DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2022 – THE BIG REVIEW!

Photo credit: Ⓒ Beth Miller for Download Festival

WELL THEN. Three whole years since the last proper Download Festival. Yeah yeah there was the Pilot last year, but it’s not the same. This is it, this is the return. Was it triumphant? Let’s discuss.

Donington Park opens its doors for the hoardes of giddy metalheads on Thursday, with the newly situated campsites filling from West Carpark quickly. Let’s have a moment for the new site layout; the campsites are now located considerably closer to the arena (they used to be at the opposite end of the racetrack) and the arena is accessed by travelling through the brand new Village area which is now on hard-standing.

There are a few things to note about this arrangement though. If you’ve managed to park in West Carpark, you are indeed only a shortish walk to your camping. However, once this is full the East and North Carparks are utilized and they are predictably – on the other side of the racetrack, a journey of epic proportions to your campsite. I suppose the question is, would you rather walk further to the arena every day, or have to cart all your camping stuff further on the way in and on the way out?

It must also be noted that whilst quiet camping does still exist, they’ve chosen to back the brand new (and considerably larger) Doghouse stage onto it. With music going on until 3am, it seems sort of redundant but hey, hopefully you brought earplugs.

The Village itself is a thing of beauty. Despite this being a rare good weather Download rather than a washout, it really is just such a good move to have the entire place on a tarmac surface. Immediately as you enter the area there is an enormous pop-up Co-Op selling practically everything you might need for the weekend, including fairly priced crates of beer and the cheeky sandwich meal deal which costs about a third of the price of a soggy burrito from the arena. Even for non-campers this is a short walk from the arena to keep your costs down, and I think its really important to stress that this is a great way of ensuring that people aren’t entirely priced out of coming to this festival, when food and drink prices seem set to continue to rise exponentially.

As for entertainment, this year we have an entire arcade replete with coin machines and Dance Dance Revolution, as well as the traditional fairground rides such as minor-whiplash-dodgems and possibly-the-worst-ghost-train-in-the-world. The new Doghouse is the real MVP though, a huge square post-apocalyptic shipping container park with a stage and a bar. It’s worth noting that this whole move really improves accessibility for everyone. RIP and Disability Camping guests are no longer miles from the night-time action, and the tarmac makes getting there much easier, a huge step towards making Download a much more inclusive festival.

For morning people you can give yourself a boost by joining in with some Rockfit, frame trampolining or rock aerobics – flashback to Download’s at-home content during Lockdown in 2020. In the evenings there’s stand up comedy in The Sidesplitter, and then the infamous Doghouse clubnights returning with a bang. I must give a mention here to Thursday night’s Punk Rock Factory who honestly I’d love to see hitting up the main arena next year, a punk Disney cover band. There is just something joyous about seeing a group of big burly dudes belting out songs from Encanto, truly they absolutely slap, and seemed to have the full support of a packed Doghouse.

Aside from this we also have another attempt at implementing a cashless festival, thankfully without a return to the RFID fiasco of a previous Download, though it does seem most of the shops are still accepting cash regardless. We also have renamed stages for 2022 – Apex and Opus in place of various previous names such as Lemmy and Dio, but let’s face it, everyone calls them Main and Second anyway.

Friday

It’s Friday, the gates are open and the sun is shining. Not packing a raincoat feels absolutely reckless for this festival, but the weather app assures me that everything will be ok so sun-cream it is. As seasoned Download goers, we head straight for a merch tent because everyone knows they can and absolutely will sell out of stuff. As per usual nothing has changed and there are simply too few staff to appropriately manage the volume of people queuing, and we wait a solid hour and a half to get our stuff. I think I’ve said this in every review but really, just drop more staff on for the first day, I beg.

The merch options are outstanding though, apart from the regular tshirts and such, there is a plethora of weird shit you can buy and I am HERE FOR IT. Download Monopoly for campsite mornings? Got you covered. Cafetiere and laser engraved wooden cups? No problem. We also love the fully embroidered denim jacket, the extremely handy new tote bags, and of course the plushie deranged Download Dog. There’s also a whole section for babies/kids which is nice, considering there seem to be a lot more of them in attendance this year. Mini metalheads everywhere you look – this is the next gen, teach them well.

Luckily the queue for said merchandise is situated right alongside the hill-top Dogtooth Stage, where we manage to catch a sweaty but brilliant set from The Scratch. Acoustic Irish folk music overlayed with heavy metal and a dedication to getting the crowd involved, makes for a unique and undeniably fun experience. Yelling “…if you’re really confused about what we’re doing, that’s fine, we’re confused as well… but we can still have fun” the band really sum up how it is to watch their show. I would absolutely go and see them again.

Over to Kris Barras on the Opus stage for some melodic rock and roll in the sunshine, playing bluesy summery riffs to a huge crowd. It’s perfect beer-drinking, feel good summer music that makes you feel like you’re in an 80’s TV show driving the Sunset Strip.

Skynd’s unique ‘true crime’ industrial rock sound is testament to the expansion of genre Download have been working towards over the last few years, something a little unusual and interesting, with songs named after infamous death events. Skynd’s unusual vocal style ranging from effeminate cheerleader-esque chanting to deep rasping creep is really something different, and sets the tone for how many new and challenging female artists we’re about to see this weekend.

Bury Tomorrow pull off a convincing enough set, but hero vocalist Myles Kennedy over on the Opus stage is just beyond compare – I genuinely believe he’s one of the best rock voices of all time. Dead Poet Society on the Dogtooth stage play to a jammed tent, and even spend a little time after their set taking photos with fans.

Firmly established Download regulars Black Veil Brides are tearing up the Apex stage to a mass of sweaty face-paint melting goths and some early crowd-surfers, but it’s Skindred who take the crown for band of the day with their energetic and powerful set. Whilst it’s true that we see them pretty much every year at least once, they never seem to disappoint. Benji always has a fun outfit, this time a lightning bold studded red leather set with a plumed hat, and they roll through a mix of old and new making sure to hit the highs of ‘Pressure’ and ‘Nobody’, as well as joking around with extremely British singsongs of “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”. “2 years without any fucking music” as Benji puts it, is enough time for everyone to get really amped up for ‘Kill The Power’ in which they also voice support for Ukraine, and a right old rowdy Newport Helicopter of windmilling tshirts during ‘Warning’. Oh Skindred, we’ve missed you.

Photo credit: Ⓒ James Bridle for Download Festival

Over on the Opus stage, the Aussies are at it again. Reckless wonders Airborne, who were once lambasted by security for climbing the stage rigging at Download sans harness – for shits and gigs, yell out “…if we’re still here, and you’re still here, metal still exists…”. Which when you consider their death-wish antics, is perhaps not the most solid flex.

A Day To Remember blast punky metal across the main stage area as the sun shines, before Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes take on the Opus stage with their classic punk rock sounds and social commentary. Frank, ever the cheeky chap shouts out “Moment of silence for all the bands that we just murdered” before clambering out onto the shoulders of fans to continue singing.

In a bold but timely statement Frank says “This is a ladies and non-binary only moshpit for this song. Fellas on the sidelines, protect this space. This is a safe space for those people to have a good time without getting groped or punched. For too long rock and roll has been unequal. I’m sorry I didn’t have the mindset to do this sooner, in 10 years time I promise you this will be a very different space for our children”. Whilst this may be somewhat performatory in practice (it’s one song in a weekend of bands), it does send a message that people are listening and beginning to take notice of what female and NB metal fans have been saying for years. Though generally pit-etiquette is known to be good at Download, it’s really refreshing to see how the festival is evolving into a more inclusive space for everyone to enjoy the music.

