Foolhardy Folk Festival – Nottingham – Live review
Towards the end of the original lockdown, the ever creative music industry sought ways to bring people back together to experience the unparalleled joy of live music. The Arboretum in Nottingham hosted a number of events including a couple of shows from folk favourite Frank Turner.
That is where the story of the Foolhardy Folk Festival begins as the man behind the festival, fellow folk icon Beans On Toast played in support of Turner. From there on Beans has affectionately taken over and curated his own festival which this year is a complete sell out.
A large part of this is the stunning line-up put on but another is the fantastic sense of community that exists in this portion of the folk scene and the lovely audience that has taken this back to basics event to heart.
Opening his own event Beans On Toast highlights the great music, great food and great beer theme. On the music front Beans serenades the already full venue with the likes of ‘Major Oak’, ‘The War on War’ and ‘Humans’ as the festival gets into full swing.
The festival is family friendly and this is punctuated by the vibe created by attendees in that we are all family. Beans own daughter lays on kids activites, there is live art and lots of merch offer as well but with short changeovers the attention is mainly on the one stage where both Vona Vella and Tensheds play delightful early sets.
Soon enough it’s time for our special guest to take to the stage and this year that means Frank Turner himself as he returns the favour three years on from that socially distanced affair.
As you’d expect Turner gets a hero’s welcome as he begins his set with ‘Be More Kind’ and ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’. The crowd’s singing voices are in fine fettle which is a good thing considering the sing-a-longs continue through to final song ‘I Still Believe’.
Another beautiful thing about this community is the lack of ego on show, Turner as always appearing eternally grateful for the opportunity to play. The same can be said for your next three acts Truckstop Honeymoon, Ferris & Sylvester and Jeffery Lewis & The Voltage. All three acts are given equally as passionate reactions from the audience who can clearly appreciate beautiful music.
Considering we’ve brought our two little monsters with us another great thing about Foolhardy Folk Festival is that the music is wrapped up by 9pm! But before then we still have two highly anticipated performances.
First up are the always joyous Skinny Lister who bring their traditional party atmosphere to the festival. Perhaps more so than any other set today, the Lister crew get the fans up and dancing to the likes of ‘Cathy’, ‘This Is War’ and ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’. The band are surely now established as one of the best live acts in the UK and with a new album and tour on the horizon, there will thankfully be lots of opportunities to catch them again in the near future!
Finally the event ends just as it began… with our gracious host Beans On Toast! With backing band in tow this time around the show feels different and special as our headline performance. Kicking off with ‘Life’ and ‘Not Everybody Thinks We’re Doomed’ the set is an uplifting celebration of our existence and is the perfect way to end a wonderful day.
The cutest cameo from Beans daughter, new material and old favourites ensure that despite having to follow some sensational artists, Beans On Toast is able to send the crowd into the night reminiscing about a beautiful day, many including our kids still singing the chorus of ‘On & On’!
With another edition already announced for next August, the Foolhardy Folk Festival has quickly established itself as a must attend date on the folk calendar. This is of course a credit to Beans On Toast, but also to everyone involved behind the scenes and of course the fan community that makes the event so special.
All Points East has now firmly established its place in the UK festival calendar having already brought some huge names to Victoria Park in London in recent years.
Those names included The Strokes in 2019 when their headline set was struck by sound issues. That perhaps is the reason for their relatively quick return this year, but fans also have the prospect of hearing material from 2020 release ‘The New Abnormal’.
But before we get there we have a lot more to get through, that is after we get through traffic issues outside of London which sadly means with miss both HotWax and FEET.
When we do arrive in the arena, we head straight to the East Stage (one of two huge outdoor main stages) for the reformed Be Your Own Pet. The band only reunited last year but they own the stage today as if they’ve never been away. With their fantastic performance, Jemina Pearl starts a theme of woman stealing the show today.
A brisk walk is then required to get over to the West Stage for another reunion! The Walkmen have recently returned and draw a good early crowd to the stage. The band return the favour with a career-spanning crowd pleaser of a set.
Soon though, it’s time for the woman to take centre stage again with Amyl and the Sniffers quickly making the West Stage their own. Frontwoman Amy Taylor already has the audience in the palm of her hand when an almighty downpour commences. For most acts this would kill their momentum, but the band are able to hold the crowd and ramp up the intensity, creating a moment that will last long in the memory.
Another short wait on the West Stage is all it takes for another incredible female artist to steal the show. The iconic Karen O leads Yeah Yeah Yeahs through a headline worthy performance which is absolutely enthralling.
By the time the band closes out their set with ‘Maps’, ‘Heads Will Roll’ and ‘Date With The Night’, they’ve proven themselves to be one of the best live bands on the planet. Captivating, dazzling and glorious, you start your walk back to the East Stage wondering how on earth our headline act can match that performance.
Sadly for The Strokes the fateful enemy has a say once again with sound issues somehow a problem once more. Many in the crowd complain that the volume is too low, something perhaps not helped by the meandering pace of the setlist.
