Download Festival 2017 Review
Updated: Jan 13
Download Festival: one of the biggest rock and metal festivals in the world. And it’s come and gone as quickly as a man dressed as a kangaroo running across the stage during Airbourne. But more on that later…
Friday gathered everyone to the arena bright and early. Although most of that morning was taken up by extended security checks, obviously because of recent events sadly, there were still smiles, and good nature spread around by everyone, including the security guards themselves. And what better band to start the day with than Aussie lads, Northlane. To be the first band to play at the festival, especially the first on the massive Main Stage, is never easy, but this band managed to kick off the whole festival with a bang. They set the tone for the day, and it certainly didn’t slow down when the next band, Motionless In White. For a gothic band like MIW to perform in the sunshine would seem like a difficult task, but to them, it seemed like another day for them. Chris Motionless commanded the stage as if he was born to do this every day from the catwalk. Afterwards, Sabaton delivered a spectacular show, and even delivering it from a tank! No, seriously, the band brought a tank onto the stage, and performed with it. Later, Five Finger Death Punch brought more people together in possibly the finest show they’ve done. Everyone joining in for “Never Enough”, people having the red hand on their face; it does show the power of the metal community gathered here at Donnington Park. Afterwards, the first ever UK performance of Prophets of Rage brought more people together, especially because of the recent result of the Snap Election, the political nature of the combined forces of Pubic Enemy and Rage Against the Machine was needed for everyone that night, especially as many of their songs, including “Cop Killa”, “Fight The Power”, “Bulls On Parade”, “Killing In The Name”, and “Prophets of Rage” were accompanied by the merry chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”, as well as many Corbyn shirts in the mosh pit. Finally, the reunion of System of A Down was a perfect way to finish the night. Famed songs like “Chop Suey!” and “Aerials” got people to sing along with them, but surprising songs like “Lost In Hollywood” were a joy to hear as well, as the music drifted into the late hours of the evening, and many smiles shone of the faces of the crowd.
Whilst Saturday was earlier, it was no less jam-packed. The first band to perform that morning, Hacktivist, can easily attest to that. They may have had a slow start, maybe because some of the audience hadn’t woken up just yet, once they did their cover of “N****s in Paris”, originally by rap artists Jay-Z and Kayne West, the crowd awoke, and everybody was jumping off the ground. Then, the biggest surprise to anyone who wasn’t already part of the famed Cult, Creeper had easily brought the house down, that they were only on at the middle of the day. To hear that they didn’t expect anyone to come out to see them is astounding, as there were probably around 1000 people, maybe even more, gathered around that Main Stage, and crying along to songs like “Misery” and “I Choose To Live”, the latter dedicated to those who were sadly part of the recent tragedies in Manchester, London Bridge, and many other attacks that have happened around the world. Another surprise came with Alestorm, a fun pirate-metal group, made clear with a crowd who were dressed like extras from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and started rowing in the mosh pit. Afterwards, the gracing of AFI shone down upon all who surrounded the Main Stage. Whilst many of their songs weren’t known by everyone, the first notes of the bass line of “Miss Murder” got everyone up on their feet, singing along, jumping up and down, nailing every word of that song. Finally, whilst A Day To Remember weren’t the finishing headliners of that day, the nearby shouts of “You should headline!” were proved correct once the band had taken to the stage. A mixture of old and new songs, including the tear-jerking “If It Means A Lot To You”, could have easily seen them close the night.
Once Sunday morning broke, the air around the camp was mournful, due to this being the final day, but there was also an air of excitement. Over on the Avalanche Fresh Blood Stage, Dead! gave everyone an early afternoon pick-me-up, including a cover of The Who’s “My Generation”, and their original hit, “You’re So Cheap”, which all had even the most sceptical viewer moving along to them. Anyone who stayed at the stage for Dinosaur Pile-Up were in for a treat, especially for those who hasn’t seen them before. With a set including songs like “ElevenEleven”, it’s almost certain that they’re will be more people buying their albums and attending their gigs. Back on the Main Stage, that man dressed as a kangaroo I mentioned earlier did in fact make an appearance during Airbourne, though that wasn’t the only exciting moment. From the song, “Rivalry”, to the band throwing beer into the crowd, I would implore many people to see them when they come back for their tour so that everyone can share the same experience. The interesting thing about the day was how everyone started the day thinking that Steel Panther would be just a fun, terrible band that would be a laugh, but how glad we were to be proved wrong! Sure, they give off that glam metal Sunset Strip, Whiskey A Go Go vibe, but the fact that the band themselves were in on the joke made it all the more fun. It was if those 80’s bands were transported to our world, and wrote about our current events, shown with songs like “Just Like Tiger Woods”. Alter Bridge, although not the headliners, seemed like they were – 2018? 2019? Soon? Songs like “Show Me A Leader” showed the power that the whole band, not just Myles Kennedy, brings every time on the stage, not just Download. Finally, to close off the whole festival, possibly for the final time, the great Aerosmith. Singing along to songs like “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, “Love Is An Elevator”, and the encore songs “Dream On” and “Walk This Way” got everybody singing along. In the 40+ years of their career, it almost seemed like nothing had changed, making that night a very special night for all.
Overall, despite queries over this year’s line-up, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable weekends that this year has given us…and not just because there wasn’t an inkling of rain or mud floods to be seen! All the bands played spectacularly, and everywhere you looked, there was always a smile on someone’s face. Donnington Park truly felt like a second home for many that weekend, and we can only wait in anticipation to see what 2018 will bring us.
Download Festival 2018 tickets are already out now!
Photos by Paulo Nuno and Ross Silcocks