Headlined by AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine, Aerosmith. I also saw Them Crooked Vultures, Coheed and Cambria, A Day to Remember, Killswitch Engage, Deftones, The Blackout, Lamb of God, Flyleaf, Hellyeah, Atreyu, Megadeth, Rolo Tomassi, Five Finger Death Punch, Stone Temple Pilots, Motorhead, Porcupine Tree, Cinderella, Billy Idol, Aerosmith, Saxon, Steel Panther, Slash and Napalm Death.
I had acknowledged that in a similar way to how I turned 18 at my first music festival (Download 2008), this had to be a good one. It would be my final weekend before I would no longer be a teenager. All things considered though, there weren’t any particular events that make this year stand out over others. That’s not to say I wasn’t aching a lot by the time I got home.
The only such moment I have evidence of was somebody vandalising a campmate’s big tent, by drawing a massive penis with duct tape. I was awoken from a nap as though there were an emergency. Instead, campmates needed one more person to cup the giant silver scrotum for a photo. Here it is. That’s me on the bottom left with the evil red eyes.
As for the performances, there wasn’t a lot to write home about compared to other years but this was more than made up for by the legendary status of each of its headliners. In fact, coming to think about it, the most memorable moment besides the headliners came from the fact that I couldn’t resist seeing Napalm Death live if only so I could say that I had seen them perform the 1.316 second long ‘You Suffer’ live. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to differentiate their songs besides Barney Greenway shouting their names at the beginning, I went out of my way to look up which songs they would play before ‘You Suffer’, so that I was ready for it. I knew to listen out for him shouting “DECEIVER!” and “THE KILL!”. The first few seconds of this video show the end of ‘The Kill’ and the entirety of the “cough and you miss it” ‘You Suffer’. Humorously, I think they played it even faster live.
On Friday, AC/DC stole the festival. Almost literally. The band how bought their own stage, attached to the smaller main stage, and a clause in their booking ordered that all other stages shut down for their performance. From 4PM onwards, it wasn’t a festival. It was an AC/DC concert. A great one. I had the pleasure a few years ago of speaking to Download promoter Andy Copping himself about booking them – “A lot of bands just take an age for them to make up their minds, for any number of reasons. They want to make sure that they have other shows based around Europe around the same time, so that they’re coming for a decent tour period. They don’t want to confirm anything until they know what they’re doing in the week before and the week afterwards. Interestingly enough, when I booked AC/DC in 2010, which is the biggest rock band in the world, no question, it was actually really easy. They said ‘yes’ having made the decision in a matter of days.” (It’s actually a really interesting interview. Check it out in full here…)
If on a night out and I tell anyone I’ve seen Rage Against the Machine live, I’ve often got an envious “oh my god, you’re so lucky!” response. I really am lucky. This was the third time I saw them. I have to be slightly sceptical about RATM’s booking. They appeared to have hi-jacked their free Finsbury Park show to do a six-date European festival tour, which stopped by Download Festival. Was it to cover the costs of the London show? Was it to make a bit more money? Who knows? Either way, it was great once again. Besides the X Factor references being removed and favourites ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Calm Like a Bomb’ being reinstated, the show was pretty much identical to that in Finsbury Park.
Despite the ridiculous scale of AC/DC, Sunday headliner Aerosmith were easily the prettiest onstage. Well, Steven Tyler’s gold sparkly jacket was. His face? Not so much.