the mark.

My band of the day though had to be Flogging Molly, whose huge crowd lapped up their punk, Celtic rock folk music with relish. A seven-piece from Ireland, their music is infectious, with Float, dedicated to Sheep, and Saints & Sinners keeping everyone on their toes. Quite simply, brilliant.

With another shift back to check out a trim looking Rob Zombie and band, a quick sneak at The Offspring, Avenged Sevenfold closed day one. Bat Country, Burn It Down, a touching tribute to sadly departed drummer The Rev with So far Away, and new stuff like Hail To The King kept us more than happy. Production was of the highest order with ample flashes and bangs making it a day to remember for both fans and band alike.

Saturday was again blessed with fine weather as Killswitch Engage, now back with their original frontman Jesse Leach, walked out to the seventies hit Celebration.

Crowd pleasers like Beyond The Stone and New Awakening kept the band sharp and it was even better that Jesse never swore once. A rarity at Download these days.

With the Acoustic stage being a break from the noise it was good to see Dave McPherson, him from Inme, going down well, as did Fall Out Boy back on the big stage. Now this is a band I’ve never seen and excuse the pun, but ‘Boy’ were they good. Not much chat and all the hits came fast and furious with their cover of Beat It, Sugar, and I Don’t Care showing just how good they are.

Back on the Zippo Encore Stage we had Status Quo. Honestly, they were excellent and with Rhino Edwards smacking out the bass, they sounded good too.

With a back catalogue most bands would die for they knocked out them all with many songs running from one to another. We had no chat, unlike Bowling For Soup who earlier ruined their great selection of songs with idiotic humour. If you’ve never sampled the Quo, just do it!!

So seeing Linkin Park was a tad tame for me, though it was great to hear Given Up, though sadly Bleed It Out was playing as we were making our way out. The stage set up was pretty spectacular though.

Organising an event such as Download must be fraught with problems, so a word of thanks must go to the vast team behind the curtain who make it all possible.

Roll on the next time...