Download Festival 2017 – Saturday Review

Photo credit: Paulo Gonçalves DOWNLOAD 2017 It seems to be a popular theme here at Download, opening up the Lemmy Kilmister Stage with a bit of early morning djent. After Northlane opened […]

Photo credit: Paulo Gonçalves DOWNLOAD 2017

It seems to be a popular theme here at Download, opening up the Lemmy Kilmister Stage with a bit of early morning djent. After Northlane opened up the proceedings yesterday, today we have Milton Keynes Hip-Hop heavies, Hacktivist.

It was a little bit of a (good) surprise to find out the boys would still be playing this year’s festival after the recent departure of one half of the front men, Ben Marvin, but that wasn’t going to stop the lads from blowing away the early morning hangovers with a blisteringly heavy set. Now with new vocalist, Jot Maxi, the band are again complete with a seemingly painless transition. Maxi seems at home on stage with the Jay and the rest of the guys as they power through ‘No Way Back’ and ‘Hate’. Guitarist Timfy James, dressed in a fetching black and white Donald Duck number, takes to the microphone for the opening clean vocals of ‘False Idols’ which sounds brilliant. After the recent acts of terrorism across the country, Hacktivist’s message is a simple one; “Anyone here from planet Earth?…We live as one”.

You can’t turn around at Download Festival this year without bumping in to a pirate or someone wearing an Alestorm t-shirt. They’re everywhere! It’s like a cult! I even saw a guy dressed as a parrot! A bloody parrot! So it’s no surprise that when Alestorm’s first set of the day comes round, the Zippo Encore stage sees one of its biggest crowds of the weekend. And why not? Who doesn’t want to dance around, drinking and partying dressed as Long John Silver? Alestorm are the perfect festival band. Fun, loud and heavy! From the very beginning the chants of “Alestorm” ring through the field as the opening keys of ‘Keelhauled’ begin and the crowd erupts in to a frenzy of pits and crowd surfing.

An Alestorm show is like a giant party, added in that festival feeling and you have one hell of a show. “Can you say ‘Wank’?”, Can you say “C**t’?” the audience are asked. It’s great to see a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.  As Free Willy and Jesus crowd-surf by, the salty dogs break into new single ‘Mexico’ which is brilliant, and hilarious. “Normally I try and say this song is about this and this song is about something else” explains frontman Christopher Bowes, “But unfortunately most of our songs are about drinking. This song is about drinking” before they break in to the aptly titled ‘Drink’. I’m sensing a theme here…

Walking away after the show I overhear a mother shouting at her son “Don’t you say that word!…That’s the last time I take you to see Alestorm” I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself.

Kvelertak are one of those bands that you can’t help but love. I have followed these guys and their unique blend of rock ‘n’ roll and black metal for years now and every time I see them they seem to get better. This afternoon it is a surprise though when guitarist, Maciek Ofstad, hobbles out on crutches. As the crutches are taken away by a stage hand, Ofstad is away, hopping around the stage like a mad man. Even a broken leg isn’t going to stop the Norwegians from delivering a stellar performance. Coming out already shirtless and in his usual owl headwear, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik, commands attention from the intrigued audience as they power through ‘1985’, ‘Mjød’ and ‘Blodtørst’ before ending with their namesake track ‘Kvelertak’. Bloody ace!

