Third band of the day Powerman 5000 had been pretty dull. While they performed their biggest hit ‘Bombshell’, once used as the ‘crowd goes wild’ entrance music for wrestlers The Dudley Boyz, the crowd was not going wild whatsoever. As it turns out, Download Festival needs more than Spider One’s generic industrial rock power, slapped with 5000 industrial size jars of hair gels.
By comparison, Skindred, have gone down in Download Festival folklore since three years ago, it was the location of the origin of their signature ‘Newport Helicopter’ – everyone holding T-shirts aloft, and swinging them overhead. Everyone is prepared to follow suit (or shirt) once again. The audience is split down the middle by frontman Benji Webbe. On the left are the ‘gladiators’, and on the right are the ‘warriors’. This clash of screaming “Kill The Power” against the angry mish-mash of hard rock, drum n’ bass and reggae (or if you want to be lazy, ‘alternative metal’), is as close to warfare as dicking about can be.
Nutcase Benji cackles filth from behind white Cyclops-from-X-Men-style shades. Benji knows how to ridicule onlookers with charm, and even singles out one poor woman as ‘an ugly bitch’, before calling out everybody and how amazing the audience is – all except for her. “Yeah! I just said that!”.
You did, and at least the majority of the crowd was in hysterics. The psychological state of the ‘ugly bitch’ is yet to be confirmed. Never have insults been so brutally charming. He drips charisma enough that he can call the audience ‘cunts’ without being a ‘cunt’ himself. (See BMTH’s Oli Sykes for a man who doesn’t or at least shouldn’t get away with it.)
Even a man dressed as fox ends up onstage, though whether he was meant to be there is open for debate. Is he a trespasser, or there for a cancelled rendition of ‘What Does the Fox Say?’. After all, Skindred have just performed the ‘first heavy metal’ version of the equally irritating ‘Harlem Shake’. It is all about as surreal as a band without a novelty can get away with. The ‘gladiators’ and ‘warriors’ final battle, amidst the brutality of a metal weekend, is the intensity of dancing to one of the most irritating dance song in years.
The muck around atmosphere thickens for pulsing closer ‘Warning’ as Skindred are joined by Crossfaith vocals Koie Kenta, who is still buzzing having already performed two bands ago on the main stage. It’s this ridiculous spontaneity, next to impossible on a festival stage, that make the set such a party.
EDIT: As it turns out, the fox was the ‘Rock Fox’ sent up there by Kerrang!. When I first saw him onstage, my thoughts were “if he’s meant to be there, this was hilarious fun. If he’s not, he’s a dick for invading the performance”. As of this update, I’m not sure what to think.