Download festival 2014. I was looking forward to this for so long. We’ve had past experience, there were more people coming and the three headliners did not disappoint. But how was the weekend as a whole?

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Not only did me, Jack, Kayleigh and Jordan go this year but also Jack’s girlfriend Sophie and my mate Andy. As there were going to be more people going this year we needed two cars. Kayleigh would be driving and I was the other driver. Despite having two cars space didn’t improve much. We left nice and early and got there in plenty of time (I beat Kayleigh there) and set up the two tents. With more hands to help out we got the tents up in no time and it gave us a lot of free time to get used to the arena whereabouts and catch the first band, and that’s when the first problem occurred. We had the disabled passes again like last year so we could use the viewing platform but because Andy booked his ticket separately he didn’t have the same privileges we had (boo). So he went off to meet up with some friends as the rest of us sat down at the main stage viewing platform.

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The first band we saw on the main stage were Miss May I. They kicked things off to a suitably heavy start. I was quite neutral about them really. The first band to really get the crowd moshing were Japanese rave metallers Crossfaith. I enjoyed them at the Kerrang tour and here they were even better. With their bouncy tunes and on stage energy they certainly won over the crowd and I’ve no doubt they’ll be asked to come back again in the future. The one red herring of the day was when I decided to go to the Pepsi Max tent and check out a smaller band. The band I saw was Turbowolf. They were quite a crazy mob (even though it’s a smaller stage you usually get quite crazy bands) and they dropped a lot of F-Bombs, not bad though. After that I met up with the others at the main stage to see Welsh rockers Skindred. Whilst I couldn’t really tell you any of their songs the main attraction here is the lead singer Benji Webbe. His level of crowd interaction is unparalleled as he cracks witty banter to them and gets them doing the Newport helicopter and even the Harlem Shake (seriously, I can’t make this up). After such electric stage presence Black Label Society are not as fun. Despite Zakk Wylde being one of the world’s top guitarists their lack of singalong songs as well as no crowd interaction leaves much to be desired here.

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After that I went for some grub. I tried the chicken chow mein (recommended by Jack). It was quite nice. Me and Jack then met up with Andy and got closer to the front to watch Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation. They take huge risks by playing a lot of new songs and neglecting old favourites like Mother Earth and Angels, but the likes of Dangerous and Paradise get the crowd going and Sharon Den Adel wins over the hearts of the male demographic with her seductive charm and sweet angelic voice. Rob Zombie is the polar opposite of that. With harsher, grittier vocals and playing his setlist much safer. Sadly safer also applies to his stage show with production values majorly cut back on compared to his usual affair, but his banter with the crowd and the likes of Sick Bubble Gum and Dragula still manage to entertain. After that we met up with Kayleigh, Sophie and Kayleigh’s sister Laura and were awaiting the first headliner, Avenged Sevenfold. The main thing I was looking forward to about this set was that they said they’d be playing all the favourites, and boy do they deliver on that promise? Playing a mammoth selection of songs paying attention to each album (Sounding the Seventh Trumpet aside), ranging from the epic chants of Hail to the King, the necessary heartfelt tribute to The Rev with So Far Away and paying most attention to my favourite of their albums City of Evil and their Self-Titled album. They even played Second Heartbeat and Seize the Day. For those who still doubt their ability to headline their set only proved that they were due that moment for a long time, and now that it happened you can’t help but feel they earned it. Nice one fellas. So after Avenged set the bar really high how will the other headliners cope?

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So day 2 starts. We get up, freshen ourselves off and try to solve this Iceman Thesis conspiracy. The first band on the Pepsi Max stage and Red Bull stage were both called Iceman Thesis, so we decided to split up and go to both stages. I went to the Red Bull stage. The band only played one song and all the members wore black masks. The song was good but the identity of the band still remains a mystery. After that we stuck around for Cytota, a band who have previously been touring with Rise to Remain, could they be on the main stage in the future? After that we met up on the main stage for Bury Tomorrow. For a British band the lead singer sounded surprisingly American, but they had a pretty solid set that got the crowd going. We then went to check out the encore stage, and it was a more hit and miss affair. We caught The Boss Hoss, an American country rock band. Odd, but catchy, which was more than can be said for Twenty One Pilots. They’re a weird one to describe. They tried to blend in electric, rap, piano, rock I dunno. Too many cooks spoil the broth, the same way too many genres spoil the music. After that it was back to the main stage for Bowling for Soup.