Photo credit: Ben Gibson DOWNLOAD 2017

Back over on the main stage we have legendary goth-punks, AFI. This was a band I couldn’t wait to see, having seen them only once before years ago I have always been a massive fan. Seeing footage from previous festival shows I knew that AFI always attracted huge audiences so I was massively surprised to be able to casually walk to the front of the stage. Even now, a few days on, I can’t gather why the crowd is so small; have I missed something? It didn’t stop the guys from pulling out a set list that brilliantly showcased their nineteen year career. As the screen starting pulsing and the bass beats right out of your chest, the intro begins. Starting as they mean to go on, frontman, Davey Havok, does his trademark scissor kick as the band jump into the classic ‘Girls Not Grey’.  It sounds just as good now as it did when it was released thirteen years ago (feel old yet?). Running back and forth down the runway from the stage into the crowd, Havok puts on a show  that is as awesome as it is flamboyant. Though, I do feel sorry for the stage hand who is running around bringing the microphone back to centre stage. ‘The Leaving Song pt.II’ and ‘Days of The Phoenix’ get the biggest reactions from the crowd, whilst newer trackS like ‘Snow Cats’ sound even better live than on record; and they sound pretty damn good on record.  Ending on ‘Miss Murder’ you see an instant change in crowd and I even see people running in to the audience for the last track which was, to be honest, quite disappointing to see. They have more songs than that one from Guitar Hero, you know?!

Photo credit:Sarah Koury DOWNLOAD 2017

Now, the only thing you can expect from a Devin Townsend Project show is the fact that you know it is going to be awesome. Tonight is no different. Devin has come a long way from the loud, angry days of Strapping Young Lad and has cemented himself as a living legend, evolving his sound over the years into a beautiful mirage of love, space, comedy and life. Don’t worry; he is still loud about it though. Heavy Devy’s cult following has found its way to Download Festival and plenty have turned out to see the Canadian prog maestro. Opening the proceedings with ‘Rejoice’ the crowd instantly start banging their heads. Not taking himself seriously at all, Devin toys with the crowd (and even the security) in the over animated fashion we have come to love. Songs like ‘Supercrush’ and ‘Deadhead’ gather huge responses before finishing tonight’s performance with the brilliant ‘Higher’ which sees the crowd surge together to become one in a huge group hug. There is a reason Devin has come as far as this, and the reason is his personality. From the first time you see him it’s hard not to fall in love with his quirky sense of humour and showmanship. It hasn’t gone to his head though and tonight he explains to the crowd that he has been doing interviews all day, and now, at forty-five years of age, he still can’t believe he makes a living from screaming at people. And you what? You can honestly tell just how much it means to him.

Headlining the Zippo Encore Stage tonight we have a legend and true showman, Rob Zombie. A Zombie show is everything you would expect and everything you would want it to be; sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. As they open up with ‘Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown’, Zombie runs around the stage like a true performer before breaking into the classic ‘Superbeast’.The energy level of the crowd rises as do the flames coming from the stage when ‘Living Dead Girl’ begins. Playing something a little newer, we get to hear the brilliant ‘In the Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’ from the 2016 album ‘The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser’ (They have the best titles, don’t they?).

“There’s a big problem in the U.S and in the U.K that no one seems to be talking about’ Zombie exclaims, “Something that really needs to be addressed”. Thinking we are going to hear something quite political given the nature of this year’s festival we are soon proven wrong when the next words are “How many people here have been abducted by aliens?”. It’s a fair point, it is a growing problem. Breaking into ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.’ a sea of crowd surfing inflatable aliens are thrown from the stage whilst ‘House of 1000 Corpses ’ sounds brilliant tonight and just as good as it did hearing it for the first time all those years ago. Leaving the stage, Zombie heads into the crowd with a flashlight to get a closer look as guitar virtuoso John 5 entertains with an incredible solo before teasing the crowd with the familiar chugging of ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’.

The only problem here tonight is that apart from the couple of new tracks, it almost feels like we have seen it all before. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great show, and if this is your first time seeing the man himself then you would have loved it but this is a band that have their show perfected to the T so much so that it’s almost like watching a movie on repeat.

Ending the show with a cover of the Ramones classic ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ followed by ‘Schools Out’, which, if you close your eyes, actually sounds identical to Alice Cooper, confetti flies from the stage and rains down over the huge crowd.

What a day! Let’s do it one last time tomorrow, yeah?

Photo credit: Ben Gibson DOWNLOAD 2017

About Benjamin Gladstone

Photographer / Editor / Journalist