That said, when the band do dig out the hits the crowd comes to life. The setlist features many of the same staples as 2019 but we do get ‘Ode to the Mets’ and ‘The Adults Are Talking’ from their latest studio effort.
Through their ninety minute set the band are able to evidence why they are one of the most acclaimed acts of the past two decades and it is far from a bad performance.
You just leave with the same disappointment as last time due to sound problems dampening the show. Perhaps that means the band will be back again in a couple of years, but either way All Points East continues to go from strength to strength and this year is another resounding success!
As Trivium themselves proclaim tonight, it always feels like a homecoming when the Floridian metallers come to the UK. The band grew up on our island and their success has become intrinsically linked to the response of the UK to each release.
Tonight will see the band at the UEA in Norwich playing a tailored set to include a celebration of ‘Shogun’. Their fourth studio album, the record arrived at a crucial time for the band as they navigated a lukewarm response to ‘The Crusade’ – an album which was supposed to take the band to the pinnacle of the industry.
When that didn’t happen, ‘Shogun’ was the reset moment needed for the band to almost start again. Over the course of the subsequent fifteen years the band have matured into one of the most loved and respected metal bands on the planet with a consistent flow of high quality albums which looking back is quite astonishing.
Also astonishing is the bands aptitude for selecting support acts and on this run of shows, they have both Orbit Culture and Bleed From Within along for the ride! Swedes Orbit Culture are a decade into their own career and that comes across with an experienced and assured performance to get the crowd engaged early.
BLEED FROM WITHIN
Having formed back in 2005, Bleed From Within certainly can’t be classed as a new band either, but the current momentum behind them is relatively new. Emerging from the pandemic with not one, but two acclaimed albums the band have made of the most of their recent studio time.
They’ve also made the very most of any stage time given to them and again tonight if you didn’t arrive as a fan of the band, you’ll most definitely be leaving as one. The group are able to create an instant connection with the audience and the synergy between them is mightily impressive.
With both bands having already turned the venue into a sweatbox, it’s soon enough time for Trivium to arrive on stage and close out the evening with ninety minutes of pure majestic brutality.
‘In The Court of the Dragon’ and ‘Down From The Sky’ quickly ensure that the audience is fully onside as the band flex their muscles early. It isn’t long before the likes of ‘Strife’ and ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’ absolutely annihilate venue security with a seemingly endless barrage of crowd surfers.
The love between band and audience is clear for all to see and as the band begin to explore ‘Shogun’ with rarities likes ‘The Calamity’ and ‘Insurrection’, an appreciation of the depths of the bands discography is overwhelming.
Newer material like ‘Catastrophist’ and ‘The Heart From Your Hate’ receive just as euphoric responses tonight as classics like ‘A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation’ and staple set closer ‘In Waves’. This is just further evidence both of the bands connection with the UK audience but most pertinently the intense quality of all their releases.
Ten albums and nearly twenty-five years in the band tease a short break is coming after this tour. Whilst this is very much hard earned, on the form the band find themselves in both on record and onstage as evidenced tonight, you are left praying that the gap isn’t that long!
Festival season is quickly drawing towards a close, but there are still a handful of opportunities left for music fans to head outdoors for some music. Whilst the weather may not have been kind this year, today in Gunnersbury Park, London is pretty much perfect festival weather – it’s warm without being too hot, it’s cloudy but no rain in sight!
These London day events often struggle to bring in the fans, but the bill today has been enough to bring a healthy crowd to West London. The crowd are soon penned into what is now a standard minimalistic arena framed by overpriced food and drink.
There really isn’t a lot to do other than eat, drink and be merry, so the exuberant fifty minute change-overs are a tad extreme! Thankfully though, the early acts Deijuvhs, Joey Valence & Brae and KennyHoopla are all more than capable of getting the crowd hyped up.
Eventually we arrive at our special guests Pendulum who take to the stage at 18:40, which really feels a little early for a Pendulum set! The daylight in particular limits the effectiveness of their usual visual show.
Luckily the band themselves are more than capable to engaging the audience and building up the atmosphere. In a set that is perhaps more reliant on the music than normal, the likes of ‘Propane Nightmares’, ‘Granite’, ‘Witchcraft’, ‘Tarantula’ and ‘Watercolour’, all have the crowd singing and moving along.
A highlight comes with Bullet For My Valentine’s Matt Tuck joining the band for new single, ‘Halo’, which goes down very well. Along with ‘Self vs Self’, the heavier tracks fare well with an audience full of metalheads, and Pendulum leave the stage having once again proved their dexterity.
Comparatively on the other hand, headliners Limp Bizkit could be called a one trick pony, thankfully for them that trick is to get the audience riled up to then smash out an energetic and riotous set.
WATCH ‘BREAK STUFF’ on YOUTUBE
From the moment Fred Durst stalks across the stage, the atmosphere ratchets up a dozen notches, and he is able to control the crowd with absolute aplomb. The band are clearly on top form and the audience reciprocates this energy which creates a very special performance.
