Note: As only two members of the site were able to attend the festival weekend, we were sadly unable to cover every band performing throughout the day.
Following onto the second day of the 2011 Download Festival, the weather is looking better and brighter and the main stage attraction of the first ever UK performance from System Of A Down since their return from their hiatus draws in what could well be the biggest crowd of the whole weekend. With a selection of other great acts across all four stages, Saturday could definitely be the best day of the whole weekend:
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA – 7/10
As soon as they walk out onto the stage this sunny Saturday morning, they thank everyone for being here at such an ungodly hour… for a festival anyway. With their Christian brand of punishing metalcore, they rip through a mixture of songs from their back-catalogue of records; ‘Plagues’, ‘With Roots…’ and the new ‘Zombie’ EP, much to the delight of the bystanders. The scenesters get their mosh on early, with plenty of pit action and hardcore dancing throughout their set. Closing on ‘Danger: Wildman’, the mosh pit ensues, beaming up onto the large screens around the stage which everyone seemed to enjoy.
ALL THAT REMAINS – 6/10
Standing as a strong and permanent fixture in the metal scene over the past numerous years, All That Remains power through their set with animosity and prowess. ‘Two Weeks’ is greeted by a rapturous response from the on-goers, as the dust is lifted from the ground in the melee that is the circle pit front of stage. Stalwarts, but judging by their performance, you would not believe they have been around since 1998. To get ahead and stand above their younger peers who are overshadowing them, they need to bring a little something more fresh and demanding to the table.
ESCAPE THE FATE – 7/10
With only a few short appearances over in the UK since recruiting vocalist Craig Mabbitt back in 2008, it makes sense that Escape The Fate have managed to pull such a large crowd to the main stage so early in the day. ‘Issues’ gets a strong sing-a-long back from the young crowd of mainly teens, and Craig‘s vocals seem tight and strong, despite how feminine they may sound at times. It’s nice to know the post-hardcore outfit appreciate their spot on the festival bill too, altering the lyrics in set closer ‘The Aftermath (The Guillotine III)’ to “Now I’m coming home, thank you Download“.
SKINDRED – 9/10
Creating one of the most refreshing and enjoyable fusions of sounds since their inception and break onto the scene, Welsh outfit Skindred are definitely a band you can’t appreciate and enjoy fully until you’ve witnessed one of their shows. Vocalist Benji Webbe is a confident and dominating front man, sporting a shiny and sparkling jacket of the Union Jack flag, he manages to command the crowd to his every whim, and songs like ‘Stand For Something’, ‘Nobody’ and ‘Trouble’ are delivered in such a way that they stand as one of the strongest live acts that performed at Download that weekend.
HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD – 6/10
As popular single ‘Everywhere I Go’ blasts out, the main stage crowd seems in full voice, as do the band themselves. Admittedly, it’d be a lie to say that I’m a fan of Hollywood Undead by any stretch, but there seems to be something about them that everyone finds accessible and enjoyable. Maybe their light hearted take on tits and drinking excess alcohol is just pure fun in the beaming weather, but who really knows? The far more serious ‘Been To Hell’ brings out far more of the potential of their talent and what they can achieve, but we all know they’re not going to stick with that route.
DOWN – 7/10
In one of the most unified moments of the festival, Down front man Phil Anselmo dedicates the song ‘Lifer’ to the late Dimebag Darrell (as they always do), and almost instantaneously that guitar riff from the ever irresistible ‘Walk’ begins. As “Re-spect! Walk!” rings out, a unanimous round of applause fills the arena, humbling. Down command their stage with the presence of the legends they encase, downing beer and whiskey on stage encompasses the performance, a right ol’ classic.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD – 7/10
With pyrotechnics galore and a fitting tribute to former drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, A7X don’t quite give as big of a performance as was expected. ‘Almost Easy’ plays out to numerous circle pits and mosh pits front of stage, with fireballs extruding from behind the billboards. An impressive stage set up, that can not be denied, but they seemed to lack a certain element to match their set up, although what that may be is hard to point out. Whilst cult fans will have enjoyed the set, those not so loyal were left slightly unimpressed overall. Still, plenty of time to improve and build upon the solid foundations they’ve already showed.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN – 10/10
One of the main attractions of the entire festival itself looms and the excitement is clearly pent up in the air, drawing in what could be the largest crowd of the weekend, SOAD come onstage amid lights (and a broken curtain) and launch straight into the barrage of songs that fans have been waiting for since their hiatus took effect back in 2005. Serj Tankian looks every bit the front man as huge hits ‘Chop Suey!’, ‘B.Y.O.B.’ and ‘Aerials’ ring out true in every form and element that the festival stands for. Bringing on the goods on every one of their albums, including their self-titled debut, there isn’t a single SOAD fan in the crowd that would leave with any sense of disappointment. A simply incredible comeback performance from the band that was on everyone’s lips when they set foot on the festival grounds.
CHTHONIC – 7/10
Adorned in black and gold attire along with different face paintings and masks, Taiwanese metal act Chthonic are quite possibly the band who’ve travelled the furthest across the world to make this festival. Their style of metal is definitely crushing, and though they might not speak the greatest English in the world, their music more than speaks for them. Many newcomers to the stage just coming to check out the band based on their slightly obscure name would be pleasantly surprised, with Chthonic proving to be one of the strongest acts on the Second Stage that day.
