Download Down Under!

Download Festival Australia – 09/03/19

Long queues for food and toilets, garbage strewn all around and a horrifying smell coming from the portaloos – yep, it’s a music festival. It’s also threatening a downpour, which brings to mind faded memories of reading reviews of the mud pit Alternative Nation festival in, I think, 94? I do have to say this to my fellow attendees first off though: PICK YOUR GARBAGE UP PEOPLE. More bins would have been handy sure, but that’s little excuse. The place was strewn with food scraps, containers and cans, and I’ll put money on the cleaners not getting paid enough no matter what they’re getting. Mind you, in a perfect world cleaners would be paid as much as CEO’s are now, but I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

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The author mid Anthrax, photo requested by his wife.
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It’s been a while between drinks rock and roll festival wise – with the collapse of both Soundwave and the Big Day Out in recent years, so Download has been a sight for sore eyes, and eardrums. After something of a trek to get there (Thanks Gladys, choice weekend for trackwork down my train line), both cloak and security compliment my kilt (The first of more than a few) and I make my way inside. I have a bit of a wander round, and arrive at I PREVAIL’S singer doing a shoey at the urging of the crowd. In his words, “tastes like athelete’s foot.” The rain’s sprinkling, and the clouds aren’t that dark, but there’s potential for a mud fest. Goody. My afternoon begins properly with AIRBOURNE, who for a band that claims to be playing their first gig in a year and a half, don’t show it one fucking bit. They bring all their ferocious dedication to rock and roll and then some, hurling themselves around the stage, with singer Joel O’Keefe at one point clambering onto a security guard’s shoulders and going out into the crowd, still playing. If anyone deserves to be AC/DC 2.0, it’s them. BEHEMOTH start the next stage over, and while they aren’t my cup of tea, I have to observe that corpse paint doesn’t go so well in bright sunshine.

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Airbourne kicking it out.

I go off in search of food, which means times queing, as is the festival way. Thanks to me being picky and possibly not being in the right queue, I abandon my search and return to the main stages in time for ANTHRAX. Having one of the Big 4 on at 4:30 in the afternoon raises my hackles a little, but that’s burned away by their set – few bands can match them. Yeah, you could say it’s a greatest hits set, but how many other bands can casually walk onstage playing Cowboys from Hell, and have the likes of Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and I Am the Law as the first three songs? Be All End All went on a bit (Lads, you’ve only got 45 minutes), but a crowd participation double bill of Antisocial and Indians finished things up nicely, and all of a sudden it was over. My quest for food returns anew, and stops me getting to RISE AGAINST, who sounded pretty good. Sorry lads, but kilted metal head needs food badly. I highly doubt the ‘cheese’ on my schnitzel is genuine, but I’m hungry enough not to care. While eating I discover that THY ART IS MURDER aren’t to my taste, but watching them get a circle pit going around the sound tent was fun. It’s finally getting dark and the bats are out. Excellent. This leaves me ready for HALESTORM, who don’t disappoint. Alas, I have to make a small detour to get my jacket back (trying to beat the end of day queues) and put my phone onto charge, as I’m running low and will need more power for later. Upon returning, Lizzy and co haven’t stopped rocking out, and I kick myself for not hearing them sooner. Also, their drummer has a fantastic knack for mid song drum stick twirling.

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Scott Ian. What a guy…

At this point I return to the main stage as ALICE IN CHAINS are finishing up, and go down a treat based on the audiences reaction. All of a sudden, there’s an air raid siren and BLACK SABBATH’s War Pigs thunders out. But Ozzy had to cancel I hear you say, what the hell? JUDAS PRIEST hit stage, roaring through Firepower and things go more than a little apeshit. They only up the ante, with Delivering the Goods, Sinner and Lightning Strike following and at that point my smile is so wide it starts and ends in different time zones. Yeah, to my ears Rob Halford’s voice was a little buried (Unlike his relentlessly cheery Instagram) and he may well have been using a teleprompter, but overall it didn’t matter a bit. The between song breaks for (I’m guessing) instrument changes and for Rob to change jackets start to drag, but the power of the songs cuts out any issues. Plus, at one point he comes on wearing an ankle length denim battle vest covered in patches, a garment that almost no-one else could carry off with such style.

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JUDAS FREAKING PRIEST. METAL GODS.

No Surrender is dedicated to Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton (who’s battling Parkinsons) and Rob waves a lightsaber around during Rising to Ruins (No, I’ve no idea why either). He also drives a Harley onstage for Hell Bent for Leather, a feat that has me jumping with glee. Things end with a ripping Painkiller, but a faint suspicion that it ain’t all over. How could it possibly be, as we haven’t heard, wait… What’s that? Yes, it’s The Hellion, followed by a storming Electric Eye, and, of course, Breaking the Law. I nearly weep with joy at this point. We may never see their like again, so appreciate them while you can.

Next stage over, things get more, well, evil. As the curtain drops, SLAYER open their final Sydney show with a ripping Repentless. They also have a pyro set up that if you put me at Dave Bostaph’s drum kit it would have made me load my trousers and flee – I’m a good distance back and can still feel my eyebrows being scorched. Alas, after a shredding War Ensemble I have to depart, as GHOST are soon to start. Cardinal Copia and the nameless Ghouls are (to my ears) hampered by a bass heavy sound mix, but the quality of the songs and the Cardinal’s cheeky stage banter (At one point commenting that the next song will ‘wobble our asses and tickle our taint” wins out over any sound issues – Ritual is received raptorously and the explosion of the end of Pinnacle to the Pit makes me jump. Before we know it, there’s a shower of sparks from above the stage, the band take their bows and it’s all over.

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Ghost doing their thing. Equal parts spooky and sexy.

As the motley horde shamble their way to the train station (with only the occasional scream of “SLAAAYYYER!”) to break the conversation, I consider myself fortunate to live in such an age. I saw 5 other kilts, had a guy ask if he could get a pic of me and his wife and am still deciding what was my favorite t-shirt was (I’m torn between Frenzal Rhomb’s Pell Awaits or the bright pink Death Metal number). I bloody love live music. It was a good day, a bloody good day. Sure, there was the odd pocket of testosterone fueled shit behaviour, but it was damned encouraging to see so many women there as well. Metal’s for all and long may it remain so. *throws horns*

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He was very confused when I asked for a photo.

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