Tag Archives: Music

Download 2018: The Rock Festival That Sets The Standard For All Others

This time last week I was driving home from Download Festival 2018 reflecting on a weekend of great music, and on the funeral of my 35-year-old nephew who was to be cremated just two days later.

There is something about Download.  Few would argue that Donington Park in Leicestershire has become the spiritual home of rock music.  The place reeks of history, name a great rock band and the chances are that they have played Download.  The atmosphere is fantastic, a mixture of fun, craziness, and a love of music that binds the many thousands of fans together.

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Guns N’ Roses.  Hands up, I have never been a huge fan, Axl Roses’ reputation for being a total twat prevented me from really connecting with their music.  As soon as it was announced that Guns N’ Roses were reuniting for a tour, it was obvious that a headline slot for Download was inevitable.  I think I was more excited about this show than for any band I have ever seen.

 

So what did we get? Well Guns N’ Roses certainly didn’t shortchange the biggest crowd I have ever seen at Download.  They played a set of 28 songs in a show that lasted close to 3.5 hours.  The band even took the stage two minutes early!  What followed was a masterclass in how to delve into a large back catalog to create an interesting and varied setlist.  Of course, the old favorites like Paradise City, Mr. Brownstone, and Sweet Child O’ Mine were present, so too the famous covers like Live and Let Die, and Knockin on Heavens Door.  In fact, we had a total of nine covers in the set with songs by Soundgarden, The Who, and Pink Floyd getting an outing.

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This was rock royalty in every sense of the word.  So how was the show?

In truth, I thought it was a mixed bag.  Despite the huge numbers in attendance Axl Rose didn’t really interact with the crowd, at least over the course of the first two hours.  I felt that the atmosphere was strangely flat, though I wasn’t in the middle of the massive crowd.  Guns N Roses followed Black Stone Cherry, Thunder, The Temperance Movement, The Struts and Monster Truck on the main stage lineup.  I missed The Temperance Movement, but each of the other bands whipped the crowd into a frenzy, so I think Axl’s more aloof persona added to my feeling that things were a bit flat.

Axl sounded great.  I think he struggled to hit the notes on some of the songs, my friends disagreed. I must admit that I was a little taken aback to see Axl Rose make more costume changes than Beyonce!  Slash was a little self-indulgent at times but the band was as tight as a camels backside in a sandstorm.  Overall, I am thrilled that I finally got to see Guns N’ Roses.

I must mention The Struts and Thunder because for very different reasons they both blew me away.  Thunder passed me by first time around, and they last played at Donington in 1990.  They were just fabulous.  Good old-fashioned headbanging rock music that had the crowd bouncing for their entire set.  Definitely one of the highlights of a brilliant weekend for me.

I last saw The Struts at Reading a couple of years ago and I did wonder how they would go down with an audience of metalheads.  The answer, they went down a storm.  Struts frontman Luke Spiller, could be the love child of Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins from The Darkness.  He has that same flamboyance, the outrageous styling, and boy can he work a crowd.

My favorite moments on Friday’s line up came on the Avalanche stage, this year hosted and curated by Kerrang Radio.  Stray From The Path and Stick To Your Guns absolutely shredded the huge tent.  I simply don’t understand why both of these bands are not bigger than they are.  The sheer rawness and energy blow me away every time I see them.

Over on the main stage, Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold were simply brilliant.  BFMV have a new album in the offing and I talked about it with Matt and Jason before the show, watch out for that in the next few days.  Avenged Sevenfold always turn in a great show, and this was no exception.  They are worthy headliners for Download and are always worth watching.

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If I’m honest I found the Sunday lineup at this year’s Download a little uninspiring.  Of course many will disagree, but Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osborne on the main stage just wasn’t my cup of tea.  Manson’s stage persona and music have never really connected with me, and I was so disappointed with Ozzy’s performance with Black Sabbath at 2016’s “Drownload,” that I decided to give his show a miss for fear of tarnishing the memory of a true icon in metal music.

That left me free to wander and to just soak up the festival vibe.  The evergreen Rise Against and the rapidly improving Milk Teeth were my highlights of the day.  Across a brilliant weekend of rock music, and aside from the frankly ridiculous prices for merchandise, food, and drink at this year’s Download, my one lowlight also came on Sunday.

I wandered past the Zippo stage to check out Body Count Featuring Ice T.  I really like bands like Enter Shikari who are adding elements of Rap and Hip Hop into rock music, Truth be told I quite enjoyed Body Count’s music.  What I didn’t like was Ice T bringing a two-year-old girl onto the stage and telling her that “if anyone ever fucks with you, tell them your uncle Ice will shoot them in the fucking face.”