Early material predominantly makes up the set list and that works well with a crowd which by show of hands is mainly catching the band live for the first time. ‘Dad Vibes’ and ‘Gold Cobra’ do make appearances though and change up the pace for a short while.
The show comes to an end almost as soon as it starts due to the early curfew, and fans are left wanting more, but then this is always a good thing. It would appear that somehow in 2023 Limp Bizkit may be enjoying a second coming!
Festival season is in full swing and rock fans once again descend on Upcote Farm in Cheltenham for 2000trees! A true music fans festival, this year there is an absolute smorgasbord of the best new and established acts to savour across three full days of relentless entertainment.
However, before the event proper begins though those with early entry have an additional evening of music on tap in the beautiful forest area. The ‘Forest Stage’ has always been a unique and special feature of this festival which is now on its fifteenth iteration.
The privilege of opening the festivities this year goes to Snayx who, despite playing whilst many are still pitching their tents, still attract an eager and excited crowd. The band are able to seize upon this excitement to whip the crowd up even further with their brand of punk rock. A benchmark is set for the weekend early here and thankfully the organisers have a bill curated to ensure that the quality never drops!
The other stage in operation today is the small ‘The Word’ stage which over the weekend will host various activities such as further bands, live podcasts, comedians and more. Over the next few hours we are able to catch delighted spots from B-Sydes, Masca, Polyanna and Gaz Brookfield.
Over on the ‘Forest Stage’ though, the handful of selected bands combine to deliver a highly memorable evening. Delaire the Liar are up next and are able to continue to build their growing reputation with another assured performance.
A real special moment follows as one of the most talented yet underappreciated bands of the last decade Press To MECO play their final show. Such a moment really deserved a bigger stage and longer setlist but those present are able to bathe in those glorious riffs one more time with an emotional ‘A Test of Our Resolve’ a highlight of the whole festival.
Next are a band just getting started. Saint Agnes are tipped as the future of rock music by some, and again on the evidence of their set tonight those people are very much correct! Debut album ‘Bloodsuckers’ can’t arrive soon enough; thankfully we only need to wait on July 21st!
The latest Tigercub album is already out and next up the band bring ‘The Perfume of Decay’ to life with a solid showing as the forest area begins to fill up in anticipation of the nights two headline acts.
Both Holding Absence and Bob Vylan will play two sets over the weekend but before gracing the main stage, they both thrill those packed into the woods! Holding Absence are first and they captivate the crowd with a cleverly selected mix of rarities and fan favourites. This band continues to grow and evolve and it’s scary how good they could be.
Bob Vylan also continue to elevate the game with their headline set tonight they bring carnage to the forest! A spectacular off the cuff collection of on point punk rock more than whets the appetite for their main stage appearance, even showing that they aren’t too far away from being able to headline the biggest stage next time they play the festival.
Each night the now infamous silent disco takes over the site as the party continues into the early hours, but come Thursday morning the arrival of the rest of the attendees ensure even the first act of the day, Blush Puppy on the ‘Forest Stage’ get a good turnout. The duo perform a delightful run-through of adapted favourites which starts the first full day off perfectly.
With the outdoor stage, three tented stages and the ‘Forest Stage’ all rotating throughout each day an avid music fan can fill their boots with live music and literally catch non-stop music for nigh on sixteen hours a day if they wanted to. We don’t quite have that stamina but we give it a good go and are rewarded by great sets from Kite Thief, Beach Riot and Gaffa Tape Sandy.
Following that run we then head to first catch recent ‘Discover’ New Music Podcast guests CARSICK over on the ‘NEU Stage’. The group proceed to smash through their set to the delight of those present with the likes of ‘Anaconda Frank’ showing real bite.
Another act to impress early in the weekend are Lake Malice in ‘The Cave’. The group have been winning over all who see them this summer and their future appears to be very bright indeed.
Lambrini Girls, Graphic Nature and the official debut of new group Unpeople who have formed from the ashes of Press To MECO all follow and continue to hot run of great sets. Unpeople in particular are able to really tease what is to come and make a fantastic first impression.
The main stage soon literally takes centre stage as first Kid Kapichi and then Bob Vylan deliver two of the sets of the weekend. Kid Kapichi are effortless in their delivery of impassioned punk rock which sees an endless sea of crowd surfers on an inflatable burger! Bob Vylan then reinforce the message that their headline set sent last night, that the duo are as advertised – the most important band in the world!
We then head back to the two larger tented stages, firstly for Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun who preview their upcoming new album ‘Colour’. The record will arrive on July 28th and the band really do a good job of convincing those in attendance that despite the decade plus wait for a new album, the wait will be worth it. All the new material this evening sounds absolutely massive. Then in ‘The Axiom’, The Joy Formidable deliver a delightful little set that evidences the eclectic mix of rock music presented at 2000trees.
Soon enough it’s time for the final run of bands that will close out day one. Skindred are well established as a great live act and tonight they have the crowd at their whim. The Newport Helicopter needs no introduction either as the crowd make the most of the groups big finale.
Back in the big tent next for Eagles of Death Metal who give a festival friendly, crowd pleasing set including the likes of ‘I Only Want You’, ‘Complexity’, ‘Cherry Cola’ and ‘I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News)’.
