LIVE: Download Festival 2014 – Friday

By Tom Aylott

Donington has been the site of many legendary performances over the years, and this year’s Download lineup – despite raising a few eyebrows with some of the additions – had plenty to offer in terms of new music and some of our personal favourites. We were getting rather excited on the way up, blasting out some tunes on the run into Donington via some rather impressive speakers.

We made it just in time for Turbowolf, who have been having a wonderful summer so far. Turbowolf deal in noise and noise alone, so in the midst of Friday’s colossal line up they were the perfect anti-respite to charge us up as the afternoon powered on. Third on the Pepsi Max Stage, the band treated the over subscribed tent to a raucous half hour of perfectly executed, heart stopping rock fitting for the heavy metal weekender. [JA]

They turned out to be a tough act to follow, but despite having noticeably fewer bodies to play to as well, California’s Radkey knocked it out of the park. Fast, furious and fantastically coiffed, this trio of punks delivered a set of utter devastation leaving a cornucopia of face melt in their wake. We’re expecting huge things from them in the next 12 months, so make sure you check them out when they’re in the UK next. [JA]

Over the course of the afternoon, we bounced between stages, trying to take in as much as possible while the going was good. Skindred are a band that always go down well at Download, and with frontman Benji on top form, it’s hard not to have a great time. Between that and some chest punching metalcore from The Amity Affliction on Pepsi Max, we decided that we were ready for some punk rock. We headed towards the Red Bull Studios stage in time to catch Drones, who gave us exactly what we wanted and played a fine set to a swelling crowd. [TA]

We weren’t quite done yet though, as the Zippo Encore stage was about to start getting fantastic. First up, and we headed over with camera in hand to see Flogging Molly doing their business. One of the most respected punk bands of the last few decades, the million-or-so members delivered a rousing set of celtic punk hits, getting the further field in the mood for an evening with some Epitaph heroes. [TA]

Before that, though, we hopped over to the Red Bull Bull Studios Stage (still rather awkward to get to from anywhere) for some Baby Godzilla action. There’s been a buzz behind Baby Godzilla for the last few months, the current highpoint of which is their appearance on the Red Bull Stage this evening. Their brutal explosion of sound is reminiscent of a young Dillinger Escape Plan without as many clever intricacies, yet there’s certainly more than enough to make them exciting. Not least their enthusiasm and on-stage energy, as the band members engulf the stage in devastating gymnastics. High-paced, destructive and unquestionably energetic, Baby Godzilla are a sight to behold. [BT]

Just across the way at the Jaeger Stage, and it’s a special treat for Jamie Lenman fans as he informs the crowd that he will be playing two sets today, one performing his acoustic numbers from last year’s excellent ‘Muscle Memory’, and one filled with the brutal hardcore which dominated the first part of the double LP. With acoustic music still battling with the carnage emanating from the main stage, Lenman employs his usual witty stage presence to put character into the songs. Especially in a live setting, the slower songs may fall a little flat if it wasn’t for the man behind them. On the other hand, the heavier set proves to be one of the most awe-inspiring of the weekend, with the ferocity of his vocals drowning out the audible surroundings. Jamie Lenman has developed a cult status in the alternative world, and there’s nothing more special this weekend than seeing him deliver to a easily converted crowd on a tiny stage. [BT]

Now, with our legs stretched and our voices in similar shape, we settled in for an hour of Bad Religion. Today, the band aren’t quite on the top of their game, with songs from ‘True North’ not quite packing the bunch that we’d hoped. That said, they turn it around quickly, energising the crowd with ‘Los Angeles Is Burning’, ’21st Century (Digital Boy)’ and ‘I Want to Conquer the World’. As they close things down with ‘American Jesus’ and ‘Sorrow’, we’re happy to eat our earlier trepidation and say that Bad Religion were a load of fun. [TA]

To close things down on the Zippo Encore stage, we settled in with The Offspring for a rendition of their classic ‘Smash’ album. The band, who have been wheeling it out this year, manage to bring the rain this evening during their set (which has been eerily absent most of the day), but it doesn’t dampen spirits as the mid-nineties heroes keep their legacy intact with one of the classic albums that changed punk forever. Add a closing salvo of hits that get the party started afterwards, and you can colour us satisfied. A lovely end to a great threesome on the Zippo Stage, leaving us enough to time to catch the end of the main stage headliners. [TA]

A controversial headliner for some, the sheer number of people lining the hill facing Download Festival’s main stage is testament to the pulling power of California’s Avenged Sevenfold. Standing in front of a suitably melodramatic backdrop with enough pyrotechnics to keep the fire business alive, the band rip through a medley of tracks that even dedicated fans wouldn’t have imagined could sound so good. M. Shadow’s raspy vocals in ‘Hail To The King’ stand next to the instantly recognisable ‘Bat Country’ or ‘Nightmare’. Saving the real heavy hitters for last, nobody is left questioning this headliner after the closing moments of ‘Unholy Confessions’ and the obligatory fireworks. [BT]

And then, we headed to the bar, ending up at the Doghouse in the campsite later on dancing to tunes from the Facedown lot at who-knows-what-time in the morning. Successful day one, we think…