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Whilst I welcome the positive influences different musical genres can bring to the world of rock, you can keep the negative influences so often associated with Rap and Hip Hop.  You can keep the misogyny, the allusion to gun violence and all the negativity to yourself thanks.

Finally, even the weather cooperated to make Download 2018 a memorable occasion.  A dry weekend makes for a much more enjoyable festival, same again next year please Mr. Copping.

 

 

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Bearded Theory Review – An Eclectic Feast

If you caught my earlier piece about Bearded Theory festival you will be aware that I missed Thursdays music because of issues getting onto the site.  When we had torrential rain overnight and woke to rain and clouds that seemed to have settled about 6-feet above the van roof, I suspected that we were in for a pretty grim day.

I need not have worried, as things improved as lunchtime approached.  We set off for the arena looking forward to a day of music and catching up with friends.  As always, my first port of call is the Something Else Tea Tent.  No one is closer to new talent emerging on the grassroots scene than Gail, so it is always worth checking out what she has on offer.  Expect new talent, old favourites, and the odd main stage band dropping in to play an acoustic set.

I guess, in many ways, Les Carter epitomises all three of the above.  It was Les who provided my best moment of the entire weekend.  Get this, Les Carter, a man who headlined Glastonbury in 1992, playing an acoustic cover of Bobby Blue’s hit song, Dancing on a Saturday Night, in front of a couple of hundred people in the Something Else Tea Tent.  There it is, Bearded Theory, in a nutshell, you never know what you are going to get, it’s not unlike Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.  I’m almost certain that Les enjoys performing on the Grass Roots scene more than he ever did getting banned from Glastonbury 🙂

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Mind you, it’s not like we were stuck for bands elsewhere.  I thought Friday’s lineup was as excellent as it was eclectic.  I kicked off with a bit of high energy punk rock from a longtime friend of Bearded Theory.  John Robb and the Membranes played an insanely good set on the Woodland stage.  It was certainly Manchester’s day on that stage because I thought Manchester outfit Pins were absolutely sublime.  These girls rock and they have that outward confident swagger that suggests they are destined for big things.  Let’s face it, anyone who sends Iggy Pop a demo and asks him to do a voice over can hardly be accused of allowing themselves to be constrained by a lack of ambition.

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Over on the main stage folk favourites, Show of Hands played their usual hugely entertaining show.  They may have been around for a while, but they are none the worse for their longevity.  My biggest surprise of the day came from Sleeper.  Of course, I know the name, but for a band who have eight top-40 singles and 3 top 10 albums to their name, I know little about them.  That’s about to change, I thought they were absolutely superb on the day.

I had a huge decision to make later on Friday evening.  Jesus Jones on the Woodland Stage or Jesus & Mary Chain and Blossoms on the main stage.  In the end, I decided on the latter, chiefly because I was a huge Jesus & Mary Chain fan back in the day, and because I wanted to photograph the rapidly progressing Blossoms.

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In truth, Jesus & Mary Chain’s set largely passed me by.  I can’t put my finger on why, but I just couldn’t get into it.  Blossoms were a different story.  Being honest, I thought to book a band like Blossoms was a great decision by the festival.  Like many, I would be content to see the Levellers and New Model Army every year, but bands like Blossoms are the future.  Granted they don’t have the political edge of bands like those aforementioned, but they played a great set and I thought they were worthy headliners for a festival of this size.

That rounds up Friday for you folks, tune in later for Saturday & Sunday.

 

Bearded Theory 2018 – Triumph In Adversity! (Part 1)

At last!  After what seemed to be the longest Winter ever, the UK summer festival season is underway.  Those who have read my previous views on this festival will know that Bearded Theory is a real favourite of mine, the dates for next year are already in my diary.  That said, there were a few problems at this years festival, so let’s deal with those right away.

Getting onto the site this year was quite simply a nightmare.  It took me over four hours to travel the last four miles from the A38 to the site.  Not good, not good at all.  The queues were dreadful and the situation was exacerbated after arriving on the site and meeting an incredibly rude, aggressive and officious campsite security supervisor who refused to let me park my van in an empty spot and sent me to the overflow crew field instead.  This meant a 40-minute walk to the site, no fun when carrying all of my camera equipment.  I realise that staff are stressed when things go wrong, but there is no need for aggression towards festival fans.

