High point: Apocalyptica
Download 2008: Looking back
By Rebecca Hobbs (Photos: Lynne Morris)
Rebecca Hobbs lives for the annual Download festival at Donington Park. Here, she gives us her personal view of the 2008 event: a new layout and unfounded worries about the line-up all helped make this a year to remember.
The tinnitus is starting to quieten, the last of the grime has been washed from my hair but the grin hasn't left my face. Download 2008 has been and gone.
In many ways this felt like a new dawn for the festival. Having moved location from inside the track to the outside, with a new layout came a new feel rather like stepping out of the Monsters Of Rock shadow but not cutting the apron strings.
Lynne and Rebecca take a souvenir self-portrait
Much has been made of the new layout and from talking to fellow festival goers there has been a bit of a marmite reception – you loved it or hated it. For my two penneth, for what it's worth, I liked the new layout. With the main stage at the bottom of a slope it made viewing much easier, especially for those shorties amongst us. On an evening looking across the horizon towards Melbourne and with a copse to the right, it felt a lot less claustrophobic than in the past and has scope to be more epic if dressed properly.
Rough ground and dust was a problem but could easily be addressed before 2009. The reality of the walk to the second stage wasn't the trek envisaged from the site plan. For those camping, the walk from the campsites to the arena has been criticised by some. You can't please all of the people all of the time and the new location does need tweaks - but not an overhaul. Those with longer memories will probably agree all festivals should have some level of hardship in-built - it builds festival goers' mettle and heck, after what we've endured in the past the young 'uns shouldn’t get it too cosy!
Layouts aside, the music was naturally the backbone of the event.
Beforehand, criticism was flying that the line up was weak (I refer the reader to the answer I gave some moments ago – you can't please all of the people all of the time). So, let's jump straight in with the headliners.
Imposters! Two Kiss look-alikes
Friday was crowned by Kiss complete with the black and white make up, outlandish costumes and pyrotechnics a go-go. To quote the advert, they did exactly what it says on the tin. Loud, brash, tongue in cheek but, more importantly, tongue out - and dripping with fake blood in Gene Simmons' case. The set was dominated by their back catalogue from the original make up days – no room for cheery Crazy, Crazy Nights here. The set was one of two halves. The first half took a little time to warm up with prolonged vocal acrobatics and guitar solos but in the second half it was one hit after another simply powered out and punctuated with fireworks and pizzazz. The crowd lapped it up.
After such an opening night it was always going to be a tough act to follow for Saturday night's headliners, The Offspring. After the theatrical spectacle of the night before, The Offspring came out looking like a group of dads looking for the nearest B&Q. Thankfully once the instruments were picked up it was a case of a straight-forward, clean gig.
The final night: and could The Lostprophets pull off the closing headline slot? The lads from Wales certainly gave it their all from the second their feet hit the stage. They were polished and energetic and, whilst the crowd was not the size one expects at a closing, it was certainly a case of quality not quantity. Indeed, this was one of the most heartening sights of the main arena throughout the weekend. The crowd wasn't a sell-out but there was a greater community and 'live and let live' feeling than when there have been greater numbers. In part, this may be because there were large numbers of Download stalwarts and fewer 'fair weather' fans and, secondly, the range of choice across the stages - which didn't truly translate onto paper but became apparent as the festival panned out.
Rebecca interviews Ash
After worrying the line up was weak, many people found themselves run ragged as there really was a great choice and something for every rock persuasion. This was no greater demonstrated than on Sunday night as those not at the Lostprophets set reported back an emotional set from Jonathan Davis on the third stage and beefy sets from Children of Bodom then Cavalera Conspiracy on the second stage.
Headliners aside, there were some great showings by the vintage performers with Motorhead and Judas Priest (returning to Donington after 28 years) giving the Friday evening run-up to Kiss a classic feel. Saturday, and one of the best receptions for any band was that of Saxon on the third stage who received a hero's welcome which was immediately followed by a fiery Testament set.
The left field inclusion of Pendulum, the Aussie drum 'n' bass group who've found rock, turned into one of the sets of the weekend drawing a huge crowd which danced itself into a frenzy. The even more debated inclusion of grime rapper Lethal Bizzle was another surreal moment. The Londoner stood up to a negative welcome and turned the crowd around in an awesome display which was rewarded with yells of 'more' from some of the most hardcore.
Biffy Clyro got the St Andrew's flags waving, the St Davids' came out for Bullet For My Valentine, both bands putting in strong performances. A word of praise for Jimmy Eat World and the crowd for turning their Sunday evening set into what felt like a spring break video with fans letting it all hang out – literally in some cases.
And a high point of my weekend – Apocalyptica. The Finnish metal cellists played an invigorating 40 minute set on Sunday afternoon, joined for one song by Lacuna Coil's glorious Cristina Scabbia. Having mentioned Apocalyptica as my top tip on BBC Radio Derby on Friday, I was over the moon to see the crowd join in with my enthusiasm for this group. What other band could finish their Download set with Grieg's 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' and leave the crowd shouting for more?
Unbelievably there was time away from the music to take in the Monster Energy entertainment of extreme FMX, BMX and Skate stars which I had to watch through my fingers - so toe-tingling were their acrobatic feats. Gone are the days of the greasy burger being the only choice and again there was food from each corner of the world - though my favourite came from closer to home, the Mayfield Bakery from Norfolk. Gluten-free chocolate tortes and freshly baked loaves, 100% meat sausages and service with a smile was simply unbeatable. Shopping was plentiful and far too tempting!
Fearne Cotton in the Radio 1 'studio'
And a special thank you to our 'cousins' from BBC Radio One. Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton were on hand to present their Saturday afternoon request show live from the festival. Their makeshift tented studio and picket-fenced garden drew the likes of Biffy Clyro for a live song. On hearing myself and Lynne were doing our bit for BBC Derby we were whisked into the studio to witness first hand the organised chaos that is live, outside broadcasting.
And that doesn't even sum up the half of it: the moments spent meeting up with old friends or meeting new ones; the bizarre spectacle of Lynne and myself in the media centre singing Russ Abbott's 'Atmosphere' with one of the bands or watching a man dressed as Scooby Doo mosh.
See you in 2009!
Rebecca Hobbs, 17 June 2008
last updated: 20/06/2008 at 17:08
Have Your Say
Ive hered alot about download and it sounds really good im deffinetly going next year and hopefully DISTURBED are going to be there
Like every year, i loved Download 2008. Ok, the trek form the campsite to the arens was a pain in the morning, but on the way back you were so full of content (amongst other things) that it was really fun walking back, as crowds of people would sing or quote numerous sayings.I'm much looking forward to next year and hope the headliners aren't spoiled by live nation again.
Sounds great, wish i had been, love BFMV and Biffy, also motorhead, cool.
You've obviously been spending too much time around your feline friends if you thought this festival was good. Worst Download Festival ever! European Festivals are cheaper with a much better line up. That's where a lot of people will be heading next year. RIP Download
An excellent review - I too was utterly blown away by many of the bands at this year's Download.I regard myself as one of the fortunate few thousand - I am a Saxon fan from way back (I'm in my mid-fifties, live in Castle Donington and love Metal) and so inevitably I made sure that I was in 'the tent' for Biff's awesome performance.I also found myself tapping my feet to Pendulum, and confessed to my son that I felt a traitor to my metal roots to say that I loved them. He agreed that they were a refreshing addition.A great festival - and time to look forward to next year. Any chance of AC/DC coming back again?
Great review, Becs. Loved Download and Apocalyptica definately stole the show for me.
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