I love a good festival, which is why I’m a bit disappointed after this weekend’s ‘jolly’ down at Donington for the Download Festival. This is a festival I have been to many times over the years and I normally have a good time, but this year I left feeling a bit underwhelmed.
It didn’t get off to a good start as my tickets never arrived. I should have taken this as an omen. On the way down, things didn’t get much better as the exit I needed for the festival was being dug up. After a thirty-minute detour (and lots of swearing at the lack of U-turn availability), I finally made it into the carpark. I traipsed off to the gig.
There were only three bands that I really wanted to see on the Saturday; Thunder, Black Stone Cherry and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Seeing as they were on last, I wandered about from stage to stage for a few hours. I saw some good bands but nothing memorable. I went to watch Corrosion of Conformity but after a fifteen-minute delay getting on stage, all I got was an assault on my ears. I promptly left.
Eventually, and much to my combined excitement and relief, Thunder came on stage (woo-hoo!) Thunder never disappoint and whenever I see them, I always hear at least one person after the set express how surprised they were by them. They put on a good show and fifty-minutes wasn’t long enough, they deserved more.
Next were Black Stone Cherry, but in the time before sets, I went off in search of a drink. I didn’t fancy a beer, mainly because the queues were ridiculously long and £5.50 for a pint is a rip-off. I fancied a Pepsi (they don’t sell Coke). After visiting several food outlets, all they could offer me was Pepsi Max. I hate sugar free drinks; the aspartame gives me a sore throat. Whoever says you can’t taste the difference, you’re lying to yourself and everyone you try to convince. My patience at an all-time sugar low, I trundled off to the Pepsi stand to see if they had any. The answer was no. The guy manning the stall seemed as sceptical as myself.
“We’re offering a healthier sugar free alternative this year.” We both looked at each other with raised eyebrows. He went on – “as well as providing wooden disposable forks and no straws in an aim to be a greener festival.”
Something inside me snapped. “Hang on” I said, “so you’re telling me that I can go over there and drink myself into a stupor, eat as many fatty burgers and donuts as I see fit, but I can’t get a sugary drink as they are unhealthy for me?!” The merchant nodded.
“I don’t get it either” he said. Mightily annoyed, I walked off and got my sugar fix from a hot chocolate complete with marshmallows, whipped cream and a flake. On my way back to the stage I passed a queue at the vegan stall which was another first for Download (the queue that is, not the stall).
After watching Black Stone Cherry, I found a spot to watch Guns ‘n’ Roses and waited. I was looking forward to it, I’d seen Slash many times before and he always puts on a good show. I’d seen Axl Rose sing with AC/DC a few years ago and he could still belt them out. Combined, it should have been brilliant but in reality, they failed to live up to my expectations.
They were scheduled for a three-hour set and before the weekend I’d mused with a friend how they were going to fill three hours because they certainly didn’t have that much material. As I feared, they didn’t, and a third of their set were cover songs.
Now, I’ll let them off for playing ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ as they were featured on their albums. I’ll even let ‘Slither’ go as it was one of Slash’s Velvet Revolver songs. But they didn’t stop there. They covered ‘The Seeker’ by The Who, we were treated to an instrumental version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ (complete with extra-long self-indulgent solos from both guitarists), the second part of ‘Layla’ (with even longer guitar solos), ‘Attitude’, ‘Shadow of Your Love’, ‘Wichita Lineman’ and when they started playing ‘Black Hole Sun’ the guy next to me shouted “I’ve payed to watch Guns ‘n’ Roses, not a [insert your choice of swearword here] cover band!” I whole-heartedly agreed with him.
When they did play their own stuff, well, anything from ‘Appetite for Destruction’, it was brilliant, but with all the filler songs, the set didn’t really flow.
Axl has also let himself go a little bit too. Let’s just say that he probably doesn’t fit into those tiny red shorts he used to wear anymore. From the close ups it looks like he’s had a bit too much work done on his face as well and whenever he wasn’t singing he could only manage one facial expression which was a wrinkle free look of confusion. He looked as if he was trying to figure out if he’d been short-changed at the merchandise stand earlier.
I’ve never seen a man change his t-shirts so often either, he wore more t-shirts in those three hours then I do in a week! The majority of them pictured a woman in an uncompromising position, which, for a man in his fifties, is a little bit sad.
All in all, apart from Thunder, I had a pretty lousy day and to top it off I slept on an air bed that night in the back of my car as I was too tired to do the three-hour drive back to Newcastle.
I will give Axl some credit though, at least he showed up when he was supposed to.