The Best, The Worst, And The Averageseses.
Just over a week ago, I left for a five night camping trip… Oh, and some huge, famous, loud rock bands turned up too. It was quite good, so here’s my best, worst, and those who flopped disappointingly in the middle. The following article is entirely opinion; yes it’s my opinion so it’s pretty damn good, but nonetheless, it’s just opinion. And if I’ve missed out one of your favourite bands, remember, it’s impossible to see every band at a festival, and I was probably seeing someone better, or doing something important, like sitting down, far away from them.
BEST SOUND – Shinedown
Really not much to be said about this, they just had a really good, solid set. The balance of the instruments was perfect throughout, regardless of the fact it wasn’t main stage, or the fact it was being blasted. The bass was prominent and the guitar had plenty of gain and treble without being screechy and average like so many bands were over the weekend. The vocals were loud enough to be well punctuated and easily heard, without drowning out the instruments to make it more of a beat poem than any sort of song. I suppose this award doesn’t even go to Shinedown, but their associated roadies, so well done to those middle aged men with bizarre tattoos and beards for doing an excellent job. One criticism though, Shinedowns frontman, Brent Smith, ended their set with a “Shinedown” chant, which of course reverberated throughout the crowd. However I can’t really help but think, the crowd chanting your name doesn’t really count if you start it yourself; it’s just a little cheap, don’t you think?
WORST SOUND – Black Veil Brides
Where to begin… I won’t lie to you, my hopes were never too high for BVB’s set. They had been booked for the Main Stage on Sunday, an honour I thought to be way above their station at first. They had stage presence, they had the fans, it was just the awful balance of the music that let them down horrendously. Remember all the good things I said about Shinedown’s sound? None of that happened. The vocals were so quiet they could hardly be heard over the rough, abrasive guitar tones that literally clawed at the ear drums with every screeching note. Once again though, this can’t really be attributed to the band, it is the roadies and the soundmen who should have got the EQ right for the set, and they just failed miserabely, not only letting the band down, but the loyal fans who actually turned up for the set. The bad quality of the balance eventually led to the traditional festival bottling (I must admit, I let out a chuckle when one hit the lead singer Andy Biersack in the head). You have to hand it to them though, it’s tough to stay on stage and play properly after objects have started being thrown, pride tarnished, the crowd slowly turning against you, deafening boos at the end of every song… but credit to them, they stuck out the whole set, and even gave a bit of abuse back to those who were launching plastic bottles with admittedly awful aim. I guess the way they reacted to the situation gave me more respect for the band as a whole, but the fact still remains: They’re an unwanted love child of My Chemical Romance and Avenged Sevenfold, and they’re nowhere near as good as either parents (sort of like Frances Bean, sprog of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love… only worse).
BEST MOSH PIT – Don Broco
This award is being given to the four boys from Bedford for more than one reason. Yes, they weren’t on the main stage, instead occupying a Pepsi Max gazebo, but still, they worked the crowd unbelievably well, and even managed some synchronized dancing amongst the three band members with legs available to do so (drummer exempt for obvious reasons). Regardless of their humble fan base, they have some good songs, and their recent mini-album Big Fat Smile was probably one of my favourites of last year, boasting some catchy tunes and well produced tracks for a lesser known band. This award goes to them mostly because lead singer Rob Damiani took it upon himself to dismount the stage mid-song and proceed to make a whole mosh pit stop, and do press ups with him. And top marks to the lead man for getting muddy with the rest of the crowd, a very rare trait amongst the other bands at any festival. They will have their first full debut album Priorities out August 13th this year, with the title track already released as a sneak preview. Once you’ve checked out Big Fat Smile, (and if you wish to delve into their more cockney-metal-rap beginnings, I highly recommend their Thug Workout EP as well), Priorities will definitely be worth a listen or two, or three…
BEST CROWD INTERACTION – Steel Panther
To me, there are two types of heterosexual males in this world; ones who would give almost anything to be a member of the heavy metal orgy that is Steel Panther, and liars. I’m entirely certain there’s an inherent black magic quality to which Steel Panther can make women’s clothes fall off ridiculously willingly. I’ve seen perfectly reasonable women, shy andreserved women even, listen to this band live and change suddenly, with exposing their boobs their one and only mission. And thus the dilemma of Steel Panther is apparent; on one hand, they’re amazing. Their music is just old fashioned good glamorous, hedonistic metal, and the lyrics are witty, clever, and above all, hilarious. However, on the other hand, it’s hard to love something you’re so unbelievably jealous of. Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, StixZadinya (probably not their real names); these men have it all. They’re touring the world, getting more women than I or you will ever know, and their average age is the wrong side of 40, with lead singer Starr being only two years off reach the half century mark. Steel Panther get the award for the best crowd interaction for one reason. Boobs. So many boobs it was unreal; they just wished for boobs, and thousands of them appeared, so bravo to them. Can’t say it wasn’t fairly amazing.
