Download Festival: Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)
Saturday at Download is always a big day. The first band is on at 11, so you've got a long day ahead whether you like it or not.
First band on my list is Kiwi outfit, Alien Weaponry. They'll shake the sleep out of your eyes. They absolutely slay on the Main Stage, even though some of their lyrics are in Maori. A very effective, supremely fun wake up call. A nicer group you couldn't find. They play the Main Stage like it's theirs to own. Not at one point does it look like they're going to be swallowed by the occasion. They're currently tearing through the UK and Europe over the next couple of months, so don't miss out!
Royal Republic return to Download's Main Stage with all the grace and decorum the band demands while wearing bright red Anchorman style suits. Everything they do is lapped up and the crowd they've drawn is infinitely bigger than the last time I saw them here. We all leave appeased, circle pits waving them off until next time, where they're guaranteed to be higher on the bill, and probably will have an even bigger crowd to play with.
A quick run (I attempted, it did not end well) to the Zippo Encore stage for Elvana. I've missed this band when they tour near me, and after today, I hope I never miss them again. Their combination of Elvis Presley and Nirvana songs are unprecedentedly incredible. Stuff you would think does not work ends up not only working, but absolutely killing. They release bright yellow balloons with the smiley face of Nirvana on and it just intensifies the fun. Everything that Elvana do is surreal, but hearing a field of metalheads singing "Suspicious Minds" is something else altogether. I want to see these guys play a longer set, so I might have to make sure I see them on tour.
I catch a bit of Behemoth as I hunt for food and a drink. Not my cup of tea, but my god, what an aesthetic they've got going on. Visually stunning and most definitely crowd pleasing.
Skindred take to the Main Stage at 3:35. They do Skindred things. It's huge. If you've never seen them, see them soon. If you have seen them, you'll know just how good they are live. Benji Webb brings his frontman a game, inciting competing singalongs, giving "f*** you"s to individuals (in jest) and basically ensuring that Skindred's performance is memorable in spite on the downpour.
They were even joined on stage by Reef vocalist Gary Stringer for a song. Sheer chaos reigns throughout the set, despite the incessant rain, some of it turned skyward by the sheer power of the "Newport Helicopter". I predict Skindred may end up potentially headlining a stage next time they're here.
I've got some time before Die Antwoord, so I think I'll stay around Main Stage, maybe move out a little so I don't get crushed by the oncoming stampede of wellies for the next band. Trivium are back. With a vengeance, it appears. The guitars are turned up, the crowd is ready. Trivium deliver. Faces are melted, horns are thrown and fists are pumped. Job done.
Die Antwoord has got to be one of the strangest acts on the bill, and I include Mongolian throat singing. Coming out of South Africa, this hip hop duo (yes you read that correctly) are something different on the bill. Some (many) have called it a very risky move on the part of Download's booking team. It totally paid off. Ninja and Yolandi don't seem to understand it either, but they appreciate it all the same. I have seen them before and personally, I'm a fan, but consider me seriously impressed. Their Zef style is entirely different to the usual artists for Download, but they stepped up to the plate and smashed it out of the park entirely. There's costume changes, crotch grabbing, back up dancers and hype men, and yet, this crowd is into it.
I dare say that there may be a few more acts like this coming over the next few years.
Slipknot. Saturday headliners. With "We Are Not Your Kind" upcoming, this is a taster of what's to come and a celebration of their past.
In the times I've seen Slipknot before, I've heard it said that they play the exact same set each time, with a couple of the newer songs thrown in for good measure. It's a recipe that doesn't need to be changed, in all honesty. It changes this time. Slipknot up their game, bringing a renewed fire and the vigour of a band that is headlining for the first time. Even the played out 'sit down/jump up' feels renewed, like the passion is back in the band.
A challenge to All Out Life is laid down and unholy chaos reigns, with maggots pulsing in circles, throwing horns and screaming every single syllable back at the band.
The Nine own Download. Again. As if it were ever in doubt.
And it won't be the last time either.
All pictures provided by Download Festival.