Live Reviews

Download Festival

Donington Park

14th to 16th June 2024

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Oh, the difference a year makes! Last year the sun shone down on the bumper twentieth anniversary edition of Download Festival. Pretty much every person in attendance last year would say that it was simply too hot. Of course, this year then had to do a complete 180 and instead of a desperate search for water to quench our thirst, this year there is far too much of it – and sadly we aren’t talking about new headline sponsor Liquid Death!

No, months of rain in the UK left the festival grounds at Donington Park ill prepared for the downpours that would arrive over the first few days of the festival. The ground conditions quickly becoming treacherous and a weekend of hard slog, delays, cancellations, rejigs and almost every problem imaginable ensues.

There is a real risk that this year’s edition of Download will be remembered for the mud and for the protests that led to Barclays stepping back as a sponsor of the event. This is unfortunate as really the event should be remembered for a progressive line-up that leads the event into the next generation.

After an overreliance of guaranteed ticket shifters, Bring Me The Horizon’s dominant performance last year appears to have opened the door to new headliners (not that Queens of the Stone Age or Fall Out Boy are actually new!), and fresher overall line-ups.

The balance this year between old favourites (Machine Head, Bowling For Soup, Black Stone Cherry), fresh big hitters (Fall Out Boy, Royal Blood, Queens of the Stone Age) and future contenders (Creeper, Enter Shikari, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes), is spot on. There is something here for rock and metal fans of all ages and that is going to be key to the longevity of the festival.


So let us walk through some of the best sets of the weekend, starting Friday on the main stage as a more classic rock feel welcomes early attendees. The Blue Stones open the festival with a solid performance before Those Damn Crows show just how far they’ve come with a top-level set.

The clash-gods haven’t been kind to us this year and many sacrifices must be made, however we are able to catch the superb Mouth Culture make their mark on the Dogtooth stage next.

It’s then back to the main stage as The Struts continue to show why over the top sing-along rock n roll will never go out of fashion. Frontman Luke Spiller has the crowd in the palm of his hand and not even the continuing rain can dampen the spirits of a crowd belting out ‘Could Have Been Me’.

Black Stone Cherry are regular visitors to Donington Park, but today marks their first appearance in some six years. Clearly the fans have missed them, and the band make sure that they make the most of their time on stage. Fan favourites and a couple from latest album, ‘Screaming at the Sky’ has the field rocking hard and attendees won’t have to wait long to catch the band again with a headline tour on its way!

Sticking with the main stage, the booking of Royal Blood as sub-headliners is another sign of a more modern focus for the festival. Technical issues however disrupt the momentum of the performance and metaphorically dampen the mood in the already damp crowd. That said when the duo can fully unleash their power, a realisation appears to hit even the staunchest doubters of their Download credentials.

And speaking of Download credentials… Busted! Even five years ago the thought of the band playing these hallowed grounds would have sent the old school punters into a frenzy. How dare they bring their deplorable pop rubbish to our prestigious and very serious metal festival!!!!!

Well, thankfully the mentally that saw My Chemical Romance bottled off stage in 2007 is almost gone (just don’t look at the Facebook comments on the Busted announcement!). Headlining the Avalanche stage, the crowd is deep outside the tent as fans try to catch a glimpse of the trio. Before we head back to the main stage for our headliners, we get to witness the glorious sight of even the most hardened rockers partying along to the likes of ‘Air Hostess’ and ‘MMMBop’!

There is a different kind of party on the main stage however as Queens of the Stone Age are belatedly given top-billing at the UK’s premier rock festival. Josh Homme is clearly high on the atmosphere (amongst other things), and the band deliver a stunning performance chronicling their incredible career. Naturally it’s ‘No One Knows’ that enters the face for sing-along moment of the weekend, but the likes of ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ and ‘I Sat by the Ocean’ are glorious tonight.


On to Saturday now and a fair few in attendance may be nursing hangovers this morning (especially the poor Scots after their Euro’s humbling), but as always Download has the cure. After a slight delay the venue fills again ready for another day of music with a point to prove.

That starts immediately with Bambie Thug who opens the mainstage with another set which probably wouldn’t have been greeted as well a decade ago. Bambie Thug however manages to mesmerise and captivate the early crowd with a truly powerful performance of The Cranberries ‘Zombie’ acting as a stance against ongoing atrocities across the world. Whilst the work of others helped to change the position of Barclays, the statement made here by Bambie Thug is something that will last long in the conscience of attendees.

