The line-up for this year’s Download Festival France was impressive as ever, showing that just as every year, they were keen to provide competition for their British counterpart (read our coverage of this year’s festival here). On top of this, the free camping, an efficient cashless wristband system and cheap tickets formed a winning combination. Huge names such as LINKIN PARK, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and GREEN DAY were at the end of each day, as well as a huge variety of smaller bands and big names from across the metal spectrum – from the groundbreaking hardcore of CODE ORANGE to the classic thrash of SLAYER. We were there on the final day of the festival to witness how the French counterpart competes with the festival on home soil.
TESSERACT – Main Stage 2
The first band of the day at Download Festival France were British prog stalwarts TESSERACT. Whilst the French may have been a tough crowd compared to the fans on their home-turf, the band wasted no time in kickstarting the last day of the festival in style. Daniel Tompkins’ soaring vocals were as good as they have ever been, and as usual their material from their first album One was best received by the crowd. A wonderful performance from the band compared to their disappointing sets supporting DEVIN TOWNSEND earlier this year, and a great start to the day.
SUICIDE SILENCE – Main Stage
Moving from Main Stage 2 to the Main Stage, SUICIDE SILENCE was the next band up at Download Festival France. Following their rapid decline in respect in the deathcore scene, as a result of their polarising self-titled recent release, it was interesting to see the French audience’s reaction. The turnout was, honestly, very impressive as several thousand people flocked to the main stage in the blazing continental heat. Breaking out a set of crowd-pleasers worked in the band’s favour, as classics such as No Pity for A Coward, Unanswered and You Only Live Once worked the crowd into a frenzy. A gigantic circle pit as well as an impressive wall of death proved that SUICIDE SILENCE aren’t entirely irrelevant yet – and with the help of charismatic frontman, Eddie Hermida, they earned their slot on the main stage on Sunday.
ARCHITECTS – Main Stage 2
Brighton metalcore titans hit Main Stage 2 mid-afternoon to the biggest crowd of the day so far. ARCHITECTS are a band that have seriously broken into the mainstream of American and European touring since the release of their critically acclaimed album All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us, something that is certainly well-deserved. Their performance at Download Festival France is a welcome blast of energy, rendering the heat of the day insignificant in the mind of the audience. Their instrumentals were tight and punchy, with a breakdown at the end of These Colours Don’t Run producing a brutal wall of death, much to the delight of enigmatic vocalist Sam Carter. Along with a dedication to the late Tom Searle, the band provided a powerful and emotional performance for the closing day of the festival.
STRAY FROM THE PATH – Warbird Stage
The first visit to the smaller, covered, Warbird Stage was for American politically-minded hardcore band STRAY FROM THE PATH. Opening up with The New Gods turned the tent into an instant dust bowl as the hardcore dancers filled the pit, despite the heat. Crowd favourites Badge and a Bullet and Outbreak kept the pace of their performance relentlessly, and in between songs frontman Drew York wasted no time in riling up the audience with speeches against racism, abuse and political corruption. Finishing on First World Problem Child, there may have been mild disappoint that the live version did not feature a guest spot from Sam Carter of ARCHITECTS, like the studio version, however, the punishing breakdown at the end of the song provided a bone-shattering end to their set.
MASTODON – Main Stage 2
In stark contrast to the 90s-edged hardcore of STRAY FROM THE PATH, stoner metal legends MASTODON were next up on Main Stage 2. After their recent release Emperor of Sand dividing fans, it was refreshing to see the band still draw a very respectable crowd. Quasi-wolfman Troy Sanders was a strong presence even on such a large stage at Download Festival France, and it was clear that throughout their wide-ranging set, an atmosphere was healthily maintained. Playing songs ranging all the way from Blood Mountain classic The Wolf Is Loose, all the way forward to new hit Show Yourself, there was something in their set for MASTODON fans of every calibre.
PROPHETS OF RAGE – Main Stage 2
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of any festival-goers’ weekend at either the British or French Download Festivals was the appearance of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE reunion band PROPHETS OF RAGE. Many may have been sceptical about the authenticity of their live performances without the legendary Zack De la Rocha, however any doubt was instantly cast aside within the first few songs. The addition of vocalists from PUBLIC ENEMY and CYPRESS HILL does not detract from the rage – it feeds it. The setlist ranges from RAGE classics such as Testify and Bulls on Parade, through a DJ section for the French crowd – “We’ve heard that the French fucking love classic hip hop!” PUBLIC ENEMY and CYPRESS HILL songs are also covered, Fight the Power and How I Could Just Kill A Man both get spots, as well as the reunion bands’ own song, Unfuck the World. Fists pump in the air, and the atmosphere in the crowd is electric all the way through the band’s hour and a quarter long set. Tom Morello was particularly on fire, delivering endless guitar solos in his own special way – at one point with his teeth, turning the guitar over to reveal the slogan ‘fuck Trump’ emblazoned on the back. If one thing is sure after RAGE’s triumphant return to Europe, it’s that they’re certainly not done with us yet.
GREEN DAY – Main Stage
Closing the final day of Download Festival France were a band that required little explanation or introduction – pop punk legends GREEN DAY. Preceding the performance, a man dressed in a pink bunny costume was chased around the stage by a festival tech whilst wearing a vest with the message ‘who the fuck is Tre Cool?’ on the back – surely a rhetorical question for the tens of thousands of GREEN DAY fans filling the Base Aerienne. Not long after, however, the band took to the stage heading straight into 2009 hit Know Your Enemy. Bringing fans on stage to sing certain parts of songs proved to be a success, creating many special moments throughout their set. One thing to note was the pure scale of it – they played for two and a half hours with two encores and 25 songs. An acoustic version of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, an extended Longview and Basket Case all roused the crowd to an electric level. The first encore comprised of American Idiot and Jesus of Suburbia, arguably two of the band’s biggest songs, just as the sun set – and without a doubt the nearby town of Bretigny-sur-Orge heard the deafening singalong of the French crowd. One thing that’s sure is that GREEN DAY is not a band that ages, and nor does their fanbase shrink. The rock legends were a perfect end to a triumphant weekend of rock music in the heart of France.