Friday, June 21, 2024

Download 2024 A New Day, A New Dawn?

Still the Granddaddy of the UK alternative scene, (Liquid Death Presents) Download XXI, Donnington Park, June 14-16th, may just have given rise to a new, albeit muddy dawn. The Midlands based festival was rocked by weather, sound and even a political issue before more than a handful of horns could be raised.

Andy Copping may be the Willy Wonka of the UK Festival scene but even his magic couldn't avoid the chocolate river of mud that washed through the arena, after constant downpours.

Bands had been pulling out of the show during the lead up to the weekends extravaganza. Due to the Barclaycard sponsorship with Live Nation and Barclays ties with arms companies, fortunately, the two brands were able to pause their partnership to avoid any further difficulties.

This year Download regulars saw a massive departure from the usual headliners. Gone were the accustomed heritage acts. A more modern flare, with perhaps somewhat of a passing of the torch was on offer. After all is said and done Download XXI will live on as a roaring success, leaving most ecstatic.

Day One

One of the first acts to grace the Apex Stage on Friday and really getting the show kicked off, were Those Damn Crows. Bringing on the rain and thankfully a fair bit of fire to boot, doing a stellar job warming up the crowd and setting the scene for the weekend.

Without doubt one of the surprises of the day had to go to Scene Queen! A spellbinding and positively pink performance on the Opus Stage.

During the set there was a brief acknowledgement of the sponsorship concern, Hannah Collins announced she would donate her fee to charities in support of Palestine. A huge crowd attended to witness probably the most amount of pink Donnington had ever seen. The Bimbo-core star delivered in buckets, was a resounding success, easily won new fans, with fun songs like; ‘Pink Paper’, ‘Pink Panther’ and ‘Pink Rover’ and will certainly be back on the hallowed grounds.

Black Stone Cherry did what they do best, had fun, really looking like they were enjoying the day. Played hard and heavy, belting out classics such as, ‘Me And Mary Jane’ and ‘White Trash Millionaire’. A proper fist pumping rock show, and surely due a headlining main stage appearance before much longer.


Day Two


Saturday started with delays and shorter sets for many early bands due to technical issues.


Even though Bleed From Within were robbed of much of their set, only managing about four songs, coming on 25 minutes late. The heavy and Scottish sound and pyro managed to dry many off, stop the rain and encourage a wall of death and circle pits. The band brought Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan out for a cover of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’. With Bleed From Within supporting Slipknot in December there’s no surprise how good this band are.


Asinhell, served up the death metal to dust off cobwebs from Fridays hangover many of the gig goers likely felt. Even in the rain they pulled a big crowd, undeterred by  thunder and lightning.


Blue haired Charlotte Sands was one of several acts really showing the wealth of talented females the alternative scene has. The crowd absolutely embraced the energetic performance, responding in kind. Both artist and fans clearly enjoyed the electric set.

Other acts to note: A very heavy Slaughter To Prevail, who were ferocious both with vocals and to themselves, with frontman Alex Terrible busting open his own head. Frank Carter sounded lively. Karnivool were pleasant. Baby Metal were again plagued by weather issues at Download managing only a handful of songs. Offspring came and did exactly what you love. Giving a party atmosphere, getting everyone upbeat and blasting out iconic songs.

For many Pantera were the main event and a long awaited treat, over 20 years in the making. Bloody amazing infact and a long time coming, they did not dissapoint. Providing a really solid show and delightful set. Using great video tributes throughout to honour the fallen Abbott brothers. Overall probably the best all round performance of the weekend.


Day Three


Sunday started one hour late, due to safety concerns but still managed to conjure up Parkway Drive for a super secret Download set.


Creeper without doubt were one of best throughout the entire weekend. Five ghoulish stage dancers, plenty of face paint and enough smoke and purple light to give full gothic ambiance. William Von Ghould, the Prince of horror rock, is effortlessly cool and can fill a stage no matter what the size. He has so much charisma, and stage presence, everything a band needs. Creeper are a future Download headliner and one of the best things about the UK music scene. What does every festival fan enjoy other than singing their hearts out with their favourite bands, a surprise of course! Creeper played ‘Lovers Led Astray’ with none other than Dan Jacobs of Atreyu.


Bowling For Soup were unfortunately without the brilliant Chris Van Malmsteen who was recuperating after a hospital stay. Having done a late night show Saturday, the lads were in fine form and full of their usual jovial self, making cracks and cranking out hit after hit. The band are the epitome of festival stars, bringing sheer delight and perfect, quick sing along songs. Wheatus frontman Brendan B. Brown joined the stage briefly talking about their 2025 Co tour, then breaking out into ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ to the absolute delight of the crowd.


If this really is the last Sum41 show on these shores then it's incredibly sad and the end of an era but what a way to sign off. Realistically we will hopefully get one last tour and this is only the last time they play a UK festival. A brilliant energetic show, providing pure nostalgia and seemingly in fine form as a collective having come through a fair amount of adversity over the years. All we can do is say a massive thank you to them!


Limp Bizkit provided a headline worthy crowd and performance, quite probably the largest of the weekend, with a sea of red caps. They really nailed it. The crowd absolutely lapped it up, even with the group beginning and ending on ‘Break Stuff’.Wes Borland was dressed as fab as ever. They briefly played part of Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’. And Fred Durst dropped the best line of weekend by announcing the next song as “That weird song Tom Cruise likes”.


Machine Head knocked their performance out of the park. You would be forgiven for finding it incompressible they had stopped doing festivals for a while! After the performance it seemed wasteful, definitely better to have them back. The band clearly enjoyed the show, Robb Flynn consistently smiling doing his usual beer throwing skit with the crowd.


The final act of the weekend closing out the show was performed by Avenged Sevenfold. Quite a vanilla and safe set with no real surprises not the biggest of ends to a Sunday, and certainly a proportion of the crowd seemingly left the site early for a sharp get away. There was one last unfortunate blip for the weekend when everything cut out in the middle of a song. No sound or light for a few minutes with Avenged Sevenfold walking around the Apex Stage in the proverbial same darkness the crowd were in, There was a brief rendition from the crowd, singing DJ Ötzi’s ‘Hey Baby’, before A7X powered back into life finishing up the remaining set.


Suffice to say, the gamble overall paid off, musically the festival was a roaring success and with some tweaks, Download will continue long into the future.


Rhys Tagg


 Image: Download Festival Official Line Up Poster

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