Download Festival 2013: A Review from a SA Muso

Over the weekend Black Cat Bones bassist Chris van der Walt attended Download Festival 2013 in the UK. Sadly I could not be there with him, but this awesome dude (who happens to be one of the best bassists in SA Music) was kind enough to send me a “not so short” review of what went down there. This is what he has to say about the festival:

Friday:  After a long travel from London we checked into a hotel. I didn’t want to be camping in the mud and the rain. We arrived around 14:15 via a bus from Loughborough. Getting to-and-from the Loughborough was very easy, and we never had a transport problem. We had to exchange tickets for the weekend arena passes, but the ticket booth was on the other side of the festival. We eventually enter the arena to the sounds of Uriah Heep, but had to get some beer. We sent off my wife and mom to get the tokens and exchange them for booze. Around £90 for 20 tokens. 1 token for beer, Jäger, wine. 1 ½ tokens for Vodka/Jäger & Red Bull. I went for the red wine. Value for money. While my dad and I were waiting, we stumbled onto the Iron Maiden beer stall, and bought some Trooper beers. Very good beer from Robinson’s Brewery.

So the first band I saw was Down. They were a bunch of old toppies, jamming with the singer from Pantera, Phil Anselmo. Groovy, Tight, Lekker solo’s, and straight away everyone was singing along. And they were so cool, badass, and set the pace for what was to come…

Next, Korn. They were unbelievable. They played one of their best shows I have ever seen them play. I’ve seen them 6 times now. And they were so tight, big, mind-blowingly great, and soulful. They were back together with former guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch. The band was complete now. One of the best acts of the weekend.

Korn @ Download 2013 720x479 Download Festival 2013: A Review from a SA Muso

Off to the bar. We stocked up, and got back into a good spot for Bullet For My Valentine. I am not a big fan of their music, but they were tight and good. They pulled off an amazing set with great skill, and great energy. They definitely rocked the stage and crowd.

When Slipknot started, all hell broke loose. I wormed and crunched myself forward, determined to see if this band is real. This is the second time I see Slipknot, and the first time was the best show I’ve ever seen. I felt like a maggot squirming through the crowd, but reached the front. On the barrier. The flames, the percussion/drum kits rising, and all the tricks… I forgot that I was on this planet.

Slipknot @ Download 2013 Download Festival 2013: A Review from a SA Muso

I was in Slipknot’s world. They transform a crowd. They are inspiringly good musically, but then it gets complimented with their stage antics. They were the best band of the weekend. In my opinion, the best band in the world. I caught Sid’s DJ slip-mat!! So happy. Crowd control was great, people got water, Corey Taylor stopped the show twice to get the crowd to take a step back, and the vibe was great. It’s hard to explain, one has to be there to feel what they do. So, after that some fajitas, a bus ride and sleep.

Saturday: We arrive a bit later again, as we need to pace ourselves. We arrive at the end of Mastodon’s set. Very sad, but we got some wine ‘n beer.

Next up we moved forward and watched Alice in Chains. They played all the hits. And the new vocalist nails it. They were great. Good solos, good singer, dark harmonies, good rhythm section. They’ve always been my favourite grunge band. Great memories.

For Motörhead I decided to move in to right in front again. It’s really hard, especially if your whole body is bruised from the Slipknot concert. On my way in, I walk straight into Xavier Madness Loubser, and convince him to follow me to the front. We made it, and Motörhead was bad-ass. They are just good ol’ dirty rock ‘n roll. With Mickey Dee being one of the best drummers of the weekend, undoubtedly. They did a wide variety of tunes, and ended off with Ace of Spades, and Overkill. While they were playing I noticed Duff McKagan (Kings of Chaos, Guns ñ Roses) next to the stage, just watching Motörhead. Two of my heroes on one stage, Duff and Lemmy.

I moved back and met up with my crew and we watched Queens of the Stone Age. Which in my opinion, did not deliver the level of show/performance I expected. They were very bland, no punch, and got boring very quickly. I like their music, but thought they would be better live.

