DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, DONINGTON PARK
Sunday June 15
With a host of relative unknowns kicking off all three stages and a sense of collective tenderness among the 50,000 piled in for the final day’s rocking, it’s not until the lunchtime party thrash of MUNICIPAL WASTE ignites the Tuborg Stage that things feel like they’re finally getting going. The between song banter is beery and cheery, just like their full on, speedfreak metal but only the hardcore up front can really hack it for much longer than 15 minutes or so. Having witnessed them slay a bigger audience than this at last year’s Reading festival, it might even be a little too early for this most eager of thrash revivalists too.
Up next, the rather ungainly looking Australian veterans, ROSE TATTOO try their best to stir some excitement but the stodgy bar band fare on offer just doesn’t translate on a larger scale and despite the best efforts of singer Angry Anderson (yes, he of Mad Max 2 and the soundtrack to Kylie and Jason’s wedding in Neighbours in the 80s) few are here for anything other than curiosity.
Fellow Aussie rockers AIRBOURNE improve the atmosphere a little but owe their whole act to another of their fellow countrymen, a little known band called AC/DC. If you squint your ears you could almost convince yourself you were at Monsters Of Rock circa 1981.
Bravely stepping into the muddy breach of the Gibson new bands tent again, we’re met with the strange sight of a young man dressed up as some curious Meat Loaf-meets-Phantom Of The Opera hybrid while his actually quite decent backing band belt out Who-like anthems. Despite the aesthetics jarring with the audio, London’s VOODOO SIX prove one of the few surprises of the weekend and go down a storm among the partisan front rows who want more by the set’s end.
The influx of beefy dudes in ill-fitting t-shirts and underfed dudes in equally ill-fitting t-shirts should have told us everything we needed to know about metalcore mob AUGUST BURNS RED. Either way you cut it, they transform the tent into a bro-fest with their sphincter-tight breakdowns and marble mouth vocals. The execution is faultless and the energy levels are infectious but beyond the bluster, there’s a distinct lack of lasting substance or true grit. Still, A+ for effort.
Which is more than can be said for hammered London dance punks HAUNTS, who are clearly aware they are on the wrong bill and have decided to drink through it. Unfortunately it results in a sloppy, awkward set that clears the tent.
Luckily, they are swiftly banished from the palette by jubilant rock’n'roll saviours VALIENT THORR, who prove the one true find of the weekend. Just three weeks previous singer Valient Himself donated a kidney to his ‘Earth father’ and ignored doctor’s advice to play this show. Dressed in matching sleeveless, patched-up denim jackets and impressive ZZ-style beards, they not only look like a proper rock band but they sound like one, summoning the spirit of Thin Lizzy, the showmanship of Rocket From The Crypt and the lunacy of Les Savy Fav. Throughout their all-too-brief set, Valient rolls around, runs on the spot, sermonises, air guitars on his actual guitarist’s leg, flexes his muscles and engages in a way that leaves everyone in attendance with a smile on their face and the music dancing in their hearts long after. Thank the dark lord Satan.