The fields may be dampened but spirits are not
Laviea Thomas and Anna Smith
09:27 16th June 2019

Day one at Download Festival has us sliding from swamp to swamp as we squelch through the ankle high mud baths. Unlike last year’s Download, which saw an almost completely dry weekend, this year the unreliable, inconsistent torrential rain episodes are catching everyone off guard. 

Regrettably walking in wearing a pair of white Dr Martens, I feel its fair to say they’ve definitely seen better days. But, who doesn’t love Download’s annual fancy dress Friday? From Star Wars to Pikachu, and an uncountable amount of Slash costumes that more resemble Rod Stewart, the sodden weather isn’t about to put a Debbie Downer on today’s mammoth line-up.

Setting the tone at the Zippo stage are Swedish quintet Opeth. Opening with a few militant wobbles on the bass, fans chant and head bang with excitement as they wind into a fruity slice of funk riffs for ‘Sorceress’. Known for their punchy, hardcore aesthetic, this track was an unusual yet enlightening angle to start off their set. Reviving ownership of their typical sound, they thrash into their 2005 progressive explosion ‘Ghost of Perdition’. Teasing synths with Svalberg’s daunting key-work, this cut engaged the core Opeth that non-fans are more familiar with. Playing a short set of just five songs, Opeth concluded with the guitar heavy, fiery alternations between hellish screams to mumbled spoken word as ‘Deliverance’ closed an epic set. 

Taking to the stage, guitar-God Slash rocks up in his all-leather gear and trademark sunnies. Embodying the perfect representation of glam rock, he power stances all over the main stage with an effortless bend of riffs. Myles and Slash have been an unstoppable duo of rock deities for a decade now, since their debut collaboration for Slash’s first album. They’ve spat out scream-along anthems like ‘Starlight’ and the mind-boggling ‘Anastasia’, keeping each others’ legacies alive. The stage is claimed equally by both, with their respective talents complimenting each other as opposed to outshining. 

Memorable entrances seem to be a theme this weekend, as Eagles of Death Metal’s frontman Jesse Hughes continues the trend by strutting on-stage in a cape, before raising his hands to the air in a heart shape. He slides towards the mic and foot taps; spinning into the vibrant, jangle-rock of ‘Complexity’. Melodic, funk-pop track, ‘Peace, Love And Heavy Metal’ is warming if slightly repetitive. Synchronising the audience with vigorous fist pumps into the air, the track lasted longer than their record as Hughes thrusts his body and dances around the stage. 

Throwing some fierce faces is their current live female bassist, Jennie Vee. Known for supporting Courtney Love, The Manic Street Preachers and more, Vee’s effortless plucks sit comfortably on-stage, a great vision to see a woman take control among a relatively male predominant setlist.  Devoting his love to fans, Hughes thanks everyone for staying as the rain continues to soak the crowd throughout their entire set. 

Finishing day one on the main stage is headliners Def Leppard, opening with their 1987 acclaimed hit, ‘Women’. An influx of fans surprisingly varying ages run to the main stage. Just a couple of tracks in and they’re playing their stand-out hit, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. Some fans are swaying alone, some devoting every breathe of vocal they have left in them, whilst others hugged their loved ones. 

If you’re a millennial or below, it would be easy to say that Def Leppard seem a a bit past their prime, but for the majority of the crowd these songs are a glimpse of what they grew up listening to. Maybe the millennials are out of touch, but today seems to establish that Def Leppard are a band you had to appreciate at a younger age to be able to appreciate now. With their stage lights so bright they pierce the clouds, Def Leppard’s production keeps them relevant and interesting, concluding with ‘Love and Affection’, the British five-piece return to an assertive crowd demanding more. Distorted, lagged vocals accompanied by a sharp chord progression ring out as they close the Friday with their anthemic 2015 release, ‘Let’s Go’.

The fields were dampened but spirits were not. What would Download be without a little rain to get the weekend going? 

See you in the field tomorrow, as always: Bring your horns.

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Photo: Anna Smith