Two bands, two completely different approaches, two acts who'll leave Donington with the smell of success lingering in their nostrils.
Twenty One Pilots arrive onstage wearing skeleton suits and balaclavas. Awaiting them are a piano and a drum kit. It doesn’t look very Download. Once they’re up and running, it’s stranger still: you’ve got a singer who switches effortlessly between a brattish, nasal rap and a voice that soars like, well, a proper singer. Think Ben Folds if he’d grown up listening to Eminem. And the drummer? Yikes. He flails like a demented, mechanical octopus, thrashing his kit, arms a looping frenzy.
It’s chaos. Singer Tyler Joseph is up and down like it’s all a game of musical, now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t whack-a-mole. One second he’s seated at the piano, the next he’s in the photographer’s pit high-fiving the crowd, the next he’s sprinting across the stage to get back to the keyboard in time for whatever’s next. And then he’s off again. By song four he’s in the crowd, walking across palms like Iggy Pop at the Cincinnati Pop festival in 1970. Excitingly, Mr Blobby appears near the front, and the security detail in the pit inch forward nervously as Tyler encourages everyone to board each other’s shoulders. Even Blobby joins in. So much of what takes places in unexpected, and that includes the intros, as we witness perhaps the first instance of someone introducing a song at a rock festival by announcing, “this is my mum’s third favourite song from our album!”.
The music? It’s similarly schizoid, leaping from aggressive alt-rock to wistful indie-pop via frantic hip hop. With banjos. Set closer Car Radio is an obvious highlight, eventually finding its focus as a cheesy, euro-trance anthem. It’s baffling, but no-one seems to care, and it’s enormous fun. (9)
“Fuck the rain!” shrieks Johnny Solinger. For as Skid Row hit the stage, the clouds have loomed in, the wind has whipped up, and it’s beginning to look like it might get a little wet. But nothing will halt Skid Row, because Skid Row are proper stars. They’ve been there, done that, and printed thousands of t-shirts along the way. Cut Skid Row like a stick of rock, and they’d probably read “Fuck yeah” all the way through, in giant, star-spangled letters.
We get Let’s Go, Piece Of Me, and two giant ballads (a rare event on a weekend largely filled with more aggressive fare). 18 And Life has everyone waving their mobile phones in the air like they just don’t care, while I Remember You ends in an uplifting, Rock Of Ages-style singalong. It all finishes with a Riot Act and an effervescent Youth Gone Wild, and they’re gone. The sun immediately comes out. (8)