Corporate Rock and the death of Motley Crue - Download’s Classic Rock Day 2015 Print E-mail
Written by Nev Brooks   
Saturday, 27 June 2015 04:00

Let’s put this one out there. I bet you’re thinking “what gives him the right to write that headline?” Well, I go back a long way with Castle Donington, I attended the inaugural Monsters Of Rock festival as a fresh faced youngster. It was actually the first ever gig I attended and it hooked me into the path I’ve followed all my life. The date? 16th of August 1980 (I didn’t even have to look that up) and I religiously attended for the next 14 years! I was there when it came back as Ozzfest and have also attended any number of the Download three day events, either for a day or all three, nowadays with my almost adult kids cajoling me into it. 




Lately it’s been something that I’ve stayed well away from and prior to this year’s visit it had been 5 years since my last trip. I simply have the feeling that it’s become a pale imitation of what’s been before, it’s lost that fan’s eye view, becoming everything I hate about rock music these days, as in “How much money can I possibly make from everyone who attends?”  This year the profit making machine went into overdrive, with the announcement that it would be a cashless festival! OK, let’s look at that statement, we want you the fans to put money into our high interest bank account, we will hold it, generate interest, with 90,000 plus people present, with and average spend of say £50 - £100 per day, you do the sums to see just how much money will be turning over on even say a 1% interest rate. Couple that with the announcement afterwards that it will take a minimum of two weeks to get whatever you had left back and that money will be returned in blocks, potentially I could be waiting months for my £19 back. Yup I took a bare minimum, but all the time that £19 is generating interest, of which, I the music fan, will never see a penny. If I’m wrong please tell me so, I think I deserve this explanation at the very least.


Add to that a £25 parking charge to get in and out of a field so rammed that it took us 2 hours to get the single lane that all traffic from the multiple fields were forced to head for at departure time, and need I say that by this time there were no stewards - surprise, surprise - to control the flow. That of course would have meant additional wages and cut out profits from the money making machine.


But enough of my whining, what about the day itself?  Let’s start with the queues to enter the site taking over an hour to get in thanks to the ticket wristband exchange, this resulted in me missing a band that I quite wanted to see the John Corabi fronted The Dead Daisies. Well I did end up catching “thank you Download goodbye!!” Hmmm.


So why am I here then, in the process paying £80 plus for the privilege to simply moan on Uber Rock? In a nutshell? My daughter. A long time back I promised her I’d take her to see her favourite band, the band? Motley Crue. I go back a long way with the Crue, and at one point myself and singer Vince Neil probably had the same 27” waistline, long gone for both of us, but at least Vince kept his hair. I caught them at Donington Monsters Of Rock in ‘84 and loved them. And do you know what even after myself, Johnny H and Ian Bell told her not to spoil the image of that classic era she was determined to make up her own mind. I even had the timeless quote of “Dad, they’re my bucket list band”, so what can I do when my own words come back at me apart from agree.


Download stage


So with this in mind and through different eyes let me re-frame the day and look at exactly what it all meant.  After wandering around the site, we settled down at the second stage to do what we all do - enjoy music. First up H.E.A.T from Sweden, straight down the line classic rock, coming over like a heavier Journey, and do you know what? They put on a cracking rock show, Erik Grönwallproving to be a great frontman with a voice to match. Actually the day was beginning to take on a different shine with me suddenly losing my Victor Meldrew mood.  If you like classic rock you will love these guys.


Meeting up with a mate (who was at the first ever Monsters Of Rock with me) and his son, whose musical tastes went into a different direction than mine we stayed to watch Finland’s Von Hertzen Brothers, who were not my particular cup of tea, the progressive rock leanings do me every time. However taking a leaf out of Johnny H’s recent review of Wolf People, the trio were bloody good musicians and I’m sure they will appeal to lots of others, it’s just not for me.


Staying on the second stage, one of the saving graces when I was planning who to watch was the return of Backyard Babies, and apart from the initial dodgy sound, wow what a show! I have seen these guys a fair few times and they have never been disappointed, and as the large crowd showed lots of others felt the same. There’s a new LP (‘Four By Four’) due very soon along with a full UK tour, I’ll be there for sure.


BYBs 2


So after some glunk it was time for a bit of hardcore and over to the third stage for Agent Orange, who generated a fair mosh pit and took the music up a gear, So that's classic rock, prog rock, glunk rock and hardcore in about 3 hours!!!! Happy days.


Next up we have a secret band (well not really) and staying on the third stage we have The Darkness doing what they do, and I have to say the fun factor went through the roof. From Justin Hawkins being carried to the stage through the crowd by a Barbarian Horde, I have to be honest I smiled all the way through. The Darkness proved to be a kick ass live band giving 110%. So fuck corporation/profit and everything that Download dictates, truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s about that moment when band and audience engage, this was definitely one of those moments and this performance had band of the day so far written all over it (you know I still can’t believe I’ve just written that). Staying on the third stage and out of the rain we caught a band called Three Days Grace, whoin fairness are a good live act, giving hints of My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds To Mars, and at their heaviest a light-weight Slipknot.


I suppose it’s time to try out the main stage as another of my daughter’s favourites is up next. Slash, billed as Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, they certainly put on a show, but didn’t quite do it for me. “Yes” they played all the G’n’R classics, “yes” they played ‘Slither’ from Velvet Revolver and “yes” the Slash solo material in fairness stands on its own top hatted two feet too, but do you know what? Maybe it was the swirling sound but “motions” and “going through” came to mind.


So we’re at that point, Motley Crue are up next and we have a great view stage front and centre, So exactly what are we going to get for our £80? TRUTH? STRAIGHT UP? A stunning live show, yeah I did say that, the Crue were superb, from the opener ‘Saints Of Los Angeles’ to the seemingly impromptu extra of ‘Home Sweet Home’ that finished their set. This was a show complete with the pyro-technics, the big budget stage set, but most of all the classics like ‘On With The Show’, ‘Live Wire’, ‘Too Fast For Love’ and ‘Looks That Kill'. Plus, if you like the latter day stuff ‘Wild Side’, “Kickstart My Heart’, ‘Same Ol’ Situation’, ahem ‘Anarchy In The UK’, ‘Dr Feelgood’, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ and ‘Smokin’ in the Boys Room’.


As I said in the beginning back in “84 myself and Vince Neil probably had the same waist size, I’ve certainly held together closer to that 27”, but kudos to the man who retained his hair, and the voice held up well too here today.  The killer moment for me? My daughter’s smile when she told me how brilliant they had been. One off the bucket list Evie.




Now going back to my opening rant when you talk corporate rock, you’re talking KISS and in particular a certain Gene Simmons. Remember, that guy who said “rock and roll is dead” last year, Truth is Gene I’ve watched a fair few bands over the last few years that totally dispel that myth, in fact I’ve watched a few today that dispel the myth too. Truth is he’s in the band that should have gone years ago, the Starchild Paul Stanley having long since lost his once wonderful voice, the set becoming more Gene heavy to compensate. This is the pinnacle of corporate rock, a band that has become a pastiche of former glories, over long, over bloated and in need of a termination. Next step? The KISS cover band that will replace them and no one will know or care.


You know Motley Crue didn’t die for me today, KISS did. Long live the Crue, go catch them on the last set of British dates, think about the rock n roll excess we all enjoyed, back in the day, raise a glass and smile.


Did I watch all of KISS? Naah, car park chaos was calling.