Download Festival Diaries: Creeper

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From the minute I stepped out of the car and took my first steps towards the hallowed ground of Donignton Park, I was surrounded by a very familiar symbol: the Callous Heart, which anyone who has paid the upcoming punk rock world just a passing glance in the last few months will recognise as the symbol of the newest band to explode in all their wonderfully gothic mystique out of the South Coast punk scene and, quite literally, onto the main stage of modern punk- Creeper. After producing a string of highly praised EPs and a amassing dedicated underground fan base, the release of their debut album, ‘Eternity In Your Arms’ saw this spooky Southampton sextet explode in popularity, both in the UK and across the pond in the US after their recent co-headline tour with pop punk prodigies Waterparks, and as a result they have bagged themselves a slot on the Main Stage at this year’s Download Festival. Often when smaller bands are placed into hugely prestigious positions in this way, it becomes a true test of their abilities and potential- it’s make or break. But anybody who has followed Creeper for more than a little while, myself included, was in no doubt that they would take the challenge in their stride. What nobody was quite prepared for was for them to shake Donington to its foundations with their black and purple tidal wave of dark, supernatural, passionate punk energy!

From the opening of ‘Black Rain’, with its haunting piano from keyboard player and backing vocalist Hannah Greenwood, a great cheer rose up from the crowd, and the voices of the many Callous Hearts among the throng rose up in triumph, carrying the song through the grunting bassline provided by bassist Sean Scott and pummelling guitars from guitarists Ian Miles and Oliver Burdett and into the soaring symphony of the chorus, where Hannah and frontman Will Gould’s harmonies shone out into the murky midlands sky. ‘Poison Pens’ came crashing in with the force of a freight train, all slamming guitars and hammering drums provided by drummer Dan Bratton, sprinkled with Will’s thunderbolt screams (and many an idiosyncratic hair flip, of course!)! Dipping back into material from their critically acclaimed 2016 EP ‘The Stranger’, ‘Black Mass’ was a welcome delight, one of my favourite Creeper songs to hear live because of the effervescent energy that pours out of every note of the lively melody in waves! However, no sooner had ‘Black Mass’ ended than it was overshadowed at once by the mammoth anthem that is ‘VCR’, the song that, as Will proudly proclaimed, was the first Creeper ever wrote. In spite of this, it has stood the test of time, and instantly whipped the crowd up into an excitable frenzy, with circle pits emerging like twisting tornadoes on both sides of the main stage! One can’t help but wonder if the Creeper that wrote ‘VCR’ all those years ago ever dreamed that one day those words and that melody would be ringing out across Donington Park, being taken in by a crowd of thousands? The journey this band have been on in such a short space of time is colossal, but seeing how at home and they appeared, filling the main stage with their huge goth-punk sound and enigmatic stage presence, it isn’t hard to see why this band, above all others, have stormed their way into the world’s eyeline- they were, quite simply, magnificent.

However, in spite of Creeper’s huge surge in popularity in recent months, the thing I am most in awe of was their ability to maintain the sense of community amongst members of the dedicated Creeper Cult, despite us only being spattered in small clusters throughout the large crowd! Pictures and live videos of the set flew around online, connecting not only the Cult members within the crowd to each other, but inviting those who could not be there to join in the occasion! The extraordinary show of solidarity during closer ‘I Choose to Live’ illustrated the power of this community in the most perfect way- as the waves of emotion broke over the crowd, drawing sobs from my fellow Callous Hearts around me, without thinking people’s arms rose up, embracing those around them in a many armed hug as tears fell in sliver tracks down all their faces. It was the most visceral sense of solidarity I have ever experienced at a show, as the ghostly voices of the hundreds of waifs, strays and outsiders who make up the Callous Hearts that can be heard singing along softly in unison on the album version of this track were brought out into the daylight of the real world as the operatic grandeur built once more through the second chorus, the sound rising and growing, like the first rays of sun peeking over the horizon, flooding the sky with brilliant colour that chases away the darkness of night, building and building and then- with barely a whisper- dispersing like a cloud of fireflies as the first rays of daylight burst over the horizon, leaving Will’s final shivering words hovering in the air, slowly fading in the glare of the sun.

What a set. What a community. What a band. Despite their ghostly visage, Creeper are most certainly alive, kicking and ready to take the world by storm. Watch this space.

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