Download Festival 2019
March 9, 2019
There are some interesting parallels between the close to two-hundred-year-old festival site of Download Festival and the line-up this year as both hold significant cultural and historical significance. The location proved ideal as a backdrop for a festival that has become a worldwide quality benchmarked extravaganza when it comes to heavy and independent music.
It speaks volumes about the quality of a festival if the cancellation of the main headliner, i.e. Ozzy Osbourne due to health concerns, is handled in a manner that does not result in a myriad of complaint and the people at the helm of Download’s operations did a great job keeping everything transparent, offering refunds and compensation in terms of adding local stalwarts Airbourne and offering free merch for ticket holders.
The different stages were strategically well-placed, and I have yet to experience another festival on terra australis where acts seamlessly end and start their performances without any delays or major hiccups.
One of the of high calibre headliners this year was a band that is being heralded by many as the one of the originators of what became the Grunge Rock phenomenon. Having lost their frontman in the early noughties, tonight’s performance was testament to Alice in Chains having reclaimed their throne and not only their classic early tunes but especially their offerings from last year’s album ‘Rainier Fog’ were frenetically celebrated by the audience.
Despite a roster spiked with premium outfits of the realm of heavy music, it became apparent that the stop of Slayer as part of their last ever world tour was the highlight and drawcard for most attendants.
Needless to say that after an extended theatrical intro, Slayer entered the stage accompanied by an ecstatic crowd reaction that did not subside an iota throughout them meandering through their highlight laden set.
It has been more than twenty years since I last experienced Slayer in a live environment and while I lost interest in between, tonight’s performance was cementing their status in the pantheon of heavy music, with both Tom Araya and Kerry King on-point performing a career spanning tour de force in great shape with highlights aplenty and culminating and letting the “Angel of Death” descend and letting their riffage hammering down on the more than receptive faithfuls in front of them.
Apart from the heavy hitters, newer bands like Code Orange were given a forum earlier on and their at times caustic melange that tore through the audience not unlike a wrecking ball. From there the scene was set for Converge, who have in the last two and a half decades become the elder statemen of a cut of outfits that started as hardcore, incorporated mathcore influences and eventually created their idiosyncratic lane of brooding onslaught based on Kurt Ballou’s nimble riffing and Bannon’s vocal delivery that is more of an instrument and percussive sonic force to complement the music than what most other bands have materialized as vocal duties.
Ghost, set against their own cathedral stage set, rounded out the night in a monumental manner. It was amazing to see how the band has grown since I have last seen them and how effortlessly they hold huge crowds in their thrall with big gestures and a sumptuous set. With the spectacle that is Ghost in 2019, they are well on their way to become a major legacy band that will find themselves in headline spot in the not too distance future.
photos by @k.a.vv