Wednesday, August 31, 2011


© Rene Ehrhardt Photography

The mud squelches under my boots as I march the long route to the arena. Human mudflaps run by, caked from head to toe, splashing brown gunk with the kind of flippancy a breakfast of hard liquour provides. I'm checking my watch… no time to daydream… Rise Against are on the main stage.

No need to rush though, Rise Against bore me to tears (sunblock in the eye). Their dumbed down, middle of the road rock has propelled them from the Lockup Stage to the Main Stage, and all around fans with tribal tattoos sing their lyrics, but deep down, surely, they must know they've lost their edge. Drummer Brandon Barnes looks like he's playing in slow motion.

Also, covering The Clash’s “White Riot” in tribute to the London riots seems a strange choice when the majority (not all) of the rioters weren’t white.

Up next, hard-rocking Californian legends Deftones sound amazing. Stalking the massive stage, larger than life - even from the nosebleed section - they make Rise Against look (and sound) like tempered Main Stage newbies. And Deftones haven't dumbed down or compromised their sound for anyone!

The rugs Deftones have scattered around really tie the stage together - The Dude would be proud. Frontman Chino Moreno, shirt open, crowd surfing while he sings, looks in the mood. And the hits keep on coming, as Offspring take the stage next, opening with "All I Want"…

I cringe every time they play anything off Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. And their new song's not encouraging either. "Find A Way" sings Dexter Holland - I just wish he could find a way to age with dignity. Still, songs like "Self Esteem" and "Bad Habit" pack a punch, some 17 years (way) down the line.

When Offspring are done, 30 Seconds to Mars minions storm the stage, building the band's giant triangle logo (the same logo Jared Leto has tattooed on both arms) and queuing the band's pretentious short film on the jumbo screens. After a lengthy changeover, a few indecent exposures over by the Hog Roast stand and a lot of thrown beer cups, Leto appears on stage, coming up through the floor, wearing sunglasses, a skirt and a cape…

Watching Leto prance around, shining a torch on his own face when the lights go out and ripping his shirt off, I can't help laugh at how ridiculous this band is. It's just not normal behaviour, even for a rock star. He looks like he raided Carrie-Anne Moss' leftover Matrix getups and acts like a spoilt rich kid, living out some bizarre rock fantasy. He doesn't even sing huge chunks of the songs!

Afterwards, I watch My Chemical Romance for a bit then head over to the Festival Republic Stage, where UK ghouls The Horrors are serving up a much more low-key, dark and spidery set of doom and gloom, art rock indie.

"Thank you for choosing us over My Chemical Romance and Beady Eye", says frontman Faris Badwan, before his band kicks into moody Primary Colours classic "Sea Within A Sea". And, unlike White Lies and other contenders, I can actually picture Ian Curtis digging The Horrors’ vibe. Three albums in and they sound better than ever...

I stumble back over to the Main Stage in time to catch Queen guitarist Brian May on stage with My Chemical Romance, playing a make shift version of "We Will Rock You". May sticks around for set closer "Welcome to the Black Parade", until a massive fireworks display and spray of confetti calls an end to day one...

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