The levels of energy and passion continue throughout sets from WARGASM on the main stage and KNIFE BRIDE and ALT BLK ERA on the Dogtooth stage. Then it’s time to change pace with The Hunna (another fresh booking) taking to the main stage. The group clearly appreciate the opportunity and make a great impression during their relatively short time on stage.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are up next and whilst the anger and ferocity of their stage presence may have balanced out, the elevation in showmanship and passion ensures that the group remain one of the best live acts in town. Their main stage set this weekend is sublime and you’d expect Carter and co to help lead this festival into the future.

They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice… well, what about torrential downpours? In scenes eerily reminiscent of their main stage slot in 2016, BABYMETAL have their set almost completely destroyed by a biblical shower which also destroys what is left of the arena grounds. During their short time onstage BABYMETAL are fantastic, but unfortunately, they may be seen as cursed when booked on the main stage!

The weather from here on out just can’t make its mind up with a mixture of sun and rain, but that eclectic mix is perhaps fitting for Enter Shikari who present their unique smorgasbord of sound next on the main stage. The group have grown up with the festival so it’s nice to finally see them in a prominent slot on this stage. The opportunity is seized with both hands and Shikari prove why they also must be considered amongst the best live acts on the circuit.

Sticking again to the main stage, The Offspring deliver a headline worthy performance next which even includes an encore much to the chagrin of festival etiquette experts. The band however carry themselves as headliners and they of course have bangers for days as they say. After the punishing weather, it’s great to see the audience finally unleash and dance their way through this wonderfully fun set.

A quick sojourn to the Dogtooth stage for a short but sweet Cassyette performance then leads us to the big Saturday headline slot which this year is taken on by Fall Out Boy. Another example of a band perhaps criminally underfeatured at this event in the past due to not having the perceived heaviness required by the gatekeepers of yesteryear.

The band however are ready to make up for lost time as they produce a memorable one-off set akin to the ‘Eras’ show from a certain Taylor Swift. And whilst it’s unlikely the festival will ever welcome the army of swifties; it’s refreshing to see the positive reception received by Fall Out Boy. From somebody that witnessed the My Chemical Romance hostilities, it’s another positive indictment that the future of the festival is looking bright.


The Sunday at a major festival like this is always a tough one, with everyone tired and already over-stimulated. It takes something memorable to kickstart proceedings and after lengthy delays in setting up the arena, it’s Code Orange that truly get things going today with a set that ends in the band smashing up the stage after going over time.

You can understand their frustration however with the times of bands changing at short notice due to the supposed actions required to get the arena ready for the fans. It must be said though that when we do finally enter, it’s hairy still without much action being obvious at least!

The changes in times frustrate some, but for us the movements mean that we can catch both Creeper on the main stage and Royal Republic over on the second stage. Two incredible live acts, Creeper are up first and showcase in just thirty minutes what they could look like as future headliners. An all-out show accompanies some fantastic music and indeed, you have to hope that Creeper are given an opportunity further up the bill next time around.

As for Royal Republic, you know what you are getting – a highly enjoyable live act who will always bring the party. That’s exactly what they do today as they showcase their superb new album, ‘LoveCop’.

Much hype surrounded the mysterious secret set at Download this year, those battling their way into the Dogtooth are treated to a Parkway Drive performance, we however avoid the crush and instead sing-along to some pop-punk favourites as Zebrahead and Bowling For Soup serenade their crowds.

In fact, we are certainly in the sing-along portion of the weekend as the main stage welcomes two iconic bands from the new millennium. Firstly Sum 41, who are embarking on a final tour as they bring the sun down on their career. The band get a big crowd who send them on their way by singing each song right back at them with the final run of ‘In Too Deep’, ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘Still Waiting’ particularly loud!

Loud is also a great way to describe Limp Bizkit who are up next. The band are like a fine wine and just keep getting better, with Fred Durst able to orchestrate the crowd as only he can. A double dose of ‘Break Stuff’ sums up the vibes of the set, which for many is the perfect way to close out the festival.

For others there is still a choice between Machine Head, The Used, The Black Dahlia Murder or Avenged Sevenfold to be that final performance of another wet but glorious weekend. For us we follow the theme of the weekend and position ourselves at the main stage.

Avenged Sevenfold are headlining the event for the third time, and this time they have a rather polarising new album to play. The weather, the other options and that ambivalence towards ‘Life Is But a Dream…’, means the crowd is a little on the thin side, but those in attendance make up for those missing.

Some of the new songs do flatten the atmosphere but when the band bang out the likes of ‘Afterlife’, ‘Hail To The King’, ‘Bat Country’ and ‘Nightmare’ there is no better way to finish the weekend.

As we said at the start, there is a real risk that this weekend will be remembered for different reasons, but for us the takeaway is that the event is finally looking towards the future. It’s refreshing to see the real-life reactions to some of the online contentious bookings and that helps point that the future of Download is a positive one.

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