Download Festival –LIVE REVIEW by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy
Photo credit: Matt Eachus – Download Festival 2017 (Biffy Clyro)
Download festival has a special atmosphere and is regarded as one of the ‘biggest and friendliest’ festivals in the world, and most certainly in the UK, being the largest dedicated rock/metal festival the country has to offer, with 80,000 rock and metal fans descending onto Donnington Park in Leicestershire to witness rock’s finest. The festival has hosted the biggest names in rock such as Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and much more. Festival organiser, Andy Copping describes the festival as the ‘spiritual home of rock’ and anyone who has ever attended will find it hard to disagree, it really does have an amazing atmosphere with everyone united to enjoy their favourite bands. The fact that this year it was some of the best weather Download had seen for years made the three days even more incredible. The weather was on metal’s side and saw the packed weekend shine and go down in spectacular style.
Friday 9th June
Photo credit: Paulo Nuno – Download Festival 2017 (Motionless In White)
Motionless in White got their moment on the main stage following their hard work. It was an early set but the crowd was out to support them and they had some good participation throughout. Because of their daytime slot frontman Chris Motionless remarked that they couldn’t have lots of lights and stage theatrics, so to pack more of a punch, they played new song ‘Necessary Evil’ from their new album ‘Graveyard Shift’ for the first time to make their set a bit more special. They also played other popular offerings ‘Devil’s Night’ and ‘Eternally Yours’ which may have also won over some new fans.
American pop punk act Four Year Strong played the smallest stage going at Download Festival, the Firestone stage, giving fans a chance to see a more intimate set before taking to a bigger stage later in the day, however they pull in a big crowd and engulf the small stage, with everyone jumping around and having fun.
Metal giants Mastodon brought the masses to their set and impress with their technically crafted prog mastery and massive hooks. They don’t need overly fancy lighting or production, they just rely on their music and showcase their excessive talent. They played songs across their back catalogue including ‘The Wolf Is Loose’ and ‘Black Tongue from 2011’s ‘The Hunter’ as well as showing their diversity with ‘Show Yourself’ taken from their latest expansive album, The Emperor Of Sand’. A glorious performance.
Photo credit: Matt Eachus – Download Festival 2017 (Five Finger Death Punch)
American heavy groove metallers Five Finger Death Punch were one of the stand out bands of the opening day, delivering a crushing set and mental mosh pits whilst firing off their best songs ‘Never Enough’, ‘Wash It All Away’ and ending with ‘The Bleeding’. However one of the highlights and most moving moments came when they performed the acoustic ‘Remember Everything’. They weren’t afraid to get up close and personal as frontman Ivan Moody and lead guitarist Jason Hook went into the crowd and grabbed the eager fans hands to show them some love back. It was a powerful set that was well balanced with hard-hitting numbers and slower songs. The band were truly humbled by the crowd’s reactions and glad to be back on the main stage at Donnington.
Photo credit: Matt Eachus – Download Festival 2017 (Prophets Of Rage)
Prophets of rage impressed with their politically charged anthems, which was particularly fitting given the UK general election the day before, so they had plenty to get motivated about in what was their first ever UK show. They went down a storm with everyone pumping their fists and united as one, grooving to their perfect festival anthems. Their set list consisted of all the well-known and classic hits that you would expect from each member, such as Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’, ‘Testify’, ‘Take The Power Back’, Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ and Cypress Hill’s ‘Insane In The Brain’. The highlight of their set, and most emotional and beautiful moment, was an instrumental of Audioslave’s ‘Like A Stone’ led by band member and long-time friend guitarist, Tom Morello, which was a great tribute to their fallen comrade and legend Chris Cornell.
Photo credit: Caitlin Mogridge– Download Festival 2017 (System Of A Down)
Headliners System Of A Down didn’t disappoint, delivering an incredible set comprised of all their best hits, the whole arena was buzzing, singing and head banging to their spectacular non-stop 31 song set; ‘Chop Suey’ was particularly special. They played all the songs the crowd wanted and more, including ending on ‘Sugar’ from their debut self-titled album which was unleashed in 1998 and showcased their weird individual kooky style wonderfully. No other band in the world sounds like them and all their songs translated perfectly blasted out in a festival environment. Let’s hope a new System Of A Down album is on the way soon but in the meantime, we are more than happy to listen to their impressive backlog.
Saturday 10th June
British rap metallers Hacktivist did a great job of opening day two of the festival on the main stage, managing to draw a good crowd and injected some high energy into their early 11 am slot, demonstrating just why they earnt their spot there.
Creeper draws in an even bigger crowd, highlighting that putting them on the main stage was a wise decision with their goth-tinged punk. They take to the stage ahead of their idols AFI. They had good crowd participation, with lots of swaying arms, singing and applause. Definitely a successful main stage debut to be proud of. They offered something a bit different and refreshing with nice powerful live dual vocals from frontman Will Gould and keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Greenwood and a largely fun uplifting sound, which included songs such as ‘Black Rain’, ‘Misery’ and ‘Hiding With Boys’, before ending on a powerful emotive ‘I Choose To Live’, giving a motivational talk about living life instead of in fear, in light of the recent tragic terrorist events in the UK.
