RUSHONROCK is back at the home of rock and metal to bring you the latest reviews from Download 2015.
Here editor Simon Rushworth wraps up his Day One highlights:
After temporarily disappearing from the official Download app earlier this week it was a blessed relief to see Fearless Vampire Killers (8/10) in full flow on the Zippo Encore Stage. Seizing their opportunity to play in front of a more mature crowd, the Suffolk quintet breezed through a typically eclectic set with trademark confidence – perfectly capturing the Friday afternoon mood. Dual frontmen Laurence Beveridge and Kier Kemp drew nods of admiration from middle-aged men sporting Magnum tees as their progressive rock punctuated the Castle Donington haze and the astute decision to include a cover of the Bonnie Tyler classic I Need A Hero kept the middle-aged masses onside. FVK have been the sole preserve of impressionable teenage girls for far too long – their intricate, immersive, alternative rock is surely primed for a far wider audience.
Blues Pills (7/10) have always appealed to aficionados of blues-soaked 70s-style heavy rock and – like FVK before them – the Franco-Swedish combo proved that youth is no barrier to creating an inherently classic sound. Perhaps their meandering set lacked the fizz to bring a festival crowd to life but there’s nothing quite so mesmerising as Elin Larsson tapping her tambourine while guitarist Dorian Sorriaux launches into yet another passable impression of Hendrix in his prime. The singalong moments might have been few and far between but there was no doubting the insane quality of the musicianship as Blues Pills shamelessly flirted with the Donington masses. It was all over far too soon but set closer Devil Man left a lasting impression and a yearning for more.
Three was the magic number where the Zippo Encore Stage’s stars of the day were concerned as the old adage ‘less is more’ rang convincingly true. It was almost as if Nashville’s The Cadillac Three (10/10) had planned their chilled out, country rock set to coincide with the hottest part of the day – channelling their inner Lynyrd Skynyrd to glorious effect. Planet Rock-approved tune Peace, Love & Dixie inspired hollers of delight and White Lightning whipped fans old and new into a late afternoon frenzy. This was the party that almost hadn’t started after the band’s gear went missing in transit. Ultimately it was a sun-soaked celebration of the simpler things in life.
Rain was setting in by the time Houston natives American Fangs (9/10) ripped up Jake’s Stage: the increasingly inclement conditions may have driven the odd innocent bystander into a tent that swiftly morphed into a melting pot of raw emotion bordering on madness. Frontman Gabriel Cavazos set the tone from the start as the urgent alt rockers worked up an ugly sweat – keen to regain the momentum lost after a long-standing legal wrangle with their former record label. The Fangs, it seems, almost fell by the wayside without live music as an outlet for their aggression but the boys are back and back in a big way. Counting Wolves, from new album Dirty Legs, proved why this brilliant band must move onwards and upwards – Cavazos ending the gig crouched in the pit delivering a deafening growl.
Back on the Zippo Encore Stage there was torrential rain, a chilly breeze and the familiar craic of Thunder (7/10). Danny Bowes’ infectious enthusiasm offered the perfect antidote to the forecast storm and for 50 memorable minutes the livewire Londoner did his level best to lift the gloom and raise the spirits. Wonder Days, from the brand new album of the same name, confirmed Britain’s premier blues rockers can still bash out a great tune and I Love You More Than Rock N Roll served as a timely reminder that there’s always been much more to this band than that flurry of early hits. Of course Backstreet Symphony, Dirty Love and the wondrous Love Walked In remain a class apart and all three Thunder standards are timeless classics built to last. Smiles were writ large across the faces of fans and band alike – and none was wider than that sported by the beaming Ben Matthews just seven months after he was given the all clear from cancer.
Wrapping up the second stage action were Black Stone Cherry (10/10) – two years after the fast-rising Southern rockers fluffed their lines at the same time on the same stage. That miserable night must have played on the mind of the normally cocksure Chris Robertson and if last summer’s truncated ‘secret set’ represented the beginning of the band’s Donington redemption then a stunning demonstration of power and passion proved to be the band’s Download salvation. The difference in BSC’s main man was striking – his relaxed yet focused performance the antithesis of 2013’s hesitant and unconvincing delivery. ‘Here comes the rain,’ belted out Robertson as he kicked off a show that would become memorable for all of the right reasons and if the warning was a little late then nobody cared. Ben Wells shrugged off problems with his mic to rip through BSC’s increasingly strident repertoire – including new song Roadrunner – and there was even time for a suitably flamboyant John Fred Young drum solo. A pitch perfect version of Peace Is Free, a Blame It On The Boom Boom super jam, featuring a snippet from Layla, and the welcome roar of Lonely Train made for a triumphant return to form.
* Images by Derek Bremner, Justine Trickett and Scott Salt.