Festival Review: Download 2022 (Sunday)

It wasn’t meant to happen this year, attending Download that is. For starters, the usual suspects couldn’t decide which day they would attend (we are always day ticketers) and then with rescheduled gigs, cancelled gigs (we miss you, Taylor Hawkins) and just general chaos – we were going to give it a miss. Then with a week to go, Bob says he bought a ticket and was going to drive down for the day. He wanted to go for the Sunday, given the choice on paper, I would have headed for Iron Maiden and Megadeth but since Bob was already driving, it surely would be rude not to go too, wouldn’t it?

Steel Panther (c) Sheggs

If you are going for the day, the preceding days are always spent scanning the photos of the weekenders to see the conditions and this year could not have been better; dry, warm with a slight breeze and solid ground. Festivals now seem to go on forever and despite many people having arrived on Wednesday, the usual festival fatigue was not really in place and the mood was one of the best I have ever seen. After the last two years everyone needed this more than ever.

After some time trying to find t-shirts (they had literally sold out of every size, rumours were many sold out by Friday afternoon) we were headed for our first band of the day when I was drawn into the main stage (renamed the Apex Stage this year) whilst queuing for a beer. Powerwolf are a German power metal band that have been around since the early 2000s but this was the first time I have ever come across them. I was instantly drawn in by the Maiden-esque guitars and vocals and the whole pomp and ceremony of their performance. There is nothing better than discovering a new band at a festival by just the pure excellence of their songs. The lyrics and vocal delivery of Attila Dorn demand your attention and for you to join their “Black Mass Hysteria”. I couldn’t stay to watch the whole set as I had a few bands I really wanted to see but they gained a couple of new members to the Wolfpack based on the twenty minutes we did see.

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Our first band we had pencilled in was Anchor Lane on the Dogtooth Stage [“Pencilled in”?! They should have been there in block capitals, 72pt, bold, underlined and italics, all done in fucking Sharpie (other pen brands are available) – Ross]. This is their second visit to this tent, having last played in 2018. Since then, they have become one of the hardest working bands on the circuit, picking up fans everywhere they go. I saw them as support to Ricky Warwick a few months back (see Ross’ review here) and really wanted to check them out again. Supports slots with everyone from Massive Wagons, Wayward Sons, Skindred and their own joint headlining with The Howling Tides meant the tent was busy for this early Sunday slot. For a three piece that alternates between one and two guitars, drums, SPD and vocals, Anchor Lane make a massive noise and the energy is insane with both stage front members buzzing all around the stage. They were also in the fortunate position that this was still a showcase for them, so they were able to lean heavily, on what promises to be a fantastic second long player; Call This a Reality? The punchy rock delivered at breakneck pace meant busy soon turned into very busy and turned the band into one of the talked about slots of the day.

Massive Wagons (c) Sheggs

Next, we headed over in the still brilliant sun to the newly named Opus Stage (2nd Stage) to see Massive Wagons. It was in the small tent in 2018 I first saw the Wagons when they delivered the highlight of the weekend for me, and I was looking forward to seeing how they would get on with all that space. Fans had turned out in force and there were lots of cries for of “Wagons, Wagons” as they waited for the to come on. Lots of their faithful were in attendance; either wearing pink as vocalist Barry Mills had requested on social media a couple of days before or in various Massive Wagons t-shirts. Since that 2018 appearance the Wagons have had two Top 20 records to their name and are set to release album number 6 this October. With such a fantastic catalogue not every song that you love was going to be played, instead the band opted for festival bangers right from opening of “Back to the Stack” to Billy Balloon Head. There was an appearance for “Curry Song” (“we say ‘Rogan’, you say ‘Josh'”) and a couple of new songs including the incredibly catchy “Fuck the Haters”.

What can we say about the Wagons performance that has not been said a million times before? It is so easy to see why they are on the rise, with old school influences and sounds, the Wagons are truly one of those bands that not just have the classic sounds but put on an old-fashioned high-energy rock and roll show. Mills never stops running, ducking, and diving, whilst guitarist Stephen Holl and Adam Thistlewaite could not stop smiling throughout. There will always be a place for a band that just wants to get out there and entertain, give every drop of energy and has that affinity with their audience, young and old that just want to have a good time. Surely it is only a matter of time now (Wagon’s song title puns entirely intended) before Massive Wagons move up onto an even bigger stage.

Alestorm are a band I have known about for quite a while, well at least I know a bit about them. I know they are a Scottish pirate metal band who love a good party. I am not so familiar with the rubber duck aspect of the whole thing. One thing is for sure, this band love rubber ducks, so much so that despite being given a main stage slot there didn’t appear to be that much room for the band due to the almighty blow-up rubber duck that they appear to have to share it with. I also didn’t know just how much the Download crowd like a band (rubber duck and all) that at the end of the day just want to have a good time and party and include every genre of rock and metal into their set, just as long as it makes people happy (often in the same song). It wasn’t just in the pit you had to watch out for yourself but even further back in the crowd there was a chance you were going to get your eye poked out by a stray cutlass. Great party band and well deserving of their main stage slot.