Frank also takes a jab with “This song is about Rishi [Sunak] telling me to get a fucking job. I’ve got two you bastard, how many am I supposed to have?” as massive ticker-tape explosions flutter over the crowd. It’s been an interesting set, and I’m all for artists using their platform to highlight important issues – it’s punk’s legacy.

After hitting up the legendary Bunnymans Bunnychow for dinner (South African firey chilli shoved into half a loaf of bread, the stuff of festival dreams) the Apex hill is filling up in anticipation of tonight’s headliner KISS.

The stage is draped with an enormous KISS banner, the sides flanked with KISS ARMY insignias, and the roof a hive of ring shaped lighting like something from sci-fi. Giant inflatable metallic effigies of the band members stand either side of the stage, blowing in the wind threatening to squash the puny worshippers below. As a tape begins to roll on the screens, of the band making their way through dressing rooms and corridors to get to the stage, I can’t help but giggle. We’re in a field, miles from anything solid, with only tents and tour buses back there. It’s all part of the KISS schtick though isn’t it.

“You wanted the best, you got the best!” yells Paul Stanley, aka The Starchild as a rain of sparkly pyro falls from the centre of the stage and the banner is dropped. As usual, they are dressed to the nines in, well, quite possibly bigger than nine-inch platform shoes and their signature shiny glam get-up – and there’s a part of me watching this, that is just a bit sad that nothing comes after this. We won’t witness this level of ridiculousness again, it’s an ending era. KISS are known for keeping it strictly performance. They have a script and they rarely step outside of it, which is professional I guess, if a little wooden sometimes. “This song is about putting something in your mouth…” comes before they drop into ‘Lick It Up’ but it’s the same sentence we heard last time we saw them here. I’m not sure whether I enjoy this from a nostalgia perspective – like re-watching your favourite movie when you feel down – or if I wish they’d break character just once, for this one final time.

‘Calling Dr Love’ is followed by ‘Tears Are Falling’ and then the more recent ‘Psycho Circus’ pulls up to a long drum solo from The Cat, who is raised up onto a giant platform. Presumably giving the other band members a much needed breather. I don’t hate it, it isn’t obscenely long… but the following instrumental really is. The solo is another thing from an older time, new bands don’t do it, or it’s a few seconds while someone grabs a drink. Another nail in the coffin of what it meant to be a headliner.

Luckily the band put on a great show regardless, Gene Simmons bleeding from the mouth whilst flapping his monumentally long tongue is an image burned into the rock retina for life. Jamming his iconic axe shaped bass whilst high up on a platform amongst the mysterons covered in images of his own face… you can’t get more Gene than that really.

“It’s the last time we’re gonna be together… and because it’s the last time, I’m gonna come out there and be with you. But you have to invite me… count to three and say my name…” calls Stanley, despite the fact that this is precisely the same way it went down the last time they played here, which obviously many of the fans remember all to well. Regardless, it is really fun to see him whizz from the stage to the sound tent on a circus ring zip wire to play ‘Love Gun’, and the epic ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, amongst the sparkly light of a giant projected disco ball.

Closing out with three song encore, the end finally comes with ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. Big inflatable KISS branded beach balls are thrown into the crowd, ticker tape explosions go off, and fireworks erupt from the top of the stage as they lament “We’re gonna miss you so much, we bow to you. It’s so special every time we come here”. Now, plenty of bands have said it’s their ‘final show’ before (cough, Aerosmith, cough Black Sabbath). KISS have been one of them… over 19 times according to Steve Tyler. This time though, it really does seem like they’re done. Some of the vibrancy was missing, it was too rehearsed.

It’s testimony to their skill as musicians and performers that the show was still great, and I will be forever sad that my child won’t get to remember seeing one of, if not the most iconic bands in the world, but maybe it is time to open the gates for new things. KISS have done thousands of gigs, sold millions of records and have the weirdest and most diverse collection of merch on this earth (KISS condoms anyone?) so… fair play to them. I’m glad I was here for the last show… probably.


SATURDAY

Opening the Apex stage this morning are The Raven Age, good hearty metal despite the thin arena at this time, but Cassyette edges them out as the Opus stage opener with an absolutely huge crowd. Swinging her long blonde Pippi Longstocking braids as she thrashes around the stage, you can see exactly why she’s been booked – what a bloody epic voice. Again, it’s awesome to see more women hitting the big stages at Download this year, and absolutely smashing it. Those Damn Crows keep the vibe going, but there’s definitely an element of crowd fatigue in this heat – us pasty Brits are just crap at sunshine.

Sheffield lads Malevolent come in with their full force, pulling out all the stops in their exceptionally heavy set. “This goes out to anyone who has ever told you, you can’t do something because of how you look or who you are” says frontman Alex Taylor, before they muster up three massive circle-pits in the crowd.

Ice Nine Kills may have a bit of a gimmicky schtick when it comes to band theme, rocking up in suits to mimic American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, these guys are a self-professed Horror Metal band. However, there is nothing gimmicky about their musical talent, these guys absolutely kill it – if you can excuse the pun. Yeah sure they have some Alice Cooper-esque snuff theatre going on, stage knives and a creepy clown… but I defy anyone to try not to join in with the likes of ‘Hip To Be Scared’ and ‘The American Nightmare’. They’ve gone straight to the top of my post-Download playlist.

Photo credit: Ⓒ  Sam McMahon for Download Festival

Black Label Society, owners of very lush hair, gather a huge crowd at the Apex stage. With Zakk Wylde’s signature sound resonating across the arena, this just feels like peak Download. There are so many memories tied to that sound at this event. Later Shinedown absolutely tear it up, yelling “Ladies and Gentlemen, we made it, we are here and we’re all alive” and treating us to the hits we want to hear ‘Second Chance’ and ‘Cut The Cord’. The “Freedom” refrain really has some topical context for this crowd, after a couple of years of strict lockdowns and Covid worries.

Deftones are predictably great but we’ve been round the block a few times and I’m really only in it for ‘My Own Summer’ at this point, so it’s time to take a walk around the site and grab some food. One thing I really want to mention is that the quality of stuff you can buy from Download shops is actually really exciting. You can grab your next pair of skate trainers for a fraction of the cost of online stores, get hold of some unusual patches for your battle jacket, and there’s the likes of Mysticum Luna selling some  beautiful jewellery. If that’s not your jam, you can queue up in the morning to book yourself a tattoo slot at Old Sarum – I wonder how many people now have a Download Dog tattoo?

On the Opus stage Megadeth have the most ridiculous set of mega-stacked amps (there is no way at least half of those aren’t just for show, come on now) and Funeral For A Friend are bringing back those nostalgic emo kid vibes on The Avalanche stage. Sepultura play to a bursting at the seams Dogtooth tent, it’s hot, it’s heavy, it’s everything it should be – I just wish I could get further into the tent than the gate.