BEST VISUAL SHOW – Biffy Clyro
Most bands came seemingly unprepared for a show. They just turned up with a bland banner baring their name for a background, and played music, and for some acts, that’s fine. But some bands came to perform, and that’s exactly what they did. Armed with suspended triangle mirrors, unique camera effects and enough smoke machines to convince anyone that the stage was actually on fire, Scottish stadium stalwarts Biffy Clyro really brought the show home, blasting out plentiful hits to expertly timed pyrotechnics and light shows; the only improvement that I could really suggest for them would be that it could have been a lot better at night. But you can’t really blame them for that, they can’t control the sun… yet
BEST PRESENCE – Tenacious D
Sometimes it’s not about sound, show or even songs (though they did nail those three categories well), sometimes it’s just sheer charisma. If you have such a presence on stage as Jack Black and Kyle Gass do, little else matters. From their pimpin’ full length fur coats, to the giant inflatable phallic Fenix on stage, to the way Jack Black called a roadie onstage mid-set for a drink of water and a back massage, Tenacious D are many things, but it can never be said that they are modest. The crowd fed off The D’s love for themselves and rock, resulting in a truly amazing set. The duo are currently touring now, so if you can get yourself a ticket, I recommend it hugely.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Europe
There’s one, and only one, reason Europe get the award for this, and no, it’s not because they missed “The Final Countdown” from their set; I’m sure they would have played it, had they actually turned up. Yes, having only flown in the morning of their Friday afternoon set, the synth icons were stuck somewhere between Heathrow Airport and Donnington Park, unable to reach the festical. I was rather looking forward to Final Countdown too…
BIGGEST SURPRISE – Black Sabbath
Being the lovely honest guy that I am, I’ll tell you straight; I thought the Brummie metal grandfathers were going to be awful. I thought they were too old, living past glories, and truth be told, I only went to see them so I could say “I’ve been to see Black Sabbath live” – regardless of how bad the show was. Fortunately, not only can I say I’ve been to see Ozzy, Tong & co, but I can also say their set was also a fucking good show. Regardless of how old they are, Tony Iommi proved without a shadow of a doubt that he is still one of the greatest and most consistent guitar players of all time, Geezer Butler is still one of the great bass players (as proved with an excellent solo during the set), and Ozzy Osbourne is still… well, he’s still capable of being Ozzy Osbourne. He still retains his ‘unique’ vocal style, and is remarkably active for a pensioner, doing more laps of the stage than I can be bothered to remember. Bravo to them, and if you haven’t seen them already, I doubt you ever will. They’re supposedly only doing a few more dates around the world, and after that, well, let’s just say there’ll little time left to seem them.
NICEST GUYS – Fear Factory
As I’m sure you’ll have heard, this year’s festival could have easily been renamed Mudload. It was ridiculous. I won’t go into it much more, but it did affect the festival, with the first hour or so of Friday’s bands having to pull out because the arena needed “health & safety upgrades”. This unfortunately meant Cancer Bats had to cancel their set. Luckily for fans of the band, Fear Factory let them onstage during their set to play a song or two, so they didn’t miss out completely. Eventually they got a rescheduled set later in the night, but still, props to Fear Factory, it was just a nice thing to do.
“SUCKS TO BE YOU” AWARD – You Me at Six
This award is how it sounds really; entirely not YMAS’s fault, or even the sound technician’s fault. They could have been amazing, the best set at Download possibly (admittedly it was a long shot). Unfortunately, the Surrey five piece’s hour-long set was placed pretty much slap bang in the middle of Metallica’s headlining slot. So unless you’re a musical retard or a deluded teenage girl, the decision of who to see was quite clear really. I, like many others, would have happily gone to see You Me At Six, but for reasons out of everybody bar the organisers’ hands, they were placed in the worst slot in the entire weekend; rocking the Encore Stage while Metallica were destroying the main stage. Which brings me nicely to my last award of the festival…
BEST SET – Metallica
First you must understand, that all the other awards (all the good ones anyway) actually went to Metallica, but I had to give them all to the runners up in the groups because I realised that if I didn’t it’d just be an article about how amazing Metallica were, which now I think about it, isn’t a terrible thing. Either way, the amount of happiness this set gave me is immeasurable. The electricity the entire band gave off, the three (THREE!) encores, the video back-drop; it all just added up to the best gig of my life, genuinely. Sure, they looked a little grey haired and middle-aged, but not one of the four showed their age on the stage. The band constantly swapped positions, using the widest reaches of the stage to be as close as possible to every fan in the crowd, even on the sides, not just in the middle, which meant a lot. Personally, I’d been pushing my way to the front for over six hours, so I was at the very front railings by the time the legends came onto the stage. Yes, I took a boot or two to the head from crowd surfers, and yes, I nearly got into a fight with an Italian man, but he was trying to take my place at the front, and I was doing nothing but standing my ground, aggressively maybe, yes, but I’d worked hard for that place. The just-over-two-hours-set was made up most of the entire Black Album played in reverse order(!), finished on “Enter Sandman”, and was finally capped off with the 3 encores of “Battery”, “One” and “Seek & Destroy”. If you weren’t there, you should have been, and when they tour again, which they will, I implore you, please, for the sake of all things holy and loud, go, and go hard. Metallica brought everything they had to Donnington Park, and they got everything back from the sell-out crowd of I don’t even know how many. I can’t really describe how amazing they were, and I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand myself.