One hell of a festival
Alice Cooper at Download 2011 by Al De Perez

This year’s Download Festival was probably one of the least fondly talked about line-ups the festival has seen, with harsh criticisms over scheduling and headlining acts being splurged all over the internet in the approaching weeks. That being said, it was a nostalgic and, although possibly unintentionally, ironic set of bands to grace the five stages sprawled over the grounds of Donnington Park Race Track which when hand-in-hand apparently create one hell of a festival.

The weekend well and truly started with the highly anticipated set from nu-metal Gods Korn, who played the 2nd Stage on the festival’s opening day. Sharing a line-up with one of their primary influences (Biohazard, who played main stage on the Sunday), Korn were expected to provide a selection of new and ‘classic’ material with their usual off-beat energy. Jonathan Davis appeared in his trademark kilt and using his ‘naked girl’ microphone and thankfully not a dub-step remix in sight. Technical difficulties and poor mixing made Davis’ vocals barely distinguishable amongst the crowds cheering, however the music was untarnished throughout. Luckily this was fixed by the time the band reached their third track, and one of their best known songs ‘Hear to Stay’, however by this time it seemed the damage was done, as a noticeable amount of the crowd had chosen to vacate.

The widely expected tragedy of Danzig’s Pepsi stage performance was thankfully avoided as ‘Satan’s Child’ (fyi, it’s one of his records) himself responded to adoration pouring from the crowd with his own breed of furious energy. Playing a large selection of new material and then the obvious classics, Danzig and co strutted around stage with unadulterated arrogance which was fed at the end of every track by a tent full of worshippers. The set itself wasn’t anything extraordinary with the music being played to record standard. Vocally Danzig was strong and didn’t miss a note, and the same goes for the band. It seems a personality can change the tone of a set from pretty good to something unrepeatable by another.

Debatably, the same can’t be said for Swedish newcomers Ghost. The incredibly hyped caped ensemble were rigid and seemed to be incredibly choreographed. The music was literally just played, as the band themselves almost seemed disinterested in the enjoyment of the crowd. Interaction was non-existent with those who were obviously baffled by what they were seeing leaving early on. Those who did stay were entranced by what stood before them; a well rehearsed band with stage presence that doesn’t transfer from their usual venues to a festival tent.

Twisted Sister show no signs of declining with age, and certainly Dee Snider shows no signs of compromising the standard of a Twisted Sister performance 35 years on from when they started. Easily the most entertaining, musically perfect and crowd engaging band at the festival, the heavy metal glam entertainer’s showcase puts that of their juniors to more than just shame. A sort of ‘heavy metal 101’ if you will. With hits like ‘Captain Howdy’, ‘We’re not gonna take it’ and ‘I wanna rock’ igniting the crowd in a sing-along, the few times the band did stop to speak, it was with the same ‘fuck the establishment’ bravado they have always carried, which just continues the pure fun to flow from song to song. Twisted Sister, Download salutes you and begs you to come back every year to follow.

With any festival like Download there are always incredibly difficult clashes to decide between. This year saw the battle of 2nd stage headliner Alice Cooper and main stage ‘top dogs’ System of a Down. Taking audience capacity, reaction and the amount of girls who got their tits out during the set into account, SOAD reigned supreme.

White sheets totally covered the main stage as the drum introduction to ‘Prison Song’ silenced the majority of the festivals attendees who stood watching. Serj Tankian’s whispering vocals increased crowd tension as everyone stood, just waiting for the guitar to kick in, the sheets to drop and the lights to go up and reveal the band most had been waiting all weekend for.

Finally visible the band appeared calm and slightly set back by the thousands of spectators who knew every word. When playing one of their most famous hits, ‘Chop Suey’, it was almost impossible to hear anything expect the screaming fans. Not a still body in sight for the majority of the set, jumping, trampling and dancing and crowd surfing seemed to be the name of the game. Considering the technicalities of a lot of the band’s music, it would be excusable for notes to have gone wrong here and there, but there is genuinely no need for that where SOAD were concerned, playing a note perfect set for the 45 minutes they entertained the masses. This headlining set is now there to be beaten by those next year and there is serious doubt that it is possible. The only question that stands, ‘Was it System of a Down and Twisted Sister alone who made this Download possibly the best in recent years?’

Words by Amanda Arber
Photo by Al De Perez

View our photo galleries from Download 2011 - Friday, Saturday, Sunday

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