Looking at the arena tonight, it’s pretty clear there are a lot of day-ticket holders here specifically for this. It’s twice as packed as last night, people shoulder to shoulder right to the back of the hill and spilling out both sides around the sound tent. To say Iron Maiden are an institution at Donington would be putting it mildly. We’ve been waiting three years for this, let’s go.

As the traditional UFO ‘Doctor Doctor’ heralds them onto the stage, we take our first look at the set up for this ‘Legacy of The Beast’ tour, which centres on Japanese/Shinobi imagery due to their newest released ‘Senjutsu’. The stage is all green-roofed pagodas, Nikko’s brand new drum set is covered in the beautiful album artwork, and as the band take the stage we note that Bruce has gone full top-knot presumably in a nod to the theme. Rocking some almost spray-on leather pants (he does it better than Ross Geller though) Bruce is immediately and unwaveringly as brilliant as ever. If you think there’s a more iconic vocalist in metal I can’t hear you over the sound of Bruce belting the living shit out of ‘The Writing On The Wall’. You’d think after 34 years playing here, and the 7th inning as headliners, that something would eventually dip… the speed, the sound quality, the theatricality, the energy. No. Not our Iron Maiden. They are the lifeblood of this festival and all those before it on this hallowed ground, and they truly sound better than ever.

Eddie makes a surprisingly early appearance dressed as a Samurai, in order to go about executing the band members with a giant katana, and Bruce quips “You alright? That was bit fucking casual… you alright?” as the crowd warms up a bit from their viewing stupor. If you haven’t seen Maiden before, it’s a lot to take in. If you have, it’s a lot to take in.

Multiple set changes are expected with Maiden for sure, but wow is it slick tonight. Using curtain structures to create background sets means they basically drop away in seconds to be replaced by another – something that really just adds to the magic of their show. This next one is a full on church, replete with stained glass windows and flaming chandeliers.

Calling out “The last three years of all our lives, has been largely fucking shit. In this field is where it fucking stops. We’re one big family, the Maiden family. We don’t care what colour, size or anything you are… you are our Blood Brothers” they drop headfirst into the anthem. Not to get too corny, but there is something so uplifting, so uniting about hearing this after the hard couple of years we’ve just been through.

Now, Bruce has always been known to be a bit… extra. But tonight he really doubles down, in a floaty veiled cape, he capers about the stage brandishing a giant disco cross for ‘The Sign of The Cross’ and then in a bonkers turn of events, trying to brandish a Ghostbusters style dual flamethrower, AND his mic beneath an enormous winged angel for ‘Flight of Icarus’.

Fear of The Dark has always been my favourite, since I saw Maiden for the very first time at the very first Download festival in 2003. My friend lifted me up from our spot 10 or so rows from the front, so that I could look across the crowd at the sea of lights. At that time it was proper lighters, not blue phone screens, and it is one of my most magical memories. Tonight, I was watching from the side, much further back, with my 2 year old daughter – doing a small cry, thinking about how grateful I am to be back here, after everything, and it was perfect.

‘Hallowed Be They Name’, ‘The Number of The Beast’ and the eponymous ‘Iron Maiden’ are just beyond reproach, it’s ridiculous how Iron Maiden manage to gut punch us every time, they just get into your bones. There’s a giant inflatable beast Eddie… everyone is singing, everyone is headbanging, everyone thinks they’re in the band too… “Scream for me Donington!” elicits the monumental roar of thousands of metal fans in their element.

The stage lights dip, but no-one moves an inch. The encore is spectacular, with Bruce admitting “Wish I was down there with you, it’s fucking cold up here” into the amazingly clear moonlight night, before donning the signature Redcoat and flag for ‘The Trooper’, and the return of Eddie for a duel.

‘The Clansman’ (another chance to yell FREEDOM into the sky) and ‘Run To The Hills’ are magnificent, but there’s nothing quite like the closing gem ‘Aces High’ complete with a fucking massive Spitfire flying, in my opinion, terrifyingly close to their heads, on stage. Bruce gives it his full force, rocking a flying cap and goggles as the band wheel around the stage delivering the most powerful, energetic performance you can imagine. They are just such pros, I genuinely don’t know what we’ll do when they finally call time. With their outro of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the bright side of life’, there is a collective sigh and we all begin to leave the arena. The hour plus queue to leave the car-park tells you that everyone stayed for this, what a bloody amazing night.

SUNDAY

Kicking things off for today at the Apex stage are homegrown electro-rock duo Wargasm, who sponsor a pretty brutal circle pit for so early in the morning. Two guys dressed as bananas are gleefully smashing into each other, as Milkie Way kicks and screams her way through the excellently named ‘D.R.I.L.D.O’ and ‘Backyard Bastards’. A live debut of ‘Fukstar’ and an N*E*R*D cover of ‘Lapdance’ also go down well with the crowd.

Photo credit: Ⓒ Sam McMahon for Download Festival

On the Dogtooth stage, drag artist Bimini serves us a fucking stunning outfit and an equally fun mash up of The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’ and Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ gone metal. It’s very very weird, and I like it. “This is my first festival… You know what, we’re a queer fucking band, and we’re gonna fuck it up” they say, with new music being debuted ‘Don’t Fuck With My Groove’ which is undeniably outside of what we are used to hearing at Download. A cover of Peaches sends us over the edge, I want to see Bimini bring a bigger, more extravagant show next time. Spotted in the Bimini crowd: Zoe London, having an excellent time!

We’ve decided to sit down and have some lunch at the main stage, which means catching Alestorm today. Somewhat unwillingly. If you haven’t heard about their recent controversy over leaked group chat messages which highlight some pretty stark racism and misogyny – just take it from us, it was not ok. These messages were authenticated/claimed by lead singer Chris Bowes at the time, and apologized for, but when you’ve been talking about competitions to see who can sleep with the most barely legal fans on tour… it’s gonna fuck up your reputation as a fairly wholesome fun band.

It’s actually a bit of a surprise that they were still booked for Download following this. There’s a bit of a disconnect between what looks like the purposeful move to give more female artists stage time, and having Alestorm back on the bill. Between bands Download has opted for screen messages about consent and respect all weekend, a purposeful effort towards changing the culture of festivals and making them safe for everyone – which I fully endorse and applaud. So yeah… it’s strange.

They’re on stage anyway, giant inflatable duck in tow, yelling “We’re only here to have fun” and while there is a decent crowd, it’s markedly less than I would expect them to pull at this festival. They play their hits (indistinguishably all about drinking, it’s the schtick) ‘Mexico’ and ‘Fucked With An Anchor’ to a sea of crowd surfers, but there’s definitely a flatness to the performance compared to other times we’ve seen them. Around us a lot of people are looking unimpressed, and it’s probably not just to do with the show.

Conversely, The Hara absolutely rip it up on the Avalanche stage, with their really interesting tech fuelled set. As a three-piece alt rock outfit, I did not expect their sound to be so complex, but with all the extra electronic fills, it is a serious sucker punch. I totally expect to see more of them at Download in the future.

Rise against are coming back with a new album, but the familiar punk-rock feels we love, “…this is a song about what we’ve all been doing the last two years… it’s called Survive” and closing ‘Saviour’ in the sunshine is just bringing us all happiness as we sing along.

Over on the Opus stage, Baroness as expected put on a fantastic show, and on the Apex stage Volbeat give us what we want with ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Still Counting’ as well as their cutesy ‘I Only Want To Be With You’ Dusty Springfield cover.

