At barely 11am the dusty ground of Donington Race Track was already being trampled underfoot by hoards of metal loving punters, who were all as chuffed as me that England now has an established "Metal" (there's an umbrella term if I've ever used one!) Festival. Boasting 75 bands, over three stages, in two days, the biggest dilemma faced by all is not being able to be in more than one place at once!
I was still entwined in tent poles and canvas as I heard the unsavoury belching of The Dillinger Escape Plan open up proceedings on the main stage. However I eventually gained access to the main arena through the labyrinth of camping fields, and got up close and personal for a rare appearance from Swedish Prog/Death Metallers Opeth.
Taking to the stage to rapturous applause from a tiny base of fans, metal's answer to Pink Floyd showcased their unique strength of being mellow epic songsters one minute and death metal junkies the next in dexterous fashion. With songs so long they deserve to be called movements, Opeth are a brilliant band, with astute technical musicianship, that is unfortunately more suited to the Royal Festival Hall than a field in the Midlands.
Tragically Soil were waiting backstage, but without their gear, which was stuck half way up the M1. So, the self-proclaimed "Gods Of Space Rock" Monster Magnet got an extended guitar-destroying set, dropping in new album favourites Right Stuff and Monolithic Baby and closing with the infamous, yet mosh-tastic Space Lord.
Shock rockers, Cradle Of Filth followed, performing a "circus of horrors" type show in the sunshine with acrobats and stilt walkers. Well, anything to detract from the, ahem... music, eh lads?
The Distillers seem to capture lots of people's imaginations (or libidos?) with Brody Dalle gruffing and grunting her way through a trash punk set in high heels and ever higher spirits. Breakthrough hit City Of Angels went down a storm, as did forthcoming single Beat Your Heart Out.
The Hives continued proceedings on this distinctly non-metal day, jamming out-of- tune and shabby renditions of their Swedish retro tunes. Signature black and white suits provide the only eye candy for another wise lame set, although, to their credit, they preceded most of the banal abuse and bottle throwing by following requests for a "We Love You The Hives!" from the crowd with a tongue in cheek "F**k You The Hives!". Any band that can laugh at themselves once in a while and realise their somewhat misplaced booking deserves respect from all.
As if waiting backstage to flip the festival proceedings on their head, the tanned anorexic phenomenon that is Iggy Pop led his recently reformed Stooges in one of the finest moments of the entire weekend. Much to his band's disappointment, stories of the set's musical prowess and deftness will be long subdued beneath tales of mass stage invasion incited by the OAP who makes Ozzy look tame, with enough spitting, swearing and sweating to make even Slipknot blush, and Linkin Park wish they'd stayed in for a dance rehearsal. Despite his rebellious "proving I'm not past it routine" Iggy injected some much needed life, hilarity and integrity into an otherwise average day.
Sum 41 provided the biggest surprise of the day for a band a lot of people expected to be complete excrement. In fact, the Canadian pop punksters proved to be very very good, with a bit of bad, and thanks to frontman Derrick Whibley, plenty of ugly too.
Despite their new "hardcore" songs, smash hits Fat Lip and Motivation provided some welcome crowd participation opportunities and, despite the dwindling numbers, fathers and sons in matching Linkin Park shirts stood alongside Slayer fans all hollering along at the top of their lungs.
Hilarious finale number Pain For Pleasure saw drummer Stevo taking on vocal responsibilities, and it's as close as we got to a Spinal Tap experience for the day.
If anyone is waiting to remake said film, it would undoubtedly be based upon a pop/rock teenybopper crossover band such as the sextet that forms Linkin Park. With their faux pas Mohawks and scripted stage talk, it's a blockbuster waiting to happen. Despite their astronomical record sales, the teenage pin-ups are having a hard time matching reputation with revenue, so if they have any sense, you'd think it'd be something they'd be trying in earnest to fix tonight.
No such luck. Mediocre is the most generous tag I can afford them:
Mediocre sound: ok so Joseph Hann might write all the music, but you'd think he wouldn't insist on being the loudest on stage too?
Mediocre stage chat - lines such as: "I truly love each and every one of you!" to "This is the best crowd I have ever seen!". Even 'ber-cheese mongers like Celine Dion and David Hasselhoff draw the line before they get that low in the barrel.
Mediocre back catalogue: Despite the usual renditions of chart topping hits, which Chester has now learned to sing in time and more importantly in tune to, they chose to pull out an "old song" (surely a misnomer for a band in existence for less than five years?!) with the chorus of "Who can Rock a Rock like We Rock a Rock?". Ouch! Even Busted would throw that one of of the window boys - come on!
Needless to say, with a choice between Peaches, Pennywise or a tacky funfair, we know where all the Slayer and Cradle fans decided to go. As the Linkin lads closed with One Step Closer, they left everyone wishing they would go far, far away and never return and that Sunday would be here now!