Download Festival 2014 Saturday Review Part One – One Step Closer To The Edge

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Linkin Park Full view of the main stage at Download Festival 2014

Following the exploits of Avenged Sevenfold, Opeth and many more from the previous night, once again the Download Festival arrived at “Middle Saturday” with the promise of many more great performances. If you missed the first part of our Download 2014 review covering Friday you can catch up with it right here!

In a unique situation for this website, as a result of Rock Sins having several members of the team on site at Donington, we saw so many bands between us we’ve had to divide up our review of the Saturday into each writer’s experiences, that way we can bring our readers the fullest coverage of Download Festival 2014 we possibly can. First up is our features / live editor Jamie….

Dying Fetus were first up on day two and whilst (this particular member of team) Rock Sins wasn’t able to witness them in the flesh, they were heard very clearly from the confines of the media area and were so heavy they shook the media tent. Any band who can do that at 11am deserves a decent rating in our book. They also sounded genuinely thrilled to be playing and thanked their fans for the #whynotdyingfetus campaign on more than one occasion. A triumph for people power (7).

The first band Rock Sins witnessed properly on the day were long time associates of ours Fozzy. Kicking off their set with the title track from their upcoming album Do You Wanna Start A War and first single from that album Lights Go Out, Chris Jericho was his usual charismatic self getting the crowd engaged from the off, actively encouraging high levels of participation from everyone, even those who didn’t know the Fozzy material.

Rich & Chris from Fozzy jumping off the drumkit on stage at Download Festival 2014
Fozzy: Great hang time from Rich & Chris!

A run through of older favourites God Pounds His Nails and biggest single Enemy brought the audience noise levels up a couple of notches as Chris took a wander to the barriers and his adoring public. As the clouds above darkened Jericho told us he’d done a deal with the man upstairs to keep things dry during the Fozzy set. It seemed he may have been a little premature with that statement as it started raining through the popular Sandpaper, but the rains vanished as quickly as they came so maybe Y2J was onto something! The set closing Krokus cover Eat The Rich came around all too quickly and a well timed leap from the drum kit from Chris and lively guitarist Rich Ward signified the end of another entertaining performance from one of the most dependable live bands around. Fozzy will be looking to build on this when their new album is released at the end of the Summer (7.5).

Last year at Download Bury Tomorrow would have taken the crown of band of the weekend were it not for an outfit known as Rammstein, such was the impressiveness and intensity of their performance in the Pepsi Max Tent. Promoted to the main stage this time around on the back of successful tours and a Top 40 album chart placing for new album Runes, it was a big step up for Dani Winter-Bates and co but they handled it admirably. With numerous bands trying the “get the crowd to sit down” routine across the weekend, Dani tried something a little different – getting the crowd to fully lie down! We’re not sure how many fully complied but there was one hell of a circle pit when everyone was instructed to jump up.

Bury Tomorrow on stage at Download Festival 2014
Bury Tomorrow more than holding their own on the main stage

Bury Tomorrow’s new material from the recently released Runes came across very well as part of their live show, and intermingled with old favourites like An Honourable Reign and Knight Life, made for an enjoyable thirty five minutes. The hugely popular Lionheart brought things to a conclusion and left everyone safe in the knowledge that Bury Tomorrow are more than capable of holding a main stage slot at a festival like Download fully on merit. Whilst it wasn’t quite as special as their Pepsi Max performance the previous year, it shows there is a lot more to come from Bury Tomorrow (7.5).

Prior to the festival, Rock Sins had speculated whether While She Sleeps might upstage their UK metalcore brothers in Bury Tomorrow but ‘Sleeps set was afflicted by horrible sound issues for a good portion of the set, leaving Loz Taylor almost inaudible at times and the mix all over the place at others. Not ones to be defeated, While She Sleeps soldiered on regardless, giving a ferocious performance of This Is The Six.

