Download Festival - Donington Park - 11-13th June 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Tuesday, 15 June 2010 06:00



Thirty Years of Donington Park and this is my thirteenth time through the gates (or should that be tyre) of hell. Many things may have changed in that time but one thing that remains constant is the fans, many of them turning up year after year to sample what the event has to offer. And when you get loads of people in one place you're sure to get one thing and that is queues. And today the queues leading into the first day of this year's Download are long; so long in fact you can't see the beginning or the end.  Such is the popularity of today's headliners right now. 


A little bit Sweetheadof Johnny H ingenuity sees us not in that endless mile for long though as I suddenly realise no one is in the right place and are all blissfully unaware, so I make my way to the front and we are in and ready to rock. But not before I witness a guy in front of me with a Vio-lence patch on the back of his jacket screaming for Biff Byford and 'Wheels Of Steel'. Okay he may have the wrong day, but this is the true spirit of Donington Park spewing forth like some Heavy Metal possessed Linda Blair in cut off denims....Nice!


Unearth get the chance to break the silence of the afternoon, five minutes early leaving Year Long Disaster as not the first band I see this weekend, but Daniel Davies and his band kick off the Pepsi Max stage in style with 'Love Like Blood' and proceed to rumble through thirty minutes of rise and shine metal, before finishing their set with a sterling run through of Black Sabbath's 'Never Say Die'. This really was a great introduction to the weekend's festivities. Next up on the same stage are Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen's band Sweethead, who manage to come on a bit like the older, wiser siblings of Troy's day job band. 'City Of Dirt' is as scuzzy as singer Serrina's knees as she proceeds to crawl and writhe her way through the band's mix of eighties pop and QOTSA desert rock. 


At this point I was reminded of a story in today's newspapers where apparently 97% of all Scottish people are unhealthy, well by the scent of the effluence coming from the lads from north of the border in front of us I can confirm this as being actual fact.


This single fact expediating our move over to the Bedroom Jam stage where some genius has scheduled Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders into a venue they could fill 5 times over.  The band's mix of powerpop and seventies pomp goes down a storm with those who can actually hear them. From my vantage point I actually manage to get some sort of wild mash up of Starseed and Taylor and Co as the UK grungers are playing merely yards away on the Jagermeister stage. Once the sound settles down, 'Way Down' and 'Lousie' have Taylor bringing quality rock to an audience of people who would probably otherwise not listen to this type of thing. If only a band like The Black Mollys could get this type of career leg up, as they have songs a thousand times better.


Over on the main stage for the first time today Killswitch Engage (with Howard Jones now back in the fold) have the look of headliners about them, but I'm enthralled at the prospect of seeing Tyketto again so I make my way back to the Pepsi Max stage for a little bit of that late eighties AOR stuff. Danny Vaughan to this day is very much the same as he was back then and I arrive midway through a corking version of 'Burning Down Inside'. The trouble is (as I quickly realise) Tyketto is twenty years too late for my tastes these days, so I make my way back to Killswitch Engage who are teasing us with Dio's 'Stand Up And Shout' (incidentally the first song I ever heard live at this venue) before finishing their set with a sterling version of 'Holy Diver'. It really is great to see Howard Jones back with the band and yet again he gets away with wearing the white shirt at Donington Park.




Right before Them Crooked Vultures take to the stage a clip of the Monsters of Rock festival from 1988 is playing up on the video screens complete with the legendary Bailey Brothers, and you can't help but get all dewy eyed by this type of thing. I also find out at this point that fellow Über Röck scribe Ian Maiden is still trying to put his tent up, never again will Johnny H tours get a bad name.


And so to the supergroup to end all supergroups who are....super. 'Scumbag Blues' sounds like Cream or some other groovy fucks whilst 'New Fang' retains a tight but loose vibe that outstrips any QOTSA performance of the last five years by the factor of one million to one. With Eleven's Alain Johannes being added to the band's live line up, all in all, this was a quality performance from four quality musicians.


As the main stage closes for the day, the second stage alongside that AC/DC have brought along suddenly springs into life playing their usual pre-gig mix of blues. This normally wouldn't be unwelcome in the H camp as it is a little respite from the day's otherwise full-on antics, but when it is played through Andy Copping's dedicated minute of applause to the lost friends of Angusthe festival you get a slight feeling of arrogance regarding all things AC/DC emanating around the site. I'd allowed little things like the fact that AC/DC are not on the event shirts on sale to pass by as they are ultimately a global brand, but it wouldn't be quite so bad if the band didn't seem to be caught in a such a Heavy Rock Groundhog Day. 


Taking to the stage with the same 'Rock N Roll Train' intro that they have been doing now for well over a year and a bit, you'll forgive me if I start to yawn when the exact same set list is also then rolled out as when I saw them at Birmingham NEC and also Wembley Stadium. Okay it's AC/DC and they are great at what they do, but give me the DVD of the show and I'll stay at home and watch this and save myself £50. The rumoured 'Back In Black' thirtieth anniversary playback ultimately never happened; perhaps I'm just too gullible?


