Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June 2016
OK it was wet, wet, wet, but Download was a first and another off of the bucket list for the WRC as we took in both Saturday and Sunday at Donnington Park last weekend. We had obviously missed Friday headliners Rammstein and by all accounts - from those who witnessed it, and those who we spoke to on the Saturday shuttle bus from Derby station to Castle Donnington - they were awesome. I suppose it doesn't get more iconic though as we passed East Midlands airport when we spotted Iron Maiden's Ed Force One on the tarmac which had actually landed earlier in the day. To be fair - even though it seemed to take an eternity to get to the festival entrance - both the transport and stewarding were well organised - although the welcoming niff of the portaloos being serviced was confirmation that we were in festival territory.
And if you needed affirmation of the vastness of Download then this was all too plain to see once you entered the site with the punters seemingly milling around like ants to the right of 'The Lemmy Stage' - way in the distance! Rival Sons were indeed playing the same said stage as we got our bearings - the straw underfoot now giving way to mud following the latest downpour. And if you were a people watcher - then this was the place to be - all shapes and sizes - tattoos and metal studs to die for - and an array of proudly worn black t-shirts that could never be bettered.
Once we had refuelled at the bar - we headed to 'The Dogtooth Stage' for Slaves - an American rock group formed in Sacremento, California - not to be confused with 2016 UK NME Award winners of the same name. In April this year, this post-hardcore band announced their break-up after their concert in Santa Cruz, California, but subsequently vocalist Jonny Craig and bassist Colin Vieira revealed they would continue as Slaves - touring the U.K. and Europe, before moving forward with new music. Appearing as a five-piece - the baseball capped Craig tore through their two albums 'Through Art We Are All Equals' and 'Routine Breathing' to an audience of both their fans and others seeking refuge from the elements - but both pleased to witness the energy of this intense set. The rain relented for a while, so we then caught part of of Megadeth's set on 'The Lemmy Stage' from afar. Veterans of 'Monster Of Rock' at Donnington in 1988 - they shredded us with Post American World' and especially 'Dystopia' - although the stand out for mine was Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson taking us back in time with 'Anarchy In The UK' with special guest Nikki Sixx. Awesome.
However, the undercard highlight of the day was purely fortuitous - and we had the rain to thank for that. It was now pissing down so we headed back to the cover of The Dogtooth - which coincided with the sound check of The Shrine from Venice Beach, California. Billed as Psychedelic Violence Rock and Rollers - if lead singer and guitarist Josh Landau's sound check anecdotes were as good as their set then we were in for a treat. With Courtland Murphy on bass and Jeff Murray on Drums, the guys smashed it with a nod to Sabbath, Lizzy and The Who from their latest album - the appropriately named 'Rare Breed' - the set ending with Landau being lifted on his back into the crowd still playing an amazing guitar solo. Mental - but we loved it. Do not miss them if you get a chance. The first time the WRC saw Black Sabbath was at the Killburn Gaumont State in London in November 1975. We were six rows from the front and our ears are still ringing! The last time we saw Sabbath was at British Summer Time in Hyde Park in 2014. Well Ozzy and the boys headlined 'The Lemmy Stage' and as it turned out, given their recent announcement of a farewell tour in January - it wasn't Black Sabbath's anticipated swan song in the end - but it was still worth the trip up the M1 to see these rock and roll hall of fame residents! As expected the big-hitters were all rolled out including 'Into The Void', 'War Pigs' and 'Iron Man' with 'Paranoid' as the encore. For those of you that rocked out in the rain - we salute you! As the rain continued to lash down on the way back to Derby - we wondered what state 'Drownload' was going to be in for Iron Maiden on the Sunday?
Well Sunday duly arrived ... and it was still raining.... With discretion being the better part of valour I headed off to Derby City Centre to buy some wellies! Unsurprisingly most of the shops had sold out of size nine's but I did manage to find a pair of size ten's - thank God - in Matalan! Shopping on a Sunday morning inevitably led to a lunchtime drink, which in turn led to a very pleasant pub crawl along the river in Derby towards the station to pick up the shuttle. Oh and did I mention it was still raining? As well as seeing Ed Force One again - the shuttle bus ride included some great banter with both Italian and North Ireland Download fans - all part of the festival tapestry. And on the subject of festival tapestry - the iconic view that greeted us on entering Drownload could only be comparable to The Somme. And it was still raining .... time to get under cover and shop for those Download souvenir's.
In fact - talking to a Download veteran in one of the shopping tents - he confirmed that these were the worst Download weather conditions he had ever experienced. Anyway, one of the bands we wanted to see - if we could get into the tent - was Saxon on 'The Maverick Stage'. We saw Saxon last year at Ramblin' Man - Wrinkly The Silver describing them as "the perfect band for an English outdoor festival!" Well we managed to get in and it was the usual mixture of brutal and melodic, kicking off with the title track from last year's new album ‘Battering Ram’. Similar to RM - all the classics such as ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ were there. As were lead singer Biff Byford, guitarist Paul Quinn and drummer Nigel Glockler - so it was with a heavy heart that we left to get a decent position on 'The Lemmy Stage' hill for headliner's Iron Maiden.
To be honest, this was the very first time that the WRC had seen Iron Maiden live and, as they say, all good things come to an end - and who better to bring the curtain down on Download 2016 than Iron Maiden! Despite the appalling weather, as expected Bruce & the boys signed off in style with a set comprising predominantly of the new - opening with both 'If Eternity Should Fail' and 'Speed Of Light' from the excellent 'The Book Of Souls' - and the old - 'Children Of The Damned', 'The Trooper' and 'Iron Maiden' (with Eddie thrown in for good measure). Dickinson also enjoyed banter with the 85,000 strong crowd - not only getting on his soapbox before 'The Book Of Souls', but also poignantly dedicating 'Tears Of A Clown' to the late Robin Williams and 'Blood Brothers' as part of the encore to the victims of the Orlando massacre the night before. 'The Number Of The Beast' and 'Wasted Years' concluded the evening before 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' sent the very wet but happy crowd home. Download - been there - done that - not sure about next year though!