Finally it’s over to the returning Soft Play (the artists formerly known as Slaves) to close out the day. The duo pick up where they left off and play as if they’ve never been away. It’s great to have the band back and fans revel in the likes of ‘Cheer Up London’, ‘Feed the Mantaray’ and ‘The Hunter’.
Friday begins with an early run of Beauty School, RXPTRS, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion, BLACKGOLD and New Pagans all of whom play their rules well and make the most of their short sets.
After an overcast first couple of days, today is a scorcher and the heat is intense as LostAlone arrive on the stage. The band don’t let that phase them though as they pull out all the stops to get the crowd engaged. It’s mission accomplished by the time they deliver the double header of ‘The Final Call For Forever’ and ‘The Last Drop Of Forever’.
2000trees do very well to bring together the best new music from home and abroad and the next run of Militarie Gun, Zulu, Microwave and Kublai Khan TX shows the keen eye for upcoming talent that the organisers have.
It’s this mix of new with the established acts that perfectly balances out the line-up and Hell Is For Heroes are a great nostalgic party next on the main stage. The quality overall is again on show when you can then head immediately to the ‘NEU Stage’ for an excellently run set from As Everything Unfolds, before returning to the main stage for a very enjoyable Dinosaur Pile-Up show and then jumping straight to the always intense Cancer Bats in ‘The Cave’!
Bullet For My Valentine are the act who close out the night with a huge headline performance. Attracting one of, if not the biggest crowd of the weekend, the band are in confident mood as they showcase their headlining credentials. Older tracks such as ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and ‘Hearts Burst Into Flames’ naturally receive big reactions, but it’s telling newer tracks also are well received.
A surprise AxeWound reunion with Liam Cormier is another festival highlight before ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Waking the Demon’ ensure that come the next morning everyone is talking about how great Bullet were tonight!
The festival has been a whirlwind as per usual for 2000trees and it’s a testament to the quality of line-up that to this point there hasn’t been a bad performance. Of course some ultimately standout more than others such as that headline set last night or Bob Vylan destroying the forest but the chilled out atmosphere amongst attendees is reflected by the respect the bands pay the crowd. The reciprocal ambience creates a synergy that elevates every aspect of this event.
Come Saturday the crowd may be sapped from the previous days heat but over on the ‘Forest Stage’ Xtra Mile Recordings acts (and previous ‘Discover’ New Music Podcast guests) Hannah Rose Platt and Guise are serenading the early crowd with their beautiful music. They are both well received despite the heat being supplemented today by a lot of the wet stuff!
Xtra Mile Recordings has a great relationship and past with 2000trees and new Xtra Mile favourites (and double Full Pelt Podcast guests!) PET NEEDS attract a big crowd to ‘The Axiom’ next. This is no doubt due to some guerrilla advertising from their fans, but everyone that ventures into the tent leave hailing the band as one of the bands of the weekend.
One of the elements that makes the ‘Forest Stage’ so special are the sets from acts playing on the biggest stages which are often acoustic and unique. Next, Electric Six frontman Dick Valentine does a great job of distracting the audience from the deteriorating weather with a highly fun acoustic set.
After catching Dead Poet Society and Enola Gay strutting their stuff we are then able to catch Electric Six themselves who attract another big crowd to the main stage. The crowd lap up the likes of ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Danger! High Voltage’ as you’d expect, and the band do their job with aplomb.
One Step Closer then cement their hype in ‘The Cave’ before Black Honey demonstrate why they are one of the best newer live acts in the country. Tracks from new album, ‘A Fistful of Peaches’ sound massive as the band achieve another of those more memorable sets of the weekend.
The reshuffled Dream State then show that they still have a big future ahead of them in ‘The Cave’ before Deaf Havana battle through a torrential downpour which decimates their crowd at the main stage. We brave the rain until the end before heading into the forest for a short but very fun set from Lynks.
Talking to people across the site, the opinion is unanimous that this has been a spectacular weekend. You feel as the weekend comes to a close that it can’t get any better, but then Hundred Reasons deliver perhaps the best set of the weekend. The band get the audience onboard from opening number ‘I’ll Find You’ and never lose them despite more heavy rain. One of the moments of the weekend comes when Enter Shikari man Rou Reynolds joins the band for a superb ‘Silver’.
Jamie Lenman then plays his latest masterpiece ‘The Atheist’ in full over in the forest before Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes come out of hibernation to finish the festival with a welcome career-spanning set.
Whilst the band may lack a certain volatility of their early days they don’t lack in swagger or controlled ferocity when required. The final run of ‘My Town’, ‘Devil Inside Me’, ‘Juggernaut’, ‘Lullaby’ and ‘I Hate You’ is the perfect way to bring an incredible weekend of music to a close.
2000trees has established itself at the heart of the summer as a trusted and respected event. From their humble beginnings to now fifteen events later, the festival lays on the infrastructure but the audience makes the event the special weekend that it is!