Sadly, my experience was far from unique.  If my festival friends are to believed many shared my experience.  However, let’s remember that the huge majority of security staff were helpful, friendly and polite.

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The net result was that I missed the entire Thursday lineup with the exception of the last couple of songs by headliners, Reverend and the Makers.  It was certainly a disappointing start to the festival.  On Friday, we woke to rain and the awful news that tent thieves had been at work overnight, this is fast becoming a trend at UK festivals, especially on the first night when people are carrying the most cash.

That said, if you think this is going to be a review that focuses on what didn’t go well, let me disavow you of that notion.

There are many reasons why Bearded Theory is my favourite festival of the year, and it’s mostly about the people.

The organisers of Bearded Theory were horrified by the traffic problems, and I am certain that they will do everything in their power to ensure that there is no repeat next year.

Of course, it isn’t just the organisers who make a festival run smoothly.  They are assisted by a huge team who spend days before and after the festival building and breaking down the site.  A special mention must go to the wonderful army of Oxfam stewards.  These selfless souls turn up giving their time, often working long shifts, for no more than free entry to the event.  They work incredibly hard to keep us all safe and to keep things running smoothly.

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Of course, the biggest praise of all should go to those festival fans who turn up intent on having a great weekend.  In their thousands, music fans arrive on site to party, make new friends, and to socialise with other revelers.  Perhaps the best example of the atmosphere at Bearded Theory was the fans reactions to the Thursday night thefts.  Many fans donated to hastily arranged funds collected by the welfare team and by the crew at the Something Else Tea Tent.  Thousands of pounds were donated to help ensure that those who lost everything were able to stay on site and enjoy the festival.

You can’t help but be impressed by the selflessness and generosity of the fans at Bearded Theory.  Likewise, the attention to detail displayed by the entire team.  The festival had campsite helpers who entertained children whilst tents were erected.  There were sign language interpreters on all the stages, new paths had been installed to assist those with mobility problems,

My wife and I walked the camping fields on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, almost unbelievably, as the photos below will show, there wasn’t a single piece of litter to be seen in the campsites.  This was seriously impressive, but it also exemplifies that everyone has a role to play in making a festival and great experience for everyone.

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Lastly, one of the reasons that Bearded Theory is frequently awarded accolades for Best Family Festival is the Bearded Theory School.  Teachers, volunteers, Special Educational Needs teachers combine to provide a fabulous fun and educational experience for the younger festival fan.  This really is the jewel in Bearded Theory’s crown.

To summarise, Bearded Theory had a few issues to deal with over the past weekend, but as they always do, the organisers reacted swiftly, doing everything they possibly could to resolve the problems.  I have no doubt that they will do everything in their power to improve again next year.

It is Bearded Theory’s ability to listen and respond to its customers that sets it apart from most festivals.  It is the determination to get it right that makes Bearded Theory the best festival of its kind in the UK.  Long may it continue!

I will end part 1 of this review here, do watch out for reviews and photographs over the next few days.

 

Ten Tips To Tempt You Away From The Main Stage At Download 2018

wo weeks today I will be making my annual pilgrimage to the home of Rock, Donington Park for the 2018 version of Download Festival.  As always Download has plenty on offer for those who like their music loud and heavy.  We will see Rock, Metal, Hardcore, Metalcore, and Punk bands from around the globe.

At large festivals like Download, there is always a temptation to camp out by the main stage to watch a seemingly never-ending lineup of big-name acts.  This year sees headline slots form Avenged Sevenfold, Guns N’ Roses and Ozzy Osborne.  Marilyn Manson, Bullet for my Valentine and Blackstone Cherry head up the main stage undercast.

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Marilyn Manson

I will, of course, be checking out Avenged Sevenfold and Guns N’ Roses, but Ozzy will get a body swerve.  I dread to think how Ozzy will cope, after all, when he headlined with Sabbath two years ago I was amazed that he had even managed to walk onto the stage.  No matter!  As with any festival, it is my firm belief that the real joy takes place away from the main stage.

Over the years Download’s Avalanche stage has become my personal favourite. It’s at this stage where you can be sure of a quality lineup of punk and Hardcore bands, and this year is no exception.  For me, at least, Friday evening at the Avalanche stage provides rich plunder for fans of Punk, Metalcore and Hardcore.

It is there that two of my top 10 picks for the weekend away from the main stage can be found.  Even better, Stray From The Path and Stick To Your Guns are playing back to back, and in this old punk’s estimation, both are unmissable, the Mosh Pit will be brutal and both bands are more than capable of getting you right in the mood for the rest of the weekend.

