Download 2015: Day 2: Muse, Apocalyptica and Marilyn Manson

I awoke early to the sound of it raining inside the tent.  The water was dripping on my face.  I wrung everything out and carefully placed it all in the centre of the tent – the only place that wasn’t submerged.  My friend appeared and we held a conference.  We would sleep in her tent and try and move anything water-sensitive in there, because hers was considerably less wet than mine.
Download 2015 Review Day 1: Slipknot can be found here.

Apocalyptica.
Apocalyptica.  Sorry about the stupid date stamp on all the pix; I only found out about it when I got home.

We went to see Apocalyptica around lunchtime.  We got there just as they were starting and got a place reasonably towards the front, where we could see what was going on quite well.  They played their cellos, got to the end of their set, then said “well, we were only supposed to be on for half an hour but f**k it; we want to play another song” and they proceeded to do so.  It was awesome.  I think there were more than a few people in the crowd who didn’t know who they were, so it was nice to see people discovering awesome electric cello industrial music.  They also played our national anthem which was amusing because half the people in the crowd started singing (myself included) and half of them kind of mumbled and blustered like they were in a school assembly.   It was hilarious to think that we must be the only nation in the world where we don’t all know every word to our national anthem, but it doesn’t get taught in many schools and is distinctly lacking from the national curriculum – as a child, I didn’t know what the words were until I was about fourteen after reading an article that is sadly not findable on the internet, which basically showed that in a random survey of 500 people, something like 25% didn’t know what our national anthem was (it’s God Save The Queen, natch), and only 46% knew any of the words!  But Finnish band Apocalyptica can play it on the cello and it sounds awesome (like all their music does).  I was particularly interested to read that they started out as a Metallica tribute band, and later branched into their own music.    I was very impressed by how much music they managed to cram into their half hour slot whilst at the same time talking to the audience, not long conversations, but just enough little snippets so you knew what they were playing and that they had noticed a rather large crowd had gathered in front of their stage.

Apocalyptica playing download 2015
Apocalyptica.

Later in the day (I’ll spare you the day), we got back very late, and had a few minutes to find a spot so we could watch some of Marilyn Manson before we went to see Muse.  Unfortunately, my friend wanted food, so we went to get her some food instead of getting a good spot, and while we were waiting for the food to appear, Marilyn Manson started.  We stood at the top of the hill and watched from a distance, we got two songs in, Mobscene and Disposable Teens (both excellent tracks) but then I dragged us away to see Muse, because from our vantage point, I could hear the bass lines from Chris Wolstenholme’s bass guitar and they were calling to me, compelling me, dragging me away from the spectacle of Marilyn to observe the performance of the masters.

All I got from Marilyn Manson due to distance.
All I got from Marilyn Manson due to distance.

Muse were as technically accomplished as you would expect (probably the only way they could be more accomplished at playing music is if they hired Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page on second and third guitars), and I think a lot of the reason for their credible, un-astonishing but significant popularity is because of their ability to play their instruments.  Oh God, they can play their instruments.  And the time flew by as they played a nice selection of their songs (and they have so many to choose from).

I didn't get any good pictures of Muse playing because my camera couldn't focus past the lights.
I didn’t get any good pictures of Muse playing because my camera couldn’t focus past the lights.

However, I felt that both Marilyn Manson and Muse were distinctly lacking in the kind of showmanship and character that I’d been expecting.  Particularly Marilyn Manson, although I don’t know if his show got better after I left, so I can’t say as much about it.

This could be an album cover...
This could be an album cover…
Silver balls released over the crowd.
Silver balls released over the crowd.
Fireworks.
Fireworks.
Fireworks were part of Muse's performance
Fireworks were part of Muse’s performance
Streamers accompanied some pyrotechnics.
Streamers accompanied some pyrotechnics.

Muse had some incredible pyrotechnics and the giant silver balloons they released into the audience were really fun and cool, but they barely said hello, and didn’t really interact (apart from the perfunctory ‘I can identify which venue I’m playing’ greeting) and this created a distinct distance between performers and audience that directly contradicted the song lyrics for the setlist and made their lyrical persona feel hollow and pretentious.  I would hope it’s just the kind of stage fright that comes with playing for such a crowd.  Still, they put on a damn good show and they really can play their instruments, so I know I’m being over-analytical.

Marilyn Manson also felt hollow for the same reason – as the founder of the performance theory that states the artists’ existence is the performance, I expected more.  A grand entrance that never came.  A stage with some sort of a set.  Backing dancers.  I probably should keep all these notes to myself for if I ever play in my own band because I’ve learned so much about performance from watching all the great masters at work on my quest to fulfil my bands bucket list.

