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Download Festival – Donington Park, Saturday 15/6/2013

Saturday is a day of typically British sunshine and showers, just as it is a mixed bag musically.

We kick off over on the second stage to the sound of young British upstarts Heaven’s Basement. We’re big fans here at Phoenix Music, and they give a muscular performance, rollicking their way through a five song set to an impressive crowd, particularly given the early hour.

Following them are Swedish glam-rock types Hardcore Superstar. I’m still unsure what to make of them. Are they serious or are they in the Steel Panther pastiche vein? I didn’t know as I was watching them, and I’m none the wiser now. Put it this way…if they’re serious, they’re alright. If they’re trying to do a retro faux-rock comedy thing, they’re not.

A little pootle over to the main stage sees us catch the last few minutes of Black Star Riders (basically Thin Lizzy) and we arrive just in time for a mass singalong to Whiskey In The Jar and The Boys Are Back In Town. We sacrifice Mastodon to the need for food, although they sound sludgy and disjointed, and then I make the worst decision of the festival. Given the choice of Alice In Chains or Lit, I opt for Lit on the basis that I love their ‘A Place In The Sun’ album. Worst choice ever.  They play as if they’ve not even met up in ten years, much less played music. It’s off-key, sloppy and awful. I can only hope that my wounds will be salved by AiC being similarly rubbish, which of course, they’re not. I’m sorry, dear reader. I’ll try to make it up to you.

Thunder raise my spirits by being brilliant from beginning to end and trotting out Love Walked In, Dirty Love and Backstreet Symphony. There’s life in them old dogs yet, to be sure.

Over on the main stage, as the sun shines over the massed ranks, Josh Homme is banging his way through Feel Good Hit of the Summer. His effortless cool and sackful of massive tunes draws a vast crowd and their off-kilter stoner rhythms sound amazing in the warm early evening.

Which brings us to Iron Maiden. The seminal British metal band, playing the Maiden England set, drawn largely from my favourite album, ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’. So, why am I so disappointed?  They have a Spitfire buzz the site. They have fire and inflatable Eddies and Bruce has a massive flag and stuff, all of which is lovely, except that I CAN’T BLOODY HEAR THEM!!! Standing behind the sound desk, the wind simply blows the sound away from the speakers, meaning you hear Adrian Smith’s iffy backing vocals and not Bruce, a Dave Murray face-melter vanishes like a fart on the breeze and it’s all jolly frustrating. So much so, in fact, that we leave halfway through. Ironically, by the time we get out of the arena and they’re ripping through Wasted Years, they sound amazing, so the fault clearly doesn’t lie with them.

Peaks and troughs, indeed.




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