Download Festival 2018 - Saturday: The Review

Photo: Caitiln Mogridge

Attempting to ease hangovers this morning are Texans Whiskey Myers (6) who play a Southern-fried take on bluesy, country rock. It’s easy, inoffensive listening but still packs a decent wallop; the band pack some seriously bluesy riffs into their easygoing rock’n’roll. People clearly like being eased into their Saturday morning too - punters are strewn across the grass, basking in the glorious sunshine the day has also bought. The band confidently strut their stuff and despite the odd overlong outro or instrumental seeming a bit too much like a jam session, the band help to shake hangovers from the previous night and warm the crowds up for the monstrous day to come.

Where they seem a bit unfocused though, Monster Truck (7) have no such issues. Despite offering a similar style of blues rock they also mix in some stoner elements and the band draw a far larger crowd, especially so for a band on so early in the day. The band are a rock’n’roll freight train and deliver a balls-to-the-wall set and the anthems just keep on coming. The band break out a few newer tracks too and they go down a storm with the crowd, slotting in easily alongside older tracks with an irresistible swagger that gets the crowd moving.

With the main stage being dedicated to classic rock in preparation of tonight’s Godzilla sized headliners, it’s up to the other stages at Download to present and showcase the upcoming youthful talent the multitude of alternative scenes have to offer. One such act who is fully fledged for the limelight of success is the Essex based quintet Tigress (8). Taking place early on the Avalanche Stage and with no commitment to any specific social or musical scene, the group subtly yet lustfully take inspiration from many a genre to create a brooding and sleek alt rock sounds that’s youthfully energized but aware of the predecessors that forged the sound they take inspiration from. Whilst the structures, fretwork and lyrical themes are perfectly comparable to the standards their chosen genre limits, one of the most jaw dropping elements of this band is the sheer power of the vocal delivery of front woman Katy Jackson; a free spirited vocalist who’s soaring voice rings high above the impressive crowd before them and truly animates the concepts projected. Whilst the group only have a handful of tracks to their name currently, they’re destined for far more lucrative achievements.

Continuing to represent the UK youth on the Avalanche are straight up pop punkers WSTR (7). Whilst many an act who have forged their name within the pop punk scene later chose to adopt more foreign elements to break free of the restraints of the aforementioned scene, WSTR do no such thing. This is a set of full bloodied and stereotypical pop-punk through and through with every single riff, line, stanza and stance radiating a sense of youthful pop punk energy. Of course, whilst many a pop punk connoisseur is quick to compare them to other acts and mock them for their unapologetic and admittedly generic personification of the genre, none of it matters when the group are on top form like this. Lively, bouncy and embodying a childish sense of fun and hyperactivity, this is how pop punk should be live, with tracks like ‘Gobshite’ and ‘Footprints’ sending the youth gathered into a collectively jovial bounce and bop. From a set like this, it’s easy to see why underground pop punk is so dutifully defended.

In a similar vein to pop punk, hardcore has constantly been the product of nurturerment from the socially aware youth, with Download catering to such a demographic this weekend with a plethora of hardcore acts. However, one such act that is deserving of more praise is Higher Power (8), an act who have flourished within the UKHC scene. Displaying the confrontational stomp and melody of the original hardcore movement with dynamic and urbanite soundscapes, Higher Power flawlessly demonstrate the ideology of the genre without indulging into tired tropes used to exaggerate the aggression. In contrast, the group substitute such conventions in order to flex their musical prowess and buoyancy, mixing metropolitan aesthetics with groove and unique and invigorating vocals. An enthralling set that demonstrates the creative ethos this genre encompasses.