The metalheads have taken over Birmingham with battlejackets visable on every street corner. Yes, the mighty Iron Maiden are in town and a sold out Utilita Arena is braced for a theatrical evening of fun with a band currently firing on all cylinders.
The legendary group are here as part of their aptly titled ‘The Future Past’ Tour which sees them focus on material from their latest studio release, ‘Senjutsu’ and their 1986 sixth album ‘Somewhere In Time’.
Up first however are openers Lord of the Lost, fresh from the indignity of finishing last at this year’s Eurovision. Given the reputation of Maiden fans to be rather harsh on their support acts, and the German groups recent past, we were concerned that Lord of the Lost would go down like a certain variety of balloon!
That thankfully isn’t the case though as they deliver a polished yet honest performance which is well received by the waiting masses. The band are able to show that they possess quality with substance and some great songs, which is probably why Eurovision fans weren’t interested! If that experience was a disappointment, this one is a big success for the band.
Soon enough those familiar strains of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ start to fill the arena and the atmosphere kicks up a few dozen notches. With an updated stage show complementing a setlist full of rarer heard fan favourites it doesn’t take long for the band to suck you right in.
Within moments Iron Maiden have the audience in the palm of their collective hand as they lead them back and forth from new tracks like ‘The Writing on the Wall’ to deep cuts like ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and classics such as ‘Can I Play With Madness’!
With multiple appearances from Eddie plus all the usual trimmings this show is Maiden at their very best. The carefully curated setlist makes this a unique opportunity for the diehards but also a fine example of what the band do for any newcomers. This is perhaps best summed up by the final main set run of ‘Heaven Can Wait’, ‘Alexander the Great’, ‘Fear of the Dark’ and ‘Iron Maiden’.
By the time ‘The Trooper’ and ‘Wasted Years’ close out the evening, Maiden have one again shown themselves the masters of their craft. Those metalheads then head back out into the Birmingham night filled with glorious, dramatic metal!
Long established as one of the greatest live bands to ever plug in a guitar, it’s no surprise that fans have once again been flocking to catch Muse live this summer!
With large-scale UK shows already completed in Plymouth, Huddersfield and Glasgow, this sunny Sunday sees the trio take over the recently neglected National Bowl in Milton Keynes.
Once those lovely roundabouts have been successfully navigated, fans are greeted with a fantastic amphitheatre to enjoy the glory that will be the headline set. But, before then there are two great opening performances on offer.
Up first are Mexican trio The Warning who recently impressed with their slot at Download Festival. Today the group are again able to deliver a powerful set which will undoubtedly have won over a legion of new fans. From start to finish they make the very most of their short time on stage and you can’t help but think it won’t be their last time playing stages this size.
One band no stranger to large stages are the special guests tonight, Royal Blood. The duo are fresh from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury and are able to command this stage with relative ease.
The crowd are very much on side tonight which appears to reassure the band after their recent issues with Mike Kerr clearly very grateful for the opportunity to play. The fans are equally joyed to have such an accomplished act delivering a calculated and polished set.
The scene is then set for the timeless Muse to once again showcase just why they are so revered. Never afraid to highlight their latest release, new album ‘Will of the People’ naturally takes centre stage tonight and that starts with the title-track which instantly whips the crowd into a frenzy.
Following that opening with a run of ‘Hysteria’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘Bliss’ just shows the embarrassment of riches that Muse can pull from. What’s nice tonight though is the addition of some rarer gems such as ‘Resistance’ and ‘Undisclosed Desires’.
Of course there are hits galore and the audience lap up the likes of ‘Time Is Running Out’, ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, ‘Plug In Baby’, ‘Uprising’ and ‘Starlight’. Equally impressive though are the receptions given to new tracks like ‘Won’t Back Down’, ‘Compliance’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween’.
The delivery of songs either old or new is exquisite as you’d expect and the stage show is as flamboyant as ever. Muse really are masters of their art and it feels almost impossible for them to give a bad performance.
The encore of ‘Kill or Be Killed’ and traditional closer ‘Knights of Cydonia’ is in itself testament to the whole new and old sentiments above. No matter what they are playing, Muse play it better than anyone!
While most of the country have their eyes on the happenings at Worthy Farm, a few thousand dedicated rock fans brave the heat to pack into the legendary Hammersmith ‘Eventim’ Apollo.
The reason is that US rockers Incubus are in town. The band aren’t the most regular of visitors to these shores and when they do come over it’s very rare to find then outside the usual handful of major cities.
There is enough draw then for fans to find their way to this part of London and there is also relief for those fans too after a spate of recent cancellations from the band due to ill-health. Tonight though is set and once the crowd are mesmerised by the unique opening act Lealani, it’s time for a blast from the past.
With no new album since 2017 and only two albums on offer since 2006, the set was always going to be a familiar delivery of fan favourites. That’s not always a bad thing and tonight the crowd delight at the selection available.
The energy never really dips over the ninety minutes or so that the band grace the stage and the audience feed off the connection that develops with the group. Even a cover of ‘Come Together’ goes down well as the audience savour classics such as ‘Are You In?’, ‘Pardon Me’, ‘Dig’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’.
