Download 2004: Main Stage, Saturday

Download 2004: Main Stage, Saturday

Andrew Future, Oli Pritchard, Mat Hocking, Helen White on 05 June 2004

Opening up the second Download festival at the early hour of 11:00am, America's finest math-core anomaly The Dillinger Escape Plan stride onto the main stage and immediately erupt into a blur of stuttering syncopation, violent rhythmic splatters and spazzed-out fret-wizardry. "It's pretty cool how they asked the best band to play first," quips vocalist Greg, muscles bulging as the band continue their lethal wake-up call with a tight and furious rendition of '43% Burnt'. This is the band that shat in a bag at Reading last year. Thankfully, despite the relatively empty arena, Dillinger still manage to tear the place apart with early-bird moshers battering each other into submission while every aspiring teen guitarist gawps open-mouthed at each mesmerising guitar-line as it plays havoc with their senses. An absolutely stunning start to the day, this is a band still at the very top of their game.

Looking more like hippies than extreme metallers, Opeth stride out on stage to hit Donington with their brand of folky black metal.  It's a waste of their talents to make them play only half an hour at the start of the day, but despite this, their blistering speed and superb exploitation of light/shade dynamics mean they go down a storm and manage to cram in a record breaking 5 songs!

Just as everyone's starting to feed and digest, in come Monster Magnet to rumble it all back out again with their super bass-heavy stoner rock.  By the time 'Space Lord' comes around to close the set, everyone's started to properly rock and roll.  Fantastic party-starters, God might say No but we say Yes to Monster Magnet.

Black metal uber-band Cradle of Filth come on to mass applause and quickly show why they sell so many t-shirts.  With the look all the kids want to ape, they have the crowd eating out of their hands. Professional dancers bring a piece of much-needed glamour to the stage and happily distract from the music which is frankly run-of-the-mill black metal that we've heard in a thousand other places.

The Hives are an odd, yet inspired choice for this festival. Howlin' Pelle Almqvist was born for the big stage and revels in the crowd's general hostility.  Refusing to acknowledge the predictable abuse, he struts about preening as if he were their idol.  He should be; he's the frontman of one of the most exciting bands here today. "Iggy and the Stooges are up next!", he informs, "They're one of the best bands of all time. And so are The Hives!" The crowd don't know whether to laugh or throw more bottles. For a split second, Pelle has made Donington, home of rock, silent. Respect.

Iggy comes dashing out on stage stripped to the waist as usual, showing off his leathered and ravaged body.  He goes on to put in the best performance of the day.  It's a shame the band can't keep up.  Plodding along rather than thrashing, they just look and feel too old to be doing this now. Iggy probably should be too, but he's a constantly kinetic figure, bumping and grinding all over the stage, running off to break speakers, and finally inviting enough people from the crowd to fill the entire stage. The songs he chooses aren't the best of the Stooges, and two versions of  'I Wanna Be Your Dog' are unnecessary but Iggy makes up for it with his sheer presence. A fantastic show in all; possibly the real headliners.

After a day of torturous metal, considering the apathy from their fellow bands (let alone the fans), Linkin Park put a brave face on things. Their checklist of spray-painted posing stage crates and sugar coated lines about how 'this is the best crowd we ever did see' might wash with the twelve year olds, but the Slayer fans aren't swallowing.

Donington is about the mighty R, and with his three minute water breaks and laughable mohawk, Chester 'Beddingfield' (as we like to call him) and his cartoon comrades are anything but metal. It's too choreographed for this audience who are not fooled into seeing much more than Busted with a few tattoos.

Still, even VF dances along to 'Crawling' hoping no one sees, but from our vantage point on the side of the stage, Linkin Park are probably the least inspiring major festival headline act we've seen since the Manic Street Preachers played Glasto '99.

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