Next up was Iron Maiden. It was a 25 year reunion of their Monsters of Rock show, in 1988, titled Maiden England. They played through the old repertoire, really taking you back to the old Maiden days, and throwing in some newer ones toward the end. The band was unbelievable. Starting off with old war planes flying over the crowd, the whole stage redecorated, and tons of extra lights brought in, props, backdrop and wardrobe changes with every song.

Iron Maiden @ Download 2013 Download Festival 2013: A Review from a SA Muso

The band was on top form. Guitars and bass wailing, and a drumming-force like a machine. Bruce Dickinson had trouble towards the end, nailing the higher notes, but never hit a false note, and just improvised cool melodies instead. He had the whole Download in the palm of his hands. Clapping, singing, it was like one big team/family. Amazing show. Maiden Rules!

Sunday: Broken, bruised, scarred, and tired. We arrive at the arena a bit late, but just in time for Stone Sour.
They were way better than I expected. I always thought they were like a watered-down version of Slipknot, but boy, was I wrong. It’s something completely different, it drags you into the most delicate and beautiful spaces, while grooving to heavy riffs and great rhythms. Corey Taylor and James Root are both from Slipknot, but it was great seeing them in this element. They did a Black Sabbath song ‘Children of the Grave’, and they did it well. Really impressive.

Newsted was next. I had to get my thrash metal fix. Ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted in his newly formed band. They were great, like old Metallica meets Motörhead. Groovy, fast, and altogether a great metal band.

Next up I made my way to see Airbourne, but missed them. So I decided to wait for Limp Bizkit, and had to endure the pain of sitting through A Day To Remember’s set. Kak band, plastic, and not entertaining. Limp Bizkit, however…

They kicked ass. They make a crowd jump like very few bands I’ve seen before. I went right to the front, moshed, crowd surfed, it was so much fun. They’re out to have a good time, and the crowd reflects the same energy. They played all their hits, old and new, as well as throwing in Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name Of’. They were good, groovy, tight, and extremely entertaining. It was at about this time that things heated up, and you could hear Rammstein on the mainstage, and feel their pyrotechnics.

Rammstein. The SA show was great, but I could not believe my eyes. Best lighting and pyrotechnics of the whole weekend, hands down. Props, fire, all kinds of entertainment. I only know a handful of their tunes, and I don’t know the lyrics, but that didn’t matter. Each member had a flame-thrower, their guitars were flame throwers. The keyboardist was set alight a couple of times, running over the stage in flames. His keyboard exploded.

Rammstein @ Download 2013 Download Festival 2013: A Review from a SA Muso

The vocalist was in a shower of sparks, beautiful imagery, but then came the typical joking around. The vocalist had the keyboardist on a gimp suit/leash setup, and fucked him from behind on a rising platform. It was a fake dick, as it was squirting water out like a fire hydrant. Pissing on his gimp, on the crowd, on the security, everyone just laughed at the disgusting, but silly band that was putting on an insane show. They also had a giant sized penis spraying foam all over the crowd in the end, with foam showers. It was a very interesting/entertaining show.

Final Thought: All-in-all Download Festival 2013 was great. I had the time of my life. It was raining on-and-off constantly, and created mud/sludge by Saturday which was really fun, but tricky. I had my gum-boots, so wasn’t in any trouble. On Sunday it was almost completely dried up again. Queues were a bit long of toilets, but the men soon started improvising, as it ended up smelling a bit like piss by then. Food and booze was good and easy to buy. It was difficult getting merch, as they split it up in 3 different location, each selling different bands’ stuff. Transport and walking was worked out really well. Sound was good, sometimes a bit soft if you weren’t right in front. It also felt a bit crowded. Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium hosts around 160,000 people, but there is more space per square meter. You can also get food, booze, merch, and right in front way easier.

The bands were of top quality, and the sound too. Really enjoyed it both as a musician, and a fan. SA festivals are on their way, we need to implement the token system. It works. The one thing SA has, that European festivals don’t, is open space. We can do big things. I was inspired by this fest, and ready to hit the scene head-on!

Huge thanks to Chris Van Der Walt for letting me know about his experience at Download Festival 2013 in the UK. You can follow him on twitter via I think I owe the craziest bassist in SA Music a shot of tequila or three for sharing this with all of you, what do you think?

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Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone
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