With a bill that is one part stoner-blues, one part nu-metal and one part post-hardcore rock, it is Sweden’s Blindside who occupy the latter category and kick of this Download Festival warm-up show at Camden’s Underworld. Despite playing most of their set to less than 50 people, the Swedes seem determined to win over some new fans as vocalist Christian Lindskog flails across the stage like a gangly gibbon.
Past hit Pitiful warms the tepid audience somewhat and the applause audibly increases as the quartet thrash about through more recent single Fell In Love With The Game. Closing with the epic About A Burning Fire, the ensuing jam is cut criminally short in contrast to their memorable set at the Barfly a few months ago.
Having suffered the departure of enigmatic singer Ryan McCombs and currently striving to shake the “one hit wonder” tag that has pursued them since the massive rock single Halo broke, Soil have a lot to prove to a steadily filling venue this evening.
The task seems an uphill battle for the boys with severe difficulties for new vocalist AJ Cavalier, microphone feedback and torrents of abuse from band members towards sound men all taking place within the first song. With an intermittently functioning microphone in place, Cavalier proceeds to stumble through Jaded and Wide Open before stopping yet again to address sound issues.
Despite the constant problems and enough diva attitude from Soil’s members to put Mariah Carey to shame, there are a core of rapturous supporters who won’t be put off by the setbacks and, although a mosh-pit is seriously lacking for metal-by-number anthems like Redefine, the fans do their best to encourage their frustrated heroes.
No encouragement is needed, however, for the humble star attraction of the evening. By the time Clutch take to the stage, the Underworld is literally heaving, smoke-drenched, and rabidly anticipating the opportunity to relish in Clutch’s funky Southern rock grooves.
Frontman Neil Fallon takes up his mic and tears through The Mob Goes Wild with note-perfect accuracy – his signature gravelly howls are a blessing from above. Although the band aren’t the most energetic individuals, there is an understated coolness that sees them toy with stoner grooves in American Sleep while dipping back into newer material for tracks like The Regulator, which allows newer fans the chance to sing alongside long-time, bearded devotees.
Mr Fallon’s eccentric lyrical charm is as profuse as his perspiration, and this adoring crowd bear testament to the fact that Clutch should be playing to much bigger crowds, and providing worldwide inspiration for beard cultivators everywhere.