My first festival press coverage and definitely not my last (hopefully)
Download did not disappoint! An absolutely amazing spectacle of some of the best live acts in rock today.
To be honest, to cover the entire festival over three days is pretty much impossible, thankfully other colleagues from the magazine also attended, and I’m sure that reading their posts will help fill in any gaps.
After a mad rush to the car park (went the wrong way) and a decent walk to the arena, I managed to arrive just in time for Wayward Sons opening set on the main stage. A self confessed fan of the band they were excellent as usual, a short six song set playing songs from all three album releases to date, opening with the thunderous ‘Feel Good Hit’ and closing with the anthem ‘Until the End’ a great start and surely next year a higher slot will suffice for Toby and the boys.
Miles Kennedy and Company playing the Opus stage, Miles concentrated mainly on songs from his latest album, sounding vocally fantastic as usual he entertained the crowd with some excellent guitar playing. Expecting some of Miles traditional hits from the likes of Alter Bridge and Slash we were a little disappointed, but to be fair the set was fantastic and as usual, the crowd responded accordingly. Great voice and a great band.
Meet Me @ the Alter were a tip off from my son, who had been playing them at home and urged me to get down in time for their set on the Avalanche stage. Wow! What a band, describing themselves as a pop punk trio they smashed through a high energy set. Fronted by charismatic singer Edith Johnson they are the ones to watch, technically excellent musicians for such a young age, they have huge appeal. Judging by the massive Download crowd the band are quickly gaining popularity on the rock scene. Check them out soon
Back to the Main stage next for Skindred, nowanyone who has seen this band live knows that audience participation is top priority. Lead singer Benji is such a good frontman you can’t help but be pulled in by these Raga- Punk rockers who sound incredible. Finishing the set with the now iconic “Newport Helicopter’ which is in truth 70,000 people taking off their shirts and swinging them in the air! The Download feel good factor kicked into full Friday party mode. Superb performance again from this highly acclaimed band.
Final review of this day for me is Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes headlining the Opus Stage I hadn’t seen the band before, but the hype pulled me in and I made sure I was in a good spot for the opening song. Bursting onto the stage awesome frontman Frank’s energy was infectious and the band sounded massive. Taking us through songs from their back catalogue and lockdown imposed album ‘Sticky’, this was a fitting end to a great day for me. Check out Frank and the band as soon as you can as they are amongst the cream of the Uk’s live rock bands.
Arriving early for Cassyette on the Opus stage, I had some previous knowledge of this Essex Rocker from my son (again) who recommended I take a look. What a fantastic voice she has and some great songs. Bringing something new and fresh to the Download crowd, Cassyette and her band rocked while at the same time producing some really catchy riffs. Best described as a blend of rock, pop and quite frankly heavy metal! New release ‘Sad Girl Summer’ impressed. Check out Cassyette, she is surely going to be huge soon, a much deserved Download slot and I will be checking her out again in September when she plays in Sheffield.
Staying on the Opus stage for Malevolence these Sheffield hard rockers didn’t disappoint. Mosh pits at the ready the Download crowd went crazy and the band obliged accordingly, with some Heavy Metalcore monster tunes. Lead singer Alex Taylor had the crowd in his hands and no fans of this rock genre came away disappointed. Personally, I had to sit down for a rest! Great band and great musicians who clearly know exactly what their target audience is.
Shinedown on the Apex stage next, judging by comments on social media about the band’s performance at Download this year, most people agree with me that they were awesome and that probably says it all. Playing a mixture of new and older back catalogue classics Shinedown performed at their very best. Audience participation and hard rock tunes mixed with some soaring sing along ballads. If you haven’t listened to or seen this band live I urge you to do so very soon. A future headline band? maybe, we shall see, why not?
So to Iron Maiden Headlining the main stage, I am reliably informed that the Download crowd was at this point around 100,000 strong. I was lucky (or daft) enough to get down to the front section of the crowd early to grab a great spot, mainly because I had never seen Maiden Live before. The feeling of anticipation amongst the crowd was obvious as we waited for the opening tune.
I will just cut to the chase and say that Iron Maiden were absolutely incredible! Bruce Dickinson still has the same vocal quality and range that he had in his younger days, I was blown away by his energy, enthusiasm and vocal prowess. A huge set of monster crowd pleasing classics with a full stage production, featuring a samurai sword (must have been15-20 feet high) swinging Eddie! along with numerous stage set background changes and an enormous Spitfire plane rising high above the stage, you get the idea…it was a production of the highest order. Truly one of the best live shows that I have ever seen.
I haven’t got the space here to really do this review credit, the highlight for me was huge hit ‘Run To The Hills’ which had the Download crowd singing along at a ridiculous decibel level!
Credit to the band for putting on that show, one that I am sure will live in the memories of the Download faithful for many years to come.
First, up for me on the Opus Stage was Tremonti,fans of Alter Bridge and Creed will know that this is Mark Tremonti’s own band, which he fronts and to his credit are equally as good. You can’t help but notice that the songs have a familiar ‘Alter Bridge’ sound to them, no bad thing though as they rocked! Hard rock and melodic tunes ensued, and Mark has a fantastic voice of his own. Great guitar playing as expected, I really enjoyed the band’s set as clearly did the crowd..quality.
Trash Boat over on the Avalanche Stage, another hot tip, so I made the effort to get down early for their set. I wasn’t disappointed, a hard hitting St Albans based punk, rock and post- hardcore set followed. Musically the band were outstanding, technically great players and of note a great drum sound! Playing songs from the new album ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing’ along with tunes from a pretty recent back catalogue, this band are definitely one to check out as soon as you can. It’s pretty clear (to me) that they are destined to be huge with the right backing and exposure.
Final act of the festival was Biffy Clyro, highly critically acclaimed, with a string of commercial hits. As far as I can tell from speaking with people and looking on social media, there is a strong polar argument going on in terms of the band’s status as a Download ‘Headliner’. I guess Biffy Clyro won’t win that battle with everyone, but I have to say tonight they were truly epic!
Playing a collection of songs across a huge catalogue and with a fantastic stage production, these Scottish legends delivered at the highest level. Closing with huge hit ‘Many of Horrors’ the Download crowd sang and swayed along. One comment from the crowd I heard.. ‘the best live act I have ever seen’
A huge firework display over the main stage as the band closed was a fitting end to arguably the best rock festival on the planet.
Special mention to all of the sound crew, production staff and security team, brilliant effort all round.