Second discovery of the day was Jamie Lenman who got a fair-sized crowd of pretty loyal fans into the larger of the two tents. Previously the lead singer of Reuben and an illustrator for The Guardian by trade, Lenman has produced three solo albums with varying line-ups. For this performance it was a threesome. We wandered into the tent just to see what was going on and ended up staying because we were immediately hit by two things. Firstly, the songs, these were made for this type of scenario instant, catchy, and then there is Jamie himself and his obvious charisma and rapport with the fans. It’s an awesome combination that works well for him and made us stay until the end.

Baroness (c) Sheggs

Next up was Baroness, a band that I am always totally amazed are not playing bigger stages than they are. For those not familiar with Baroness: an atmospheric heavy metal band from Savannah, Georgia and their colour titled albums are full of heavy guitars, soaring vocals and atmospheric musical interludes. They are less song-based albums and more experiences to engulf yourself in so I was not disappointed to discover they manage to carry this across live as well. There is something deeply soulful about frontman’s John Baizley’s vocals but when not singing he is all over the stage but even then he fails to keep up with guitarist Gina Gleason who is everywhere, encouraging the crow to join in and smiling manically throughout.

The 5pm slot was hotly contested with Volbeat on the main stage and Skillet on the second stage but the hype band of the day was already getting going on the third stage, Spiritbox. Originally booked for the 2020 Download, this was the Canadian post-metalcore’s first ever UK appearance and was hotly anticipated. One of things I absolutely love about festivals is moments like this, when a band has got that zeitgeist and it is their moment on the way up. If you are lucky enough to witness it then the buzz can carry for a long time. By the time we got to the tent it was already spilling completely across the field and we had to pick ourselves down the side to try and catch a glimpse of the proceeding from the outside. The tent itself was heaving and without a doubt from front to back they were loving it. This is a band that takes atmosphere and crushing stop start hardcore moments to the absolute maximum. The moments where singer Courtney transformed from a hard rock, soaring slight goth to monumental to hard core death growls was met with pandemonium by the crowd, every single time. It was like a back-and-forth Orc battle and when the set finally came to an end you could tell that most of the crowd were only just warming up. Worth the hype, and great to see new bands coning and having this magnetic effect.

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Before going to talk about The Darkness, I need to make a honourable mention to Korn who I went to watch the last few songs of their set. Not a band I have ever been into but what a festival band. There must be a strong case for Korn being one of the future headliners. Why? The crowd loved them, every single second, the pit was mammoth, the crowd to see them was huge; it’s all everyone talked about afterwards. Even I, who didn’t think I knew much by them knew every single song and to top it all off – this is a band that has sold 40 million albums worldwide. They could easily headline.

The Darkness (c) Sheggs

I only caught the end of Korn as I wanted to take another opportunity to see The Darkness a band, if ever there was one, made for festival line-ups. I am so glad we still have bands like The Darkness, with that showmanship, pyro technics, pink outfits, changing outfits mid gig. Yeah, it’s overblown but isn’t that what we need sometimes, just an overblown show? One that takes you out of the moment and places you in a world where this style of rock still rules and overblown is what we all aspire to. There is nothing that you can knock about their performance it has everything you know and love about them, non-stop energy, posing, jokes, the whole crowd going mad for “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and then to top it all, the Christmas song in June. They know how to please and why not? For a little while we all enjoyed Christmas in the sun.

My final band of the day was Steel Panther (anyone waiting to read about my thoughts on Biffy Clyro and enter that particular debate about whether they should have been there, whether anyone watched them etc then sorry to disappoint but we headed straight off after Panther but there was a fair-sized crowd and lots of people walking round in Biffy t-shirts all day). So Steel Panther, we all know they are a joke band, right? But is there a place for then in this day and age, has the joke worn too thin? There are certainly many people I know who would look disapprovingly on them from the start. Making a joke and acting all misogynistic is still misogynistic isn’t it? Judging by the size of the crowd all clamouring to see them, everyone here is already on board with the joke and the reason why is that Steel Panther do this so well. They can sing, they can play and they can act. For someone who saw Mötley Crüe back on the ’91 line-up, it’s uncannily accurate (Crüe were a great live band back in those days too). They were perfect in so many ways and genuinely really funny. The only way you can pull off this type of is if you are good at it and you are totally aware of what impact your actions are having. The crowd was split 50/50 male female and everyone danced, sang along and had a good time. From the constant jokes about The Darkness opening for them (Justin joined them onstage for “Party All Day”) to the blow up dolls floating around the crowd, to the terribly un-pc but hilarious take on Ozzy Osbourne these guys entertained. The crescendo where they invited any girl from the crowd to join them onstage for “17 Girls in a Row”; it was non-stop fun. When society stop being able to laugh at itself, we will be in trouble. A brilliant end to a brilliant day. Download we needed you.

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