Photo: Jennifer McCord

Riding on the back of two critically acclaimed singles, Bury Tomorrow (8) are no strangers to the crowds Download provides. Fronted by a colossal crowd, the masters of modern metalcorers treat the Zippo Encore stage to a convulsing whirlwind of tight and hooking metalcore that is both euphoric and punishing. There’s no gimmicks, no fraudulent banter or ploys, just half an hour of the thrills and joy that polished, hooking and infectious metalcore can provide. With a sadly diminutive set list primarily composed to material from their 2016 release Earthbound and their 2 most recent singles, ‘Black Flame’ and ‘Knife Of Gold’, the group effortlessly and skillfully combine the hook laced metallic winds of metal with the soaring anthems to present the best of what metalcore can present. Ever the charismatic impresario, vocalist Dani Winter-Bates ignites primal carnage, embodying and representing the intensity and vigor the genre is typically renowned for whilst encouraging and promoting the unison of both followers and artist. It’s been said many a time, but Bury Tomorrow are truly on track to truly represent UK metal on a global scale.

Moving over to the Avalanche Stage we have underground darlings Rolo Tomassi (9) due on and the tent is packed out. The band emerge wreathed in smoke and launch into ‘Rituals’ from rapturously received new album Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It. Vocalist Eva Spence howls furiously and the entire band are razor sharp; the contrast between light and dark is something the band have steadily mastered and the ever-shifting nature of their songs emphasizes this beautifully, with songs moving from shrieks and blastbeats to serene piano-led passages while all the while feeling like a natural progression. Their Dillinger Escape Plan-inspired musical schizophrenia makes it abundantly clear why the band have such endearing appeal and today they put on a masterclass in beautiful, sometimes haunting melody and punishing brutality. It’s a shame the band don’t get more than thirty minutes but they make the most of it, delivering a blistering set showcasing why they’re one of the brightest stars of the scene.

Like most originally intended secretive sets at Download, The Fever 333 (9) didn’t stay elusive for too long. Backed by a masked regiment, in true vein to the common perception of Jason Butler, The Fever 333 is true anarchic and inflammatory chaos, with the masses gathered collectively loosing their minds once the curtain drops. A set of chaotic modern neo-punk marred by rhythmic hip-hop orientated overtones and confrontational political swagger, the act easily provides one of the most exciting, thrilling and captivating sets of the weekend, with the ever charismatic and charming Butler commanding the hordes with ease and competence. Whilst it may be the group’s first ever UK performance, there’s clearly devotion present within the conflux gathered, with the majority present educated on each line, each structural progression and each riff. Such an explosive sonic assault ignites pure primal chaos within the crowd, resulting in one of the most feral and energized pits to form this weekend. Whilst it may be the group’s first ever show within on continent, this feels more like a homecoming show than an initial introduction.

Photo: Jennifer McCord

Continuing the streak of youthful and energized skill on the Avalanche Stage are Californian collective Being As An Ocean (8). Riding off the back of last year’s Waiting For Morning To Come, whilst The Fever was a confrontational and obnoxious sonic barrage, Being As An Ocean offer a more reserved sentiment that bleeds human emotion and a level of conflicted personal battles. Material from last year’s aforementioned release places an emphasis on the quiet reflection of the act, with the subtle electronic backing doing colossal favors in forging their live post-hardcore soundscape. Whilst the feverish and antagonizing aggression of their youth has been diluted, the energized ultra-personal lyricism and stark force of their sound remains, with ‘Glow’ and ‘Black And Blue’ displaying soaring and cathartic sonic landscapes and ebb and flow between beauty and anguish. The premiere of new track ‘Alone’ also solidifies their maturity within their evolved sound, with the infectious and relatable expression of hope and pain within track confirming it as a future live staple. Whilst many acts to perform this weekend take pride in appearing fraudulently imposing, Being As An Ocean offer a level of engaging and agreeable self-awareness.

“For the next 30 minutes, you are all mine” threatens the imposing Bryan Garris, vocalist of Knocked Loose (9). Since releasing their celebrated debut Laugh Tracks in 2016, the group have become to be renowned as one of the global leaders of ferocious and belligerent hardcore, with the act firing on all cylinders tonight. Possessive, seething and radiating an alarming sense of animosity, Knocked Loose personify and embody the malice and violent tendencies associated with hardcore and beatdown. There’s no gimmicks or exhausted cliches utilized in order to amplify the sense of hostility and danger; Knocked Loose are the real deal. There’s no tenuous bullshit required, with tracks from Laugh Tracks and their debut Pop Culture EP being admitted both feverishly and slowly to inflict as much violence as possible. The group live up their esteemed reputation as a group to be feared live, with front man Garris acting as a demon, with the masses gathered bowing to his demands of violence and action. Knocked Loose may be one of the hottest hardcore bands within the global scene right now, but the reputation and rumors regarding their live performance are to be believed. A devastating tour-de-force that must be seen to be believed.

