Dirty Honey, The Raven Age, Those Damn Crows, Black Label Society, Bush and Shinedown at Download Festival, Saturday 11 June 2022.
Download Festival – Saturday – Part One
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Stuart Isteed
Dirty Honey – Opus Stage
Dirty Honey open the Opus Stages’ Saturday lineup with sheer, crisp ’70s rocker suave. In the midst of their phenomenal one LP/EP long discography rise, the guys are clearly as much fun on stage as they are in record sales. Download 2022 is their first ever UK gig, and boy, they do not disappoint.
John Notto is sublime, soloing off-record piste on his Gibson Les Paul whilst Marc Labelle’s vocals are raw in that full throttle yet warm way. Gypsy, The Wire, California Dreaming and, of course, When I’m Gone are special.
They get a huge cheer for balled-infused Another Last Time which says a lot about their performance. If a band on the up can get huge applause for a ballad that isn’t one of their best known, then you know they’ve got a damn good thing going on. “How was the first Dirty Honey show in the Uk?” Labelle calls out, and the crowd response says it all.
With upcoming shows all around the UK, it’d be a shame to miss them before they’re gone.
The Raven Age and Those Damn Crows – Apex Stage
Stained glass windows from the churches of hell drape down the inner sides of the Apex main stage as The Raven Age gorge their way through their set with well a received vigour.
Dark and dangerous, the five-piece band launch themselves around, clearly having the time of their lives. Fleur De Lis especially sparks no refute to their live performance. The onstage interaction is unquestionable, and having heard barely any of their stuff before, I’ve just baptised myself a new fan.
And then, an omen rings out to the sounds of crows squawking under the sun-blinded main stage. You guessed it, it’s Those Damn Crows. This band has been raising their billing almost every festival or show they play, so to see them here after watching them keep spirits high on the second stage at last year’s Download Pilot was quite something.
Frontman Shane Greenhall is ever likeable, quipping “if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m Welsh” seconds after they smash through Who Did It as their opener.
Don’t Give A Damn and Sick Of Me puts bassist Lloyd Wood as the standout. Prowling the stage, he carries the instrumental energy whilst the crowd assists Greenhall on vocals, knowingly singing along to every word.
Then down into the pit, Greenhall goes, proving at 1.15 pm that it’s never too early to ramp up the madness. Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Dead is a powerful as hell number to end on and quite a meaningful moment, too, when we judge the significance of this particular Download.
If I take away one thing from Those Damn Crows (aside from the great thumping show) is that after this, I’m pretty sure Shane Greenhall is at the top of everyone’s list of who they’d most want to grab a pint with.
Black Label Society – Apex Stage
Zakk Wylde is a mammoth amongst men. But the driving force behind Black Label Society is just one Metal-infused cog in the machinery that makes up one of the world’s most renowned heavy bands.
As Black Label Society takes to the stage and that signature bullseye design is within visual reach, Downloads finest go absolutely hell for leather. The Main Stage is only just big enough for their sound (though we know nothing can quite match the sheer velocity that hits when Wylde gives it his best), and what better way to showcase the decades-long spectacle than here?
Anyone who has seen a BLS show will know what to expect. The infamous kilt stance, the unflinching musicianship, the phenomenal Wylde guitar work. But here at Donnington today, there’s an impounding appreciation for the band and a response from all corners I’ve never quite seen before.
Wylde stands, arms crossed, conducting each side of the crowd in a rev up stand off. Wylde and fellow guitarist Dario Lorina sling their axes behind their heads and play face to face, shredding in a ritual you’ll only ever catch at a BLS show and the closest to guitar curiosa as you’ll get.
The backdrop features the artwork from their latest 2021 album, Doom Crew Inc, from which they Set You Free and Destroy & Conquer.
Generous in their offering, they play a well-rounded set from most of their albums, with Bleed For Me, Suicide Messiah and Stillborn stepping out highlights.
As Black Label Society’s set comes to an end, it’s hugs all around for the band not once but twice as the seemingly non-ending ring out of feedback continues. Wylde chucks a few picks out to the reaching arms and applauds the crowd himself. Taking a bow and pounding out a few chest thumps, he departs.
We’ll always see the finest when Black Label Society play.
Bush – Opus Stage
With the main stage now running 30 minutes late, it became a cross-country, coffee-fuelled dash around to catch the best. Bush, of course, fell into that category.
Rather pejoratively described as the post-grunge staple band by many, Bush remains one of the top-selling bands of the mid-nineties, having been certified six times platinum for their debut album, Sixteen Stone.
They play a huge set that sees a 50/50 divide between their old stuff and the new. Gylcerine, Machinehead, Comedown and Everything Zen from Sixteen Stone, along with Blood River, The Kingdom and a couple more from the 2020 album also named The Kingdom.
Watching the show, I was avidly impressed with drummer Nik Hughes’s performance; every gesture was huge like his hard-hitting life depended on it. There was a clear fan base crowding the stage front and centre who were here to watch the guys play how they would 20 years ago, and they were not disappointed.
Gavin Rossdale ends the set with a sincere thank you to his audience, “Really proud of you guys for checking us out, thank you!”
Shinedown – Apex Stage
Throughout the 36 hours that I’ve been here, Shinedown has been one of those bands that constantly evoke an excited reaction when asking who is on the list of must-sees. Brent Smith stalks the Apex stage with a raging intensity, commanding his Download disciples, who hang onto each pitch-perfect scream.
An emotionally charged Get Up has a nice nit-bit introduction; “If you fail, pick yourself up and try and again and again and eventually, you’re gonna get “.
This, of course, means bringing out the acoustic guitar, piano and echoing backing vocals. There are moments of playfulness between the members on stage, which cuts through the soul graspers and pushes them towards the top of the weekend’s billing.
Not to mention Zach Myers’ snazzy sparkling French flag-bodied guitar. The entire crowd jumps to Enemies before an eerie voiceover backing track featuring the late Heath Ledger’s Joker, amongst others, places us right in the mood for Monsters.
“Did you bring your singing voices today?” Smith asks, and my partially damaged eardrums can confirm they did.
The sound is brilliant, and the engineers behind it haven’t let the ball drop once, so a special shout-out to that team is much needed and well deserved.
MetalTalk Download 2022 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2022
Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total. Limited early bird tickets are on sale now at downloadfestival.co.uk
Highlights of this year’s Download Festival will be broadcast on SKY ARTS on 9th and 10th July at 9pm.