Festival season is a long way off, but that hasn’t stopped it kicking into a lower gear already, with both Download and Bloodstock having named their first bands. Last night’s announcement that Iron Maiden will once again grace Donnington’s hallowed turf is sure to send some all a flutter and leave others calling Andy Copping a cunt. It’s the internet after all. I could, of course, choose to stay well away from such situations, but where is the fun in that? So here’s some thoughts about Downloads first headliner.
Let’s starts with the obvious. I love Iron Maiden. I also love the new album, even if it is a bit self-indulgent. They are one of the biggest and best metal bands on the planet and as a headliner, they make perfect sense. However, that doesn’t hide the fact that there is a sense of deja-vu. This will make it three out of the last four summers that Maiden have headlined a major UK festival (Download in 2013 and Sonisphere in 2014) and there is nothing fresh about such a performance. Don’t get me wrong, they will most likely be great. They also insist on touring the album they’ve just realised (something I’m 100% behind) meaning it will be a new set-list. But it doesn’t change the fact that we have seen it before.
And of course, that comes from someone who was at both of those shows. Who has seen Maiden a handful of times and goes to a lot of gigs. It needs to be taken into account that there is a legion of kids out there who love Iron Maiden and have never seen them. For them, this will be a major deal. Maiden are a fantastic live band and it may well be the best gig they’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t change the fact that it points towards an increasing shift away from festivals like Download being for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I go to Download I have an awesome time. Always have done and I imagine when I go in the future I still will. However, the line-ups more and more often leave me cold. This year I wasn’t even tempted and the year before that was similar. More and more I find myself tempted towards the smaller festivals. The ones which offer something different. Even Sonisphere, which seems to be done as a yearly thing in the UK, but has a great focus on up and coming bands, is often more exciting than Download. While we already know Mastodon will do their first UK headlining slot at Bloodstock next year. The likes of Hevy are sure to offer a few delights as well. Then there are one-day events like Camden Rocks, which I loved this year. These festivals give smaller bands, a bigger platform and that’s what excites me now.
I’m not saying I won’t be at Download this year because I may well be. I’m also not saying that they won’t announce someone at 7 pm tonight who gets me super excited. I’m just saying that right now, the whole thing feels a bit stale. It’s a sense of the same old, same old and as someone who does go to festivals for the music, as much as the social occasion, it makes me ponder whether it’s worth my money. Download is not going anywhere, anytime soon and this year I’m sure they will do a fantastic job yet again. I’m just not sure if it’s a job meant for me anymore.