An encore of ‘Drive’ is more than enough to send the crowd back away again happy. Recent issues overcome, tonight Incubus remind everyone of their power… now perhaps a new album next?
It’s been eight long years since The Black Keys last played in the UK, so you’d expect demand to be high for their return. Tonight though, the cavernous O2 Arena in London is actually relatively quiet both in attendance and crowd energy.
As opening act Shannon and the Clams take to the stage the venue is eerily quiet, and it takes the band a few songs to hit their stride. As fans filter into the venue however, the band get into the groove and by the end of their time on the stage, the group has a check in the win column.
Next up are main support, US indie rock group Spoon, who are touring in support of their tenth studio album, ‘Lucifer on the Sofa’. New tracks ‘Wild’, ‘My Babe’ and ‘The Hardest Cut’, all sit pretty in an assured set, which whilst enjoyable, does little to raise the energy levels in the venue.
By the time The Black Keys arrive on stage, the standing section at least is more dense and anticipation finally seems to have raised a few levels. Opening with ‘I Got Mine’ and ‘Fever’ and accompanied by a simple by effective stage set the band get the audience on side early.
It’s telling from this point in that the majority of the audience are only really interested in anything ‘El Camino’ or earlier with any newer tracks getting a lukewarm response. When the band do drop a ‘Tighten Up’ or ‘Howlin’ For You’ though the crowd goes wild.
The lack of excitement in the crowd seems somewhat matched by the sluggish delivery from the stage. The duo have had a number of struggles in that eight year gap and it does feel a little like going through the motions tonight rather than a big return to past glories.
Again, when the likes of ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ and ‘Lonely Boy’ do arrive then there is a rush of adrenaline in the venue. What could’ve been a huge party though ended up being a chilled out family barbeque where the only excitement comes when the chef calls out that the burgers are ready!
This weekend is a celebration of twenty years of Download Festival. Stepping into the void left by Monsters of Rock not just at the hyped spiritual home of rock Donington Park but to the whole UK rock/metal scene, Download has become its own monster.
This year is truly monstrous as the event is fully sold out with record breaking numbers of attendees coming to partake in the celebration. Those celebrations get off to a rough start though with unprecedented traffic problems souring the event for many before it even properly begins.
Once the music starts though a lot if not all of those problems subside. There is a stacked bill for the anniversary party including two nights of Metallica, a closing set from Download icons Slipknot but most vitally a new headline act Bring Me The Horizon.
The gap between Monsters of Rock and Download caused a vacuum in ability for bands to hit headline status with many acts from that era missing out on that status, Korn being one such act often thought of as passed over. Think about it, if they’d headlined at Donington Park in the late nineties, they’d no doubt still be that rank higher than they are now.
In the early years of Download, a number of bands had an opportunity to cement themselves at the top level, think Audioslave, Linkin Park, System of a Down and My Chemical Romance.
Playing alongside stalwarts like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Kiss gives bands credibility and elevates their stock. 2009’s Slipknot set is still heralded as the best example of the ‘bump’!
The problem is since then only Avenged Sevenfold in 2014 have really been given that opportunity and Download has become a bit of a clichéd round robin of the likes of Def Leppard, Rammstein, Aerosmith and other favourites already mentioned.
Perhaps then the most important booking in a celebration of the past is the look to the future with Bring Me The Horizon finally getting the top spot. Whilst Download probably should’ve got in before Reading and Leeds, it’s hopefully a sign of a subtle change of tact from the festival.
That’s because the line-up is also graced this year by the likes of Hot Milk, Nova Twins and Bob Vylan in prominent slots. Mixing this with the likes of classic Download bands Disturbed, Alter Bridge, Halestorm and Skindred gives the line-up a fresh but familiar feel.
Sadly beyond the bookings of Metallica and Slipknot plus the additional day there isn’t much done to make this year feel special for those who have made Download Festival part of their lives.
Whilst the organisers could have done more both in terms of that something special and in certain ways just the very basics, they have provided a top tier line-up, so let’s take a look at the highlights!
Cancer Bats get the ball rolling on day one for us over at the second stage (now dubbed the Opus stage). The band get those that have made it into the arena pumped up with a early set packed full of ragers that ultimately ends prematurely when the sound is cut during ‘Hail Destroyer’!
Soon thereafter, Mammoth WVH get proceedings underway on the main stage (or Apex as it’s now called!). In some ways it’s fitting having the Van Halen name on this stage, in others it’s very ironic as the legendary band are often referred to by lead booker Andy Copping as one that got away.
Wolfgang and co show that with or without the last name, they have the talent needed to conquer stages like these. From start to finish it’s an excellent showing that places the band on the potential list for future festival stars.
Next up on the Opus stage are Hundred Reasons who are riding the wave of their stunning return album, ‘Glorious Sunset’. The band open with the title-track before running through a series of classic tracks much to the delight of those gathered. Hopefully this isn’t a victory lap for the band as creatively and onstage they are as good as they’ve ever been!
