Donington Park has always been the spiritual home of rock music; first we had Monsters of Rock festival which ran from 1980 to 1996, then step forward Download Festival, the newer younger model of the festival which has been a constant since 2003 at the Moto GP Racecourse grounds. This year the line-up was extremely varied, from old school bands like Def Leppard and Whitesnake to South African experimental duo Die Antwoord. The beauty of Download is that there are bands you’ve most definitely heard of- then the bands you might stumble across who become your new favourite artist; there’s four stages over the entire festival all running from around 11am (1pm Friday) to 11pm- so there’s never a dull or quiet moment in the day. Here at Backseat Mafia we braved the mud and camped from the Wednesday (we don’t know how we did it either) and experienced the festival first hand, here’s what we got up to on the Friday of the festival.

SKID ROW

On a the day which boasts the most ‘old school’ or ‘dad’ bands what better way to start proceedings with a classic outfit. Skid Row (minus ex-vocalist Sebastian Bach) graced the stage at an early time of 1pm. Despite the rain trying to dampen everyone’s spirits the Donington massive don’t let a little bit of spitting get in the way of a damn good mosh. Youth Gone Wild was a highlight and seemingly was the bands favourite track of the set to play too. (3/5) – Erin Moore

Sumo Cyco (★★★★★) had everything to start the Download weekend off, opener ‘Sleep Tight’ showed off Skye ‘Sever’ Sweetnam’s pure prowess as a frontwoman. Confidently in your face with vocals to match. The party atmosphere was amped up even more with the addition of System Of A Down’s ‘B.Y.O.B’ but it’s ‘Undefeated’ that shows off their mix of dancehall rhythms and heavy metal riffs and visually their show is just as interesting as their genre blending music, Sweetnam taking a ride on the shoulder of the guitarist and then the crowd during ‘Move Mountains’, it seems nothing could keep this girl still. Sticking with the Avalanche Stage, Icon For Hire (★★) hit some major technical difficulties which prolonged the start of the set and ended up cutting it to only three tracks; ‘Make a Move’, ‘Pulse’ and ‘Demons’. With the energy they gave it’s easy to think they could’ve made a big impression on the mass crowd, but with less than ten minutes worth of music to showcase hopefully they’ll get another chance next year. – Sasha Howells

Copyright: James Bridle – Download Festival

BLACKBERRY SMOKE

At six albums deep it would be hard pressed for Blackberry Smoke to do nothing but a ‘greatest hits’ style set but at 2:50pm their time slot didn’t give them maybe the time to showcase just really how good they are. Their unique brand of country rock gets heads bopping along but it’s their cover of Come Together by The Beatles that inspires the crowd to get a little livelier. The main stage is absolutely where this band belongs but with hopefully twice the set length next time. (4/5) – Erin Moore

Delain (★★★) stuck it to an average turn out mid-afternoon, with an all colour co-ordinated red and black ensemble, they’d certainly be up for the award for the band most dressed like a band, if that was such a thing. The first band of the weekend to show their symphonic metal ability and during newer track ‘Masters Of Destiny’ which at first, seemed like a slow burn for a festival, but really presented the crowd with Charlotte Wessels vocal range, enough so to certainly turn a head if you were just minding your business grabbing some food or a beer a bar. California natives The Interrupters (★★★★★) seemed at a loss for words “we’re in a tent at the other side of the festival and look how many people turned up.” Their mixture of punk and ska really solidified them as a special act on the day, slap bang in the centre of Zebrahead and Reel Big Fish, they were really in there with the big boys. The very memorable anthems like ‘By My Side’ and ‘She’s Kerosene’ sounded stunningly large in such a small tent and hearing the crowd over the top of the music makes the basis of a very popular set. The self-proclaimed “opening act for Def Leppard” are on their way up, expect to see them back and on a bigger stage at some point in the next few years. – Sasha Howells

WHITESNAKE

David Coverdale is obviously the main star of the show when it comes to Whitesnake but without the rest of the band today’s early evening set on the main stage would’ve come across as a little lacklustre. Saved by the insane drum solo by the legend Tommy Aldridge, the rest of the set unfortunately came across a little dated and slow until they were saved by the classics Here I Go Again and Still Of The Night. David Coverdale (2/5) – rest of the band (4/5). – Erin Moore