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I pretty much knew what to expect for Bowling for Soup. They played all the favourites like Girl all the Bad Guys Want and High School Never Ends, cracked the usual jokes in between songs and included a giant inflatable sheep and rubber penis. They’re still just as immature as usual. Killswitch Engage were next. Not as rude, but equally as enjoyable with the likes of Rose of Sharyn and My Curse feeling right at home. Next were Bring me the Horizon. They mostly played songs from their latest album Sempiternal, but as that album is the one with the most familiar singalong songs it works well for a festival, also compared to last year’s Reading set Oli’s vocals seemed a lot cleaner here. He would also get my vote for the worst swearing of the weekend. After that I had some grub. I went for a pie to go with something English. There was a pie kiosk where you can get a pie with mash, peas, carrots and gravy all for £8. Not a bad deal, eh?

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But then a clash. Fall Out Boy and Twisted Sister, and I would’ve liked to see both. I opted for Fall Out Boy and only when I see them live do I realise how many great songs they have. The pulse pounding sounds of The Phoenix to the rock anthem of Dance Dance and they even did a cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat it. I left early though to catch the end of Twisted Sister’s set. I caught I Wanna Rock and that was worth it, hearing all those people chant Rock along with crazy frontman Dee Snider working the crowd, just a shame I couldn’t see more of it. After that it was back to the main stage for Linkin Park. As you may already know Linkin Park played Hybrid Theory in full, much to the fans delight. The tracks on that album all go well to a live show and because the album isn’t too long they still had plenty of time for their other hits. Alongside a whole album they paid attention to pretty much all their other albums and even had time for some new songs. Inevitably there were going to be favourites they had to miss out (Breaking the Habit) but still can’t be too greedy. After that Sophie and Laura went back to the tents, but the rest of us stayed up to watch the football game, England V Italy. I don’t think I even need to say the result but that we got disgraced. Still that was the only downer to an otherwise enjoyable day.

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On the last day we got up early to pack everything away and load up the cars. The tents were the hardest things to pack. Me and Jordan tried to get it in the bag, and failed, so we had to rely on Kayleigh for that. Once we had everything loaded we headed for the Encore stage where Kill Devil Hill were currently playing. I went to get a Download T-Shirt and some grub. I had the Hot Dog and chips, which was probably the worst food I had all weekend. The hot dog wasn’t too bad but the chips were too hard. I remembered the hot dog being better last year. Also it started to rain, but if there was one thing to lighten the mood it was Christian rockers Skillet. For a band so low down on the bill they got the crowd going and singing along. They only had about 20 minutes of set time, but they made good use of it and I reckon the crowd wouldn’t have said no to an encore. After that we headed to the signing tent. It was only then that Laura found out because we had disabled access we could get into a separate queue. We met Steel Panther who seemed like really nice and fun guys, and also Sophie got a kiss from Lexxi Foxx. We also met The Pretty Reckless after that, and sorry Jack but you ain’t getting a kiss from Taylor Momsen. After that we headed over to the Pepsi Max tent to check out Crazy Town. And well crazy is right. They were very energetic, especially the guitarist jumping around like a Mexican jumping bean.

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The rumour going around of a secret band afterwards was that it was Black Stone Cherry. That got the tent well packed. Me and Andy had a listen but it was a bit pointless if we couldn’t see anything. We headed back to the main stage where Volbeat were playing and I decided they actually sounded more up my alley. After that I went for some fish and chips, chunky chips this time, and they were better than the stale ones I had earlier. Next up were Steel Panther. They would get the award for most boobs and women on stage. As crude as they can sometimes be their songs are catchy and their on stage presence is always fun to watch. After that I met up with Andy and we watched Alter Bridge together. Despite a late start they quickly made up for it when they started playing their songs. Whether it was the chugging riffs of Ties that Bind, the breakdowns of Isolation or even the softer Watch Over You it seems they have something for everyone, further helped out by Myles Kennedy’s impressive live singing voice. They were really good, now all that’s left is Aerosmith.

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This would be the first time I’ve seen Aerosmith live, a good opportunity as I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be around for. Thankfully though age has not affected Steven Tyler’s capabilities for both his on stage swagger and singing voice. They blast through many of the old favourites such as Love in an Elevator, Dream On, Walk This Way and I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing. But even they managed to throw in the odd surprise here and there. After their supposed final song Sweet Emotion Steven Tyler said he’d do one more song to quote “F*** Curfew”, yes. Good to see rock and roll still has rebellion. They finished with Mama Kin, a nice surprise and then it was over. All that was left was the drive back. It didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d hoped. I took a wrong turn and had to go a more ‘Scenic route’ to get to the M42, but I still got back safely.

Download 2014

Overall Download 2014 was another success and everyone enjoyed it. I think we all enjoyed different aspects of it. Whilst Aerosmith and Linkin Park were both very good I’d still say the set of the weekend went to Avenged Sevenfold. Next year might be a bit trickier what with costs and that so we might go for only a day next time, providing we’re not spoiled silly by the line up. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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