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Download 2015: Crobot & Purson

Two of rock's brightest sparks threaten to ignite the canvas

There’s one good thing about a rainy Download. It sends punters in droves to the tented smaller stages, and the largely lesser-known bands therein. Crobot are one such band to capitalise on this, creating one of the most hard-hitting, watchable performances of the weekend. The red tent fills up comfortably as four seemingly mild-mannered guys adjust amps and mic stands.

Said ‘mild-mannered’ guys become radically different creatures as they explode into opener Legend Of The Spaceborne Killer, in a ferocious punch of Lenny Kravitz-meets-Clutch heavy grooving. “Let’s get groovy baby!” cries hair-helicoptering vocalist Brandon Yeagley, as the Pennsylvania quartet thrash and shimmy through the likes of Skull Of Geronimo. La Mano De Lucifer brings in psychedelic undertones, a smokier stage and some spaced-out jamming, and a hard-funking Nowhere To Hide sees Yeagley leap upon guitarist Chris Bishop’s shoulders. All four members are wonderfully animated, engaging performers, and in Yeagley they have a leader who manages to be both camp (all that musical theatre hand-reaching) and a monstrously effective rocker. We smiled and headbanged from start to finish. A definite festival highlight.

Psychedelic Brit rockers Purson are similarly engaging on the eye and ear, and come with a similarly charismatic leader - vocalist/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham, a smouldering pinnacle of Austin Powers-meets-Woodstock chic with a commanding liquorice voice and wah-infused chops aplenty. She leads a tight group, seemingly styled by the Beatles in their hippie days, and clearly in love with that era without simply mimicking it. Some sound imbalance issues are swiftly powered through, as the likes of Spiderwood Farm bring some welcome psych-rock swirliness (from young voices) to the weekend.

An open-air festival might not be the ideal setting for Purson (their intimate, acoustic n’ electric blend is probably better suited to somewhere dark indoors), but their Zeppelin-tinged, 60s/early 70s rock cocktail goes down well with us mud-strewn onlookers. These are the kind of tunes that could have come from an old fortune teller’s dream, or the darker moments of Aladdin - crammed, as they are, with attractive mystique. It’s a cool, compelling and quietly sensual contrast to the rest of the bill, and in truth Rosalie’s apologetic “we don’t have much time, I’m sorry” was hardly necessary. Nevertheless, the sight of them utterly absorbed in winners like Danse Macabre sees them ultimately leave on a confident high.

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Polly Glass

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.