Download Festival Day 2

June 18, 2010


The Best Laid Plans …

The first day’s blog finished with AC/DC, but the day itself was far from over. We figured that with two long days ahead of us plus the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in London on Monday afternoon and evening, we’d be incredibly responsible and resist the temptation of the late night bars in the VIP backstage section and take a cab straight back to the hotel. So we located the festival’s cab rank and headed for it. To be frank though, it was so far away that there should’ve been a cab rank of taxis to take you there!

After a good 20 minutes of weaving through drunken revelers, we finally made it to the taxi line. The only trouble was another 200-plus people had also had the same idea—the queue was huge! Not a problem though, we decided; as long as there’s a constant stream of cabs coming in, we’ll be home in no time. The “constant stream” however was more like an erratic, slow drip. After 15 minutes that seemed like 50 and as many cabs, it became obvious that this was a two- to three-hour wait. Only one logical choice to make then: go back to the VIP bars and wait it out there. So we trekked all the way back and after marveling at just how quickly AC/DC’s stage was being dismantled, we hit the bars. Then, 15 minutes before the bars closed we ventured back out and got a cab—this time with little or no wait. Then, when we got back to the hotel at 2:30 a.m., to our absolute horror the bar there was still open and we ended up getting “kidnapped” by three rockers from New Zealand. Seemed like a good idea at the time …

Before I get on to Saturday’s festivities, let me share something I forgot to post in the Day 1 blog: Bullet For My Valentine’s set list. Here it is, taped to Matt Tuck’s pedalboard …

Day 2 Begins

Our 10 a.m. lobby call for our cab to the festival was tough to make, but miraculously all five of us did it. Today is a great bill, so we wanted to get to the site a good 30 minutes before the first bands hit the stages at 11 a.m. As mentioned in the Day 1 blog, Friday was a relatively light day in terms of the number of bands performing. Saturday, however, was a very different beast, with no fewer than 47 acts gracing the five Download stages. Due to the sheer distance between the stages and their relative placement (to be frank, you’d need a helicopter to go between stages 1, 2 and 3 with any type of timely efficiency) and the sheer quality of the acts on Stage 1, I decided to bunker down in the backstage area and make the most of the day without walking 22 miles and missing people and Stage 1 performances by Hellyeah, Lamb of God, Megadeth, Deftones and RATM. Not a shabby list!

Oh yeah, there was one other deciding factor in staying close to the main stage all day—the fact that several of the VIP hospitality tents just off the backstage area had big screen TVs for the United States vs. England World Cup game. And beer, too. Nice!

Hell Yeah!

Hellyeah took the stage at 11:45 a.m., propelled by one of the finest metal drummers to ever to walk this planet—Vinnie Paul of Pantera fame. The crowd of hung-over, sleep-deprived fans immediately took to the band’s “cowboy way” of doing things and energetic performance, and for many Hellyeah proved to be the ideal wake-up call.

Hellyeah’s Bobzilla and Tom Maxwell wake up the Download crowd.

As great as the show Hellyeah put on was, if you were lucky enough to be watching from side stage as I was, there was an equally entertaining show going on behind Vinnie Paul courtesy of the one and only Kat. If you’ve seen the Pantera home videos, you know exactly who I’m talking about. When he’s not assisting Vinnie, Kat doesn’t just stand around—he rocks out hard with a passion that you just can’t fake. As a result, a couple of half-finished cans of lager come to a premature end as they are thrown into the ground by a man possessed! Picture the scene—one of the genre’s greatest drummers performing his percussive magic with a loveable maniac going off behind the scenes. Kat, you rule bro—don’t ever change!

Look out—all’s well in Vinnie’s world, so Kat’s about to go off!


Set to Never Fail …

Like the mighty Machine Head and Slayer, Lamb of God are firm Download favorites, as their always impeccably delivered combination of brutality and perfection never fails to whip the crowd into a devil-horn throwing headbanging frenzy. Also, putting them on at 4 p.m. is perfect timing for circle pit-prone fans. As a result, the excitement level is palpable as LoG’s start time approaches—you can literally feel it. Damn, you can smell it! Watching from the main stage, the crowd has become a vast sea of people stretching as far as the eye can see by 3:50 p.m., and when LoG’s intro music, “The Passing,” started, I’m pretty sure people in Scotland heard the almighty roar of the crowd.

Also, give a band as great as Mark Morton and company a 50-minute slot and you know it’s going to be a relentless and memorable occasion. Here’s the set list. Read it and weep …

Lamb of God’s Download set list from hell.