As we focus on the future of the festival, two names often linked to future headline status are Halestorm and Alter Bridge. It’s fine booking then to see the bands back to back next on the Apex stage.
Halestorm deliver another flawless set that seems to finish before it begins given their short allocated slot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though given the old saying of leave the fans wanting more. Halestorm certainly do that and with a headline date pencilled in at Wembley Arena this December, the next time the band grace Donington you’d hope to see them in the sub-headline spot.
That’s the spot filled by Alter Bridge who have played in this position multiple times before; a sense perhaps then of always the bridesmaid and never the bride! Today though the band give it their all to show what they have to offer.
Watching the crowd, the set seems to be really well received which is a good sign. The band after all are always technically superb, so if enhancing that audience connection is the missing piece to progression then today’s set will have gone a long way to creating that link!
All that’s left on this special Thursday then is the first of two headline performances from the biggest metal band on the planet, Metallica. The two sets will be completely unique, giving fans the chance to see far more than a standard Metallica set list.
Night one has a good mix of hits like ‘Creeping Death’, ‘Fade To Black’, ‘Nothing Else Matters’, ‘Sad but True’ and ‘Master of Puppets’, deep cuts such as ‘Leper Messiah’, ‘King Nothing’ and ‘Orion’ plus new material from ’72 Seasons’.
Friday is a huge day for the future of heavy music with a number of hotly tipped bands performing on the main stage including headliners Bring Me The Horizon.
We start on the Opus stage though with a debut UK festival appearance from Mexicans The Warning. The sister trio deliver an assured performance which belies their position on the bill. The set is another case of leaving the audience wanting more and you have to imagine that they’ll be back very soon.
Nova Twins take to the Apex stage soon after and absolutely own the stage. The duo are able to show just why they have so much hype with a performance that should be talked about as one of the best of the weekend.
Hot Milk have the unenviable task of following the pure energy that was Nova Twins, and thankfully for the band and the crowd they are up to the task. With a debut album on the way the band are on the cusp of something special and this set will again not doubt be one of those “I was there” moments.
The effortless cool of Demob Happy delights the Avalanche stage next as they showcase their stunning new album, ‘Divine Machines’.
Back on the Apex stage with the run of younger bands, next up for us are Neck Deep who are perennial contenders for bigger things. Today they have tens of thousands of people singing back the likes of ‘December’ and you have to consider Neck Deep’s set another victory for the new breed of Download band.
It’s a short and sharp blast from the past next as we pop to the Avalanche stage for the return of The Blackout. The band perform like they’ve not been away and receive a hero’s return from the audience. With the tease of more live dates to follow, it looks like The Blackout are back and back with a bang today!
It’s a quick bolt over to the Opus stage next for Within Temptation who are clearly playing a slot below their stature. The performance the band give is headline worthy not just of this stage but of the main stage. The band has a wealth of experience and use all their tricks to deliver a masterful set full of their best crowd pleasing hits.
By the time Evanescence grace the stage, the mass of humanity in attendance is a clear indication that the band should have been on the main stage. Viewing points are few and far between but wherever you are stood the band sonically deliver. A mixture of old and new is greeted well regardless but it’s mega hit ‘Bring Me to Life’ that has the entire place singing their hearts out.
It’s then time for that set. Bring Me The Horizon take over the main stage and prove any remaining doubters wrong. Making Metallica appear average, the band give their all both aesthetically and musically and produce possibly the greatest headline performance in the twenty years of the festival.
As we said earlier, the band should have been given this slot years ago, but if they had then this moment wouldn’t have existed. Their show tonight is the proof needed that the next wave are ready now and the gatekeepers need to move aside.
This set is historic not just for the theme of the weekend or for the stature of Bring Me The Horizon, it’s historic as a watershed moment for this festival. New headliners of the future should personally thank Bring Me The Horizon for breaking through that proverbial ceiling!
On to Saturday now and nobody mention the weather! A celebration of twenty years of Download would have fittingly seem some rain and mud, and from this point on the festival is so hot that many would probably have willing traded the sun for some rain.
After last night it almost feels an anti-climax for the festival to continue, but another Metallica set should never be scoffed at. Thankfully there are still some fresh new bands breaking through lower down the bill today, and first up we catch Static Dress who seemingly channel the energy of Bring Me The Horizon with the fantastic opening Opus stage set.
One of the best bits of a festival for a publication passionate about new music is stumbling across a surprise gem on one of the side stages. This year that is ANTISAINT who simply storm the small Dogtooth stage with a ferocious set and definitely leave with more fans than they had going in.
The new look FEVER 333 then take to the main stage and deliver another memorable moment with Jason Aalon Butler scaling one of the massive towers erected in the main arena. That moment though shouldn’t take away from the already phenomenal set the band had delivered.
Lake Malice are next for us back in the Avalanche stage who are able to continue the run of top tier performances we’ve caught thus far. Whilst some of the organisational elements of the festival have been lacking, the music has been of the highest calibre and Lake Malice are another band you suspect will be back in a bigger spot sooner rather than later.
