Live Review: Download Festival - June 2017


Download Festival took place at the usual residence of Donington Park in Derby with a spectacular line up from heavy rock to pop punk.

I caught the action over the weekend and it became my favourite festival so far. I was eager and excited to get down to see the acts and experience the festival.

After setting up camp and immediately introducing myself to nearby campers I got down to the main arena for the action.

Friday, being the first day of bands and arguably my favourite day of the festival it started with Cardiff based Astroid Boys on the Avalanche Stage which was Kerrang! Radios fresh blood stage for the smaller bands on the line up who are sure to be contenders for the Zippo second stage and the Main Stage in years to come.

With the Welsh flag hanging on the stage and an already packed out tent, Astroid Boy erupted on to the stage with hardcore fans at the front, singing word for word from the off. For one of the smaller stages they made it sound loud, encouraging the crowd to recite their lyrics back to them. With their flow of upbeat drum and bass mixed with rap they produced a great beginning of the day set to Download and were a great act to open up the festival for me. People flooded in as the second song kicked in 'we know you don't like the foreigners' with lyrics about immigration which in itself was a key factor in their songs.

I feel festivals are for checking out bands you wouldn't normally see and that being said I went to see Motionless In White on the Main Stage. I was amazed at how many people were down for them especially early in the day, the crowd was what you would expect for later on. The stand out song for me was 'Eternally Yours' with the leader singers voice being on point with the melodic chorus and heavy parts where he screams. They are a band that you can get moving too. The lead singer stated that it is an emotional show because it's one of the biggest shows they've ever done and that they've played smaller tents here and it's good for them to be up on the main stage. They debuted a song exclusively for download fans called 'necessarily evil' which will be on their new album 'Grave Yard Shift' which was well received from the crowd.

The next band for me to see was another Cardiff based band Holding Absence, who have songs which are hard hitting and then slow melodic tunes which are emotional and passionate. I've been lucky enough to catch these guys supporting bands and I was pleased to catch them with a larger audience and that being said they held their own up there and lead singer Loocas has one of the best voices in the Rock schene for me at the moment and I can see these guys getting bigger and bigger, which new songs being released they are sure to play the larger tents in the next coming years.

Another change of the usual people I would see at Download came from Machine Gun Kelly on the Zippo stage. Before seeing him perform I was pleasantly surprised to see the band as an addition to the festival with it being a rock and metal festival and what I have heard of them has been the chart hits on the radio. The set was very different to that and they brought a diverse range of songs to the stage. They performed an Oasis cover which brought a great reaction from the crowd. The lead singer caught an enthusiastic and long time fan at the front row and dedicated current chart mega single featuring Camilla Cabayo to her and got down off the stage to interact with her. Machine Gun Kelly are definitely a band I will look out for and hopefully catch again.

The day progressed with me staying at the Avalanche Stage to catch in my opinion the best pop punk bands around at the moment who were Issues, Four Year Strong and State Champs. They all brought in a younger crowds who of the whole festival I found were the most outgoing and active fans when it came to the 3 days. The loudest crowd I'd heard so far of the day was for State Champs with the crowd singing all the lyrics back to them.

Continuing on from the pop punk filled line up on the Avalanche stage I went to see Good Charlotte and headliners for the stage Sum 41 on the Zippo Stage. The sound was poor for Good Charlotte but the whole area was packed. They played classic fan favourites such as 'Boys and Girls' and 'The River' and new songs from their recently released album including 'Life Changes', which was a good addition to the set for me as I am a fan of the new album as much as their earlier songs which this band for me proves it doesn't matter how long you've been doing it for you can still produce great songs and stand the test of time within the music industry.

Sum 41 started with 'The Hell Song' and I could tell from the very beginning that they were having fun. Like Good Charlotte they played older songs and songs from their new album too which were all well received with the crowd. There was high energy from all band members and the crowd was loud and loving it. Deryck announced that the 1 rule for their set was to make sure nobody gets hurt and went on to stopping the crowd and the music for a request of a circle pit then a guitar solo broke out and the crowd delivered. Deryck also announced that it is their 21st anniversary as a band and welcomed new fans to the Sum 41 family. They continued to go on to playing 'Motivation' next which went out to all the old skool fans. The guitarist proceeded to go into playing iron maiden then all the band followed.

Then if that wasn't enough to show the talent they have, they started playing Metallica.

They proved why in my eyes they're the best punk rock band and continue to thrive after so long as a band. Queens 'We Will Rock You' with another guitar solo ringed out to the crowd and the lead singer said 'Let's sing this song like a family' as it went back into the Queen cover again, with almost everyone in attendance singing along in their highest voices. The last song of the night for Sum 41 was 'In Too Deep' which Deryck announced by saying 'I've got 3 words ladies and gentlemen, In Too Deep' which brought an eruption of applause from the crowd for the iconic song and they ended their set on a high.

Saturday brought me back to the Avalanche Stage for Swedish band Normandie. They came onto the stage with their song 'Fight' from their latest album with a good crowd for the first act of the day. It seems people will wake up early, including me to catch the earlier bands. They played their new single 'Ghost' which I am hoping will be featured on a new album if they were to do another. Normandie tried their best to get the crowd active and moving which they did for one of my favourite songs by them which is 'Collide' with its jump up and down feel the crowd got more active. I like to watch bands who move around the stage and interact with the crowd rather that standing still as it gives me a sense of purpose to watching them and that's what Normandie did. They were engaging and looked thankful to the crowd for being there. Since seeing them support Yellowcard late last year I am excited to see more of what Normandie do and would like to see them at their own shows as their music is fun and has the fast paced rhythm that you can dance and jump up and down too.