Photo credit: Ross Silcocks – Download Festival 2017 (Alestorm)
Everyone’s favourite pirate metallers Alestorm took to the second stage to play their first ever set at Download, bringing in a large crowd, most of whom were suitable dressed for the occasion, clad in their best pirate outfits. They played all their best party anthems, such as ‘Drink’ and the popular ‘Shipwrecked’. Most of their songs are about drinking, which was perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon festival vibe. They also treated us to some new songs from their latest album ‘No Grave But The Sea’, including self-titled song ‘Alestorm’, the excellent ‘Mexico’ and their most hilarious and ridiculous offering to date ‘Fucked With An Anchor’ which provided many laughs and lots of fun, with everyone comically shouting as one the lyrics, “Fuck you, you’re a fucking wanker, we’re gonna punch you right in the balls, fuck you, with a fucking anchor, you’re all cunts so fuck you all!”. A definite highlight that won’t be forgotten. Frontman Christopher Bowes later tells us that said “for a brief time we were selling more records than Shikira” with their new album, and asked if anyone had brought or illegally downloaded the album declaring they didn’t care either way. They finish their epic set with their superb cover of Taio Cruz’s ‘Hangover’ which seems fitting. This was a very successful quest for Alestorm and hopefully, we will be seeing them again at Download as a result of this, with their piratical comedic tracks bringing both humour and party vibes, the perfect combination.
American deathcore quintet Suicide Silence took to the Zippo (second) stage next, making for an extreme change of pace and tone, being one of the heaviest bands of the day. They managed to produce some pits and played the likes of the brutal ‘Disengage’ and ‘Conformity’, taken from the latest self-titled album, which was a bit tamer for them, offering up some diversity. However, they seemed to find it hard to build real momentum and therefore didn’t stand out as much as some other bands. This may have been because of the triumphant set Alestorm put on, so in comparison, it seemed a bit bleak and bland.
Photo credit: Sarah Koury – Download Festival 2017 (AFI)
Punk rock legends AFI put on a mighty performance which also marked their first time gracing the main stage at Download. For some reason the band don’t play in the UK often, which is a damn shame as they put on a flawless performance, especially with Davey Havok’s exceptional and varied vocals. They stormed through their set, barely without a pause, so managed to play all their hits such as opener ‘Girl’s Not Grey’, the classic ‘The Days Of The Phoenix’ and ‘The Leaving Song Pt II’, before ending on the energetic ‘Miss Murder’. They had great presence, aided largely by Davey, who was alluring and engaging, especially as at one point he looked directly into the camera so only his face was visible on big screen, whilst passionately singing and baring his soul and getting up close and personal for the crowds. A very powerful non-stop set.
Photo credit: Ben Gibson – Download Festival 2017 (A Day To Remember)
Florida rockers A Day To Remember have come a long way earning the main stage slot before headliners Biffy Clyro. They make an interesting comical entrance with a voice pretending to be the actual stage talking. As you would expect they draw a large turnout and their catchy anthems cause many to crowd surf and singalong. The open with well-known hit ‘All I Want’, and go on to play other popular songs ‘Right Back At It Again’, new song ‘Naivety’ which is made all the better, as the band kindly decide to throw out free t-shirts to the crowd. They surprised fans with ‘End Of Me’ which they hadn’t played in a while but thought this prestigious appearance was the perfect time to bring it back. Their set saw some of the biggest and best stage productions of the day with well-placed fire and massive beach balls dispersed into the crowd. Saving their best until last, they closed their brilliant and fun set with ‘The Downfall Of Us All’.
Photo credit: Paulo Nuno – Download Festival 2017 (Wednesday 13)
Ex-Murderdolls frontman Wednesday 13 and co headline and demolish the Dogtooth stage. His solo project sees some of the best and strongest work he has done to date. The tent was absolutely packed with everyone cheering and doing whatever Wednesday commanded. He said it would be a special show and didn’t disappoint, especially as they enlisted the help of performers Pyrohex who added to the dark creepy ambience with their fire show and undead makeup to match the eeriness of the band. Wednesday 13 had a few outfit changes throughout including a sinister mask on the back of his head which again added to all the wonderfully weird imagery. Following the recent release of new album ‘Condolences’, they primarily focused on this and played single ‘What The Night Brings’, ‘Cadaverous’ and ended on title track ‘Condolences’. A killer and unforgettable set that confirmed just why they were headliners.
Photo credit: Ben Gibson – Download Festival 2017 (Rob Zombie)
Keeping up the dark horror themes, legendary horror-rock filmmaker and musician Rob Zombie headlined the second (Zippo Encore) stage and turned it into his own weird and wonderful world for the duration, with superb visual production, including fire and confetti and theatrics including some alien sex dolls to accompany ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O’ with Zombie declaring what a big issue alien abduction in the world is and that not enough people talk about it, which made for a change of subject from the norm. They played all their massive hits such as ‘Living Dead Girl’ and ‘Dragula’ as well as gracing us with some great covers of Ramone’s ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ and Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ which went down brilliantly with the huge crowd. Zombie was obviously impressed with the crowd and reaction himself declaring that there was “nowhere else like this in the world”.
