• Charlotte Hardman

LOUDER FEATURES: Download Festival Pilot Highlights

Last weekend saw the long-awaited return of rockers, moshers, goths, emos, and all manner of beautiful outsiders to the hallowed fields of Donnington Park, for a once-in-a-lifetime event - a pilot version of Download Festival. With the capacity reduced to just 10,000 people (in comparison to the 100,000+ who usually attend), a select group of lucky music fans were able to witness the best that British alternative music has to offer, all in the name of proving that live music is safe to return to the country's stages after its 18-month hiatus. Some of the Turn It Up Louder team were lucky enough to be amongst those 10,000, and so we battled through the rain and the cold to bring you some of the best highlights from across the weekend.

While there aren't enough superlatives in existence to cover all the incredible bands we saw that weekend, we have compiled some of our favourites moments for you below - so sit back, and relive the magic of the first rock festival in the UK for almost two years:

Most Emotional Moment:

This accolade was a painfully difficult one to award, as the entire weekend was supercharged with the tangible air of both joy and relief, that - at last - the live music industry could see some light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. However, there were a few stand-out moments of unadulterated poignancy. A special mention must go to Enter Shikari's confetti explosion during 'satellites**', which spawned some of the weekend's most stunning photographs. Another must also be donned to the speech given early on the Saturday morning by Lotus Eater's new frontman, Paul Collins, in which he dedicated their extraordinary set to the memory of his late father. However, the crowning glory has to go to pop punk titans Neck Deep, who closed out their wonderful set of fan favourites with their hit single, 'In Bloom'. Listening to a whole crowd of people screaming at the top of their lungs to a song about growth, rebirth, and looking to the better times ahead was enough to reduce anyone in the crowd - our team included - to a sobbing wreck!

Also: Boston Manor, springing 'Laika' on us out of the blue? We need to have a talk about that - you could have at least provided the tissues beforehand!

Most Inspiring Performance:

Being a team led solely by women, it is always special seeing fellow women and non-binary folk rocking an industry that, for so long, was largely hostile and inaccessible to them. So, watching women such as Vukovi's vocalist Janine Shilstone, and Milkie of hardcore outfit Wargasm, was incredibly inspiring. Taking ownership of a stage and being unafraid to command the crowd before you is no mean feat, but both of these incredibly talented musicians took it more than comfortably in their stride!

The 'Special Place In My Heart' Act:

You know that one band that, whatever other people say about them, you can't help but fall in love with? For me, that band is A. Having interviewed them in the past, their charming nature wasn't news to us, but they managed to bring that same light-hearted, fun-loving energy to the main stage of a festival at which, in their words, they were "the happiest, smiliest band on the bill"! But despite their sound falling outside of Download's usual remit of guitar-crunching, skull-shattering sounds, they won over the crowd in an instant, instigating one of their famous 'walking circle pits' (as, in their words, they're too old to be running around anymore!), and whipping up a full-speed frenzy for their biggest single, 'Nothing', to close the show. Also, who wouldn't love a band whose frontman takes to the stage wearing a Deliveroo uniform? Genius.

The Unexpected Surprise:

There were many bands across the weekend who pulled typically stunning performances out of the bag - however, one act who I, in all honesty, was not expecting particularly miraculous things from, was The Hara. However, I am pleased to say that I stand corrected! While their image and styling has been crafted to within an inch of its life to hit all the correct target markets, it was impossible to fault the energy and conviction of their performance. Intricate guitar parts and genuinely catchy choruses that I would find myself humming days later are definitely signs that this band are on to something - not least because frontman Josh Taylor's leather skirt and nipple tape put my own festival outfit royally to shame! Keep an eye on this band, because I doubt this is the last we will be hearing from them in years to come...

The One Where Your Neck Hurt The Most:

Oh, how we've missed head-banging! My neck was certainly out of practice, as by the second morning it was already stiff as a board! The culprits? Heavy metal anarchists Malevolence. Their fiercely punishing riffs had the entire crowd pumping the air and stamping the ground from the get-go, and their brutal breakdowns carried enough guts and energy to keep you rocking through the searing neck pain! How the Steel City five-piece aren't bigger than they are is beyond me, as they possess every inch of the roaring passion needed to tackle far bigger stages in days to come. Watch this space...

The Future Headliner:

And, finally, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a band - the indomitable conviction that, one day, they will conquer the heady heights of a Download Festival headline slot. In this instance, that summit was only reached by one band all weekend: Creeper. From the outset, the staging and production of their set was breathtaking - from costume changes, to glittering towers of sparks, even down to frontman Will Ghould's milky white contact lenses, the entire experience was completely immersive. For a little over an hour, the outside world no longer existed, as every person in that tent was absorbed into a whirlwind of darkly enticing tracks with soaring, sing-along choruses - this was Creeper's world, and to be invited in felt like an immense privilege.

Performing several songs from their most recent record, 'Sex, Death, and the Infinite Void', which before had only had a handful of outings, felt as though this was truly a landmark of the beginning of the next phase of this band's extraordinary journey, though some fan favourites were also present and correct - most excitingly, a return of 'Astral Projection', which saw a wave of crowd-surfers come tumbling over the barrier! Keys player and co-vocalist Hannah Greenwood also shone, donning a delicate white wedding dress (a costume change facilitated by a stunning guitar solo from Miss Vincent guitarist Lawrie Pattison), and performing the heart-wrenching 'Crickets', with guitarist Ian Miles's acoustic accompaniment. The highlight of it all, however, was always going to be the track which is most synonymous with Creeper and their adoring fanbase: 'Misery'. Not only did it reduce the majority of the crowd to a blubbering mess, but Will himself struggled to choke out the final lines through a face full of tears; a true testament, if ever there was one, to just how special this band truly are.

Download Festival 2022 is set to take place between the 10th and the 12th of June next year, at its usual full capacity! The current line up is below, and tickets are available here: