Thrash Hits

June 9th, 2010

Download Festival’s Friday Excuses: I Call Bullshit.

Have you seen the Download Festival 2010 Friday line-up? Did you hear Andy Copping’s justification for it? Hugh Platt did. And he thought it was a hellaload of horseshit.

Okay, I’ve been holding this in for a while now. I was waiting to see if Download Festival – well, more specifically, the public face of Download Festival, Andy Copping (that’ him up there) – would pull out an adequate response as opposed to the bullshit excuses they decided to mug off ticketholders with as to why the Friday schedule of the UK’s premium mainstream metal festival (and fuck off with all that “it’s not a metal festival, it’s a rock festival!” shit-spouting) is such a load of fucking ballbags. But time’s run out.

First off, I want to say that I fucking love Download Festival, and even in it’s weaker years it has never failed to be one of the highlights of my year. But just go over and look at the official line-up for this year’s Download Festival Friday. Ouch. Now go and look at Andy Copping’s bullshit excuses as to why this sorry state of affairs has come to pass over on MetalHammer.co.uk. From the moment I first read this, I could smell bullshit.

Let’s go through Andy Copping’s reasoning as to why there are only five bands on the main stage on Friday point-by-point, shall we? Apparently it’s AC/DC’s monstrous stage set that is the cause of all this. Really? I mean, really? I take it that it’s going to bigger than KISS’s stage set from 2007, then? Or Slipknot’s elaborate gantries last year? Neither or them took any longer than a usual headliner to set up, so I guess this AC/DC show is going to be pretty-well gosh-darn much more special than either of those stage sets, right?

This year, the capacity of Download Festival has been upped from 85,000 to 111,000. There’s one simple reason for this: revenue. The one reason why they need this extra revenue? AC/DC. Download have made no bones about boasting how they are the first UK festival AC/DC have played in literally decades, and how Reading/Leeds were trying to book them for years without success. Well, here’s the real reason why – no-one was willing to stump up for Akka Dakka’s asking price till now.

The downsides of a festival increasing capacity are enormous. Unless the site expands by an equal measure, then an increase in capacity will lead to an increase in how crowded the festival is – anyone that’s been to Reading Festival more than once in the last decade will testify to that. Download Festival 2010 has an almost identical layout to last year’s event (which, in all fairness, was a pretty damn good one), so it seems that there’ll be more people getting in your way as you try to buy a beer this year. Good news if you’re interested in collecting ticket revenues, bad news if you’re interested in seeing bands.

In fact, if you’re a punter at any 3-day festival in the UK, then there is only one conceivable benefit to a festival promoter increasing the festival capacity, and that’s that the extra £$£$ generated from more sales will be plowed back in to booking higher profile (and therefore more expensive) acts. Except as we’ve seen with the reduced Friday schedule, and, truth be told, the actually rather shallow depth of big hitters at this year’s festival (especially on the “lower” stages) this doesn’t appear to be the case. Let’s now look at the timetable for Download last year. Can anyone seriously tell me that it’s not filled with more high-profile acts than this year?

Watch Andy Copping’s talking at Download Festival 2009:

Let’s look at the counter-arguments – people have pointed out to me that the first day of Download has always tended to start a little later than the other two days. To this I say: go back and look at the schedule for this year vs last year again. Other than the Jagermeister Acoustic stage (really? zzzzz), no band will be playing on the top three stages at Download before 3pm. That’s a whole two hours earlier than last year. This isn’t just the Main Stage either – that’s across the board. I guess the money ran out for booking more acts? This is before we take into account the fact that while AC/DC are playing, no other acts will be playing on any stage across the festival. Apparently, this is because no other band wanted to play “against AC/DC”. Really? Really?

Okay, I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I’ll be watching AC/DC when they come on….and there’s probably no other band that’d be playing on any of the other stages that could tempt me away. But I’m not everyone going to Download Festival. Some point – yes, seriously – don’t actually like AC/DC that much. Was it really too tough to book some acts from a completely different part of the metal spectrum to AC/DC to fill even one of those slots? Are we sure that both this,, and the fact that only four other bands are playing the Main Stage that day, aren’t really because of some conditions laid down by AC/DC as a prerequisite to them playing the festival?

The truth of the matter is that if you’re a music festival and you want to book a band like AC/DC, then concessions will have to be made. I don’t think that booking AC/DC was a bad move – they are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Times are tough in the heavier-end of the festival spectrum – like it or not, Sonisphere Festival is here now, and while it has forced Download to buck its ideas up somewhat (remember 2008? I wish I didn’t), it has taken a huge chunk out of the acts Download is able to book. Downlaod Festival need to play hard and rough, they need to fight their corner, and it looks as though they’ve bravely stepped up and taken it on the chin in order to assure they’ll have one of the most talked about headliners of 2010. And fair play to them for that.

But what I do object that it was wrong to bullshit fans for the reasons behind the many shortcomigns of  this coming Friday. The specifics of the Friday clusterfuck only became apparent at the start of May, over three months after AC/DC were announced as a headliner. Even if we take Andy Copping at his word as to the reasons why there are reduced numbers of bands playing, are we seriously meant to believe that this problem wasn’t something they were aware of when they booked AC/DC, let alone when they announced the booking to the ticket-buying public? Or did they hold back on letting this information back, for fears that it might hurt ticket sales?

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong, and Friday will be a huge rip-roaring success. Anyway, I’ll end this rant with a direct quote from MrCopping:

“I don’t accept that it’s a 2 day festival with an AC/DC show bolted onto it. There’s going to be five stages operating!”

I really, really hope that come Monday morning, I’ll find myself in agreement with that statement. But I’ve got a sickening feeling in my stomach that I won’t be.

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The views in the above article are the author’s own, and in no way reflect anyone else’s at Thrash Hits. He’s just a bitter old bastard, that’s all.

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