9 June is not just the day that the 2006 World Cup football gets under way with the less-than-salivating prospect of Germany playing Costa Rica. No - it also marks the start of this year's Download Festival at Donington Park, featuring what can only be described as the best-looking line-up (no Girls Aloud aren't playing) for a UK rock festival, like, ever.
No self-respecting mosher will want to miss out. In fact, with 99 bands spread across four stages on three days, the main problem is going to be working out which bands not to see.
Add into the mix the fact that England play Paraguay on Saturday afternoon (sansWayne Rooney but avecPeter Crouch - that's all right then) and you have a veritable diary disaster on your hands.
Enough of the portents of doom (and we haven't even mentioned rain or mud, yet) and on to the good news. Here at musicOMH.com we like to support the underdog (it's called an inferiority complex). So, Axl & co can wait - God knows we've had to wait long enough for him - and instead we'll start elsewhere.
Snickers Bowl Stage
Friday 9 June sees the delightfully named Gay For Johnny Depp - featuring former members of Garrison and Instruction - bringing their chaos-core to headline after the Bloc Party-gone-nuts antics of Keiko and the metalcore madness of Sintuition.
On the Saturday - and just to show that metal fans also like a good troubadour - the young Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, acts the superhero with his guitar, a laptop and some politics. It's fair to say that his set is unlikely to resemble the preceding skate-punk of getAmped or the art-rock of Scottish feistmeisters The Hedrons.
For Sunday's finale, old skool metallers Viking Skull (Raging Speedhorn in disguise, but you knew that) will doubtless put in a suitably tongue-in-cheek performance to offset the serious prog-metal of Sweden's Evergrey and the teenage confessions of goth lady-in-waiting Betty Curse.
Five Things Not To Miss:
1. Axl trying to be G 'n' R without Slash.
2. England vs Paraguay, somehow.
3. Henry Rollins - better than a stand-up comedian.
4. Unsung bands like Alter Bridge and Blindside.
5. Metallica vs Korn vs Trivium on Saturday.
Where the Snickers Bowl Stage is like a snack, the Snickers Stage proper is much more of meal. Friday's line-up is a tale of two courses. The first is dreamland for those who judge gig quality on the number of bruises obtained: Throwdown, Bleeding Through, funk-nutters Fishbone and veteran sludge-rockers Clutch (with the rather incongruous Dredg in-between). The second, on the other hand, is altogether sweeter but not necessarily tastier, with The All-American Rejects following Sevendust, InMe and Atreyu.
Saturday is when the rock aristocracy start coming out to play with Henry Rollins literally the centrepiece with another self-deprecating, politically-incendiary but always laugh-out-loud funny, spoken word set.
On the Snickers Stage, Henry Rollins is "literally the centrepiece with another self-deprecating, politically-incendiary but always laugh-out-loud funny, spoken word set."
And if all that wasn't enough, on Sunday Mr Natalie Appleton and his crazy-haired, crazy dancing friends - yes that's The Prodigy - once again demonstrate their ability to straddle musical genres with ease. You can watch Keith Flint's latest haircut after you've seen those of post-hardcore bunches Alexisonfire, Hundred Reasons and From First To Last; commercial metalcore troupe Eighteen Visions; AFI-copycats Aiden; former Busted man Charlie Simpson's incalculably better rock outfit Fightstar; punk rockers Zebrahead; and pure heavy metallers Soilwork and God Forbid.
Phew, still with us? The ginger whiner who's name is an anagram of Oral Sex still has to wait because there's one stage left to go before we get to him...
Friday - former Wildhearts mainman Ginger brings his scuzz-rock Sonic Circus to town, aptly following on from trashy Swedes Backyard Babies, although slightly at odds with the psychedelic doom-metal of Cathedral. Essex noiseniks Engerica also support above a host of lesser known (so far) acts such as My Awesome Compilation, the Audition, Animal Alpha, Enter Shikari and Art Of Dying.
Saturday, and it's the turn of those ill-tempered, veteran, proto-industrialists Killing Joke to spread some bad news after Reuben and Louie have flown the flag for those born after Killing Joke were first famous. Behind them come a revolving door of guest vocalists courtesy of This Is Menace (featuring former Pitchshifters), plus another block of young bands hoping to pull off a surprise middle-of-the-day storming performance.
Sunday, and it's time for some serious hardcore action with Lou Koller and his mob, Sick Of It All. They are preceded by no less than 12 bands, with the highlights being Welsh ragamuffin-metallers Skindred, Scottish upstarts Mendeed and those Swedish stalwarts of punk, funk, hardcore and deep lyrics - Blindside.
Five Things To Avoid:
1. Axl trying to be G 'n' R without Slash.
2. Sleep: there's 24-hr entertainment on-site.
3. Portaloos, mud and other dark substances.
4. Bands who pretend to be AFI but aren't (Aiden).
5. Bands playing 10-minute songs - even if it's Tool.
With the three stages already mentioned, you might think that would be enough, but no, now it's time for the heavy artillery. Friday's Main Stage is - curiously - something of a prog rock-fest with Tool, Coheed And Cambria and Amplifier all trying to wrap up their on-record noodlings into something more palatable for the live arena. One thing's for sure - they'll have a job trying to keep up with the moshpit-ready rock of Soil, the hyperactive metal of Strapping Young Lad and the ever-flammable "world metal" of Soulfly.
Saturday's Main Stage is heavy metal, pure and simple. No hardcore, no punk, no pop, not even rock - just a barrel-load of aggression encapsulated into nine giants of the genre. Satyricon kick things off, blackly, before Bloodsimple and Arch Enemy pave the way for the welcome return of Alice In Chains. They may be missing the dearly departed vocal genius of Layne Staley, of course, but if the reports from Stateside are anything to go by, their guest vocalists are making a decent stab at recreating classics such as Would?
Following Alice In Chains, Corey Taylor from Slipknot's other band, Stone Sour, play (without masks), followed by flavours of the month Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium. Now, it would have been interesting to see if the latter could blow their idols, Metallica, off-stage. However, with the mighty Korn to follow, James Hetfield & co may still have their hands full trying not to be overshadowed by those they influenced.
Left to right: Metallica vs Korn vs Trivium.
"Now it would have been interesting to see if Trivium could blow their idols, Metallica, off-stage. However, with the mighty Korn to follow, James Hetfield & co may still have their hands full."
And so to Sunday and, yes Axl, Guns 'n' Roses. Except, no-one in their right mind would consider that Guns 'n' Roses is Guns 'n' Roses without Slash. Still, for novelty value alone, Axl's got to be worth a look, if only to hear what songs that have taken more than 10 years to concoct sound like. The Chinese Democracy? We reckon that political situation will come to pass before the album is released...
With Metallica headlining Saturday and G 'n' R Sunday, you'd be forgiven for wanting to party like it's 19...89. However, ensuring that those not even conceived then have something to jump up and down for, Axl has to follow Welsh rockers Funeral For A Friend, new metal boys on the block Bullet For My Valentine, black metal inadvertent comedy act Cradle Of Filth, Italian goth stars Lacuna Coil, Swedish metal maestros In Flames, Alaskan heartcore merchants 36 Crazyfists, premier power metallers Dragonforce, flamenco-tinged rockers Breed 77 and, most terrifyingly of all, hardcore supremos Hatebreed. Axl - we don't envy you (like we needed to say that).
If you can't find at least five bands you want to see in all that lot then you must be an indie kid, in which case get lost back to your "wacky" spectacles, silly blazers and aren't-we-artistic faux feyness. The rest of you - we'll see you in the pit.