While She Sleeps Loz' climbs the Sound Tower at Download Festival 2014
WSS’s Loz goes for a climb

With several members of the crowd armed with WSS flags (in spite of the “no flags in the arena policy”), the band’s fans were making themselves known and went absolutely ape-shit for the set closing Our Courage Our Cancer which saw Loz with a While She Sleeps flag of his own, which he proceeded to take all the way to the sound stage and scale the heights while flying the flag. A memorable ending to a performance that would have been much better had it not been for issues out of the band’s control (6).

One of the biggest crowds of the entire weekend greeted returning pop punk heroes and friends of Rock Sins Bowling For Soup. Perhaps mindful of the fact that full blown UK tours are now sadly a thing of the past when it comes to BFS, people turned out in droves to see what Jaret, Chris, Gary and Erik would come up with this time around at Donington.

As is often the case with a Bowling For Soup live show, it was equally as much about the banter as it was about the songs, but when it was time for music Bowling For Soup unleashed pop punk gems one after the other. An opening salvo of Almost, High School Never Ends and Ohio (Come Back To Texas) would please virtually any BFS fan – and there seemed to be a huge amount of them present at Donington on this day!

Bowling For Soup with a Knight on stage at Download Festival 2014
“Prepare to sacrifice the sheep!”

Whether it was the (first ever) musically enhanced Bowling For Soup photo opportunity, the crowd trying to get Jaret to chug beers or the hilarious sacrifice of Dolly (the one remaining huge blow up sheep from their previous appearances) thanks to a knight of the realm, everything about this performance was fun personified. Finishing off with the obligatory Girl All The Bad Guys Want and 1985, this is exactly why Rock Sins thinks Bowling For Soup should be the Download house band. You cannot go wrong with BFS (8).

From the entertaining and hilarious to the downright captivating as Killswitch Engage made their first main stage appearance at Download since the return of original singer Jesse Leach. The 2014 incarnation of Killswitch Engage is quite the different animal to years gone by; less banter from Adam, more talking from Jesse and unbelievably tight both musically and vocally.

Killswitch Engage on stage at Download Festival 2014
Killswitch Engage: 2014 just gets better and better for KSE

Aside from a couple of issues with Adam’s guitar (which Jesse covered for between songs admirably – a toast or two always goes down well at Donington) this performance was an hour of non stop top quality metal with memorable songs being blasted at the assembled masses one after the other. The singalong for My Last Serenade was huge, as it also was for My Curse. The WWE fans amongst the crowd marked out like mad for This Fire Burns, and then if Donington Park had a roof on it it would have been blown off by the closing rendition of The End Of Heartache. Killswitch Engage are having an absolutely stellar 2014. If they keep this up they will take a gigantic step up the line-up next time around (8).

Over in the cosier confines of the Red Bull Studios Tent, Texans Nothing More are making their UK live d├ębut. They put on such a high quality performance during their half hour, four song long performance that if someone wanted a guide for how to put on an impressive debut performance, they should just be shown Nothing More’s Download performance. All four members of the band gave every ounce of everything they had, with shirtless frontman Jonny Hawkins in particular a continuous blur of energy for the majority of the performance.

Nothing More on stage in the Red Bull Tent at Download Festival 2014
Nothing More: Astonishingly good!

Nothing More are like no other band currently around with a sound that is hard to describe, with elements of metal, At The Drive-In style alt rock, post-rock and post-punk all distinguishable. They are a band who shouldn’t be labelled, just enjoyed. Just like Bury Tomorrow’s Pepsi Max Tent performance at Download 2013, Those who were present in the Red Bull Tent for Nothing More at Download 2014 know they saw something special. Be it all members of the band (sans drummer) playing Daniel’s bass mounted on an apparatus, all four members performing percussion in unison or a gargantuanly impressive rendition of their first single This Is The Time, this was a performance that will stay long in the memory. Nothing More are the next big thing. Get used to hearing about them (9).

Three of Nothing More playing the bass Download Festival 2014
How many Nothing More members does it take to play the bass?

After that, it was time for something lighter and the second dose of Bowling For Soup of the afternoon. With their acoustic performances being renown for improv and hilarity even more than the full band shows, expectations were unavoidably high, and were justified throughout. Though only five songs were performed during the thirty five minute set, the amount of laughs generated meant that no-one gave a literal hoot.

