Download Festival is the spiritual home of rock and metal. The varied headliners this year ensured there was something for everyone. We’ve already covered the festival in our general review (check it out here) but now we delve into the bands on offer across the three days!
First band of the weekend and opening up main stage is Northlane. It’s the first chance for fans to hear tracks from March’s surprise new album Mesmer including recent single Solar and the crowd were not disappointed! Although it was still early in the day and the majority of people were most likely still arriving (and queueing outside the arena!), the crowd was smaller than Northlane deserved but they still put on one hell of a set and well worthy of a main stage slot!
US metalcorers Motionless In White graced the Download main stage for the first time. Frontman Chris Motionless had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand as he dedicated Eternally Yours to the fans who have been with the band for years. It was the UK’s first chance to hear tracks from new album Graveyard Shift live and in true MIW style, the crowd were not disappointed! Singing and screaming along to every word as the quintet looked well and truly at home on the main stage.
The third act of the day on The Zippo Encore Stage, I’d had my doubts about Machine Gun Kelly’s place at Download. Despite not being familiar with the vast majority of his music, he did not disappoint and there could have definitely been worse ways to spend forty-five minutes. The rapper and actor spent much of the set jumping across the stage or standing – somewhat precariously – atop the bass drum, giving his set an admirable amount of energy and effort. Halfway through the set he breaks out in a cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall which rouses even the reluctant members of the crowd to participate and take interest.
This year saw a change in the layout of Download. The tent known formerly as The Maverick Stage (or in earlier years the Pepsi Max Stage) was this year The Avalanche Stage, and relocated to the opposite side of the arena. Massachusetts rockers Four Year Strong took to the stage from 5:20-6pm following a tiny set on the Firestone Stage a few hours before. As usual, people crowded the immediate entrances to the tent, with a less dense crowd towards the middle of the tent. Unfortunately, the quartet’s sound was off, and some songs felt rushed, with Alan Day’s vocals occasionally giving out. For me, it wasn’t clear whether this was to do with the band or the acoustics of the tent. Having seen Four Year Strong several times before, I would suggest that this was more down to the space they had to fill; tents can be a tricky one at Download! They redeemed themselves, however, with closing songs It Must Really Suck to Be Four Year Strong Right Now and Wasting Time, both from 2010 album Enemy of the World. The crowd are almost louder than the vocals and the band finish on a high.
We stay at the Avalanche Stage for Sleeping With Sirens who begin with a packed tent eagerly awaiting their every move. Throughout the set, people were off their feet, dinging along and there were even tears from the crowd during an emotional rendition of Better Off Dead from latest record The Strays following one of frontman Kellin Quinn’s heartfelt speeches, this time, about terrorism, something we in the UK have seen a lot of in the past month. The entire band kept the crowd entertained and any sign of the aforementioned acoustics of the tent being off was well and truly rectified as the crowd are treated to numerous classic SWS songs being sung almost perfectly by Kellin.
Main stage headliners System Of A Down unsurprisingly drew the biggest crowd of the night, however, for me, they did nothing to convert me to a fan. The majority of the crowd were loving life singing along to track after track and getting involved in the set in any way they could. But I just couldn’t get into it as they played through a selection of their greatest hits.