Day two ended after a spectacular firework display courtesy of Muse.  They are clearly trying to establish themselves as an “alternative rock” band (a la their Wikipedia page), and they certainly deserve to transcend Britpop (where they languished for most of the 2000s, as far as most people were concerned – Blur met the same fate in the ’90s, it was terribly sad), but I feel they need to shake off the performance nuances that make you seem awesome in a pop performance but in alternative rock, just don’t fly.  Alt fans want interaction, they want to know that the words of the songs have a wider meaning and significance.  They want to feel that you care about the fact that they’ve driven hundreds of miles, put up with awful weather, slept in puddles of water, not to mention spent a lot of money, just to see you.  And while I don’t think bands necessarily owe their fans anything, at the same time, it’s polite to acknowledge the people who are paying for you to do what you love full-time rather than put up that wall of idolatry.  It’s clearly a trade-off between talking too much (so you don’t get to play as many songs) and not talking enough, but they could definitely have stood to spend 60 more seconds chatting to the crowd, to tear down that barrier that they put up when they went into their musical trance and played their songs.  They had all the other elements of being the best band in the world ever, but the distance between performer and observer was profound, although I only think it was noticeable when compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Who.  If I hadn’t gone to so many concerts recently I don’t think I would have seen it, I would have just been left with a feeling of isolation.

Apocalyptica, then, won the day for their stage presence, performance skills and musical talent, all of which they had in buckets, and for 2016, I would like to see Apocalyptica headlining or co-headlining at either Download, Sonisphere or Bloodstock, because they deserve a lot more accolade for their work and I do think they would draw the same size crowd as Slayer, Within Temptation or Slipknot; I hope the half-hour slot was due to scheduling conflicts rather than because the organizers didn’t know how awesome they were, and I for one would love to see them do a longer set.  I was just glad we didn’t miss Apocalyptica, because they really made my Saturday.

The first part of Download 2015 Day 3 can be found here.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

Advertisements

My Official Bands Bucket List

So I keep referring to my bands bucket list when I write about things I’ve been up to.  Today I wanted to go back and explain what it is.

You are probably aware that a bucket list is usually something written by people of all ages to ensure that they get to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing in life – all the things they want to do before they “kick the bucket,” to coin a term.

In my case, that would be my ever-dwindling 30-list and my currently being written 40-list, which are the things I want to do before I reach age 30 and age 40, respectively.  It would probably not surprise you, then, to know that, when I was eighteen, I started this whole thing by writing a 20-list, a set of things I wanted to do before I turned 20.

The Bands Bucket List is very separate.  My age-lists are really more a set of things I feel would be achievements, accomplishments, or that I have some control over.  Things you can get with work and dedication.  They are lists of things that are within my power to make happen, however unique the circumstances would need to be for the achievement to be made.

The reason I don’t include bands on my 30-list and 40-list is because anyone can buy a ticket and travel to a gig.  Yes, some bands only tour in their homeland of Japan or The Faroe Islands, but by and large, live music is a capitalist, class dependent commodity (ooh er) that anyone with time and money can engage in.  For that reason I don’t think it’s an achievement to see The Who or Lynyrd Skynyrd, in the same sense that it would be an achievement to climb a mountain or get a master’s degree.  It would certainly be an achievement to play in a band, an honour that I have never been privy to (flutes tend to get stuck with orchestras rather than popular music bands, and ukuleles are the sonorous pariah unwanted in most ensembles), but seeing a band?  I am responsible for quality control of my lists and I decided it would cheapen the accomplishment of a PhD or climbing Everest to liken them with going to Download Festival (sorry, Download, it’s not that I don’t think your wonderful, but you are very easy).

I did need to keep track of a large set of data though, to make it possible to organize, and as I was spending more and more time on the internet typing different band names into Google, I thought I needed a spreadsheet.  I do love a good spreadsheet.

So I wrote them all down in alphabetical order, every band I could think of who, if their members died in a plane crash and they ceased to exist, I would feel like I’d missed out if I had neglected to attend them.  I know I won’t see all of them, but I wanted to make a concerted effort to see as many as I could while I could.

The list doesn’t distinguish between bands who have been apart for 30 years and those who are still coherent, it does separate out individual artists who are known to currently have a solo career and also link them to the band they used to be in (so, for example, the entry for David Gilmour states “Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd” and Roger Waters’ entry is “Roger Waters/Pink Floyd”) ensuring that the musical genius that spawned the bands are placed to be seen even when they can’t be in the same room as one another.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are another example, where their entries are “Jimmy Page/Led Zeppelin” and “Robert Plant/Led Zeppelin” respectively.  Either entry can be ticked off once the required people have been seen, so if I’d seen Jimmy Page, it would then be at my discretion whether I decided the performance was sufficient to tick off Led Zeppelin, or whether I also wanted to see Robert Plant first.  I have ticked Guns n Roses off because I’ve seen Slash, and his performance with Myles Kennedy would be sufficient to tick off Guns n Roses (although GnR weren’t on my list) even though I haven’t seen Axl Rose and the band he’s put together when he kept the name Guns N Roses.

This list, and the ticking off part especially, has raised two very interesting dilemmas facing the modern music fan of older bands:  To what extent does the name of the band matter if none of the original members survive, and what actually counts as having seen a band?

