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Sunshine, Showers and System of a Down: Download Festival 2011

June 19, 2011

This is us, enjoying Download during one of the bits when it wasn’t raining on us. In case you didn’t know, I’m in the middle wearing wellies and next to me is fellow Artsy contributor, D34dpixel (if you keep an eye out over future weeks, you should see Artsy get a sexy makeover and it’ll all be thanks to him!) Behind us is the main stage. Over the course of the weekend 10th-12th June, we saw it graced by the performances of such bands as, in no particular order, Avenged Sevenfold, Hollywood Undead, Skunk Anansie, Skindred, Escape the Fate, and most excitingly (for me at least), System of a Down. On the second and other stages, we also saw Asking Alexandria, Your Demise, LetLive, Korn, Bring Me The Horizon and Pendulum. We probably saw more, but very naughtily, I stopped paying attention to them when I wasn’t familiar with their music.

By and large, I was enormously impressed with what I saw. However, I didn’t realise that Hollywood Undead were such old men, and their masks scared me. This realisation shouldn’t impact on my opinion of their music but that wasn’t all too amazing either so I came away from their set (early) feeling quite dissatisfied by them. Likewise, no matter how much I actually don’t mind the music of Bring Me The Horizon, the things I hear about Olly Sykes make me really dislike the band and boycott their music on principle. I’ve heard stories of how he’s lost touch with his roots and has been abusive to fans, like he doesn’t realise that without a solid fan base, he won’t have any of the fame he seems to love so much.

When we left Hollywood Undead early to go and see Your Demise, we happened upon LetLive halfway through their set purely by chance. Seeing them was, well, an experience. I’ve never heard anything by them before and so am completely unfamiliar with their music so don’t know if some of the comments the lead singer made about his daddy issues were just lyrics or if he really has some problems but either way, to us standing watching them, it was a bit uncomfortable to witness and it completely overshadowed whatever other opinion I might have formed of them. Your Demise were good though.

The main highlights for me were Pendulum and System of a Down. I’ve seen Pendulum play DJ sets a couple of times on nights out but never a set of all their own stuff and I was very, very impressed. I didn’t realise until afterwards how close to the front of the crowd we were, and how big the crowd was. They didn’t play a single song that I didn’t know, which you might perhaps expect considering I own all their albums and even the song they named as their new single I recognised from Immersion! I can’t remember an occasion where I tired myself out quite so much dancing, except obviously for System, and I was on such a high walking back afterwards that not even the snail’s pace of the crowd thronging towards the bottleneck entrance/exit could bring me down.

System of a Down, though, was something else entirely. I’ve loved System since I was 13 and bought Toxicity after one of my friends from school played Chop Suey to me. It was one of the first “rock” albums I ever bought. Ever since then, I’ve come to own all their albums and know a lot of their songs by heart. I can sing along to every single song on Toxicity without faltering. It was the promise of seeing System that really sold Download to me this year. Their status as a band has been tenuous recently with Serj going off and doing his own solo stuff and it was rumoured that the band were only coming back together to play this last gig at Download 2011. I’ve been a fan of them my entire rock-loving life, so I was not going to miss that. Again, I didn’t realise at the time how close to the front of the crowd we actually were. We started off much further forward but before System had even started playing there was no space to stand because of the mass of people crushing forwards and being the mature adults that we are, we decided that rather than get trampled, we’d just retreat further back where we could actually enjoy the music and have space to jump around a bit. It didn’t really make much difference to me, as at only 5ft 2 and surrounded by annoyingly tall people I couldn’t see anything wherever we stood and what I did see of the gig was on the big screens either side of the stage. Not being able to see didn’t diminish the experience for me at all though. Hearing them playing songs I’ve grown up loving live only a matter of metres in front of me was enough. Fortunately, the band weren’t blighted by the sound problems that had affected some of the other bands playing the main stage that day (Avenged Sevenfold’s first song in particular was a bit questionable due to a dodgy sound set-up), and in my opinion they played a really good selection from all their albums. I’ve heard comments that they didn’t play enough from their self-titled debut album or from Steal This Album, but all that really mattered to me was hearing as much of Toxicity as possible! Hearing Chop Suey played live, for me, is a lifetime goal achieved.

Ever since we came back from Download, even though the rain forced us to leave earlier than we planned (again being the mature adults we are we didn’t think staying to see bands we were only semi-passionate about and spending another night in a tent was worth risking pneumonia for!), all I’ve wanted to do is go back. I didn’t think I’d like the festival atmosphere as I like to be clean and have nice makeup and hair but while I was there, after I spent £15 drying and straightening my hair following a communal shower, I stopped caring what I looked like and just enjoyed the music. We’ve all agreed that maybe we’re a bit old for camping in tents now and are going to try the luxury version next year but even if I have to go in a tent again, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

For more stuff about Download 2011 and news of 2012 as and when it breaks, check out the website:

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