Download Festival – Donington Park, Friday 14/6/2013 Oh, Britain! Having been drenched to the bone by a torrential thunderstorm that soaked us, our tent and everything we’d brought on Thursday afternoon, I’m not confident of the weather for the rest of the weekend. Mercifully, though, Friday dawns brighter and Canadian beards Monster Truck open the second stage. They look like Skynyrd and they sound like them, their edgy 70’s grooves a great curtain-raiser. Next up are Japanese experimental metal legends Dir En Grey, who have only twenty minutes and never really get going in that time. Ageing progmasters Uriah Heep follow, showing the young’uns how it’s done with a tight set of technical tunes, all the while looking a little bewildered by the sizeable crowd they’ve drawn. There’s no let-up in the technicality as shred lunatics Dragonforce take to the stage. They don’t do restraint and with tunes like ‘Operation Ground and Pound’ and ‘Through The Fire and Flames’ featuring enough bass to puree your lungs in your chest and guitar solos everywhere, they’re fun whilst being a little rough round the edges.
80’s legends Europe come next and, while basically everyone’s waiting for THAT song, they dutifully run through some stuff from new album Bag Of Bones, Joey Tempest throwing every rock star pose in the book. The set really gets going with Rock The Night (it’s mid-afternoon) and the essential closer of The Final Countdown is rapturously received and expertly delivered, proof that the oldies can still be the goodies. We stay in Scandinavia for next act, Danish metal/country/punk outfit Volbeat. We’ve talked about them elsewhere on Phoenix, but suffice to say they’re as good live as on record, delivering a set of new and old material to a delirious and enormous crowd. Three Doors Down, then, have a bit to follow and they fail quite badly. Their bland college-rock is rather banal and somewhat boring, particularly when you consider who comes next. Charged with shaking up a torpid crowd are Ukranian/American gypsy punk mentalists Gogol Bordello and, within seconds of their arrival, all memories of Three Doors Down are banished. Frontman Eugene Hutz bounces around like a spring-loaded Technicolor Victorian strongman and his band deliver tunes of such barmy irreverence that it’s impossible not to dance. It’s a proper party, even if no-one has a clue what’s being said, and when the music’s this good, who really cares? Download veterans Black Stone Cherry close the day, taking the step up to second-stage headliner. They carry the weight expertly, playing a beautifully paced set that delves back into their archive and also showcases a new song which bodes well for the forthcoming new album. It’s a quality performance from a band that excels on stage and well fitted to the lofty headline slot. Expect to see them higher up the main-stage bill in years to come.
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