Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
March 24th, 2018
Featuring: KoЯn, Prophets of Rage, Limp Bizkit, Suicidal Tendencies, Good Charlotte, Mastodon, Amon Amarth, Gojira, Sabaton, NAILS, Of Mice & Men, Northlane, Ocean Grove, High Tension and more…
The very first Download Festival in Australia was held over the weekend and goddamn it was such an experience having a HUGE metal/hard rock/pop punk festival back in our lives. Held at the Flemington Racecourse, the event was barely dampened by the rain which only managed to stick around for a couple of hours, offering fans a nice, cool change ahead of the sweat-fest the afternoon brought.
By the time High Tension hit the stage at 12pm, punters had started to make their way into the main area as frontwoman Karina Utomo screamed her way into the history books being the first performer to open Download down under. We were setting up for out interviews backstage when ‘Bully‘ came blasting over the speakers so we had to run out and catch a glimpse, regardless of if we were set up or not. Their latest single ‘Ghost To Ghost‘ was a fuckin belter with the whole band giving their all and making sure those who caught them early enough got an experience to remember. After just 30mins in length, their set ended, but the Melbourne locals left enough of an impression for what we hope was a stack of new fans to their ever-growing empire.
Next up were fellow Melbournians Ocean Grove who wasted no time in jumping into their nu-metal revival set by smashing through almost all of the songs from their debut album The Rhapsody Tapes (our review here). I have to say, I had friends attending who had never seen OG perform before and they were blown away by the band’s ability to hold themselves on stage and produce such quality sounds that it attracted more punters than anticipated. They closed with fan favourite ‘Stratosphere Love‘ and certainly left their mark on the wet and wild attendees.
Clowns were also ripping up the Avalanche Stage (the one under the big tent) and I’m not saying people were there to get out of the rain because the fuckin ruled too. Bassist Hanny J rocked the absolute fuck out so much she gets our vote for best on
field stage while frontman Stevie Williams made sure to keep up appearances with the crowd by jumping into the mosh and crowd surfing. Also another band hailing from Melbourne (surprise, surprise) who proved they deserved their spot not only there but supporting Foo Fighters back in January.
By the time Northlane hit the stage, the downpour came harder, faster and fuller than before but that’s why ponchos were invented, duh! Being my first time catching the band live with Marcus Bridge fronting (I know, I know, slap me over the back of the head later), I was sticking around through it all to witness how far these guys have come in the past 4 years since he joined the band… and I am kicking myself for leaving it so long. Opening with ‘Quantum Flux‘ the crowd screaming the words “SET ME FREE” as the clouds opened up and the rain came bucketing down was a fantastic addition to the band’s props. I got to stick around for ‘Rot‘, a song I had been waiting to see live for over 4 years and I am stoked I got to see it alongside a shitload of fellow NL fans. Don’t let the video below deter you, there was plenty in the mosh going hard during this time as ti was also Northlane‘s FINAL AUSTRALIAN SHOW for the foreseeable future and they didn’t let anyone down. Marcus spoke with us about what the future holds for the band when he co-hosted our podcast Wall of Sound: Up Against The Wall, check out it out here.
Of Mice & Men were next up on the list and the now four-piece proved their band has progressed as musicians and don’t need the additional help they once had with frontman Aaron Pauley managing to handle the singing and unclean vocals all on his own, whilst now sporting long luscious brown hair and a big cheesy grin across his face as fans sang back the words to songs like ‘Defy‘, ‘Warzone‘, ‘Would You Still Be There‘ and their cover of the Pink Floyd classic ‘Money‘ much to the approval of the older demographic who had gathered to check them out.
Metal fans finally got a taste of what they’ve been waiting for with Sabaton hitting the stage and wasting no time in picking up the tempo and mood. Between their power metal riffs, camo uniforms and choreographic long hair twirling, it was hard to pinpoint the moment Download Festival attendees fell in love with the Swedish legends, but I think it all came down to their Australian dedicated track ‘Cliffs of Gallipoli‘ which managed to invoke the loudest screams of their set. Sabaton are a fantastic band full of humble and hilarious blokes who we caught up with for a chat, more on that soon so keep your eyes peeled.