Photo credit: Matt Eachus – Download Festival 2017 (Biffy Clyro)
I opted for the heavier offering of Rob Zombie who catered for the metal heads on the second stage but I did manage to catch some of the Scottish rock trio and Saturday headliners Biffy Clyro. Despite being an interesting and perhaps slightly controversial headliner choice, they pulled in a massive crowd and played all their best hits, with brilliant stage production and pyrotechnics, before ending on an epic firework display. I think it’s safe to say they won everyone over and completed their first ever Download headliner slot with style.
Sunday 11th June
The first act of the day for me was heavy metallers Orange Goblin from London who had an early slot on the mainstage, but despite this, they had a decent turnout considering and delivered a belting set which ended on the massive ‘Red Tide Rising’.
Melodic extreme metal act In Flames from Sweden had the crowd clapping in anticipation before the emerged on the main stage and later chanted their name in appreciation. Although their music may be serious, lead vocalist Anders Fridén has quite the sense of humour and in between songs he made the crowd laugh with his dismay at the lack of beer they were supplied which he clearly was not impressed with. They end with the crushing ‘Take This Life’ to the joy of fans.
Photo credit: Ross Silcocks – Download Festival 2017 (Steel Panther)
One of the highlights of the whole weekend was glam rock masters Steel Panther with their crude, hilarious and debaucherous antics, which had the vast crowd laughing immensely throughout. You get two for one with them, as the deliver a comedy show just as much as they put on a brilliant rock show. Some particular notable comedic moments were when the band claimed that other bands were trying to sabotage their setup as they are intimated by the ‘best band in the world’, their many sex tales and jokes poking fun at bassist Lexxi Foxx. The best thing about the band is yes they are silly and don’t take themselves seriously, but they are damn good musicians also and demonstrate this with all the best and funniest hits such as ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’, ‘Death To All But Metal’, ‘Poontang Boomerang’ and the standout ’17 Girls In A Row’ where the fittingly invited women on stage, so the stage was absolutely packed with ecstatic women posing and dancing with the band which was a brilliant moment. They closed their epic and slapstick set with the super catchy and perfect festival anthem ‘Party All Day’ (Fuck All Night).
Swedish progressive metallers Opeth brought class and sophistication to the second stage, and simply oozed with skill and craftsmanship from the start to the finish whilst delivering classic songs like ‘Ghost Of Perdition’ and ending on ‘Deliverance’. The new title track song from their new album ‘Sorceress’ made for the perfect opener and worked well in the live environment. Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals impressed, going from sweet and ethereal to sinister and dark. A stunning set, the only downside being how short it seemed and given some of their songs can be on the long side, they didn’t manage to play all the songs you would expect.
Photo credit: Matt Eachus – Download Festival 2017 (Slayer)
American Thrash metal heroes Slayer headline the second stage and get straight to business with a non-stop relentless set. As you can imagine being one of the heavy hitters of extreme metal they brought carnage and immense mosh pits, only like Slayer could. It was a chilling and exciting moment to hear the monstrous classics ‘Reigning Blood’ and ‘Angel Of Death’ blasted out which they saved for the encore.
Photo credit: Ben Gibson – Download Festival 2017 (Aerosmith)
So the time came for rock royalty Aerosmith to take to the stage at Donnington for the final time, after many fond memories, with this special performance also marking their last UK show as part of their farewell tour, as a legendary band that have been around impressively for nearly 50 years. They kept the eager crowd waiting, and as the festival neared to an end you saw the full scale of the masses that had descended on the site. They made quite an entrance with a montage video intro accompanied with the dramatic O Fortuna music to show the history of the band and their performances at Donnington over the years. The wait was worth it as they played all their top hits such as ‘Crying’, ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ which gets the biggest singalong as expected, along with ‘Dude’ (Looks Like A Lady) and of course in the encore they go out on their world known ‘Walk This Way’. Being a band of their magnitude and reputation they were geared up with massive production and visuals to fit each song such as elevator imagery for ‘Love In An Elevator’ and fire engulfing the band on the screens, adding to the grandeur. One thing is for certain Aerosmith will truly be missed.
Photo credit: Paulo Nuno – Download Festival 2017
This was a special year for Download festival celebrating their fifteenth anniversary and the weather was perfect for the occasion, enhancing the experience and atmosphere whilst watching rock and metal’s finest, including witnessing a few goodbyes and debuts, adding to the rich rock history of Donnington Park. The atmosphere was brilliant, with dedicated rockers seeing the festival as ‘home’ and a place to be yourself and enjoy the music old and new. The increased security in light of the recent tragic events in the UK was dealt with professionally and extremely well and everything was smoothly run, making everyone feel safe and they should be highly praised for this. The bands and the festival goers all had a blast and now we all eagerly await Download 2018.
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