MANSFIELD -- An afternoon freighted with charcoal clouds and drizzling rain did nothing to dampen the party-hearty spirits that accompanied the Wailers when they hit the Download Festival's second stage and lit, suitably, into ``Positive Vibration." Ditto for the booming thunder, lightning, and downpour that followed the Dropkick Murphys' ferocious set some six hours later. Call it a bonus light show.
The Wailers' infectious grooves and the exuberant, earthy soul of reggae classics such as ``Stir It Up," ``Lively Up Yourself," and ``Jamming " made it clear: One couldn't have picked a better outfit than Bob Marley's legendary backing band to cast a sunny spell and chase away worries about whether everything would be all right.
But why the Wailers -- reggae royalty and principal architects of a sound whose echoes could be heard from main stage headliners 311, G. Love & Special Sauce, and Pepper -- were stuck playing the Tweeter Center parking lot was a fair question.
There were other themes uniting this bill, including hometown jam band popsters (State Radio) and Irish punks (Dropkick Murphys), funk-metalheads (Pepper) and rap-metal alchemists (311), blues-conjuring soul providers (G. Love) and old-school hip-hop heads (Jurassic 5): song narratives that celebrated a grassroots call-to-arms, perseverance, and yes, having a good time.
Although the premise of the British-spawned Download was ostensibly a showcase for technology as well as live music, the emphasis remained on old-fashioned guitars, amplifiers, and musicianship to sell the goods. G. Love & Special Sauce's greasy-as-grits blend of blues and hip - hop was a homespun highlight, and offerings such as the gospel-tinged ``Back of the Bus" and the sassy, slide-guitar showpiece ``Baby's Got Sauce " belied the band's Philadelphia-bred pedigree.
LA hip - hop crew Jurassic 5 were the evening's biggest show-stoppers. The relentlessly charismatic five-piece took turns working the crowd and, on numbers such as ``I Am Somebody," ``What's Golden," and the new crossover single ``Work It Out," delivered a deluge of seamless rhymes that ranged from funny to boastful to inspiring.
The Dropkick Murphys bundled fierce energy with jack-hammering power chords and bilious attitude into a 60-minute set. A traditional bagpipe band provided a dramatic introduction, and then they were off, snarling and blasting through the celebratory hometown ode ``For Boston," the unofficial Red Sox anthem, ``Tessie," and a fistful of hard-knock, hard-luck tales ripped from barrooms, gutters, and union halls. ``Citizen CIA" was a full-frontal assault.
Headliners 311 couldn't match the Dropkicks for pure aggression, but then, they didn't have to. Although less compelling than 311's second vocalist, SA Martinez, singer Nick Hexum projected the glossy star appeal of Gwen Stefani crossed with Bryan Ferry. On selections such as the ska-laced ``All Mixed Up," the Eastern-tinged ``Beautiful Disaster," and ``Creatures (For a While)," the rap-metal fusionists employed a mix of funk-metal, skate-punk, and even crooning, boy-band pop to beat back the storm.