Up next Korn give a blistering performance worthy of a headline slot, Jonathan Davis careening about the stage in leather pants is giving us the big 90’s nostalgia. There are bagpipes, there’s a snippet of ‘We Will Rock You’ in ‘Coming Undone’, they serve up ‘Falling Away From Me’ and ‘Freak On A Leash’ at an eardrum bursting level. It’s such an energetic performance, mirrored in the sheer number of crowdsurfers who are heading towards the front, and it seems like the whole crowd is into it.

Photo credit: Ⓒ David Dillon for Download Festival

Steel Panther are divisive. They started off as a joke band… but they have some catchy hits… they’re clearly joking… but the type of jokes they make are tired and largely misogynistic…

Yelling “That crowd reaction was pretty good for a Hoobastank concert” garners a laugh from only those old enough to know who Hoobastank are, but the zebra leggings and 80’s hair never fails to make me smile. “England is my second home. I speak the language. My Grandma is from here in Leicester, she used to cook for the whole family… crystal meth” is exactly what we expect from them, as well as their penchant for pulling ladies from the audience to dance with them. They do in fact have 17 girls for ’17 Girls In A Row’, and they are joined by guest Justin Hawkins of The Darkness – who just played the other stage – for ‘Party All Day’. ‘Asian Hooker’ and ‘Death To All But Metal’ are meant to be silly, but that’s part of the charm – it’s possibly the most packed this stage has been all weekend.

So, right up front I have to note going into this headline review, that the arena is stunningly under-filled already. You can basically walk to the front in a couple of minutes from either side. This shouldn’t happen for headliners.

Scot-rock stalwarts Biffy Clyro are no strangers to Download Festival, having headlined here in 2017. Given the fact that we’ve been in Covid central for a couple of years, this actually feels more recent than the five years it has actually been. There’s no doubt that the band are musically brilliant, and the stage set up is impressive in its own way, but perhaps overshadowed by the previous two nights of high production headline sets.

The hometown crowd is representing at the front with giant Scottish flags flying, and ‘Wolves of Winter’ is a soaring masterpiece which absolutely deserves a place here. Yelling “We’ve waited three years for this, I know you have too. It’s wonderful to be back together again” frontman Simon Neil is clearly having an excellent time up there, but I can’t help but see the crowd is thinning even further. I wonder if they can see this from up there, and feel a little sad for them.

‘Space’ and ‘Bubbles’ come before an encore of ‘The Captain’, ‘Cop Syrup’ and ‘Many of Horror’ – all of which are performed beautifully and confidently, but it obviously isn’t hitting with a huge proportion of the Download crowd who are opting to be elsewhere. The band finish up with a set of stage top fireworks, but it’s not the crowning finale it should have been for this, the triumphant return of Download festival. If Download wants to sell enough tickets next year, those headliners had better be closer aligned to the main formula than Biffy were this weekend.

In other entertainments, The Doghouse is bumping for another few hours yet with the likes of Lais MW & Lauren Cornelius serving up fun bouncy mixes and Limp Bizkit dance renditions. Here we’ll leave everyone to the wild abandon of the final night at camp.

Round-up

So what did we think of Download festival 2022?

Firstly, we were served an unusual dose of good fortune with the weather being dry. This festival is no joke when it’s wet, so it was nice to not have to think about boots and raincoats this year. The new site changes are a huge step in the right direction to making this festival more inclusive and accessible, as well as just generally better for everyone. It would be great to see some companies like Vodafone with their Haptic suits there, to deliver unique experiences of the music to deaf fans in the Download audience in the future.

There were a lot more kids this time around – a lot of lockdown babies and toddlers in attendance, which yes, changes the vibe a little sure, but ultimately this music is for everyone – and that includes parents without childcare options. There’s nothing like indoctrinating the youth into metal anyway.

In the news following the festival it has sadly been reported that two men have died (in unconnected incidents) and police are appealing to contact a man who had helped one of them. Contact details can be found on the BBC website if you have any information. The deaths are not being considered suspicious at this time, our thoughts go out to them and their families.

Next year is the huge 20th anniversary of Download and Andy Copping has stated that all headliners have been booked already – an unusual feat. The anticipation and anxiety over who it will be is already gut wrenching. With a lot of the big legacy bands shutting up shop, I simply can’t imagine how this will play out, but for myself – I’m hoping for a Rammstein return, and the yet-to-play rock legends Pearl Jam.

I’d also like to mention that every staff and security member we came across this weekend was friendly, helpful and genuinely nice. It really makes a difference to how smoothly the weekend runs. On top of that, the general effort into turning Download into a more green space, and a more diverse space is really good to see. It’s time for the rock and metal scene to evolve into something more inclusive – and I don’t think Download loses any of its integrity as one of the worlds’ best rock festivals by doing so.

In summation, this weekend has been characterised by a return to familiarity, pure joy and a feeling of freedom. There has been something intensely healing about being back at Donington, for a lot of people I spoke to over the weekend. It has indeed been three years of shit, but thanks in part to Download Festival – I feel like I’m on the road to recovery. Roll on the big anniversary in 2023, see you there!

Download Festival 2022 – Biffy Clyro REVIEWED!

Photo credit: Ⓒ David Dillon for Download Festival

So, right up front I have to note going into this headline review, that the arena is stunningly under-filled already. You can basically walk to the front in a couple of minutes from either side. This shouldn’t happen for headliners.

Scot-rock stalwarts Biffy Clyro are no strangers to Download Festival, having headlined here in 2017. Given the fact that we’ve been in Covid central for a couple of years, this actually feels more recent than the five years it has actually been. There’s no doubt that the band are musically brilliant, and the stage set up is impressive in its own way, but perhaps overshadowed by the previous two nights of high production headline sets.

The hometown crowd is representing at the front with giant Scottish flags flying, and ‘Wolves of Winter’ is a soaring masterpiece which absolutely deserves a place here. Yelling “We’ve waited three years for this, I know you have too. It’s wonderful to be back together again” frontman Simon Neil is clearly having an excellent time up there, but I can’t help but see the crowd is thinning even further. I wonder if they can see this from up there, and feel a little sad for them.

‘Space’ and ‘Bubbles’ come before an encore of ‘The Captain’, ‘Cop Syrup’ and ‘Many of Horror’ – all of which are performed beautifully and confidently, but it obviously isn’t hitting with a huge proportion of the Download crowd who are opting to be elsewhere. The band finish up with a set of stage top fireworks, but it’s not the crowning finale it should have been for this, the triumphant return of Download festival. If Download wants to sell enough tickets next year, those headliners had better be closer aligned to the main formula than Biffy were this weekend.

Download Festival 2022 – Iron Maiden REVIEWED!

Photo credit: Ⓒ James Bridle for Download Festival

Looking at the arena tonight, it’s pretty clear there are a lot of day-ticket holders here specifically for this. It’s twice as packed as last night, people shoulder to shoulder right to the back of the hill and spilling out both sides around the sound tent. To say Iron Maiden are an institution at Donington would be putting it mildly. We’ve been waiting three years for this, let’s go.