Headlining the Zippo Encore Stage today are Aussie heroes Parkway Drive (10); the band open with the first two from new album Reverence, ‘Wishing Wells’ and ‘Prey’ that tear Download a new one before a rousing Vice Grip accompanied by some truly immense pyro. The crowd here is easily one of the biggest of the day, solid from the front of the stage all the way to the bar on the far side. Winston’s call for crowdsurfers is met with a sea of bodies, the crowd every inch Parkway’s tonight. We’re also treated to a rotating drum kit including a ludicrous upside down drum solo that leads into fan favourite ‘Karma’. Even without the pyro they’re a force to be reckoned with; ‘Writing On The Wall’ sounds like a call to arms, the crowd bellows back the opening riff to ‘Boneyards’ and ‘Crushed’ sounds almost monstrous enough to crack continents - but tonight closer ‘Bottom Feeder’ actually might - front to back the crowd bounces and calls back the vitriolic lyrics. As the last note rings out, the question of future Download headliners might just be answered.

While the legendary Guns N Roses are busy storming the Main Stage (on time!), Dogtooth headliners Thy Art Is Murder (8) have the Sisyphean task of drawing a crowd to their tiny tent but despite the odds they pack the whole tent. With frontman CJ recently returned to the fold and the release of Dear Desolation, the band are firing on all cylinders tonight, churning out punishing slabs of grooving death metal to their clearly dedicated fanbase. The crowd often chants for CJ and the whole band revel in it, drinking in and feeding off the energy in the tent. Just a few songs in and the place is heaving, body heat rolling out of the tent in waves. The band sound monstrous tonight, but they also bring their sense of humour, at one point quipping someone should tell Axl & co to turn it down a bit. It’s a very welcome return to form from a band getting back into their stride, ready to unleash their savagery across stages across the world once more and despite the clash with such a legendary act, their fans are clearly extremely dedicated and it makes tonight's all too brief set all the more special.

Photo: Matt Eachus

Some said it would never happen. Other said the publicly known differences between the members would never allow it. Maybe it was the fans. Maybe it was the money. It was probably the latter, but we digress; lo and behold for Guns N’ Roses (8) have arrived. An undoubtedly legendary band in their own right, the expectations placed on this set since its initial confirmation have bordered upon obscenity. However, for most part, they live up to such impossibly high standards, with the introduction of opener ‘It’s So Easy’ leading into ‘Mr. Brownstone’ causing borderline mass hysteria. Although, it’s only a matter of time until the fact of the sheer length of their set list creeps into the subconscious. Spanning over 3 hours, the length of their confirmed set has been a topical point of discussion for many an attendee this weekend. Would such a period of time work within the confides of a festival environment? Against all conventional logic, it does. Both rarities and history tested hits connect and resonate with the gargantuan audience gathered, with a light sprinkling of covers adding a welcome level of diversity and variation to their live sound and respective set list.

However, as the set progresses, a level of attention from a small portion of the audience dilutes. Of course, whenever a hit like ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ or ‘November Rain’ is dropped the response is magical, but such a period of time devoted to one band at a festival does appear to take it’s toll on the non-devoted. Despite this, the general atmosphere is one of joy and life affirming, with it peaking during a cover of ‘Black Hole Sun’ being devoted to the life of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. Ending with the triage of ‘Patience, a cover of The Who’s ‘The Seeker’ and the grandiose anthem that is ‘Paradise City’, such a staggeringly long set at a festival may be questionable, but Guns N Roses may be one of the only bands in existence with the fan base and legacy able to successfully pull it off.