Download Festival: The Classic Rock Report (Day Two)
Continuing Classic Rock‘s round-up of this past weekend’s happenings at Download. Seconds out: It’s Saturday, so it’s gotta be Rage-day!
Apparently there’s some little football match on today, but while the sportier-minded are wandering the site looking for somewhere screening the game, heading off muttering something about South Africa and vuvuzelas (whatever the hell they are) and returning a couple of hours later with their eyes rolling like marbles in their heads, muttering through gritted teeth about some poor unfortunate called Robert Green (whoever the hell he is), everyone else is enjoying the sun and the beer and some frankly astonishing comebacks. They go from the bittersweet (Deftones) to the age-defyingly acrobatic (Michael Monroe) to the utterly triumphant (Rage Against The Machine), and each is wonderful in its own way.
It’s not all about the old guard though. Canada’s Cancer Bats are one of the most exciting young punk bands touring at the moment, their adorable combination of pure joy at making a racket, full-tilt musical fury, and the easy manner of men you’ve known all your lives makes their early afternoon performance a joy to behold.
Stepping over prone figures enjoying a sunny nap facedown in a plateful of chow mein, three generations of a family all sporting Iron Maiden paraphernalia and ridiculously cute teenage goth couples sweltering in pvc pants, eyeliner streaming in sweaty tracks down their faces, the walk back to the main stage finds Megadeth ripping the crowd apart, their gnarled thrash whipping as fearsomely as Dave Mustaine’s fiery locks.
It’s been an unimaginably tough couple of years for Deftones, as bassist Chi Cheng remains in a coma after a horrifying car crash in 2008. If anyone was expecting the band to return cowed, though, they’ve picked the wrong men. Frontman Chino Moreno has slimmed down dramatically from the screaming chubster we’ve known and loved, but other than that this is the Deftones festival crowds have thrilled to for years, the sheer intensity of Moreno’s vocals and crushing guitars that have become their trademark sounding as powerful as ever.
Over on the Pepsi Max stage, it’s Michael Monroe’s turn to prove that there’s life in the old dog yet, something the Hanoi Rocks mainman does with alarming dexterity. Zipping through a gleaming set like a man half his age, he scales the tent poles in a manner suggesting a lifetime remembering to take his cod liver oil.
It’s a week since Rage Against The Machine played a victorious set at Finsbury Park to celebrate toppling the X Factor Christmas Number One monopoly, and while that show was a truly special celebration of the organised will of people sick of being force fed sickly pop nonentities, tonight is, if anything, and even more incendiary experience.
The moshpit is swirling within seconds – Zach De La Rocha has to stop to ask us all to move back for fear of a stampede – and the dancing goes all the way back to the burger vans on the horizon. The frontman looks genuinely moved as thousands of people sing along to a monstrously funky Bomb Track, his grin stretching across his face in a manner impossible to fake. In return, he leaps and screams while Tom Morello forces those instantly familiar and still jaw-dropping riffs from his guitar. After all this time, they’re still one of the most exciting bands in the world, and the sense that we’re lucky to have them back and still crushing lesser bands to dust is palpable as the sun sets. And not an own goal in sight.
– Emma Johnston