Last weekend we headed down to the infamous Download Festival for what would be a weekend of epic music and mayhem. Taking place at Donington Park at the old Monsters of Rock site, we were filled with excitement at the thought of a trip to a venue so full of musical history, and we didn’t find ourselves disappointed!
By Jane Howkins and Shelley Beeston. Photos taken by Ross Halpin.
Thankfully Drownload didn’t repeat itself, and the sun was shining for the first band of the weekend: Dragonforce. Technical issues with one of the guitars featured towards the end of the set and at one point it looked as though things could get awkward for the band, but thankfully they were able to continue, with Through the Fire and the Flames played to rapturous applause after things were finally sorted out. We had to head across to catch CKY on the Zippo Stage after that, with the band putting on a really energetic show. The band seemed to have a very loyal and large fanbase for a band playing in the afternoon, with 96 Quite Bitter Beings receiving quite the singalong.
We decided to have a couple of ciders before heading down to catch Bullet For My Valentine, a band that we admittedly haven’t heard much of in the last few years. Whilst they looked a tad oldeer than we remembered, the band put on a roaring set, although it was the old classics like Four Words To Choke Upon that really brought the house down. After that we decided to catch punk legends Bad Religion (criminally headlining the third stage), who put on a fantastic set, showing that there certainly is life left yet in the old dog. Our final visit of the Friday was to see Avenged Sevenfold on the main stage and they didn’t disappoint, playing a variety of songs from across their career, with a Pink Floyd cover chucked in for good measure.
Saturday was a day for chilling out and visiting the rest of the site, although we could hear some of the bands performing from our campsite, with The Struts and L7 sounding particularly impressive from where we were sat. We finally headed into the arena to catch Parkway Drive’s set, which was absolutely amazing. During the encore the band even set the stage on fire, and the energy that exhuded from the stage was almost addictive. Kudos also go out to the sign language ladies that we spotted signing the songs, as they seemed to be getting into the music just as much as those watching them.
We caught a bit of Neck Deep, who spoofed on the main stage headliners by coming on stage to a synthy version of Sweet Child Of Mine. This may sound blasphemous to the rockers amongst us, but we actually thought Neck Deep had more energy and excitement within their set, with Slash carrying Axl Rose and the rest of Guns ‘N’ Roses. Whilst their set was technically impressive, there were far too many covers and it was far too long, and performing the same Pink Floyd cover as Avenged Sevenfold the previous night seemed like a bit of a faux pas.
Sunday rolled around quickly, with our first band of the day being post-hardcore rockers Thrice. They were very good, and we found ourselves making a mental note to check out more of their music in the future. After that it was time for the big boys to play, with Shinedown being up next. They were also great, with a immense stage presence that helped us to ignore the technical issues that seemed to occur infrequently throughout the sets on the main stage that day.
We headed across to see Alexisonfire on the second stage after that, with the punk group being one of our favourite acts of the whole weekend. A few years ago we thought we would never get the chance to see them due to their break-up, so it was especially important to us to get a glimpse of them. Frontman George Pettit exhudes sex appeal and has that special star quality about him when charging across the stage, even when screaming down a microphone. We also caught a little bit of Marilyn Manson, and whilst he looked like he didn’t want to be there, it was interesting to see him performing, and we would quite like to see him perform a full set at some point.
Last but not least were Download stalwarts Rise Against, who put on an even better set than the last time we saw them here, which was back in 2012. They played a variety of tracks from throughout their lengthy career, and although there was more of a focus on the newer material, older songs such as Prayer of the Refugee were received furiously by the growing crowd. Ozzy Osbourne was the last act of the festival, and whilst tracks such as Mr Crowley went down very well, we couldn’t help but feel like it wasn’t what it could have been. Newly rejoined guitarist Zakk Wylde and the rest of the band played impressively, but Ozzy’s old routine of pacing up and down the stage couldn’t disguise the fact that he wasn’t entirely sure what to do on stage.
Shame really, as the rest of the weekend was so good.