I quickly ducked over to the Dogtooth Stage to check out the fuss with NAILS who were just wrapping up their set but still had a healthy amount of black shirt wearing metal fans watching until their climax. I’m kicking myself for not getting over there sooner as one bloke was leaving the moshpit with a face full of blood, which I’m assuming was caused by the mayhem of the previously played track.
Doubling back to the Main Stages, you’d be an idiot (like myself) for thinking you could get anywhere close for French metallers Gojira who roared onto the stage and destroyed any opinion of doubt attendees had for them. Within the opening three songs ‘Only Pain‘, ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe‘ and ‘Silvera‘ we were treated to circle pits, bellowing screams and mother-fuckin’ flamethrowers. Frontman Joe Duplantier is a godsend who interacted with the crowd throughout getting them more and more pumped up for the 9 songs in their short, but punchy setlist. I don’t think anyone was ready when ‘Vacuity‘ played out as not a single person in sight was ready for the band to finish. Hands down, best band of the day goes to Gojira. I had only heard of them in the past but after this, I’m a fan.
Viking Metal heroes Amon Amarth were next, proving you can grow your hair and beard out, cover yourself in tattoos and NOT be classed as a hipster when you’re in Melbourne. Again, another band I hadn’t had the chance to see yet but was impressed with their ability to win over the crowd in a short amount of time. Highlights of the set included opening track ‘The Pursuit of Vikings‘, ‘Twilight of the Thunder God‘ and (probably because I’m a Marvel fan), ‘Guardians of Asgaard‘. These guys are PERFECT in a Festival atmosphere and for those who caught their sideshow with Sabaton, I guarantee no one had a bad time.
Mastodon were up next with frontman Troy Sanders nowadays doing his best to look just like the ancient hairy elephant the band got their name from. Opening with the song that won the band a Grammy recently, ‘Sultan’s Curse‘, the setlist consisted of a combination of newer songs from their most recent release Emperor of Sand and even as far back as 2004’s Leviathan with closing track ‘Blood and Thunder‘ pleasing their longterm fans.
Slightly out of place, but none the less welcomed, Good Charlotte took to the stage in the late afternoon and holy shit the aged pop-punk act pulled a crowd. Playing their greatest hits like ‘I Just Wanna Live‘, ‘The Anthem‘, The River‘ and ‘Dancefloor Anthem‘, it was obvious they had a following with even the most blokiest of blokes caught singing along.
Our grey nomad caught Suicidal Tendencies and reported back the heavier fans had made their way over to catch the thrash metal veterans lead by frontman Mike Muir. Surprisingly, the band didn’t play anything from their latest EP offering Get Your Fight On! but that didn’t stop them from powering through classics like ‘I Shot The Devil‘, ‘Subliminal‘ and ‘Possessed to Skate‘
Limp Bizkit took to the main stage amidst a sea of fans all keen and eager to see them for the first time in Australia since DJ Lethal rejoined the band earlier in the week. s usual, guitarist Wes Borland entered the stage with his trademark “what look is he going for this time” which resulted in him being covered head to toe in black. I’m talking black paint all over his body and teeth, black contact lenses, black shirt, jeans, shoes and hair. Fellow grey-nomad frontman Fred Durst proved age is just a number by jumping into the crowd to perform with his fans. The band opened with ‘Hot Dog‘ and a shortened cover of Ministry‘s ‘Thieves‘ (which wouldn’t be the last cover they’d do before finishing their hour long set) but it was their classics which really amped the crowd up like ‘Rollin‘, ‘My Way‘, ‘My Generation‘, ‘Livin’ It Up‘ and for the first time in who knows how long, their cover of the late George Michael‘s ‘Faith‘ complete with the help of a cooked, drunk fan who (in my opinion) was having the time of his life jumping around on stage with no idea of what was going on. ‘Eat You Alive‘ followed before the band got into their third and final cover ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ by Nirvana (which I thought was only going to be a filler track) to fill time until they got into the song Download Fest apparently told them they couldn’t perform on the day, ‘Break Stuff‘. It Went Fucking Off. There was not a single person standing still close to the stage for this one as the band rocked the absolute fuck out and circle pits were formed all over the joint. I was such a keen as fuck fanboy when they closed with the Mission Impossible 2 theme song ‘Take A Look Around‘ which has slowly become my favourite track by the band in recent years. Durst called for the crowd to crouch down to their knees for the final drop of the track, the same thing he called for back in 2012 when they played Soundwave and as the video below suggests, almost everyone in sight obliged. Killer set by a killer band.