At the risk of throwing out yet another cliché, the only way to describe Lamb of God’s set is this: you had to see it to believe it. The crowd reaction was insane, and the circle pits that broke out were far beyond huge. The band’s masterful frontman, Randy Blythe, had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the moment LoG started to the moment they ended, and the performance was ferocious, fiery and flawless. Look at these shots—they really are worth a thousand words (and 80,000 insane fans!) …

Before a single note is played! Mark Morton walks onstage.
Mark in action, whipping Download into a frenzy with his Jackson Dominion.
John Campbell, his Jackson signature bass and tens of thousands of new friends.
Randy Blythe—a maniacal master frontman at work.
Game over! Mark and his Dominion leave the stage victorious.

You get the picture. LoG owned it. Like I said, you really had to be there …

Holy Wars, Holy Cow …

Following a LoG performance that produced the most insane pits of the weekend is no easy feat. What band faced the daunting task of doing so? Here’s a clue …

Hmm, wonder who’s on next?

Yep, you guessed it—Megadeth! What’s more, Mr. Mustaine has a few aces up his sleeve, namely:

  • David Ellefson, who is back and is, by the way, playing new Jackson basses.
  • A set list that includes “Wake Up Dead,” “Symphony of Destruction,” Peace Sells …” and the classic Rust in Peace album played pretty much in its entirety.
  • The finest line-up since Marty and Junior left, including the jaw-dropping Chris Broderick on lead.

This is the second time I’ve seen Megadeth with Dave and David staying shoulder to shoulder, as they’re born to do, and all I can say is that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Jagger and Richards, Hanneman and King, Tyler and Perry, Mustaine and Ellefson—I rest my case.

This fact, coupled with a hella-strong set and a great band at the top of its game meant that Megadeth not only sounded right, but also looked right! Not surprisingly, the crowd loved them …

Welcome Home Mr. Ellefson—to Megadeth, Download and Jackson!

Ellefson commanding the vast Download throngs.


What the Hell Do I Watch?

Next up, I was faced with a serious dilemma—the Deftones or England vs. the United States in the World Cup? To be honest, as much as I love the ’tones, the last time I saw them at Download (2006, I believe) was a bit of a disappointment. When I saw them again in 2008 though, they were back in top form. Add to that the fact that their new album, Diamond Eyes, is a belter and this one was a tough call. A really tough one call …

And the Winner Is … Deftones!

I admit it—I did watch ten painful minutes of the World Cup game in an overstuffed tent. But the Deftones were playing much, much better than England, so I headed back to the stage. And I’m eternally grateful that I did, frankly, because aside from putting on a lackluster performance, the U.S. goal was a complete and utter joke—in my humble opinion, Stevie Wonder could’ve saved that shot. Pathetic. Thanks to Steph Carpenter for that hysterical post-performance chat and for a stellar show that made the embarrassing 1-1 draw a little more tolerable.

Simon Cowell’s Nightmare and Some Truly Shameless Name Dropping …

England’s embarrassment-inducing performance aside, what a great second day of Download. Hellyeah, Lamb of God, Megadeth, the Deftones and great hangs with Mark Morton and company, Phil Demmel, Megadeth (who’s crew includes the always-hysterical Fred Kowalo—Zakk Wylde’s longtime tech), the Marshall boys, Roger (Lemmy’s tech), Steph and the legendary Tony Iommi truly made it a day to remember.

Then came the proverbial icing on an already perfect cake—Rage Against the Machine. They were unbelievable. They sounded huge. Tom Morello pulled off all his quirky trademark tricks with consummate ease and the crowd reaction was far beyond insane. Can you imagine more than 80,000 people bouncing in unison in a huge-ass field? Well that’s what happened and, not surprisingly, a few people got hurt. To Rage’s credit though, they had a guy onstage scouring the crowd for potential problem areas that he’d point out security. At one point, in fact, the band stopped mid-song because their spotter saw something he really didn’t like. Zack de la Rocha asked everyone in the vast crowd to take two steps back to alleviate the issues; they complied and the band continued. A classy move by a classy band performing what will surely be hailed as one of the all-time classic sets at Download. Highlights were numerous, but my favorite was probably Zack dedicating “Know Your Enemy” to Simon Cowell. Priceless.

Lessons Learned

After the nightmare of yesterday (we had fun, but as already noted our planned relatively early and well-behaved night turned into a not so well-behaved late one), we were smart enough to have booked a cab to meet us a little off the beaten track—a move that pissed off a security guy, but who cares? We got back to the hotel. Result!

News from the final day of Download to follow ASAP. Stay tuned …

-Nick B.