As the traditional UFO ‘Doctor Doctor’ heralds them onto the stage, we take our first look at the set up for this ‘Legacy of The Beast’ tour, which centres on Japanese/Shinobi imagery due to their newest released ‘Senjutsu’. The stage is all green-roofed pagodas, Nikko’s brand new drum set is covered in the beautiful album artwork, and as the band take the stage we note that Bruce has gone full top-knot presumably in a nod to the theme. Rocking some almost spray-on leather pants (he does it better than Ross Geller though) Bruce is immediately and unwaveringly as brilliant as ever. If you think there’s a more iconic vocalist in metal I can’t hear you over the sound of Bruce belting the living shit out of ‘The Writing On The Wall’. You’d think after 34 years playing here, and the 7th inning as headliners, that something would eventually dip… the speed, the sound quality, the theatricality, the energy. No. Not our Iron Maiden. They are the lifeblood of this festival and all those before it on this hallowed ground, and they truly sound better than ever.

Eddie makes a surprisingly early appearance dressed as a Samurai, in order to go about executing the band members with a giant katana, and Bruce quips “You alright? That was bit fucking casual… you alright?” as the crowd warms up a bit from their viewing stupor. If you haven’t seen Maiden before, it’s a lot to take in. If you have, it’s a lot to take in.

Multiple set changes are expected with Maiden for sure, but wow is it slick tonight. Using curtain structures to create background sets means they basically drop away in seconds to be replaced by another – something that really just adds to the magic of their show. This next one is a full on church, replete with stained glass windows and flaming chandeliers.

Calling out “The last three years of all our lives, has been largely fucking shit. In this field is where it fucking stops. We’re one big family, the Maiden family. We don’t care what colour, size or anything you are… you are our Blood Brothers” they drop headfirst into the anthem. Not to get too corny, but there is something so uplifting, so uniting about hearing this after the hard couple of years we’ve just been through.

Now, Bruce has always been known to be a bit… extra. But tonight he really doubles down, in a floaty veiled cape, he capers about the stage brandishing a giant disco cross for ‘The Sign of The Cross’ and then in a bonkers turn of events, trying to brandish a Ghostbusters style dual flamethrower, AND his mic beneath an enormous winged angel for ‘Flight of Icarus’.

Fear of The Dark has always been my favourite, since I saw Maiden for the very first time at the very first Download festival in 2003. My friend lifted me up from our spot 10 or so rows from the front, so that I could look across the crowd at the sea of lights. At that time it was proper lighters, not blue phone screens, and it is one of my most magical memories. Tonight, I was watching from the side, much further back, with my 2 year old daughter – doing a small cry, thinking about how grateful I am to be back here, after everything, and it was perfect.

‘Hallowed Be They Name’, ‘The Number of The Beast’ and the eponymous ‘Iron Maiden’ are just beyond reproach, it’s ridiculous how Iron Maiden manage to gut punch us every time, they just get into your bones. There’s a giant inflatable beast Eddie… everyone is singing, everyone is headbanging, everyone thinks they’re in the band too… “Scream for me Donington!” elicits the monumental roar of thousands of metal fans in their element.

The stage lights dip, but no-one moves an inch. The encore is spectacular, with Bruce admitting “Wish I was down there with you, it’s fucking cold up here” into the amazingly clear moonlight night, before donning the signature Redcoat and flag for ‘The Trooper’, and the return of Eddie for a duel.

‘The Clansman’ (another chance to yell FREEDOM into the sky) and ‘Run To The Hills’ are magnificent, but there’s nothing quite like the closing gem ‘Aces High’ complete with a fucking massive Spitfire flying, in my opinion, terrifyingly close to their heads, on stage. Bruce gives it his full force, rocking a flying cap and goggles as the band wheel around the stage delivering the most powerful, energetic performance you can imagine. They are just such pros, I genuinely don’t know what we’ll do when they finally call time. With their outro of Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the bright side of life’, there is a collective sigh and we all begin to leave the arena. The hour plus queue to leave the car-park tells you that everyone stayed for this, what a bloody amazing night.

Download Festival 2022 – KISS REVIEWED!

© Matt Higgs for Download Festival

The stage is draped with an enormous KISS banner, the sides flanked with KISS ARMY insignias, and the roof a hive of ring shaped lighting like something from sci-fi. Giant inflatable metallic effigies of the band members stand either side of the stage, blowing in the wind threatening to squash the puny worshippers below. As a tape begins to roll on the screens, of the band making their way through dressing rooms and corridors to get to the stage, I can’t help but giggle. We’re in a field, miles from anything solid, with only tents and tour buses back there. It’s all part of the KISS schtick though isn’t it.

“You wanted the best, you got the best!” yells Paul Stanley, aka The Starchild as a rain of sparkly pyro falls from the centre of the stage and the banner is dropped. As usual, they are dressed to the nines in, well, quite possibly bigger than nine-inch platform shoes and their signature shiny glam get-up – and there’s a part of me watching this, that is just a bit sad that nothing comes after this. We won’t witness this level of ridiculousness again, it’s an ending era. KISS are known for keeping it strictly performance. They have a script and they rarely step outside of it, which is professional I guess, if a little wooden sometimes. “This song is about putting something in your mouth…” comes before they drop into ‘Lick It Up’ but it’s the same sentence we heard last time we saw them here. I’m not sure whether I enjoy this from a nostalgia perspective – like re-watching your favourite movie when you feel down – or if I wish they’d break character just once, for this one final time.

‘Calling Dr Love’ is followed by ‘Tears Are Falling’ and then the more recent ‘Psycho Circus’ pulls up to a long drum solo from The Cat, who is raised up onto a giant platform. Presumably giving the other band members a much needed breather. I don’t hate it, it isn’t obscenely long… but the following instrumental really is. The solo is another thing from an older time, new bands don’t do it, or it’s a few seconds while someone grabs a drink. Another nail in the coffin of what it meant to be a headliner.

Luckily the band put on a great show regardless, Gene Simmons bleeding from the mouth whilst flapping his monumentally long tongue is an image burned into the rock retina for life. Jamming his iconic axe shaped bass whilst high up on a platform amongst the mysterons covered in images of his own face… you can’t get more Gene than that really.

“It’s the last time we’re gonna be together… and because it’s the last time, I’m gonna come out there and be with you. But you have to invite me… count to three and say my name…” calls Stanley, despite the fact that this is precisely the same way it went down the last time they played here, which obviously many of the fans remember all to well. Regardless, it is really fun to see him whizz from the stage to the sound tent on a circus ring zip wire to play ‘Love Gun’, and the epic ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, amongst the sparkly light of a giant projected disco ball.

Closing out with three song encore, the end finally comes with ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. Big inflatable KISS branded beach balls are thrown into the crowd, ticker tape explosions go off, and fireworks erupt from the top of the stage as they lament “We’re gonna miss you so much, we bow to you. It’s so special every time we come here”. Now, plenty of bands have said it’s their ‘final show’ before (cough, Aerosmith, cough Black Sabbath). KISS have been one of them… over 19 times according to Steve Tyler. This time though, it really does seem like they’re done. Some of the vibrancy was missing, it was too rehearsed.

It’s testimony to their skill as musicians and performers that the show was still great, and I will be forever sad that my child won’t get to remember seeing one of, if not the most iconic bands in the world, but maybe it is time to open the gates for new things. KISS have done thousands of gigs, sold millions of records and have the weirdest and most diverse collection of merch on this earth (KISS condoms anyone?) so… fair play to them. I’m glad I was here for the last show… probably.

