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Download Festival 2024

Download Festival has been on my bucket list for some time now. I’ve always heard stories about how the alt-rock, metal fans create the most wholesome atmosphere, and the line-up is always impressive. This year marks my first every Download, and it is most certainly one to remember.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the photographs and videos of the mud from this year’s Download (many affectionally naming the festival ‘Drownload’ or ‘Brownload’). Strangely enough, I felt like the rain and the mud just added to the fun. It felt like everyone’s inhibitions went out of the window, and fans were in that muddy field together to have the time of their lives. I also felt that the festival organisers handled the heavy downpours incredibly well, seeing as there is only so much you can do to alleviate issue caused by the weather. The ground was constantly being covered in hay and wood chippings, and staff were on hand all over the festival grounds to help any punters stuck in the mud. I would like to give a huge shout out to the members of security who helped me on multiple occasions to move my belongings to and from the campsite. I would probably still be in the mud now if it wasn’t for them!

Now, onto the incredible performers of this year’s festival. Although I had planned to arrive at the festival early Friday morning, as there were so many acts that I wanted to see that day, I sadly missed most of the day after my car broke down on the M1 – but that’s a whole other story.

Day 1 – Friday 14th June.

Busted – Avalanche Stage

Busted are a band I grew up with and so I was incredibly excited to see their set. However, leading up to the festival, I have seen mixed reactions to them being on this year’s line-up. Some Download fans felt that Busted’s music did not fit the usual heavy rock vibe of the festival, while others argued that Busted was their gateway into heavy music and so deserved their place on this year’s bill. Either way, I don’t think festival organisers expected quite a crowd to show up for this performance. The Avalanche Stage, one of the smaller stages at the festival, was not only packed to capacity but also overflowing into all the available space outside the tent.

As I took my place in the photo pit, ready for their set to start, I noticed that most of the crowd along the barrier were my own age (millennial) and the nostalgic excitement hit me full force. The band came onto the stage, met with a huge roar from the crowd, as the noise of an aeroplane echoed from the speaker. We all knew what that meant – “Air Hostess”.

What a way to begin the set! The crowd jumped along and sang to every word and the band matched their energy ten-fold. The high energy did not waver for even a moment as the band continued through their classic hits.

Once I had finished my photo duties, I headed to the back of the crowd, way outside of the tent. Sadly, the music could barely be heard from here. Fans craned their necks to try and see and listened intently in hopes of deciphering what was being played. However, even then, the crowd continued to sing and dance along. When the band came to their final song, “Year 3000”, it didn’t matter that the band couldn’t be heard – the crowd sounded awesome on their own.

Queens of the Stone Age – Apex Stage (Friday Headliner)

The rain and the mud did not hold punters back from seeing the Friday night headliners – Queens of the Stone Age. They are a band I have missed at other festivals in previous years, so I was incredibly excited to see what they had to offer, even though I am not that familiar with their music. Like Busted, there were some doubters as to whether the band should be playing Download and some questioning whether the band were a fit to be headlining. Well, Queens proved them wrong! Besides, I like that Download are shaking things up from their usual classic metal headliners that have played time and time again in the past.

As the night grew darker, the band emerged to powerful orchestral music before launching into “Little Sister.” The loud and aggressive start proved that they were a deserved choice for tonight’s headliners and that they were not going to disappoint. It was clear from the outset that this was an incredibly experienced band as they shifted through songs, new and old, seamlessly. They moved together and brought the same attitude and power to each track. It was remarkable to see.

“I am stoned and fucked up and I feel amazing!” declared Josh Homme (lead singer). The front man was on full form as he led the crowd to sing along in “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and joining the front row of fans in an extended version of “Straight Jacket Fitting”.

The penultimate song (my favourite) “No One Knows” unified the crowd as many sprang up to dance and sing together.

D1

Day 2 – Saturday 15th June

The Saturday was the worst for rain, by far. I woke up in my tent to the sound of raindrops and, what looked like, a pond outside my front door. However, festival goers seemed to embrace the wet and mud. Rain ponchos were the outfit of choice for most today, except for the person who I saw slide headfirst down the hill of the main arena on their stomach like a penguin…

The rain did mean that there was a delayed start to the opening of the main arena, and a few technical difficulties along the way.

Heriot – Opus Stage

Heriot, being the first band to hit the Opus stage, were one of the first band to be affected by the late opening and technical difficulties. The band worked tirelessly with sound technicians to fix the issues, but the rain and long wait meant that many punters left for shelter at other stages (presumably those undercover), meaning that when the band started, there wasn’t much of an audience. This did not deter the band from putting on a show.

