DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, DONINGTON PARK
Saturday June 14
Shaking off the cobwebs of the crazy, crazy night before, we settle in front of the main stage to see how Icelandic younglings SIGN fare against the sea of raging hangovers they face in their ungodly early opening slot of 11am. With a bog-standard rock’n’roll Xerox of a million better bands their best feature, a short trek towards the Gibson stage where the newer bands are plying their wares is perhaps long overdue. Here we encounter the insufferably cheery emo-pop of GO: AUDIO and their saccharine girl-troubles almost reintroduces yesterday’s veggie chilli, it’s so sickeningly awful. At one particular low point pretty boy singer James Matthews gurns, ‘MY girlfriend left me and wrecked my life,’ while trying to get the smitten teenage girls in the crowd to join him. Lemmy wouldn’t approve.
A punishing sunshine doesn’t exactly make the prospect of leaving the shade of the cosy third stage too enticing so we’re faced with a slew of mostly third rate performances over the next few hours in the hopes of discovering a diamond. Birmingham trio MEXICOLAS start off promisingly enough with driving riffs and sneering attitude to match but a lack of hooks proves their undoing. The bowel bothering rumble that follows, signalling the arrival of Bath death metallers TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED should have warned us. Whether you’re into this music or not, it gets into you, dragging the capacity crowd by the scruff and squeezing tight with no let up for the duration. It’s aggressive, relentless and technically astounding, with a bunch of players who are tighter than a freezer. The first real sign of future promise.
Killing the mood almost instantly with their dour, navel-gazing grunge-lite, Canadian dullards LAST SUPPER empty the tent and put in a workmanlike Donington debut that seems to go on forever. But just as you think things can’t get any worse, the inexplicably named BIG LINDA plummet new depths. Proving somehow worse than their misguided moniker, their wannabe Zeppelin schtick is made almost unbearable by singer Rob Alder. Looking like Michael Carrington from Grease 2 (ask your sister) doing an impression of Jim Morrison batting imaginary flies from his head every two minutes, he is unique, to say the least. That’s as close to a compliment as they are ever likely to come however.
Once the bewildering BIG LINDA end our suffering, swaggering SCOTS THE HAZE bring their knock-off indie rock to the table. Looking like a hybrid of The Enemy, Kasabian and The Fratellis and sounding just as bad as that lot, it’s enough to test anyone’s desire for new bands as a quick break for the bar and a fortifying jacket potato calls.
Ex-Kiss guitarist ACE FREHLEY thankfully salvages the day over at the Tuborg/Second Stage (a massive concrete expanse with a fairground in the background), with an adrenalised run through of old Kiss tracks and a handful of solo songs. Playing the Kiss stuff almost better than they did the night before, the only real problem with Ace’s set is that he follows his old band and hearing a lot of the same songs again so soon, minus the pyrotechnics and showmanship lessons the impact.
Shunning the pub-rock punk of THE OFFSPRING on the main stage after five minutes of enduring singer Dexter Holland straining to hit a note, we spend the evening in company of Finnish metal icons HIM instead, where we’re surprised to discover singer Ville Valo crushing all preconceived notions of -love metal’ and playing an absolute blinder. Taking in ice-cool versions of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, it’s moody, atmospheric and undeniably impressive. Bathed in smoke almost constantly, he cuts a louche figure against the pentagram backdrop and croons his way through the set that floors the devotees and wins some new converts to the cause to boot.