Download Festival 2017

Last weekend Download Festival kicked off the summer with acts such as Biffy Clyro, Aerosmith and Alter Bridge.

Reviewed by Jane Howkins and Shelley Beeston

80,000 people descended on Donington Park last weekend, in celebration of the latest Download Festival, one of the heaviest events in the British calendar. A selection of bands from across the alternative genres performed over the three days, and despite some fears from punters over the line-up (the introduction of Biffy Clyro as the Saturday night main stage headliners riled up some who thought they weren’t heavy enough to do the job), the festival was still largely a success.

We were sadly unable to attend the whole festival due to other commitments, but we managed to go on the Friday evening and the whole of Sunday, and whilst we did miss some acts we would have liked to have seen, we still had a great time. Good Charlotte had just taken to the Zippo Encore Stage as we arrived on the Friday, and despite being a little further back than we would have liked, we still enjoyed their set. They interacted well with the crowd and played a lot of fan favourites, although their song The Rich And The Famous did seem a little hypocritical, considering the path they’ve taken over the last few years.

Sum 41 featured on the same stage immediately afterwards, and were our favourite band of the weekend. They’ve got a bit of a bad reputation due to their pop-punk image, but we were pleased to see them play a selection of metal/rock hits from the likes of Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Queen, and their own material was just as good. The crowd interaction was that of a band well practised in their art, and frontman Deryck Whibley showed that he was clearly feeling a lot better, after his troubles of late.

We stayed to see the whole of their show, meaning that we missed a good half of System Of A Down headlining the main stage, but we quickly rushed over to see the last hour. The floor was packed and we were unable to get very close, but we still largely enjoyed what we saw. There could have been a bit more crowd interaction, and it occasionally seemed as though the band were going through the motions, but our opinion on this might have been different if we were closer to them. Not bad, but not the best headliner we’ve ever seen at Download (that honour goes to Metallica in 2012!)

We came back to the festival for the day on Sunday, with our first band of the day being the relatively unknown Cadillac Three, self described as ‘the only rednecks here’. They performed well, and they drew quite a big crowd for the time slot, but their southern rock songs started to blend into one after a certain point. The King Blues played a small, intimate set at the Firestone Stage afterwards, which was very fun – although their political spiel didn’t seem to go down with everyone in the audience.

In Flames were up next, being one of the biggest draws of the day for us. We were surprised at their early timeslot, and they definitely showed that they should have been further up the bill, with a great performance put on by the band. Airbourne played directly after them, and despite being entertaining with their onstage antics, didn’t excite as they perhaps should have done. At times, it sounded as though they were trying to rip-off AC/DC, and their music sounded a little generic, but fans will have enjoyed them, as they did put on a good visual show.

We needed a bit of a break after that, so headed off to the Avalanche Stage to see The King Blues perform a normal set. They were great and the fans were obviously passionate for their music, but there is something slightly hypocritical about a band espousing a certain political view that focuses on equality, when the frontman has a certain reputation (it’s easier if you google it). Their show was very energetic, with the only major downside of the set itself being that the songs they played were the same ones done at the Firestone Stage gig earlier, but they’re good songs, so we can let them off for that.

It was then time to trek back to the Zippo Encore stage to see progressive metal group Opeth. They only played four songs, but as any fan will know, they’re awfully long songs, and were broken up only by frontman Mikael Akerfeldt’s dry humour. There wasn’t that much crowd interaction, but their songs were impressive enough as they were, in both talent and technicality. We also managed to catch the last few songs of Alter Bridge’s set, with Metalingus and Blackbird being particular highlights.

Next, it was time to see our penultimate band of the day, with The Dillinger Escape Plan performing a headline set at the Avalanche Stage. The performance was absolutely blistering, and they’re possible the most intense band we’ve ever seen perform live. They’re not for everyone, but they are great at what they do, performing songs from across their long career.

Finally, it was time to head back to the Main Stage once again, for the Sunday night headliners Aerosmith. This was apparently their last every UK tour date as they’re retiring from touring for good, so it was an extra special occasion, and they certainly lived up to expectations. The rest of the band were slightly placid at times, but Steven Tyler more than made up for that, running around like a manman, with his trademark screams echoing across the field. A performance of Dream On in the encore was particularly poignant, and showed that Aerosmith are a band that will truly be missed, if this truly is their final tour.

Download Festival 2017 took place at Donington Park, 9 Jun – 11 Jun 2017.