A few weeks ago, I went to one of the biggest and best music festivals in the world. Download. It takes place at Donington Park and is described as ‘The spiritual home of rock’. It was amazing. Read on to see why (not that you would need any reasons)…
Saturday 14 June
10am I got into the car and endured a 2-hour journey (which I can normally do well, but I was really excited so it seemed longer) to Donington. I was hyped as anything to see Apocalyptica, Ace Frehley, Testament, Black Veil Brides, Rise Against and Muse. I got to the festival, got my backpack out the car and went straight to the music. There was a long, muddy pathway. Drunk guys (at midday) shouting “I WANNA ROCK AND ROLL ALL NITE, AND PARTY EVERYDAY” when KISS weren’t on till the following day, extravagantly dressed guys, geezers with their partners and families, the usual sort. Then we put our tickets through, and off we went.
The first band I saw was Apocalyptica. Formed in Finland as a Metallica tribute band, the classically-trained string quartet were on the tour supporting their new album, Shadowmaker. With guest vocalist Franky Perez, they seriously killed. Not only was it good music, but it was on cello and still sounded heavy. They played quite a lot of songs off Shadowmaker, which I haven’t heard yet, but it still was a good show. Then, I saw Ace Frehley, the original KISS lead guitarist. Not only did he play KISS Klassics such as Love Gun, Shock Me, Parasite, Deuce, but also songs from his new solo LP, Space Invader. But what made his show particularly awesome was that he sung the KISS songs (in the 70s he was insecure about his voice so Gene and Paul sang the songs he wrote with KISS) and he had recently got over all his addictions and alcoholism and sounded outstanding! Even for a 64 year old man it was just like listening to the studio version.
After that I saw thrash metal titans Testament. Formed in 1983 by guitarist Eric Peterson it grew to be one of the most successful thrash bands of the 80s up there with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax and Exodus. They opened with Rise Up, then More Than Meets The Eye, Then Practice What You Preach, then Into The Pit (where there were 2 circle moshpits at the front), then Native Blood (a song dedicated to frontman Chuck Billy’s native American ancestry). The show was amazing, from Chuck Billy’s beautifully-preserved voice to the whole crowd singing along to the riff in More Than Meets The Eye, every second was mind-blowing. Later on in the day, I saw hardcore punk giants Rise Against play on the Main Stage. People were crowd surfing, their rendition of Prayer of the Refugee was awesome, especially when Tim McIlrath walked down the part of the stage that splits the crowd so all the fans could see him and when the crowd surfers got kicked out, all for a good cause eh? Some classic Rise Against). After that I went to the signings tent to get Black Veil Brides to sign some stuff for my friends. The staff member I spoke to about it asked my Mum if we had disabled tickets and I could queue in the exit, meaning I didn’t have to wait long, but still fairly long. I was talking to BVB and the stewards were moving me on but THE Andy Biersack (the lead singer of BVB) invited me back in and we talked about Motley Crue, their main inspiration, and one of the bands I came to see. His favourite Motley Crue song is ‘Shout at the Devil’.
Next was BVB’s show. I was very near the front and right next to me someone had been pushed into the mud. I didn’t want to accidently slip into that carnage so I just stood still. But they put on a good show, Jinxx (the guitarist) played the riff from Motley Crue’s ‘Live Wire’ in the soundcheck, and they played numbers such as “Fallen Angels” and “In The End” and even premiered a new song. A bit later on, I saw Muse, my Mum’s favourite band. She knew all the songs and I only knew one, Knights of Cydonia. I’m not really a Muse fan tbh, they’re too clean-cut, too mainstream. Take away Matt Bellamy’s guitar synthesiser pedal thingamabob and you get a Nickelback tribute band. But they blew me away with their lasers and lights, and Knights of Cydonia.
Sunday 15 June
I saw Billy Idol, Slash, Motley Crue, KISS and got Randy Blythe of Lamb of God to sign a copy of his book. I was just arriving as Billy Idol played ‘Dancing with Myself’, ‘White Wedding’ and ‘Rebel Yell’, just as well as he did back in the day. I hit the signings tent to meet one of nu metal’s biggest stars, David Randall Blythe. I waited in line for a while, and then he sat down with samples of his book piled up next to him. I picked one up, Randy signed it and gave me the most awesome “alright dude?”. I was too star struck to even say a word. Slash’s show was amazing as expected, because he’s one of my biggest inspirations as a musician. If I hadn’t spent most of Year 8 falling asleep to Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction (I’m not saying it’s boring, I’m just saying I love that album so much I listened to it all the time, even at bedtime) I probably wouldn’t be wasting your Friday night with this review haha. Back to the festival, Slash was up there with his Les Paul and top hat, jamming out classics such as ‘Nightrain’, ‘Paradise City’ and numbers from his new album, World On Fire. He closed with a bone-chillingly beautiful ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. He brought not only his famous bluesy playing style, but lead vocalist Myles Kennedy, who has a similar voice to Axl, but better sounding and without the attitude.
