10th to 12th June 2022
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With the pandemic taking a hold back in early 2020, Download Festival became one of the first major festival victims. It was perhaps fitting therefore that the small Pilot version of the event was the first step on the road back to normality last year.
That does mean though that as we head into Donington Park in 2022, it is the first fully fledged festival since the 2019 edition. After three long years, it is finally time for rock and metal fans to convene again on these hallowed grounds.
There are a number of changes this year to the layout of the festival but the best change is the installation of a strange golden orb in the sky. The usual brown flooring has also been painted green. Yes, goodbye Drownload and hello sunburn!
The main changes to the festival relate to the layout of the campsites, parking and transport hubs. Given these new changes, a little extra signage may have assisted seasoned attendees finding their way around, but in general the changes work well. There is a lot of walking required, however there always is at Donington Park however the event is laid out.
Once inside the area the setup is pretty standard if a little cut back with smaller stages, fewer food stalls and no wrestling or other extra areas. But, it’s Download and everyone is just glad to be here.
So then, on to the music! Opening the main stage on Friday are NWOCR favourites Wayward Sons who make the most of their short time on stage. They are quickly followed by Canadians Theory (of a Deadman) who also only have a short time to show their stuff. Thankfully for them they are able to call upon some festival-perfect material as the crowd sing along to ‘Bitch Came Back’, ‘Hate My Life’ and ‘Bad Girlfriend’.
Recently rejigged Bury Tomorrow follow on the main stage and bring the first real taste of heavy to the festival. The band are clearly honoured by the opportunity and try their best to win over the audience, with our first pyro of the weekend helping to add to the occasion. By the time the band leave the stage and a pile of bodies in the audience, the set has to be considered a success.
We go walkabout next and visit first the second stage for a man who has already played Download Festival with both Alter Bridge and Slash, Myles Kennedy. With two solo albums now to his name, Kennedy only grows his legacy with another top class performance.
Secondly we head to the Avalanche Stage for something new. American pop-punk band Meet Me @ the Altar have intensifying hype around them, and keeping with the tone of the day they are able to grasp this opportunity with both hands. Expect bigger things from the band in the near future.
As day one begins to draw to a close with catch two of Download’s house bands with Skindred on the main stage and Airbourne over on the second stage. Both bands attract big crowds, because fans know what to expect from them. High energy, entertaining rock shows are delivered by both as fans get to revel in what they have missed over the last three years.
Having delivered an incredible headlining performance at the Pilot event last summer, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes return to Donington Park next to headline the second stage. Carter and co show the crowd what they missed last year with another stunning performance. This band must be considered one of the best live bands on the planet and who would put it past them headlining the main stage in the future.
Download Festival after all needs to begin focusing on that next generation of headline acts, because many of the old guard are saying farewell. It is the ‘End of the Road’ for KISS, but not before one final triumphant showcase this year.
The band are able to deliver all the pageantry of a KISS show with every party trick played with precision. As the fans walk away with ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ stuck in their heads, the band have brought the party and night one is closed out in style.
Saturday morning brings a fresh day with the sun still shining bright, but early risers at the main stage are left waiting with opening act The Raven Age almost forty minutes late. When the band do arrive they are able to show their continued growth with a matured performance.
This delay subsequently leads to a 30+ minute lag on main stage times throughout the rest of the day which plays havoc with fans carefully curated schedules. It does mean however that we can head to the second stage and catch the energetic Cassyette who is capitalising on the momentum earned over the last year.
It’s then back to the main stage for the classic rock sounds of Those Damn Crows and Monster Truck. Both bands continue the impressive start to the festival. Clearly every act is out to cast off the shackles of recent years and make an impression.
Both of these bands leave the fans wanting more, which is all a band can do with these early festival slots. It’s probably a good thing then, that these two bands will be touring the UK together later this year!
Up next for us is one of the performances of the weekend from Holding Absence over on the Avalanche stage. With songs like ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Wilt’ seemingly made for festival crowds to sing along to, the band completely own the packed tent during their time on stage.
Shinedown are also a band that knows how to control a crowd, and they have a large crowd to play with next on the main stage. With a new album on the way, the band incorporate new tracks ‘The Saints of Violence and Innuendo’ and ‘Planet Zero’ into their tried and tested, crowd pleasing set.
It’s then back to the Avalanche stage for another standout performance. This time it’s Creeper on the stage, the band again showing an innate ability to hold the audience in the palm of their hands. Creeper continue to grow and evolve and it will be interesting to see where the band head next.
We stick next to the Avalanche stage for headliners Funeral For A Friend. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’ve just witnessed two fantastic performances on this stage from Holding Absence and Creeper but something feels a little off for this set. It’s not a lacklustre performance as the band give it their all, but on a weekend full of great performances what is probably a really good one feels a little underwhelming.
There is never anything underwhelming however about Iron Maiden. The band are icons for a reason and their current stage show is possibly their best ever. With Maiden on form and a packed Donington Park in fine voice, this headline set was always going to be one for the ages, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Now onto Sunday morning, with hangovers taking hold, feet aching and stamina’s waning. It’s up to Wargasm to blow away any cobwebs as they open the main stage, and that’s just what they do. The band are developing into something of a marmite band, but there is no doubting the passion and energy that they put into every performance; and judging by the reaction they go down very well this morning.
Sidetracking from the music for a moment, we commented in our Neck of the Woods Festival review about the cost of food and drink this year. There are no surprises therefore that prices are high at Download Festival, but the quality on offer at that price is disappointing. Inflation is one thing, but shrinkflation begins to rub, and more than one meal this weekend leaves a sour taste in our mouth (figuratively and literally in one case!).
Well, if the amenities on offer are disappointing, thankfully the music isn’t. As we have said, the quality of performances this weekend is consistently high. Both The Velveteers in the Dogtooth tent and The Last Internationale on the second stage are fine examples of this quality from top to bottom.
Massive Wagons follow on the second stage and again appear on top form. As many bands have this weekend, they tailor their set list perfectly for their time on stage and it’s wall to wall bangers as the kids would say.
Tremonti next are more methodical as they display their technical prowess. Mark Tremonti and co are mightily impressive and the audience are equally receptive.
We shoot then across to the main stage where Rise Against are another band that fail to meet expectations. The band are an incredible force, but sadly today they struggle to translate from the stage for whatever reason.
Volbeat have no problems though as they are instantly able to grab the audience. They deliver a career spanning setlist to the delight of the field, which shows just why they have established themselves as potential future headliners.
We then find time to dart across to the Avalanche stage one last time as Trash Boat showcase one of the albums of last year, ‘Don’t You Feel Amazing?’. Trash Boat have really come into their own and have the entire tent bouncing along.
Korn are the penultimate band to play the main stage this weekend and they make the most of their position with one of the best performances of the festival. The band are longtime Download Festival favourites and they evidence today just why that is.
There is another look at the future next as Yonaka pack out the Dogtooth tent. Those that have made the effort to catch the band are rewarded by an incredible performance from one of the most exciting young rock bands around.
Last but certainly not least with have Biffy Clyro who are one of the biggest rock bands in the UK, but seemingly another marmite band amongst regular Download Festival goers.
One thing for certain is that those that chose to the stay until the end are rewarded by way of a sublime headlining performance. Biffy Clyro are another level live act and tonight they deliver a superb closing show fitting of closing this event.
Consistent high calibre performances have encapsulated the return of Download Festival this weekend. The event has a special place in the hearts of its fan base and will celebrate next year with a special four day 20th anniversary celebration. We can’t wait!
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