Download Festival 2012 Review: Friday

Download Festival 2012

After two days of enduring pretty much everything that the British climate could throw at us short of lightning striking our campsite, the arrival of Friday at Donington Park made us grateful for two reasons. One the weather had relented ever so slightly, and two it was time for some music to hopefully help make the rain and the ankle deep mud worth it.

We were lucky enough to gain early access to the arena, at which point something became abundantly clear: The arena, or certain parts of it, were simply not ready. A large section of the right hand side of the field towards the front was cordoned off and being manned by copious amounts of stewards to stop anyone going past, whilst a JCB and many other stewards frantically attempted to cover the affected areas with large quantities of straw.

Download 2012 Friday Main Stage Tractor
Download Arena on Friday: Running Repairs

The other thing immediately noticable was that Fear Factory’s banner was hanging from the main stage. Word quickly got round that Rise To Remain and Cancer Bats had been bumped from the main stage, and that the first hour and a half of the days’ schedule was being cut back. After some considerable delay the metal masses were allowed into the arena, but the previously mentioned section was still roped off. This led to the very odd looking sight of Fear Factory playing to what looked like a half empty field, split down the middle (at least as far as close to the stage was concerned).

Fear Factory playing to a half empty front of the field at Download 2012
Fear Factory: Ready. Fields of Donington: Not so much.

Experienced pro’s that they are, Fear Factory weren’t going to let something like trouble with the field affect them and Download 2012 was officially kicked off with the traditional Fear Factory one-two punch of Shock and Edgecrusher. The schedule readjustment meant that Fear Factory were given an extra 15 minutes time and as a result we got some extra songs such as the brand new Recharger and traditional metal club night floor filler Linchpin. Burton’s vocals were a tad shaky at times but Fear Factory gave it their all, especially once the closed off part of the field was opened up, resulting in a stampede to get down the front (which you can see on the photo below):

Fear Factory on screen: The crowds growing
The fields of Donington fill up while Fear Factory are playing

“Where you guys been? Better late than never” laughed Burton before launching into a parting salvo of classic Fear Factory with Demanufacture leading into Self Bias Resistor and then finally finishing off with Replica. Burton thanked everyone one last time and said how proud they were to kick off Download’s tenth anniversary and they were a very satisfactory start to three days of music [7].

Fear Factory performing at the Download Festival 2012
Burton and Dino do their thing

The Fear Factory Download Setlist Was:

Self Bias Resistor

What happened to Rise To Remain and Cancer Bats, some of you will no doubt ask. Rise To Remain disappeared from the lineup entirely, whilst The Cancer Bats found themselves in the much more intimate settings of becoming accidental headliners of the Red Bull Jam tent, going on after Gallows last thing in the evening. What was extremely cool is that Billy Talent allowed Cancer Bats some of their time during their set to come on and play a song for the Jim Marshall main stage masses. They duly unleashed Hail Destroyer to a huge reaction, so a lot of respect to Billy Talent for helping out their fellow musicians.

Rocksins’ next scheduled stop was the Jagermeister acoustic stage to see Skindred. It was our opinion that a stripped back Skindred could work really well, though an awful lot of other people had the same idea. The crowd was absolutely enormous for the tiny Jagermeister stage and as a result you could barely hear Skindred from where we were, with the very loud chants of “turn it up, turn it up” going unanswered. What we could (just about) hear sounded excellent, Pressure in particular, but with the crowd around us swelling ever larger it was decided to make a tactical retreat to get a good spot for the next band of the day.

As it happens, that next band were Machine Head, and despite the extremely annoying overlap with Opeth, you just don’t miss Machine Head at Donington. This unwavering faith in Robb Flynn and co was instantly repaid with an absolutely thunderous rendition of I Am Hell (Sonata In C#) and neither band or crowd barely stopped for breath until Imperium had been fully unleashed on the muddy masses of Donington Park twenty something minutes later.

Machine Head on stage at Download Festival 2012
Machine Head at Donington: Special as always

Robb Flynn’s reaction to the chaos he and the others had unleashed was typically low key “Oh My Fuckin’ God Download!” along with the obligatory “Cheers Motherf***ers Cheers!” An equally thumping rendition of Locust was to follow before Machine Head attempted to break their circle pit record from Sonisphere Knebworth 09 with a thunderous Aesthetics Of Hate. The previous total was smashed and then some as there were circle pits all the way back up the hill and down front was a warzone, mud or no mud. The always epic Halo brought things to a conclusion and another triumph for Machine Head at Download. They may not have been headlining as many had been campaigning for, but no one could doubt the impact of their performance. Those attending Bloodstock (where they will be giving their first UK festival headline performance) are in for one hell of a show on this evidence [8.5].

Machine Head’s Download Setlist Was:

I Am Hell (Sonata in C#)
Be Still And Know
Beautiful Mourning
Asthetics Of Hate

After that excellent hours’ worth of metal, we headed over to the second stage as quickly as we could to catch the end of Opeth, who seemed to be on fine form as usual. Unfortunately there was only the last song to be heard, but those present looked thoroughly satisfied by what they had heard, so it seemed there was no bad choices in the Machine Head vs Opeth debate.

Opeth on stage at Download 2012
Opeth: Standard levels of brilliance

In preparation for watching the mighty Devin Townsend, a decision was made to head to the Pepsi Max Tent early. This allowed us to catch some of AxeWound. Indeed, we entered the Pepsi Max Tent for the first time this Download just in time for AxeWound to launch into a smashing (literally) cover of Pantera’s Fucking Hostile followed by their debut single Post Apocalyptic Party which had the tent rocking to say the least. AxeWound are a super group that show some considerable promise and it will be very interesting to see how their debut album turns out [7].

From the giant cheeseburger projected onto the ceiling of the tent (to be followed by episodes of Ziltoid TV), from the moment the crew for The Devin Townsend Project started readying the stage for their arrival Devin’s devotees were kept entertained until the appearance of the great man himself created a sound that nearly punctured a hole in the roof of the tent. I’m not hugely familiar with Devin’s solo material but from the moment it began the performance was spellbinding. The man himself was clearly having a brilliant time, conducting the crowd like the leader of an orchestra from the moment he uttered “Hello my friends!” with an enormous grin squarely planted across his face. The mass sing along and lighterfest for “Ah-Ih” was a particular personal highlight. Devin was the highlight of the day, even managing to (just) eclipse Machine Head [9].

That having been said, It was decided to leave Devin early to catch what was left of The Prodigy. Only arriving for the encore, after the opening barrage of Take Me To The Hospital, Keith, Maxim and friends finished off with AWOL and Their Law. The light show was very impressive (as we all knew it would be), but whether it was coming late to the party, being sober, regretting leaving Devin, or a combination of all of these things, I was slightly underwhelmed by what I saw. Maybe it would have been different if the whole performance had been seen [5].

Overall, Download 2012 day one was a real mixed bag with two huge standout performances from Machine Head and The Devin Townsend Project. Much more music would follow on days two and three. Please stay tuned to Rocksins for the rest of our Download Festival 2012 coverage, including a series of exclusive interviews and reviews of the Saturday and Sunday.

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