Irish rockers Greywind stormed the Avalanche stage with their set. Having only playing as a full band for a short while they looked at home on the stage and their set was over before I could fathom how powerful and electric lead singer Steph's voice was. I've seen them play before in a small church in London and to come from that to this within a couple of months is exactly what they deserve as they continue to improve performance wise. They brought in a great crowd for them as they continue to bring more and more people in. Greywind closed on debut single 'Afterthoughts' which after hearing for the first time I was hooked and hoped they would play festivals and I wanted to hear more from them. Luckily they released the album of the same name and now that I have seen it live a few times it is a impressive first album to begin their journey on.

I managed to catch a glimpse of Creeper's set after Greywind and I was surprised at how many people were there for a new band and was also taken back by how much the main stage suited them and for a band that has only been around a short while you couldn't tell by their performance. You would think they have played the main stage dozens of times and it didn't seem to faze them.

Back to the Avalanche stage for more pop punk goodness in the form of Trash Boat. A huge crowd coming from the main stage came to catch the band play and filled the tent very quickly. Trash Boat dedicated 'Brave Face' to one of their dads with the crowd knowing all the words and singing back. It was a slower song by them with its emotional lyrics and was a good addition to the set list as it showed a different and more melodic side to the band. 'Trash boat' chants were projected in the tent and the band announced a September tour with Broadside and Homebound which I'm hoping to attend to see more of what they have to offer at their own shows. They closed their set with my favourite song from their album 'Nothing I Write You' being 'Strangers' where they brought Patty Walters of As It Is out for the final chorus which was a highlight for me and gathered even more noise from the crowd.

Of Mice & Men were on the Main Stage for their set, which I was keen to watch as I have been a fan of the band for a while and have seen them progress through festival line ups. From being on a small stage of 100 people to headlining the pit stage at Leeds Festival and now the main stage at Download which they rightfully deserve. They sure have blown up in the time I have been going to festivals. After the departure of Austin Carlisle the band continue to carry on without him. I can't help but focus on the impact of not having Austin there, it just didn't feel like Of Mice & Men anymore for as I am used to seeing him run around the stage and be an active member and prominent force in the heavy scene. Although saying this Aaron did a great job of having the task of doing both vocals parts which are very different being clean vocals and then going into heavy screams and also playing guitar. Which is a very impressive thing to do and it is impossible without Austin to have a frontman who just sings as Aaron is impressive musically. The second song of the set 'Would you still be here' was an absolute gem to see live as Aaron pulled off all parts of his performance from singing to playing perfectly and the band too. If you've never seen Of Mice & Men before then the departure of Austin may not be as apparent but as I have I found the piece the set was missing was him being the frontman who gets the crowd going.

Pop punk fans were in good form next up on the Avalanche stage once again for As It Is. They were cheering, dancing and most importantly they looked really happy and energetic whilst the band went through songs from their new album 'okay' and previous Never Happy, Ever After' . They admitted they're not the heaviest band on at that moment but requested the crowd break out into a circle put as the next song started with Patty's encouraging screams the audience separated and for the next song did as he wished.

I can't stress enough or put into words how big the crowd was for Pierce The Veil who were next on my list of bands to catch but this time on the main stage. especially as they are a little different to the metal bands sharing the stage. I found that this year the small bands I have seen have managed to grow hugely and take the main stage by storm which is what you want to see at a festival. They managed to make the main stage they're home and I felt like the crowd was their guests and hearing the new album live was a more special experience on the main stage.

A Day To Remember were the band of choice to be before Saturday headliners Biffy Clyro on the main stage. Being before the headliners they got a longer set and brought their performance to life. They played the new album which before the festival was excited to hear live and I felt they preferred to play the new songs rather than the old as when they did they were more upbeat and seemed happier.

And last but no means least were the massive Biffy Clyro, who are my all time favourite bands to see live. I have seen them headline Leeds Festival twice and they still managed to blow me away with their electrifying performance every time I see them. With the sun still shining and the crowd set to hear their performance Biffy Clyro came to the stage with a huge applause and fans chanting their name. Lead singer and guitarist Simon Neil engaged with the huge crowd from stage to the far back of the field, the place was alive and in high spirits. People were experiencing something special and you could tell they were enjoying it. The use of fireworks and the stage production was spot on and enhanced the performance. Biffy Clyro went from song to song with ease and kept it flowing throughout. If there is one band in the world I can recommend somebody to witness at least once it would be these Scottish Rockers as they are amazing to see and the whole experience is one everyone needs to witness.

Sunday was the usual residence of the Avalanche stage for more up and coming bands to listen to and sing along too. The first band being Blood Youth, told everyone to split up with their partners if they're with someone who doesn't love them and announced the next song about exactly that. The crowd were encouraged to create a circle pit and at every opportunity they did. The lead singer thanked the crowd and told them to continue supporting new music.

The younger generation turned up for emo rockers Basement who played a impressive set. They get better every time I see them and the lead singer seems more confident each time too. He got the crowd to crowd surf, mosh and do a wall of death which a lot of people were involved in and the place was filled.

Moose Blood brought their emotional pop rock to the Avalanche stage with their signature pink and purple lighting. They had the whole tent singing along and dancing to songs from the latest album 'Blush' with 'Knuckles' being one of them that really got everyone dancing and singing along with them.

Overall, the festival was an absolute pleasure to attend and one I won't be forgetting for a long time, if ever. It made me fall in love with discovering under rated bands and seeing them grow. This festival sets its self apart for me having the best of rock and metal bands showcasing their music and the lovely people and atmosphere to go with it. Although I attended the festival on my own, it felt like I was still with people and loneliness didn't have chance to settle in as the people were friendly and the staff did a great job of looking after everyone and enhancing our overall festival experience.

I will definitely be returning to this festival and have had the best time seeing all of the amazing bands brought in front of me.

Review by Jessie Jones

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