By Rita Neyter
Gibson Amphitheater, July 20, 2008
Not to be confused with the British 3-day, Download Festival, the American version takes place in three cities; San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, for just a day. This year featured the likes of M83, Mates of State, Gang of Four and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The festival purports to be an event that “allows you to tap into your inner nerd and get plugged into innovative music.”
(Photo left: M83. All photos by Rita Neyter)
Arriving at the well air-conditioned Gibson Amphitheater mid afternoon and just in time to catch the beginning of M83’s cinematically inspired electro-gazer set, but already missing Datarock, Tapes N’ Tapes as well as The Duke Spirit, the venue was sparsely filled. French native and the mastermind behind M83, Anthony Gonzalez hit the rotating stage with touring band, featuring Morgan Kibby on vocals and keyboards and kicked out an hour’s worth of music including “We Own the Sky,” and “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” and ending their near hour-long set with the eight plus minute dancy-yet-droney track “Colours.”
The outdoor area had a second stage where we saw the matchy-striped De Novo Dahl, and stopped by the Spin magazine interview area where Tapes N’ Tapes were doing some Q&A.
There was a tent where video gamers faced off their opponents on flat screen TV’s and Volkswagen’s massive booth with T-shirt silk-screening.
After catching a brief and fun set from Mates of States we gave in to hunger pains and coughed up an exorbent amount of money for some really disgusting food-like substances. Only to return to the main-stage and suffer an assault on the ears by the likes of Brand New, an emo-pop outfit that seemed to be a big hit with the high school aged crowd, but didn’t really seem have anything interesting going for them musically, other than their really nice, expensive gear and lots of it.
They couldn’t have finished soon enough, but when they did the Gang of Four stepped in and showed everyone how it’s really done. Singer Jon King was a mad-mad on stage full of vigor and punk rock, jumping around, doing frog leaps and towards the end he came out with a baseball bat and attacked and destroyed a defenseless microwave oven. They were by far the best live act of the entire show.
Headliners The Jesus and Mary Chain were their usual unenthusiastic selves as they barreled through some of their best songs such as the ear blistering, “Head On,” their ode to substances, “Some Candy Talking,” didn’t miss a beat, but something seemed to really unnerve the otherwise stone cold vocalist Jim Reid as he forced the band to do a second take of their latest song, “All Things Must Pass,” midway through. Picking things back up, they played, “Crackin’ Up,” and finishing things off with a pummeling version of “Reverence, from their most popular album, Honey’s Dead.”
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The Download festival was overall an odd-ball event, whose purpose seemed lost on everyone there. The line-up seemed a bit willy-nilly; with the bulk of the bands being lesser known names, hence the really poor turn out. But on the bright side, it was an indoor event, so the heat associated with most all day festivals was not an issue and all the fans that were there didn’t have to struggle to get a close view of their favorite bands.
All photos and words by Rita Neyter