“Download!” Debbie Gough (lead singer) screamed aggressively into the microphone, letting us know that she clearly was not put off by the rain or technical difficulties. The band ploughed through loud, heavy tracks at lightning pace, making the most of their shortened set length. I was incredibly impressed by their attitude and performance – I will definitely try and catch them when they’re next on tour!

DeathbyRomy – Avalanche Stage

I was so thankful that this next band were under cover and in the dry. And they on my “must see” list too!

DeathbyRomy brought power and sass to the Avalanche tent. Leaping from one end of the stage to the next, climbing on speakers and interacting with the audience, DeathbyRomy was here to leave their mark.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Apex Stage

These had to be one of my highlights from the whole festival – even the sun came out to see this incredible band! Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are chaotic and rough, and I really hope they stay that way.

Carter instantly walks to the front of the walkway, sticking out his tongue to the crowd and pointing to the punk-punters on the front row. One memorable moment is when he balanced himself on the barrier and threw himself into the arms of the fans. Crowd surfing and singing at the same time, he made his way back to the main stage and tore straight into the next song.

Slaughter To Prevail – Opus Stage

With a lead singer named Alex Terrible, it was unsurprising that Slaughter to Prevail were slightly terrifying. The rain hammered down as the band came onto the stage wearing metallic, devil-like masks – the dark weather only adding to the bands menacing presence. The band continuously encouraged punters to make circle pits and mud-covered crowd surfers relentlessly poured over the crowd.

Enter Shikari – Apex Stage

Enter Skikari have played a huge part in the Download experience this year, being one of the driving forces that led to Barclays being dropped as this year’s sponsor. The bank has caused some bands to drop out of many UK festivals this year due to their links to defence firms funding Israel. Some would believe that if Barclays continued to sponsor the festival, then Shikari may not have played this year.

I’m not usually one who looks for signs or symbols, but I did find it rather fitting that the sun shone as soon as they stepped onto the stage and grand rainbow appeared in the distance.

As ever, the band showed us why they are often named one of the best live acts around. Rou Reynolds stomped and moved all over the huge main stage as fire shot into the air. Wargasm, electro-rock duo who were also on this year’s line-up, joined them for a crazy rendition of their song “The Void Stares Back”.

However, I can’t write a review of this set without mentioning the hilarious moment that Rou gave into temptation and fell face-first into the gloopy mud that surrounded the stage. I wonder if he regretted that decision? Especially as he had to continue to rest of the set covered in mud.

While She Sleeps – Opus Stage

I wouldn’t be surprised if this band are headliners in years to come. In fact, they could have easily killed it on the main stage at this year’s festival to be honest. Fire blazed at all angles across the stage as the band members weaved in out of the pyrotechnics. Their power and musical talent proving why they are on so many metal fans’ radars at the moment.

Surprisingly, the band began with “Rainbows”, a track that would only be familiar to huge fans of the band, but the crowd jumped and roared, matching the energy of the band.

Fall Out Boy – Apex Stage (Saturday headliner)

I’ll try to keep this short because I could easily write an essay on these guys. Fall Out Boy are one of my favourite bands of all time. They always put on a show and never fail to impress. I love how many called their set the “Fall Out Boy Eras Tour”, because that is basically what it was. We were taken on a journey through the band’s twenty-three years and eight studio albums with set changes, costume changes, dancers and Pete Wentz’s infamous flame throwing bass guitar.

The start of their set began with “Chicago Is So Two Years Ago” and “Grand Theft Autumn” from their first album “Take This To Your Grave”. What a start! Two classic songs with high energy and opportunities for the crowd to sing along at the top of their lungs. The set quickly moved on to “From Under The Cork Tree” with hits “Dance, Dance!” and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down”. It was from this point that the crowd seemed to really get going.

As the next era was about to start, the sheep from the cover of “Infinity On High” was suspended above the stage before the band went full pelt into four more hits. One fan, who was stood next to me, said to his friends, “I didn’t know I knew so many of their songs!”. It seems that many fans were surprised at the impressive performance from the pop-punk band.

My favourite set design had to be “Folie à Deux”, where the piggy-backing bears from the album’s front cover where inflated and placed in the centre of the stage. I also couldn’t have been happier when the band started playing “Disloyal Order” (my favourite Fall Out Boy song) and I finally had the chance of hearing “I Don’t Care” live – after seeing the band numerous times, I’m so glad I finally heard it live!

Sunday

Once again, the arena was open late this morning, thanks to the unrelenting rain that poured heavily throughout the night. Many bands had their sets shortened, while some seemed to have theirs cancelled altogether.

Delilah Bon was on my “must see” list, but sadly I missed her as she originally had her set cancelled but was thankfully given her slot back for later in the day. There were a few on my “must see” list that I didn’t see today due to there being so many clashes, but that’s just the downside of music festivals.