The naming question is difficult.  So for example, there’s only one founder member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left in the band, but when I went to see them you could tell straight away that it didn’t matter.  Trying to define a band as who they were when they first signed on the dotted line of that fateful first record deal in the 1960s is a constrained and counterproductive way of going about things.  Take Pink Floyd again – guitarist Dave Gilmour wasn’t even in the original line-up, but for many people, he IS Pink Floyd, moreso than any other member.  Likewise, I need to be cautious about letting too many things be defined as the correct band.  It gets to a point where the only member of a band worth seeing is the drummer, and unless it’s Ringo Starr or Keith Moon, you might as well go and see a tribute band and tick off the real thing.  It’s false.  So somewhere between these two polarized opinions lies the way forward.

With The Who it was easy – the lead singer/guitarist and the lead guitarist are both still knocking around, the drummer is Ringo Starr’s son, and the bassist is an excellent session musician.  Hearing them play, you can tell they’re the real deal not some tribute band which have learned their songs meticulously to the letter and never deviate from the script.  They had the spark of Who-ness that made them Who-lesome.  I make no apologies for the wordplay.  Not all wordplay is a pun.

With Guns N Roses it would have been harder, since Axl kept the band name but is the only remaining member.  Seeing Slash play was such a jaw-droppingly stirring experience that I decided there was no way any replacement guitarist could ever possibly outdo him, unless Axl had hired Hendrix or Jimmy Page (which he hasn’t, which is a good job because Hendrix is dead and in either case, they’d want to play like themselves so you’d not get the same result).  It’s all a matter of style and substance.  Tribute bands and lesser replacement musicians can copy the style but have no substance.  Replacement musicians who are greater than the original will have substance but a differing style.  It takes a rare genius to walk the line between these two and still come out on top.  So I ticked off Guns N Roses.

The second dilemma is also one that I could spend years obsessing over if I wanted to:  How much of a band counts as “having seen” a band.  Here are my criteria:

1. It has to be live.

2. I had to be close enough to see and hear the band, not just watch the video screen, because that defeats the point.

3. I have to have heard the actual band play at least one full song.

4. Televised appearances are lovely, but there is so much loss of quality and atmosphere that they can’t possibly count, and the same goes for Youtube and other ways of seeing them.  For example, I watched the Pink Floyd Live 8 performance live on the BBC as it happened less than 20 miles from where I was sat (2 days after my mother had tried to kill me resulting in my being removed and never returning home, and 5 days before the 7/7 bombings), but it doesn’t count as having seen them, even though it had a profound and evelasting impact on the course of my life after that moment and probably stopped me killing myself.  That bit where they played “Wish You Were Here” and dedicated it to Syd had me in tears.

5. It doesn’t matter what they play:  If I wanted to hear a specific song I could buy and listen to the proper recording studio version.  That’s not what I’m looking for in my quest to see these bands.

Then there’s the single criterion for removal from the list:  If there are no living members of a band or if a solo artist dies, they are taken off the list.  Here is the list so far, there are currently 60 entries, and things are always being added:

Click to enlarge, again to zoom.
Click to enlarge, again to zoom.

For planning purposes, only the bands in white/orange matter:  The ones in pale grey are supposed to be ones who are just not touring at all, so they’re discounted from planning purposes (but breakups/reunions etc are so fickle that I don’t exclude reunion tours until the last member has kicked the bucket).  The ones in dark grey are ones I’ve now seen.  The ones in lime green are currently not attainable due to either dates, cost, or some other factor of sheer preposterous awkwardness that makes them unachievable such as announcing on the day of sale, selling out in 10 minutes and placing ridiculous resale criteria on the tickets, that only means that WHEN the tickets are resold, they’re triple the price they would have been so the resellers make even more money.  The ones in lime green are generally ones I’ve written off for this year.

So that’s my bands bucket list.  What do you think?  Who would be on yours?

Anything Can Happen At A Festival…

It’s anything can happen Thursday and I’m going to Download Festival on a three night camping ticket until Monday.   I have ordered a tipi for the camping to happen in.  When I return, I can tick the following bands off my bands bucket list:

(ahem)
Motley Crue
Billy Idol
Kiss
Dragonforce
Muse
Apocalyptica
Judas Priest

And possibly Alice Cooper if he’s making a surprise guest appearance (it’s a possibility, because he’s supporting Motley Crue on their farewell tour and is playing at all the other festivals that they’re doing).

Also I will see Slipknot, Lacuna Coil and possibly Marilyn Manson (possibly not, the set timings have NOT been thought out very well on the Saturday) although these aren’t on the bands bucket list – the list of bands I want to see before THEY kick the bucket.

Still, exciting times. I’m a little nervous as I’ve never camped at a festival before (last year we got a day ticket for the one day all our favourite bands were playing on, and got to see Iron Maiden, Slayer and Anthrax on one day), and I’m going with my best friend rather than my husband so I am concerned that I might not sleep so well. Add to that, the tent arrived while I was on the school run, literally two minutes before I got home, and now I’ve got to collect it from the depot this evening (they very specifically said I could only collect it at 6:30… bizarre), and it will need waterproofing (which I knew when I ordered it) and I am still off alcohol and sugar for reasons of sanity, and no, that’s NO pressure at all.

Still, I’m sure it will be great. I felt like backing out of Lynyrd Skynyrd at the last minute and it turned out to be the most awesomest show ever.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, the most recent band that I ticked off my bands bucket list.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, the most recent band that I ticked off my bands bucket list.