So there was only one place to be come the time that 'Black Ice' was pumping out of the PA, and that was back in the pub enjoying a cool glass of lager. Sorry guys, I love Rock 'n' Roll as much as the next man, but three identical sets in less than eighteen months is enough to test even the most patient of us. So I left the arena slightly frustrated, but not before I asked everyone on route if they knew what Angus had been rubbing into his head, as I'd buy it by the bucket load if I could suddenly grow my hair back like that.


Friday in a word then ....Frustrated.





Getting into the site at 11am on a Saturday morning was always going to be a tall order, but with local lads Revoker opening up The Bedroom Jam stage I was certainly going to have a good stab at it. So you can imagine my frustration when the nearest I actually got to witnessing our pals from just up the A470 was to have Scriv and Web from Lifer telling me they'd just played a blinder, the story intercut with some tales of lurid shower antics from earlier that morning. Oh well, at least I didn't miss Urban Voodoo Machine who manage to bring a little carnival atmosphere to proceedings with a set of Polka Punk interspersed with sky high quiffs, UVMburlesque and some fine stage antics. The day was certainly off to a great start. And so it continued with The Plight from Leeds (who seem delighted to tell us this time and time again). The band's music continues to develop that unique Thin Lizzy/The Bronx hybrid whilst managing to drop in the odd Twisted Sister riff along the way.... Result.


Back to the Pepsi Max stage for the first time today just in time to catch the worst band I've seen in a long time, Reckless Love. This band single handedly seem content to dispel my theory that Scandinavian countries cannot produce a bad band whatever the genre, by doing just that. Singer H Olliver Twisted may think he is David Lee Roth for a new generation of glam rockers, but in reality he is more like Jon Mikl Thor, only with a fraction of the God of Thunder's voice. Moving on quickly, and I manage to catch a few songs from upcoming Goth poppers My Passion, who appear to have something of a Science Fiction theme running through their onstage garb. So amid the bleeps and bloops it's quietly reassuring that they are more 'Blake's 7' than 'Planet Of the Apes'.


So it is left to the Mutha Fucking Cancer Bats on the Second Stage to once again take things up a gear today with a thirty minute set packed full of heavy ferocity, as well as the most perfect three minutes you'll hear this weekend, in the shape of 'Hail Destroyer'. Frontman Liam Cancer_BatsCormier once again taking it to the people and getting the party started, by invading the front rows at an alarming rate, whilst anointing his loyal followers with his sweat. 'Sorceress' heralds the ultimate uphill circle pit that the UK Olympic committee should get added as an endurance sport for 2012 as it would certainly herald team GB some quality gold medals. 


Moving back to the Pepsi Max stage and cabaret rock band Rock Sugar appear to have packed out the place playing covers...Hmmm. So why these same people are not sticking around for Enuff Z Nuff is beyond me, as this is a band cooking on gas right now. With a brand new album 'Dissonance' about to be released in the UK it's great to see Donnie Vie back on stage with his old chum Chip, and it's even better to hear gems like 'Fly High Michelle' and 'Real Thing' in such a large arena. I hear rumours that we may be seeing quite a bit of the guys over the Autumn/Winter months so make sure you get along to see them. Oh and before I forget, and I'm not sure if it's just me noticing this, but is guitarist Tory turning into our very own Gaz E? The arrival of Senser gives me the chance to catch some rays whilst 'Age Of Panic' brings the noise for a generation yet to realise this band are far more important than tonight's main stage headliners.


Y&T are back at Donington Park for the first time since 1984 and sadly minus the Robot this time, but what I catch of them today sets up the Autumn UK tour nicely with the tracks from current album 'Facemelter' sounding as cool as those from their classic three album period from the early eighties. Back to the second stage in just enough time to catch H.I.M kicking off their set with 'Buried Alive By Love' and, what's this? Is that Ville smiling? Well, after ten years peddling morbid yet infectious Goth Rock you'd understand the man's sometimes less than enthusiastic performances, but tonight this is the frontman of old, holding his crowd captive and relishing the new found fire his band have via new tracks like 'Heartkiller'. 'Rebel Yell' brings the band's set to a fitting conclusion and if it weren't for one more band tonight it would have MM1been the perfect introduction for Download's final 'classic rock' day, but as Michael Monroe is about to finish off Saturday night's line up where else would any self respecting Über Röcker want to be?