However, despite the issues at the start of this day, the rest of the day was filled with warm weather and glorious sunshine (finally!).

Creeper – Apex Stage

What an experience! Five dancers were the first to grace the stage, wearing the band’s infamous gothic face paint. The band were sadly affected by the delayed start, meaning they had a much shorter set than anticipated. However, they made the most of the time they had.

Playing songs mainly from their latest album, “Sanguivore”, and promoting their UK show in October, I can see many members of the Download crowd wanting to see more. Tracks like “Cry To Heaven” and “Down Below” were perfect to get spirits high and give punters the chance of a powerful sing along. Dan Jacobs of Atreyu also joined the glam rock band on stage for their final song, “Lovers Led Astray”.

Royal Republic – Opus Stage

Royal Republic are another highlight from my weekend. Their funky stage presence and banging tunes seemed to revitalise the damp, downtrodden Download crowd. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a keytar (keyboard guitar) being used by a live band before.

Royal Republic were like nothing else on the Download line-up and yet, it felt like they were just what everyone needed.

Parkway Drive – Dogtooth Stage (Secret Set)

The secret set at this year’s Download Festival had tongues wagging even before the festival started. Rumours circulated about who it could be: Ghost, My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Foo Fighters… the list goes on. Comments and hashtags from social media added to the hysteria – hints around when their albums were released and the hashtag “theblackparade” caused quite the stir. However, early that Sunday, the secret set was finally confirmed on the Parkway Drive Instagram page with a video.

The Dogtooth Stage (the smallest stage on the festival’s grounds) was over capacity, with fans crowding outside the tent in the hopes of seeing the Australian metalcore band. While they left their rotating drum kit from last year’s set behind and there were no pyrotechnics used today, the band still had many jaw-dropping moments.

Kerry King – Apex Stage

Slayer’s co-lead guitarist, Kerry King, drew quite the crowd this year. Vocalist, Mark Osegueda, commanded the stage with a formidable presence while ripping through metal song after metal song. Kerry King’s guitar skills significantly amplified the heaviness of each track. Earlier this year, Kerry King released his debut solo album, “From Hell, I Rise.” The setlist includes many tracks from the record, all of which are met with enthusiastic cheers.

Bowling For Soup – Apex Stage

Pop-punk heroes Bowling For Soup waste no time, kicking off their set with three of their biggest singles: “Girl All The Bad Guys Want,” “High School Never Ends,” and “The Bitch Song.” Soon after, Brendan B. Brown of Wheatus joins them on stage for a few bars of “Teenage Dirtbag,” making up for those, like us, who may have missed out on Friday due to the enormous crowd at The Avalanche Stage.

Sum 41 – Apex Stage

Sunday afternoon at the main stage of Download Festival, Canadian rock band Sum 41 is gearing up for their final exclusive UK festival performance. With the entire fields covered with fans screaming back lyrics to “In Too Deep,” “Walking Disaster,” and finishing on the grand “Fat Lip,” Sum 41 put on a strong stage show. We even get a fun cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Corey Taylor – Opus Stage

Sadly, I didn’t see much of Corey’s set. When the opening time of the arena was pushed back due to safety concerns with the amount of mud and even ground, the schedule had to be altered to allow of the acts to perform. For me, one of the most heart-breaking clashes that came from this was the clash between Corey Taylor and Limp Bizkit. So, I caught the start of Corey Taylor’s set, then raced across the festival grounds to catch the ending of Limp Bizkit.

I’ve often heard people refer to Corey Taylor as the friendliest person in the metal world. While I have not met Corey Taylor, the grin that he was wearing from ear-to-ear throughout the first songs of his set would tell me that those people might be right. I couldn’t help but grin along with him.

Singing and screaming through a mix of CMF2, Stone Sour and Slipknot songs, the nu-metal front man marched across the stage, throwing water into the crowd and looked like he was having the best time performing at Download.

Limp Bizkit – Apex Stage

It’s no surprise that Andy Copping, Download Festival Booker, has said on his socials that he sees the band returning as the headlining act of the festival. I know from speaking to many punters throughout the weekend that Limp Bizkit was the band that people were most looking forward to.

Limp Bizkit brought the largest crowd of the weekend as the sun shone brightly. Fred Durst playfully remarked that he had brought the sunshine from California for the audience’s delight. Throughout their performance, the band showcased all their popular hits, delighting the crowd by playing the iconic nu-metal track “Break Stuff” not once, but twice.

Overall, as this was my first Download experience, I was nothing short of impressed, and I hope to visit the festival again next year! Thank you so much to LD Comms for having me along – I really had the best time!

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