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Download 2015: Rival State, Krokodil and Gnarwolves

Live Review

Venue: Download Festival, Donington

It's all kicking off on the first day of the Donington bash

When you're about to make your Donington debut, you have one or two options.

You could keep your head down and deliver a tight set, politely thank the crowd and hope they've remembered the name flapping above the drummer's head. Or, if you're from New Zealand, you could get some friends to open your set with a traditional Māori dance before kicking in the curious crowd's ears with half an hour of riffs.

**Rival State **have traveled some 11,525 miles to relocate to the leafier parts of South London and today, waste no time in ingratiating themselves with their adopted country's crowd. Frontman Luke Van Hoof – reed-thin and a patchwork of Cobain’s hair, random tattoos and grubby white jeans – leads his bandmates through songs Gutter Mouth and Keepsake, a “song about religious… things”. As the sun pushes its way through the clouds floating above Leicestershire, Van Hoof cracks open his first beer of the day and toasts the crowd before diving headlong into their final song, Sleeptalker. It shimmers and swaggers with the punky gallop of Iron Maiden’s formative years, and when you’re playing your first show on the hallowed grounds of the UK’s spiritual home of rock and metal, this is no bad thing at all. (SY)

Over on the Maverick Stage – the big, blue circus tent to the right of the main stage – Krokodil begin their 30-minute set. From the off, frontman Simon Wright prowls the stage with the menace of an irate pub regular. He possesses the vocal power of a North American black bear and barks out lyrics while guitarists Daniel P. Carter, Laurent Barnard and Chris Binns weave layered riffs around bassist James Leach’s dexterous basslines. Their set highlight is the slow-burning Sun Riders which neatly soundtracks the sight of an inflatable reptile bouncing on the heads of the filled-out tent. Some of us who are already suffering from the high pollen counts can pronounce the title of their debut album, Nachash, with ease while the uninitiated make a mental note to check it out on Monday. Simply put: Krokodil rock. (SY)

If anyone was worried that punk was on the way out, they only need watch Gnarwolves bounce their way through a half-hour set. The British three-piece tear up the Maverick Stage with an energetic set that sees them unleash tracks from their recent album, including History Is Bunk and Bottle To Bottle, to an expectant crowd. The harmonies hark back to tuneful '90s punks Less Than Jake and Jimmy Eat World, and their sound isn’t eaten up by the open acoustics of the tent. Frontman Thom Weeks darts back and forth like a Tasmanian devil as he powers through the set, mixing a devil-may-care attitude with upbeat melodies and riffs that demand to be skanked to. It’s no surprise that Gnarwolves have previously supported the likes of Blink-182 and The Wonder Years – they might be new kids on the block, but they know exactly what they’re doing. (TDG)

Gallery

Rival State Photos: Alison Clarke

Gallery

Gnarwolves Photos: Leigh van der Byl

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