To be fair, with Cancer Bats, The Bronx and Bad Religion all on the Avalanche stage on Friday, you would be forgiven if you staked out a spot and stayed put all evening.  That won’t be the case for me though. If the timings work out as they should I will be checking out Zippo Stage Friday Headliners, You Me At Six.

I must admit, I caught You Me At Six a couple of years back and remember being totally underwhelmed.   I thought they were a bit lost on the big Reading stage, but since then they have become something of a guilty pleasure.

OK now, I accept that YMAS may not be the diehard metalhead’s idea of Download music, but these boys will rock the stage, and I must confess an affinity with the young pop-punk bands around at the moment.  The scene is flourishing and YMAS will draw a huge crowd of mostly younger fans.

With WSTR, Neckdeep and Mayday Parade on the Avalanche stage on Saturday, I could be tempted back.  However, the Zippo stage is where my top tips for Saturday are playing.  The stage has a quality lineup all day, but L7, Lawnmower Deth, and Asking Alexandria are where I shall be pointing my camera.

L7 played a blinding set on the same stage on 2015 (?) and as the only (almost) all-female lineup at this year’s Download, they certainly deserve our support.  Asking Alexandria are arguably the strongest British Metalcore outfit around, and they get better and better.  I certainly won’t be missing this one.  Anyone who has ever seen Lawnmower Deth knows that their stage shows are not to be missed.  Their 2016 set on the Avalanche stage was the highlight of a very wet festival for me.  FFS they even brought along one of my boyhood crushes, Kim Wilde to perform “Kids in America.”  Seriously what’s not to like 🙂

Sunday’s highlight for me is undoubtedly Rise Against headlining the Zippo stage.  The Chicago based punk outfit was sublime at Download in 2015, and I can’t wait to see them again.  Arguably the most underrated punk outfit of this millennium.

I will also be checking out Milk Teeth and The Hives over on the Avalanche stage.  I have seen Milk Teeth numerous times and have always been impressed by Becky Blomfield.  The bass player and singer has a great stage presence, and it is great to see a female fronted pop-punk outfit get another slot at Download.

I managed to catch some of The Hives set at Reading in 2016.  They were fabulous.  I must admit that was my first exposure to the Swedish punk outfit, but I was impressed and am looking forward to hearing more.

So there you have it, 9 bands to check out away from Download’s main stage.  But Wait!  Didn’t I promise 10?  Of course, I did, and my 10th is BabyMetal!  I know, I know – but here’s the thing, festivals are supposed to be fun, and no one can deny that BabyMetal are fun.  Check them out and see what all the fuss is about, you might even enjoy it 🙂

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Download Artists Friday

See ya there Downloaders, I’m ready to rock!!

 

NEW ALBUM ‘STRENGTH OF A WOMAN’ SETS MARY J. BLIGE FREE FROM DRUGS, DIVORCE AND HER CHEATING PROTÉGÉ

Soul singer Mary J. Blige is back with a new 2017 album Strength Of A Woman. Released on April 28, Strength Of A Woman is a powerful and emotional record that deals with hard hitting topics, and it is Blige’s first releases since 2014’s The London Sessions. According to Vulture, Strength Of A Woman is essentially Mary J. Blige’s “divorce record.”

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WWE News: WWE NXT Stars Take Over Download, Europe’s premier rock festival

You may have noticed that all the recent WWE news is about the buildup to WrestleMania 33. In recent weeks, the WWE network’s Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live shows have focused on the back stories to the planned event at wrestling’s premier event, which takes place in Orlando, Florida on April 2. Of course, SmackDown and Monday Night Raw will provide the vast majority of WrestleMania competitors, so their focus on the big event has largely left WWE NXT’s emerging stars to get on with the job of wrestling.

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Fans Should Forget The Glastonbury Ticket Resale And Go To Bearded Theory Instead

Every autumn we see the annual scramble for tickets to Glastonbury festival. On October 9, 2016 tickets for the 250,000 capacity Glastonbury festival sold out in just 35 minutes. Of course, that is not the end of the road for Glastonbury fans. The official Glastonbury festival lineup will be released in the next couple of weeks. Shortly after that, fans who now find that they no longer wish to attend, can cancel their attendance and their Glastonbury tickets will be offered for resale on the official Glastonbury website. There will, of course, be a scramble for the Glastonbury ticket re-sale, but would fans be better advised to go elsewhere, for example to Bearded Theory Festival?

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