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES ADDITION OF 20 BANDS AND DAY SPLITS FOR 2022 LINE UP

Download Festival, the world’s premier rock event, has announced 20 new bands for 2022, including the mighty A Day To Remember, Shinedown, Black Veil Brides, Mastodon, Code Orange, Ice Nine Kills, Creeper and more. They join the already stellar line up, headlined by KISS, Iron Maiden and Biffy Clyro. The three-day festival takes place on 10-12 June 2022 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. September is the last chance fans will be able to purchase Early bird tickets  – with prices increasing from October 1st – fans are encouraged to secure their weekend and instalment plan tickets now and join the celebratory return of the full scale Download Festival they know and love. downloadfestival.co.uk/tickets
 
Announced for Friday are Floridian fan favourites A Day To Remember fresh off the back of seventh album ‘You’re Welcome’ and having flipped the script multiple times over their career, they remain at the top of their game. With a bottomless trickbag of scene anthems from “I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?,” “The Downfall of Us All,” through to their trap pop punk meldings they are set to receive a hero’s welcome.
 
Joining them are Californian glam stalwarts Black Veil Brides to deliver a visceral set of arena ready rock led by Andy Beirsack alongside MYLES KENNEDY & Company, whose stratospheric vocals and powerhouse guitar playing has seen him lauded as one of rock’s finest frontmen. Bury Tomorrow have cemented their spot as one of the UK’s finest metalcore exports and U.S. newcomers Meet Me @ The Altar promise a buoyant frenzy of pop punk bangers in their UK festival debut. Also announced are Swedish alt-metal act Normandie and Brighton’s brightest indie punks and purveyors of grunge tinged riffs Gender Roles.
 
Saturday has got even more exciting with the addition of the world beating Shinedown.  The immaculate showmen and Download veterans have been a dominant force in rock music since their inception and their ascension shows no signs of slowing down. They are joined by progressive metal goliaths and metal icons Mastodon are onboard to showcase the true mastery of their craft.
 
The Game-changing Code Orange are also set to join Saturday’s line-up and promise to engulf the crowd the throws of their industrial laced hardcore and goth-punks Creeper will step up as as the ‘Sex, Death and the Infinite Void’ era resumes in full swingHorrorcore icons Ice Nine Kills are set for a gore-drenched metalcore assault, Sheffield quintet Malevolence will bring burly riffs by the bucketful and the living embodiment of death metal’s gruesome spirit Obituary make their grand return.
 
Also announced is rising metal-pop provocateur Cassyette who is ready to take her place as a breakout star as well as  raucous Seattle punk five piece  Dragged Under and Liverpool  hardcore outfit Death Blooms who return after a triumphant set at Download Pilot where they historically became the first band to play a UK festival in 15 months.
 
Sunday additions include Danish rabble-rousers Volbeat, with their unmistakable chugging metal-meets-rockabilly as well as the fearless Grammy award winning Baroness. The Fourth Stage is set for a very special headline set from Myles Kennedy on double duty with an acoustic set not to be missed and future feminist punk icons THICK join the bill all the way from Brooklyn, New York with the raw defiance of punk in tow.
 
 
ANNOUNCED TODAY
A Day To Remember
Baroness
Black Veil Brides
Bury Tomorrow
Cassyette
Code Orange
Creeper
Death Blooms
Dragged under
Gender Roles
Ice Nine Kills
Malevolence
Mastodon
Meet Me @ The Altar
MYLES KENNEDY & Company
Myles Kennedy (Acoustic)
Normandie
Obiturary
Shinedown
THICK
Volbeat
 
Download 2022 Line up so far
 
Friday 10 June 2022
KISS, A Day To Remember, AA Williams, Airbourne, Ayron Jones, Black Veil Brides, Blues Pills, Bokassa, British Lion, Bury Tomorrow, Cellar Door, Dead Poets Society, Electric Wizard, Gender Roles, JJ Wilde, Lacuna Coil, Meet Me @ The Altar, Moon Crow, MYLES KENNEDY & Company, Normandie, Press Club, Sleep Token, Tempt, The Distillers, The Ghost Inside, The Scratch, Theory, Wayward Son.
 
Saturday 11 June 2022
Iron Maiden, Black Label Society, Blackout Problems, Bleed From Within, Bush, Cassyette, Code Orange, Creeper, Daughtry, Dead Label, Death Blooms, Deftones, Dragged Under, Dying Fetus, Funeral For A Friend, Grandson, Higher Power, Holding Absence, Ice Nine Kills, Joyous Wolf, Loathe, Malevolence, Mastodon, Megadeth, Monster Truck, Obituary, Salem, Sepultura, Shinedown, Temples On Mars, The Faim, The Pretty Reckless, The Raven Age, Those Damn Crows, Venom Prison.
 
Sunday 12 June
Biffy Clyro, Alestorm, Anchor Lane, As Everything Unfolds, Boston Manor, Cemetary Son, Dead Posey, Fire From The Gods, Gloryhammer, Jamie Lenman, Kill The Lights, Korn, Marianas Trench, Modern Error, Myles Kennedy, Phoxjaw, Powerwolf, Rise Against, Spiritbox, Static Dress, Steel Panther The Darkness Skillet Baroness Of Mice & Men Wednesday 13 Massive Wagons The Last Internationale Control The Storm, The Descendants, The Hara, The Injester, THICK, Trash Boat, Twin Temple, Volbeat, Wargasm.

Download 2019 – Slayer’s final UK show REVIEWED!

Ahh, it’s that time of year again. The last stand of the big bands. With Black Sabbath, Aerosmith and countless others over the last couple of years doing their ‘final’ tours and including Donington as a must-do stop, we seem to have these epic/ sad endings coming thick and fast. Honestly though, given I’m about half a generation behind the curve of these bands, I’m pretty glad I’ve had the opportunity to see them at all. Tonight it is the turn of the mighty thrash merchants Slayer to bid us farewell, in their last ever UK show, and the Zippo Encore stage area is awash with black tshirts as far as the eye can see. This is hands down the fullest this arena has ever been in the whole of Download history, and I can see half a dozen kids-on-shoulders who have yet no idea how insanely lucky they are to be at this show, given that these guys have been playing for almost 40 years.

The stage is set with all the trappings you’d expect of metal royalty, pentacles, skulls, chains, fire… and the crowd are already chanting ‘Slayer’ in unison. Walking onto the stage with all the clear purpose and confidence of a band who have made performing live their home, it’s a sobering moment to think that we are about to see this for the very last time, that this is our metal history we’re saying goodbye to. We can’t wallow for long though, ‘Repentless’ is wild and immediately gathers a hot and chaotic mosh pit, before the band break into early track ‘Evil Has No Boundaries’. It’s certain that tonight we’re getting a history lesson.

We’re spoilt with a list of raw, furious shredding from ‘Disciple’ to ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ as pyro cannons shoot flames across the inside of the stage and inverted crosses burn in the darkening night. Rocking a ‘Kill the Kardashians’ tshirt, guitarist Gary Holt is ripping Donington a new one alongside Tom Arya and Kerry King in his signature belt chains, and as the first ominous notes of ‘South of Heaven’ shimmer across the arena, I feel actual chills. Slayer played at the first festival I ever went to – here at Donington for Ozzfest 2002 and those notes, that moment will be forever etched into my memory – now, alongside this one. As the band scream into the iconic ‘Raining Blood’, thousands of people are windmilling their hair and headbanging like their necks aren’t over 30 and going to be immobile by work on Monday, it’s a sight to behold.