Copyright: James Bridle- Download Festival

It’s hard to find fault in a band that includes one of the most popular and most talent guitarist of our time, not only that but with Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy at the helm too it’s almost the perfect match, both of them have a lot of experience at the festival both in this band and elsewhere. Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & Conspirators (★★★★) seemed like a wonderful fit to open up for Def Leppard with their classic rock sounding hits, and their incorporation of solo Slash track ‘Back From Cali’ and a cover of Guns And Roses track ‘Nightrain’, which you could hardly consider a cover when it is partly Slash’s track and Kennedy’s vocals sound so at home on any Guns And Roses track. It would have been hard to choose between the Main stage and the Zippo Encore stage at this point in the day, but Eagles Of Death Metal (★★★★) were playing their brand of charismatic rock and roll and even gave the crowd a choice of two covers they would possibly play, the democracy settled on David Bowie ‘Moonage Daydream’ to the delight of a lot of people in the crowd. The only thing that looked slightly out of place were the inflatable windy men blown up on the last song, but Eagles of Death Metal look that cool they could get away with pretty much anything that strange. – Sasha Howells

REEL BIG FISH

The Ska legends graced the Avalanche Stage late evening with their unique brand of ska/punk/general good times; a huge crowd turned out for them- possible to do with the insane downpour happening around the entire site but Reel Big Fish always bring the party rain or shine. Dropping a cover of the Toots and The Maytals classic Monkey Man the party had only just begun. Life Sucks… Let’s Dance! Is a single and the title track from their latest release, a sentiment mirrored by the weather at download, yeah the weather sucks but let’s have a party and forget it all! Closing with their infamous cover of Take on Me by A-ha the tent is swaying with skankers and moshers alike having a bloody fantastic time. (4/5) – Erin Moore

ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES

Dressed in sharp matching red suits Me First and the Gimme Gimmes storm the stage to a fantastic cover of Believe by Cher. MFATGG are a cover band, a ska punk cover band at that, what’s not to love? Sticking with covers of powerful women they drop into Heart Of Glass by Blondie which is undoubtedly a bop but the highlight of their set was a song that didn’t need a ska punk cover, but these guys absolutely smashed it… Jolene. Yes, Jolene  by Dolly Parton, what’s not to love? Having to unfortunately leave their set early to catch the main stage headliner’s Def Leppard here at Backseat Mafia we absolutely loved what we heard from this band and would definitely recommend them as a perfect band for a festival. (3.5/5) – Erin Moore

Copyright: David Dillon – Download Festival

“Welcome to the Rob Zombie (★★★★★) show.” Looking like he’d rolled out of a grave before heading on stage, Rob Zombie knows how to put together a complete live show. Visually compared to his last headline set at the festival this year had plenty more going on. The screens allowed for his aesthetic of the weird and wacky and horror movies to display amongst the theatrical stage presence he possessed. And all part of the show, his interaction and with the crowd and attention to everything going on around the festival grounds; getting the crowd to wave to the aeroplanes as they took off from the nearby airport, noticing the array of food stands around the stage; “everyone getting your chips from Steak House Burger, scream if you want to party…if you’re over by Hats and Socks, then you probably came to the wrong place.”

Downloads set times this year meant you could catch the majority of most of the headline sets before moving over to the main stage, with this being the case the crowd for Rob Zombie was worthy enough of a band that puts on this magnitude of an overall show. Even though he claimed the festival would win the award for the muddiest place on earth, it didn’t bother the crowd one bit, shoving into each other like if they fell down, they would still be clean. But that didn’t stop him from hopping off stage and into the crowd either. – Sasha Howells

DEF LEPPARD

The secret to longevity in a music career is having the tunes but also the skills to back it up. Compared to Whitesnake from earlier in the day, Def Leppard made them sound like your local battle of the bands group that’s just left college. The idea of playing an album in its entirety isn’t a new concept to Download Festival; Metallica in 2012, Linkin Park 2014 and now with Def Leppard showcasing Hysteria in its entirety. For those of you old enough to remember the heyday of Def Leppard, hearing this album in full would’ve been a real treat- unfortunately the two members of Backseat Mafia reviewing Download weren’t even thought about when this album was released. Classics like Animal and Love Bites went down an absolute storm but it’s the legendary Pour Some Sugar On Me that got the first real singalong of the set. The tones and the harmonies in the vocals from Joe Elliot and co were outstanding and a real treat to listen to. Post Hysteria set, the Sheffield rockers dived into a greatest hits encore including When Love and Hate Collide, Let’s Get Rocked, Rock of Ages and the final song of their set Photograph. Speaking about how Donington means so much to them, as it was the first place they played after drummer Rick Allen lost his arm, they promised to return and left everyone with a lasting statement; “We are Def Leppard and this is what we do”. (5/5) – Erin Moore

Copyright: Abbie Shipperley – Download Festival