Next on the Apex stage are Ice Nine Kills, whose theatrics create a spectacle on the main stage, but musically they feel a little flat, perhaps being the first underwhelming set of the weekend.
Clutch who follow then also suffer both through technical difficulties and the energy sapping heat which probably negatively impacted Ice Nine Kills as well. The lack of enthusiasm from the crowd doesn’t help and it’s probably a good thing we are headed to a tent next.
We are set now for another one-two punch, this time in the Avalanche tent with Kid Kapichi and Bob Vylan on tap. It’s Kid Kapichi up first and they instantly raise the intensity levels with opener ‘Sardines’. Each song that follows is just as rewarding and by the time the band finish with ‘Smash the Gaff’ they’ve done just that!
One of the most exiting acts on the bill this weekend are Bob Vylan. The mention of ceilings earlier is relevant because this duo haven’t just smashed ceilings they’ve proceeded to stamp the shards into dust. Their performance to a packed crowd today is further evidence that new acts can make Download their home. That’s exactly what Bob Vylan do here as to repeat another cliché they completely own the stage.
It was always going to be hard to follow that suckerpunch and next on the main stage with the intense heat still sapping all energy, Disturbed deliver a plodding set. The set list is fine, the performance is far from phoned-in but with the audience struggling and the band following the ferocity of Bob Vylan, Disturbed feel distinctly average today.
We then head to the Opus stage expecting Placebo to also struggle to engage the tired and weary crowd. After all this is the third day which would traditionally be the home straight, and Placebo are not known for their crowd pleasing set list choices.
Pleasantly though those making the effort are surprisingly rewarded not just with an energised performance from the band but also a excellent set of songs including a very rare outing for the superb ‘Nancy Boy’. On their day Placebo can be an incredible live act and today they are at the peak of their powers which re-energises the previously zombified crowd.
It’s then time for night two of Metallica’s no repeat weekend. There are some great choice cuts in the set tonight such as a tour debut for ‘Whiplash’ plus ‘Until It Sleeps’, ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and Thin Lizzy cover ‘Whiskey in the Jar’! The finale of ‘One’ and ‘Enter Sandman’ ensures that the hits are accounted for as well as Metallica deliver another slick and graceful set.
The final day feels like a step too far, most definitely compounded by the unrelenting heat, but once again when lost in the music all those issues somehow disappear – the power of music!
Bloodywood start the day off with an engaging performance on the Apex stage, before our recent Podcast guests Blind Channel deliver on their promise to bring the energy to Download. The sight of many metalheads singing along to a rendition of Anastacia’s ‘Left Outside Alone’ is a real sight to behold and set closer ‘Dark Side’ has everybody with their middle finger in the air.
Lorna Shore then suffer again from a lack of enthusiasm from the crowd and their sound getting swallowed up by the enormous space. Joey Valence & Brae though have neither issue in the Avalanche tent with a rambunctious and fun-filled slot.
As the heat and the excesses of the weekend catch up on the crowd it’s telling that for this afternoon outdoor sets like The Amity Affliction and Avatar whilst technically great feel like a struggle. Whereas tented sets from Joey Valence and Brae and the brilliant The Meffs are able to revive the crowd and thrive on their rejuvenation.
Thankfully things start to cool as clouds begin to take over the sky as we get ready for Dinosaur Pile-Up on the Opus stage. Sadly technical difficulties shorten their set to just five songs, but those five songs sound fantastic!
I Prevail have a huge slot on the main stage and make a good impression although you do again feel something is just lacking today. Not to flog a dead horse any further but it may be the low energy levels today or the enormity of the stage swallowing the heavier sound but it’s hard to truly get into their set today.
Thankfully the smaller outdoor Opus stage seems to have a lot of energy and Bad Religion are able to take advantage of that next with a typically slick run of punk rock anthems. Opening with ‘American Jesus’ the band able to hold your attention throughout before finishing with a rousing rendition of ’21st Century (Digital Boy)’.
Next up on this stage are Ghost who really should be headlining the main stage at this point. Musically and theatrically they are on another level and you have a sense of the Bring Me The Horizons about then. Hopefully Download Festival will strike while the iron is hot because everything about their performance today is perfect.
Ghost are so good that you also feel it unnecessary to watch Slipknot, but as soon as the band hit the stage you are glad that you stayed. The history between the band and festival is huge and it’s great that they are one of the few acts that seem to properly acknowledge that this weekend.
A standard (which is great) Slipknot set follows with some sentimental set choices and an enthralling stage show. It’s really fitting for Slipknot to close out what has been an intense weekend of celebration.
The busiest and longest ever Download Festival will last long in the memory for reasons both good and bad. As we said at the start, this festival is a true monster now and has enough dedicated customers to ensure that it will never go down as its predecessor did. It has however become rather soulless and corporate and it feels like the identity it created over the first decade or so could be lost.
Hopefully the event will use this success to both maintain its heritage but also to now really push for the future headliners and top acts to come through. So, congratulations Download on twenty phenomenal years, and here’s to many many more to come!