Arriving for the final time today at the Pepsi Max stage UK rockers Skin appear to be experiencing some kind of rebirth, but for those of us who didn't get it first time around they just seem like a bad smell in your sleeping bag.... unwelcome, and also overrunning. So kudos to Michael Monroe's stage crew who manage to get the soon to be declared band of the weekend on stage right on time and sounding every bit as good as they did at that infamous Islington show a few months ago. The newer tracks now sound fuller, the older tracks now sound newer and the band are about to set our world on fire. Michael once again takes to the lighting rig with ease whilst Steve Conte, Ginger, Karl Rockfist and Sami Yaffa ramp up the rock to 'fuck' levels. The set list is unimportant tonight as just being in the presence of Michael Monroe and his awesome band demands us to have a fucking great time. Which we do.


Saturday in a word....Sabotage.




It's the early hours of the 13th of June and there's an unmistakable patter of rain that can be detected. Thinking "oh, it'll be fine", I turn over and go back to dreaming of dragons, castles and everything else you do when you're entering the last leg of the UK's premium Heavy Metal festival. By foolishly turning off the alarm I leave it too late to catch Dommin opening up on the main stage, a band I'd really wanted to check out live...doh !


As a result my first experience of 'classic rock' day at Download 2010 is the arrival of UK AOR gods FM, taking up the slot vacated by Ratt, who were getting frontman Stephen Pearcy's hernia sorted out apparently. Setting about their tight and melodic six-song set with suitable aplomb, this is a version of the band so far removed from their glorious performance at Reading in '88 that only 'That Girl' now remains to remind us of the pastel suits and mullet glory years. Arriving at such a late hour onto the bill, you can easily understand why the band appears just a little phased by the enormity of the situation in front of them, but in saying that the quality and superior musicianship on offer just about sees them through it all.


Next up (and if you ask me way too far down today's bill) are Saxon, playing 'Wheels Of Steel', the album in its entirety. Biff Byford simply relishes a challenge, and playing songs that he hasn't sung in thirty years like 'Freeway Mad' only adds to the band's charm and never-ending Cinderellaappeal to fans old and new. Finishing the main chunk of their set with the album's title track, we then get a quick rip roaring run through of 'The Band's Played On', 'Denim And Leather' and 'Princess Of The Night' which manages to leave everyone, and I do mean everyone, smiling from ear to ear.


Thirty years on from their appearance at the inaugural Monsters of Rock event and Saxon have never been stronger.


Which is more than can be said for Cinderella, who although turning in a fine set of songs mixed up from their first three albums, seem a little umm.... well I can't quite put my finger on it. Okay so we do get 'Save Me', 'Push Push' and 'Night Songs' and a gospel soaked 'Shelter Me' to kick things off all delivered tight and fast, but the pomp of 'Don't Know What You Got' and 'Nobody's Fool' following in quick succession coupled with the very hot sunshine seemed to lose what life they might have gleaned from their mid afternoon audience. 'Gypsy Road' and 'Shake Me' did restore some momentum but this was ultimately a set of what could have been.


The arrival of the first 'big name' of the day also brings back the first images of my early morning wake up call as storm clouds gather to the West that look like they ain't going to be fucking around. But who are we to care, right? We're here to Rock 'n' Roll and that's muthafuckin' Slash up the stage right there with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy laying into 'Ghost' from the top hatted one's recent solo opus. But as I've said before I just don't get this, and I probably never will, from the over the top band introduction to the guest spot from Lemmy on 'Doctor Alibi' this current career direction from this undoubtedly fine guitarist bears all the hallmarks of a generation now being raised on 'American (bone) Idle'.


With the first drops of rain falling marking the arrival of Billy Idol back in the UK, I decided that perhaps I would be better off catching the Jim Jones Revue once again, back in the Pepsi Max tent, not just for the reassurance of the Rock 'n' Roll Psychosis I knew I was about Jim_Jonesto witness, but also the simple fact that for at least the next thirty minutes I wouldn't be subjected to the weather which was now fast taking on biblical proportions. Which is kind of apt because as a result Jim Jones Revue ended up plying their trade to perhaps the biggest crowd of their yet blossoming career. With 'Cement Mixer' and 'Burning Your House Down' being just the medicine to chase away those pesky clouds.... well, for thirty minutes anyway.


With the prospect of a couple of hours stood in what was starting to resemble a battle field waiting to see the only band on today's line up I had not seen before, namely the Stone Temple Pilots, I decided to cut my losses and trudge through inches of mud just to make sure I got my car out before the monsoon took full hold on proceedings. And so it came to pass that Download 2010 ended for this Über Röcker at least with not so much of a bang as with a drip drip.


Sunday in a word....Rain


But before I leave this year's events behind me I'm happy to report that none of us managed to get ourselves lost and then end up home before the rest of us, none of us almost choked to death on a brine burger, none of us had a dump in the middle of the field, behind a bush, blissfully unaware that he could be seen from every other angle, and none of us had thrown up down the backs of everyone else's trousers thus giving the weekend a special aroma, but all of us bar one was in the car and on our way home tonight not long after Billy Idol thanks to the good old UK weather.


Some things never change eh. So, here's to thirty years of gigs at Donington Park and long may it continue.