One of the most talked about bands took to the stage straight after Limp had finished and goddamn they were good. Prophets of Rage consisting of members of Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy proved they’re here to
change unfuck the world with their original tracks and re-worked classics. Guitarist Tom Morello looks like he had not aged as he played through former RATM songs like ‘Testify‘, ‘Take The Poer Back‘, ‘Bullet In The Head’ and ‘Sleep Now In The Fire‘ as well as a touching and tear-jerking moment when Audioslave‘s ‘Like A Stone‘ started up with a stage light shining brightly on the microphone front and center, without a singer. It was up to us to fill the void left by the dearly departed Chris Cornell.
However, I will make a note of being lucky enough to stand next to a guy who was singing along so well, I had to stick around to hear his voice all the way through. He absolutely killed it and when I told him I approved of his rendition, he told me about how he learnt to sing that exact song a week prior to Cornell’s death, so it’s something that has stuck with him for the past year. I didn’t catch his name, but mate, that was one of the standout moments from this festival for me, so thank you.
The Prophets ended their slot at Download with ‘Bulls on Parade‘ and ‘Killing In The Name‘ much to the approval of the thousands upon thousands of people in the main area. On my way back to my last interview, I walked past a sweaty Tom Morello and congratulated him on his set, he shook my hand and said “Thank you very much, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it” proving you can still be one of the biggest and best musicians in the world and not be a total dick to your fans. Revisit our chat with Tom when he co-hosted Wall of Sound: Up Against The Wall right here
I didn’t make it to Arch Enemy unfortunately but heard nothing but approval from those who went, I did however position myself as close to the stage as I could for the climactic end to the festival, in the form of KoЯn. The band entered the stage and wasted absolutely no time in bashing through their 16 song set which focused more on the band’s earlier work, not that any of us were complaining. Jonathan Davis and his sexy as fuck microphone stand were front and centre while the dreaded threesome of Munky, Head and Fieldy (aka James Shaffer, Brian Welch and Reggie Arvizu) headbanged and ran across the stage like headless chickens without missing a beat. Drummer Ray Luzier (who in the past had divided fans) has now perfected his craft so much so you’d think he had been with the band since 1993.
Epic sing-a-longs were had for tracks like ‘Falling Away From Me‘, ‘Here To Stay‘, ‘Y’All Want A Single‘, ‘Did My Time‘ and ‘Shoots And Ladders‘, fans around me even attempted to copy Jon Davis as he twisted his way through ‘Twist‘ and lost their shit when the bagpipes were brought out. ‘Make Me Bad‘ and ‘Somebody Someone‘ wrapped up the first set before the band came back on to close the show with ‘Blind‘ and (of course) ‘Freak On A Leash‘. The lights shined on the crowd as the band said their goodbyes and the very first Download Festival in Australia came to a close.
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The moment the last song (Freak On A Leash) by @korn_official wrapped up the very first @downloadfestau. Those who say rock is dead, need to count the amount of punters here (and those over at @nofx) to prove that statement wrong! 📽: @brownypaul #WallOfSoundAU #DLMelb2018 #DownloadFestAU #Korn #MusicFestival #RockIsNOTDead
What a fuckin’ epic day. Not even a little rain could dampen the spirits of those who attended and enjoyed the event for all it was worth. The best part is, not one person I came across during the day said anything bad about the festival. There were plenty of bars, food, even games and novelty sections of the venue (talking about the inflatable church). For a debut, it worked close to perfection. I for one am stoked to be part of history for attending the first Download in Australia, as would everyone else who walked through the gates of Flemington Racecourse. For those who bailed or still to this day continue to badmouth or bag the event, you have no idea what you missed out on and I would be gutted if I was you that you couldn’t see this. BUT, the good news is it’ll be coming back in 2019 and hopefully expanding… but more on that later.
Review by Browny @brownypaul
Photo Gallery by Mick Goddard (Mick Goddard). Please credit Wall of Sound and Mick Goddard if you repost.