Download 2008 - Rated!

Loudest festival on the planet sized up

Download 2008 - Rated!

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

15 June 2008

Overall - 6/10
2008 was a challenging year for the organisers with a new site layout and a second open-air stage to deal with, but still they managed to tick all the boxes as Download went to plan.  A bit like an Eastenders omnibus, there just wasn't enough in the plot to make this latest edition of the mammoth rock and metal festival one to really remember. KISS may've proved to be a classic headliner, but elsewhere many of bands felt lightweight in comparison to recent years. Lost Prophets instead of Metallica, 45,000 fans instead of 70,000 and a depressing sense of the inevitable ensued rather than the usual metal madness that has become the staple at the home of heavy music.
 
Getting There and Back
- 9/10
As the home of many national and international events, not to mention an accommodating neighbour in East Midlands Airport, Donington Park is an ideal location for a festival. The drop off point couldn't have been closer to the campsite without squashing tents and a shuttle service was in operation from the train station to the site.
 
The Site - 7/10
The major talking point about this year's Download was the site being picked up from inside the racetrack and plonked onto its outskirts. The main stage is in now in a natural amphitheatre, but at the expense of good vantage points and the second stage has 'upgraded' to an open-air arena with concrete under-footing, which actually works surprisingly well. On site entertainment was limited to a couple of funfair rides and the Monster Energy Battlefield - a walking advert for an energy drink with skateboarders, motorbikes and scantily clad girls grinding to 'Play That Funky Music'  (shows at 2pm, 2.30pm… etc) – but a bustling programme in The Village compensated for that with comedy and burlesque in the Big Top and all that good ol’ rock n roll revelry in the campsite.
 
Atmosphere - 4/10
What atmosphere? With a weak line-up and less fans, 2008 was a much calmer and seemingly sober affair than its predecessors. The obligatory bottle wars aside, the crowds largely went about their business, moving from stage to stage in search of a crushing bass line and a band they'd heard of. A brief Saturday shower aside, the masses can thank the weatherman for a spot on sunny assessment of the weekend. The loudest festival on the planet also seemed slightly muffled, with sound escaping like a cheeky fart on the main stage. The second stage and the third tent fared much better though with Pendulum's set on Saturday a bellowing marker of what the speakers can achieve.
 
Music

Uppers:
Dillinger Escape Plan
- 9/10
Up against the wrinkly rockers of KISS and the pop antics of Simple Plan, DEP are like the soundtrack to a nasty prison shower scene at the movies. Unrelenting, brutally heavy and enough tempo changes to have the pits jolting dangerously in a chaotic headline performance from the Yanks.

KISS - 8/10
They provided an almighty stage show that just blew everything else out of the water this weekend. Sure their classic glam rock isn't everybody's cup of tea but spitting blood, flying band members and more fireworks than New Year's Eve made their set one of the more memorable in Download's history.

Pendulum - 8/10
The type of act that could possibly be the saviour of Download's future: metal-tinged dance groups. Download may pretend to be all about spikes and leather patches, but if there's a glow stick or sale, they're buying!

Lethal Bizzle - 10/10
The odd-one-out in this year's line-up took the brunt of nearly all of Sunday's beer sales as he turned the Download faithful onto grime. A determined and vocal performance that even allowed the hip hop star to show off his football skills: volleying and catching some of the constant onslaught.

Skindred
- 7/10
Finally on a stage fitting of his swagger, Benji Webb has Download in the palm of his hand for a captivating, ragga metal set. Fantastic and bold banter, solid tunes and a badly needed dose of variety to wake up a Saturday morning fanfare.

Downers:

Disturbed - 2/10
"We are... Disturbed!, You are...Disturbed!, We all are... Disturbed!"  You'd bloody have to be to sit through this nonsense. All that's wrong with modern metal: bland, uninspired and unoriginal. Don't visit again.
 
Ash  - 5/10
Organisers seem to be suffering from short-term memory loss after trying to put on an indie day a few years back, so why Ash were called up to provide filler is anybody's guess.

Incubus - 5/10
Not entirely their fault, as the band suffered from poor sound quality. But the decision to leave out older hits like 'A Certain Shade Of Green' out, in favour of more modern plod-a-longs, did little to help their cause.

Random Events
Plaudits go out the big spender who said his favourite moment of the festival was 'this', as he poured two pints of beer over his head at £3.50 a pop.

Eco warrior/tramp baiting: take one empty Tuborg cup (with a value of no less than 20p), tie a piece of string to it and wait for your catch and then pull from under their stretched fingers. There are laughs a plenty at the desperate fans who just want a cold beer to see them through the festival - when there’s nothing else going on, Downloaders will make their own entertainment!


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