Shutting Donington down with ‘Dead Skin Mask’ and ‘Angel of Death’ is exactly the fire fueled, gut-punch of an ending I expected of Slayer, they are masters of their craft and Gods of the genre, that much is undeniable. With a final “Thank you for being here” and Tom Arya reluctantly leaving the stage, with what looks to be tears in his eyes, we in the crowd can only chant their name in appreciation and thanks. I think it’s testimony to their legacy that everyone is just still standing, still throwing horns into the air – instead of legging it straight to the main stage. This night is too important to so many, and I hope we gave Slayer the farewell they deserved.

© Photo courtesy of Download Festival, do not use without permission.
© Photo courtesy of Download Festival, do not use without permission.

Download 2019 – Slipknot REVIEWED!

Ok. Confession time. I’m not a Slipknot fan. I am standing in a field full of Slipknot fans eagerly awaiting this much anticipated show. Flanked by overall-clad bodies, every face a grotesque mask (some quite obviously homemade), a through-the-ages tour of Slipknot’s style back catalogue, the excitement is palpable. Of course, this UK debut of the bands’ new masks is just a part of it, but the forums and news stories have been filled with ire towards the new choices – with many describing them as boring or thoroughly non-theatrical compared to previous iterations.

Indeed as the giant stage banner drops and the majesty of the stage set up is revealed – all industrial turbines and Mad Max-esque landscaping – frontman Corey Taylor appears in a black trenchcoat in place of a jumpsuit, and gives off a distinctly corpse dragged-from-the-river vibes in his bloated mask. Instantly I am reminded of the terrible ‘dream machine’ mask from the ultimate cheese-fest Bond movie ‘Die Another Day’, which levels on funny rather than creepy for me.

Sporting a more traditional Slipknot look, the rest of the band hit the stage in black boiler suits and their own new masks for an undeniably powerful opening trio of ‘People = Shit’, ‘(Sic)’ and ‘Get This’ with Corey yelling “This is where you fucking scream for me”. New release ‘Unsainted’ is a strong introduction to what we can expect from Slipknot going forward, as Corey screams “…are you happy to see Slipknot back in your beautiful fucking land? It’s amazing to be back HOME” to an almighty roar back from the Download crowd.

I’ll admit, they bring a great show – the pyrotechnics, the crazy percussion podium made of steel industrial hazard drums, the mysterious extra member who still hasn’t been revealed… and it’s clear the crowd are absolutely loving Slipknot’s return to Donington. Growling “…bunch of crazy motherfuckers over here. You feel good?” we head into a brutal assault of ‘Psychosocial’ and ‘The Devil in I’ while Corey muses “…this is the kind of Download I wanna see right”.

‘Duality’ comes with a side of the clown smashing up some of the stage set with a bat, and we’re treated to “something fucking special” which turns out to be a bit of a mishmash of ‘555 to the 666’ and ‘If Rain is What You Want’ at possibly the only time this weekend it isn’t actually raining. It’s kind of a shame to be honest, if there’s any band that the rain would have benefited in terms of atmosphere – it’s Slipknot. Regardless, the entire crowd is singing along in a rowdy chorus before going headlong into ‘Spit it Out’ for an arena-wide bounce… on the floor… before the song breaks and everyone goes absolutely berserk.

Corey leads out with a heartfelt speech on Download/the fans being family and making the statement “We are not their kind”, before heading into closer ‘Surfacing’, and a quick message to ‘take care of each other’ as they exit the stage. There may be thousands of raised horns in the arena, there may be a mass chant of ‘one more song’ but it’s clear as the house lights come up that the band are done for the night. Despite a bit of initial disappointment in the crowd, as the black video screens change to display ‘SLIPKNOT LIVE 2020’ a guttural roar of appreciation begins to ripple. Slipknot are coming back, and the sweaty hordes are abated as they head out into the night.

Photograph © Matt Higgs – Courtesy of Download Festival. Do not use without permission.
Photograph © Matt Higgs – Courtesy of Download Festival. Do not use without permission.

Download 2019 – Rob Zombie REVIEWED

Forced once again to choose between the Zippo Encore and the Main stage for tonight’s grand entertainments – we have opted for Rob Zombie, master of the macabre and fringed outfits. Immediately upon turning the corner to the Zippo Encore stage it is clear that mistakes have been made. When Rob last played Download in 2017 the area was pretty jam packed but this year the arena is so ridiculously full th­­­­­­­at some people are actually almost standing in the shops at the back to watch. As much as I applaud Download for the booking – why oh why can’t we just have him on the main stage? He’s got the back catalogue, the energy and the showmanship to fill the main arena, never mind the sardine-can Zippo.

Anyway, aside from the spacing rant, Rob Zombie was an absolute highlight of the weekend, as expected. Rocking up with his signature screen boxes/dance podiums and immediately storming through ‘Meet The Creeper’ and ‘Superbeast’, Rob is resplendent leaping from box to box in as much fringed clothing as I’ve ever seen on a person. His style is sort of… the creature from the Black Lagoon, meets deep South in the 70’s, and I’m here for it. Anyone who can pull off such spritely moves in tight ass flares gets my respect to be honest.

Down the rabbithole we go with Rob for the iconic ‘Living Dead Girl’, as he yells “Good evening everybody, welcome to the Zombie show! Download, you ready to fuckin go?”. People are shrieking the lyrics all around us and throwing down some good old fashioned cyber goth moves for good measure. If you were gonna put a soundtrack to Vampire porn, this would be it – and Rob Zombie would have probably directed it to be honest.

Calling out “Everyone down here in the front, in your muddy shoes… jump jump” he rolls into the epic White Zombie track ‘More Human than Human’ and the crowd goes absolutely berserk. There’s nothing like a festival arena full of sweaty writhing bodies just dancing with wild abandon, it’s not something us Brits are usually especially practiced at but we’ll give it a damn good go, even in the rain and mud. Rob quips “Well we travel all around the world, and I must tell you… you win the award for the muddiest place on earth. I’m sure its cosy in those tents after the show… I’m sure when you’re sitting in those tents freezing you go… do I really wanna see these bands that fucking bad? And you guys just say fuck it, let’s get high and do this shit” as a set up to ‘In The Age of the Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’.

Manson clip backdrops herald Beatles cover ‘Helter Skelter’ and Rob turns stage side to ask “Can we keep playing? Do we have time?” eliciting a roar from a crowd who simply aren’t ready to end the night there. Rob muses “I was thinking the other day about Stone Henge. I believe I’ve solved the mystery. It’s one big landing pad for ufo’s” and calls us all to wave at an aeroplane passing overhead during ‘Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a U.F.O.’ whilst his guitarist rocks a flashing rainbow grille to grin at the crowd.

White Zombie (and Guitar Hero) classic ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’ is punctuated with a little Ramones ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ for the “…punk rockers in tonight” and Rob heads down to the pit to meet his front row fans. Finishing up with the gut-busting ‘Dragula’ to strobing images from Rob’s ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ is unreal, there’s something undeniably visceral and sort of tribal about a Rob Zombie show. It makes you want to move, be part of the throng, takes you right into that horror movie realm. Honestly we could have gone another ten rounds with Rob Zombie and it still wouldn’t have been enough – so my message to you Download Festival: please book him for the main stage so we can headbang without the fear of breaking our faces on the person in front of us next time. Rob Zombie is undeniably rock royalty and deserves the throne.

