The annual Download Festival was held last week, and we decided to head down to check it out, with the festival having become something of a tradition for us now! Reports of harsh weather steeled us for another ‘Drownload’, and whilst the mud in the village was quite bad, the arena itself was okay, and the weather wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been!
Review by Jane Howkins and Shelley Beeston
Photos by Matthew Higgs, Georgia Penny, Abbie Shipperley, David Dillon, Sarah Koury and James Bridle
The first act we saw was Delain on the Zippo Encore stage, a band we’ve been wanting to catch for a while. Vocalist Charlotte Wessels managed to stay looking immaculate despite headbanging along to several of the songs, and her strong voice was a perfect introduction to the day. Final song We Are The Others (about the Sophie Lancaster murder) seemed very apt, considering the audience watching them.
Next up were Zebrahead on the Avalanche stage,a pop-punk band that incorporate rapping and jokes into their music. Whilst they’re not the most serious of bands, they always put on a fantastic show, and the crowd interaction really makes them stand above a lot of their contemporaries. It also helps that their songs are incredibly catchy! Whitesnake were up next, and we found ourselves pleasantly surprised at how good they were, as many of these older bands seem to be sadly lacking now. They put on a great set, showing that age is no barrier if you’re good enough at what you do!
We drifted over to the main stage next to catch Slash & Myles Kennedy, although sadly we spent half of their set stood in a bar queue we couldn’t get out of. If there was one major criticism of the weekend, it was that the queues seemed to be too long in many areas, and a lot of the staff didn’t seem to be sure of what they were doing. However, what we could hear from the main stage sounded fantastic – we wouldn’t have expected anything less! We then decided to catch the end of Reel Big Fish’s set. This ska-punk band are known for putting on a good show and this was no exception, although occasionally mixing issues crept in, with the vocals being a little too quiet at times.
We stayed around to see Me First & the Gimme Gimme’s headline set, which we really enjoyed. The band are a supergroup made up of a number of pop-punk/skate-punk bands, and they play a variety of covers from different genres. Our only disappointment was that the vocal mixing seemed to be too quiet still, meaning we couldn’t always pick out what a song was, but for the most part, they were a fantastic headline act.
After a freezing night, Saturday came around with the first band on our list being Elvana. For those unaware, Elvana are a band fronted by an Elvis impersonator, who play Nirvana covers (with some Elvis tracks mixed in for good measure). They had a massive crowd (especially considering they were on before 1:00pm), and we genuinely thought they were one of the best bands of the weekends. Especially funny was the moment when Elvis’ pants split on stage! Epica were up next, and the vocal problems from the Avalanche stage seemed to have moved over to the Zippo Encore stage, with the operatic vocals (one of the highlights of the band) being very hard to hear, although we still enjoyed them.
Festival favourites Skindred were playing on the main stage afterwards, fronted by the charisma machine Benji Webbe. They always put on a good show, and seeing the crowd do the Newport helicopter (which involves taking your top off and swirling it in the air) towards the end of the set showed a fantastically British sense of humour that is sometimes lacking from music on these shores. Metal stalwarts Trivium were on after them, and as anyone who has been to Download before will know, this festival holds great significance for them, helping to propel them to fame back in 2005. The band still seemed to be incredibly grateful for this, and their aim to beat that year’s circlepits (7) was largely successful. We also briefly caught Three Days Grace on the second stage, who were immense as always.
Halestorm were our penultimate band of the day, headlining the Zippo Encore stage. We really enjoyed their show, and they even got the members of a Japanese band who named their band after them (Love Bites) up on stage to perform with them. After that, it was time for the band everyone had been waiting for: Slipknot. They put on one of THE best sets of the weekend, with Corey Taylor commanding absolute respect from the fans. Whilst they’re now a well oiled machine, there’s still an air of danger and darkness about them that really sets them apart from their peers – go and check Slipknot out live if you have the opportunity!
The Sunday didn’t hold as much of interest to us, and after packing up the tent there were only a few acts we really wanted to see. The first one was Starset, a very unique band that mix stringed instruments and soaring vocals with alternative rock elements. They are a very interesting band, and one we will be hearing more of in future. After that, we checked out rockers Godsmack. Whilst we enjoyed their set, a lot of it seemed to include drum battles and attempts at covers, and we might have preferred it if they had played more original songs. The last act we caught were Amon Amarth, who featured actual viking battles on stage, suiting their music right down to a tee.
Download 2019 was another fantastic edition of the festival, and we cannot wait to see the line-up that is announced for next year!