Download starts early on a Saturday with the gates opening at 10am and the first bands across the 4 stages start at 11, having left the arena the night before in a bit of a state (I do mean myself and the arena) it was a very pleasant to see it looking so clean and tidy (if a field can be that). With the numerous bars open across the arena and the crowds starting to swell, all talk is about the return of tonight’s headliners “System of a Down” and who can blame us reunions are one thing but if they make  as much of an effort as The Darkness did then we are in for a real treat. But first there are others to see and drinks to be drunk and the odd pasty, burger, hotdog, noodle and ice cream to be eaten.

All that remains
All that remains have a pretty good slot on the main stage but it just isn’t long enough, they power through their set with great speed and really show they do belong. Highlights include “The Last Time” and “This Calling”. I’m sure many would argue that they are better suited to a higher slot on one of the smaller stages but hey this is Download after all.

The BossHoss
There is always a band that you think should not be at a rock festival, but give them a chance and they will show you they are worthy, The BossHoss was that band for me this weekend and I’m so glad they did turn up. They don’t play at a raging speed but what they do play, they play very well, even if it is in a country style. I have no idea what songs they played but my foot was tapping and my hands were clapping good enough I say…see you again sometime

Skindred are at it again, playing at being the best live act in the country. The crowd is massive having to walk through it from the 2nd stage to the opposite corner of the main stage it seed to takes ages and only just getting to front for the now infamous intro – 20th Century Fox film intro, the band arrive onstage before Benji soaking up their applause, when he does arrive the crowd go nuts as they launch into the best track off “Shark Bites & Dog Fights” “Stand for Something”. Benji is a front man of great character and can get the crowd doing anything he so wishes, the first ever “heavy metal robot” dance is fun but the best is yet to come. Blistering through “Rat Race”, “Trouble”, “Selector” and “Pressure” suddenly we get to the new songs, “Cut Dem” is played with the passion that it deserves. Benji decides it’s time for the Newport helicopter a master stroke in crowd participation, “Nobody” and the brilliant “Warning” finish the set. The crowd can only be in ore of Skindred, they came, they played they conquered.

Down are a band on a mission, to play loud, hard and heavy for everyone in the crowd, they succeed without too much effort, it’s what they do and do very well. Phil  Anselmo pounds around the stage and when they do the Pantera song “Walk” in memory of the late Dimebag Darrell the crowd go nuts, singing every word making sure Dimebag can hear how much he is missed.

Kill21 - Red Bull tent
There is always a band that you weren’t meant to see and had you missed them you would be none the wiser, but thankfully a trip to the Guinness bar and subsequently a trip into the Red Bull tent turned that band into one that will be seen again and again. Kill21 have no gimmicks, what they do have is a love of rock music and you can see this from the way they play, sing and enjoy themselves onstage. Having released an album at the end of last year, they were worthy of the second from top spot in the Red Bull tent.  They tore through their set, baiting the crowd to join in and rock with them. As soon as the opening chords of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” boomed over the PA, the crowd are baited into having a sing-a-long with the band, oh how we sang our hearts out. Watch out for an upcoming interview with the band and some live dates.

The King Blues
The King Blues are starting to get a reputation, and a good one at that. They play the kind of music that appeals to young and old, a mixture of ska and punk and have the lyrics that grind their way through modern society’s pitfalls. Racism, drugs and rent are all on tonight’s agenda, Jonny Fox struts around the stage with a spring in his step and a story to tell. He loves his music and he loves his crowd and the crowd love him, with an axe to grind against a national newspaper and a landlord that needs hanging the crowd know where he has been and where he is going and they’re standing alongside him ready for the fight.

Alice Cooper
With a full circus of horrors promised, Alice Cooper is back and ready to shock (rock) your socks (rocks) off. Opening with the stunning “Black Widow” and with his 8 arms conducting the band he slowly descends from his perch at the top of his staircase to the stage every member of the crowd is transfixed on him as he plays the widow. Alice Cooper has been in the business for 40 odd years and you can tell, he doesn’t miss a beat and he can still bring home the memories of teenage angst to the crowd with “I’m eighteen”. Hit after hit pursues, “Billion Dollar Babies”, the brilliant “No More Mr Nice Guy”, “Hey Stoopid” ,“Feed My Frankenstein” and in the middle of all that he pulls a little snippet of what is to come with a new song called “ I’ll Bite Your Face Off” it also has the makings of a classic. With the opening riff of “Poison” the crowd go berserk singing every word and playing every note on their very own air guitar, can he offer more? You bet he can “Schools Out” screams from the PA and just when you thought it was safe to sing the chorus the words and music morph into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. Alice is in full control now and pops us back into “Schools Out” for a final sing song. As the band leave the stage the crowd start chanting the great man’s name over and over again, it can’t be over can it? Thank god it’s not, Alice appears in his “Election” outfit climbs his staircase once again and the band storm into “Elected” if ever there was a song to end one of the greatest sets of all time then this is surely it.       

System of a Down
SOAD crank up the expectation by keeping the masses waiting for a good 15 minutes but hit their straps immediately with a rip roaring rendition of Prison Song, the band seem much more at ease with themselves that their last Download appearance, and this is reflected in their performance .

The band sped through their track list at break neck speed and ended up performing 26 songs which kept the crowd in a euphoric mood for the best part of 2 hours, some of the highlights were B.Y.O.B, Hypnotize, Chop Suey, Bounce, Cigaro and the three encores War, Toxicity and Sugar.

After the set was completed the overriding feeling was: get back together permanently, rather than just a brief reunion.