The next bands I saw were the ones I was most excited for, KISS and Motley Crue. Crue were on their retirement tour. Now, before I move on, you probably remember the Crue from the 80s. Well, this is them now. Same lineup of Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee. Same sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll image. They were on their retirement tour. Isn’t it amazing how such a big band with big lifestyles would stay together and still sell out arenas to this day, after 35 years? They opened with So Long, Farewell on the speakers, and then they opened with a full-speed rendition of ‘Saints of Los Angeles’, from their 2008 album of the same name. Then they played my favourite number from the Crue, ‘Wild Side’, other highlights include their cover of ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘Shout at the Devil’ (they had fire bursting out the stage, I could feel the warmth from all the way back), the punk-rock vibes in ‘Too Fast For Love’ they were famous for, the petrol-head anthem ‘Kickstart My Heart’, the ‘motorbikes and strip club lifestyle song’ ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, which is my other favourite song by Motley purely because of Mick Mars’ riffs and solos. Sleazy, bluesy, EPIC! They closed with the heartwarming ballad ‘Home Sweet Home’, which they close every show with (it has been reported the band burst into tears when performing it on some dates). And there you go, LA’s biggest act performing their final UK festival appearance. Of course they’ll do a 4-date arena tour of the UK with Alice Cooper, but that’s the last we’ll ever [blub], s-s-see of REST IN PEACE MOTLEY CRUE. There are a multitude of reasons they’re retiring. The first reason is that Vince Neil can’t sing anymore. Having said that his vocals were ok compared to other recent performances. Another reason is that Mick Mars’ health is bad and Nikki wants them to quit while at the top of their game and while the original lineup has stayed the same, they don’t want to be like W.A.S.P (who are one of my favourite bands) who only have one original member (Blackie) and only perform in clubs in Europe because nobody cares. Not to be meant in a bad way, I actually like small gigs, Voodoo Room’s set was outstanding and it was in a small venue.
The final act on the bill was KISS. Co lead singer and bassist Gene Simmons, yells into the mic “YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST, THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD, KIIIIIIISSSSSSSS!!!!!!!”. They opened with their 1976 hit Detroit Rock City, with all the whistles and bells. They went on to play Psycho Circus and Creatures of the Night, all sang by Paul Stanley (who’s been at it for 40 years, this is their 40th anniversary tour for goodness sake!). Then, Gene spits fire during his songs I Love It Loud and War Machine. Later on, they play their newest song, Hell Or Hallelujah from their 2012 studio effort, Monster. Then Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer (guitar and drums, respectively) play solos and burst into Calling Dr. Love, which was used to advertise Dr. Pepper with Gene doing the voice (he isn’t worth $300m for nothing). Then they played part of Lick It Up and part of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. Then, Gene’s bass solo and God of Thunder, his theme song, where he did the tongue thing and spat blood. Then Paul flew across the audience before an all-out rendition of Love Gun. Lastly, Eric Singer played Peter Criss (his predecessor in the band)’s signature song, Black Diamond. A hard, heavy, bluesy song with an acoustic intro by Paul then Eric yells “hit it!” then he plays drums while singing (which is harder than it looks/sounds). Oh wait, there’s more. Is that Tommy’s string bending I hear? Paul’s singing “when the nights begun, and you want some fun do you think you’re gonna find it?” and Gene’s going “It doesn’t matter what they do or say just forget the things that you’ve been told, we can’t do this any other way, everybody’s got to rock and roll” The whole band: SHOUT IT, SHOUT IT, SHOUT IT OUT LOUD”. Yep, it’s their signature song, Shout it Out Loud. After that, the crowd of 85,000 were larger than life, as the Brooklyn four unleashed an electrifying rendition of I Was Made For Lovin’ You. That leads me to ask you, what’s missing? You wanna rock and roll all night, and party everyday? Here’s your chance. The famous drums kick in, the famous riff comes in, Gene’s singing “you show us everything youve got, you keep on dancing when the room gets hot, you drive us wild we’ll drive you crazy”. Then the chorus every rock fan (or every cultured human being) knows and loves: I, WANNA ROCK AND ROLL ALL NITE, AND PARTY EVERYDAY! Then the song continues as you know, and then it ends with the most amazing fireworks and then the studio recording of God Gave Rock ‘N Roll To You II on the speakers as you amble (as if you just saw God) to your car.