 © Matt Eachus 2019 - Photo courtesy of Download Festival
© Matt Eachus 2019 – Photo courtesy of Download Festival

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL DEBUTS MINDFULNESS PROGRAMME – MIND THE DOG

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL DEBUTS
MINDFULNESS PROGRAMME – MIND THE DOG

ON SITE IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2019
INCLUDING NEW DAY ENTRANCE, CAR PARKS, AND MORE!

FIVE CONTINENTS OF ROCK TALENT TO DESCEND
ON THE HALLOWED GROUNDS OF DONINGTON PARK

Download Festival, the world’s premiere rock event, has announced that a full mindfulness
programme will be implemented in 2019 for the first time. Announced ahead of Mental Health
Awareness week next month, the Mind The Dog initiative will run morning, afternoon, and evening
sessions where rockers can share a fully immersive, live music and mindfulness experience, from
Thursday 13 – Sunday 16 June. Day and weekend festival tickets available at
www.downloadfestival.co.uk

One in six people in England report experiencing common mental health issues including anxiety and
depression in any given week (1) and by 2030, it’s estimated that two million more adults in the UK will
experience mental health problems than there were in 2013 (2). The recent loss of music legends
including Keith Flint (Prodigy), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), and
Scott Hutchinson (Frightened Rabbit), calls for action to open up the conversation surrounding mental
health, something Download organisers are committed to.

Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn said:
“Download Festival has gone from strength to strength in its sustainability and accessibility offerings.
We have been awarded 4 star Creative Green Result by Julie’s Bicycle for the second year running, and
level gold from Access Is For Everything last year, which is highest possible award for accessibility, so
it only made sense to offer an on site programme for mental health, as well as physical. By introducing
Mind The Dog this year, we are hoping to provide a mindfulness haven in The Doghouse across the
weekend, with meditation, sound baths, and more. I couldn’t be prouder of how much Download
Festival has accomplished already.”

Fans can channel their zen under ambient lighting and atop woven tapestries, before immersing
themselves in hour long classes under the roof of The Doghouse which will transform into Mind The
Dog by day, offering FREE mindfulness gatherings. Morning meditation will host curated live music
sessions, designed to ready campers for the day, whilst the afternoon offers a healing sound bath, encouraging fans to pause, connect, and tune into themselves, and the evening class brings a calming
focus to elevate fans state of consciousness. Designed with conscious breath work sessions, the
programme aims to bring fans together in the now, becoming closer to themselves, the music, and
each other. Full schedule details can be found in notes to editors.

Recent studies show music can prevent feelings of loneliness and provide social connection (3), whilst
the global heavy metal community provides a strong sense of “belonging and acceptance”(4). In line
with the success and return of on-site DO.OM Yoga (yoga to Doom Metal music), and the thriving
return of Camp Loner, (the campsite dedicated to welcoming individuals attending the festival solo),
organisers are now excited to bring their elevated mindful offerings for Download fans in synergy with
the festival spirit.

In support of the programme, Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari, who headline The Avalanche Stage at
this year’s festival said: “We often go through life on autopilot, getting caught up in the stressors, the anxieties, the intensity of it all. We’re rarely consciously in control of our turbulent mind. Mindfulness allows us to regain
control as we learn to observe our thoughts instead of getting caught up in them.
It has been an incredible help to me and I couldn’t recommend it more. Not only does it help with
anxiety and depression, but it also improves focus, emotional intelligence, compassion, tolerance and
objectivity and has even been proven to help boost your immune system. Big up Download for
introducing this programme to the festival”

Improved changes for 2019 include a new devoted entrance for day visitors and non-camping
weekend ticket holders, weekend campers will also have their own dedicated car park, plus The Village
is moving close to The Arena meaning festivalgoers can go from mosh to party with ease. The NXT
Arena moves closer to the guest area, where NXT UK will be live taping to broadcast as part of a weekly
show on the WWE Network, and the introduction of Metal Movies, a new open-air cinema with
hammocks and lounge areas, will allow fans to kick back and watch music documentaries including
being a metal band from Nepal with Underside along with a Q&A with the band afterwards, and
Pursuit Of The Vikings with Amon Amarth.

Download continues its commitment to provide the best experience for fans, with accessibility
improvements implemented in 2018, resulting in the awarding of Gold Level status by Access is
Everything ahead of this year’s festival.

Sustainability remains a priority for Download Festival. Car parking donations last year via Energy
Revolution raised £15,811 for Solar to Schools, a project which funds schools with solar roofing panels
across the UK, and the festival continues its zero waste to landfill policy, as recycling points in the
campsites will double in 2019. Last year saw the recycling and composting rate increase to 46% from
2017’s 41%, and single use cups were reduced by a million with reusable alternatives. The Eco
Campsite opened in 2018 which saw zero tents left behind and returns this year with an increased
capacity for a total of 2000 campers, a 33% increase from last year.

Additional water points for 2019 will be introduced across the arena, refillable Download Festival
metal water bottles will be available for purchase the first time, and Co-op are excited to continue
their Deposit and Return Scheme with their reverse vending machine returning to Download, which
proved popular last year with festivalgoers who want to recycle plastic bottles, in return for a coupon to spend in the on site Co-op shop. Since 2016, all single use plastic cutlery, containers, and straws
have been banned from traders, caterers and bars.

Donnington Park, the spiritual home of rock, has always called for international talent to grace its
stages, with 2019 as no exception. With over 100 bands performing across the weekend, hailing from
18 countries including Australia, Canada, England, France, Finland, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, United States
and Wales, Download Festival remains the King of rock festivals.

(1) Mind
(2) NHS Mental Health Network

(3) Reachout.com
(4) Journal of Community Psychology

PENGSHUi ANNOUNCED FOR DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL WINNERS OF KERRANG! RADIO’S FINDING FRESH BLOOD COMPETITION

Download Festival the UK’s premier rock event has today announced the winner of Kerrang! Radio’s
Finding Fresh Blood competition as grime-punks PENGSHUi. Crowned by Download Festival promoters
and a panel of Kerrang! Radio presenters, the London trio triumphed over thousands of entries to come
out as champions of the hottest new talent search for the festival. The band are now set to open
The Avalanche Stage and guarantee to bring their unrelenting, raw mix of rap and riffs to the crowds for
an utterly unmissable Download debut.

Download Festival’s Andy Copping said: “A big thanks to everyone that applied, and to the Fresh Blood
team who had to narrow down thousands of bands to the shortlist we were given, but PENGSHUi have
something special with their effortless blend of metal and grime, they are the perfect opener for The
Avalanche Stage this year. Get yourselves down on Friday afternoon, and watch history being made as I
can see big things for them!”

Hailing from London and made up of Illaman on vocals, Fatty on Bass and Pravvy Prav on drums, the trio
have made already made huge waves with their unique sound.

Kerrang! Radio’s Alex Baker said: “Pengshui are without a doubt one of the most exciting bands on planet
earth today and their win is a testament to their unbelievable, powerful, innovative sound! Ultimate vibes.
They are going to light The Avalanche Stage UP!!”