RISE TO REMAIN – 7/10
Tipped as one of the big names to watch out for this year, there’s an awful lot of pressure on Rise To Remain‘s set this weekend, seeing if they can deliver the goods and if Austin Dickinson has the potential to follow in the footsteps of success that his father has (Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden vocalist). Though clearly Rise To Remain are an entirely different entity of metal than that of Iron Maiden, they manage to get the crowd moving and energetic, and show great promise, especially considering they only have one EP to their name so far.
TRC – 7/10
Clearly stoked to the max to be playing at this year’s Download, the London chav hardcore sextet bang out songs such as the heavy music homage ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’ and the ever infamous ‘London’s Greatest Love Story’ to a pumped up crowd of hipsters alike, and as the name suggests, the revolution doth clearly continue. At times the vocals sound a little muffled and hard to distinguish, though clearly TRC are an energetic and forceful act. Despite bald vocalist Chris Robson is obviously trying to spread the news of upcoming full-length ‘Bright Lights’, their constant proclamations of its release date soon become tedious.
VERSAEMERGE – 6/10
From barely visiting the UK at all to making several trips in the past few months, VersaEmerge are really working hard at finally making a firm stamp in the UK. Though Sierra Kusterbeck‘s vocals are strong through numbers such as ‘Stranger’ and ‘Figure It Out’ and their vultures (fans) are lapping up every moment, there’s not much excitement overall throughout the entirety of their set, and the slight problems the band encounter during ‘Fire (Aim Your Arrows High)’ seems to dent their confidence for the remainder of their performance.
LETLIVE. – 10/10
There’s really not much else to say, but wow. Letlive. have been gaining an awful lot of hype recently, and judging from their controversial set at the festival it’s all credible. Starting with a entrance to the stage from the crowd which is misunderstood and gone wrong, resulting in front man Jason Aalon Butler almost having a fight with the stage security stewards. From here on their set consists of utter carnage, with equipment being thrown about the stage, microphones almost knocking out photographers, stage speakers being taken off the stage and dragged to the floor and then ultimately throwing their guitars onto the floor. Letlive. are very much deserving of the buzz, and could well be one of the best bands of the festival weekend.
YOUR DEMISE – 8/10
Following after the performance Letlive. on would be difficult for bands of almost any calibur, though Your Demise definitely manage to hold their own. Mosh pits and hardcore dancers aplenty seem to compose most Your Demise shows, and this one is no different. Front man Ed McRae gets involved with the crowd as much as possible, and songs like ‘Miles Away’ and ‘The Kids We Used To Be…’ are evidence of why they’re one of the brightest hopes of British hardcore today.
TRASH TALK – 9/10
Deciding to spend the entirety of his set either against the barrier or crowd surfing as opposed to the stage, front man Lee Spielman is one of the most involved vocalists, and makes for the show himself. Though his constant presence beside the barrier may not be so visually appealing for those in the back, their overall set for those closer to the stage very much was. Songs like ‘Explode’ display aurally the ferocity that their set displays visually, and judging from the blood on Lee‘s face at the end of the show, absolute carnage was their intention from the very beginning.
THE KING BLUES – 8/10
Being one of the more indie driven and lighter bands on the Pepsi Max stage of the day, things for The King Blues could’ve been an awful lot worse than they eventually turned out to be. As a matter of fact, the London-grown outfit strongly justified their place at the predominantly amongst the bill of rock and metal acts, filtering into the tent a wide array of different music fans. The ska-esque ‘Mr. Music Man’ saw the introduction of front man Itch‘s ukulele, and along with bashings towards The Daily Mail and the groups BNP and EDL, there was a strong sense of unity throughout The King Blues‘ set, and ultimately led for a very positive and upbeat vibe.
THE OCEAN BETWEEN US – 9/10
With front man Judd Wrighton literally losing teeth through their set, The Ocean Between Us put their all into their Download Festival debut, and grasp onto their competition prize of being there with everything they’ve got. Despite collectively being one of the youngest bands on the entire festival weekend line-up, the Leeds-based quintet deliver an impressive array of post-hardcore intricacy, from ‘What Do You Stand For?’ to ‘Nice One Kid, You Just Brought A Knife To A Gun Fight’, the large crowd of people singing back every word only shows things for TOBU are going right.
HEIGHTS – 8/10
Quickly rising as a hardcore act to be reckoned with, on the verge of the release of their debut album ‘Dead Ends’, Heights have a lot to prove if they want to keep that reputation. Thankfully they seem to manage this almost effortlessly, delivering their ambient yet hard-hitting hardcore material onto a crowd of fans both old and newly acquired during that very performance. New single ‘Eye For An Eye’ particularly showcases this, as front man Thomas Debaere seems to enter a whole other world once he’s got a microphone to his lips.
BOWLING FOR SOUP – 7/10
Performing a short acoustic set the day before their headline set on the festival’s Main Stage, Jaret Reddick and Erick Chandler of Bowling For Soup performed on the considerably smaller Jagermeister stage for a few stripped down versions of the band’s array of material. Though the sound was a little difficult to hear further back in the crowd, hearing acoustic versions of ‘Almost’, ‘1985’ and ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’ amongst others shows a different and rather enjoyable take on the band’s work.
Written by Zach Redrup and Dom Wyatt