Bowling For Soup playing the Acoustic Jagermeister Stage at Download Festival 2014
BFS: Most fun of the weekend

Despite frequent attempts to get Jaret to chug again, we were rebuked with a similar retort to earlier on in the day (“it doesn’t matter if you boo, Download already has your money”). He also informed the masses that he was quite drunk enough as it was. Much hilarity ensued involving an inflatable dinosaur (“I’m Khaleesi”) and a member of the audience’s traffic cone hat (see photo below). The songs were great, with Almost getting a second, welcome, airing and huge singalongs for the likes of Turbulence and the closing Belgium, which had BFS’s entire crew on stage with them, in a moment that just made you be glad to be part of it. We can only hope that they decide to return sooner than we think (8.5).

En-route to American Head Charge Rock Sins saw just enough of Fall Out Boy to enjoy Thnks Fr Th Mmrs, but nothing else so not enough to give an informed review. American Head Charge on the other hand, at least from our vantage point at the back of The Pepsi Max Tent were a little disappointing, with Cameron Heacock’s vocals barely audible (and the volume was a little lacking in general). There was no mistaking the distinctive tones of Just So You Know, and the entire tent swayed and sung along with the chorus with all they had, but other moments like this were sadly lacking. Never a patch on their excellent London gig at the end of 2013 (5.5).

And then the time had come for the album that help shaped a generation of childhoods. Prior to their performance, speculation was rife over where Hybrid Theory would sit in the Linkin Park performance, if they opened with it would huge swathes of the crowd leave straight after – bearing in mind the strength of the other bands on stage at the time?

After the introductory video package, the opening riff to Papercut hit the speakers and several dozen thousand people lost their minds. For the next half an hour Linkin Park served up a unmistakable reminder of why they became the biggest nu metal band on the planet with a perfect performance of Hybrid Theory. One Step Closer had the pits going mental. Points Of Authority saw long haired metallers rapping like their lives depended on it. Crawling and In The End caused what were probably the two loudest singalongs of the entire festival weekend. The first ever full performance of Cure For The Itch saw Mr Hahn transformed on the video screens into a multi-dimensional creature and Pushing Me Away put the perfect seal on the whole thing. In many ways it was a shame the performance didn’t stop at this point as it was utterly flawless. The band seemed to enjoy it so much as well – In ten years of this reviewer seeing Linkin Park live I’d never seen Chester smile at a show until this one, he seemed to be having the time of his life.

Linkin Park performing Hybrid Theory in it's entirety at the 2014 Download Festival in England.
Hybrid Theory was A LOT of fun.

Sadly, the second portion of the set couldn’t stand up to the brilliance of what had gone before. Not that it was totally down to the brand new songs as (in this reviewers opinion) some of The Hunting Party is very good. It was more the combination of what was played and almost as much as what was missing. Given Up from Minutes To Midnight went down a storm, as did Burn It Down from Living Things, while Numb (complete with Encore intro) got the roar the song mentions. However, the way the set was constructed felt disjointed and the lack of songs such as Breaking The Habit and No More Sorrow, not to mention closing the show on Bleed It Out (with no sign of traditional closer Faint anywhere in the set) made for a slightly empty feeling conclusion to proceedings.

Linkin Park are still a superb live band, but in some ways the first ever complete run through of Hybrid Theory only served to show that they will, in all likelihood, never hit those heights again, no matter how much some of us may want them to. The Hunting Party is a welcome step in the right direction but it will take some time for those songs to gel into the Linkin Park live experience and balancing the need to play both old and new without alienating portions of their audience will require some considerable skill. Hybrid Theory = 10 / 10. Second part = 6 / 10. Overall 7.5 / 10.

Stay tuned for the second half of our Saturday coverage from Download 2014 courtesy of Sam, not to mention Matt’s special “Matt Report”, as well as our coverage of the final day of the festival with Aerosmith, Trivium and many more!